Friday, April 29, 2011

San Francisco

If the post-modern Reich can't flourish there, it won't flourish anywhere.  As usual, the end of rights, liberties, religious freedom, and free speech are high on the front burner of the Post Modern Left.  This case is an obvious one.  Naturally, it should be smacked down as unconstitutional if it passes.  There aren't enough in our country willing to buy into the PML's promise of 'all things sex, drugs and debauchery freedom, in everything else totalitarian control'.  Still, it shows what many in the Post-Modern world would like to see.  If this does pass, all Jews and Christians and Muslims and atheists who enjoy freedom should rise up as one to oppose it.

Bishop Larry Benfield reflects on the recent tornado outbreak

on the Huffington Post, and gets blasted for his efforts.  Now, it's obvious that the Huffpost, like most online media outlets, is not news.  It's a propaganda ministry for the advancement of post-modern secular leftist agendas.  To that end, any coverage of religion is almost always negative.  Yes, it has a Religion section, which is a sub-section of its sub-section on Living.  But most coverage is of any religion but Christianity.  When Christianity is mentioned, it's how we need to drop Christianity, or conform it to the dogmas of post-modern leftist thought ... at best.  Usually it's this or that scandal, this or that fringe nut in Christian garb, or any other excuse for the Huffpost multitudes to swoop in and strike.

Occasionally, however, a contributor will put partisanship aside and actually try to deal maturely with a theological issue, or reflect on an important story in the news.  That's what Bishop Benfield did here.  And the result?  Well, the same.  The secularists swooped in to demonstrate what I'm increasingly convinced of - that most (not all, but most) modern atheism is more a personality disorder than an intellectual movement.  In fact, reading the posts of so called rationalists, it's not hard to see the growing gap between how rational they are versus just how rational they think they are.

My favorite was this little gem:

""why a loving God would allow such destructio­n to occur to innocent people" It's a question Christian'­s *never* confront"
That was me underneath, pointing out the obvious:

"It's a question Christians never confront? Are the secularist­s I'm reading here really that ignorant of religion, religious belief, and religious life? Or are you all just pretending­?"
It's the 'we don't know nuthin about religion cuz it's like dumb, and we're super smart types' that makes so many modern secularists into the joke they are.  Only because they have almost unilateral support from the tripartite information vendors in our cultural/educational/and media institutions, are they not laughed off the stage.  Instead, their particular brand of lunacy sans brains is actually lifted up as the goal for which all thinking people should strive.

My heart really goes out to the thoughtful and deep thinking secularists out there who see how this modern atheist movement is a sad joke, made dangerous by a growing yearning to follow through with its solutions to the religious problem.

Long life and much happiness to you both

Prince William and Kate!  I didn't watch most of the coverage, but was able to catch the last part of the wedding this morning.  I did get to hear Dr. Richard Chartres' excellent homily (that's sermon to you Protestants out there). 

I wish them well.  Knowing the train wreck that was William's parents' marriage, I hope they learn the appropriate lessons.  I don't know. Much of the build up, at least for the media, was gloating over the young couple's glee in tossing out many of those pesky old customs.  Especially those religious type things regarding cohabitation.  And yes, just from the coverage I saw, the MSM was keen on making sure I saw as many times as possible, the presence of Sir 'I'd ban Christianity if I could ' Elton and his, er, significant other.  So while billions watched, I got the feeling that some, in the media at least, were hoping to convey some subliminal messages about the signs of the times. 

So be it.  I enjoyed the spectacle, and in no way hate everything 'royal family', so was able to sit back and wonder what it would be like if England was more like the service itself.  But then, it would be nice if the world was that way.  I just hope they have many blessings, use their position to reverse England's descent into post-British oblivion, and enjoy their time upon this sod for the good of one another, and those multitudes who have so little in this world.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mark Shea asks

Can't anything just be fun anymore?  I guess not.  Turns out Superman is renouncing his American citizenship.  When comic books are rushing to the post-American dream, you know it's bad.  But this is what happens.  America, like Europe in the last century and a half, has thrown religion out the window.  Unfortunately, us humans have a innate tendency to want to worship something, and want to value some dogma as exclusive truth that demands conformity.  A dogma upon which all other truths are based.  In the absence of other options, it looks like politics has become the religion of choice.  And it appears to touch on every part of society, even more than religion ever did.

Michael Shermer says it better than I ever could

Why we should go see Atlas Shrugged.  He lays it out pretty clearly:

Ayn Rand, who was a champion of individual rights, was outspoken against racism and bigotry and discrimination against minorities, and most notably was way ahead of her time in championing women's rights and demonstrating through her novels (and now the film) that women are as smart as men, as clever as men, as hard working as men, as ambitious as men, as moral as men (well, okay, more moral than men), and can accomplish any task, achieve any goal, and even run an industrial enterprise as good as if not better than men. What's not to like about that?
And that's when it hit me.  You see, from a Catholic, Christian, or even common decency approach to living, there's much to loathe about Atlas Shrugged.  I've read many reviews of the book, particularly from those who love it.  I also notice many on the Right championing the cause.  Shermer's appeal to liberals to see the movie indicates there could be common ground between all who see the film or manage to plow through the pages of the book. 

And I'm afraid that's true.   One thing I know from reading reviews, analysis and discussions about her book, Rand was an atheist who did her best to merge all the finer points of a Marxist style disregard for religious morality with a capitalist lust for individualism based on greed to the exclusion of any other consideration.  And that's where Shermer gets it right, even if he didn't intend to get it right. 

The problem today, and it goes beyond Right/Left or Conservative/Liberal or Republican/Conservative, is that we live in an age that focuses on me, me, me.  Gimme, gimme, gimme.  Get, get, get.  The holy trinity of me, myself, and I.  There are two things in this world, me and everything else that is less important than me.  Many things of worthy cause and noble ideals, such as women's rights, pluralism, the free market, and even civil rights, have been corrupted by this focus on myself to the exclusion of any other consideration.  Folks who have a hard time seeing it need only listen to your pop-psychiatrists telling you that you are what matters in any relationship, the other person not so much.  Or listen to the right wing radio host jettison all those pesky religious values to focus on making money as the only thing that matters.

I fear Shermer is right.  There is much in Rand's works that modern liberals and modern conservatives can love.  The promise that a life focused on self, because there is nothing ultimately beyond this life, is the way nature intended for us to live.  More worrisome, I fear that many on both sides of the aisle will believe it.

The Ticket fights lunacy with lunacy

So the whole birther thing should die down now since President Obama has finally released the long form of his birth certificate.  I doubt it.  Conspiracy theories are self-protecting.  Any evidence showing the conspiracy is wrong can be dismissed as part of the vast conspiracy.  Whether a King James only Fundamentalist, Oliver Stone, Hillary Clinton, Glenn Beck, Jesse Ventura, Trig Birthers, 9/11 truthers, FDR conspiracists, or whatever other conspiracy theory that has a life of its own, the evidence is irrelevant.  No matter what, small potatoes like evidence won't stand in the way of those who refuse to admit Obama was actually born in Hawaii.

And yet, those on the left have almost reached climax at the chance to suggest that this is merely part of the racism indicative of failing to worship and adore The One.  Not only are those who are behind the birther movement racists - which apparently is self evident - but it's because everyone who opposes President Obama on virtually any topic is no doubt doing so because of underlying racist feelings.  Am I saying there are no racists behind the birther obsession?  No.  Am I saying there is no racism in America, or among those who oppose Obama?  No.  Racism exists in many areas and among many groups.  But let's face it, after the first zillion accusations, one does begin to have a 'boy who cried racist' view of the tactic.

So the lunacy of one movement is dealt with by the lunacy of another. The shame of it is how each side can see so clearly the foolishness of the other.  Or put another way, each side can see the speck in the eyes of the other so clearly, and yet miss the log of looniness in their own.


For those whose lives were lost or devastated by the recent outbreak of tornadoes.  Not just last night, which was horrible enough.  But for the last several weeks. I think I'll go out on a limb and pray that we have had enough of the severe weather for a while. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I'm here, I'm gone again!

It's building up to the Triduum, so I will be gone again for the next few.  I know stepping out when the blog was so new has hit some of the readership I had accumulated.  Hopefully you all will visit back again.  I know how these things go: here today, gone later today.  I was building up a great readership, receiving emails and suggestions, building up the number of commenters, and even getting prayer requests!  But alas, things happened over and over and over again, and I've not been able to keep up.  Thus many who were only beginning to swing by have gone their ways.  Can't say that I blame them.  There are, after all, a zillion blogs out there to choose from.  Nonetheless, I'm optimistic.  I'm praying things turn around here on the home front, and that some things might begin to open up in ways we can't imagine.  In any event, spread the word if you can, come on back and visit, sit a spell, and enjoy.  Until then, a happy and blessed Easter to all!

Robert Bell fumbles and TIME drops the ball

Robet Bell's much publicized book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, has been the stuff of hot debate in recent weeks.  In short, he has decided that the doctrine of Hell is wrong.  When people ask why I moved to the historic Christian faith of the Catholic/Orthodox traditions, I give you Robert Bell.  Protestantism suffers from the fundamental flaw: Who gets to say what the eternal truths of the universe are?  I'm not talking new moral teachings or reflections on old ethical standards, some of which can, in all honesty, be informed by new revelations and discoveries and insights in the course of human history.  I'm talking a fundamental building block of the Faith itself.  Bell has said hell just isn't what it used to be.  And I defy any traditional Protestant minister who disagrees to explain by what authority he or she disagrees.

And yet, when this debate hits the MSM, you get pieces like this one over at   Basically TIME, in this case featuring Bill Saporito, illustrates the time honored proverb that the press understands less about religion than donkeys do about physics.  The 'article' falls back on the old skeptic's stereotype that religion is all about people using hell to scare folks into their pews so that someone can live the high life most people only dream about.  Really.  Read the article.  According to TIME, the only reason the doctrine of hell exists is to scare people into giving money.  Sometimes I wish journalists would just go away, but then we need someone to tell us what Lindsay Lohan is up to.

For my part, I ignore just about anything the media has to say about religion, unless it's an actual live interview with a religions leader.  And then I take it at half face value.  By the way, we all know about Blaise Pascal's famous mathematical preference for believing in God.  That doesn't mean the doctrine came from Pascal's calculator.  And speaking of using doctrines to make money, maybe next time we can examine some media outlets deliberately promoting false data and information in order to increase dwindling readerships.

Once in a while the headline is more fun than the article

For instance.  My first thought?  Who ever would have thought that candles could pose a fire risk?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Those God-fearing atheists!

Many folks across the blogosphere are having fun with this one.  The Pew Research Center is typically at least close to hitting the mark, though I've expressed my own skepticism about studies, research, and surveys over the years.  Nonetheless, as measurements go, the Pew is about as good as we have, especially when looking at the topic of religion in America.  It's especially well received in the MSM when it suggests America is becoming less religious, or more young people are saying sayonara to their childhood faiths.  So it has been with much joy and giggling that this summary of key findings has been making the rounds.

The favorite stats are those 10% of atheists who pray, actually pray.  And even more fun, those 21% of atheists who believe in a God, as well as 6% who believe in a personal God!  Yeah, folks could say they meant 'that's the kind of God I believe people mean when I reject God', but that's stretching it that all of the respondents would have meant such a nuanced response.  And pray?  Who in the world do you pray to?

As tempting as it is to make no little amount of hay out of this, it isn't surprising.  Fact is, despite our eternal desire to lump people into groups, folks aren't so easy to categorize.  Whether the early Church, or the Imperial Church, or the Middle Ages, or the Renaissance Church, or the Colonial Church, or whatever, folks are usually not monolithic no matter how hard you try to say otherwise.  Look at Catholics, and how many flaunt the use of birth control, even abortion.  Look at how many Evangelical Protestants claim that you get to heaven the old fashioned way, by earning it.  Or how few Jews believe in a personal God.  Or the fact that King James Only, Fundamentalist, Literalistic Protestants make up a relatively small portion of the Christian community.  All of these are inconvenient obstacles for the one who wants to zealously label everyone remotely associated with a stereotype as part of the big problem.

Am I shocked that 10% of atheists admit to maintaining a regular prayer life?  No.  No more than I am shocked at how many Catholics use birth control.  Us humans aren't known for our fidelity to teaching, no matter what the doctrine.  Just read Genesis.  We also can find ourselves part of something we are only ho-hum about, just because.  Fact is, when I was an agnostic, most of my secular fellows weren't that way for any deep, profound reasons.  A couple could argue religion with the best of them, and I used to have fun playing devil's advocate to hear their reasoning.  But most I knew couldn't have strung together a coherent thought to explain their unbelief if they had to.  They were in it for the parties, the sex, the hedonism and narcissism of the age.  As far as they knew, whatever you wanted to say bad about religion was OK with them, as long as it didn't interfere with the cocktail hour.  And despite the popular culture's attempt to portray things otherwise, that is pretty much the truth today.

Now, the predominant post-modern narrative is basically this:
  • Democrats care, Republicans care about money
  • Liberals are sophisticated and intelligent, Conservatives are boorish and ignorant
  • Non-believers are witty and also intelligent, Religious believers (especially Christian), are dumb and hateful
  • Homosexuals are superior to heterosexuals in just about every conceivable way
  • If you have a British accent, you get double the points
So it tends to be a bigger disappointment to the media producers when a little dose of reality gets in the way, than for your average thinking person who knows that such sweeping generalizations aren't worth a roll of used toilet paper.  Even if our lovely cultural commentators can easily dismiss it, as we often do when research doesn't tell us what we want to hear, there's still that sad reality of complex participants that displays itself whenever one stops and actually listens to what so many of any group has to say.  Especially on the Internet!

Because hating Christians in general and Catholics in particular

Has replaced apple pie as one of the foundational American trademarks, you may have missed the upswing of violence against Catholic institutions in California in recent years.  That's years.  Despite keeping an eye on the news, I admit I've missed it.  Here's a little snippet:

The arson at St. John Vianney Church is the latest in a string of crimes against Catholic institutions across California. In January, a vandal spray-painted the words “Kill the Cathlics” on the walls of St. Boniface Catholic Church in Anaheim and St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Irvine. Beginning in December 2010, Holy Family Catholic Church in Glendale was forced to tighten security measures after a thief repeatedly broke into collection boxes used by parishioners to donate money to the needy.
How about that.  Imagine if it were Synagogues or Mosques or Gay Bars.  Imagine what the media coverage would be then.  Even one instance is all that would be needed.  Not that violence or threats against any of those things would be acceptable or in any way tolerable.  I'm just pointing out the disparity between the coverage of, say, a Mosque fire in Tennessee, or violence against a California Synagogue, compared to this.  Has anyone even heard of this?  Have we seen this on CNN or any of the networks?  Or FOX for that matter, beyond a mere passing tidbit?  The trick in all this will be to have Christians wake up in time without empowering the fringe elements of the Faith to generate old prejudices and bigotry in the name of Christianity.  Can it happen?  Will it occur in time?  We'll have to see.

Randy Sly gives kudos to The Ten Commandments

In an interview with Fraser Heston, the late, great one's son, who was born during filming of the classic, and conveniently played the baby Moses. I know, I know.  It was Hollywood smultz at its highest.  But it was at least favorable to the traditional Biblical narrative of Western culture.  Not to mention the emphasis (in case you missed it) that nobody should live in bondage - strategically placed in a movie at the dawn of the Civil Rights era.  Inaccuracies and old fashioned melodrama from some of the actors is simply a sign of the times.  It was when Hollywood was going all out to compete against that newfangled invention called television.  And nobody was a better warrior for the big screen cause than Cecil B. DeMille.  Who can forget the pageantry, the splendor, the over the top portrayals of then-familiar biblical characters.  And of course, the parting of the Red Sea, one of the ultimate cinematic high points that forever etched in a generation the picture of how the event occurred - even if the biblical accounts aren't quite there.  This was a staple before the dark days of the PCMCE religion (that's Politically Correct Multi-Cultural Education), in which America, Western Civilization, and anything remotely connected with the Christian tradition (even if it was primarily Jewish), fell behind the bullseye.  Still, it's nice to see it released in time for Easter and the Passover, when it always has been.played on television.  I'm not sure if it is this year.  We'll have to see. 

Oh, and lest we get too highfalutin about the quality of our modern films; if the movies I've seen in recent years suggest anything, it's that The Ten Commandments was almost a dissertation in historical accuracy by comparison.

Douglas Kmiec resigns

And learns a little lesson about post-modern America.  What is post-modern America?  Well, post-modern is all the values commonly known as liberal without the shards of goodness that liberal values dragged along from a more noble past.  Those values include, but are not limited to, ideas of tolerance, diversity, open-mindedness, and respect for differences of beliefs.  Note how seldom we hear those anymore.  They crop up once in a while, usually regarding topics where the nation is still leaning against the post-modern viewpoint.  But in areas where they are gaining steam, like gay rights, gender equality, or abortion and birth control, don't hold your breath waiting for proponents to call for open dialogue.  And that goes with religion, too.  Especially that pesky Christian religion that the post modern movement hates with all the white-hot fury of a thousand suns.  

Because the Republicans want to lose in 2012

Many are beginning to get behind the Donald.  Yeah, Donald Trump.  No, really.  A man who inherited his millions, has become the poster child of avarice, and has led a life and promoted the ethics of everything one expects to see on an MTV reality show.  Heck, he has his own reality show that promotes, well, those same stellar principles.  In 2008, many Republican pundits pushed Rudy Giuliani due to the notion that a celebrity was needed to take down either Hillary Clinton or Barrack Obama.  Despite the fact that in most ways, particularly in the social/religious issues, Giuliani stood to the left of all but the most liberal Democrat, Rudy was the man.  Those religious and social conservatives who protested?  They were told to sit down, shut up, and vote Republican or else they would get a Democrat who might do things to hurt billion dollar coporations' abilities to routinely screw the working class and exploit third world countries.

So, after McCain, mister 'I'm proud not to be one of those radical right types' McCain, got his butt pounded in 2008, what have the Republicans learned?  Apparently nothing.  Those who think they can continue to tell the social and religious contingency - the one that made the Republicans even come close to competing with the Democrats for the last three decades - to take a hike have another think coming.  This idea that once every four years Republicans can pretend to care, expect the votes, and then go back to business as usual should have shown its flaws when Delaware Republicans voted for Christine O'Donnell rather than Michael Castle.  But it hasn't.

Some Republican pundits are starting to salivate over the Donald, for reasons I can't truly fathom.  I can see why Democrats hope for a Donald nomination, but not thinking conservatives. Not only will it continue to alienate those inconvenient religious types who the Republicans desperately need, but it will help to perpetuate the media stereotype that Republicans are a bunch of Mammon worshipping clowns.  But then again, when someone who can act as crazy loony as Ron Paul emerges as the voice of reason in the party, let's face it, you know they're going down the road that leadeth unto political destruction.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Money quote of the day

"A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation." ~James Freeman Clarke

Washington, are you listening?

One of many reasons I don't care about the upcoming royal wedding

If this were an image of the Virgin Mary, folks would be blowing beer out their noses in laughter.  As it is, the story gets at least a modicum of regard from Shine.

Gay couple kisses in pub

And England goes batnuts.  In this story, we have a gay couple tossed out of a pub because they kissed.  Is it a problem that in a world of floundering economies, the unraveling of Western civilization, brutal oppression by tyrants, thousands slaughtered in wars and terrorism, and millions starving and dying, that I have a hard time caring?  Something tells me that in a thousand years, ours will be one of the most laughed at generations in human history.

Courts to crybabies: Sorry about your luck.

In another attempt to ban religion from the public forum and brutally shred the Constitution in the name of secular superiority, The Freedom From Religion Foundation (catch that title?) had successfully filed a lawsuit trying to end the National Day of Prayer.  It was quite a stink when a lower court said yes, America should oppress all public displays of religion in order to impose a secular world view on the country.  Thankfully, not all is lost in our Barney Fife generation.  The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has more or less said hogwash.  A bunch of adult babies who are boosed by having to tolerate differing opinions about the divine does not equate legal injury.  They even went so far as throwing out another similar lawsuit.  Good for them.  While I can see where forcing school kids to learn Islam Christianity is crossing the Constitutional lines, the growing attempt by fundamentalist secularists to dispense with this whole freedom of religion in the name of their own insecurities is crossing the line.

By the way, I'm sure legal experts will be able to prove, like anything else, that this means nothing.  It is no doubt just some technicality and the court was saying nothing more than this or that little nuance in the law applies or doesn't apply.  But it's still a victory, if for no other reason, than stemming the growing tide of people who think dropping the dreaded 'offended' flag allows for censorship and oppression of liberty in the grandest Orwellian tradition.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Forgetting about fundamentalists

So I was skimming over a blog that deals with the history of role playing games.  A uniquely specific field of study.  But I like it because the author, James, writes well and has wonderful historical insights.  Anyhoo, he posted a whimsical post wondering about the physics behind fantasy creatures - like dragons - being able to fly.  Not being a physicist, I thought I would sit that one out, my interests being in other places.

But I decided to have a look at the posts to see if anyone smarter than me could offer insights into this ancient dilemma.  There were actually some fairly decent stabs at it, I must admit.  Then one fellow wrote about a theory of dinosaurs evolving into birds.  He expressed his skepticism of the argument he mentioned.  No links or anything, just light hearted stuff.  So I decided to throw my two cents in and mentioned a physicist I knew who once explained to folks that flight was his big hang up on putting everything into the modern evolutionary basket.  He wasn't trashing evolution per se.  He just mentioned that flight has problems as do most complex interdependent biological systems like the senses, various symbiotic relationships, and flight.  After all everything has to be in place for flight to work or it doesn't.  And there is no evidence to prove that any of the characteristics needed for flight are, in themselves, beneficial for the survival of the species. Hence I suggested if you are going to concede dragons at all, I wouldn't worry about it.  I thought that was fun.

Then BAM!  A fellow posts a response saying nein, Nein, NEIN!  You are wrong, wrong, a thousand times wrong.  And he linked to this article from the University of Berkley.  OK, I went there to read it, and basically concluded that the physics professor I heard those years ago was right.  If you read it, you'll note there is a lot of theory based on guess based on assumption based on theory, but it all starts with birds and bats already able to fly.  There's a significant gap there, which was the point.  So I just mentioned it looks to me that the fellow I heard all those years ago was right, there are some significant gaps and leaps of faith there, but the purpose of the blog is probably more light hearted than a bare knuckle brawl over this issue, so reiterated my own corpus doctrina regarding dragons and flying.

To which he responded, in a not so pleasant tone, that he at least linked to a link.  All I had was 'heresay (a polite way of saying I may have been making it up).'  At that point, I let him know it was just a silly blog post.  I read what a fellow wrote, and that came to my mind.  That was all.  I didn't mean to take on the eternal questions of the universe.  It was no big deal.  And then I realized I had forgotten the main issue.  

There are two types of evolutionary theory.  One is a scientific approach to understanding the development of life on earth, using evidence and data and admitting what do know, don't know, and at least now, may never know.  The other is a religion, a faith, an 'all explaining answer to everything that I can use to make myself feel good about ignoring any other faith tradition and suppose I'm superior since at least mine is based somewhat on science.'  I have a feeling I know which group the fellow falls into. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Anniversary of the big war

Today is the 150th anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter, that event which obviously brought our country full force into the Civil War.  I've mentioned to folks that, ironically, despite my love for history, I have spent little time studying the Civil War.  I'm only vaguely aware of the dates in which it was fought (1861-1865). Perhaps the reason is, when I was growing up, almost all of history was, well, the Civil War.  That's what everyone was talking about.  From Roots, to the Blue and the Gray, TV was obsessed with it.  It was the defining historical subject at that time.

Eras I preferred, such as Medieval studies, the Colonial and Revolutionary periods, and the Napoleonic era were mostly on the back burners at best.  World War II was largely forgotten, replaced by a growing sense of the importance of Vietnam - Word War II being that archaic time that Mr. Roper and Archie Bunker types reminisced about.  So perhaps it was because of this that neither Vietnam, nor the Civil War, hold much appeal to me.

Also, there is the strange twisting and turning that is historical studies.  History, as they say, reflects more the modern historian than the historical subject at hand.  As I grew up in the 70s and 80s, especially in our Post-Roots culture, the growing emphasis on America's Sins was overtaking any all American studies.  Racism was quickly becoming the go-to sin of our nation.  Everything was racism.  And America - all of it -was Racist.  To combat the objections some might have about such a sweeping generalization, we were assured that no blue blooded American boy ever cared one lick for a minority.  How then to explain the Civil War, where tens of thousands of Northerners appeared to have died for the cause?  Easy.  The Civil War, or so I was told, was not about Slavery at all.  Oh, that may have been the spark that ignited the fuse.  But it was ever and always about States Rights and preserving the Union.  That was it.  Slavery, as folks of the day loved to point out, was no big deal for most of the war.  In fact, it was an afterthought. 

And this fit well, as we were moving to tear down any and all positive references to America's past.  Lincoln, long immortalized as one of our greatest - if not the greatest - presidents, had to be brought down.  His flaws, failings, and sins were focused upon.  Gone was the crusading idealist, and in came the closet racist, caring nothing for the actual slaves themselves, seeking only to expand federal power and impose totalitarian-like control of the nation.  Or so the popular portrayals and scholarship of the day seemed to suggest.

Funny thing is, that apparently took hold and became assumed knowledge.  As I've said before, nothing works like mass propaganda.  And so a generation or more of Americans came to see the Civil War as a giant geopolitical conflict only vaguely concerned with the issue of slavery, and not concerned at all with the slaves.  In many media portrayals of the time, in fact, abolitionists were shown to be fanatics, zealots, and the epitome of intolerance compared to the more level headed players of the day. 

Fast forward twenty years.  As our nation moves toward a Post-American identity, where any and all celebrations of America's past must be squelched due to sensitivities involving its heinous sins, we have a problem.  If the Civil War was merely about state's rights and the union, with the North almost coming across as the aggressor and the imperial power, then why not celebrate those brave young Southerners who stood firm against such typical American lust for power?  Why not have 'Hurray for the Confederacy Day?'  After all, as we were told over and over and over again when I was growing up, not all Southerners wanted slavery, supported it, or endorsed it.  Some even struggled because of it. 

Well now, that just won't do.  And so in recent years, veritable battles have been fought over any notion that the Confederacy should in any way be celebrated.  All of it - All Of It - was nothing  other than an American Nazism, a plague needing cleansed from our memory.  Why?  Because apparently the Civil War was all about slavery, and the horrible, racist, white south's insistence on preserving this most evil of institutions.  That was it.  That was the purpose for the war.  Time and again during these debates, I've heard activists, politicians, scholars and historians insist that we remember the Civil War was first and foremost a struggle against the racist south and the evil of slavery.  Just how this speaks to the heroism and valor of the Northerners is yet to be flushed out. 

Just how this will look another thirty years from now is anyone's guess.  It will depend, like all historical reflections do, on just what the latest, hippest agendas and controversies of the day happen to be.  As usual, the truth will most likely be found by taking the traditional history, adding the various latest theories, and dividing by two.   

China cracks down on Christians

And the European Union reacts.  Or at least reacts to China's crackdown on everyone but Christians, if this article in the Associated Press is to be taken at face value.  Just a couple days ago, a well publicized story ran detailing a recent raid by China on home churches that refuse to buckle under Chinese law that demands all religious practice be controlled by the state.  Yesterday, I saw another story reporting on Christians stopped from trying to pray in public.  After wondering where the official outcry was, I then saw this headline stating that a EU official was decrying China's crackdowns.  Innocent babe that I was, I figured this was in relation to the recent story of persecuted Christians. 

But not so!  It was dealing exclusively with China's arresting of various reformists and critics.  Now I'm all for the EU going after China for oppressing lawyers, artists, activists, and others calling for Middle Eastern style revolts.  But if the AP is to be believed, there was no real concern about the well publicized crack down on religious (Read: Christian) communities in recent days.  In fact, it is conspicuously absent.  Perhaps there's more behind it than what the AP reported.  And if it were any other organization than the EU, I might be inclined to assume it was the AP's spin on things.  But in this case, it's hard to guess which one is shining the light on all but religious persecution.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Back next week

It goes without saying that it's been an eventful week.  Blogging has been, well, non-existent.  I've not been around to keep up with things, or even think of them.  I'll start slowly back into things this coming week.  I've appreciated the comments, emails, and general shows of support.  My Dad was a heck of a guy, and I was always proud that he was my Dad.  One of my goals has been to be half as good a Dad as he was.  He will be missed.  But life goes on, and that is my job for the upcoming weeks.  I'll be back starting Monday, will comment on a few things, post a few thoughts, and generally hope not too many have fallen off the reader list to have to start fresh.  So I'll be back then, and prayers and thoughts for my Dad, my Family, and me will continue to be appreciated.  Till then, TTFN.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Dad has died

On April 3, at approximately 3:40 AM, my Dad took his last breath, and then peacefully died.  He was surrounded by me, my sister, her husband, and my Mom.  My wife was home with our children, who didn't need to see him like this.  Alzheimer's had ravaged so much of who he was.  In many ways, he had ceased to be Dad years ago.  And yet, now that he's gone, I can't help but admit the chance for one more smile, one more 'take care of those boys', one more 'ho, ho, ho', would be worth millions.  Yet for what he had to go through in that horrible disease to deliver such oases of memories, it's far better for him now that he has passed. 

The end came suddenly.  Only five or so weeks ago, he went into a nursing home.  Though his mind was clearly declining, his physical health was strong.  What turned around so quickly we don't know.  But we do know that he is gone.  So soon, it's difficult to process.  I can fill my mind with all manner of therapeutic insights, thinking of how he never wanted to live the way he did at the end, that he will be in peace, that we will not have to suffer along with him - all of these have their place.  But there are moments when it hits me: He is gone.  That's it.  No more chances.  No more looking for one last smile.  That is done. 

He was a wonderful Dad.  Not perfect.  But wonderful.  A Depression era father, he exemplified that era.  He didn't complain, he didn't expect handouts, he accepted things as they were.  He worked hard for the pride in a job well done.  And he put everyone else ahead of him.  He helped build a strong marriage by thinking of his wife before himself.  He helped build a strong family by putting his children above himself.  And he built a strong sense of worth by thinking of others and helping others and being there for others, even at the expense of himself.  And he lived according to a simple faith and a set of ethics that trumped his own whims and fancies. Traits that have long since been dismissed by our leading thinkers and intellectuals of the day.  But in him, I can see how wrong we are, and how right they were.  For by bucking the latest psychobabble about loving self above all things, Dad was everything I could ever have hoped a father would be.  Again, not perfect.  Nor did he feel the need to try to be perfect.  He just did his best, and he did it for us.  And for that, I'll miss him. 

So thanks for all the memories, the love, the hard work, the sacrifices.  Thanks, Dad, that you simply worked your life to make sure we would have a better life than you did.  May you find peace and comfort in the arms of Our Lord.  St. Francis, pray for him. And I ask that God bless you, keep you, and let His perpetual light shine upon you.  I'll miss you Dad.  I love you.  Goodbye for now.