Sunday, April 28, 2013

Some interesting stories by way of Thomas McDonald

Looks like archaeologists are busy.  In one story, they've unearthed a medieval cookbook.  FWIW, medieval cooking was not altogether bad.  A medievalist myself, we have our own versions of middle ages cooking, and sometimes the taste can be pretty memorable.  Nonetheless, this is the real deal.  And I should mention I have several cookbooks from the monastic calendar year as well. Yummy.

The second deals with finding remains of a ship from - get this - the First Punic War.  That's the First Punic War.  Amazing.  The wars that brought Rome in its assent headlong against ancient Carthage (the Roman name for that being Punici, which is where we get the names of the wars), is on oft forgotten, but immensely important, historical crisis that changed the course of human history.  They established Rome as the power of the Mediterranean, and changed the relationship of North Africa in a way that would have repercussions up to the present day.

This isn't history, of course.  This is archaeology.   It's up to us historians to look at the rocks and pots and ships' bows and make a story of it.  At our best, we do it as faithfully to the sources as possible.  But sometimes, it's nice to step back and look.  A cookbook, a ship's ram.  One a source of bettering the fare of a restrictive diet.  The other, a weapon of war that met its end, probably with hundreds of hapless slaves chained to the decks, dying one of the most agonizing ways a human can die, as their ship slipped below the waves.

Remember kids, history through the window brightly.  Look out your window, and that's what the world looked like to them, with a few architectural  and engineering differences.  They weren't just waiting to be topics for archaeology or stats in a war book.  They lived.  Just like we live today.

Fr. Barron and the arguments for Gay Marriage

He's not really arguing against it, but he is pointing to a problem with modern discourse.  Alas, the style of argument is not confined to the realm of gay marriage, or any particular topic for that matter.  Truth be told, nowadays, we'll go to the mattresses over the type of Spock ears that look the best.  Don't know why, perhaps it's because we have higher levels of education, and therefore assume that because we took two semesters of Western Civ. 100 and 101 we're therefore the undisputed champs of historical insight, and anyone who disagrees must be idiots or evil.  Perhaps it's an excuse.  Maybe we know this level of 'anyone who sees things different is evil' is bogus, and it's just a lazy, easy way to shut down debate.  But it comes so natural, about so many things, it's easy to believe we've actually come to a point where it won't be long before the government is called in to formally punish wrong-thinkers as defined by me.  I wish Fr. Barron spent more time on that part of it, but overall, a good primer for some of the weaker arguments behind gay marriage advocacy.

Friday, April 26, 2013

So it made me laugh

Plus my kids like it.  After a week without much chance to blog, and what little time I had being spent getting throttled over at CAEI by pointing out that we should have come together and tried to unite behind the victims of the Boston Bombing rather than unleash our agenda driven complaining from day one, this is a welcome respite.  The funny thing?  I then pointed out that as Americans, we've become too critical of our country, seeing the worst in everything and being divided over everything, and I am then smacked again for apparently worshiping America and insisting it's perfect and flawless.  I tried, but I just couldn't get my mind around it.  Once our fascist police state was dutifully accused, and the cops who arrested the suspects and risked their lives were reduced to worthless doughnut eating butchers in blue by my fellow Catholics, I figured it was time to come back to the light.  I've received some wonderful emails from a couple readers, and plan on commenting on some of them soon.  But for now, after being bludgeoned for pointing out that people who call  our cops worthless butchers and our government a fascist police state isn't accurate, and then told that I'm the problem for not seeing the sins of our country, I thought some fun was needed.  I think my boys like it because they can see it happening to me.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sometimes a fair point

Part of being religious is striking that balance.  Go too far in either direction, and you get abuses at best, heresy at worst.  So in Christianity, we have a Just and Merciful God.  A Loving and Powerful God.  We are to rely on God' grace and mercy, but we are to be sanctified and  strive for holiness.  Begin going in one way to the exclusion of others, and you've got problems.

I was right!

If National Geographic Channel can be believed   So it's been running a series on the 80s.  That's the 1980s.  The decade that formed me.  I was in 8th grade in 1980, and graduated college in 1990 (the extra year due to changing majors). So I'm somewhat familiar with the 80s.  I haven't watched the show, since shows like that are usually more flash than substance.  But I've seen a few clips here and there.

Last night, I caught the part where they talked of the TV movie The Day After.  For those who don't remember, that was a little Hollywood love letter to Ronald Reagan, explaining in dramatic form that his policies would lead to nuclear annihilation   It wasn't presented that way by Nat Geo.  Though the impact it had on Reagan was mentioned.  That made me wonder what impact it might have if we had Hollywood productions that directly attacked the policies of Obama or Clinton.  Might it jar them?  Not that Reagan was jarred the way the producers wanted.  It only encouraged him to step up his resolve to economically break the floundering Soviet Union.

But it did impress upon Reagan the need to step up, since each day we were at a nuclear standoff was a day someone could flinch.  Again, the Nat Geo show didn't mention that the movie itself was part of the grand 'we're all going to die because Reagan's president' mantra that we heard from the day Reagan took office.  Pushed by the emerging Left as the Boomer liberals began to seize control of our cultural institutions  the difference between 1980s and the 1950s was twofold: first, unlike the 50s where everyone knew there could be a nuclear war, in the early 80s, we were told there would be a nuclear war.  Big difference.  And unlike the 50s, where it was those rascally Ruskies who were the baddies and the reason why, if there's ever a war, it will be due to their godless evil, in the 80s, courtesy of the emergent Left, the reason for our inevitable doom was, well, us.  The US.   The warmongering Right and old Imperialist Washington.  We had met the enemies, and it was us.

Ronald Reagan as seen in the anti-Reagan video
for Genesis' song "Land of Confusion"
What Nat Geo did do was link this to an observation I've made for years.  For more than 20 years I've told people, including my parents, that this generation of instant gratification may not have started in the 80s, but it was given high octane gas in the 80s and put into hyper-drive.   This drumbeat of inevitable doom couldn't help but impress on a certain generation of young people the idea that saving and planning long term were exercises in futility.  Why worry about tomorrow when tomorrow won't be there?  While not the only reason, as no thing ever has only one reason, I've long maintained that the rather purposeful pounding on the desk that Reagan was going to kill Earth had a profound impact on an entire generation, even if we didn't realize it at the time.

Of course, again, Nat Geo doesn't link this to a politically motivated stunt or anything.  But it does say that the feeling of inevitable destruction may have had an impact on the decline of savings and preparing for later years in life that we see today (dropping interest rates are probably another reason, but that's for some other time).  Not that those of us alive couldn't see that by late 1983 when the movie aired, Reagan may not have been so keen to nuke the world as we'd been told.  It was clear by late 83 and early 84 that he wasn't planning on nuking everyone, that the economy was improving  and that America seemed strong again.  Which is why he was reelected.  But Hollywood tried its best to scare the bejesus out of us, and it did have an impact, even on Reagan himself.  For good or ill.  What impact might a Hollywood assault on the HHS mandate have I wonder.  But far easier was it to imagine a nuclear holocaust in 1983 than a 2013 Hollywood production that would ever challenge a liberal Democrat president.

Why the Catholic Blogosphere matters

Being busy right now, I've not had that chance to keep up with things, though I appreciate the steadily increased traffic, and some new folks commenting.  Keep up the good work, reading my stuff can't be easy! Anyway, I was thinking on the post about 'three types of Catholics', and the comment that I needed to get out more.

Here's the thing about the blogosphere.  And any communication for that matter.  The post itself was an afterthought.  Basically it was setting up for a discussion on the rise in prominence of the Catholic blogosphere, and the ascension of Catholic bloggers into positions of instruction and leadership within the American Catholic community (can't speak for other countries).  The 'below the waistline/above the waistline' was just supposed to be a humorous way of saying conservative/liberal.  The Church, like Protestants and any others in Western culture, is divided by this new revolutionary approach to the universe.

My point wasn't that all Catholics fit neatly into one of these scientifically established categories   My point was that while you have the two big divisions that everyone knows, there is a new approach emerging, obviously common across the blogosphere.  That approach seems to see fealty to the Vatican as above all whenever convenient,  is often willing to play fast and loose with how Church teaching is interpreted, and tends to fall into that Internet pit of basing morality on lofty issues not connected with ourselves, not on how we as individuals should act in our own personal lives (including how we treat others on the Internet).

Certain trends seem to emerge: I could be a sexually active homosexual and who's to say?  But take the wrong position on what our policy should be in Iran and poof!, it's off to Hell I go (assuming Hell still exists, another debate on the Internet).  Voting?  Just because it appears the Bishops go with a 'you should vote' perspective, clever bloggers have been able to show that we shouldn't vote for either major party, or vote at all, because that jeopardizes our souls (that's what the Bishops really secretly meant to mean).  And so on.

The reaction across some Catholic blogs to the Boston bombings is a good example.   Of course a strong anti-Americanism has emerged in some of the Catholic blogosphere.  Sad to say, there have always been Catholics who see opposition to America as a fundamental Catholic teaching.  The blogosphere, gathering bad ideas like a locker room gathers fungus, has become a breeding ground for encouraging this.  Just watching some of the conversations shows what hollow, almost deathly rotten, spiritual and ethical life this blogosphere can encourage.  From focusing on the bombers to the detriment of the victims, to ensuring it's all a vast government conspiracy, to mocking the methods used to apprehend the perpetrators, to boldly declaring our righteousness for a willingness to forgive the bombers when they never did anything to most bloggers anyway, all show very, very dangerous forms of Christian morality and spirituality.

It's not unlike what one gets in little isolated churches in the back hills of Kentucky.  As I've said before, the Internet, far from broadening our horizons, can actually isolate us if we're not careful, and can become exclusive communities of incestuous thinking.

Now, all of this matters because, over the past couple years, there has been an effort by Catholic leaders to point Catholics to the glories of social media and the Internet, including the blogosphere.  Many of these bloggers have become little celebrities in their own rights.  And they are being endorsed by Catholic leaders. From Pope Benedict to the USCCB, there have been moves to get the Church up with the times.  This includes bringing many bloggers in as bona fide experts on Catholic Faith.  I've seen pictures, and read accounts, of these bloggers being given the high five by Bishops, Archbishops, even a Cardinal or two.  The UCCSB has included discussing ways to open up Catholics to the blogosphere in particular  and the Internet in general.

Either this means that the leaders are unaware of what these bloggers teach.  Which is a possibility  since sometimes various bloggers are quite different when they speak to a parish, conference or meeting with Church leaders.  Or they know exactly what they teach, and the Church is moving into a phase of spiritual living whereby the above qualities are exactly what the Church leaders advocate.  I hope not.  I hope it's the former.  But in any event, as Catholics are encouraged to go to the Internet, Social Media, the Blogosphere, and other forums, it's worth taking a long look at what is out there.  Not all are this way of course.  There are many great blogs that are inspiring and hit that balanced path that seems to reflect what the Church has actually taught.  But the bad are hardly the rare exception.  And sadly, not all were that way to begin with, but have become that way due to the increase of fans who cheer them on, encourage them to judge and declare Raca, and assure them that this 'let it happen to others as long as it doesn't happen to us' ethic is just what Jesus would have done.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Looks like the second Boston Bomber has been caught

Kudos and high fives to our law enforcement agencies, who put it out on the line to apprehend a dangerous felon, a multiple murderer who may well have killed again.  Prayers continue to be with the victims, their families and loved ones, and all who have been directly affected by this carnage.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

And for a look into the bleak future

I pass along a post that was passed to me. Read it at your own risk.  You've been warned. As I say many times, I have no idea what the next genocidal mass slaughter of humanity will look like, or how bad it will be.  But I'm almost positive of exactly why it will happen.

Richard LeParmentier has died

Who you ask?  Richard LeParmentier.  For folks of my age, his name may not be household level, but there's not a guy who was aware in 1977 who doesn't remember him:
Don't try to frighten us with your sorcerer's ways, Lord Vader.  Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the rebel's hidden fortress...

And of course, his little rant was cut short.  Back in those magical days from 1977-1978, when our little Midwestern town waited an entire year for the movie to make it to our small screen, Star Wars was about as all consuming as the Beatles must have been in 1964.  It was all I, or just about any other boy my age, was thinking about.

Every scene was gold.  Remember, no DVDs, streaming videos, Youtube knock-offs, or even VCRs.  Once it was gone, it was gone as far as we knew.  I worked an entire year doing chores,  gathering newspapers for recycling, anything I could to raise enough money for the dollar per showing it would cost me to see Star Wars every day it was in our theater.  And against usual practice, our theater held Star Wars for an extra week!  I only missed a couple of showings.  Even when they played it back to back I stayed, at one point sitting in the aisles because the seating was taken (a year later!).  Yeah, pretty lenient back then with fire codes. 

Ah, but what a moment in my life.  Every character, every ship, every bit of the movie was etched into my mind for all time.  And few standouts leaped out at us like the haplessly swaggering Admiral Mott, one of the few who, at least for the moment, didn't appear overly frightened of the menace in black.  What a scene.  It perfectly displayed, in a subtlety that Lucas would eventually lose, that tension between technology and industry, and good old supernatural, dare I say, religious devotion.  

Thanks for the memories Mr. 
LeParmentier.  I know you did other things, and no doubt had all the moments that make a person's life what it is.  But for this young fellow, way back in the hazy, crazy 70s, you stood out in a film of gigantic proportions, and left a little bit of yourself for me to remember the rest of my days.  God be with you, and rest in peace. 

Death Penalty Opponents

Are these your allies?

Mark Shea posted a couple days ago, once again reasoning that if you still hold to the Church's traditional approach to capital punishment, then your allies are the likes of barbaric Muslim societies and Communist tyrannies.  He even included a cute graph like the one above (I deliberately used a different graph that outlined the world's countries a little better).

If you look at the above chart, there is quite a variety of countries without and with the death penalty.  Look carefully.  Yes, most Muslim countries have it, so does China.  But so does Brazil.  So does Japan.  So does India.  Argentina.  Mongolia.  I'm not sure there's any trend I can spot there.

Those that have abolished the death penalty?  Secular Turkey in the Muslim world.  Nepal.  Mostly countries aligned with post-Christian Europe.  S. America has the death penalty, as well as liberal abortion laws and progress views on gay marriage.  Russia has the death penalty, loose abortion laws, and right now no move to recognize gay marriage.  Europe, which seems to be the go to reference point for those who wish to abolish the death penalty altogether, is a living, breathing example of post-Christian values: gay marriages, abortion for the longest time, several moving toward legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia.

I thought of this as yet one more country that banned the death penalty embraces gay marriage.  And let's not forget, the United States that brought us federally supported abortion rights was, at the time, also attempting its first round of banning the death penalty.  My point is, it's an incredibly weak, almost ludicrous argument.  Most of my life I opposed the death penalty outright, though I knew that brought a few problems.  I was happy to embrace the Church's (then) teaching that it should be rare in deference to mercy if at all possible, but not if it compromises the ability to protect widows and orphans.

But now, many leaders in the Church, leaning heavily on the State's new-found ability to prevent crime, are seeking to abolish the death penalty altogether.  And in lieu of a better reason, apparently some have sought to find reasons of their own to do so, including guilt by association.  Looking at the map above, it's easy to see why 'if you support the death penalty, then you're in the camp of barbarism' is really no better than 'because now the State can prevent crime.'  We'll have to do better than either of those to justify jettisoning a 2000 year old consistent teaching.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A blogging lesson from the Wolf Man

So I got a little bit of a rebuke for my post on three kinds of Catholics.  Sure, I was being somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but I was also setting up a point, one that needs to be reflected on. That point being the tendency, largely across the Internet (though probably not unique to it) of Catholics adopting the idea that imitating Christ is voting the right way, supporting this or that geopolitical strategy, and opposing gun control, or torture, or gay marriage or whatever.  It's headline ethics.  It's having drawn out discussions about whether we should forgive the bombers in Boston.

It's not just on the Internet either.  It's media in general.  I heard the topic of forgiving the Boston terror bomber on local Catholic radio going to work today.  Forgive the bomber?  Really?  And what does that cost me?  Not a damn thing.  What about opposing military action in Iran?  Sacrifice?  Anyone?  Perhaps in that it could become a long, drawn out war, someone in Congress would finally get a draft (only if the president was Republican), and my military age boys could be pressed into service.  But otherwise, what is it to me if I'm wrong in opposing force against Iran?  If Iran gets a nuclear device, hands it to terrorists, and then detonates in some city, killing tens of thousands?  The odds of that being within a light-year of my little corn field of the world is about zilch.  So defining my holiness on something that if I'm wrong wouldn't cost me a brass farthing demonstrates what?

So you see the problem.  Following gushing tributes to Christopher Hitchens, Andy Warhol, and the late Roger (I'm an atheist who can't get enough of sexting up the movies) Ebert, while granting no mercy or grace to people over a growing list of issues that vary greatly on their direct impact on us, I felt it was time to speak.

Does my little piece mean I think all Catholics fit neatly into three categories   No.  Obviously.  Nor does it mean I think all Catholics are part of that group that is common across the blogosphere.  But they are out there.  And in recent years, I've seen several cases where Catholic leaders, including the USCCB, have been encouraging ways to harness the blogosphere, promote it, and use it.  And when you notice the number of Catholic bloggers invited to parishes, Catholic conferences, and given growing visibility as spokesmen and women for Catholicism, it's worth looking at, especially if several of them have adapted this new, modern take on Catholic Holy Living.

So, what does this have to do with The Wolf Man?  Here's the point.  That little rebuke focused on the folks, those folks around us, the ones we see everyday.  The suggestion was that I spend too much time on the blogosphere, and not enough hanging with the real people.  But that's the rub.  Those bloggers are someone's real people.  And in my dealings, I've learned Catholicism does has quite a bit of variety.  Most probably aren't in that blogosphere gang that concerns me.  Most, however, do seem to be pretty much divided down the progressive/traditional line that has caused so much mischief in Protestant circles.  Still, the fact that a minority represents this, or that real folks doing real things are the majority, is pointless.

How do I know?  Because I'll wager that, if we could borrow from Wells and go back in time, we'd see that most people in most cases throughout history were just basic folk, doing their thing, being good, naughty, going to work, paying bills, playing video games with the kids.   That's what people always are.  Part of this, siding with that, but usually just folks putting their pants on like I do, Hitler did, Washington did, and so on. That was the point of the screenplay for MGM's classic 1940 movie The Wolf Man.

Written by Curt Siodmak, a Jewish refugee escaped from Nazi Germany, many of the 'legends' of werewolves came straight from his creative genius.  It's true.  No autumn moons or silver bullets in most werewolf legends, those were just creations for this movie.  But the important part, the part that concerns us here, was the idea that the werewolf's victims sported a pentagram somewhere on their hands.  The werewolf knew then who the next victim would be.

It shouldn't take a genius to pick up on the symbolism of a Jew imagining a star being the sign of a soon to be victim.  Nor was it lost on those who knew him when realizing the theme of the movie itself: a kindly, thoughtful young man is bitten and becomes a savage, murderous monster.  That's what Siodmak had experienced.  Those he knew, those he had grown up with, played with, worked with, those real folks he knew, were suddenly becoming monsters, brutal savage beasts, hanging stars on people and marching them to their deaths.  The Wolf Man in a nutshell.

And thus, we come back to the point.  It matters not a lick in history that most people are good people, caring people, kind people, or whatever.  I'm sure most people in the south, even slave owners, were good people (just watch Gone With the Wind).  I'm sure most people in Germany were good people.  So are most atheists, most Muslims, most Protestants, most fundamentalists, most liberals, most Catholics, and so on.  In the end, it's not what the majority does, but what the passionate minority is able to convince them to do that so often makes the difference in the course of human events.

But what I do, on this blog as my main outreach, is focus on those movements that are concerns, problematic if you would.  Yes, Catholics can broadly be defined as liberal and conservative.  Those terms may not be the same as they are in other circles, but they're there.  Within those groups, I'm sure, like anywhere else, there's much variety.  But there is a growing tendency across much of the Catholic web to interpret the Church's changing teachings as one that puts a premium on standing on the right side of a host of issues.  In this movement, there is a tendency to believe that the Church is finally hitting its stride, going to true perfection, and all had better jump on board or else.  It takes the Church's teachings on these broad topics as the essence of the Gospel, that which divides life and death, good and evil.  And what's more, increasingly they care little to nothing for the law of life that tells us how we should act on a daily basis.  Quick to say it's better that a thousand children die than tell a lie to save them, the same Catholics would scoff at the idea that we should physically and literally sell everything we have to follow Jesus.  That would be me doing something.  Far easier is it to base my holiness on supporting this or that topic that may not impact me in the least.

That was the point of the post.  It was actually a set up for unpacking this growing trend across many blogs to elevate social and political stances to the source and summit of holiness, while increasingly acting as if such quaint teachings as not judging and calling others Raca should be dismissed as puritanism and rejected outright.  Not all on the Internet of course.  Nor all on the blogosophere.  But enough.  Enough to take notice and take it seriously, especially as some of the bloggers themselves are getting the stamp of approval from Church leadership.  After all, that's where those hard working and good hearted average Catholics get their teachings from, or should.  Hence, the concern  

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bloggers note

I was asked about my post on Catholic Stereotypes in which I referenced the old made for TV movie of Ivanhoe.  I said that the movie was, as TV movies go, not bad in keeping with the basic gist of the book.  I then went on to describe the characters and what I was getting at about stereotypes.  It was pointed out that, in the book, Lucas Beaumanoir is actually quite the believer, the zealot and the fanatical font of superstition and lunacy.  So much so that Brian de Bois Guilbert (perhaps the true main antagonist in both book and movie, truth be told) references his style of witch hunt mentality as the thing that future generations will scorn. In an attempt to keep up with things, I should have clarified I was referring to the TV portrayal, where the general idea seems to be he only believes it to a point, shooting sidelong glances and willingly lying, basically not being the zealous yet true hearted believer he is in the book.  I should have specified.  Just keeping up with those who are keeping up.  Thanks.

There are two kinds of Catholics in the world

Those who separate Catholics into groups and those who don't.  Ha!  Well, for this little exercise, let me be part of the first type.  We're going to look, briefly, at three general strains, or approaches, to Catholic holy living that I've noticed in my seven years or so of hanging out in Catholic circles.  The three groups are the 'below the waistline Catholics', the 'above the waistline Catholics', and the 'above the neckline Catholics.'

Briefly, the below the waistline variety is your basic, traditional, somewhat stereotypical Catholic of yore, focusing much on the sins of the flesh, sometimes accused of being puritanical in its approach.  A Catholic  variety of the old don't drink, don't smoke, don't chew and don't date girls who do.  Sure, gambling, drinking and other such things are OK, but much emphasis is placed on the, shall we say, carnal vices.   Much is on what not to do in life, and there is a basic traditional, even conservative way of looking at Catholic living.  Virtue is not being adulterous  gay, carousing, or embracing the seedier side of modern life.  Or pre-modern life for that matter.  This is the rural type.  Views on various sweeping political and social movements may vary, and in fact many are as Democrat blue as CNN, but when it comes to the social issues, the 'what makes me holy', they tend to default to more traditional approaches - shun fleshly lust, spare the rod, and quite frankly, realistic use of war, capital punishment, and other old time approaches to life.  In this approach, holy living is living a life of chastity, it is defined mostly by what I don't do.  Sure, good works and charity may well play a part, and pushing for justice as good as any.  But don't be shocked if this side prefers the veiled woman, the woman with long trousers or dresses, and typically would emphasize our abilities to live holy based on what we can do, not on the grand, lofty issues of the day.

The above the waistline are, for want of a better word, the 'liberals.'  That is, liberal in the Christian, even academic, sense. They've long since abandoned such notions as a real Jonah, a real Moses, or even a real Jesus in some cases.  Justice is that which is associated with promoting liberal values.  Pro-gay, pro-choice, pro-ecumenical, and even post-Christian.  Such ideas of a real Hell or God really sending His Son to die on the cross are every bit as suspect as they are in most mainline progressive Protestant denominations   Holy living, though seldom called such, is seen as supporting equality (women, gays, minorities), railing against wars and military might (at their worst, only when advanced by conservatives), and generally railing against the traditional Christian West, the United States and most things seen as foundational to those traditions and civilizations. Political Correctness and Multi-Culturalism are the name of the game, and it's entirely possibly that with no Hell to worry about, salvation is for everyone anyway, so breaking other traditional teachings in the Church is a distinct possibility.  Odd thing is, sometimes folks who lean this way are fanatics about certain things: when a prayer is said, how to stand during this or that Sacrament.  You may not have to cross yourselves any more, but by goodness you better do it right if you do.  Here, the big thing is embracing the new minorities, giving that cup of cold water, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and generally doing good as the Gospel calls us, to the least of these.

The last one is the one common on the Catholic Blogosphere.  These are the above the neckline Catholics.  In this world, holy living is virtually never talked about.  Generally, there is almost as much leniency toward sins of the flesh as you get in the more progressive side.  This is the one that celebrates Andy Warhol. or the late Roger Ebert, dismissing their advocacy for more porn-styled entertainment, their various approaches to Catholic living (or atheism), and more or less reminding us that God is a merciful God who is about mercy and calls for mercy and so it's all mercy.   Sympathy  if not almost complete acceptance, of gays, women's rights, popular culture, rock culture, what have you, are the name of the game.  Expect Ferris Bueller not to be condemned as a symbol of all the narcissism and hedonism that the West has achieved  but rather as a paragon of Christian virtue, a Christ figure in his own right.  So where is the angst?  The debate?  The outrage in this approach of apparent welcoming and affirming of everything?  That would be the sweeping, global geopolitical strategies and polices of the day.  It's where you stand on the Church's teachings about lying, the death penalty, wars in Iraq, gun control, war in Iran, Capitalism  Socialism, or any one of a hundred topics that dominate college textbooks where holy living is found.

Wielding the Catechism like a KJV Bible, and whipping out Aquinas  like a gunslinger whips out his six shooter, this group prides itself in its intellectual grounding on the deep and rich Catholic tradition  and dares anyone to challenge its stance on the Church, which is now always right, even if it changes tomorrow (in which case, it will then be always right).  Here, the holiness is derived by right thinking, not necessarily right living.  And unlike the former two, the feeling of spiritual satisfaction may come from being right on the teachings of the Church.  Sure, doing good to help, or refraining from orgies is good, but that's not what separates the sheep from the goats.  What does is sometimes a stance on an issue that doesn't come close to impacting me one way or another   And therefore, like much of Internet morality, it can lull me into a false sense of righteousness, especially if I'm willing to let others die if I'm wrong, but unwilling to sell everything I have and give it to the poor.  Something about that approach to Christian living  IMHO, bodes more ill than the first two approaches.

If you don't know which group I tend to lean toward, I'll bet you were able to figure the one I see as most dangerous.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The deplorable legacy of liberal Christianity

Can best be viewed here:

That's an atheist, FWIW.  But the arguments are just as common in liberal churches and denominations across the world.  I knew many ministers from liberal denominations that used virtually every argument that the clip above trots out of the closet.  There's a reason we don't hear much about the "religious left." Not that there isn't one.  But have you ever wondered why there isn't the same emphasis, even from atheists and secularists who may be concerned about 'religious leftism'?

Because the religious left is basically the yap dog of the modern era.  They don't lead anything.  They don't stand ground against progressive movements.  When the latest, hippest declares a new late and hip ideal, the Religious Left takes scissors and razor blades to what's left of the Scriptures to accommodate   So when a health minister in England, some years ago, first suggested that it might be OK allowing parents to let their babies die after they were born in case it takes that long to decide if the baby is worth saving, people were shocked that Bishops in the Anglican Church came out and said, "Yeah, I think that's what Jesus would do."

Of course every time Christianity attempts to conform to the Secular Left, it ends up dwindling away at a faster pace.  Part of that is because some people just can't go that far.  At some point, people will pause and wonder if God is really the divine feminine spirit of the vagina only satiated only by aborted fetuses that demonstrate power over the inherently worthless male of the species   Others will keep going, but there will be splits.  Plus, those remaining tend to increasingly embrace the narcissism and hedonism all too common within the Secular Left, and so feel little compulsion to wake up on Sunday mornings for anything that doesn't center on them.

Still, that's little concern for the Left.  Some, like Sam Harris, do get frustrated that the wimpy liberal believers get in the way of the fact that religion can no longer be tolerated and needs to be eradicated.  Nonetheless, most pay little attention, knowing that the religious Left stands for nothing but following wherever the movement of progress leads.  And if it means allowing parents to kill their kids, so be it.  Certainly, that's what Jesus would do.  As one liberal professor mused years ago when I was in Seminary  if you don't think Jesus would embrace the liberal truth, just ask her.

Senator Ricardo Lara embraces his inner Big Brother

And the ironically titled Friendly Atheist needs a cigarette because of it.   Notice how the Mr. Mehta of the Friendly Atheist frames it: Law will remove Boy Scouts for discrimination against atheists (and also groups who reject homosexuality).  The power of the secular left has been to embrace, in the name of tolerance and diversity, a self righteousness attitude that would shame a KJV only Baptist Preacher.  There simply is no alternative to the Left.  As Barry Lynn once explained to Anderson Cooper, they're not promoting liberal values.  They're advocating Truth.  And as we all know, there is nothing wrong with Laws being made to enforce Truth.  Likewise, with the help of the limp-as-a-biscuit-when-it-comes-to-facts media, and the dual offensive line of Hollywood and the US education system, those on the Left have been able to convince a swath of America that Evil and Hate are best defined as failing to conform to Truth.  'What is Truth?' Pontius Pilate asks. Well, Jesus may not have answered, but 21st century leftists like Barry Lynn, Ricardo Lara, and Hement Mehta are more than happy to step in and give the answer: Truth is that which demands conformity, and must ruthlessly segregate and oppress and censor those who fail to conform (in the name of diversity and tolerance of course).  Those who wish for freedom and liberty be warned.

An update: It was pointed out to me that this is not a law of censorship at all.  It's merely following the Separation of Church and State principle that the government should not endorse an organization that is explicitly religious.  Well, first off, that will only be true if atheist organizations or other non-traditional religious organizations are also affected.  Likewise, if an organization that refuses people who reject homosexual normality is also impacted.  And there are those, by the way.  As a former pastor, when I was wandering about in my gradual move into Catholicism, I toyed with looking at some more moderate denominations  since I did know many clergy in those denominations, and I had grown tired of some of the blind spots among my more conservative evangelical comrades.   Not the hyper liberal ones,  just those that considered themselves 'open and affirming' (wink, wink).  Well, when it was discovered that I would not accept homosexual normality and rejected the spin used by those denominations to validate embracing homosexuality, that was that.  So I was excluded based on my rejection of homosexuality.  Unless those things also happen with this law, it is raw McCarthy styled censorship   It's the Red Scare, 21st century style.  Red in this case symbolizing those who don't vote for liberal candidates or embrace liberal values.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Margaret Thatcher has died

There's not much news right now.  This seems to have been sudden.  Because of that, it will take the news outlets time to get their stories together.  The last of the Democratic side of the big four who were responsible for bringing a peaceful end to the Cold War, her legacy was one of stalwart success in the face of progressive disdain.  I don't know enough of Britain's economy or financial history to comment too much of her overall record. I just know she, like Reagan here, was loathed by the Baby Boomer era Left.  And it was with bitter hesitation that they begrudgingly gave her any credit in bringing an end to the Cold conflict.

Reagan fairs less well in America, as most on the Left, with help from the media, have convinced a generation that it was hip and cool Gorbachev alone who was responsible, while Reagan more or less stumbled about looking for a glass of water.  Of course Gorbachev deserves credit (and for his part, is more than happy to acknowledge the others).  Pope John Paul II, along with Thatcher and Reagan were instrumental to the non-violent conclusion.  Others, naturally.  Lech Wolesa was quite the hero, until he recently blasphemed the liberal gospel by not supporting gay marriage.  Those behind the Iron Curtain who struggled and risked everything to oppose the terror of the Communist USSR also deserve credit.

Nonetheless, in terms of leadership, it was Reagan, John Paul II, Gorbachev and Thatcher who brought a non-violent end to the Cold War, at a time when most were convinced it would only eventually end under the shadow of a million mushroom clouds.  And it is something that progressives and secularists chafe at to this day.  Rest in peace Margaret Thatcher, and we thank you.

You go Cornhuskers!

A tearjerker, and a beautiful one at that.  Also a reminder of that divine spark of goodness within us.  The Nebraska Cornhuskers, during their spring game, allow young Jack Hoffman, a seven year old fighting brain cancer, to run for a touchdown.  And look at him go!  Give that boy some spikes and sign him up. Everyone was part of it, even the officials.  Not just a cheap publicity stunt, the coach and team have taken young Jack into their program already.  Things like this remind you of the good that's out there.  Watch it, and have some tissues ready:

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Prayers for Rick Warren and his family

The news has broken that Rick Warren's son committed suicide.  Warren, who rose to fame and fortune as the pastor of Saddleback Church and the author of the bestselling Purpose Driven Life, needs our prayers more than ever.  He, his wife and family, his loved ones, and the soul of his son.  Grant peace and strength to these dear brothers and sisters in the coming days, and may Your peace, which surpasses all understanding, cover their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I love The Ten Commandments

Not just the ones from the Bible, brought to us in various forms (depending on your faith tradition) throughout the centuries and the bedrock upon which Western morality was imagined in the Christian era.  Nope, I mean The Ten Commandments, the one, the only, the version that sticks in your mind despite all the knowledge you have indicating that Moses would not look like Charlton Heston.  Fact is, once you see this film, he will forever look like Charlton Heston, no matter how many Middle Eastern, Arabic, Palestinian, Egyptian or African portrayals Hollywood can muster.

The biggest blockbuster of the 1950s, and the first movie to give Gone With the Wind a run for the money, DeMille's TTC is Hollywood splendor at its best.  I know, we tend to chuckle at the acting style, the dialogue, the pomp and pageantry, as we do to anything produced before 1998.  We lament and mourn the bloated love story and interpolations that are added to appease a post-war WASP audience increasingly glued to the one eyed monster of the modern living room.

And yet, I'm not so sure those criticisms are fair, or even true.  Yes, DeMille's farewell masterpiece was a product of the era, as are our films.  As are any films or artistic endeavors.  But let's take a longer look, and see why I get as much of a spiritual jolt from this product of Hollywood dream manufacturing as I did from The Passion  of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth  or any other attempt by Hollywood to show me what the real Ten Commandments or any other biblical story really would have looked like.

First, the criticisms.  The main one for anyone schooled in the biblical narrative is that there are plenty of additions that have nothing to do with the history.  Careful now, some - such as Moses and his Ethiopian campaign - come to us from ancient sources and traditions, not unlike those traditions we Christians have (such as the three wise men versus just a bunch of Magi as it's written in the Scriptures).  DeMille says he consulted other ancient texts than 'The Holy Scriptures', and he appears to have done just that.

Of course not all of the characters or story lines are from anything other than the screenplay writer's mind.  The love story, the relational embellishments, the added fictional characters are a bit like the love story of Cameron's Titanic.  But here's a big difference.  To me, there is actually a point to be made from all of the Commandment's additions.  Cameron uses his fictional characters to drive home the point of 'bad evil rich people/good beautiful not-rich non-conformists'.  DeMille uses it to gradually bring into the story line the idea of God's working in history, despite everything going on in the world.  Despite our day to day living, our going to the fields and coming from them, or grand and selfish plans, God Himself has a plan long before we realize it.  When we're out there, seeing life being what happens while we're busy making other plans, God is ahead of the pack, ahead of the game.

And so first off, one of the reasons I like TTC is precisely because of the buildup, the love story, the embellished relationships.  It wouldn't take much to make this a non-biblical fictional narrative set in ancient Egypt.  And yet, add the biblical narrative, and the entire theme of the movie goes right, and can't be imagined without it.  I'd like to think that's what happens in our lives when we behave and actually listen to God: the narrative of our lives is suddenly altered, and no longer can we imagine it without God, even though we may have imagined it that way earlier.

If anything bothers me about the alterations, it's that DeMille lets God off the hook.  It isn't God who sends the worst plague, but it is Pharaoh who decrees the plague on the first born; God is seen almost childishly turning Pharaoh's words around, rather than being the source of the plague.  Likewise, it isn't God who hardens Pharaoh's heart, it's that rascally and randy Nefertiti.   She hardens it through her woman's ways.  Again, a slight but nonetheless important part of the Christian and Jewish narrative: Pharaoh's heart was hardened precisely because God hardened it.  Something Paul reflects on in his letter to the Romans.  Something that has caused believers to reflect on for eons.  But with everything else he was working through, I suppose it was just one extra thing DeMille didn't' want to grapple with.

Another thing I love comes from DeMille's legendary Cast of Thousands.  With no CGI, he manages to build sets and assemble an army of extras that could invade a city and shame most modern productions.  And though he is overseeing it all, keeping it all from spiraling out of control, he makes sure we see the little things, the small stories.  In the high point of the movie for me, the day of the Hebrews' freedom, DeMille mixes the grand, sweeping, almost boastful view of endless thousands of extras and props, with periodic looks at the little things: children trying to move a stubborn mule, a camel nibbling on a bunch of straw, the birth of a baby, a couple suddenly clasping hands as they march to freedom, an old man turning his fig tree over to be planted in the promised land he will never see.  It's beautiful,  and a reminder for those of us who beat each other over our opinions on the grand movements of history, most of which we will never have any say over, just how important those small times are.  For it's our small times we tend to remember, and can control.  God will get us to the big finish line.  Let's not forget the small times along the way.

The miracle scenes are, of course, cutting edge for their day.  And in fact, it wouldn't be until the recent era that we could hope to surpass them.  Listed among anyone's top ten scenes in cinematic history list is the splitting of the Red Sea.  Never one to mince with scholarly dispute, DeMille delivers it in the most spectacular way imaginable. As he does with everything else: the burning bush, the various plagues, the visions of Mt. Sinai.  It's all straight out of Sunday School and Renaissance art.  Nothing scientific.  None of the minimalist bare nature approach that imagines later biblical writers rewrote the events to make a spiritual point.  This is straight from the belief that our religion is the result of revelation, not inspiration   And the miracles are not some subtle 'strain your eyes with faith and you might be able to see the divine.'  Nope, these are flat out 'here's a miracle people!'  And if we must grapple with the question of unbelief in the face of such awesome demonstrations of God's power, we need only remember the punchline to the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus: if they don't believe Moses and the Prophets, a man sent back from the dead won't convince them either.  Which is why the pitfall of 'prove God' is an exercise in futility.  Edward G. Robinson's dutifully sleazy Dathan could care less what he saw.  All the grand miracles were merely obstacles to his selfish agendas.  As they always are to those who refuse to believe.

Another thing DeMille's simplistic pre-critical approach shows is the real power and divine supernatural presence of God, and those he chooses.  There are no subtleties there.  There are no wimps.  There are no losers.  DeMille makes it clear that Moses was destined for something great.  He was just that good.  The man didn't sneeze that he didn't accomplish something grand.  And so it is, if you look at the Bible.  Despite the other Hollywood narrative, that religious types are typically good for little, in the biblical narrative, the movers and shakers picked by God were basically movers and shakers anyway.  Peter, based on what evidence we have, must have been a successful fisherman.  Matthew a tax collector  not bad in that day and age.  Paul was clearly an up and coming rock star.  David a shepherd who knew his way around big, bad guys before he ever met Goliath.  And Moses, at least somehow connected to the court, and in the film given enough talents and skills to right the US economy.

God is about big things.  Sometimes God is there, if we're not careful, to help us find our car keys or get jobs or get healthy.  While that can clearly happen, which is why we don't want to overlook the little things, God is also about the big things: humanity, the world, the universe.  God laid the foundations of the earth.  God draws the line of the seashores.  And in the end of days, God is a nightmare, a terror for those who reject him, so much so that they ask for the hills and mountains to fall upon them to escape his wrathful visage.  It is from this fate that we are saved.  It is from slavery that God intervenes to save us, and it is from the slavery of death that God intervenes to save us on that Christmas morn.  No need for rethinking what it may have been, just taking the stories as they come, and perhaps our religion should be bigger than we allow it to be.  In an age of religious minimalism, where hedonism and narcissism can shout from the rooftops but we've been convinced that religion must shut up and stay in the closet, it's nice to remember that perhaps that's not the way it should be.  Instead of churches that look like shopping centers, perhaps a good old grand cathedral that says 'here be God' would be nice.

Maybe it's me, but I miss some of that simple 'It happened because God made it happen.'  Moses and the biblical events actually occurred.   I don't mean six literal days or we have to get hung up on Jonah and the fish.  But the key events and people were real.  I've read too many Catholic scholars who seem to have tossed in the towel, and adopted a modern Catholic approach: whatever scholars say about the Bible being myth is true, but Jesus did too raise from the dead.  Sort of the same approach to science: everything science says about the universe and evolution is fine with us, but God does too exist.  As a result, I've read more than one Catholic bible study that relegates this entire foundational event to the realm of myth and legend.  Not myth as discussed by Tolkien and Lewis, but myth as made up fairy tale, lies, baseless fiction through which inspirational insights were gleaned by those with the cranial capacity to do so.

Call me odd, but sometimes I prefer the old meat and potatoes approach.  Moses was and did what the Bible says.  And if the miracles didn't look like DeMille's, they weren't just a bunch of natural things that insightful people spun accordingly.  I prefer the revelation rather than inspiration approach.  There's a heaven.  There's a hell.  Jesus came to save us from the latter, which is a definite possibility.  And when God does things  he does them Big, often with big people prepared to step out into the desert, even though they have no way of knowing how it will work.  The still small voice?  Sure. It has its place as well.  The foundry of  the wilderness, the deserted places where we must go to be tempted? They're out there, too.  And sure, a Babe in a manger is not an invading army.  But if Moses can really split seas and lead multitudes, perhaps it becomes less important to rethink the grand and glorious miracles of Easter and the Resurrection.  You never know. Anyway, that's why every Easter, we sit down with the kids, and reflect on a time when Moses was big, Heston was bigger, and the country that spawned this account thought better days were before us.  It is, after all, just what the Hebrews thought, and sometimes that's not a bad thought to have.

Yeah, Bill Maher

You may have heard right.  Bill Maher. Bill Maher has lashed out against Paul Ryan and Rand Paul for - get this - being intellectually stuck in their teen years.  Bill Maher.  This is not a joke.  It is not a SNL sketch.  It is real reporting.  It is an actually story that, with a straight face, reports Bill Maher's disdain for the intellectual inferiority of Paul Ryan and Rand Paul. I'm not saying I agree with Paul or Ryan (that was weird).  But for it to be Maher, one of the least informed and least educated voices in the pop culture debate, whose public persona suggests he never made it past emotional puberty, has to be a new high in all time lows.  That the story reports this with no sense of irony shows the level of uselessness that our agents of information have obtained.  Really.  Bill Maher.  That's like Justin Bieber railing against Beethoven or Mozart for being no talent hacks.  The good thing about Fred Phelps and Glenn Beck is that most informed conservatives and religious believers either denounce them (Phelps) or take them with more than a few grains of salt (Beck).  But on the secular left, Maher is considered quite the hero, and often is given respectable time on such venues as MSNBC or CNN.  The Rational and Reasoned side indeed.

Editor's note: I know this came from The Blaze.  But in the internet age, outlets like The Blaze are increasingly seen as respectable journalism, and often are quoted as sources in various traditional news outlets.

Uruguay to legalize same sex marriage!

Yep.  Well, at least they don't have the death penalty.  I'm sure there are no connections there.  I've been told rather emphatically that there are no connections in countries that abolish the death penalty and countries that endorse post-Christian values such as gay marriage and abortion rights. It must be true, someone on the Internet told me so.

Sometimes Jesuit Universities just make us proud

And then there are times like this.  Here they are, banning the Knights of Columbus because the Knights of Columbus are for Catholics.  That's right.  Because they are only for Catholics, they can't be part of this Jesuit university   The Christian presence in the West won't need to be killed, it will be suicide from careless stupidity.  Case in point.

Christopher Nolen Rocks

I like Nolen. Call me a blasphemer, but I preferred his grimy tale of magical intrigue, The Prestige, to his  more celebrated Inception.  Still, both excellent movies.  My boys are impressed with his rather restrained reliance on computer graphics.  I know he's used them (sometimes obviously), but I also know he shies from using them too much.  Thank goodness.

But I had absolutely no idea that the unbelievably awesome flipping semi-truck stunt in The Dark Knight was a real freaking stunt!

My regard for Mr. Nolan just went up two points, and it was already hovering near the top of the scale.  And lest you fear that our lazy, crazy filmmakers are becoming too complacent and just leaning on CGI, there is some hope out there, as this, this, and this link show.  Warning, it is Cracked website, so the language and general attitude can be a bit under the holiness radar.  Plus, it includes movies from quite a long time ago.  Still, it should show movie makers today that yes, Virginia, fantastic scenes can happen without having to hit ENTER.

BTW, it's in the American bloodstream to make fun of Disney's original Tron.  But it was all black and white then hand painted?  I have to look into that.  If it's true and not a gag (it is Cracked, after all), I guess I have to add a couple digits to that movie as well.

A little note on Catholic Living

I've been thinking on a couple of posts regarding Roger Ebert's death.  I've thought of that, as I remember the Marc Barnes post on Andy Warhol, and much of the praise and adoration given to Christopher Hitchens on his passing.  I remember this post I did when thinking about this rather Catholic phenomenon.

And my little jab I just threw out came back at me, and has given me a moment to reflect.  What does it say if we believe that my righteous standing before God, or my worth as a Catholic, is only summed up in my views on gun control, or the economic budget, or our policies in the Middle East?  Things I have little to no say in, and quite frankly, may or may not directly impact me anyway?

The idea that it's basically our politics that declares our righteousness - for that's the platform through which these issues are being debated - rather than how I get up and live my life on a daily basis has got to be a bad trend.  And it might explain why every single time there is a study or a poll (for what those are worth), Catholics come in dead last where you want them to be first, and vice versa.  Only in giving do Catholics rise head and shoulders above others.  In virtually every other capacity, they lag behind.

If we've convinced ourselves that it's only in our opinions of some lofty geopolitical strategic policy that our holiness is demonstrated, rather than the lives we live, then I could imagine why those polls come out the way they do.  Never mind the lousy witness.  News to Catholics: party-boy Catholic wins few converts. Put that in the New Evangelization pipe and smoke it.

So what is this pure, good religion that should indicate where we our in our earthly pilgrimage?  Is it really what we think about America's foreign policy or which party to reject in the next election?  Is that what separates the sheep and the goats?  Here's a couple clips from the good old Scriptures, still a decent source for guidance and practical teaching when it comes to figuring out what God might actually want from us.  It helped me become Catholic.  Perhaps it can help me become a good Catholic.

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.  James 1.27

“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable, or well pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12.1-2

Nope, nothing about my views on the Ryan budget or what we should do with Syria.   A lot on what I should do in my day to day living as it relates to God and everyone else.  Sure, right attitudes about war and the economy could easily fit in there.  But just as easily could the way I act on a daily basis.  It would seem to be all or nothing, not some and not the other.  At least that's how I see it.

Robert Ebert has passed

And Mark Shea and Steve Greydanus are gushing.  There is some truth to the fact that God prefers the son who listens even though he says no, to the son who says yes then ignores the father.  There is that tendency to point to the Rahabs or the Uriahs of the past and show they could be the true child of God, while those chosen by God did unspeakable things.

And yet.  When I have given my testimony, I mention that I became a Christian because of the Protestants I knew, but I became Catholic despite the Catholics I knew.  Of course I quickly follow up that since I've become Catholic I've met some of the most jaw droppingly awesome examples of holy living and Christ like devotion I ever thought possible.  But I had to become Catholic to meet them.  Most of the witnesses I knew before I entered the Church were the classic stereotypes: P-A-R-T-Y!  Why?  Because I'm Catholic that's why!

In college, we used to joke and say if you want to get lucky, don't date religious girls.  But Catholics were just as good.  I was friends with some kids who were Catholic, and at no time did their lack of devotion point me to anything to do with faith in Christ.  Usually, hanging with them, I felt vindicated for not believing.

I remember one evening we were at our karate instructor's house.  He was a younger fellow, world champ and all.  Several of the younger students would hang out, play cards, drink, and watch him show us the latest exotic Asian weapon he picked up at the last world championship.  This particular night several of us were there.  Finally our instructor and his wife went to bed, leaving three of us left who decided we'd had a bit much  for driving.  One of them was my childhood best friend.  He was Catholic, and his parents had a few things about the house pointing to the fact, though I don't remember them ever going to Mass.  He was usually quite available on Sundays, though perhaps they went other times.

So we crashed.  Before we were out, he mentioned he needed to get up and go the church the next morning.  At that time, I believe, he was in one of his little 'kicks'.  Every now and then he would suddenly say "I can't have pepperoni on the pizza!", or make some mention to current events and the end of days.  This may have been one of those times.  So we crashed.  Early the next morning I awoke, and noticed it was just past dawn.  I remembered what he said.  Even though I was quite the agnostic, I didn't begrudge others their own devotions, so I reached over and roused him.

Groggily he asked what I wanted.  I reminded him that it was Sunday morning, and he said he wanted to go to church.  He mumbled something or another, then finally said, "F-it," and rolled around and went back to sleep.  I can assure you that didn't say to me 'Dave, you must seek the truth behind this One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.'  Quite the opposite.  I had to chuckle that going to church seemed to mean more to me, a non-believer, than him a believer.

And he wasn't the only one.  I can assure folks that the stereotype of girls had some truth to it. Fact is, there seems almost to be a swath of the Catholic Church that doesn't really care at all.  Time and again I'm told this or that person was a Catholic, only to be shocked based on everything I knew about the fellow.

Yes, we all fall short.  Yes, we should be glad that God prefers our actions to our intentions. Sure, I'm thrilled for mercy and grace and all.  But I also want standards.  I want someone to call a spade a spade, say what is wrong is wrong.  Kick me in the ass if I've gotten off the straight and narrow.  And that means in more areas than what my view on the Iraq War or waterboarding or on what our response to Iran's nuclear program ought to be.

Ah, there's the rub.  For across the Catholic blogosphere, as we read gushing tales of pride and devotion of Mr. Ebert and his atheistic Catholicism, of a movie critic who firmly supported the sleazing down of movies and typically had little good to say about movies attempting a more traditional, wholesome narrative, we will also be reminded that if you fall to the left or right on any one of a thousand geopolitical or social philosophies or strategies, then that - That! - is where the true cries for vengeance from God arise.

Here's the thing.  If we are going to err on mercy, if we are going to say 'ah shucks, he was still a cool guy and I'm sure God's just loving on him right now and it's good for all those atheists who hate religion but are still sometimes good people', fine.  I'm actually OK with that.  I'm OK with trying to find where people are and why they are there.  Why did Ebert become such a champion of so much of the muck and cultural mire that those Catholic praising him abhor   The Andy Warhol syndrome I guess.

But if we extend it to those who live out a life apart from God, or even advocate hatred of everything sacred and holy, then we should do it across the board.  Even for those who disagree with us on things like Ayn Rand or whether we should waterboard prisoners.  After all, consistency.  Plus, there's something about defining holiness as the right opinion about events that may not even impact me, versus holiness as something I live out and believe from my own little life, with immediate consequences and impacts on those around me.

For me, it's better to remember mercy, and know that Roger Ebert is in the arms of a loving, merciful and just God.  A God who really knows Mr. Ebert, good, bad, and ugly.  Likewise, that's where I will be someday.  And it will do me good to raise the standard, rather than lower it, lest I fall.  Or, lest I become convinced that true worship is having a right opinion about some far flung political crisis half a world away that doesn't impact me, while using God's mercy as an out to do and act and say anything I want whenever I want to.  Hold the standards high, remember that mercy is there, but also justice.  And remember that it's the person I see in the mirror, and what he does that matters most to my own pilgrimage.  And be consistent to how I approach everyone else outside the reach of my life's mirror.

Christ Hayes was simply elated

That a US federal judge decided it was time for girls of all pertinent ages to get access to the morning after abortion pill - especially if they can do it with Mom and Mom knowing!  Well, I'm not sure if that would be a good thing, but Mom and Dad?  Screw them.  I saw the segment on his show on MSNBC (the one network that makes FOX News look fair and balanced by comparison).  He began the segment showing a clip of President Obama coming out in support of his administration keeping restrictions on the pill, especially as it could be used by girls too young to understand the ramifications, such as health risks that have accompanied the pill.  On a side note, let any other over the counter medication have the slightest health risk and BAM!, it's off the shelves in no small time.

Nonetheless, a federal judge has decided that any girl 'of reproductive age' should be able to get the pill whenever she wants.  A triumph says Chris Hayes!  Yes, he admitted it was a low point for the Obama administration for the president to talk about such stupid, unscientific things as keeping young girls of any reproductive age from having this wonder drug.

The secular left is, well, evil.  I mean, there are other evils too.  It's not like the religious right doesn't have it's share of evil.  Fred Phelps anyone?  And it probably extends beyond simple labels of Left and Right, Secular or Religious.  But the difference is, Phelps doesn't have a special show on a major Cable News outlet.  Nor is he invited by Ivy League colleges to lecture, or treated as an informed guest on current events on CNN.  The evil of the Secular Left is, well, mainstream.  It's promoted, pushed, and endorsed by the media, popular culture and even our educational institutions 

Can you imagine, 20 years ago, if there had been a push to allow girls as young as early teens free, unbridled access to a pill that terminates a pregnancy?  Even 10 years ago?  And yet Mr. Hayes devoted an entire portion of his show explaining that sex at any age and the right to abort babies for any reason is the goal.  And it's high time the President ditch the last shreds of puritanical stupidity and get with the hip times, just like our good Judge Edward Korman. Death has truly been given a holiday. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The ironically titled Friendly Atheist

Is not a very nice place, according to Thomas McDonald.  I'm the first to say that atheists can be thoughtful, most are probably good people, and there are some fair critiques of religious thought, including monotheistic thought as proclaimed by the Christian faith.  Fair enough.

With that said, the laughable, ludicrous, and downright evil movement sometimes known as 'modern atheism',  that has arisen since 9/11, is both stunning and alarming.  Too many Christian, religious believers, and Catholics in particular seem to think by reaching out across the aisle and singing the praises of such atheist advocates as Dawkins, Harris or the late Christopher Hitchens, we can show how sophisticated, loving, and above it all we really are.

Look, as a former educator, I must admit there are some kids you just can't reach.  I'm not saying they are unreachable.  Everyone is potentially reachable.  But there are some *you* won't reach.  There are some no school could reach.  There are some that nobody short of God Himself could reach.  That's just a fact.

We look back and shake our heads that people tried to compromise with, or negotiate with, the Nazis.  Everyone's favorite baddies.  Of course we shake our heads because we know now, in hindsight, that neither Hitler nor the regime he founded had any intention of compromising, of negotiating, of giving up its dreams of conquest or empire.  There simply was nothing anyone could do to prevent what Hitler attempted to accomplish. Nothing.  Nothing this side of heaven.  That much is clear.

That happens.  The modern atheist movement is very much a movement of people like those unreachable kids.  Or Nazis for that matter.  It isn't based on intelligence  rational thought, reason, or any such thing.  It's certainly not based on friendliness, goodness, tolerance or anything close.  Sam Harris saw to that when he called for an end to religious tolerance and the eradication of the religions he doesn't like.

Many atheists have followed suit.  Buttressed by an absolutely vacant and impotent news media, and an academic culture that is at best neutral, and at worst empowering the entire 'death to religion' movement, atheists are free to think anything they want, no matter how smack down stupid, and believe it to be right.  I've seen atheists declare that they need not prove anything, apparently since religious people have the burden of "proving" God, an atheist can say just about anything on a host of subjects and supply not the least amount of evidence.

And the gurus of modern atheism, like the late Hitchens or such deplorable anti-religious bigots as the small-minded P.Z. Myers, seize upon this lack of accountability to say and do things that would spell the end to anyone's career if they were done or said about any one of a thousand other demographic groups.  Just what makes the religious community in such need of a dose of Viagra when it comes to this new atheism movement is beyond me.  We can call it what it is: pure evil.

Pure evil because it peddles the lowest common denominator of human decadence, narcissism and hedonism, while adopting a contempt for human life and dignity that would shame the aforesaid Nazis, all while basing their reasoning on such lame, vapid, and unbelievably asinine reasoning that, in any other time in history, I'd like to think would result in being laughed off any stage in the kingdom.

As it is, being a nation of Juror Number Sevens, what they say goes largely unnoticed.  Meanwhile, time and again I run into Catholic apologists and public figures who seem to want to bend over backwards, extend a hand of friendship, and find the best possible light through which to interpret the bilge, bigotry and pure evil they are witnessing.  Nice to see Mr. McDonald call it what it is.  There is a time folks.  I'm not saying pick up the rack and thumbscrews, but I am saying it might be time to stop with the buddy-buddy, and start calling a spade a spade.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Because the state can protect us from criminals

This man was apparently let out of prison early.  He then allegedly went on to gun down Colorado's corrections chief.  Look, I said I opposed the Death Penalty.  I knew there were a few problems with that.  Especially once I became a Christian.  Ironic, I know.  Most I knew who opposed the DP did so for reasons I increasingly saw as incompatible with classical Christian doctrines.  I also struggled with the idea that it could lead to the innocent dying.  It might be rare, but as far as we know, the verified cases of innocent people being executed are also rare.  Both numbers might be higher than we imagine.

Which is why I found solace in the Church's position: mercy if at all possible, but not at the expense of protecting the widow and the orphan, the innocent so to speak.  Nonetheless, I was always a little skittish about that section in the Catechism that seems, in an almost off handed way, to suggest it might be time to end the practice altogether.  Not because it says it might be time, but the reason it gives: because now the State can protect us from criminals.

I'm not even sure what that means.  At first it just bothered me.  But the more I've looked into things, I've realized that the State is no more able to 'protect us' than it was 20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago.  And this case in Colorado simply drives the point home.  Like the inmates killed in a nearby prison over the last year, the young mother killed a few years ago by an escaped convict, now this man killed by an inmate accidentally let out early because of a clerical error, it's obvious that the State can't 'protect us.'

Call me silly, but I expect the Church to be right.  I could buy the argument that the entire capital punishment process is a lumbering mess, that our justice system is in disarray,  and that in the end there are a thousand things wrong with this country so often maligned and insulted that one loses track of what is wrong.  How can such an inept and corrupt nation ever be trusted with the awesome power of life and death?  Of course the same things then must be said about warfare, and even self protection.  To the liberal's credit, all of these should (should, though with liberal presidents not always) be condemned outright.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, to kill or die for after all.

But to rest the abolition of capital punishment on something that is so clearly false.  What does it even mean? Just because you are the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church does not give you the right to say wrong things.  You can't say 2+2=1.  You can't say squares are round.  You can't say driving is safer because pixies and leprechauns are now living in the traffic lights.  And you can't say we can basically change 2000 years of understanding a subject because of something that is so easily and demonstrably false.  For if you do it for this topic, there is not one thing in the world to suggest you won't do it for another.  So get back to the drawing board and reflect.  Either keep the teaching where it was, or at least find reasons to change it based on what is true, not on what is almost clear as day wrong.