Thursday, December 31, 2015

And the nice thing about being an American Christian

We are almost always on the top of the lists of charity and service.  In addition to Christians being there, along with others of course, Americans come out looking pretty darn awesome in the world of generosity and time and service.  I know, the popular notion is that Americans suck, and American Christians are the bottom of the barrel.  But as a non-believer, I couldn't help but notice my personal contact with Christians in America was different.  Well done Catholics, well done Christians and religious and others in America who continue making our country still one of the most generous and giving not only now, but ever. 

My thoughts on Pope Francis

Are summed up here.  Looking back, I realized I pretty much wrote a post rather than a reply.  Which is my wont.  I hate bumper sticker answers.  Anyway, Mr. Pardue makes some good points, and on the whole I'm not disagreeing.  He also does something very important: he engages in a discussion.  One of the more distasteful side of any fan base, including Pope Francis's, has been to meet any criticisms or questions with name calling and insults.  Instead, the discussion brings out that I do, in fact, like Pope Francis and agree with some things he says.  But he is a product of his culture and age, and I simply can't bring myself to say anything other than I believe he certainly leans to the left and, as is common in certain traditions in Latin American Christianity, has sympathies for, and interprets various issues through, more progressive, liberal narratives.   What that means for the Church or the future of the Faith, like all things, remains to be seen.

Those who reject abstinence education

Sometimes sound like this.  I'm with the website.  I have no clue what the cartoon was trying to say.  Perhaps more clever minds than mine can crack the code.  But then, those who insist against stats and historical record and anthropological evidence that we just can't impress upon people the need to refrain from satisfying every desire that comes along are at a disadvantage in the real world.

Happy New Year!

Not that it was the worst year for us, but I've seen better.  Still, we have much to be thankful for.  After all, a roof over our heads, plenty of food to spare, two vehicles that at least get us there and back again, and a good family, good marriage, good boys.  That's not bad.  I'll post more in the coming weeks about where I am and where I'm going.  For now, as we bid CAEI and that little part of my own life comes to a close, I get ready to enjoy our church family, our natural family, and thank God for what I pray He will do in the coming year for us, and for all who call on His name.

Happy New Year everyone!

Could the modern Christmas bonus be to blame?

Looks like unemployment benefits went up in the week before Christmas.  Could this be the result of what I call the modern Christmas bonus?  That is, lay offs?  Because that has long replaced the Christmas Eve party or the Christmas bonus.  Remember the movie National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation?  The underlying story line - such as it is - involves Chevy Chase awaiting his Christmas bonus in order to build a new swimming pool.  Brian Doyle Murray plays his boss.  At one point Chase and his family confront Murray about the idea of not getting a good bonus for Christmas.  They got a bonus.  Just not a very good one.

But by today's standards, where December is now known as the time when corporations and companies lay off their employees due to tax reasons and fiscal year considerations, Griswold's bonus comes off as quite heart warming.  My kids actually have asked if that's real.  Did companies really do that in the day?  

Yes sons, I say.  There was actually a time when it wasn't assumed that December would see endless lines of laid off people as a bonus for their years of service.  But this is now.  The post-modern era.  I don't think it's Capitalism.  I think it's the generation at hand.  Like the difference between a good driver and a reckless driver.  The car is the car.  But driven by a maniac, it can be a killing machine.  Capitalism, without Christ, is no better than Communism.  And a generation at the helm of what is left of the Capitalist ideal, that has embraced the evils and ignorance of the post-Christian West, will likely do more harm than good with either Capitalism, or any economic ideal it has inherited. 

To hold to traditional conservative values

You must be perfect.  Nothing less.  So Bristol Palin, who has suffered under the media's parallel rule of always attacking the children of politicians, gave birth.  Out of wedlock.  Again.  She has gone on the road and preached abstinence education.  And she has given birth.  Out of wedlock.  So naturally, opponents of the only safe approach to sexuality pounce.  This is because hypocrisy has been effectively defined as failing to live up to your own standards.  As sinning, in so many words. 

Of course if you avoid moral standards, and have a 'who cares' view of things, especially of personal behavior, you're off the hook.  You're free to do and say anything, since you don't really have standards.  Of course how many who use Birth Control end up pregnant is hard to tell.  If someone has an unexpected pregnancy, and has used condoms and pills, don't expect the headlines to read 'proponent of 'safe sex' has unexpected pregnancy'.  In fact, there will be no attempt to link the two at all.

Nope, Christians need to be wary of accepting this definition of hypocrisy, or the idea that if you defend traditional Christian values, nothing less than 100% Godlike perfection is demanded.  No it isn't.  I sin.  I fail.  I often don't live up to my standards.  I get angry.  Every now and then I can even call someone Raca or Fool.  That doesn't mean I therefore can't say the Holocaust was a bad thing.  And few liberals would disagree.  Same with this or anything.  So when we see the inevitable mocking and accusing of Bristol, and by extension the whole idea of abstinence education, just remember it's all bunk.  Just a way to avoid the substance of the debate and, from a Christian viewpoint, defend the indefensible and attack the only acceptable alternative. 

Fox News Wins!

Duh.  I've never been a Fox News fan, despite accusations on Huffington Post and Catholic and Enjoying It to the contrary.  I certainly never associated Fox with traditional, Christian morals.  I used to say everything I ever wanted to know about porn stars, I learned on Fox News.  Still, it's not hard to imagine that Fox is first among the Cable News outlets. First, there aren't that many.  Second, it's the only alternative media outlet.  All of the others, in some form or another, advance decidedly liberal and secular, or at least post-Christian, narratives.  So Fox offers what the others don't.  If you like the more liberal views, you have your pick.  If you want something that doesn't assume a secular and liberal view, then your choices are limited.

Bill Cosby

I don't know.  What can I say?  I don't know the facts.  But this I do know.  I didn't hear about the accusations until after Cosby first outraged Civil Rights and Liberal Activists by suggesting - horror of horrors - that not all of the plight of the African American can be blamed on White Racism.  That was quite the scandal in the day.  And it was around that time that I first heard these accusations.  Over the subsequent years, he caused more scandals by digging his heals in and, while not letting racism off the hook, insisting that Black Americans are obliged and responsible for doing their best to make their own paths in life.

Does that mean I'm saying this is all part of some evil, Left Wing hit job to disgrace a once beloved icon who fell from the purer faith?  No.  I'm merely saying that I don't remember hearing about the accusations until he already created a firestorm by questioning the established Narrative regarding Civil Rights.  That's all.  Perhaps it was a huge story before that and I simply missed it.  Maybe it broke when I was doing something like getting married and my attention was elsewhere.  I just know that I first remember the accusations after the Narrative scandal.

So, those are my options.  These accusations were all over and I missed it until after he challenged the dominant narrative.  The accusations only came to light, or at least were only mentioned by the media, after the challenge to the narrative.  Or, there is always the chance that the accusations were known by the media, but because of his celebrated status before he challenged the narrative, they were not pursued.  One of those has to be the case.  Of course it doesn't mean guilt or innocence either way.  He could be guilty as sin.  Or he could be the victim of a brutal smear campaign (remember how the multiple women who accused Bill Clinton were all part of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy (TM)?  There was clearly a concerted effort by Conservatives to do what all parties do, and that's harm the reputation of the other guy, but he was also guilty in at least one case).  So there you go.  All I know and all I've noticed.  And all I have to say about it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Why I haven't heard any more about the Houston Mosque fire

Is explained here.  Samuel Jackson was partly right.  Had the San Bernardino shooters been white, it would have been different.  First, they're religion or politics would have been the prime and/or only cause of the violence, even if we didn't know the facts.  If it turned out that these had nothing to do with it, then there would be no real going back and correcting the matter. 

Likewise, had this fellow been a white Christian, then we would have days, perhaps weeks, of stories reminding us of America's racist past, the violence and evils of the Christian heritage, the anti-Islamic bigotry and hapless hordes of Muslims being butchered and slaughtered every day in America, and on and on.  

As it is, the suspect is not very white, and pretty Muslim.  No narratives to advance there.  Expect a couple up date stories in the days to come.  That is it.  It's all so different now because of who turned out to be the possible culprit.  Maybe Mr. Jackson wasn't being so silly after all. 

For Catholics who think it is all because of Protestants

I give you the hover boarding priest.  I know, he apologized. As well he should.  But across the Catholic Blogosphere, there is this strange tendency to follow that Chestertonian notion that without Protestants, there can be nothing  but awesomeness.  It's not uncommon to have Catholics, almost as an afterthought, advance the idea that there is something about Protestantism that leads to shallow, sappy and silly worship services more akin to a kid's party than true Worship in Truth and Spirit.  Well, no.  And since there has been a noticeable shift to the left across many Catholic blogs, there is the added tendency to deny that there have ever been the liberal post-Vatican horror stories of Beer and Crackers Eucharists and Clown Masses.

I can't speak for either of those.  But in our area, more than one modern Catholic Church built has little distinguishing it from many Protestant and Evangelical Mega-Churches.  And when it comes to tricks in the Mass, I've seen interpretive dances and calls for shaking up the liturgy up close and personal.  So a reminder.  If we don't want the Church defined by the odd  and strange exceptions, or have people find some strange story on the Internet in order to point and say 'Figures, only Catholics could make that possible', then don't extend the courtesy to others.

Farewell Meadowlark

Meadowlark Lemon, the front man of the Globetrotters during my childhood run, has died. One of those childhood memories I had, like so many my age, was of the Harlem Globetrotters.  The Clown Princes of Basketball.  Of course we knew it was staged, but it was a wonderful time.  The lineup of Meadowlark's era was the stuff of a Hollywood casting director.  And the leader of the troupe was the great and awesomely named Meadowlark Lemon.  They even had a cartoon series!  But then again, so did the Osmond brothers and the Jackson Five.  Anyway, another small piece of the puzzle that makes up the picture of our lives has passed,  Thanks for the memories, the magic, and the mysterious ability to do things with a basketball that no mortal should eve be able to do.

Christmas fun at the Columbus Zoo

When I was growing up, the Columbus Zoo rivaled the sort of animals display one might find in a traveling circus set up in a shopping mall parking lot.  But then Jungle Jack Hanna came on board, and everything changed.  While doing everything imaginable to promote the zoo, including suffering unending barbs and jests at the hands of David Letterman, Mr. Hanna transformed the Zoo into one of the premier animal research centers in the world.  In the world!  Well done Jungle Jack!

Some years ago, the Zoo began putting up Christmas lights here and there, and allowing people to come in after hours to meander about and admire the displays.  Now it is a full blown annual event.  We usually wait until after Christmas to go, since that is when we first went, plus it gives us something to look forward to during Christmastide.  This year we took the boys and got to do everything in a night just cool enough for Christmas, but not so frigid as to be miserable.

The fun and festivities Jack Hanna style

Our youngest gazes in wonder at the aquarium's residents

The boys ready for a night with the zoo criters

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Samuel Jackson says the dumb thing

There's an age old tradition in America that conservatives are idiots and liberals are intellectual geniuses.  That works as long as you keep your head in the sand and for the love of heaven and earth, you don't read the news.  Especially celebrity news.  If you did, then you'd start to put the number of dumb things said by celebrities, most of whom tack left of center, and you might start wondering how accurate the stereotype is.

In today's little burst of reality, Samuel Jackson opines and manages to do several things at once.  He reiterates the racism of the Left, that tendency to immediately judge everything and everyone by the color of their skin.  He demonstrates a deplorable lack of understanding of the complexities of the world events he comments on, taking at face value the Left's interpretation of the events in the Middle East.  And he tries desperately to explain why saying nigger is awesome and evil at the same time, depending on the skin color or the ideologies of those using it.

It's a strange, strange world.  We've been conditioned, almost threatened, into accepting that adherents of one particular socio-political ideology are by definition intellectually and morally superior.  Doesn't matter what they say, the lunacy behind it, the accuracy of it, It matters not.  How else do you explain the Left's respect and admiration for Joe Biden, who has said more stupid things in a month than Dan Quayle said during the entire Bush administration?

What do we think of Pope Francis

The Inquisitr asks.  Based on its take on Pope Francis, we are now in a new era of Catholicism, where the Pope has all but said there are no sins of the Left, or in relation to religious doctrine.  Believe what you want or nothing at all.  Indulge in gay sex.  Do whatever you want.  As long as you follow your own particular conscience, you're off to heaven.

In fairness, I don't know if that's what Pope Francis has said, or at least if that is what he meant.  But then, I don't know what he meant, other than the whole of his teachings suggest that isn't too far from the truth.  But in any event, Inquisitr asks, assuming this is the proper take, what think us?

For me, if that is true, then it is a catastrophe for the Catholic Church.  For no matter how you twist and spin it, it becomes clear that yes, Virginia, the Catholic Faith can be changed on the whims of a single man.  Especially when that man reflects what the majority of believers want in the first place.

Again, I don't know if that is a proper take, but if it is, that's my opinion.  FWIW.

As if to illustrate the point

Of the always respectable and the Left's hatred and disgust with the Christian Gospel, we have a spirited defense for a comedian who jumps into the circling masses and dribbles her own mental urine onto the bonfire of their vanities.  Again, remember the Left hates religion in general, but its wrath and desire to exterminate is first aimed at the Christian Faith.  Which shouldn't be surprising.  I think it was Jesus who said that we would be hated for His Name's sake.  My only puzzlement is why so many in the Christian Faith think there is some common ground there, or that by taking the Left's approach to the world as much as possible, suddenly there will be hand holding and songs of peace and love between the two.  Strange.  I guess that's what happens when Christians realize they have lost a temporal battle in the material world.  Some dig in.  Some trudge on.  Others go for the compromise.  For that last group, my advice is don't hold your breath, and don't compromise too much, since I doubt anything less than full eradication will please the Left, if even that would.

Salon is always good for a laugh

The secular Left mostly hates Christianity and the Christian heritage of Western Culture.  To that end, it favors just about anyone who will attack or defame it.  Being mostly secularized, it also doesn't particularly care if you defame any or all religions, though Buddhism is often strangely embraced, and you have to be careful going after Judaism.  Memories of another nation that did so are still too near to our day and age.

Still, on the whole, the secular Left makes its pennies by declaring itself the safe harbor for the endless demographic groups who have been victims of the evil Christian West from which it is out to save the world.

But what happens when victimized demographic groups collide?  We all know that the narrative of the Left is that there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world who only want to embrace John Lennon songs and the values, such as they are, of the secular Left.  There are simply a few bad apples who only hate us because the evil conservatives who cling to the evil Christian Western tradition made them hate us.  And those who mock and deride Islam?  Need I bother?  Simply charge Islamaphobic Bigot.  If you aren't a liberal, you're by definition a bigot.  Duh.

Well, every now and then, there comes a collision between the various groups that the Left ostensibly is here to protect.  Sort of like when homosexual rights activists were incensed at the idea that a woman could abort a gay baby if the woman didn't want a gay child.  Abortion rights activists were quick to bare their claws and teeth, warning folks not to infringe upon the sacred right of women to flex their superior muscles by aborting the hell out of any baby for any reason.  It was quite funny, in a sick and evil spawn of Hell sort of way.

Now, today, it looks like Richard Dawkins has put Salon into a bit of a sticky situation.  When contemplating an interview with a Muslim, Dawkins more or less showed his typical contempt for Islamic religious beliefs in a way not surprising.  But doesn't that mean he's an Islamaphobe?

No!  According to the always balanced and reliable  You see, basically, in a nutshell, the problem is that we're upset at the wrong type of person who simply speaks the truth.  Religion, being a foul and malicious set of bullshit fairy tales that need to be exterminated from the planet, in itself has no right to be offended when someone speaks the truth.  Hence Charlie Hebdo, that made its meat off of blaspheming and mocking various religious beliefs.  Islamaphobic?  Heck no.  Simply brilliant and enlightened.

The basic approach that the secular Left has toward religion is condemning various religions for calling each other wrong or evil, when in fact they are all wrong and evil and all need to be eradicated from the human condition.  So at the end of the day, from the POV of the esteemed, all is right with the world.  Dawkins is no Isamaphobic bigot.  That term is reserved as an attack phrase for those who fail to embrace liberal policies, narratives, or ideals.  As Dawkins does all of those things, and more to the point, hates all religions equally, he is off the hook.

Remember kids, don't try to pin adherents of the modern, secular Left, on some consistency of principles or morals.  It won't work.  Trying to glean consistency from the Left is as likely as locating a flying spaghetti monster.

A vision of our post-Christian progressive nation

Is in this story. It wasn't Kim Davis.  Kim Davis initially created a bit of a collar tugging moment for the progressive allies in the media.  After all, we are the land of the free and home of the brave.  Homosexual rights was born in the old 60s question of 'who's to say what's normal?'.  It became a beacon for the ultimate fight for rights and equality.  It was swept forward by liberalism's promise of a nation of ultimate freedoms where everyone could do or say what they wanted and be respected and embraced for the trouble.  After all, wasn't morality just formulated opinions?

And now you had gay rights activists shouting that the bigot ought to be thrown into jail where she belonged.  There she was, mug shot, prison number, all because she didn't conform to this movement of unbridled freedom and equality.  In the words of Disney's immortal Goofy: Sumthun' wrong here!

Finally there became enough legal mumbo-jumbo and drawn out debates that the question became was there really a legal basis for her imprisonment or not.  Of course there was.  The law now reflected the values of the post-Christian secular left, and like any society in history, this movement has every intention of mandating conformity to its values and imposing and legislating its morality onto the masses.  Based on the laws of any land at divers times, the strangest things can send you to jail.  And strange it was.  After all, if you went back even 20 years, do you think people would have imagined that it would come to a person going to jail because they did not support gay marriage?

So the name Kim Davis was quite the pickle for a while, and enough to give most thinking people pause.  The names of Aaron and Melissa Klein, however, are not well known.  Their case is.  Or at least should be.  A bakery that refused to provide services for a lesbian marriage celebration.  Of course those lesbians could have found any one of a hundred bakeries in Oregon that would have drooled at the chance to cater the event.  But that wasn't the point.

The point, as is the point with most of the progressive secular juggernaut, is submission.  Oppressing diverse views and demanding conformity and obedience.  So the movement, aided by the media and its pals in the legal universe, swooped in and won a victory against Christianity and non-progressive morality, not to mention freedom and liberty for the thinking person.

The irony is that traditionally, Americans never defined freedom as anyone being able to think or do whatever they wanted.  Americans understood freedom as being set beside a set of morals and values that all should be expected to follow.  The progressives, the liberals, did.  It was that freedom that liberal view of freedom that was the canvas under which the gay rights movement gathered its forces.  And yet, where is that promise now?  The same place most such lofty and unrealistic and, quite frankly, laughable promises end up once those making them get the power they crave.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Another Jewish observer admits the obvious

Dennis Prager points out the obvious reality of a coordinated assault on America's Christian heritage.  People now mock the idea of a war on Christmas, or equally ridicule and distance themselves from so-called 'Culture Warriors'.  And yet a war on American culture and religious identity is no less real than the radical Islamic war against the West.  A brutal, merciless, and ruthless war.  To deny it is either idiocy, denial or compromise.

The two women who enabled Donald Trump

One of the great mysteries of our age is how Donald Trump has maintained such a decisive lead in the polls for so long.  You'll get your odd outsider who will capture a fair amount of attention, and even support, for a while.  It happens.  Al Sharpton once garnered an embarrassing amount of support during the primary season.  While not as much as Trump, any support for Sharpton is embarrassing.

But the Don has baffled critics and observers for months.  Of course part of it is the round the clock, 24/7 coverage he has been given.  For many, he is about the only name they know right now.  But it's more than that.  Despite his Bulworth approach to politics, he remains immensely popular.  And it isn't only uneducated racist white guys.  Women, minorities, successful professionals all seem to flock to him.

WTH!?  My boys, in discussing this, mentioned something that, with a little refining, I will repeat.  There are two women who explain Donald Trump and his support.  Kathryn Steinle and Kim Davis.  Kim Davis is probably known well enough.  The Kentucky clerk who took jail time rather than back down on her refusal to approve gay marriages.  Kathryn Steinle might be less of a household name.  She is the young woman who was murdered by an illegal immigrant who was hiding under San Francisco's lenient immigration policies.

Now, does this mean Davis going to jail and Steinle's tragic murder are the cause?  No.  What my boys noted was the substance of the debate that went on around these events.  For Davis, it was the growing confidence that the progressives had when explaining why they were darn glad she went to jail, and why 'homophobes' going to jail is a good thing.

For Steinle, it was the racism of the age, in which many across the Internet invoke collective guilt, as they have during the entire immigration debate itself.  Whenever fears for the safety of Americans are mentioned, it seems someone brings up the fact that 'their ancestors screwed the Native Americans.'  That's a bit like blaming them for the actions of the past, isn't it?

Now, imagine turning that around.  Imagine saying that someone who supported gay marriage was imprisoned, or that Jews shouldn't complain because, after all, look what their ancestors did to Jesus.  See that? One of the ways to see if something is evil or racist is to replace names or ethnic groups with others and see if it still flies.  If it is wrong to blame all Jews for Jesus, isn't it no less wrong to tell Americans they more or less deserve what they get due to their skin color and the skin color of those who committed vile acts in the past?  If it's wrong to imprison someone for supporting gay marriage, wouldn't it be equally wrong in our country to jail them for the opposite?

Not that those who say these things necessarily have a 'serves them right' attitude.  Though I am at a loss as to just what they mean when they say it.  And it isn't just some radical on MSNBC or an obscure radical Leftist site that I see such things.  Davis's incarceration was supported and defended on mainline media, and even on Catholic websites I saw the 'look what your ancestors did to Native Americans' comeback.

So given that imprisonment and even murder are so flippantly dismissed, if not outright supported, it's not surprising that many see a growing threat and flock to the one man they think has the stones to stand up to these forces of evil and bigotry and oppression. And his supporters are not just those in the target demographics.  They also include those who are not white or even against gay marriage, but are smart enough to know that if this oppressive movement continues to gain steam, who knows what other groups will eventually be the targets.

I don't know.  But it's an observation and one I think that has merit.

Meanwhile in the Pacific War

It looks like after years of pressure, Korea finally got Japan to pay up and, even more important, truly apologize for the Korean Comfort Women atrocities of WWII.  Japan has apologized over the years for the terrors it inflicted on the populations it liberated from the Western Powers.  But these apologizes have been seen at times to be vague and with little 'umph' to them.

But then, we're used to things like Western Christian society, where all we do is grovel and apologize, where in Germany to even think of saying anything good about the Nazi Regime is a criminal offence.   Not so in Japan, or in most of the world really.

In most history books here in the states, the Pacific War of WWII is barely a footnote, or a brief addition at the end of the real action in Europe.  The biggest topics are typically FDR's rounding up the Japanese citizens and, of course, the decision to drop the Atomic Bombs.  Little is known of Japans reign of terror, or the millions that died under its boots.

Thanks to the courage of the Korean Comfort Women who survived, however, historians have taken a second look at Japan in WWII over the years, including where things stood in August, 1945.  Even within Japan itself, the old notion that it was just some broken down, beaten country that only wanted to give peace a chance has melted away.  Not that any change would alter the morality of the Atomic Bombs mind you.

But if you are informed with the latest historical studies, you should dispense with the idea that August, 1945 was darn near a zenith of Messianic peace and joy and happiness when, BAM!, the racist US suddenly and inexplicably decided to nuke two peaceful cities in order to flex muscles before the upcoming Cold War.  That's right up there with Hitler's Pope levels of scholarship.

Lamentable though the decisions were, they were made at the tail end of a conflict that had averaged around a half million deaths a month.  That's right.  And Japan's horrific track record had contributed mightily to that body count.  And as for interment camps, sure it was the wrong thing to do based on America's lofty, and may I say superior, standards.  Just as it was wrong to also do it to Italian and German Americans (an oft forgotten part of it all).  But compare what happened to Japanese Americans to what happened to those non-Japanese caught in the snares at the outbreak of WWII.   And not just Americans, those of other nations as well.

For us, the Pacific War remains a minor part of WWII.  When we focus on it at all, as can be expected, we dwell only on the sins of America.  But shockingly, as we open up to more Asian countries and learn from them, we find out that for those places, the Pacific was where the action occurred.  Sure, they acknowledge the importance of the European theater.  But to them, the real action was in the Pacific.  And it didn't start in 1939 either.  For them, WWII took almost 15 years of suffering and terror until the shooting finally stopped in the shadow of two mushroom clouds.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Why does the liberal media love Pope Francis

Here, NBC pretty much gives a good summary.  Multiple cases of Pope Francis reaching out to the Left's main sacred crusade: non-heterosexual normality.  Notice how many LGBT headings are in the list.  He also spoke for the liberal take on global warming, and appears to accept the liberal doctrines of religion.  He is also a good man, which doesn't hurt.  He reaches out to the downtrodden and the outcast, something Christians are called to do.  But so did previous popes.  Why this one and the liberal love affair?  Again, not that the other ones didn't preach tolerance of homosexual persons or care for the environment.  But liberals, rightly or wrongly, hear Pope Francis as not only preaching tolerance of and love for the people, but tolerance of the ideologies and acceptance of the narratives as held by the Left.

Remembering the other part of American history

The good part.  Yeah, there was a time when we could look at the failings and sins of America's past while still looking at the good and the nuance in our past just the same.  Read an American History textbook today and you have to almost read between the lines to see the good of our history.  It's mostly the modern 'things used to suck, but they're getting better now that we are here.'  But for those who remember the good on its own terms, there is actually quite a lot to remember.  Well done to these reenactors who recreated one of the heroic and celebrated moments in our history.  One of those pivotal events on which the whole history of our being here in America rested.  Well done indeed. 

There are never problems with sex

To hear our modern establishments tell it.  Really.  When was the last time you heard the media do a series on 'where sex can cause bad things'?  They don't.  That's because sex and drugs, hedonism and narcissism, are the meat and circuses of our age.  How many youngsters, or anyone for that matter, would embrace the secular Left and all its controls, intolerance, oppression and arrogance if it weren't for the promise of getting high and getting laid?

Not that problems don't exist.  AIDS continues to be the most preventable pandemic in history, still infecting thousands and with a global body count that surpasses the Holocaust.  But it's not just AIDS.  Every now and then I notice, buried deep down or whispered at the end of the weather reports, a story that suggests other STDs are on the rise.  In this one, Gonorrhea might not just be developing  a super strain, but notice it is connected with rising rates.  That's right.  Rising rates.

Now we all know that if everyone wore condoms, all problems would end and all would be well.  After all, condoms are natural and it's what animals do, correct?  That was always the sex revolution's biggest Ace to play.  Sex is natural, it should be so for people.  Remember that?  It's a lie, by the way. Not for the least reason than because, on the whole, most guys - all things being equal - would rather not wear a condom than wear one. No matter how many Hollywood productions try to make it seem emotionally profound and romantic to wear one.

Like so many things with the post-Christian modern way, it's lies and falsehoods, half truths and idiocy wrapped in a blanket of blind debauchery.  And all the time, more and more people are needlessly suffering, and even dying.  Kudos to the BBC for even carrying the story.

The War on Christmas

From Jonah Goldberg's point of view.  Of course there is an assault on the Christian traditional values and world view.  Duh.  Those who like to strut about like peacocks and declare the whole 'culture wars' a figment of the Right's imagination are either delusional, or simply those who can see the victors in this war and are trying to suck up to them.  But Goldberg does it right, in a Goldbergish sort of way.  I might disagree with him on things, but I can appreciate when someone nails something like he does.  Fight for all the rights and liberties that the Progressive movement wants to crush.  But make sure we don't lose the better part of what Christmas should be.  Not only as a good witness, but simply because, as the song says, we need a little Christmas.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Pope Francis as understood by a liberal atheist

In the end, tolerance is unlikely.  As is diversity.  We all have our values and absolute morals and we ruthlessly and brutally judge those who fail to conform.  So Pope Francis, in addition to loosening up the condemnation of those who have abortion and gay sex, also made waves when he said an atheist who follows his conscience can go to heaven without believing in God.

Before we freak out, understand that many across many traditions believe that salvation is God's to give, and in the best traditions of Scripture, those who are outside the covenant can sometimes be more God-like than those within the covenant community.

In the same way, a person can eat 5 Big Macs, smoke 10 packs of unfiltered cigarettes and drink a 12 pack of Bud Light every day and live to be 120 years old.  The idea is that you don't want to take the chance or stack the chips against yourself if you don't need to.

Of course the Left, and not a few on the Right, heard Pope Francis as, once more, giving a nod to the modern, liberal ideals of religion and secular beliefs while continuing to brutally condemn those things associated with more conservative, traditional ideas of the Democratic West and the Capitalism it produced.

But if 'let's all get along' is the message, it will be lost on many who are glad to hear Pope Francis's tolerance and love.  After all, this fellow is happy to embrace the idea that one conscience is as good as another  And yet, he shuffles his feet and wonders can, neigh should, such an open ideology also include people who reject Syrian refugees.  No clear knowledge of what level of rejecting, or exactly what policies he prefers.  Just a little swipe. Sure atheists and sexually active homosexuals should go to heaven.  But are we sure that also includes non-liberals?

Well played indeed

I love clever Church signs.  I'll never grow tired of them.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Have a blessed and merry Christmastide

I will probably be scarce for the next couple days, and a hit and miss over the next  week or so.  I'll try to touch base.  I'll also bring my next installment of where it is I happen to be going.  Until then, may everyone enjoy a touch of that Divine within the Truth that was delivered to us on Christmas day.  Enjoy the festivities, the fun, the family, but always we try to keep it centered around the Faith.  Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Two Catholic Men and a Blog

Is a site any discerning Catholic should visit.  I've gone there before and returned humbled, but more informed.  The good news is that contributor Ben is planning to write a book about faith and reason, which is the blog's focus.  I hope it gets published.  If it is half as insightful and helpful that the blog is, it will be more than worth the purchase.

The hypocrisy of the Left

Is sometimes almost suffocating.  So Donald Trump used a 'vulgar' term to describe the trouncing Hillary received.  Now, I can't abide Trump.  He is everything I have long feared.  Since college, I said my fear was that some radical right  wing movement would sweep into our nation and absolutely obliterate it.  How would this happen?  It would be in reaction to the no less equally radical left wing movement that would seek to pervert all sense of reality and common morality on its own path for power and control.  As the left - which seems to be forevermore wrong about its ideas and solutions - compounded failure with a crumbling society, the right wing movement would swing in to save the day.  And voila!  

Not that this actual case with Trump is the one.  I fear that will be down the road.  But it does show that if you push people past the brink, they will react equally bad.  

With that said, we see yet another example of why the movement sometimes termed 'liberalism' is almost unbearable.  People are upset that Trump used this particular term to describe Hillary's defeat.  The left.  Liberals.  You know, the ones who have fought to include the F-Bomb in polite conservation, and every vulgarity in the book into our national dialogue?  The same left that has used Comedy Central, HBO, and comedic roasts to promote jabs at Republicans no matter how vulgar they were?  

This would be the same Left that promotes more sex, more drugs, more sex and drugs, and more bathroom humor and dialogue?  And suddenly, the Left with Hillary in charge is offended?  So in the classic example of hypocrisy, they don't mind the vulgarity, they just don't want their presidential candidates to use it?  Since when?  Heck, remember the aforementioned scandal of Bill and the wonderful conversations that happened then and the call to finally ditch our puritan ways and embrace the racy and randy? 

And Hillary no less.  Hillary who was Bill Clinton's attack dog.  Hillary and Bill who used the Ragin' Cajun and the tone he set in 1992 that even shocked liberals; statements and attacks that leftist pundits pulled at their collars and admitted there were at times a definite lack of respect being shown for President Bush.  And yet, it was shrugged off with a wink and a nod. 

If it was any other political or social movement, I would be behind them 100% in denouncing yet another Trump original.  But as it is, given the source and the track record, I just can't choke down enough hypocrisy and double standard to do so.  

My advice to Ted Cruz

If you don't want your daughters in political cartoons, then don't have them in your ads.  True, even if he does have them (which isn't the first time a politician has family in their ads), that doesn't and shouldn't give the press the right to attack and mock the children.  Remember Chelsea Clinton?  Observers - even on the Left - couldn't help but see how Bill made sure she was in public with him constantly during the impeachment scandal.  Many concluded it was to buttress his 'family man' images.  In any event, even then, the press admitted that Chelsea was off limits.  Just as they did when she went to college.

Why?  Because, according to the media then, the kids are always off limits.  Of course we watched that crumble with G.W. Bush's daughters, with Bristol Palin and Trig Palin, with Rick Santorum, and now with Ted Cruz's kids.  Is it a double standard?  Duh.  Nonetheless, when you are a non-liberal, you can't give the press even the slightest excuse.  So in the future, if you don't want your daughters dragged through the mud, try leaving them home.  

An interesting article on Secularism

Found this and it was an interesting read. The trick to anything dealing with religion is that it is all a belief.  Including the completely not provable by science belief that there is no supernatural or divine.  Those are beliefs, too.  Some more crazy atheists like Bill Maher will sometimes unintentionally assert this when the try to excuse evils done by atheists or in the name of secularism as those rascally atheists treating their atheism like religion.  Since few people treat gravity or Newton's laws of thermodynamics as religions,  I'm inclined to think there is something about the belief or non-belief in supernatural or divine ideas that separates it from the realm of physics and chemistry and calculus.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Force was with Abrams

Looks like Star Wars did well.  Not surprising.  The population is so vast, and the prices so high, it's nothing to break last year's record.  We're planning on seeing it tonight.  I'm expecting far better than the deplorable prequels.  Not as good as the originals, or at least the first two of the originals.  If it is on par with The Return of the Jedi I'll be happy.

It is always the fault of someone else

In the world of Obama.  True, he actually came out and admitted that perhaps they fumbled the anti-ISIS strategy (file under Water is Wet revelation).  That is something.  But then he turns around and, once again, blames [fill in the blank with anyone who can be blamed].  In this case, the blank is filled in with 'the media.'  Expect the media to not help with that spin.

I repeat what my sons said about Donald Trump.  Why would anyone support Trump despite some of the horrible things he says?  Because a person who says horrible things based on reality can perhaps be reasoned with or changed - even Trump.  But  a person who bases their warm and fuzzy words on unreality, falsehood, lies, and untruths is not really reachable.  At least not as easily.  There is truth to that.  And as we continue watching our Blamer-in-Chief deny the bloody obvious, it's easy to see that vacuum that has been created into which the Don has poured his rhetoric and bile.

The many faces of Orthodoxy

Sometimes it is easy to imagine that those believers on that side of the fence are the nice ones who never have problems.  That they all get along.  They are all quiet and soft spoken.  They are all about standing firm and getting along and being nice.  Well, heh, that is never true.  It isn't true of Atheists.  It isn't true of Protestants.  It isn't true of Catholics - boy is it not true of Catholics.  And it isn't true of Orthodox Christianity.

Not that everyone is therefore wrong and bad and all.  It's just that some have this image of Orthodoxy that it's the soft spoken, conciliatory believers having spent centuries under the thumb of oppressors.  Fact is, they can be quiet, shall we say, blunt.  As this letter to Dr. Ben Carson demonstrates.  It's a reminder that the Blue State/Red State paradigm for understanding the world is unique to the US and its media watchers.  Others in other parts of the world blame more broadly, and give credit more openly than we might imagine.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christians worshiping Allah

And Muslims worshiping Jesus.  Well, not really.  But that's sort of what some sound like they are trying to say.  The great heresy of our time is, of course, found most often within the hallowed hallways of critical scholarship.  The idea that in some vague, spiritual way the 'Christ' of Christianity might speak to us, but the Jesus of the 1st century was simply one of many religious leaders.  Likewise, the Christ of faith may simply have been inspirited story telling on the part of the early Church (and for many liberals, a Church riddled with antisemitism, sexism, homophobia, and any other name thrown about today).

If Arianism was a heresy for saying Jesus may have been the greatest of created beings, but a created being nonetheless, you can see where reducing the Gospel to just one other set of fables, or believing that Jesus and Christ were different, is problematic.  Less easy to pinpoint as a heresy is the tendency to simply reinterpret the Scriptures as either irrelevant or radically re-understood to conform with the spirit laid out by these modern heresies.

Nonetheless, we are seeing massive waves of change in how the Christian faith operates in the world dominated by the great heresy of our times.  As that heresy gains power and influence, we see more and more Christians caving and simply trying to fit in.  Nowhere is this more obvious than the wrangling over the identity of Islam and its beliefs.

So the big story was about a professor at Wheaton College who confessed the great confession of our age that Islam and Christianity are more or less one and the same when it comes to the God we worship. Oh sure, there are some doctrinal differences.  But these are necessarily trivial.  The Trinity is no longer the defining reality of God, or clearly Muslims don't worship God.  So God is God, and all differences take a back seat to our unity and getting along.

Attempting to equate Islam and Judaism, this view argues that Moses and Mohammed were basically two sides of the same coin.  Neither had a Trinity, but they both pointed to the God of Abraham. Of course there are many problems with this, problems that would have been easily seen even a few short decades ago.  Moses, if the Bible is to be believed, as well as Church tradition, was looking for the Messiah, the Christ, just as Abraham was and David and the Prophets and all who came before.

But Mohammed, like Arius or Nestorius or any other heretic, was in the light of the age of Christ but chose to reject the Truth as taught by Christ and redefine God according to his standards.  For the better part of over a millennium, Christians understood there was a difference.

Today, however, we seem to be confused by this. Sounding more like a happy talk with Oprah Winfrey, a growing number of Catholics, including recent Popes, the Catechism, and now the Vatican are basically embracing the notion that the Oprah is closer to right than any pre-Vatican II leader could ever hope to be.

It's not just Catholics who see the flaws in this trend.  R. Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary pens a worthy rebuke, though watch out.  It also follows an Evangelical doctrine in line with more Calvinist thinking.  Still, he sees the problems for what they are.

For me?  My guess is that part of it is because so many Christians and Westerners have spent so many generations focused on the sins of our fathers, we've grown unable to point out the sins of anything else.  So now we have a religion with 1.6 billion people who are in no way close to wanting to embrace such an Oprahfied view of religion, and we don't have clue one what to do.  Not to mention being unable to muster the courage to stand up and say where Muslims are, in fact, wrong.

It's worth noting that those Orthodox Christians I've gotten to know, many from Eastern Europe and the Arabic world, do not consider the two to be worshiping the same God.  They are wonderful witnesses for Christ, and many Muslims are converting.  Not because they are saying 'Ah shucks, we're all just worshiping the same God now aren't we!', but rather because they admit they aren't, but are doing so with love and courage.  As one Orthodox fellow said today, the martyrs didn't die for the belief that Jesus was just one swell way of getting to the same God everyone else imagines.  And maybe we Christians in the comfort of the Dying West might want to consider that.

Do not try to convert Jews

In yet another move that, according to the Reuters article, shows the Church is taking a more open and compassionate stance on issues such as inter-religious dialogue, gay rights and divorce and remarriage, the Vatican has but the kibosh on actively seeking to proselytize, or convert, Jewish people.  That shouldn't' be a shock.  Pope Francis has already sided with the multi-Cultural left in seeing proselytizing as an anathema.  That is a message that the Left has been proselytizing Christians with for decades. 

Exactly what this means, as in all things Catholic, will be open to tremendous amounts of debate.  Since most Catholics, at least in the US, are to the left of center, they will no doubt see this as yet more proof that Catholicism is our meat, Judaism theirs, Islam some others, Buddhism, Atheism, it doesn't matter.  We all go to heaven anyway. 

Others will try to explain that this is really what the super-duper double secret probation version of what the Church has always taught.  Others will embrace the spirit of post-modernity and just say it's another step toward a better universe away from those losers who lived yesterday and before. 

Orthodox Catholics, who were raised to believe that there is no version of Truth, and while God is certainly merciful and salvation up to God, it remains that there is ultimately only one full Truth revealed by God and apart from that is too dangerous to miss, will be left scratching their heads.  Or perhaps even daring to say they think the leadership of the Church - as it has been in previous ages - might be wrong.  

We'll see.  Further unpacking and explaining will happen.  I'm not ready to rush too quickly into judgement.  If it were a single event, I certainly wouldn't think twice of it.  But in the context of so many other decisions and proclamations that appear to echo the sensitivities of multi-cultural liberalism rather than historic Christianity, I'm not confident.  It might be that the Church is joining a growing number of Judeo-Christian traditions in crumbling before the onslaught of the post-Christian Left.  But again, we'll see. 

Hate attacks on Muslims on the rise

This is not good.  However, think on this.  According to this article, there have been 38 anti-Muslim attacks in the US since the Paris attacks.  That's over a month in the third most populated nation on the planet.  How many have been killed?  From what I can tell, none.  Over 300 million Americans, and yet not a Muslim or Arab killed.  Which is good!  I'm glad, and those 38 attacks should be immediately and roundly condemned.  There is no excuse or pardon for it.

And yet, you can't help but get the feeling that this is a terrible disappointment for the Left, the Media, and for Democrats who live off of the anti-Americanism of the Left.  Just like I wrote here some time ago, Americans were supposed to be running amok, butchering and slaughtering Muslims by the truck load, blowing up Mosques, rounding up Arabs and sending them off into hidden death camps in the Nevada deserts.  It was supposed to be carnage of an unthinkable level.

In our neck of the woods, the only religious leader murdered in the last 15 years that I am aware of was a Catholic priest.  There was a rash of church burnings a couple years ago.  The Catholic parish in the town I grew up in was one of the churches burned.  It wasn't based on ethnicity or burnings of Mosques or Synagogues, so if you're not from around here, you likely didn't hear about it.

Still, when interviewed, Muslim leaders in our area speak as if every day is a hit list of murdered and terrorized Muslims.  Every day across our country, millions are rushing around threatening, attacking, killing, torturing Muslims, Arabs, and anyone else who is swarthy or dark skinned.

I'm glad they are wrong.  I'm glad their fears seem to be overreactions.  I'm saddened that it has happened even the 38 times.  I wish it didn't happen at all.  But we are 300 million people.  I just fear that all of the attention the press gives will keep the fires stoked until someone either does react and finally hurt someone who is Muslim (or worse), or just as likely, encourage ISIS terrorists or others sympathetic to Islam to go on the seemingly justified attack.  And then, I wonder if the media will analyse its role in the events?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Hell is being forced to forever apologize for every sin

Without receiving any in return.  Yes, it's news that the new PM of Canada is going to insist that Pope Francis formally apologize for the evils of the Catholic Church.  Since heaven is irrelevant and all religion just a bunch of BS fairy tales, there is nothing in the universe that the Faith has to offer that is even close to being on the 'pros' side of the scale.  As a result, the evils and sins are the only things measurable.

Likewise, since the MCPC Left has convinced itself that every non-Western culture was a bastion of women's rights, gay rights, tolerance, diversity and equality, there is nothing that the West has to commend itself for.  As a result, the sins are the only thing that matter, and there is nothing positive that it can be said to have offered to offset the evils of its past.

Of course, the evils done to the West by Muslims, Vikings, Magyars, Mongols, as well as inhabitants of the lands where settlers and immigrants attempted to build a new world will never, ever be apologized for.  After all, there aren't a few people who reason that the European Christian world alone was capable of evil, and therefore it, and its posterity, will ever and always merely get what they all have coming.

So don't expect Orthodox Christians to demand Muslims apologize to them for having destroyed their civilization and subjected them to hundreds of years of second class living.  Don't even hold your breath.  This is not about apologizing.  It is about eradicating the Christian faith, its heritage, and its Truths from the planet.  Apologize and repent?  Sure.  Why not.  Apologizing for dead people is easy.  And on behalf of the faith, it's fine.  But bring with it a demand that others pay back their own apologies to see if we're really being serious about the whole need for apologies thing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

After ten years I also must be going Part II

So as Mark Shea wraps up the main portal that opened up for me on my way into the Church, I reflect on where we are and how we've gotten here.  It should be no surprise at this point that we've been sniffing about the door posts of the Orthodox Church.

This isn't new by the way.  Back in the day, c. 2003 or 04, when we first began seriously to consider leaving Protestant Christianity, Orthodoxy emerged as a surprising option.  My eyes were set firmly on Catholicism or Anglicanism.  A Presbyterian friend had suggested going Anglican, knowing my inclinations and my problems with my Baptist life.  And seeing the almost blank check open doors that the Church has given to Anglicans, I sort of regret not going that way.

But it was when the Anglicans were imploding.  Electing gay bishops and declaring, in the USA at least, the Gospels to be the antisemitic documents that critics of The Passion of the Christ said they were, was enough to push me away.  Having lost faith in the Protestant approach on many levels, and having seen the ugly behind the scenes of Protestant Christianity, I was prepared to look at other, radical approaches to the Faith.

Though Catholicism had been where I was leaning, my wife, born and bred Southern Baptist, was having a little trouble warming up to that papist tradition.  I mean, she came from a family that, a generation earlier, would have scoffed at the idea that non-Southern Baptist baptists could possibly be saved.  Suggesting Catholicism was like suggesting to Dietrich that we need this Jewish ritual to open the Ark.

But suddenly, in came Orthodoxy.  We got there mainly by accident.  One day, coming home through Columbus, we saw the Greek Orthodox Cathedral.  A beautiful church by any accounts.  We decided to stop in.  My second son, and my wife, were blown away.  They loved it. We were all impressed.  And at the Cathedral book store, we picked up a couple books and items for looking into this side of the Christian aisle.

The Orthodox way, which bears many similarities to Catholicism when set in juxtaposition to Protestantism, allowed my wife to look into some of those historic distinctives without that papist feeling.  Through that, my wife was able to warm up to the Catholic way.  And because that Cathedral was about the closest Orthodox church we could find (over an hour away with no traffic and good travel conditions), and since we had absolutely no contacts with Orthodoxy or with anything to do with Orthodoxy, we began our long journey into the Catholic Church.

It was around that time that I stumbled across Mark Shea.  I had seen Scott Hahn on EWTN on a trip down to Florida around then.  We didn't get EWTN in our area, so I was on the net looking for that fellow who was a convert and made a case for Catholicism from a biblical point of view.  When I finally found his website, everything he had was there - for sale.  I wasn't about to pay to find information about the Catholic Church.  So I kept looking. I remember someone said he could be funny, so I was looking for something about Catholic Church, a convert, and humor.  Enter Mark Shea.

It was actually one of his articles I found.  I can't remember which one.  Bur it linked to the part of his website that he called Sheavings, a collection of articles he had published at that point.  I started reading through them.  I showed my wife.  She liked them, because she noticed his humor and mine were similar.  I ate them up.  He was to the point, with humor, and a wink and a nod.  He was willing to point out the flaws in Protestant Christianity, while also giving credit where it is due.  He was clearly conservative, but not afraid to hold conservatism's feet to the fire. He was also willing to concede where ideas associated with liberalism were compatible with Christianity.  In fact, he was willing to say both sides have their good points, but the Faith should always be the deciding factor.  Not bad given some of the partisanship on both sides I had seen in my ministry days. He mostly was about explaining Catholicism to critics, and defending the Church against its detractors.

Over the next year, in addition to a growing stack of books and articles, Mark became required reading for me.  At one point, I emailed him a question about Mary.  In return, he sent several pages of a draft that would become his books on Mary for help.  That helped, especially my wife.  While this was happening, we had entered the RCIA program and were plowing smartly along on our way into joining the Church.

Already we had taken a financial hit with my leaving my ministry.  We tried to find some ministry for me to fit into while this was happening, but there were issues, particularly with integrity.  How could I sneak about going Catholic while ministering in a Protestant manner?  Soon after we began RCIA, my wife was let go of her teaching position at a Protestant school, sending us into a financial tailspin.  We lost a sizable portion of our savings and also took a substantial hit in credit card debt trying to avoid losing our home.  The previously mentioned auto accident didn't help.  It was the car that, naturally, we had paid off.  So we were, in addition to everything else, forced to purchase a new car.

In fact, at Christmastime 2015, there was little joy or happiness in our life, and much worry and concern.  The only thing that kept us was the assurance that we would be taken care of.  By then I had contacted an apostolate which focused on Protestant Clergy converts.  While not all converts end up in paid positions, I was told, many do.  And almost all end up doing just fine.  There is, after all, much support and help on the part of the Church.  This fit with what our priest - who I knew from my ministry days - told us: That no matter what, there would be 'divers and sundry ways' to help us out.

So as dismal as things seemed, with no clear direction except 'into the Church' ahead of us, we were optimistic.  Even more than cautiously optimistic.  After all, I had always cast a glance at Catholicism and the historic Church, I was entering due to what I perceived as seeking for the Truth, and we truly felt God was leading us forward.  We were assured we would be taken care of somehow, and God's direction and all.  In the end, ask dark as things seemed, it would all be fine. Or so we believed.

The three stages of Star Wars

I've explained to my boys that there were really three stages of the Star Wars franchise.  And each of those stages held a different feel that's tough to explain today.  I offer up my observations on the eve of the release of what, hopefully, will be a fine addition to the originals.

Stage 1: The originals

This encompasses the first Star Wars (later dubbed 'A New Hope') through the last ten minutes or so of The Empire Strikes Back.  In this series, it is 'farm boy makes good, joins a ragtag bunch of heroes, and saves the galaxy.'  It held a certain magic and a certain optimism for a nation in dire need of both.  Like Frodo and Bilbo, Luke is simply at the right place and right time.  He has a little in him that sets him apart.  But it's basically that mix of talent and opportunity, courage and fortitude that saves the day.  Not just for Luke, but for the galaxy as well.  From 1977 until 1980, that was what Star Wars was all about.

Stage 2: Father knows best

According to all accounts, Lucas held the bombshell of Vader's paternal relationship with Luke until the last point of filming.  Empire was mostly finished when he called Jones and told him what the dialogue was going to be.  According to some tales, the original 'bombshell' was to be 'Luke, Obi-Wan killed your father.'  Whatever the truth, sources agree that it was only at the end of filming that the real cat was let out of the bag.  As a result, the movie was still filmed with the primaries believing it was part of Stage 1.  And it more or less feels it, if you think about it.  Watching it even with what we know, you can almost get a different feel throughout most of the movie than in those last minutes.  That's because now it is not 'farm boy makes good'.   It is destiny.  Luke is now seen as part of royalty all along.  He was always in the inner circle.  The power players.  The galactic movers and shakers.  Throughout The Return of the Jedi, the entire feel is different.  Things are now more a Game of Thrones than The Hobbit.  Sure, it's still rebels and the Empire, but it no longer has that feel, that idea that Luke was fighting the odds. In fact, if nothing else, you now have the idea that the odds were with him.  Luke had been 'Immaculately Conceived' to do what he did.   In doing it, he simply resisted the temptation to go down the wrong side of where he was destined to go all along. Ignore the last minutes, and the rest of the Empire - which was filmed without knowing the ending - is still Star Wars, part II.

Stage 3: The prequels.

Those heaps of cinematic dung were what changed movies for the modern era.  If they didn't have the Star Wars brand, they would have been laughed off the screen.  But because they had the brand, they were box offices smashes each one. And that showed filmmakers that you no longer had to worry about quality if you wanted to rake in the big bucks.  By now the stories were so convoluted, the scripts and plots so mind numbingly bad, that it isn't worth writing about.  It just shows that when Lucas added that last ten minutes of Empire, he took the franchise in a direction he was not prepared to go.  And as power and influence grew with Lucas the Billionaire, he was ill prepared to keep the direction in check.  Who knows what the prequels would have been if the story had remained 'farm boy versus the galaxy'?  But as it was, Lucas opened up a can of worms that only got bigger and messier with each passing film.

What the next one will look like remains to be seen.  But so far, I'm mighty optimistic, even if it will be the enchanted kingdom, and not the 20th Century Fox log, that ushers in the remaining installments.    

How the press sees Catholicism

The media loves Pope Francis.  I mean it.  They may take or leave John Lennon.  Kennedy might still be OK.  Martin Luther King, Jr. still has his holiday.  But they are absolutely mad about Pope Francis.  This is obviously because they see Pope Francis as being liberal, modern liberal, and ready to push the Church in the direction of the modern, post-Christian progressive movement.

This movement, of course, is a heresy.  If Arianism was one of the greatest heresies according to orthodox belief, then the modern Left is all that squared.  After all, Arianism still placed Christ as the greatest of created beings.  He simply was not divine.  The modern left reduces him to a philandering son of a first century whore.  At best. If he existed at all.  Just like all other religions, ours is merely a collection of myths, lies, fairy tales and legends.

With that, eternity is more or less irrelevant.  We probably all go to some happy place.  Or become worm food.  Either/or, the salvation of humanity lies in moon colonies and intergalactic space travel.  On an individual level, it's more or less relegated to behind the stove, much less the back burner.  Really.  When was the last time anything in the modern, secular left even came close to acting like the hereafter held any importance at all?

As a result, the here and now becomes the sum total of everything that matters.  And as my boys appraise it, the modern Left promises a world in which I am affirmed and celebrated, I get everything I want, with whoever I want, as often as I want.  And I shouldn't' have to struggle for it and if anything goes wrong, it's everyone else's fault.  Oh, and no stuffy noses or bruised elbows.

To that end, free sexual indulgences without consequences is the bread and peace, meat and circuses of the modern left.  It is the carrot that it dangles before a population increasingly droning on like so many extras eloped from the set of the Walking Dead.  And in its continued assault on reality, the issue of homosexual normality has become the crux.  Not only does it fulfill the ultimate promises of unlimited sexual pleasures (without gay sex, you can't easily indulge in group sex), but it is the wedge between any traditional religious understandings of morality and modern understandings.

And given that Pope Francis has repeatedly reserved his passions and anger for those things despised by the Left, while setting aside the sins of the Left as being those minor issues with which we can respectfully and lovingly disagree, it's not hard to see why the Left loves the man.

After all, he could change Church teaching.  Catholics say it could never happen.   But it has happened.  The Catholic Church today would be a foreign world if you dropped a 11th century Catholic in a modern parish.  And not just because of electricity and fashion.  The Pope, with the vested power of the doctrine of Infallibility, could conceivably change things.  The insistence that no pope could ever do so is, itself, a belief.  Even without invoking ex cathedra, he can certainly tell the Church how to do things differently with almost anything outside of dogmatic utterances.  Hence the Death Penalty.  After 2000 years changed, with no real clear explanation for why.  Not one that makes sense anyway.

But if Pope Francis doesn't change Church teaching, he's done enough.  As far as the press is concerned, and the majority of liberal Catholics who are loving it as well, he has made it clear that those sins associated with the Left are off the table.  Sure, in some old, dusty canon law book on a shelf somewhere, it is still wrong.  But does it even matter?

I think this as I read through a piece by the Detroit Free Press.  Note the tone.  Note the basic assumptions.  It's clear that changes are on the horizon; that it no longer even matters much to be living in what, technically, the Church would consider to be mortal sin.  If mortal sin exists anywhere in the Church of Francis, it is on Wall Street or in the halls of Western Democracies.  Mortal sin in a Church that increasingly embraces the universalism of post-Christian liberalism doesn't mean much anyway.  And the couple highlighted, as well as the author of the piece, know it.

Is Islam different?

One of the biggest problems with our progressive culture is the tendency to tell it like it ain't.  We keep insisting that we live in a world where everyone can be buddies and pals, and if only those pesky racist conservatives would get on board, it would be peace and John Lennon songs all the way.

To that end, our approach to Islam is that it is more or less like everything else.  Someone - and I missed who - apparently said that Islam is a different religion.  It's different than us I guess.  This set off a debate on CNN last night. Of course if you are a modern secularist, you know Islam, like Christianity, is just one more set of bullshit fairy tales made up by ancient people.

Of course it's the same. All religions are.  Naturally there are bad elements.  But in the modern, liberal framework, they exist solely as a result of the West - particularly the US government - getting in there and messing things up.  Basically, what did we do to make them hate us?  When Limbaugh said that after 9/11 to describe the Left's reaction to the attacks, it was seen as a partisan attack on liberalism.  Today, it is the cornerstone of the Left's understanding of world events.

So when you see something like this, many progressives rush to the microphones and say 'See, we told you.  Muslims hate Isis and terrorism, too.  They're just like us.'  Well, of course they hate them.  Just like we hate child rapists.  Terrorists kill Muslims just like they kill others.  Which is why several years after 9/11, Muslims finally came out and condemned terrorism without trying to spin it back on the US, the Crusades, or Allah is great.

At first, if you remember, even the most ardent liberal reporter had a hard time finding Muslims who would simply condemn the attacks, period.  There was always a catch.  A caveat.  A proviso in the assessment of the attacks.  Eventually, after several years, Muslims did become more vocal and less nuanced.  But that's because terrorism that was breaking out was killing Muslims at a staggering rate.  Most of the casualties of our Iraqi invasion are the result of the clashes between Muslims, not the actions of the coalition.

Seeing this, Muslims naturally began to condemn terrorism more forcefully.  So it's not surprising that, even as Isis kills hundreds now through bombings, shootings, coordinated attacks, that Muslims denounce them and fight them.  After all, Isis is just as willing to kill other Muslims as anyone.

That doesn't mean Saudi Arabia is ready to embrace Western liberalism.  Or Western anything.  Any more than the USSR was ready to embrace Christian Democracy.  The USSR stood against Nazi Germany due to one reason: Germany invaded it and was trying to destroy it.  But at no point was the USSR trying to be like us.  And critics of the US are quick to point out how horrible we were to ally ourselves to such a terrible government.  After all, how clean were our hands when we were allies with Stalin?

Yet isn't it the same now?  We are willing to look the other way with Islam.  We try to imagine that the sum total of problems in the Islamic world are the result of us and us alone.  We see the slightest movement in the Muslim world as proof that they are just like us.  As my boys say, if only Conservative Americans were given the benefit of the doubt that the Islamic world is given.

And yet, we would be foolish - we are foolish - to think this way.  Islam is different.  As is China.  As is Asia.  As are African cultures.  As is Russia.  The world isn't sitting around wondering how it can embrace liberal Western values.  The world is still a big place after all.  And the Islamic world is quite the other.  It may agree with us at times.  And Muslims may see many things in our cultures and societies worth embracing.  But it will always be different.  Simply because it takes a step in the logical direction means Muslims are simply honest about the problems at hand.   It means nothing more than Muslims might be better at handling reality that most of our best and brightest here at home.  Certainly our best here on the set of CNN.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

After ten years I also must be going, Part I

So the news broke: Mark Shea will be closing down his blog at Patheos after almost 13 years of blogging.  That's pretty big news.  Mark became one of the anchors of the Catholic blogosphere in the 00s - St. Blogs as it was sometimes called.  In the early days, Mark was a conservative Catholic willing to call conservatives out (callousness toward the environment, torture, the A-bombs), while keeping in perspective the greater dangers and heresies and threats of what is ironically known as liberalism: debauchery, blasphemies, hubris, abortion, AIDs and the sex revolution, oppression, hypocrisy of a tolerant society, the dangers of Hate Speech and Hate Crime legislation, the flaws of investing power in governments for problem solving, etc.).

I didn't always agree with him.  And at times things could get snarky.  On his blog - like most blogs - it was a place where people came to debate in ways they never would face to face.  Insults were never allowed, however, and Mark would ban people for making false accusations or personal attacks.  

But all of that was, and has not been for a long time.  Somewhere between the torture debates, the Harry Potter mania and attempts to downplay the non-Catholic elements of Rowling, and his movement over to Patheos and his associating with Catholics like Simcha Fisher, Mark changed.  Today he is clearly a pro-life liberal Catholic. There is virtually nothing he stands for or attacks that is associated in the least with conservatism. 

And this puts him right in line with Pope Francis, who has made it clear it's time to get over conservative concerns and sensitivities, call fundamentalism the evil that it is, and get the Church to catch up with the latest and hippest times.  That, of course, is the essence of liberal Christianity.  It's no different than anything any one of a dozen Protestant denominations have said over the ages - with the possible exception of so easily linking fundamentalism and terrorism.  Though today, who knows?  After all, once you accept 'keep up with the times', what you say today will most likely change, or magnify by tomorrow. 

So Mark, who prides himself as being totally obedient to Church teaching, has found his home.  He's also found success.  The Catholic Church in general, and certainly the Church in the USA, has always been decidedly to the Left of center.  Far more Catholics will support gay marriage or birth control than will support the A-Bombing of Hiroshima or stand against gun control.  So as Mark became a leading advocate for a pro-life liberal voice in the Church, it wasn't hard to believe that his profile would increase.  It's easier to increase your fan base when you're on the side of the majority.  

And it has.  He is now hosting radio shows, working for major Catholic publications, being interviewed by the secular media.  He is, in the world of apologetics, a star. Of course he still insists he's a humble church mouse with barely two coins to rub together.  But as one who doesn't have two coins to rub together, let me say he does pretty well, better than many I know who have two working parents with benefits; if his stories about his escapades and socializing are to be believed. 

But then, what can you say about a person who uses the one tactic he has so loudly condemned for so many years?  Mark has repeatedly blasted those who start by saying 'I'm a devout Catholic, but here's where the Church sucks...'  And rightly so.  It's a slick, dishonest tactic.  It makes you invulnerable.  After all, the individual has declared himself devout, so he clearly isn't anti-Catholic.  Likewise, despite Mark's willingness to respectfully disagree with liberals even over abortion and gay sex (reserving his wrath only for Planned Parenthood and the most egregious cases of oppression and censorship for gay marriage - and even then not much in recent months), and despite his clear and obvious disdain for virtually everything to do with any American conservative ideals or perspectives, Mark says he's a conservative. 

That gives him carte blanche to launch day after day at Conservatives, while still saying 'hey, I'm Conservative.'  And so he's more or less invulnerable just like those Church bashing devout Catholics.  And his more progressive and liberal and non-conformist readers love every minute of it.  

In recent years, the blog has become almost unbearable.  In some cases, it became everything  that Mark, c. 2004, said was wrong with blogs.  And Mark became more than willing to ban anyone - not because of false accusations or personal attacks - but most often for defending conservative viewpoints or disagreeing with Mark.  

As a result, I began to take the 'Mr. Manners' approach.  Not that I don't try to be respectful and polite.  It's how I was raised.  But I really did it at Mark's site.  Careful not to give Mark an excuse to ban me, I would wade in and try to remind Mark that the charade was playing false, and the tactics an affront to Church teaching, as well as basic Christian behavior.  In fact, the behavior you found on CAEI was akin to the behavior you would only see in the most hardcore stereotypical fundamentalist church circles that the readers of CAEI would so easily condemn.  So doing what I had to in order to get my say, I suffered the worst treatment from people I have save for atheist blogs and some hardcore fundamentalists after I became Catholic.  Though it's worth noting that the fundamentalists were typically not personal, they simply called out the Church as the harlot of Babylon that they believed it to be.

Now CAEI was the first blog I ever visited.  It was the first blog I ever posted on (a post mocking the idea that FOX News was a bastion of Christian conservatism), and of course, Mark used it to help raise money for us when we found out about our fourth son.  So for that, I am forever grateful.  But the morphing and changes that occurred, as well as those of the Church itself, have been symbolic of the events that have happened to lead us to where we are today.

Ten years ago we were on the brink of going through our first Christmas in the Catholic world.  Even then, things had gone sour.  My wife had been let go of her teaching job at a Christian school when it was discovered where we were going.  She was also in a serious auto accident only a week or two before Christmas (unfortunately, it being her fault).  That brought about five years of lawsuits and financial strains on our part.

Even then, we thought 'Gee, that's not pleasant.  What does that portend?'  We shrugged it off as mere coincidence at worst, or perhaps Satan was fighting us.  I would be hired by a major Catholic apostolate in February, perhaps we had found our path and Satan was trying to block us?  We were sure, in those hazy days of Christmas, 2005, that it was all going to work out.  And on CAEI, my conversion was quite the story.  Mark even sent a sections of his draft of his Mary books to us for help.  Despite problems and obstacles and crushing financial disasters, we were optimistic.  Just like CAEI, we were going to be here for the long haul.

That was ten years ago.  Today is now.  And as Mark has made a major announcement, so shall I in the not-too-distant.  More on that later.  But for now, Mark has made his announcement.  I will mourn what CAEI  became, not what it was.  And I will not be following him to his new blogs.