Thursday, September 30, 2010
That's not to say I don't feel I have any insights. I've studied theology from a Protestant POV for almost 20 years, and have been studying history for over 30. I've taught history, Bible, theology, and Church history. I've also been a pastor, and have approached the faith from a more pastoral side, seeing the faith not merely as some path to salvation through the logically superior adherence to philosophical algorithms. Rather, I see it as a journey toward an eternal relationship with the living God. I, like anyone, should be prepared to give an account for my hope in Christ Jesus. Naturally, I think there are times when a straight discussion of the Church, the Catholic Faith, or Christianity is in order. But as often as not, it is seeing the world and reflecting on the paths I believe we are going, born of a concern founded on the teachings of the Catholic Faith as well as I understand it, that shows up.
Personally, I could care less about homosexuality. I never thought it was the natural human way, because I never believed - even as an agnostic - that humans were merely glorified animals and could appeal to the animal kingdom to justify our desires. But I could personally care less. But as a Catholic who believes based on the Catholic Faith that morality is not open to my subjective opinions, I must therefore be concerned with the militant and fanatic zealotry to suppress the opinions and beliefs of those who do not conform to the dogmas of the gay rights movement.
Likewise, abortion rights. Even as an agnostic, I got squeamish thinking that human life could be so cheaply and lightly defined at a woman's personal whim. I also noted that most talk about abortion was about rape and incest, yet most of it happened in the realm of convenience. In addition, most kids I knew in college who supported it did so in order to get laid without fear of inconvenient babies interfering with the cocktail hour. Such a cheap and shameful manipulation of the definition of human life - abortion in order to have care free libido satisfaction - almost made Hitler's master race theory seem to be half way honorable, if that were ever possible.
And yet, I still didn't care. Let the world burn if it wants to, what a woman wants to do is her business, not mine. But as a Catholic I cannot so lightly toss aside inconvenient immorality. For it is not mine personally, but God's eternal Truth that is at stake. So I must have opinions, be involved, and do what I can for the least of these in the service of promoting the Good News of Christ Jesus.
So the things I post are Catholic musings, because I am Catholic. And because many of the things I write about and post about are from my Catholic beliefs, my Catholic life, and my commitment to try to live more and more based upon the teachings of the Catholic Church. And the things that catch my attention are those which threaten the Truth as I believe it, or threaten to place me or my children between conforming to some godless philosophy, or obeying the Truth of Christ as revealed through His Church.
So don't expect long apologetic treatises, though I will toss some out here and there. Expect more my observations on a culture dying, spinning out of control, and quickly on a path toward putting those who would be loyal Americans and faithful Christians on a collision course. Observations from years of pastoral care and decades of studying various historic, theological, and cultural issues. This is why I have this blog, to sort things out. Others are more than welcome to join in and comment as they see fit. I will no doubt learn from their insights and questions. But I must do all of this because I know it won't be me, or anyone old enough to read this blog who will be effected. It will be my children and their children who will pay the price of our contemporary crisis - as is always the case.
Take Maher. O'Reilly asks him to admit that there are extremists on both sides of the debate. That's obvious, as any group, ideology, movement or anything has it's bad apples. Maher's response? No way! There are only extremists on one side, the Right. I tried to see if he was smirking when he said it, but couldn't tell. That would be like saying 'No way! The world is too flat!' Who could believe him? Yet how many do believe him, and others in our media, simply because they are on 'Our Side (TM)'? I would like to think Maher was being facetious, or obnoxiously sarcastic, but a little voice can't help but think he isn't. One of the great coups of the Left has been it's insistence that liberalism is not a belief, but the TRUTH. It could be he actually believes that anyone on his side of the debate is incapable of extremism. It's one of the differences between the modern "conservative" and "liberal" movements. If that's so, then there should be no excuse for clear thinking and free thinking individuals to listen to him any more than they would listen to someone insisting there really wasn't a moon landing.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Some of the survey, of course, could be debatable. The section on how much believers know about the Constitution and religion suggests Americans think things are too restrictive. But this is subjective. And it may be based on news stories that suggest there are those trying to make it more restrictive than it actually is, and hence believers assuming that the restrictions either are, or will be, law in the land. So the survey, like all such attempts to categorize millions based on the answers of hundreds, no doubt has flaws. (see my medicine show post).
And of course, Catholics score at the bottom of the list in knowing anything about religion in general or their own faith in particular. This has to stop. I know folks say it's not the Church's job, but yeah, it actually is:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."But there's more to the results than our illustrious media might guess. Religion is, in the end, a world view and approach to living. It is not an academic exercise. It is not a scholarly treatise on how we understand the world. Did it surprise me that atheists and agnostics scored so high? No. I learned quite a lot about religions as an agnostic, but not to become more religious. Or even to learn from them. I merely wanted to find all the little tidbits that validated my unbelief.
Many, if not most, secularists who study all about religion do it for one reason: to justify not believing. Hence, they are merely looking for everything they can to justify not accepting what they've learned about. Imagine Rush Limbaugh. I would venture to say he knows more about Obama's policies, history, background, and experience than half the people who voted for him. That means what? That Rush Limbaugh is smarter? That Rush Limbaugh must be the official authority to approach for any information about Obama? No, he finds out what he finds out to reinforce what he already believes.
In addition, many who are religious see it as a life, not a series of textbooks. To them, it's more important that they give that cup of cold water, they feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those imprison. It's the living it that counts, not the scholarly comprehension. To put it bluntly, which is better: having a completely academic understanding of sex, or actually experiencing it?
That they can't answer some basics about their faith, or the difference between Hinduism and Buddhism is of little concern. Especially if they feel they've discovered the Truth for living. After all, if one discovered a cure for cancer, would we ridicule them for not continuing to study other remedies? Even if we believed the other remedies just as effective? They already have a cure. In addition, the idea that one must study all religions and know all about all religions comes from a society whose basic belief about all religions is that they are all wrong.
This is not to say I think Christians should be uneducated. Far be it. I believe because of the increasing hostility toward the Christian faith, and the inroads made by other faith traditions, it would do us well to learn about those faiths and their histories, both the good and bad. Also, we should know better the basics our our beliefs. When almost half of Catholics don't know what the Church teaches about the Eucharist, when Evangelicals believe that their tradition teaches we get saved the old fashioned way - by earning it, then there are problems. Christians should understand their faith as much as atheists don't understand their own faith in atheism. By doing so, it will help us, as Peter says, always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks us to give an account for the hope that is in us.
Having spent years studying the Bible, including Greek and Hebrew, I was shocked to see something I imagined most people knew to be false. I assumed by now most Christians who wanted to accept homosexuality simply dismissed the Bible as unimportant nowadays, or took the Leftist tendency of abusing critical scholarship to jettison any pesky verses that don't say what we know they should have said.
But leaning on this archaic approach from the earliest days of conforming Christian teaching to homosexuality intrigued me, so I read on. I won't go into each and every argument, but one stopped me where I was. It dealt with Paul's letter to the Romans. Here is the passage in question:
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
The translation they used had the term 'dishonorable.' From there, the argument was that while Paul was arguing that it was dishonorable, it was not the same as sin. Sin was different. Dishonorable, while not great, was not sin either.
Now I could spend eighteen pages with this one, including analyzing the Greek terms and whether this or that would work. I could also point out that the reference was taken woefully out of context of Paul's overall point: addressing the friction between Jewish and Gentile believers. In light of this, it's almost impossible not to see Paul's message as one of sin leading to eventual repentance without any pit stops of 'bad but not sin' along the way.
But what struck me the most is that this argument hinged on the idea that we in America in 2010 would have no problem accepting something dishonorable as no big deal. I realize that in the world of Honor Killings, and tales of suicide planes in WWII, and fanciful tales of Asiatic terrors visited upon the unknowing Richard Chamberlain all in the name of honor, some may have the unfortunate notion that honor always produces bad, but never produces good.
Looking at our country, it's not difficult to imagine that more and more people see honor this way. And yet, that is something that has been peddled to our nation of hedonistic narcissism in order to validate a nation of hedonistic narcissism. Nothing to kill or die for, Lennon wrote. Really? Nothing to die for? What's that mean? We have a gut reaction of admiration for those who give their lives for others. For firefighters and policemen running up the Twin Towers when everyone is is running down. For the person who gives their life saving a child from a fire. For the soldier giving the final sacrifice for his country.
And yet consciously, we attempt to surround ourselves with lame and baseless notions that honor is a thing of the past, best put out on the back porch with the butter churn and the Bible. How else can we validate a world in which we put ourselves first, and the rest of the world second? How else can we say the world can burn if I don't get what I want? How else can we tell kids to give their parents the big middle finger while telling parents they must give their kids everything all the time? That we can do, say, live, and be anything we want, the rest of the world be damned?
If anything bothers me about homosexuality, it's so much duplicity and flagrant oppression of facts in order to promote it. The idea that an argument for it had to rely on a modern notion of honor that, from a causal glance, has brought so much devastation and harm to our society, is just one more nail in the coffin. Of course the Bible says and assumes homosexuality is outside of normal, outside of natural, and therefore an affront to the Creator of human nature. That has been the universal understanding of the behavior form the beginning of time. Even societies that allowed it did so as an extracurricular activity, never one around which the social family unit was built. Having to ignore facts such as these, to twist biblical passages and ignore data that portrays the lifestyle in less than stellar terms is bad enough. But when I must accept as normative something that is only normative to our shame, that honor is no big deal anymore and should never be confused with sin (which is, in liberal circles, usually defined as rejecting liberal beliefs and priorities), I'm afraid it has gone too far.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
So it's always amazing when a single person can arise to take an already negative situation and make it worse. Alan Grayson is that kind of a man. A Democrat relishing in the fact that he can say to Republicans what Republicans would never - ever - get away with saying to Democrats, he has shown himself to be everything that one-dimensional attacks on all politicians attempt to portray. Now, I can deal with him insulting and acting like a spoiled brat six year old on a kindergarten playground who wants everyone to play his way. Nothing in any of his interviews has suggested I should expect anything else.
Despite AT&T's insistence that the Internet makes us smarter, I'm beginning to wonder. It seems to merely be a place were we buttress the truths we are willing to accept. And the more we are willing to ignore lies, the more we are willing to hedge ourselves with walls of conformity to preexisting biases, the less concerned our politicians, or professors, or even preachers will be about telling us the whole truth. After all, they will learn that telling us what we want to hear, no matter how flagrantly false, is what we really want in the first place.
Naturally, in our usual wishy washy self emasculation, many will point out that societies have always drawn the line between what is and isn't acceptable religious practice. Call me silly, but saying religions can't practice human sacrifice is something I accept. Saying that religions can't preach what liberalism rejects is not. Because I am biased, and believe there is a real Truth in the universe that says humans shouldn't be sacrificed while we should be able to proclaim the Gospel. Does that mean I want the laws to reflect my views? Sure. Does that mean I'm being a hypocrite for not wanting others to desire the same? No, it means I'm honest. If they just would come out and admit what is obvious, that they want the laws to protect and promote their Truths and punish those outside, that's fine. Though I still believe a society that outlaws human sacrifice and allows all religions to freely proclaim their message is superior to one that demands all religions conform to only one message as allowed by the government. But that's just me.
Friday, September 24, 2010
We'll chalk that up to a big "thank you God!", and count our blessings. Still, it requires some attention on our part, so I'll be back Monday! See all you folks, casual readers and visitors alike! Blessings and good fortune come your way.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
So why stay? Why remain when we are barely eking by, watching savings dwindle, watching our children's lives pass before us knowing there are so many things we had hoped to do with them but can't? Well, because in the end, I believed that the Catholic Faith was true. That's what brought me in. I didn't come in because of the job prospects. Truth be told, I only knew that priests had any jobs at all, couldn't be married, and since I was married to a wonderful wife of almost seventeen years, could not get a job in the Church. So I didn't expect anything anyway.
Did I hope something would happen? Sure. Did I expect to make this major life-altering move on the eve of the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression? No. That's why I don't gamble. That's also why I came in when I did. I merely followed through on a decade of growing difficulties believing in the Protestant approach to the Christian faith. As a former agnostic, I put aside the narcissism and hedonism that defined so much of modern American life. I wasn't willing to go back because I had an overwhelming belief in God as revealed through Jesus Christ. But the Protestant essentials - faith alone, Scripture alone, the existence of a thousand different denominations - all made me question the basis of the faith in which I found myself. Was I believing in something that had eternal roots? Or was I just following this or that religious leader who had the most charisma and the best arguments?
When I released the answer to the questions, I was given a choice: leave the Christian faith, or look for alternatives. Well, outside of Protestantism, the options for continuing in the Christian faith are limited. Either make my own denomination - which is becoming increasingly popular in a post-denominational landscape. Or look back young man. Look to the past. Look to, of all things, the historic faith as manifested in the Catholic/Orthodox traditions.
Obviously I did. And obviously I came to the conclusion that the historic faith is what was missing in my Protestant experience of Christianity. A faith rooted, with documents and proof to back it up, in more than just modern American life, historic American life, post-Renaissance Western Europe, or any one thing. It found its roots at the beginning, at the feet of Jesus who told Peter 'Upon this rock I will build my Church.'
Realizing that, I made the crazy and stupid decision to drop everything and come into the Church. Now, had I known a little more about how many full time pastors actually become Catholic (versus part timers, or non-pastoral ministers with outside incomes), I might have handled things differently. But I wouldn't have changed much, for I wanted my children to grow in the faith along with my wife and me. So no matter what, no matter how frustrating, I have to pause and remember why I came into the Faith in the first place. Not because of promises of wealth and prosperity. Not even because someone said I might get a job. But because I believed the Catholic Faith was True, the Truth, the prism through which reality is properly interpreted. Therefore, I must be patient, and prayers will be appreciated.
A Super-Narrative, then, is when the narrative has become so firmly entrenched that it isn't just believed without evidence. It is believed even when evidence shows it is wrong. When we know the evidence, see the evidence, and yet, despite it all, there is no way in God's green earth we will accept anything other than the narrative we have come to accept.
So the narrative of the Western Progressive movement, finding its full flowering in the ideals of Multi-Culturalism, is that the Christian Western Tradition was in all ways flawed, inferior to any and all other cultures, and the singular cause of problems in the world. People may have done things wrong in other parts of the world, but this fact is handled one of two ways. Either they did wrong because the West got in there and messed things up and made them do it. Or, it wasn't really 'wrong' because it was just their thing. For us to say it was wrong is to make an ethnocentric value judgement without any justification.
This has been going on for some time, and we can't just blame those rascally hippies from the 60s. Though it would find its most powerful expressions in the age of mass media of the television era. Nonetheless, its roots go back to the Reformation, when Protestant reformers were more than happy to take the problems in the Catholic Church (and boy were there problems), and multiply them beyond all reality, insisting that the entire history of the Church had been one long, sad tale of horror and unspeakable sin. Since then, taking the traditions we don't want to the woodshed has been a popular way of getting newer, revolutionary ideas across.
As much as I'm proud to be an American, am proud of the Revolution and our Independence, and admire and celebrate our Founding Fathers, I have to be real. They took issues about taxes and about restrictions on their abilities to bring in the big bucks and made them into a cosmic struggle between the Force and the Dark Side. And it goes on today. That's the power of the narrative. That's when the narrative takes over, and you can start reinterpreting everything in light of that: English Oppression, Catholic Corruption, American racism - you name it.
But what happens when the evidence starts to stack up against the narrative? What happens when people look back and start asking questions about the past? Defending a narrative based on the past actually isn't hard, since most of history is based on interpretation anyway. It takes certain assumptions to study and interpret history, and you can just smack people down if they challenge the narrative. What do you mean there was no Indian Genocide? Huh? I suppose you're just some American racist who worships the country like a God then, aren't you! Aren't you!!
That's good. But now, what if the evidence isn't something from the past, where dead men walked and no longer tell any tales? What happens if it's now, outside our windows, right next to us and in our living rooms? What happens if what we are seeing right now no longer fits the narrative?
One of two things could occur. We could admit the narrative might at least need some tweaking. Which is unlikely since people often take a bullet before admitting something they have founded their life's values on could be wrong. Or we can just ignore it and keep repeating the narrative in the hopes that it will stick, using any threats or smack downs to keep people from questioning the obvious. And that, my friends, is the Super Narrative. When in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we continue to just say the same thing over and over again in the hope we'll still believe it, we have passed to the world of the Super Narrative.
So, for example, progressivism. Holding disproportionate majorities in our popular media and culture, Western Progressivism is more or less secular. Modern Atheists, finding a sympathetic audience as a result, have caught the post-9/11 wave and declared that 9/11 is what religion gets you every time. Religion is always violent, and most violence is religious. Get rid of religion, and you get peace. The problem is we live after the 20th century, the least religiously motivated and influenced century in history. The bulk of the movements and wars and atrocities of that century had little to nothing to do with religion. Nations dedicated to the proposition that atheism must stay and religion go, managed to murder more people in a shorter amount of time than at any time in human history. Those are facts. Yet the modern atheist, with the help of mass media (really needed to establish a Super Narrative), simply keeps repeating over and over the meme that religion kills, atheism can save.
Another case is, of course, the clash of civilizations since 9/11. Most in America, even those not in bed with Secular Progressives, have more or less accepted the 'bad us, good them' approach. The idea that we are the mischief, and most other folks merely want peace and love and John Lennon songs. Yet, as year after year has passed, it's become more difficult to believe, hasn't it? After all, Racist Americans (TM) were supposed to rise up after 9/11 and make the streets run red with the blood of Muslim Americans. Remember that? Just like we did to the Japanese in WWII (we did it to Germans and Italians, but don't mention that since it's easier to build the Racist American narrative). Did it happen? Not really. There's been as much violence against other religions, including Christianity, as there has been against Muslims.
Consider the Mosque controversy. Yes, some of it is based on good old fashioned bigotry the way grandma used to bake it. But most seem quite reasoned and rational about it. Yes, Terry Jones, pastor extraordinaire gave the keepers of the Narrative a blast when he seemed to embrace the Racist American meme and live it out to the full. But in the end, just about every American condemned the Koran burning, and he backed down. Has the good Imam of the Ground Zero Mosque, in deference to those victims of 9/11 who have asked him to relocated, compromised? Nope. Not yet. In fact, he's said what was said to Pope Benedict a few years ago: I may not support violence, but if you do things we don't like, there will be violence and that's the end of that.
Yes, we went to two ill-planned wars, and internal divisions and rank partisanship all but hamstrung our hopes for any victory, if there was any hope at all. But despite two invasions, the biggest killer of Muslims since 9/11 has been Muslims. So much so, that support for terrorism in the Muslim world has dropped slightly in the last few years. In addition, cartoons and academic lectures have caused riots, embassies to be attacked, churches to be burned, nuns to be shot, and a continual stream of planned (and thankfully busted) terrorist attacks on American and European soil.
So, you would think somewhere folks would be saying this goes to show you the world may be more complex than we've made it in recent years. We need to rethink and re-approach how we look at the world, and make sure our efforts for peace take into account the realities, and are not based on bigotry against any side in these conflicts, including our own. You would think that, but you'd be wrong.
The media continues to insist that Pastor Terry Jones merely represented a long, sad history of American Racism and bigotry. And hundreds of millions of Muslims who still support terrorism including suicide bombing? The case after case of Muslim violence, riots, and threats? The lack of evidence of uprisings in America that has caused the death of thousand of Muslims here at home? No problem. Just ignore it. That is the miracle of the Super Narrative. Once you accept it and base your reality on it, a little thing like evidence doesn't need to get in the way. Heck, if it's to that point, you can even throw out a morsel to those who might be troubled by all this to remind them of the narrative: Muslims support terrorism you say? Well, how many Americans supported Hiroshima, tell me that buster brown! For once you are in so deep as to live by a Super Narrative, there is little hope that you, or the society that has accepted it, will ever change. Even after it's too late.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Want to know why conservatives and Christians freak out at Christmas time over the whole War On Christmas? See this little clip of our brave president rewriting one of the greatest documents in human history lest he offend modern post and anti-Christian sensitivities:
That so much influence could already be accepted in our culture is why each and every little step backwards is met with alarm by those who still dare to follow the traditional Christian faith.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Another excellent point was a study that found abstinence education was no more beneficial than comprehensive sex education in preventing certain sex related problems. The media spin? Get rid of abstinence education. Of course some clever and insightful individuals immediately asked why this was the conclusion. If one was no better than the other, why assume we should only get rid of one?
Sunday, September 19, 2010
But why? All she said was she had dabbled in the occult. That was then. When she was young. Oh, that's right. The one thing we learned during the Clinton Years was that every nook and cranny of a politician's life, all the way back to childhood, was fodder for political attacks. Well, actually no. What we learned was that no one had any business looking at the past of any (Democrat) politicians, and things like Character, Truth, Values didn't matter.
So why is it all that important now? Because there are two groups royally ticked off about O'Donnell and what she represents. The social liberals who, of course, hate social and religious conservatism. They are the ones that made calling Sarah Palin a bitch, whore, slut, bimbo, milf, and any one of a thousand sexist terms all the rage in the 2008 election. Not to mention calling her daughter the same, and giving nods to those who attacked her special needs baby. But what of the conservatives? Ah, there's the rub. For people have confused 'Republican' and 'Conservative' for decades. Particularly social conservative. And therein lies the problem.
Karl Rove, and many others, made a career of promising social and religious conservatives the moon and delivering nothing for almost twenty years. Now, having realized winning gets you nothing, those same voters are more than happy to hamstring the Republicans by voting for candidates who may not have a ghost of a chance. Why not? Voting for candidates who won gave them nothing all these years. Why not at least vote their conscience? If the Republican establishment wants to learn, they had better learn fast. Their 'Money above God' list of priorities does little for most people. Their only hope is in that mass of humanity increasingly worried about the tyranny of progressive secularism that they see gathering on the horizon. But the values voters are saying loud and clear they will rather go down with a clean conscience that continue throwing their principles out the window for candidates who will do nothing to help them win their most important battles. Mr. Rove, pay attention!
Saturday, September 18, 2010
One interesting thing, and something that makes it tough to honestly adopt the good guy/bad guy framework that the media would dearly love Catholics to accept, is the makeup of the protest. Much of the article goes to show the numbers involved in the protest, how peaceful it was, and how it casts such a shadow on the Pope's 'controversial' (note the scare quotes) visit. While there are victims of the abuse protesting, it is also mentioned that many protesting seem more interesting in the areas with which they disagree with Church teaching. In at least one sentence:
Across town, abuse victims and demonstrators opposed to the pope's stance against homosexuality, abortion and using condoms to fight AIDS
It almost seems as if some of the victims themselves are protesting Church teaching, rather than simply speaking out at the Church's abysmal handling of the crisis. All of this to show the difficulty that has plagued the scandal and its handling. For while the Church erred big time, and justice still appears to be slipping through some pretty important fingers, it can't be missed that at least a fair portion of the righteous indignation aimed at the Church has little to do with concern over the victims or even the crime, and much more to do with the all important calls for conformity that the modern progressive movement demands from every quarter of the globe.
Update: The host of a CNN media watch segment slammed a New England paper for running a story about Muslims on 9/11, then apologizing the next day. Why, the host asked, must we connect every story about Islam to 9/11? The question could also be asked why networks like CNN must connect every story about Catholicism to the priest abuse scandal, or any story about America to slavery and discrimination in its past?
Friday, September 17, 2010
One, of course, is very common and popular amongst Western progressives. That is, basically, it's all the fault of the traditional Christian West. Ancient Greece was OK, and now even ancient Rome is getting a re-imagining. But once Christianity hits, it's all bigotry and racism and homophobia and anti-Semitism, and genocide, witch burnings, torture, imposed ignorance and hatred of learning - you name it. Naturally, this remains until some vague time after the Renaissance, when really super smart and loving people begin to trash the Christian faith, abandon it's bigotry and intolerance, and move toward the modern enlightened path to salvation to be found in the dogmas of Western Progressive thought.
There are many other narrative these days of course, but that's a starting point, since it's the one reinforced through our institutions of higher learning, our public school curriculum, our media, our popular culture, and the majority of anywhere else we get our stores from.
When a narrative takes shape, it becomes easy to believe anything if it fits the narrative, even if you aren't sure you've ever really studied it, or read about it, or know the details. Take, for instance, the Genocidal slaughter of the Native Americans. Well, that didn't really happen. What we do know is that Europeans may have brought smallpox with them (no doubt by accident - this is the 16th century), and infected the native peoples. Why Europeans weren't likewise hit by similar diseases is still not known (especially since popular culture portrays people in Europe at that time as filthy, mud covered messes, while American Indians are shown with buff bodies, perfect teeth, fabulous hair and great hygene). We also aren't sure it really happened that way, or if it did, the extent to which it happened. In any event, we know it wasn't intentional. And unless you are against any people ever migrating to find freedom and comfort, you can't blame the settlers for that.
Of course, many things did happened between the Europeans and the indigenous peoples. But it was complex, for neither Europeans nor the American Indians were a single culture or civilization. Rather, both were of a common racial stock, but from very different tribes, kingdoms, nations which fought, warred, and allied with one another. Over four hundred years, there was a clash as one side sought to maintain its land, even to the point of driving all immigrants away, while the other sought to take the land for itself. Tens of thousands would die on both sides, often innocent civilians on both sides, and often in horrible ways on both sides. In the end, by way of broken treaties and deception, the United States drove the American Indians off their land onto reservations. This is where it is today. That's it.
Yet it is now, even in textbooks, referred to as a genocide. What Turkey did to the Armenian Christians isn't. What Stalin did to millions of Ukrainians isn't. But the war of conquest and clash of civilizations between the United States and European settlers and the American Indians has turned into a one-side-is-evil story of an innocent, near perfect people slaughtered by the evil forces of racism and greed (and apparently biological warfare).
There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is 'racism as the only sin Americans seem able to fathom', but our post is not to trace the assumptions and biases and definitions that go behind it all. Rather, it's to point out that this treatment of American history is not so much what has led to the 'America=Evil' meme of our modern age. Rather, it is the assumption already well under way when I was young that America is a shameless nation of racist murderers whose traditions must be thrown down and rebuilt in the New Way that allows us to take such a one sided and negative interpretation of events. Even if we don't know the facts, we don't have to. We already assume the US has always been racist and evil, so being told there was this genocide is easy to accept.
That is a narrative. When the story is accepted without evidence, simply because the story has already been accepted. Next: What, then, is a Super Narrative.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
In which we get a little help from one of history's greatest moments. In just thirteen words an entirely different way of seeing things emerges. The speech is legendary and needs no introduction. In less than two years, Gehrig would be gone, but not before he gave one of the most inspiring words in history to those living through difficult times.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Well, 2008 saw a growing number of social and religious conservatives willing to vote for Mickey Mouse rather than for a candidate proud of his social moderation and railing against conservative values. For which president Obama thanks them. But now, with the Tea Party, they have an alternative. And they are capitalizing on this. The Republican leaders, of course, interested in wealth and political power, continue to fight socially conservative candidates under the assumption they can't win. That might be true. But it's really only true because, up until now, the Republican party has put no effort behind promoting socially conservative candidates unless convenient.
So we'll have to wait and see. But I think those voting for the likes of O'Donnell no longer care. Winning wasn't getting them anything. Abortion is still allowed any way you want, and gay marriage will soon be the law of the land. We promote condoms for kids while bitch smacking the Boy Scouts for not letting gays lead the scouts. We are seeing the likes of Barry Lynn say it's time to tell traditional religious types that our country doesn't serve their kind anymore since the First Amendment clearly states that all religions Barry Lynn hates should be banned from the public forum - and more to the point, an increasing number of Americans who think that's true. So conservatives have little to lose by seeing Republicans who care about their values lose. They've been losing for the last two decades that those Republicans who said they cared were winning. Maybe now the Republicans will learn.
I can't speak for all the violence across America we've heard about. I've heard for weeks now that violence is breaking out all over the place. I haven't seen any actual stories, except the attack on the cab driver in New York and the arson in Tennessee.
But this is different. I live here, grew up here, and have been in this part of the country for the last ten years. After 9/11, there were stories of Mosques being vandalized, and some graffiti. But that's been about it. The only violence directed at religion has been a rash of church vandalism and fires, and a priest who was murdered a couple years ago. Other than that, nothing.
So why do so many Muslim leaders in our city fear for their lives? Even if the rest of America is going bat crazy and attacking Muslims left and right, they aren't here. Why fear?
And I thought of this. Could it be a combination? First, Americans are pretty hard on ourselves. For a host of reasons, many groups in America like to hash, trash, and rehash the rehashed trash over America's sins. Anything today is seen in the worst possible light, and every event of the past replayed in the worst way. Have Muslims, particularly immigrants, just accepted it as true that America is nothing but a horrible, genocidal racist bigoted nation of death and murder? And therefore naturally see anything as a step toward the inevitable American Death Camps? Why wouldn't they? Americans are the ones who say it!
In addition to that, could it also be that Muslims are not used to criticism. In America, until the 90s, most Americans didn't give a rip about Islam one way or another. Except for some Chuck Norris movies where the Muslims were the bad guys, we didn't pay much attention. Other than Israel and its plight of course. Even after the first world Trade Center bombing, and even after the first Gulf War, we were far more interested in our own failings and scoring political points than thinking too much about Islam. But 9/11 changed that, and suddenly a whole lot of folks had opinions about Islam.
Since American Muslims hadn't heard much criticism (perhaps experienced discrimination or making fun of at best), this was new to them. Especially since, let's face it, criticizing Islam in Islamic countries is not a favorite pastime. After all, when was the last time a Muslim in an interview went back and accounted for the centuries of warfare, conquest, and atrocities committed by Muslims? So perhaps it's the double edged fear of not being used to hearing outward criticisms of Islam, coupled with America's tendency to present our country in the worst possible light. I know that would make me wonder if I was new to the place.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
For me, the money quote was the above reference from a feminist lawyer interviewed on the Today Show. She was the one who said if a woman comes up to a man in see through lingerie, that doesn't give them the right to sexually harass her. But I wondered if a man went up to a woman and dropped his pants, wouldn't that be sexual harassment? Why, then, could a woman do the equivalent and it be no problem? The reason is because the last thing feminism cares about is equality between the sexes. It has ever and always lobbied for equality for women whenever convenient. And nothing illustrates it better than this story, and the reactions to it.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Do you subscribe to the truth rooted in the historical church prior to St. Anselm or do you subscribe the truth rooted in the far less historical catholic church of post St. Anselm?This will be an answer in two parts, because it's so good as to demand more than a single long-winded post by yours truly can manage without doing a disservice. The first thing I want to think about is the very nature of Catholicism as it compares to other ways of seeing and approaching the truth. As a fairly new Catholic, former Protestant minister, former agnostic, it's amazing at how there really are major differences in our various models for finding the truth.
I think part of this is getting one's head around the Catholic/Orthodox approach to Christianity. And it isn't easy. We have all grown up in a post-Protestant, post-Christian world that has more or less taken the worst interpretation of Catholicism and its history that one can imagine. Tales of sadistic inquisitors running amok, butchering and torturing any who dare raise the slightest question about the rigid dogmas of Catholicism are all part of the popular imagination. In addition, the existence of Protestantism and individualistic authority toward establishing a world view makes us assume that the Catholic Church must follow the same approach. For in Protestantism, one finds the denomination that fits closest to where one believes. You may not agree 100%, but you are going to come close, and most of the things that define that particular denomination, or even congregation, are going to be seen as important (hence, why you belong to this and not that church).
So it is difficult to get your head around the Catholic Church that, believe it or not, doesn't always put dogmatic pronouncements down on every conceivable interpretation of a teaching. There is actually plenty of wiggle room for how one sees this or that doctrine. The doctrine itself may be dogmatic, but how the Church sees it over time can change, develop, evolve - and the Church is fine with that. So we can all throw our two cents into the ring with our own ideas. Like Darwin's theories? That's fine. The Church has no problem with that. As long as you hold onto God the Father, the Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth. Wonder about how the Old Testament came into being? Think it was written by Moses? Or do you prefer the more modern critical scholar approaches? Again, the Church is pretty loose about that, as long as you don't deny essential truths and doctrines about the Scriptures or the truths they convey that has been clearly taught and decided upon by the teaching authority of the Church.
Next time: The Atonement in a nutshell.
Note: The question was later restated, with certain parts taken back. That's fine. No problem there. But it did touch on a major difference in what the Catholic Faith is, and how folks outside the faith often think it is, and I thought it worth mentioning. Next post, we'll take on Atonement itself! Fun stuff
All of these things are a result of the Officially Endorsed and Authoritative Bigotry taught by our esteemed institutions of information, and believed by millions.
Naturally, politics have played a big role, and both sides share the blame. Not that Huffpost would admit to that. Again, the important thing after 9/11 wasn't that America needs to win. It was that my version of America needs to emerge triumphant. Whatever that version is: Liberal, secular, Catholic, Protestant, liberal mainline Protestant, secular Jewish, druid, whatever. We were not unified before 9/11. 9/11 simply did nothing to change it.
Oh sure, for a few days we came back together (notice I said came back together, not that we came together as if it was some common thing). But again, it took only days before we shook our heads, got hold of ourselves, and realized we could not let a little thing like that stand in the way of our agendas. So here we are. Nine years later, and losing fast. 9/11 was everything Imperial Japan had hoped Pearl Harbor would be, and more. Whether our subjugation will come as a result of the rise of Asia, India, China, or the Islamic world is anyone's guess. But our grandchildren will be the ones to find out. May God have mercy on our arrogance.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
A few things have come up to take away my time from blogging. I expected to get back to things today, but probably won't be back any sooner than Thursday. Till then, here's Howard Beale pretty much nailing it in an evaluation that could easily apply to today (or any day truth be told). So enjoy his famous speech, and be back in a day or so:
Friday, September 3, 2010
So TTFN To All My Loyal Readers! I know, I know. There aren't many yet. But I only started this blog about 4-5 weeks ago, and already there are several posting, and more visiting. So that's not bad. And quality has a quantity all its own, and the comments so far have been well thought out and interesting - all the reasons for having a blog in the first place. I intend to get to some questions brought up when I come back from the Labor Day holiday, particularly the doctrine of Atonement and some interesting thoughts I had on how the Catholic Church sees things a little differently than Protestants or other faiths. Also an interesting take on JPII and the NYC Mosque that got me thinking. Till then, have a blessed and happy holiday weekend with all the folks and things that have meaning in your lives. See you next Tuesday (in the electronic media sense of course).