Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Take for instance #2:
(2) "Fr. X sexually abused a minor."
Therefore: "The Catholic Church is evil. (And all priests are perverts.)"
Sure, for those who would make such a claim, it is a ridiculous non sequitur. And there are those who seem to make those leaps, for whatever reason (John Landis, I've got my eyes on you!). But even though some would make such ridiculous statements as 'priest abuses child, Church is evil', it doesn't take away from the fact that most who are critical of the abuse crisis, those who are fair and understanding and not out with an anti-Catholic axe to grind, are in fact concerned about much more than that. It isn't the bad priest = evil Church argument, it's the systemic abuse followed by systemic cover up and a geologically slow response when compared to the swiftness of other responses to other things high on the Church's priority list, that makes them scratch their heads. Sometimes it even makes them question the Church's moral authority to lead and proclaim the Truth.
I'm not saying they should, nor am I dismissing those who obviously appear to care not one lick about abused children beyond simply sticking it to the Church. But we can't just guffaw over all the non sequiturs while avoiding the legitimate concerns about a serious and legitimate problem that continues even now in the Church today.
As a die-hard Beatles fan, and fan of John Lennon, I admit in my secular days I used to love this song, especially 'imagine no religion!'* Take that God! But as I listened to it over the years, and thought it through, and added this to the various interviews I read of Lennon, I realized as a deep thinking philosopher he made a great rock star. In fact, the substance of what he said is on par with Glenn Beck. Sure he could be right once in a while, but he sure wasn't in this song.
Not to mention the moral problems with a multi-millionaire rock star sitting in a 7 million dollar mansion asking if you can imagine no possessions. Beyond that, nothing to die for? Live for today? Haven't we had enough of living for today? If we want our kids to do better, stop having them place value in baseless, shallow songs that make us feel good about realities none of us would ever want, because whenever they've been tried (the USSR tried to imagine no religion!), they've been found to be exceedingly wanting.
*As an aside, I wonder how a song that so proudly calls down the belief in religion as a good thing can be played in our schools based on the ACLU's interpretations of Separation of Church and State. Are we to ban all positive pronouncements of religious belief, but attacks on religion are fine? That's for another post.
- Are we sure there is overwhelming scientific consensus on just why people are homosexual?
- Does a physiological tendency toward a behavior make that behavior no longer subject to moral examination?
- Does the physiological tendency toward a behavior mean that any negative results of that behavior are to be ignored?
- Just how much actual proof do we have regarding homosexuality, and how much of it is based on biases, interpretation of data, and personal perspectives?
So the question, rhetorical as it may seem, still stands: why this treatment for heavy people, many of whom may be physiologically and biologically predisposed toward being heavy, while folks who follow another particular lifestyle on the single platform of it being physiological/biological are given a free pass, a 'don't touch this', a conform or else message?
My answer to that will follow someday.
My question is, why Glenn Beck? Most folks who have any level of training in subjects such as history, theology, or philosophy chafe at the things he says and how he says them. Ironically, his approach to history (one of my fields) is no better than those rascally liberal scholar types he often mocks. His understanding of Christian theology in general, and denominations not affiliated with his current Mormon faith in particular, is often quite amiss.
In addition, he gets on my nerves. His style is, well, bothersome. He reminds me of the boisterous and obnoxious cousin who comes to family gatherings, seizes the conversation, and begins spouting off ludicrous tales and fanciful opinions in such a way that embarrasses everyone in the room.
So why would tens of thousands show up to hear him? Because, I think, if you strip away the ludicrous logic behind his historical conspiracy theories, if you put aside his insistence that a person can be both a Nazi and a Communist, if you ignore his overbearing way of saying things, he is hitting a chord in the minds of at least some Americans. He is saying what they think on a broad level.
Christian progressives are, like liberalism itself, fine with a declining America. They don't want it to crumble or anything, but don't see it reduced to the level of other countries as a bad thing. Many Christian conservatives, including not a few Catholic conservatives, seem to take the Qumran approach: we're heading to heaven and America is pagan hedonism now, so don't worry about it.
There are Americans who don't see it that way, who see the good in America and its past, and acknowledge there are problems that can still be fixed. They see the hedonism, narcissism, debauchery and godlessness yet believe it can be changed. They may, to varying degrees, admit the sins of America's past, but don't see those as reasons to roll over and play the 90 pound weakling to other cultures - cultures whose sins they are not afraid to point out. They understand that not everything in America's past was good, but see the movement of Secular Progressivism as a major threat to the country and world that their children and grandchildren will inherit.
And it's to these folks that Beck speaks. Even if he gets his facts wrong, and even though his logic can sometimes be twisted, the general message of 'reclaim America's goodness, be proud, embrace God and God ordained morality' resonates - because no one else is saying it that way. Even such noted right wing commentators as Bill O'Reilly waver between conservative/libertarian and 'who's to say morality is absolute?' Many others, again in the Catholic community, following that age old love/hate relationship the Church has had with America, having a 'it dies, then it dies' approach. Beck is one who, on the surface and in the most general way, is saying America can be saved, we can reclaim what was good, and it's worth fighting for because we do have enemies in the world, and it isn't always us. It may be that last part of the statement, if nothing else, that sounds the sweetest in the ears of those who came by the tens of thousands to Washington over the weekend.
For if you are on the Titanic, who would catch your attention? The one sitting around pointing fingers at who is to blame, insisting he would have had more life boats, suggesting if the builder he worked for made the ship it would never have happened, suggesting they had their nerve being on such a luxury liner in the first place? Or the less than intelligent fellow in the doorway with a life jacket saying 'follow me and let's get to a boat'? Even if he ended up in a dead end passage flooding fast, it would seem a better option than sitting around listening to folks point finger after finger while finally asking for a glass of brandy to go down like gentlemen.
Monday, August 30, 2010
That, of course, is the basis of much post-modern thought. There is an underlying 'surely, you don't disbelieve what we've said, do you?' approach in presenting various subjects. Proof is assumed to be out there, even if it needn't be provided. Are more Americans being violent against Muslims? Has there been violence against Muslims out of proportion of violence against other groups? Do we really know exactly why homosexuals are homosexuals? Do we actually know an unborn baby can't feel pain? Are we sure we have the right to define human life? Are we positive that religion was made up by cave people trying to understand why Woolly Mammoth dung smelled? Is there actual proof? Ask these questions, and there's a snort of derision, a 'you must not be in on the Truth' response. A subtle 'we don't need proof, because we know, and we know because we are' echo in what is said. An approach to knowledge that would certainly bring pride to the most fervent Gnostic thinker of two millennia ago. Which is why a wise pastor once said there are no new heresies, simply old ones repackaged.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Meanwhile, any and all cultures and civilizations outside of the Western Tradition are seen in the best ways imaginable, given many benefits of the doubt, and generally interpreted through value-neutral lenses (didn't the Aztecs practice human sacrifice? Sure, but let's not jump to conclusions; besides, ours is not to condemn with some ethnocentric bigotry). In the odd moment where a non-Western culture did something beyond the mark - like Imperial Japan - the good Progressive could still blame the US: it was the result of racist US policies, European imperialism, contact with the West and its warlike tendencies - you name it.
So 9/11 presented a bit of a problem. As we watched the towers fall, the thousands die, the crowds flee in terror, it appeared hard to avoid outright condemnation of the perpetrators and the ideology that gave them purpose. But not so for the determined Progressive! It took all of a day or so for folks to insist that somewhere, somehow, it must have been the US that caused it. Whether Bush, or some US policies (in all likelihood under a Republican president), we pushed the buttons that caused the attacks. Perhaps European imperialism, or the Crusades. Why, the reasons were endless! And of course, from President Bush on down, we were immediately reminded that in no way did 9/11 have anything to do with True Islam (TM). No, it was never to excuse or downplay the terror (in most cases) of the attacks. But there soon came an accepted perspective that we in America and the Christian West were somehow at least partially culpable. A view held, of course, by Imam.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
Then, a few weeks ago, all hell broke loose. Now we are talking about it for weeks on end. Why? Don't know. A few things have happened of course. First, the bomber who was supposed to die didn't do us the service and remains quite alive. Second, though BP was whispered to have had something to do with it, this time BP was whispered to have something to do with it - after the oil leak. Finally, and this is just an observation on my part, Britain is now in the hands of a less progressive PM.
Do any of these things matter? Are they why there was suddenly an explosion of indignation over something that barely rated a blip on the media screen a year ago? Again, I can only guess. But something has made it a story now versus a quickly forgotten one then. It all goes to show us that, whether biased and agenda driven or not, the media's decisions on what is and isn't important seem to be based on things other than what really is and isn't important.
It was indeed their finest hour.
"The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All our hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day…"
Remember the little line from a popular song from way back when:
Unless I lay it between the lines
Remember that? I Dig Rock and Roll Music by Peter, Paul and Mary. That fit with a recurring theme in the 70s and 80s, that anyone who refused to play this song or show that movie, no matter who and for no matter what reason, was just Big Brother incognito. The radio not playing it was never portrayed as a simple business decision. It was the beginning of the end of all liberty.
Likewise, even in the late 80s, when Madonna had an advertising campaign pulled due protests by parents' groups, charges of Gestapo tactics and an end to freedom as we know it flew like crows. It was 1984 all over again!
And lest we think it was just some radical nobodies in the fringes of Greenwich Village, it was mainstream in many ways. In the early 1990s, as Day Time Talks Shows (the venues which prompted support for an alternative national voice to be heard), reigned supreme, Phil Donahue was the king. By the 90s, however, for the sake of ratings, some of his shows were leaving social commentary and becoming a bit racy. A dentist decided he could no longer take strippers on 11:00 AM opposite Sesame Street demonstrating the proper forms of oral sex for self-produced home pornography. So he went to the sponsors of Donahue's show, plopped in a VCR tape, and told them 'this is what you are promoting.' Sponsor after sponsor began to drop.
Donahue went on a rampage. Appearing on the evening news with the late Peter Jennings, he ranted and raved; this was just the beginning! Next it will be jack-booted thugs kicking in your doors and dragging you into the outer darkness for watching The Cosby Show! Jennings, in a later editorial nod, agreed it smelled like good old fashioned censorship. When polls suggested Americans weren't bothered by the dentist's tactics, we were reminded by 'experts' that threatening people or in any way punishing people we disagreed with was merely one small step toward an Orwellian paradise, and a violation of that most important of all social norms: tolerance.
So you see, the article is right. But it's only right if it bothers to mention that for all those decades, liberals were wrong. Those TV censors with Elvis, those radio stations with the Rolling Stones, those family and religious groups with Madonna, weren't threatening the First Amendment after all. Why, it was all just another wonderful expression of their First Amendment Rights!
Oh, fun note. Notice the article appeals to a very basic, face value reading of the First Amendment. Fine. But notice a similar reading also points out that the First Amendment merely says Congress (national congress that is), cannot actually make a law that officially respects an establishment of religion, nor can it prohibit the free exercise thereof. How does such a simple, straightforward reading square with the government authorities demanding that a young valedictorian be censored from mentioning Jesus in a graduation ceremony? Answer: It doesn't. Which might be how folks read the other parts of the First Amendment, and if speech ends up going the way religious liberty has, perhaps it is worth worrying about. Just an aside that came to my mind. It's something that deserves its own post, if not its own blog.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
A civilization that insists humans are nothing but glorified animals should be ashamed of itself for acting shocked when its citizens end up acting like nothing but glorified animals.
A study by the Pew Research Center earlier this year found that support in Muslim countries for suicide bombings has fallen precipitously from post-9/11 levels. One-third of Pakistanis believed terrorism was justified in 2002; now just 8% do.
Second, is 8% a good amount? If it were only 8% of Muslims, as the article seems to want to suggest this poll would indicate, then 104 million Muslims still support terrorism. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that doesn't help me sleep well.
Finally, why the change? The fact seems, before 9/11 most terrorism was aimed at non-Muslim targets, primarily Israel with the odd passenger jet thrown in. Since 9/11 and the Iraq war, the bulk of attacks have been against fellow Muslims. For all the billions killed and blamed on Bush's policies, most deaths have been at the hands of Muslim insurgents. And most deaths have been fellow Muslims. How many Mosques have been attacked, not by racist, out of control Americans, but by Muslim extremists? Is that why Muslims support it less? Is it in general principle? Why? Certainly we can't ignore the carnage that Muslims have visited on one another in reviewing the poll numbers. Can we?
These are thing I think about. In America, we have been conditioned to easily accept the worst possible interpretation of our own motives, the motives of our leaders, the motives of our culture. We find it difficult to look at other cultures, nations, peoples and say, "You're wrong! It's your fault." Generations of focusing on the sins of our own past, and believing that without our cultural influence the world wouldn't have been half bad, have brought us to a point where it's almost unfathomable to think all of this could be anything other than Muslims seeing the light for the purest reasons, while America's meddling in international affairs is the main cause of problems. Forget suggesting that, had America done everything right, there could still be a tendency by other cultures to view us in hostile ways.
It all reminds me of those polls a few years ago, from Pew Research to UN studies and other surveys, that found Americans have little to fear from Muslims, since only 10% of those studied support Islamic terrorism against the West. I always wondered what the other 90% thought. Did all 90% want to live like good Western post-moderns? Did some want to conquer the world for Islam but saw terrorism as cowardly? Did others have a mesh of feelings somewhere in between? I don't know. No one asked, and no one told. All we were told was that only 10% of Muslims supported the full and unchecked mass slaughter of all Westerners. And in some bizarre twist of logic, the idea that 130 million people in the world supported the death of me and my family at all cost was supposed to put me at ease.
Such have been the strange attempts by a soft and irresolute America continuing to live its life of pizza and beer and reality shows in the face of a changing, and threatening, world.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Sometimes, a belief, ideology, religion can't really be understood until and only until you become part of it and accept that worldview. So I would suggest there are few, if any, outside the Muslim world that can see things the way a Muslim would, can understand if this is the typical approach to pursuing healing, and know if this is just the Islamic way. For despite Disney's instance to the contrary, sometimes we need to remember that it is a big world after all. And not all people see things the way I do. Sure, everyone wants to be happy, but they reckon that differently than I reckon happiness. They want good for their families. Of course they want freedom to a degree. But that doesn't mean, at the end of the day, that they want all these things as understood from a middle-class, Catholic, Midwestern, 21st century American male perspective. My guess is, many Muslims around the world see the issue differently than most Americans. How, I can only guess.
That wasn't all I remembered. Suddenly, I was in eighth grade again - one of the best years of my life - beginning to move from childhood to adulthood. Old toys were sitting, collecting dust with increased frequency as they could no longer hold my interest. Girls were beginning to appear less offensive. Going places with my best friend was more common, and we spent many days hanging out at colleges while his Mom attended classes, toilet papering and soaping windows on a football Friday night on Halloween, snowball fights in a bowling alley parking lot.
That got me to thinking, as I am wont to do, of how a simple picture, or reference, or even smell, can bring back memories like that, and suddenly I'm no longer here, worrying about job and fatherhood, being a good husband or provider (or lack thereof), or the concerns of aging parents, Alzheimer's, recessions, a fading America, a scandal-ridden Church, or any one of a thousand things that eat away at the child-like joys of yesteryear.
Instead, I'm transported back, and can see the old, blue beanbag chair, the new TV complete with round dials for navigating thirteen channels, feel the plastic cartridge announcing the coveted title of Space Invaders as I push it into the console. It's quite amazing, the thing called memory. The things that set it off, the things that are special. The things we never really get rid of.
I think of that when I read passages in the New Testament that turn to the original Aramaic. The New Testament is in Greek, of course, though the spoken language of Jesus and his compatriots would have been Aramaic. Nonetheless, on a few occasions, the authors of the Gospels, and Paul himself, recount the Aramaic words of Jesus. He says abba, father. He cries out Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani from the cross, he holds a little girl's hand and says Talitha kum, and she rises from her own death.
The authors didn't have to use the original words. They could have translated them into Greek just like the rest of Jesus' teachings. But they didn't. Something about remembering him say those things in particular struck a nerve. And they wanted to repeat them, to remember them. They wanted to pass them down to the ages and try, however incompletely, to allow us a brief glimpse into the actual moment when God reached out and gave so much to us sinners.
Like me remembering that year of wonders so long ago, I can't help but wonder if the Apostles were putting their own nostalgia in, remembering that year way back, when the Messiah walked among us, and the carpenter's son simply held a child's hand and said, Talitha kum. That, no doubt, would cause anyone to think that it was, indeed, a very good year.
Even the most pious believer has to admit that there is no scientific evidence for God or anything else supernatural. If there were, it would be in the textbooks along with the evidence for electricity, gravity, neutrinos, and DNA.Cuz we all know that if textbooks don't say it, it must not be true! Finish laughing for a minute, then we can continue.
OK, back to the article. Like most modern atheists he begins his assumptions with the religious faith of most modern atheists: that science is the only tool by which we can explain everything, and if science can't explain it, it doesn't exist. That, of course, is necessarily a belief, not to mention circular reasoning. There is no scientific proof that science alone can answer for all that exists. It has to have an assumption to begin with that if science can't explain it, it isn't true. Once you are willing to step out of that little religious covey, it becomes easier to see that 99% of humanity may not be 100% wrong about religious experience and revelation.
The rest of it, as is usual, deals with refuting Christianity's God. Typically when atheists say they are against all religion they spend 99% of their time obsessed with the Christian traditions.
Essentially, his article boils down to this: We all know that if science in 2010 can't prove it, it isn't true. And by proof, we mean proving it based on how we believe it should be able to be proven. And furthermore, we won't consider any proof that doesn't fit our own scientific methods, which, by the way, assume to begin with that God doesn't exist and there is nothing supernatural. His final two paragraphs speak volumes for this:
"As the final example, the Abrahamic God is believed by his worshipers to talk to people and provide information they otherwise did not know. Nothing could be easier to test scientifically. All you have to do is find a few examples where a truth has been revealed that later was confirmed. This could be something simple, such as a prediction of some future event that turned out to be confirmed. This has never happened.Note there is no real evidence provided by the author who insists our beliefs should be based on scientific evidence (which, of course, would render them no longer beliefs). The famous Miracle of the Sun*, which saw thousands of witnesses account for a prediction by three peasant children regarding a phenomenon which occurred. Everyone knows it happened, the witnesses have gone on record saying it happened. Wouldn't that be proof? One time is all is needed.
Of course, claims of revelation can be found in all three monotheisms, but none stand up to critical scrutiny. The so-called prophecies in scriptures were all made in the distant past and can't be tested since the events prophesied have already happened, or, as in the case of Jesus returning in a generation, long been falsified."
Not so for our intrepid rationalists. They simply dismiss such things by saying 'mass hypnosis', or 'giant conspiracies', or 'mass hallucinations'. Now, do they have proof of any of these things? No. There is no proof that mass hallucinations, hypnosis or conspiracy happened. Yet they base their disbelief on a very simple belief: since we already believe there is no God or supernatural, there must - MUST - be some other explanation, no matter how implausible or unproven.
His last paragraph was simply bizarre, and suggests that as a historian and critical scholar, he makes a good physicist. He doesn't take into account contrasting theories on the dating of Old Testament literature. He doesn't explain the secular critical answers that attempt to explain away the prophecies. Why not? That would be icing on the cake. Simply turn to liberal/secular explanations for the later dating of the Old Testament (which may not be as true as once believed), and that would, if you are willing to enter into it with skepticism, add to the argument. It's almost as if he is unaware of the arguments, because perhaps, just perhaps, he is actually unaware of the very religion he has tried so hard to refute with science. So unaware, that a person of faith has little difficulties seeing the superficial assumptions and understandings of the faith he has tried to disprove, and can see why his supposed smack down of religion is a rather lightweight fluff ball after all.
*Yes, the link is to a skeptics website. I had a good laugh there, too. Notice his rationalist arguments against the miracle: from 'because they weren't as smart as me and didn't know what looking at the sun could be like', to 'mass suggestion' (no evidence), or my favorite: the miracle must have a natural explanation (since miracles don't exist), so the absence of a natural explanation proves no miraculous vision occurred'. Hint: if you want to prove it was no big deal that three peasant children predicted something would happen on a certain day that did happen, then get together three children, have them predict that something will happen, and reproduce the event. Or prove the countless conflicting theories 'disproving' the event are actually true and not desperate attempts at ignoring the fact that it all boils down to you being blinded by science, and nothing more.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Oh, the problems are still there, lest the skeptic snort in derision and suggest this is all a crutch for us to escape our problems. The problems are still there, the hurdles need cleared, the obstacles overcome. But it reminds us folks with the gift of faith that, in the end, there is much more than simply the day-to-day concerns awaiting us. There is something bigger, a small shard of which we can enjoy with the moments spent at a fish restaurant on Friday, a baby running and playing with his brothers, or a spectacular reminder that when God created, he did so out of sheer joy and love. With that, a blessed weekend to all, until next week. TTFN.