Friday, November 30, 2012

I saw three ships


I don't know why, but I thought I would mention that one of my earliest school memories comes from learning the song I Saw Three Ships when I was in first grade.  It was December, 1973.  Richard Nixon was president as the Watergate Scandal was picking up steam.  The Beatles had broken up three years earlier.  The American Psychiatric Association had just removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders (so it must be true).  And this little seven year old didn't know any of it.  Well, I had heard the adults talking about something happening around a water gate, but I couldn't put any of it together.

And in Mrs. Woods' northwestern corner classroom, with the old metal chair-desks pushed around into a large circle, the class gathered in the center to learn new songs.  I Saw Three Ships wasn't on any of the old Christmas records we listened to, and to be honest, I don't think I recalled ever hearing it before.  But I remember on that grey, December day, I learned a song about some things that I was only vaguely aware of (FWIW, for some reason all of my memories about school when I was young seem to imagine a grey, overcast or rainy day).

Don't know if this means anything or nothing at all.  Maybe it's just how things have changed, for I seriously doubt a public elementary school would teach the kids that song today.  Perhaps it's the irony of the events surrounding me and how out of touch I was.  I don't know.  I just know it's a memory, and a fond one, of things long ago, faded into my memory, only accessible now at random times or seasons.

The HHS mandate lurches forward

For those who support Obama's healthcare plan, including the controversial HHS mandate, there appears to be some good news.  Looks like two lawsuits that were challenging the HHS mandate have been tossed out.  Oh well. For me, I see it as the corner America is turning.  I spent most of my life being told that America was only one step away from Big Brother, and that it always had been.  Now, those who were always warning me about Big Brother seem to be the ones chomping at the bit to get us there.

Still, my sympathies are only so-so.  At first, I rallied to the flag, went to HHS opposition rallies, supported my Bishop, prayed, and dived into arguments with those saying they really didn't care about freedom for stupid and evil religion.

But as I did some research, I found out that the US Bishops had largely supported Obama's healthcare mandate.  The only thing they apparently opposed was the HHS mandate regarding abortion, contraception  and the like.  Now there are plenty of warning bells about Obama's plan.  Not that it was all bad mind you. I'm OK with insurance companies not kicking people off the plans when they are too sick, or not denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions   But there were also plenty of concerns, not the least of which was the mandate to force everyone to have health insurance.  Helping to provide is one thing.  But telling us we must have something like health insurance?

But from what I've found out and read, the Bishops were A-OK with all of it, as long as there was nothing forcing those against all abortion and contraceptives (read: The Catholic Church) to support such things.  Never mind the other dilemmas and ethical quandaries and possible erosion of our liberties.  That appeared to be their only concern.  So a part of me, a really deep, deep, dark part of me wants to say 'it serves you right.'  That's not the first time I've seen the Bishops more inclined to support the cause of the progressive over the traditionalist.  They've done it in other instances, in some cases showing the same general disregard for legitimate concerns  and more or less throwing their hats into the ring with a  movement known for its general rejection of any traditional Christian understanding of the world.

Don't get me wrong.  Politically it isn't as if there are very many places for the Bishops to turn to.  It isn't as if the GOP is coequal with the Holy Trinity or anything.  But it is to say I notice the Bishops are much quicker to reject outright proposals and positions held by those trying to defend a more traditional American nation, while they seem more than capable of ignoring some glaring and troubling problems within the proposals of those who seek to overthrow and alter the traditional American landscape.

Forgive me if I'm wrong, and if anyone knows of any articles that show the Bishops actually opposed Obama's troubling healthcare law for reasons other than the HHS mandate, please let me know.  I'll gladly concede the point.  But based on what I've found so far, I have to say, that's what happens when you decide a single issue is all that matters, and the greater forest is irrelevant next to the cause of the tree.

Striving for a hopeless cause

One of the things that struck me about this article that quotes Pope Benedict XVI's reaction to the recognition of a Palestinian state is just how, as Christians, we are to strive for the inevitably hopeless.  I mean, read the reaction:
"No more bloodshed! No more fighting! No more terrorism! No more war! Instead let us break the vicious circle of violence. Let there be lasting peace based on justice, let there be genuine reconciliation and healing. Let it be universally recognized that the State of Israel has the right to exist, and to enjoy peace and security within internationally agreed borders. Let it be likewise acknowledged that the Palestinian people have a right to a sovereign independent homeland, to live with dignity and to travel freely. Let the two-state solution become a reality, not remain a dream."
No more bloodshed?   No more fighting?  No more terrorism?  No more war?  That would be great.  And since peacemakers are called blessed, and told they will be called sons of God, I think it's something we Christians are supposed to strive for, despite the fact that it's apparently a hopeless cause.  Why hopeless?  Because of sin?  Because of human nature?  No, because Jesus said there would be wars and rumors of wars,when speaking about what to look for leading up to the last days.  He took the existence of warfare as a given in the same way he took the existence of the poor as a given.  And yet, we are to reach out to the poor, even if we can never help everyone.

There's something in that, I must admit.  Something that makes me wonder if in the tendency we have of adjusting our faith around a yen for comfortable lifestyles we might be missing something.  I mean, I spend my life trying to keep my home, avoid foreclosure, avoid bankruptcy, somehow get my kids through college, save in some way for retirement, and so on.  And that, too, seems to be an assumed set of values, since Jesus often uses the shrewdness or the careful planning of individuals as a good thing in certain parables (I'm thinking of Matthew 25 and Luke 16).

But yet, in the end, there seems to be something in our faith that say just do it, no matter how hopeless   This isn't to be confused with using such an observation as an excuse to avoid responsibility   This isn't to say our response to complex ethical dilemmas should be 'screw it, I'm not going to sin, babies are going to be killed anyway, so I'll stay pure and know I'm doing the right thing.'  Martyrdom, after all, is not how willing I am to let others die for my faith.

But there is something to be said for striving forward, fighting the fight, giving it that old college try, no matter how hopeless.  Even if God himself has said there is no hope that wars will end, we are to strive to end wars.  Even if Jesus spoke of the perpetual existence of the poor, we are to strive to help all who are poor no matter how hopeless.  I don't know.  There's probably a profound insight in there somewhere.  It just hit me when I read that quote.  No more war?  Indeed, there will always be war, just as there will always be crime, poverty, despair.  I suppose as long as it doesn't lead to an ethic that allows the weak and helpless to suffer under the guise of 'it would happen anyway, but at least I'm being pure', it is something to consider when we measure effectiveness versus our calling as Christians to strive to set our minds on God's interests, rather than man's interests.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

When it comes to AIDS

One of the verdicts years from now will be that we had a disease that flourished because we refused to talk about its causes.  I realize that it thrives in poverty stricken countries.  I understand that it has long passed into areas of society where people who have done nothing are infected.  I know that children are born with the disease.  But I also have a hunch - a powerful, gnawing hunch - that this disease that is still passed primarily through intravenous drug use and sexual promiscuity (particularly male homosexuality)  did not coincidentally explode on the world scene within a decade of everyone in the West saying we could just strip off our clothes, takes tons of drugs, have tons of sex, and nothing would ever go wrong.  Despite a National Geographic special I watched that spoke of various pandemics threatening the world, I have a feeling we know full well why AIDS was around for so long, but didn't become a problem until the 1970s.

And while I know discrimination, fear, judgementalism and ignorance can be problematic,  so is ignoring the main causes, and that doesn't mean focusing only on economic and societal causes. Once again, Pope Benedict XVI has given his annual encouragement for World AIDS Day and not mentioned anything about the causes.  That's like having World Lung Cancer Day and remaining silent about smoking.  You think that would happen?  But AIDS is an assault on post-Christian progressive values, and as such, it is handled according to the demands of the post-Christian progressive establishment.  Like it or no, even the power and majesty that is the 2000 year old Catholic Church must occasionally be influenced by this global revolution.  In the end, the progressive revolution sets the standards for acceptable discourse.

Typical post-modern scholarly gibberish

It turns out that Christianity was just made up by Jews as they caved under the Roman assault on Jerusalem in 70 A.D.  Yep.  A scholar says so, so it must be true.  Of course, the fact that various early epistles in the New Testament were written before that might cause some trouble.  Still, as with most modern scholarly arguments, we can just wave our hands, dismiss hundreds if not thousands of years of traditional dating of the letters and say they were really all written after 70 A.D.  If modern approaches to historical studies are so free and loose, it does make me wonder about other academic disciplines in other fields of study.

A Record Breaking Month!

Woohoo!  So we've broken records in the visits and articles read, and not just by a visit or two.  Have seen some more comments as well, though some folks still seem to prefer to email me (haven't figured that out yet - except most of the emails are personal emails written to me, either for encouragement or suggesting I might be missing something in a post).  That's what the comment button is for - though I always appreciate the emails.  You can be anonymous if you don't want anyone to know you've been here. Just type in some moniker so I can keep track.  That's what some folks did back in the day.

Still, a great month, with more links and more reads.  I appreciate those who have visited  who have commented, and have generally taken part in my little blog.  It isn't much, and I know I'm not a professional word-smith.  Still, I get better when I hear others point things out, so feel free.  Let folks know about me, send out flyers, invite friends, gather the family around.  It's mostly just things that catch my fancy, and often -given the current upheaval of our lives - the focus is on my own family and personal thoughts on things that have nothing to do with much.

But every now and then, I have my moments   So welcome back, welcome for the first time, and maybe some day I'll work to  bring some of those different stat buttons or follower buttons that went away when the blog went kerflooey last year.  Till then, thanks again.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Protestant Work Ethic?

Wow.  So my boys were watching WETV tonight, and catching up on some old Remington Steele episodes.  I have to admit, my boys are cool.  From loving Casablanca or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, to being able to recognize Andy Griffith Show episodes within minutes, they have amassed quite an appreciation for life before CGI.  Don't worry, they know enough of the latest blockbusters and what's happening in the world of kiddom to speak to their peers.  But they bring a broad and varied set of likes and interests  including watching Shakespeare (and reading it, too), along with the usual Saturday morning cartoon fare.

Anyway, so we're watching an episode, in which the lead character, Laura Holt (played by Stephanie Zimbalist) is conversing with a potential client.  During the dialogue, the man she is speaking with says that, unlike Mr. Remington Steele (the enigmatic figurehead of the P.I. firm played by Pierce Brosnan), he is a successful introvert, who still believes in the Protestant Work Ethic.  In response, Ms. Holt responds by saying that is pretty much how she sees herself.

Did you get that?   It about knocked me off my chair.  Someone on Network television, as late as the mid to late 1980s, was still referring to the Protestant Work Ethic in a positive light, and the lead heroine - who was quite the role model for women at the time if memory serves - was willing to claim that as a positive trait.  At least there was no jeering, sneering, mocking, or derision.  Can you imagine that today?  I wonder if the term Protestant Work Ethic were used today if half the audience would even know what it meant.

This was brought home to me as my sons, in discussing one of their school assignments, continually spoke of America as once being a major world power.  Once being a major world power.  Attention adults: the youngsters coming up in the world already see our nation as a has-been nation.  Any notions that they are bewitched by some illusion of American greatness should be all but dashed on the rocks of their easy assumption of America's descent.

A bright and cheerful Thanksgiving Day

Nothing but pictures, a few comments, and a pleasant break with the fabulous family before the coming clouds roll in.

Take that Vegans, he gave his all so that we could enjoy a pleasant feast

The tradition of breaking the wishbone has been passed to the two oldest

And two youngest, thanks to a leftover wishbone we found (they wouldn't stand still!)

The feast begins, no pausing for the camera here

More action around the table as the carnage commences

The tradition begun by our oldest: we must have pie crust.  Not pies, pie crusts to eat

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I have my moments

So I noticed a particular posting of mine from way back was getting quite a few hits.  I pulled it up and, I must admit, it read pretty well.  Not necessarily Pulitzer Prize material, but it makes its point: that we are heading to a place where America will quickly lose its freedoms, and will do so at the hands of those who once sang that all they wanted was to be free.  Here it is, see for yourself.  For context, this was dealing with the outcry that resulted from Alabama Governor Robert Bentley's Christian message delivered in a Christian church.  The responses, which included those saying that people with religion like Bentley's shouldn't be able to hold office, is what prompted my post.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Making friends among the Nazis

So I've been looking over Jonathan Larson's book Making Friends Among the Taliban.  I wondered how it would work if someone published a book titled Making Friends Among the Nazis.  Maybe in today's climate, it would be OK.  After all, time heals all wounds, and perhaps people are starting to look past the one dimensional monster portrayal of the Nazi phenomenon and are wanting to delve into what turned perfectly good, thoughtful and well meaning people into the epitome of evil in the 20th century.  I'd be fine with that.  I'm one who believes in the complexities of history, and feels that our tendency to paint with ridiculously broad brushstrokes does a disservices to what we can learn from those who came before.  As long as we are in an age where we can buddy up with the Nazis, or the KKK, and it is as acceptable as making friends with the Taliban, I'd say we've turned some sort of corner, and perhaps it's for the better.  If not, however, and if the immediate reaction is 'how dare you! That's entirely different!', then I also think we've turned a corner,  but one that is far, far worse than where we were to begin with.

Mark Shea nails it

On a post dealing with the tendency that some folks have for pushing evolution into arenas it was never meant to be pushed, Mark breaks down a Catholic approach to this issue: why it's often used as a bogus 'gotcha' question by the equally agenda driven media, and the better approach to answering the question for Catholics who have such a rich and deep intellectual heritage at their disposal.  Well worth the read.

I would add that I think Rubio, like most Mark speaks of, may not have been uninformed of his Catholic faith, but rather, may simply not have cared about this particular subject.   Otherwise, kudos for Mark for noting that what Rubio was raked over the coals for was an answer to the question not unlike the same answer given by Barrack Obama.  Like so many things today, the question of evolution seems to  be less a desire for knowledge than a yearning to win arguments and advance agendas.

Beware of Geeks bearing glyphs

So I made an offhanded remark about Leah Lebrisco hating football the other day.  I didn't make that up.  I had gone to her site to read about her conversion to Catholicism.  While looking through her various posts on the subject, I stumbled across this post, where she made it clear that her concern about all the concussions in football was not some unbiased observation about a potential danger.  It was something that she felt validated her utter hatred of everything to do with the gridiron.  And that got me to thinking, as I am wont to do.

Leah appears to be one of those folks who wears the label 'geek' with pride and honor. More at home discussing the intricacies of an Expelliarmus, or the philosophical underpinnings of Hobbit fare than, say, watching a NASCAR race or being in the backyard with friends improvising some tackle-in-the-mud football.  She doesn't appear to be the only one.

The Blogosphere it typically dominated by people who can write.  To be brutally honest, I'm not one of those, as a perusal of my blog will demonstrate.  Oh, I can write well enough to get a thought down  but it isn't my gift, my talent, my passion   Many who can write, however, are drawn to blogging, and it is because of their talents and gifts that they develop  a readership.

Among those who can write is a certain subsection dedicated to all things nerdy.  I mean, never in history has a medium emerged more conducive to feeding the obsession behind what is typically considered geekdom than the Internet.  Especially the blogosphere.  Across the Web, you can find kindred spirits for almost any pastime  and those who obsess over the anatomical distinctions of Vulcan Ears can suddenly have a following in the hundreds who share their interests.

Leah's own blog often mixes a profound interest in ethics and philosophy with a proud display of unbridled nerdiness.  As such, she receives praises from others who share her particular interests, even if the greater topics of ethics, religion and philosophy were at odds.  Chief among those was Mark Shea, who introduced me and many of his readers to her blog.  And Mark is hardly unique within the Catholic Blogosphere for being one whose interests tend toward the non-athletic/non-jock world of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings or Star Trek   Many of Mark's readers and visitors, some who have their own reputable Catholic blogs, also seem to dwell in the land of make believe, and do so proudly.  Jimmy Akin and Sean Daily are  two examples of those who seem to possess that particular gene.  There are certainly many others as well. Not that all love of Fantasy is incompatible with sports or popularity either.  But there are those who certainly boast of setting the two worlds at odds.

That's all fine and dandy.  To each his own I always say.  But there is something that dawned on me as I kicked this around.  Those who embrace the glories of geekdom seem almost proud of the fact today.  No longer something to hang one's head over, many seem to boast that they were outcasts in school; that while most kids were wasting their time in sports or on this or that team or part of this social club, they were alone with their select circle of friends, set apart by their desire for that ultimate +4 Sword of Dragon Killing.

OK, now we're coming to the point.  It seems that the blogosphere in general has its fair share of such folks. It certainly appears that this particular demographic is well represented in at least a corner of the Catholic blogosphere as well.  I've made the case before that the Catholic blogosphere is dominated by many who are, for want of a better phrase, amateur apologists.  Many have no formal training, or if they have taken classes or even received degrees, they have done so apart from the gristmill of hands-on ministry.  In my ministry days, we could always tell the professors who had served in some form of pastoral ministry, and those for whom it was only an academic endeavor.  Those Catholics who have training often have it on an intellectual basis only, never having to filter it through the trenches of a crumbling marriage or an ICU with a dying child.  And those are the ones with degrees and training.

As such, the same trap that lurks around any minister no matter what the experience, is there for those amateur apologists, only more so   And that trap is being an advocate for The Faith, while at the same time slowly conforming the Faith to my own personal preferences.  One of the hardest parts of being a pastor was making sure the Word Proclaimed was God's Word (at least through whatever particular denominational interpretation), as opposed to my own personal opinion.  It wasn't an easy temptation to overcome.  Sometimes you begin proclaiming the Sacred Opinion of Me without realizing it.  If you were fortunate  you had someone in your congregation, or family, who was loving enough to let you know when you had gone to full-blown opinion mode.

But where so many have little to no training, where it can be an academic exercise in the sealed off world of the Blogosphere, I imagine the temptations to blur the line between Gospel Truth and my opinion are even greater, and subtler.  Some of the temptations may be nothing more than failing to realize that one's own identity may be the bias, the filter through which the Faith is lived out. And so we have bloggers who are proud of their geekdom, and seem to celebrate the fact that they were once the outcasts, they never really belonged, they were never joiners, they scoffed at those folks who sought popularity (or in some cases, obtained popularity) in the halls of high school.  Now, is it possible that this, to an untrained blogger, could end up being the prism through which the light of Gospel reflections is bent?

I thought about this as I reflected on the overwhelming call by some bloggers to just say 'no' during the election cycle.  There were many, and I mean many, who made it clear that fealty to either major party was nothing more than fealty to the devil himself.  Sure, you could technically vote for a major party candidate and not lose your soul, but it better only be because you admitted it was a lost cause and that both parties were the manifestation  of hell itself, all politicians and parties were basted in sinful corruption, and you were just doing it with the knowledge that it was a worthless act no matter what.

OK.  My question, upon reflection, was how much of this was good old Real Catholic Doctrine  and how much of this was because those who were calling down a pox on all party affiliation were, by nature of their own life tendencies, inclined to have adopted that feeling about belonging in general, at least belonging to what most others belong to?  I mean, could it be that they were being a tad bit influenced by a completely extra-Catholic disdain for belonging in the first place, a contempt for those who shuffle along and belong to what the majority belongs to?  Could it be less a serious and penetrating reading of Catholic tradition, and more a resurgence of that memory of sitting in the lunch room, and scoffing at all those losers who think being on the football or baseball team means anything, when they know full well it's pontificating about the best way to read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

Just a thought.  Not that there isn't a distinct biblical tradition of being strangers in a strange land for the serious disciple. Not that those who were, by their own accounts, outcasts don't have anything to bring to the table.  Sure they do, and when it comes to criticizing politics, it isn't as if there is no case to be made.  But in all things, I think it's worth remembering that there is what the Church teaches, and there is what it teaches filtered through our own biases and preferences and loyalties - be it blind loyalty to a party or candidate or movement, or even a lifelong tendency to heap scorn on any such loyalties  and therefore being blind to the party affiliation of not-belonging no matter what; conforming to non-conformity as it were.  Just a thought.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

John McCain helps demonstrate reasons for the implosion of the GOP

By proudly stating that it's time for the GOP to trash all that concern about abortion. Sure, I may see it as the murder of unborn children, but hey!  We can respectfully disagree, and instead focus on bigger, more important things than how a nation gets to arbitrarily define human life.  This should work against a party that has pioneered the method of strutting like peacocks under the banner of tolerance, while portraying anyone who doesn't conform to its dogmatic definitions of diversity as racist, homophobic bigot misogynists who hate poor people and yearn for segregation.  Right.  Again, I can understand those who stay within the party systems in the hopes that they can turn one of the major parties around as a force for life and goodness in our country.  But I can sure see why a growing segment of that population is losing any hope that the GOP will be the party through which this can be accomplished.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Buckeyes Beat Michigan!

Hurrah!  A perfect season, the first since 2002.  I know, we can't go to the  bowl games since several years ago some of our freshmen sold official paraphernalia for some tattoos.  Such is the result of youthful stupidity. Yet against all odds, we came back.  Urban Meyer must be a wizard of a coach, to keep a team with literally nothing to gain on track, beating every team no matter what the odds.  It was ugly, and sometimes the warts showed.  We'll certainly have to work to improve upon things next year.  But for now we can rejoice. It will be a bit of a vacancy not to have an OSU game to follow over the New Years holiday.  But we can all celebrate a wonderful season by a new coaching dynasty, and some hardy young players who have shown their mettle against overwhelming obstacles.  Well done Buckeyes!  We'll see you next year.

Friday, November 23, 2012

If you still think turkeys can fly

Maybe this will help you.  A little humorous blast from the past.  Enjoy the rest of Thanksgiving celebrations, and I'll be back after the Buckeyes win or lose, for unlike Leah Libresco (congrats on her conversion to Catholicism!), I love football, the whole football season.  Don't ask me why, no one quite knows the reason (other than it's the most team oriented sport there is that combines physical demands and grand tactics).  So watch for flying turkeys, enjoy time with your loved ones, pray there are no injuries in any of the games, and remember to thank God for the abundant blessings and freedoms we enjoy today, those things that the pilgrims looked to all those years ago.

In praise of rabbit hunting

My Dad was a hunter.  He got it from his Dad and brothers.  Growing up in the depression, hunting was no mere sport.  It literally meant food on the table or no food on the table.  As my Dad said, when his own father and oldest brother went hunting, if they took five shells, they came back with five animals.  There was no sport about it.

Nonetheless, as their fortunes improved along with America's, my Dad still found time to go out and hunt.  Now Dad was one of those 10% who much preferred a cold, icy winter day to basking alongside the beach in the blistering summer.  So hunting appealed to his fondness of the season.  I can't help but think it also brought back memories, maybe not for memories of things he did - I never heard him tell of hunting with his own Dad.  But memories of when he was young, when no matter how rough the life, there is that notion of innocence still worth grasping.

When I was little, and we lived in a small house in the country - a house that Dad virtually rebuilt by hand - I remember him out hunting, when my Aunt Dorthy would tell me that was my Dad whenever we heard the distance echoes from a shotgun.  When I was old enough, Dad took me hunting.  Perhaps it's my nature, but I didn't care for it, not one bit.  I just didn't like shooting and killing little furry animals.  I understood the whole keeping the animals in check arguments   And Dad was sporting - he always gave an animal a chance.  He wouldn't shoot something just sitting there.  He gave it a running chance.  Plus, he made sure the animals were taken back home to be fixed (a gamey meal to be sure), or gave it to whoever owned the property on which we ventured.

Despite my distaste for hurting things, ironically I was rather a good shot.  In a sort of Sundance Kid sort of way, I couldn't hit the side of the barn if it was standing there.  But if I suddenly reacted to something, I hit far more than I missed, and usually with precision.  I always thought it ironic that I was good at doing something I couldn't stand.  Sort of like public speaking.  I'm told I'm not altogether bad at it, in fact many say I'm rather good.  By my introverted ways make me dread and loathe getting up in front of groups of people.  Figures I would be good at only those things I find no pleasure in pursuing!

Anyway, back to the hunting.  So I grew up going hunting with my Dad.  We usually focused on rabbit hunting, as that was Dad's specialty. Deer hunting was too full of city slickers who knew nothing of guns or hunting safety.  And squirrels   Have you ever eaten squirrel?   So we focused on hunting rabbit, which involved trekking through endless miles of woodlands, kicking through brush and undergrowth, trying to scare up any rabbit that might be hunkered down at our approach.

We were usually Thanksgiving to December hunters, with the later weeks in January going by the wayside.  I wonder if Dad hunted because of the seasonal feel of it all.  I know for me, even if I wasn't a fan of shooting things,  I can't help but associate hunting with the smell of turkey, or the ring of Christmas bells in the not-too-distant future.  I can still remember the hot chocolate, the coffee for Dad, trudging through the snow cloaked woods with Slim Jims that we would pack in plenty.

Eventually, as all things do, our hunting days came to an end.  When I moved to Florida, I made no effort to renew my hunting license.  In Ohio, Dad kept my Ohio license renewed.  Finally, when I moved back to Kentucky to go to seminary, I went up to visit over Christmas time.  For old time's sake, we went hunting.  All day we found nothing at all.  Maybe we did and I just tried to avoid shooting it (I'd do that sometimes).  Then on our way home, just minutes from the car, a rabbit darted out from some bushes.  Without a second's hesitation, up went the guns.  Dad hit it before I had a chance to do more than react.  Down it went.  As we went over, Dad expressed his regret, almost as if he, too, was hoping we'd get on without hitting something.  We field dressed it and brought it home.  But it was the last time we would ever go hunting together again.

And now that Dad's gone, I can't help but say I miss hunting.  I miss going out into the world and enjoying the fresh outdoors. I remember one particular day, we were hunting just off the railroad tracks in Galion.  We often went along the railroad tracks, Dad playing some employee card to justify hunting on railroad property.  We veered off into some woods that were owned by a farmer he talked to ahead of time   The woods were light, mostly smaller trees and some light brush.  It was late November, I think the weekend of Thanksgiving.  There was already a covering of snow (for we didn't  hunt without snow for tracking).  Dad was ahead, plowing through the brush, while I was supposed to be on the lookout for our quarry that might try to circle back. 

I eventually came to a stop.  As I stood there waiting, it began to snow.  It was one of those slow, downy snows that Frost wrote about.  It was already late in the day, and the last place we would hunt.  I just stood there, looking.  The snow muffled the sound, even the slight crunching of branches as Dad made his way around.  The sky was winter grey, and there was no breeze.  Just snowflakes floating down.  I stood there then, just taking it all in.  At least until Dad roused me with a reminder that I was supposed to be helping.

It's as if it were yesterday.  And it was quite refreshing.  Even now, all those decades later, just remembering it is refreshing.  Perhaps it's an American thing, but it's difficult to think of actually just going out into the woods unless I'm doing something.  Fishing.  Hiking.  Camping.  Something.  And since those aren't popular in the wintertime, getting out into nature seems to take a backseat to indoor activities once the weather chills.  But by doing something like hunting, there is almost an excuse, a reason to be out and about.  A call to do more than just step out for five minutes then duck back in as soon as the elements begin to take their toll.  There's something that presses you to be out past comfort, until when limbs are cold and digits frozen, you make it past that point of caring.  Like running a race, when you make it past the first moments of pain and hurting, you reach that numbness that allows you to step back, stop worrying, and enjoy the world that God made, instead of relying on the machinery made by man to interpret it for you.

So I must admit, I miss that reason to get out on a cold winter day.  I thought of that as I scrambled about today, cleaning the deck after squirrels blackened it with a feast of walnuts.  There I was, the frozen flakes beginning to fall, the wind picking up, thinking how foolish I was to be out on a day like today.  But after the first moments of being cold, I had to admit I was somewhat enjoying it.  Just like I did all those years ago.  So here's to you Dad, it turns out I enjoyed it more than I thought back then, and would love one more time to do it all again - even if I had to pay attention and actually try to shoot my targets.

If you were shopping at the earliest Black Friday deals

Then you were ensuring that some Americans were not able to do this:


Or this:


Or even this:


With their families throughout the day without their time being yanked away from them for the sake of Madison Avenue.  I know, grocery stores have long been opened, and I suppose given the nature of the feast day and the tendency of procrastinators everywhere, that's understandable.  I also understand businesses of necessity and charity and care giving are required to be open.  My Dad, a railroad engineer, frequently missed Thanksgiving proper.  I can remember many times having Thanksgiving feasts on Friday or even Saturday when he finally came home.

But that's not what is happening here.  The things breaking up the holiday are not for the holiday themselves.  Nor are they for necessity   They are so Americans can get an X% discount on the latest object of consumerist feeding frenzies.  Talking about whipping donkeys.  Lemming mentality anyone? It's been said that Americans no longer have time for presidential scandals or threats to national security.  As long as we have the latest iPhone or iPad App, that's all we care about.  And an App that helps us put our face on a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon is a hell of a late more important than, say, the fate of fellow Americans and their time with families.  Such is the result of a nation that told itself not to care about anything unless it directly impacts me.  That door, I'm afraid, swings both ways.

So Obama didn't mention God on thanksgiving


Doesn't surprise me.  In an age where hip enlightened post-moderns are fighting the good fight for more easy access to pornographic imagery and more F-Bombs on network television, the same are making it clear there are a growing number of other things that shall not be mentioned in public.  It used to be Jesus Christ by name.  In recent years, the very reference to the Almighty it becoming suspect. 

But that's not what caught my eye.  Obama is merely pandering to the part of the electorate that represents his base.  What caught me was this:
“The ability to spend time with the ones we love; to say what we want; to worship as we please"
Now anyone who is anyone knows that little catchphrase was a popular sleight of hand in the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It was a way to say they certainly ensured the freedom of worship, as long as it was behind closed doors and didn't bring one into conflict with the State. Freedom of religion and its free exercise, however, was hell and gone from the USSR.  Rather, a person of devout religious beliefs in the USSR was often treated as we treated Blacks in the old south before the days of desegregation.  

In my Graduate days, I met a group of students from the former Soviet Union.  Thinking about listening to them explain just how harshly people of traditional faith were treated, the formal mocking and derision that came down at them from official sources of Soviet life, can't help but give me pause.  As I've pointed out before, especially since the HHS mandate, I've heard many progressives preferring the term 'freedom of worship' rather than the traditionally American phrase 'freedom of religion.'  If the lessons from history have anything to say about it, I just can't believe it's a coincidence.  Those who value freedoms of all sorts, especially the traditional freedom of things like peaceful assembly, speech and religion (as opposed to sexual expression, abortion and pornography) should probably take note.

UPDATE:

So I posted a similar lament over at Google News Service.  Google?  I know, but it's the default news page I can quickly access.  I usually go from there.  But I put a little post suggesting the same thing as above, and the first two responses came back like this:
"America became more of the Soviet Union over time. Many right (wrong!) posters utter the same things that the Commies did. Anti-Unions (something the commies do not allow), telling everyone that the US was founded on Jesus (commies, their foundation based on man-made gods, too. Lenin, Marx, Mao), singing patriotic songs to the motherland (yup! Commies made this compulsive, too). Ironic how the GOP seems to be so much like the Soviets"
And:
"bringing up the USSR, way to stay up on current events....."
Figure what the first was trying to say and I'll give you a dollar.  But the second one caught my eye.  Nothing like mocking an appeal to history to avoid potential problems for the future (which was sort of the reason education was always considered important).  Why do I get the feeling that this level of insight we see across the Internet is just the type of profound thinking that those who yearn for tyranny crave?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!


I'll be away for the better part of the weekend, popping in only now and again.  Greetings to all who have been commenting.   Whew!  It's been work building it back up.  And for those who contact me directly via email, thanks as well, though please, feel free to put those comments down for all to see.  Some of them are just darn wonderful to read.  In the meantime, a blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours, as we pause to give thanks to the Almighty for every good and perfect gift from above.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Even if it's for a season, it's good news

A cease-fire has been reached between Israel and Hamas.  Good to hear.  I'm the first to believe this is temporary, but it's good news for those on both sides who live in terror, or who have lost loved ones.  Prayer works in this case, because as has been pointed out many times, it is a complex issue without easy solutions.  As long as those who wish to wipe Israel off the map are in any way tolerated, Israel will probably continue to impose policies that create such an environment that pushes people to step back and allow groups like Hamas to then provoke more conflict.  It's a vicious circle.  My two cents is that coming down like a ton of bricks on those Muslims who desire an Israeli genocide, especially Muslims coming down on them, would be the best place to start.  Simply pointing at the Palestinians or Israel and saying 'there's the problem or fault  is already about three steps away from the root cause.  Still, good news on this Thanksgiving holiday.  

Remembering persecuted Christians at this time of year

It's often lamented that the media spends scant little time focused on the plight of Christian around the world. That's true.  Our media much prefers the progressive focus of evil Christians butchering hapless innocents the world over.  Unfortunately, those who point this out often reserve their tears for those Christians in the Middle East whose fortunes appear to have turned as a result of American meddling in that region.  Favorite are the Iraqi Christians who, since the downfall of Saddam Hussein, have suffered greatly at the hands of those Islamic terrorists who have caused so many of the casualties in that region.  I'm of the opinion that focusing only on those suffering Christians who help us score points against this or that policy or politician is only scarcely better than the general media's ignoring of Christians' plights in general.

Therefore, as I see yet another group of Christians are under the gun, these in Kenya (who I have contact with due to my connection with missionaries there during my ministry days), I thought I would put out a prayer and a thanks to those who bear the witness to the faith, even to the point of death.  For Americans who have a hard time pondering what it really is to be oppressed, or to suffer for the faith, the testimony is worth more than I could ever give.

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."  Matthew 5.11-12

Remember when it was cool to celebrate America?


I don't.  A child of the post-Boomer generation, I never knew a time when patriotism wasn't popularly portrayed as Frank Burns, Archie Bunker, or Alex Keaton.  Our military was a bizarre cross-section of Rambos and Bill Kilgores, running about musing on their love of napalm in the morning.  Outside of the elementary school classroom, it was clear that focusing on the meaner aspects of our heritage was all the rage.  By the late 70s, inside the classroom as well.  And it wasn't just in the academic ivory towers.  It was filtering into mainstream America.  When the miniseries Roots hit the airwaves in 1977, America was already primed to take a long, hard look at the heritage we once celebrated.

Today, of course, it is all negative.  Almost any nod to anything in our past must include citations of racism, discrimination, imperialism, slavery, genocide.  We no longer have the capacity to see good without setting it alongside evil.  An American trend.  And not a good one.  As I've said before, it's one thing to say 'bless me father, for I have sinned.'  It's quite another to conclude I'm a complete loss with no redeeming qualities.  Once that occurs  you can expect the drugs, sex addition, alcoholism, and suicidal tendencies to come on quickly.  As we watch America's decent into post-power status, I can't help believe that's where we're at.  After all, a country that sucks as much as ours just isn't worth caring about, much less defending.

And as a Catholic, I must admit, the old Protestant stereotypes weren't always far off.  There is quite a substantial segment on the Catholic blogosphere that has little to no regards for the good old USA.  Ranging everywhere from philosophical condemnations, to axes to grind owing to a lineage that traces back to those oppressed by the American government, there are plenty who, as Catholics, have little to no love for the country in which they live.

This is aided, of course  by the progressive movement which, like any revolutionary movement, can find nothing but ill in this society it seeks to change.  The secular and liberal movements have accomplished much over the years by keeping our attention on the worst elements of America's past.  Just like in Europe, where tales of witch burnings, inquisitions, corrupt clergy, and oppressive papacy have helped to erode the Church's influence by being told and retold ad nauseum, so in America, the constant retelling of every terrible thing has gone a long way toward setting up the post-Christian/post-Traditional American society that progressives crave.  It's not new, of course.  Our Founding Fathers took a dispute over taxes and turned it into a cosmic clash between good and evil.  It's what revolutions do.

Posters from the New Evangelists
But now the revolution is coming to a close.  As more people are warming to gay marriage, as Americans are abandoning their traditional religious identifications, and those who would try to defend the relics of a bygone era are increasingly mocked and derided, and as legalized drugs, legalized abortion, and the eradication of public displays of religion are becoming the norm, it's not hard to imagine that in the not-too-distant, anything that purports to lift up the foundations of That America will go the way of the Dodo bird; once retailers have trained us to move past a certain Thursday celebration that is increasingly in the way of their bottom line.

But in the meantime, at the twilight of an America that once was, allow me to raise a cup of cheer and celebrate those brave adventurers who put it all on the line.  It's a testimony to our agenda driven scholarship that we don't see this event as an example of what could have been.  Invoking modern forms of bigotry, we look at the key participants, divide them into the Good Guys and Bad Guys, and judge accordingly.  That the pilgrims sacrificed all for a cause should make us wonder how good we are, who won't show up for an anti-war rally because of bad weather.  That the pilgrims and the Indians made a peace agreement that lasted almost 50 years should be a model of what could have been, rather than dismissed in order to condemn what came centuries later.  That the two groups who were complex and had many different traits and wants and desires were able to cooperate, could help us see how different people can come together for a greater good.
A not altogether false portrayal, and one I prefer to the bilge of today

You'd think that might be the lesson.  But history, as always, tells us more about the historian than the history being written.  For me, obviously I seek to retain something of the good that was America, no matter its sins.  I feel we can even celebrate America without the need to always trot out some associated (or not associated) sin of the past.  Others, however, who are much more influential today, do not do this with our history.  Rather they attempt to ignore it altogether, aiming to impose their values on us regarding some other belief they have, or they seek to tear down the last vestiges of the American experiment.  For them, this day will be, at best, a vague family time that signals the consumer spending frenzy that is Wall Street's favorite holiday.

But for us who like keeping Christ in Christmas, it wouldn't hurt to see just what those Pilgrims did all those years ago to keep Christ in the center of their lives.  Oh sure, we can criticize and condemn, and many Catholics prefer that approach, I'm sad to say.  But for me, if I'm a little bothered by the growing encroachment of radical secularization, I could do far worse than take a play from the Pilgrims' playbook, and use it to inspire me to give it all for the cause.  They did.  And as a follower of Christ, even a Catholic, I can look at them with respect and awe and see that the past many want to change might be a past worth remembering after all.

Lessons for the Catholic blogosphere

Lesson 4.  Which one of these pictures is not like the other?  Which one of these pictures doesn't belong?


If you guessed Billy Graham, you'd be correct.  If you pointed out that he is the only Christian, you'd be wrong, as Warhol was reputed to be a practicing Catholic.  Yes, you could say he was the only Protestant Christian, and that's worth some points.  But here's the reason, for the purpose of our understanding of being Catholic, especially in the new media, the post-modern era, the Internet Age, or whatever you want to call it.  As far as I know, Billy Graham is the only one of the four shown for whom I have seen few if any complementary posts.  Not even when he's sick, have I seen a prayer post.  He's just not mentioned, or he's set up as an example of 'bad evangelicals'.  I'm not saying he's never been praised mind you. It isn't as if I've read every post ever written.  But as much as I've read praise posts of the others, I'm at a loss to think of any that have praised the good reverend, at least to the same degree.  The other three: liberal pro-gay marriage and abortion rights advocate Jon Stewart, radical progressive atheist, the late Christopher Hitchens, and Andy Warhol, avant-garde artists and advocate for the modern pornoculture, all have received at least one post praising them and lifting them up in some positive manner. In some cases, they've received more than one praise post. 

So again, if you are an evangelical, a Protestant  or even a recent convert, get used to some changes.  You aren't in Kansas any more.  Those you once celebrated, Dr. Graham, or Karl Barth, or Martin Luther, or just about anyone on an average Protestant list, will hardly ever - if ever at all - be referenced or mentioned, at least in a positive light.  Meanwhile, expect a fair amount of high fives to folks who advocate things considered so horrible, that Catholics say they cry out to God for vengeance   How can this be?  Why wouldn't Catholics celebrate someone like Billy Graham more than, say, Jon Stewart or Christopher Hitchens?  Welcome to the Catholic blogosphere mate. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Just when you thought it was safe to ask questions again


Turns out there's another topic that leadeth unto damnation brewing over at CAEI.  Sigh.  It's beginning to look like there isn't much of a chance  unless you're a Comedy Central host, a non-terrorist Muslim, or hip atheist who likes Chesterton (and, of course, part of the Real Catholics Who Know).  Catholics (and we won't even get into Protestants, whose positive contributions to  the human story are dwindling  exponentially) who dare ask where science might be wrong about evolution, apparently are doing nothing less than flipping the middle finger to the Everlasting.  Funny how, so many years ago, it was shown on a certain blog just how broad was the tent that allowed for diverse opinions over a host of issues.  I don't know if it's gotten smaller, but it sure has changed the guest list as to who belongs.
"I am glad that you pointed out the very serious theological issue in which young-earth creationists and their ilk insinuate that the Creator is deceptive in the making of creation to appear old. It is also a separation of faith and reason, in that creation is not seen as intelligible, so we get into a whole can of worms about an arbitrary, fickle non-Logos God. Indeed, I think this is grave stuff, and should give us big reservations about a leader who endorses such a view."
Another topic that good Catholics can disagree about in good faith bites the dust.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Speaking of Wizard of Oz

Who is speaking of Wizard of Oz?  Well, nobody that I can tell.  But it's on TV tonight.  The kids plopped down after coming back from Life Teen, and lo and behold, I found them watching Dorothy's escapades in overcoming the Wicked Witch of the West.  It just never grows old.  When I was growing up, before cable or VCRs, it was shown once a year and it was a major event.  It ranked right up there with going to Cedar Point or even Christmas (or at least my birthday).  We sometimes had treats.  One year my parents bought a candy making kit.  Sometimes I remember my Dad making fudge.  It was something lost today, a special event for its own sake, not something that only matters because Madison Avenue has something to gain (even if sponsors then raked in the money).  Anyhoo, one of the best reviews I've ever read is also by Steven Graydanus, so I suggest you click on the link and begin reading.

Smaug the CEO?


I didn't know this, but I guess Forbes did a countdown of the fifteen richest fictional characters at all time.  It's good, or perhaps not entirely coincidental, that the upcoming The Hobbit's primary nemesis, Smaug the Tremendous, came in at a whopping estimated $62 billion, enough to make Bill Gates green with envy. He even beat out Scrooge McDuck - and that's saying something.  But then, a note to CEOs and tycoons everywhere: due to his arrogance he ended up losing it all  to a hobbit and a clever thrush.  So those resting high on the mounds of electronic wealth stored in our nation's economic infrastructure beware!

Baby Boomers beware

If you think those who came after you are going to sing your praises for all time, you might have another think coming.  Even now, as the elderly Boomers become less enamored with the 'screw the elderly' attitudes they once fostered, I can't help but notice they think all us younger folks hold them up to the highest regards, as some heroic generation who finally realized war was bad, sex was fun, and focusing on our own greatness to the exclusion of any other possible consideration is the summit of human existence.  Well, guess what.  I think David Mitchell has some insights that point to where a growing number of post-Boomers are when it comes to the generation that made John Lennon a god.  Funny stuff, but some percolating truths beneath it all just the same.

Praying for peace in the Middle East

As the fighting escalates, it would be worth our efforts to double down on praying for peace.  A more complex and convoluted situation I can't recall in recent world history.  Nonetheless, we are called on to pray for peace, and pray we should.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.  Matthew 5:9

A review of Spielberg's Lincoln

By Steven Graydanus.  It looks like he enjoyed Lincoln.  I don't know.  Daniel Day-Lewis seem to do a good enough job, though surprisingly, he strikes less of a 'Lincolness' look than I remember in others who have played the part.  Perhaps I'm just cynical where Hollywood history is concerned, but I can't help but feel so much of this will be taking our current events and imposing them on the events around Lincoln's last years.  According to the reviews, the movie is less about Lincoln himself as it is the events leading up to the passing of the 13th Amendment   According to Graydanus, much emphasis is on the political wrangling needed to get legislation through a morally stagnant congress.  Sound familiar?  I've often maintained that history tends to tell you more about the historian than the history being written, and I can't help but feel that this movie won't overcome that tendency.  

The late Gregory Peck as a more robust Lincoln
From the TV series The Blue and the Gray
Not that it would be unique.  Hollywood has never done history well.  Only on rare occasions has Hollywood attempted to stand back and just tell a story.  Coppola famously did it with his script for Patton, avoiding the deeper controversies and refusing to take sides to advocate this position or float that view about the general.  It was noteworthy that this allowed both supporters of the war in Vietnam, and opponents of the war, to see the movie as supporting their cause.  Another good venture was the HBO series Band of Brothers. Unlike its follow up The Pacific, it simply took the stories told in Stephen Ambrose's book, and put them on the screen.  Of course some jostling of the narrative was in order, and being the late 20th century, copious amounts of swearing was injected.  Though due to the soldiers' own requests, the 'vulgar' level of sexually charged cussing was dropped, and only one gratuitous sex scene added to fulfill the HBO minimum requirement.  Otherwise, if you watch the TV series and read the book, you'll be amazed at how few embellishments were added.

Sadly, most movies are far less fortunate.  From such laughable farces as Oliver Stone's various takes on history, such as JFK or Alexander the Great, to such credible undertakings as the HBO series Adams, there are varying levels of not just poetic license for the sake of story telling within the medium, but outright altering the actual events by subtly (or in Stone's case, anything but subtly) shifting the focus to a single issue, person, struggle, or even unsubstantiated rumor.  We'll see if that's the fate that befalls Lincoln, or if my suspicions might be happily abated. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Well done buckeyes!

Yet another heart stopping victory over our emerging arch-nemesis of Wisconsin   I know, that 'team up north' is still the one to beat, but by the end of the Tressel era, Wisconsin was becoming that team guaranteed to trip us up no matter how well we were doing.  Since Montee Ball was poised to break the all time college touchdown record, that was all the announcers would talk about.  As a result, I can't say I'm sad that the Bucks kept him from scoring to break the record.  Yes, he tied, and that was enough.  But not only did we win, we kept the story from being all about Ball (hope he makes it next week), while putting one over in overtime.  Next stop, Michigan.

Lovely Spam wonderful spam


I've suddenly been inundated by legions of spam posts.  Don't know why.  I have the filter up and running, but somehow some are getting through.  Actually, some is better described as hordes.  That leaves me deleting them one at a time.  Trying not to delete any comments, as they have picked up recently for the first time since the comments went away.  If accidentally deleting a good comment (which also includes disagreeing with me), sorry about that. Will try to figure out what's going on.  In the meantime, an ode to spam:


Friday, November 16, 2012

Pardon my French English

But could I have a peanut butter and manatee sandwich with a Spudweiser chaser?

The world should never try to know.

Goodbye Hostess

I know it's been a long, long time since we were able to afford the Hostess brand of snack cakes.  Generic has been our preferred brand, when we've bought anything.   In recent years, there's been little at all, so I can't speak to the quality of the Hostess products.  Still, it may be that we weren't the only ones in our modern economic incarnation that felt it just wasn't worth it, no matter how tasty those little treats were.  Perhaps that's why they are finally shutting down the Twinkies, the Cupcakes, the Ho-Hos.  I hate it for the families of those who will be losing their jobs.  Prayers for them, since it was a year ago, right before Christmas, that we found out my wife was losing her job due to cut backs resulting from schools not purchasing written curricula.  Nonetheless, sad to see the product go.  My youngest won't ever know how good they were, and my boys simply never had the chance to have many owing to our economic fortunes.   Best of luck to those who will be joining the unemployed this holiday season.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

This is you on musicals


Or should I say, after the musicals are over.  As my son said, he looked like he died a week ago and only realized it tonight.  Well done again, a great performance and a well deserved Sunday off with the family and the Lord.  Despite what his appearance suggests.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

I guess sexual affairs can impact one's job performance

At least according to some stories beginning to trickle in regarding General Petraeus' resignation.  For example:
"Officials will want to know if there was any link between David Petraeus’s extramarital activities and what has been increasingly criticized as the CIA’s weak performance during the Benghazi attack."
Ah yes, if we can but travel in the Wayback Machine to those crazy days of the late 1990s, we will remember that all of the best and brightest assured us it was ludicrous to think a sexual affair could impact someone's job performance.  Why, that was just old puritanical lunacy of the third order. Clearly a man could be doing the naughty thing in his very office, while coolly and deftly managing the affairs of the world without missing a beat.  So we were told.

One of the benefits of the modern progressive inspired era of living in a nation of punditry rather than principles  is that the obviously indisputable eternal truth of today can easily be tossed aside tomorrow.  If it's brought up?  Why, it's either just rank partisanship denying the obvious (that it couldn't be the President's fault, it must have had something to do with the affair), or it's treated as archaic thinking of backward has-beens.

Catholic Blogs as Sunday School

Just a thought.  That's all.  I've come to realize that the Catholic blogosphere is really the global Catholic equivalent of a Protestant Sunday School class.  That is, it's a collection of individuals, some with formal training, most without; some with some level of ministry experience, most without, who come together and try to work out the teachings of the Faith.  In Sunday School classes, one always had to remember that a great deal of opinion and personal preference went into those discussions.  The best folks were aware of that, and did their best to either admit where opinion ended and Church Teaching began, but sometimes the dividing lines weren't always so well defined.  That's not to say Sunday Schools weren't a wonderful way to grow in the Faith.  It is to say that caution was always called for, especially since in Protestant Churches, there was that tendency to gravitate to a congregation or denomination that already shares your own preconceived notions (dare I say, biases?).  Catholic blogs, the same.  So just an off the cuff thought tonight  while we're awaiting our young thespian's triumphal return from their final performance   No link.  No article.  Just something that dawned on me as I perused the post-election commentary across the Catholic blogosphere.

The perfect gift for the Thracian in your life

Looks like archaeologists have discovered a treasure hoard in a northern Bulgarian tomb over 2000 years old.  Lucky them.  Cool stuff though.  Sometimes wish I would have channeled my love of history into the archaeological field.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Well met young knave!

And welcome to the kingdom.  Our eighth grader embarked on his middle school acting debut  with a part in the ever so enjoyable Once Upon a Mattress.  I remember seeing River Valley High School pull this one off back in the day.  For a middle school production it was beyond awesome, and the kids did great.  Ours played the part of a knight of the court, and I couldn't believe but he learned some pretty impressive dance moves for the role.  He's also understudy to the part of the wizard, who did a great job himself.  Another performance tomorrow night, and they'll wrap for the season.  Hopefully he's had as much fun as we had watching them.  Well done, and break a leg tomorrow night!

Well done Sir Knight!

Where is Howard Beale when we need him



He's right you know.  In order to change things, you have to get mad at them.  You have to get mad at that ball, as we used to tell our boys in soccer.  Right now, the ones who are mad as hell are the ones who are winning.  Mad as hell about free contraceptives, mad as hell about abortion rights, mad as hell about eliminating religious influence in society, mad as hell about gay marriage.  They're mad as hell, and the good news for them is, soon they won't have to take it anymore.

Those who don't support such things?  Well they're mad, but mostly at each other.  Sure, those who are mad as hell about our wars or our torture were once mad as hell, but they're clever enough to know that if they really want to get gay marriage or free contraception, then tread lightly with the one who will help you get it, even if he's also doing what you were once mad as hell about.  After all, there's being mad as hell  then there's being politically clever.

But those not wanting such things, well they're more or less mad as hell about - each other.  Most energies are spent now trashing and hashing one another.  Declaring war on those who oppose those things, but not as cleverly as I do.  Realizing that there is no compromise at all, if you're not with me, you're against me, even if it means those others who have declared war on everything we hold dear will win. Oh Mr. Beale is right.  The first thing you do is get mad as hell and declare you're not going to take it any more.  It's just that one side realized who they must unite together to get mad as hell at, and the other side thinks the best move is to be mad at hell at all those others who aren't as good at being mad as hell as I am.

Rush Limbaugh doesn't get it

Rush Limbaugh represents one of the most difficult Republican demographics.  His is the portion of the party that believes it's kill or be killed, eat or be eaten, and if you can't put a price tag on it and sell it, what the hell are we talking about it for anyway?  I don't listen to Rush that much, though I try to hear when I have the chance, so my opinions are formed by what I hear him say.  I happened to hear him the day after the election.  OK, I admit, I made sure I heard him, because I was curious about what his take would be.

He rightly poo-pooed the notion that Republicans lost because they're too conservative, too pro-life, too anti-gay, sexist, or racist.  The Republican party has fought those labels for years, and sometimes prevailed despite them.  Though I admit, with the shifting demographics, and the ease with which up and coming minorities accept that portrayal, it does make me wonder what future the Republican party has. 

Nonetheless, it clearly wasn't that.  On one level, yes, we are becoming a more liberal nation.  The votes to allow gay marriage and legal pot were just small examples.  Things like gay marriage, legalized drugs, and free contraception are increasingly seen as important as the right to private property or free speech used to be.  But there are still enough people who don't accept those things, that the Republicans, with the right candidate, might be able to bring them together.  Who knows?

But what it wasn't about was a bunch of sissy, lazy pantywaists who just want to live on the government dole, who have no ambition, and who are useless drains on society because all they want is a handout.  He mentions nothing about Romney's flip-flops.  He mentions nothing about Romney's 47% speech.  He mentions nothing about Romney giving the impression that, once elected, he might not care about all that social conservative bull.  Yes, I ended up voting for Romney, as I said, to stop what I perceived as a greater threat to my nation and my liberty.  But it was the most half-hearted lever pull I've made since I started voting. Those things were missed by Mr. Limbaugh, in favor of insisting it's all about the green stuff and those who want as much of it as possible. 

Mark Shea once rightly said that the Middle Class who once laughed along with Rush Limbaugh is now the Middle Class that Rush Limbaugh laughs at.  I think he was right.  There is a segment of non-progressives in America who care for large bank accounts, and the right to bomb any country that gets in the way of said bank accounts, and that seems to be about it.  As long as they dominate the national face of the party, my guess is the average voter with a mortgage and a dwindling savings account will have a hard time getting behind a group of people who increasingly seem as if they have no intention of getting behind them. 

I told you Tolkien was a brilliant writer

And that means his actual prose, too.  One of the trademarks of the Internet generation is a certain contempt for that which came before.  Oh, we might celebrate it, adore it, be fans of it, even venerate it, but we can't help be add some form of 'of course [fill in the blank] is a little this or that, not great, purply, whatever.'  Even Thomas McDonald's nod to Bram Stoker yesterday had an obligatory 'his writing could be a bit Victorian.'

It's not just books either.  Movies.  Songs.  You name it.  I can't tell you how many times I've seen an article celebrating the original 1933 King Kong, only to pause to lament, or apologize, for the crude special effects.  Really?  Crude?  It was 19 freaking 33.  At the time, they towered over anything ever attempted.  Compared to Kong 33, Avatar was a moving comic book.  You should celebrate them for their time and place, not expect them to stand up to our own ever changing standards.

Yet for some reason, more than I remember growing up, we seem to almost apologize for liking anything that didn't just come out in iPad app form or with the latest CGI.  Tolkien is no exception.  I've lost track of the number of fans who appear to apologize for his prose, his style, his form.  Oh, they love the book.  They celebrate it as the masterpiece that it is.  But there's that tendency that seems to increase every year across the Internet to celebrate it apologetically.

So I was happy to see this piece over at Word on Fire.  Apparently some lucky bugger was able to look over one of the best collections of Tolkien manuscripts in the world.  At Marguette University, Jack Thorton was able to page through the rough drafts of what would become The Lord of the Rings.  It's a great article, but what I appreciated was his unabashed appreciation for Tolkien's actual writing style.  Not just the 'overall a great work', but actually considering Tolkien's prose on par with Leo Tolstoy, or James Joyce.  Thank goodness someone on the Internet admitted it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Happy birthday Dracula


Or at least creator thereof, Bram Stoker.  Yes, today is the birthday of the man who brought the Gothic into mainstream, and gave us a character that transcends the ages, just like he did in the novel.  Thomas McDonald has a worthy salute over at his blog.  FWIW, I don't bemoan the prose style of the late 19th century, or the cumbersome high Victorian that permeates the book.  For me, that's part of the charm.  In fact, as our own society devolves into a Twitter era of speech by tweet, I can't help but long for a bit of the respect given to the English language that was more common all those years ago.  Nonetheless, here's a pint raised to the man who made Vampires so awesome they will probably even survive the Twilight series.  For me, the first section of the book, dealing with Jonathan Harker's arrival and eventual confrontation with the reality of Dracula, stands as one of the great literary passages; like McDonald points out, the meeting of the three brides of Dracula is hard to forget.

Where's our flight plan God?

So three weeks ago we were facing almost certain financial ruin.  Bills weren't being paid, and we were informed that the only vehicle capable of hauling our family was in dire need of a new transmission.  Things looked as bleak as they have since we came into the Catholic Church in 2006.  Well, thanks to the intervention of some wonderful, Christ-inspired Catholics, we have been lifted out of that mess, it looks like the van thing should be countered, and that gives us a breathing space for a while.  It at least makes it possible to haul the family around in while we're working things out.

But as I said in our 'answer to a prayer post', now that we've received more than a few life preservers from good Catholics and parishes for the last few years, we would like to get into the boat.  We're a little tired of living from life preserver to life preserver.  We'd like to be back in the boat.  Or, better yet, we'd like to know how we're finally supposed to fit into this new Catholic life.

It reminded me of that scene in the movie Apollo 13.  After struggling to get the crew around the moon and just to the point of overcoming the greatest threats to their survival, the team at Houston is told it's time to work on getting them back home to earth.  And that's where we are.  After years, especially the last few months, of just struggling to survive and pay bills, and seeing that we have a little breathing space now, we'd like to hear from God just how he plans on getting us home; in this case, able to care for our family and children while finding our place in our new Faith home.  I know it's much to ask.  I realize others are struggling as well.  But our burdens have a decidedly faith oriented dimension to them, and seeing us back up, ministering again, with purpose and at least enough to get by on for the kids, would go a long way in showing the naysayers, the skeptics, and even those in our family who have begun to wonder about our conversion under the weight of endless hardships directly related to our conversion, that this was finally the place we were always meant to be. 

Let that be our prayer - show us the flight plan God, just like those astronauts were ready to see theirs.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why did Romney lose the election?

Because this is no longer considered shocking:


I remember back in the day when this actually raised the ire of a few old timers.  Disrespectful it was.  Well, the same mentality that thought this was disrespectful is slowing going the way of the Dodo bird.  Those who still cling to it, or try to find something in it to preserve, are being steamrolled by a leaner, hipper, streamlined progressiveism.  There was a time when such a thing shocked, and so such things as Libya, or the HHS mandate, would have shocked as well.  But not anymore.  Today what shocks is the idea that a woman shouldn't be able to abort a baby, that maybe one  or another religion is more right than others, or that sexuality was something about procreation between two opposite sexes.  Put up a poster declaring any of those, and expect a real outcry.

We have changed as a culture.  Almost everyone wants their little pound of liberal flesh, so much so, that those who want it all represent a unified front, and those who only want this or that part of the progressive promise, make war with one another.  No, a movement that tries to appeal to those who yearn for the days when America would care about things like this poster, is a movement that simply has nowhere left to hang its hat.