Monday, December 31, 2007

Milksop Christianity

I would like to commend those few Catholic parishes in which yesterday's 2nd reading was proclaimed in its long form (Col. 3:12-21) rather than in its short form (Col. 3:12-17). The short option omits the part about wives being subject to their husbands. Rather than appear (gasp!) old-fashioned, or (double gasp!) patriarchal, or risk (triple gasp!) offending someone, most parishes simply skip the risky portion. A few priests may feebly attempt a clever it-isn't-what-it-looks-like dismantling of the text. Most just ignore it, and hope nobody notices.

Trouble is, Christianity is, and has always been, a patriarchal religion, as is Judaism. Indeed, marriage itself is a patriarchal institution, and civilization, founded upon marriage, is founded upon patriarchal principles.

A few prophetic voices have begun to descry and decry the effeminate, wan softness of our degenerate culture, a culture that is embarrassed by patriarchal authority. I would say 'Amen' to these prophetic cries, and point to Jesus as a manly man who likewise expects counter-cultural strength in his followers.

It's high time for Christians to realize that the cultural rejection of patriarchy is ultimately a rejection of the family, of traditional moral values, and of Christianity itself. And it's high time to stop our milksop acquiescence towards this prevailing attitude, and unflinchingly proclaim the timeless truth.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Slaughter of the Innocents

...Rachel weeping for her children...(Mt. 2:18, Jer. 31:15 [RSV])

Slaughter of the Holy Innocents In a sort of inverse of the progression from Good Friday to Easter, just three days after the joy of Christmas we commemorate the very first Christian martyrs, those infants who were slaughtered by Herod out of rage and fear towards the newborn Christ. Pro-life Christians have adopted this feast day of the Holy Innocents (Dec. 28) as a fitting commemoration of the slaughter of the innocents that continues in our abortion clinics today.

The modern Herods are those who wear a doctor's attire as they ply their vile trade, shedding the blood of innocent and helpless babies for monetary gain. These present-day Herods have a large army of soldiers to help and enable them. They have the arrogant judges who have decreed that this murder must be allowed and sanctioned by the state. They have the politicians who enact legislation to grant them public subsidies and punish those who would rescue the innocent. They have voters who continue to elect such, in tacit approval of the slaughter.

I will repeat the last sentence. Herod today has voters who enable his wicked slaughter by their choices in the ballot box.

Here's a helpful link.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas

...may we come to share the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

Just think - the infinite, eternal God humbled himself to enter the finite space and time of this world, and become one of us! This awesome Christian doctrine of the Incarnation is, of course, central to our celebration of Christmas.

But there's more. Liturgically, Christmas is the first of several 'epiphany', or 'manifestation' celebrations. The appearance of the star, leading the Magi (us Gentiles) to the Messiah, is a second instance of this manifestation. Next, John the Baptist recognizes and proclaims the Christ when Jesus comes for baptism, a third instance of Christ revealing himself. Next, Jesus performs his first miracle, changing water into wine at the Cana wedding feast, thus beginning his public ministry. Christmas, Epiphany, the Baptism in the Jordan, and the wedding at Cana, are celebrated in close proximity because they are all celebrations of the same thing: of the appearance of the Messiah, the Son of God among us.

The Annunciation In a different manner, Christmas is also closely associated with another liturgical celebration, one that is less apparent, more hidden, but perhaps more profound. That liturgical celebration is March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she is to become the mother of the Christ, and Mary says 'Yes'. This is the real moment of Incarnation, when 'the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us'. It is at this moment that God becomes one of us and takes on human flesh within the womb of the Virgin. Nine months later, on December 25, Christ is born. He makes his appearance, and the truth that was hidden for nine months becomes manifest.

As noted in an earlier post, belief in the Incarnation has (or should have) some very practical ramifications for the believer. Each of us is also an incarnation of sorts, a union of a physical, animal body with an eternal, spiritual soul. And, like Christ, our personal incarnation began before we were born. The joyous event of birth is but the manifestation of an incarnation that had its hidden beginning nine months before.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Unoriginal sin

The first sin of man was eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Original sin enters in when man decides to make up his own definition of what is good and what is evil.

What might the final sin look like, the un-original sin? This is pure speculation on my part, but there seems to be some hint in Scripture...

The very first command given by God to man is to "Be fruitful and multiply..." (Gen. 1:28 RSV) With rare exceptions, this command has been obeyed throughout human history, even by pagans and heathens. Indeed, fruitfulness has been considered a blessing, and sterility a shame in virtually every culture - until recent times.

Jesus, carrying his cross, spoke his final prophecy, "For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!'" (Luke 23:29 RSV) Those words must have seemed incredible to his hearers. Yet here we are.

The spurning of the first command, and the fulfillment of the final prophecy. Sounds rather apocalyptic.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Crisis of authority

A summary of the past 6 posts would go something like this: The shallow selfishness of consumerism and the myth of overpopulation has led to an irrational fear of human propagation, and to a widespread acceptance of artificial contraception. The acceptance of contraception has in turn led to an ideological divorce between sex and procreation. This divorce then leads inevitably to the acceptance and even approval of abortion, fornication, adultery, pornography, and homosexual practice. It's quite logical: If sex is primarily about the father-mother-child thing, the family thing, then traditional mores make lots of sense. But if it's just intimate pleasure between two partners, these various aberrations are no big deal.

There seems to be one more piece to this puzzle, another fundamental cause for the widespread acceptance of contraception and of all that follows. That piece would be a crisis of authority and of obedience to authority. In fact, if our culture manages to survive into the future, I believe future historians will name the crisis of authority as one of the defining elements of our time.

A happy, groovy hippy I was a teenager in 1968 when post-Vatican II changes were sweeping through the Catholic Church. Those were the heady days of great social upheaval; of hippies, free love, and the questioning of authority. Some priests of my acquaintance - hip and relevant and groovy - were confident, and assured us lay folks, that the Church would soon get with it and relax most or all of her sexual hangups. When Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae, and it wasn't what we were expecting, and did not seem relevant (true prophecies are rarely recognized at first), the cold reception it received was to be expected, given the milieu. Yet this was unprecedented, and has proven to be tragic.

Many priests and a few bishops openly repudiated both the new encyclical and the Church's long-standing condemnation of contraception. Other priests and bishops were simply silent, neither openly rejecting nor openly applauding the Pope's teaching. Only a few were vocal in their support. I have no credentials as an historian to say this was absolutely unprecedented, but can report that, even as a progressive-minded young man, I was surprised at this change of posture. For a reigning Pontiff to be thus ignored and even rebuffed was something I had never heard of.

This crisis extends beyond the Catholic Church. Lines of authority within the family are now typically pooh-poohed as well. Patriarchy is summarily dismissed as outmoded and irrelevant, and the father's authority in the home is questioned along with the bishop's and Pope's in the Church. I suppose this revolution took many decades, but the late 1960's have seemed to be the watershed moment.

But notice where authority is still esteemed - in the military, and in our places of business. Occasional exceptions aside, the chain of command in these settings is still clearly defined and adhered to. Heraldic Coat-of-Arms of Pope Paul VI The corporate equivalent of a Fr. Richard McBrien would be quickly shown to the door. Perhaps the difference is: We need our businesses and our military to succeed; failure is unacceptable. But the health and success of the Church, or the family? (yawn) Who cares?

In 20-20 hindsight, it should now be obvious that Pope Paul VI was right. The dissidents were wrong then, and are wrong still. Even more fundamentally, rebellion against legitimate authority is both immature and arrogant. Rebellion against divinely ordained authority within the Church and the family is sinful, and is tantamount to rebellion against God. The 60's mentality - question traditional morality, question the status quo, question authority - seemed cool and relevant at the time, but has turned out to be merely stupid and selfish and short-sighted. Question one more thing, all you old hippies - question the questions!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Thanatos antidote - 2

The previous 5 posts have comprised a thread, a progression of related thoughts. The link between contraception, abortion, population control, and the irrational fear of human procreation has been pointed out by minds much greater than mine. Pope Paul VI, for example, in his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, prophetically foretold the dire consequences that would result from an easy acceptance of contraception and the cheapening of human sexuality. Or, take the terse profundity of JP II's phrase 'Culture of Death'. Or, as reported a couple posts ago, Jacqueline Kasun's massively researched work. I would only like to add these additional thoughts:

I ended the last post by asking if the clamor for population control were driven by pride, or hatred of God's sovereignty, or by fear of an imminent calamity which population stresses may threaten. If you who read this are in favor of population control, and if that conviction is driven by pride or hatred, then I have nothing more to say to you (but, beware - God may have a word or two with you one day, and more than mere words!)

But if imminent calamity is what concerns you, consider this little thought: People per se don't stress the biosphere; wasteful consumption of resources and reckless production of toxic wastes do. And then consider this: It lies within the human genius to find better alternatives to waste and toxicity. People are the solution, not the problem. We have no inherent need to waste or to poison; the 'ism' in the word indicates that 'consumerism' is a belief system. And belief systems are voluntary; they can be changed.

Allow your belief system (and behavior) to be changed. Be converted. Do not accept the 'consumer' moniker (as if you were nothing more than a complex alimentary canal). You are much more than a consumer; you are a person. You have an eternal destiny. You are much more than an alimentary canal; you have a brain with which to think, a body with which to do productive work, a heart with which to love, and a spirit with which to worship and trust in God. Employ all of that, your entire being, in creative and productive ways, and cease to accept the degrading label of 'consumer'.

Start with something modest. Walk to work or to church instead of driving. Plant a garden. It lies within you to do good, rather than wring your hands over evil. Be on the lookout for little ways to shake off the shameful moniker. And don't expect the government to do anything remotely useful in this regard. Those folks live within their own little institutions; most of them couldn't think their way out of a paper sack if you pointed them toward the open end. Goodness, they seem to think that outlawing light bulbs and fireplaces is the way to go. So, don't wait for bureaucrats; do it yourself, start now. The same applies to you bureaucrats; rather than institute more and more heavy-handed programs and restrictions for other folks, shake the cobwebs from your skull, and do something good yourself. Let's improve the world, one person at a time. Above all, just know that you need not be a consumer, but a free and beneficial person, created in the image of God.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Population control (or - David's sin)

The 21st chapter of 1 Chronicles tells the intriguing story of King David's worst sin. Judging from the punishment it drew, this crime was, in God's eyes, even more serious than the Bathsheba/Uriah incident. The sin? David took a census of the people.

Huh?

What made this such a travesty was that it was an act of immense pride on King David's part. Not just the pride of a self-inflated ego, but of usurping Divine sovereignty and province. In taking a census, David was arrogating to himself an authority that belongs to God alone, an authority over human life.

From the beginning, God has given to man dominion and authority over all other life on this Earth - over all the animals and plants. This authority is explicitly given in two places: to Adam & Eve in Gen. 1:26-30, and again to Noah after the flood in Gen. 9:1-3. Two things are noteworthy here. Both passages include the command to "be fruitful and multiply", and neither passage grants man authority over himself.

Human life belongs exclusively to God. Murder is a crime against a human victim. But even more, it involves a sin against God's sovereign authority over the victim's human life. Suicide is a similar sin, since no man owns his own life; it belongs by right to God alone. And so the crime of population control is likewise a sin of unmitigated arrogance, of assuming control over human life itself.

Two posts ago, I asked who or what ought to be controlling human population. Individual families? Governments? A world government? A population control agency? The answer, from the above, is: God alone.

Which leads to one more question. Why do Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and Planned Parenthood and UNFPA and other rich and powerful folks clamor for world population control measures? Is it pride? Is it hatred of God and of His sovereign claims? Is it fear of some calamity resulting some day, somehow, from (gasp!) Too Many People? Is it, perhaps, fear or loathing of the people themselves, and of demographic threats to their affluence?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

War Against Population

A host of issues such as poverty, hunger, AIDS, and Global Warming have been attributed by many to the general ill effects of overpopulation. But when the particulars are looked at case by case, no causal connection can be shown. Consider a certain famine, and you find its primary cause is a civil or regional war. Examine an epidemic, and you find that it resulted from widespread sexual promiscuity. Another devastating crisis is seen to come via a combination of political greed, incompetent management, and uncontrollable natural forces. Show me, if you can, a specific, serious human problem that was demonstrably caused by Too Many People. To date, I haven't seen a single instance.

Is there something in the human psyche that demands simplistic answers? ("If we can just solve the overpopulation problem, everything will be OK.") Or do we find dark delight in news of impending doom? Or a secret self-loathing, that readily embraces the notion that we ourselves are the biggest problem? I have already discussed what I refer to as this self-loathing "Thanatos" phenomenon, and have suggested a possible antidote as well.

A more sinister explanation to consider is that some people are deliberately beating the overpopulation drum to further their own agenda. One extremely well-researched book that explores this possibility is Dr. Jacqueline Kasun's 1988 (later updated) book, The War Against Population. Read this online book review for more info, or, better yet, get the book and read it yourself. This is not some nutty 'conspiracy theory' work. It is well documented in showing that some very powerful elitists view population control as a key to their political and material interests. To really control people (and their stuff), control their numbers. One well-exposed example is the Nixon Administration's 1974 National Security Council Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200), a.k.a. the "Kissinger Report", and subtitled "Implications of Worldwide Population Growth For U.S. Security and Overseas Interests". Consider just this one citation among many from NSSM 200:

Whatever may be done to guard against interruptions of supply and to develop domestic alternatives, the U.S. economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries [See National Commission on Materials Policy, Towards a National Materials Policy: Basic Data and Issues, April 1972]. That fact gives the U.S. enhanced interest in the political, economic, and social stability of the supplying countries. Wherever a lessening of population pressures through reduced birth rates can increase the prospects for such stability, population policy becomes relevant to resource supplies and to the economic interests of the United States. (NSSM 200, CHAPTER III - MINERALS AND FUEL)

Population control advocates have nearly always been members of rich, industrialized nations. Do they fear the demographic advancement of poor nations? Typically, they are also kindly disposed toward Planned Parenthood (obviously), and antagonistic toward Christianity (especially Catholicism). On a personal note, when I began to recognize that there might be ulterior motives at work, I finally started questioning the scientific neutrality of many population studies. Dr. Kasun's book helped me to sharpen these questions.

In addition to exposing an anti-population agenda, Dr. Kasun presents a formidable quantity of evidence to debunk the myth - and groundless fear - that we humans are too many in number, or anywhere near too many. Do you find this important? If so, you may want to read her book, or get more general information from The Population Research Institute.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Contraception connection - 2

OK - contraception is the root of abortion, promiscuity, divorce, homesexuality, and a bunch of other ills. Let us proceed one step further and ask: what is the root cause for the contraception mentality?

One thing seems obvious: the root of contraception is not human nature, or nature in general. The most basic rule of Mother Nature, the most primal drive in all living things, the fundamental nature of every biological being, is procreation. Making allowance for occasional oddities and pathologies in individuals and small groups, any culture-wide trend away from procreation must be seen as a trend away from biological nature. It is for a good reason that those parts of the body are collectively called the reproductive system (duh!) - contraception just ain't natural.

lemming But, might there be some natural process that, in the right circumstances, works against the general rules of nature? The periodic self-destructive behavior of lemmings comes to mind. These small rodents, apparently driven by population pressures, instinctively strike out on a search for fresh living space, always transversing any rivers and lakes that block their downhill course, until they perish in great numbers by drowning in the ocean. Well, that's only partially true, and partially mythical. In response to high population density, some lemmings do migrate, and may swim across bodies of water seeking new habitat. But mass suicide is not their game. Like other living things, lemmings generally try to keep on living. (Read more here.)

By way of rough analogy, we seem, consciously or subconsciously, to be driven by perceived population pressures, by the conviction (and fear) that our numbers are too great. Even if not entirely natural, there is a certain logic in what follows. If we humans have procreated too much for our own good and the good of our fragile earth, then contraception may be seen as a good thing, and abortion as a repugnant but necessary fall-back procedure, and homosexual activity as benign and perhaps even noble, since it dissipates sexual energy with no threat of adding to the crisis. Those who have moral reservations about such practices may nonetheless have a vague anxiety and uneasiness about human population growth, which tends to quell their opposition to the moral disarray.

The sixty-four dollar question, the question which demands to be openly addressed, is this: Are human population levels really out of whack? Are we really too many in number? Or is over-population merely a deeply entrenched myth, with no factual basis?

There may be another question as well. If human population is out of control, then who or what ought to be controlling it? Individual families? Governments? A world government? A population control agency? But, first things first. First, the sixty-four dollar question...

(To be continued.)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Contraception connection

When a society accepts and approves of contraception, it thereby accepts and approves of divorcing the act of procreation from the responsibilities and duties of parenthood. This casual treatment of human sexuality leads to acceptance of abortion, and to a wide range of other things as well.

When sex loses its power to transmit life, it becomes just a fun and casual pasttime. Inhibitions and sanctions against sexual adventurism break down. The illusion of freedom from weighty ramifications lead more and more people to indulge in promiscuity, adultery, etc. When sex loses its power to transmit life, the unique rights and responsibilities of the married state are forgotten. Divorce becomes common, and confusion grows as to what marriage is all about.

If marriage is not about transmitting life, if it is just a contract between two adults, then who's to say those two adults must be of opposite sex? Who's to say it must be limited to two? Who's to say it must be limited to adults? Who's to say it must be limited to humans? What is thought ridiculous today may be seriously considered and adopted at some future point, if marriage is not about the transmission of life.

Contraception is the root of abortion. It appears to be the root of much else that afflicts our troubled culture.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Roots of abortion

The crime and the tragedy of abortion doesn't begin when the young mother walks through the doors of the abortion clinic. It starts when that young woman is taught erroneous things about her nature, and when the young man is likewise led to believe lies about human life in general, and his own in particular. It starts when Planned Parenthood is invited into the classroom to fill impressionable minds with deceptions about the nature of human sexuality. That sex is all about having fun, that there is no connection between sex and adult responsibility, that the duties of parenthood can be divorced from the act of procreation. That there are a plenitude of pills and devices to secure such a divorce. That, when these fail, there is always the neighborhood clinic to take care of the little problem.

Of course, Planned Parenthood is happy to provide all of these 'services', enriching its coffers with every abortion performed and every purchase of pills and condoms. The consequences are broken lives, loss of family stability, and a general moral rot throughout society. Not to mention the slaughter of the innocents. Yet the travesty continues unabated.

Why so little outrage? Why do so few cry, even fewer protest, and even fewer try to fight the evil? So few Christians will even bother to cast their vote accordingly. Is the act of voting pro-life so very difficult and inconvenient? Or might there be some deeper reason? Does abortion have an even earlier beginning?

One credible suggestion is that societal acceptance of abortion really begins with its acceptance of contraception. This is the Planned Parenthood creed, and fundamental fallacy - that sex and procreation can and should be divorced. Accept this notion, and casual sex follows. Then abortion.

As every gardener knows, it does little or no good to nip a weed's leaves. You've got to get the thing out by its roots. Until pro-lifers recognize and confront its contraceptive roots, Planned Parenthood and the abortion juggernaut will be intractable.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Repentance - 2

It bears repeating. The worst aspect of our degenerate culture is not widespread and legalized abortion, nor same-sex 'marriage'. These two frontal attacks upon moral values are both symptoms of a deeper malaise: the popular refusal to call sin by its name.

God, who is holy, would be wholly just to consign each one of us to eternal damnation. Indeed, that is what we deserve. To break God's law is to commit a crime of infinite gravity, to spit in the face of the Almighty. Even a single minor transgression, correctly and honestly appraised, demands a level of supreme atonement and reparation that no finite mortal could satisfy. None of us is good enough; all of us rightly deserve Hell.

Only in the light of this bad news can we appreciate the Good News - that Jesus has taken all this upon himself in his perfect act of atonement. Only the one who recognizes his guilt before God can understand God's mercy.

Here's the point: God's plan is extremely lenient -- but not automatic. Despite the common assumption to the contrary, God's offer is not unconditional. The New Testament puts forth three conditions for our salvation: faith, repentance, and baptism. This is very, very lenient. To escape our just eternal punishment and attain undeserved eternal happiness, all we have to do is believe, repent of our sins, and be baptized. What ridiculously light conditions! But not automatic.

Repent - acknowledge your sins. It's the easiest thing in the world to do. Just agree with God that your sins are evil, and ask forgiveness.

It's also the most difficult thing to do. I suppose this has to do with pride. Rather than confess and receive forgiveness, we think of all kinds of ways to justify ourselves, rationalize, make excuses. I'd much rather patiently explain all about my extenuating circumstances - how my deeply ingrained sin isn't all that bad, probably not even really sinful.

But consider: In all the Bible and in all Church teaching, there are examples and stories galore of God's mercy in forgiving confessed and repented sin. But you'll not find a single instance of God accepting an excuse.

So, the crimes of abortion and militant homosexuality are not the primary problems. The assertion of the 'right' to kill pre-born babies, and of the 'right' to practice homosexuality, etc. - that's what will condemn us, both collectively as a culture, and as individuals who will one day stand naked before the just and holy God.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Incarnational faith

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.
Last Saturday, Lenore and I were talking with two friends, strong Catholic converts. The 6:00 bells rang, and we paused to recite the Angelus. Then we resumed our conversation about the physical aspects of Catholicism: kneeling and standing at Mass, the employment of our bodies in our worship.

The Annunciation The Angelus prayer commemorates that singular moment in history when Mary said yes to the angel, and the second person of the Holy Trinity came to physically dwell within her: God Incarnate, God in the flesh. This is central to the ancient Christian faith, that Jesus was both true God and true man. The baby growing within Mary's womb was no disembodied spirit, but a physical baby, who also happened to be God. Like any human, Jesus nursed at Mary's breast, dirtied his diaper, slept, cried, and grew. He lived a completely human life, working with his hands and growing tired and requiring rest. He felt real pain when he was scourged and nailed to the cross. He shed real blood, and died a real death. It was through his physical human flesh that Jesus won our salvation. From this it becomes clear how we, too, composed of both body and spirit, must live out our faith. Faith involves the whole person: spirit, mind, and body. This is incarnational faith. So, standing and kneeling are a part of our worship, and not mere incidentals. We employ the Sacraments and sacramentals: Baptism, Holy Communion, bells, incense, etc.

Almost as ancient is the Gnostic denial of all the above. To the Gnostic, Jesus was either not truly human, or (like the present-day Jehovah's Witnesses believe) not truly God. Typically, this denial of the Incarnation turns the life of faith into a purely spiritual affair, with minimal thought given to our physical nature and the material world.

Protestantism can run the gamut between these two extremes, but classic Protestantism is also likely to see faith as spiritual, comprised solely of an internal relationship with Jesus. Any emphasis upon physical trappings like rosaries, holy water, ashes, and such may be regarded as unnecessary and even as superstitious or idolatrous. To the Evangelical Protestant, salvation comes via an internal, purely spiritual encounter with Jesus, and baptism is just an act of obedience following that faith experience. To the Catholic, Baptism is the channel of saving grace, the water just as necessary as the internal faith response. To the Evangelical, the Lord's Supper is a symbolic remembering. To the Catholic, the Eucharist is the real Body and Blood of Jesus. So it is with the other Sacraments as well - in the Catholic understanding, each one truly confers God's grace by physical means.

One more Sacrament in particular bears mentioning: Matrimony. In incarnational terms, marriage consists of some essential physical realities, namely, the union of two bodies, one male and one female, with the usual result of producing more incarnations. For that is precisely what every human conception involves: the knitting together of a physical body with an immortal soul to produce an incarnate spiritual being. This explains the incarnational believer's horror over the crime of abortion, the murder of a priceless human being, newly incarnated in the image of God. To overlook or downplay the seriousness of this crime involves a Gnostic-like denial of the pre-born's humanity. Likewise, many folks attempt to redefine human marriage via a Gnostic-like spiritualizing, a denial of the physical essence of marriage. The incarnationalist can never facilely spiritualize these essentials, and can never divorce the physical from the spiritual.

And that's why I find the typical 'Catholic' politician so repugnant. It was, ironically, our only Catholic President, JFK, who popularized the current mantra of not letting his personal religious beliefs interfere with his job as President. Such is not true Catholicism, but is the cry of the Gnostic: Let me be personally and privately and spiritually religious with no Incarnation, with no outward and concrete expression of that faith. The early Gnostics could pretend to be Christian while doing nothing to warrant martyrdom. The modern one claims to be privately spiritual while conveniently accepting or promoting the politically correct heathenism of modern culture.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Randomocracy

I have long held that our last good president was the other George W... George Washington. The reason he was our last good president is that he was the last one who didn't really want the job.

Political ambition ought rightly to be seen as a pathological condition, blinding its subject and preventing him from making clear and unbiased decisions. Anyone so afflicted should therefore be excused from the responsibilities of holding any public office. Perversely, our present system of democracy virtually assures that all who hold office will be infested with political ambition, else they would never endure the rigors of campaigning and of selling themselves to voters.

The solution? Instead of the exclusive profession of a few twisted souls, the holding of public office ought to be a duty incumbent upon all citizens, like jury duty is right now. The names of all eligible voters would be stored in a database, and a name selected at random for each office. dice If your name is drawn, you must serve, whether you want to or not. When your term is served, you are exempt from further service, and may return to your chosen life. Many offices could be performed as part-time employment, with minimal impact upon the office-holder's real job. The compensation would be kept modest, to underscore that this is a civic duty, and to further discourage political ambition.

This method would populate our government with homemakers, plumbers, teachers, farmers, programmers, and the like. Some with political ambition would still be randomly selected, but their relatively small numbers amongst the sane majority would be tolerable. A modified version might be to randomly select three names for each office, giving each candidate 15 minutes of prime time to present himself, then hold the election, all within a space of a few days. This would allow voters to weed out the most extreme nutcases, while still handing the reins to non-politicians, and avoiding the perversity of political campaigns.

I cannot take full credit for this idea. It was first proposed by Harry Reasoner, 35 or 40 years ago, in one of the original broadcasts of "60 Minutes", when he did the commentary spot. I think Harry proposed the idea with tongue firmly in cheek. As a young man at the time, I immediately saw that, whatever Harry's intention, it was an excellent idea. (Remember: when Benjamin Franklin first proposed the Daylight Saving idea in his Poor Richard's Almanac, he likewise did so with a figurative wink of the eye.)

I'm not sure how this relates to randomocracy as recently proposed in British Columbia.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

SCHIP: A solution

President Bush's veto of the SCHIP expansion has Democrats complaining that he and other conservatives simply don't care about poor children. Republicans reply that the expansion costs too much money. I think I have the ideal compromise:

As I understand it, the vetoed proposal would expand, among other things, the age limit to include children up to 25 years of age. Leaving aside the question of whether a 25-year-old can reasonably be considered a child, I actually think the age expansion doesn't go far enough. Expand the age criteria just another 9 months - in the opposite direction - and the bill would probably garner plenty of Republican support. Heck, President Bush might even sign such an expansion. Such a nine-month expansion would not only save millions of children's lives every year, it would actually reduce the overall price tag, since federal policy now allocates a sizable chunk of tax dollars for the express purpose of removing health benefits for these very young children.

The reduction in expense might persuade some hard-hearted Republicans to go along with the new plan. And the compassionate Democrats, desiring above all to save children's lives, should also eagerly embrace the additional expansion. It's a win-win scenario!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

On taking offense

I'm sure you have noted, as have many others, the increase of victimhood in our culture. Probably the most common type of victim is the individual or group who claim to be offended about something, inferring that that constitutes a crime against some inalienable right of theirs.

To ask whether one has the right to never be offended is a question that pretty much answers itself, at least for most reasonable folks. The fact that lawsuits are being filed, and won, on the basis of someone's manufactured offense over holiday decorations or a school mascot, is a sad indicator of rampant irrationality.

But beyond that, it occurs to me that taking offense is a sure sign of immaturity, something that the well-adjusted adult ought never to experience. Or if he does, it ought to signal something that he needs to work on. Not to advocate for the insensitive jerk who goes about deliberately insulting others, but to suggest that the mature adult ought not let such behavior rattle his cage, so to speak. Easier said than done, of course.

If I am insulted or ridiculed or criticized, it is either 1) for something over which I have no control (e.g. my race, height, age, etc.), or 2) for something I could change if I wanted to (e.g. my faith, values, political opinions, etc.)   If it's for the former, as a mature adult, I ought already to be at peace with those factors outside of my control, in which case I can simply shrug off the insults or criticisms as pointless and moronic, and think no more of them.

If the criticism is for the latter, for something I can change, then there are two further possibilities: either 2a) the criticism is valid, or 2b) it is not. If not, I can again just shrug it off. If it is valid, then I ought to take it to heart. To be insulted in such a case is to say, in effect, that I prefer to cling to my inferior opinion and feel insulted, rather than adopt the better view.

And how to tell which criticisms are valid? Weigh the opposing views against one another, and use the faculty of reason to sort it out. Easier said than done. But it can be done. Therefore it must be done.

If you can keep your head when all about you
 are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
 but make allowance for their doubting, too,...
   - from "If", by Rudyard Kipling
Easier said than done. But, really now, isn't it pitiful that a lack of mature strength be treated as an inalienable right?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Pink deception

pink ribbon There has been a recent spate of 'pink' promotions in support of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. In the grocery store or discount mart, a brand-name product will sport a pink ribbon on its package, with the promise that a percentage of sales will go to this foundation. Baseball players swing pink bats and NFL teams promote pink memorabilia, all for this same promotional goal.

Now, promotions of this sort may be noble and laudable. The problem is with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The days when charitable organizations could be counted on to be simply charitable are, sadly, days long past. In this case, the Susan G. Komen foundation is a significant sponsor of Planned Parenthood, which is, of course, the world's leading abortion provider and advocate for legalized abortion. The pitiful irony here is that there is significant evidence linking procured abortion and breast cancer - that is, that women who end their first pregnancy by abortion set up conditions in their body that highly elevate the risks of developing breast cancer. Yet SGK has chosen to ignore or facilely dismiss this research. One may legitimately ask whether its alliance with Planned Parenthood has derailed the SGK foundation from its pure stated goal of seeking cures and preventive measures for breast cancer.

I encourage you to research this for yourself. Some relevant links can be found at this Abortion and Breast Cancer site. You may also want to run a Google search on, say, breast cancer abortion to find many more links, both pro and con, regarding the possible connection between abortion and breast cancer, and a search on Susan G. Komen Planned Parenthood for links regarding the alliance between SGK and PP. The honest folks at Life Decisions International have also researched this alliance in a very accurate and balanced manner.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Taste and See

O taste and see that the Lord is good!" -Ps. 34:8 [RSV]
One final thought on the theme of atheism vs. faith:

If a key point is free will, then an even greater point is simple experience. What I mean is this: The atheist proclaims that God does not exist, or that God is dead. The believer replies, "I'm sure you are mistaken, because I just talked to Him!"   God has become, not a feeble wish or a cerebral notion, but as real as any human friend, perhaps the Realest Friend of all.

Sound logic and reason may lead one to the brink of faith, to the valley of decision. In the end it takes a raw act of the will, a deliberate choice, to make the leap. This leap, regardless of how reasonable, is often rather frightening. Sort of like jumping out of the moving airplane. You're pretty sure the parachute will open, and yet your heart is in your throat as you take the plunge.

What happens when you take the plunge is what I mean by experience. You jump, half doubtful and frightened, and -- you are caught safely in the Everlasting Arms. Once that happens, you can never be the same. You may turn aside, (backslide, as the Baptists say), you may doubt, you may end up rejecting the love once keenly and joyfully received. Or you may grow daily in that love and in the depth of your faith. For most believers, life becomes a messy quagmire of sometimes rejecting and sometimes growing. But once you've had an experience of God, you're never the same. You walk with the Lord, not just because it's logical and reasonable, and not merely because you've chosen to. You simply know that it's real, beyond raw will and beyond rational cogitation. You just know. You no longer know about God; you've met Him, and know Him as a person.

They say the proof is in the pudding. The Psalm verse cited above is an invitation to taste the pudding. Go ahead, take the plunge, and see for yourself.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

40 Days for Life

40 Days for Life Two different Pro-Life organizations have sent flyers promoting the 40 Days for Life campaign of prayer, fasting, and vigils in cities across America for an end to the abortion holocaust. This program seems like the real deal. I haven't heard whether there is anyone organizing for this specifically in the Superior, WI area, but, whether or not that is the case, it strikes me as an effort worthy of individual participation. The 40 days are from September 26 to November 4, 2007. I will keep the link up in the top of the left side bar as a reminder.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Reason and volition

Pseudo-atheism and pseudo-intellectualism aside, the possibility of true, rational atheism should be allowed as well. Since my last blog post, I have spent some time in perusing and cogitating and writing about the relative merits of atheistic vs. Christian/theistic systems of thought from within the discipline of logic. But the writing part, while still just the hint of an insignificant beginning, soon became much too long and involved for a blog post. If you are so inclined, you may read and judge for yourself at http://www.bmi.net/~dogpatchnorth/atheism1.php. This may be a work in progress, as I think of more to say, or respond to critical review.

Cutting to the chase here on the blog, I believe that a key point in favor of theism is the issue of free will, or volition. In the atheistic paradigm, man is composed solely of physical stuff; there is no spiritual component. This means he is driven by a combination of genetics and environment, determinism is the rule, and free will cannot exist. The theistic system allows for free will, and the Christian system positively affirms it.

Ironically, this rational point reveals the relative unimportance of rational argumentation. Sound reason may lead to faith, but if we have free will, each individual has the ability to choose whether or not to believe, whether for rational reasons or otherwise.

The opposite also applies. If we lack free will, rational disputation is pointless. The determinist says that everyone behaves in a determined way. He says to the Christian, "You believe because of your genetics, upbringing, and environment." The Christian replies, "You choose to disbelieve." It's a rational stalemate.

My earlier point still applies (see "Pseudo-atheism" below). Within the system of materialism and determinism, evangelism is absolutely pointless. Within the free will system, rational disputation may not sway many minds, but, together with other means of evangelistic outreach, it does at least make some sense.

I, for my part, have chosen to believe that I have the freedom to choose. Why? Because it's more reasonable.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Pseudo-intellectualism

In a similar vein as the previous post, there seems to be an abundance of illogic posturing as intelligence.

One prime example of this is the individual who smugly dismisses religious faith as irrational. The presumption seems to be that folks who believe in God must be gullible fools, lacking either the intellectual competence or the honesty to question the tenets of their faith, who blindly cling to the comforts of religion. The pathetic irony is that the reverse appears to be the case. At least, I have yet to hear an avowed atheist present a rational argument for his lack of faith.

Most of the supposed arguments for unbelief end up being little more than contrived diatribes. Some priest or minister or devout Christian was guilty of such and such scandalous behavior. Or the stereotypically distorted versions of the Inquisition or Crusades are presented as somehow proving the insincerity or hypocrisy of believers. Never mind that these are ad hominem arguments. Never mind that the facts are usually distorted beyond recognition. Never mind that authentic Christians invariably admit their own sinfulness, and the sinfulness of their Church. What is perplexing is how anyone can jump from the problem of human sinfulness to an atheist conclusion, as if God's existence depended upon man's perfection. Huh?

Another tack is that of science; it is suggested that scientific advances have made religion obsolete. The mysteries that in the past confounded man and made him turn to religion are now within our grasp; we have only to discover via the scientific method that which we still do not understand. But this is also childishly simplistic, and wholly unscientific. Science can only concern itself with empirical data, with the observable traits of matter and energy. Science can never address such non-material realities as love, truth, or beauty. It is obviously beyond the competence of science to either prove or disprove the existence of God.

On and on it goes. Turns out, atheism appears to be the fragile and irrational system, depending upon blind, unthinking adherence. If there is an atheist out there who can present a cogent syllogism for his system of thought, I would love to hear it, I really would. If I could convince myself that God was just the invention of humans, life would become much more convenient. I could make up my own rules, readily justify my own behavior, and, best of all, condescendingly pity those poor foolish believers. Trouble is (sigh!), the sheer illogic of this idea stops me every time.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Pseudo-atheism

The fool hath said in his heart, no God.
  -Ps 14:1 [KJV]*

'No God' symbol Public professions of atheism are becoming more common. In many cases, they are also becoming much more militant, demanding prohibitions against religious activities, the removal of religious symbols and names, etc. Moreover, a number of books have recently appeared that could be characterized as atheistic evangelism, seeking to win the minds and hearts of their readers over to atheistic beliefs and values.

Such atheistic activism strikes me as highly oxymoronic. How so? Glad you asked...

If I were convinced that God did not exist, I'm not sure what shape my priorities and values would take, but they would definitely pertain to this life on earth. I might be concerned with a peaceful home life, or a safe neighborhood. I might focus on earning a comfortable living, or staying as healthy and fit as possible. I might be interested in acquiring fame or political influence. But if I knew that God did not exist, I would definitely not be pursuing any other-worldly or spiritual goals.

I might secretly envy believers' faith, or I might snicker at their simple-mindedness. I might even despise them for their foolishness. But I can't see why I would want to bother to interfere with their religious practices. As long as I am not adversely affected by it, why should I care? Display all the religious symbols that you want, and I will happily ignore them.

And why on earth would I try to convert believers over to unbelief? What would be my motive? The motive for Christian evangelism is the hope of salvation beyond death, to avoid Hell and gain Heaven, and to help others to do the same. Without this eternal, other-worldly dimension, Christian evangelism makes no sense. Thus, atheistic 'evangelism' makes no sense, either.

Ergo, the kind of evangelism and activism we are witnessing cannot reasonably be ascribed to true atheism. Ah, but perhaps what we have here is pseudo-atheism. Perhaps what we are seeing is an increasing number of militantly active people who realize that God does indeed exist -- and who hate Him.

*The KJV actually reads thus:
    The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
with the words 'There is' italicized to indicate that they do not appear in the original, but were added by the English translators. Think about it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Billionth birthsecond

1,000,000,000
It's probably a guy thing, like watching the car's odometer roll over to 100,000 miles. But observing birthseconds is really no different than celebrating birthdays, when you think about it. Specifically, the occurrence of one's billionth birthsecond is a rather singular milestone in one's life span. It is the only birthsecond magnitude one can observe with any real appreciation. The next lower magnitude, that of 100 thousand seconds, occurs when one is just a tad over 3 years old, too young to grasp what such a number entails. The next larger magnitude, 10 billion seconds, occurs at an interval of over 300 years; no chance to observe that event.

Just shy of 32 years of age, the billionth birthsecond could be seen as a sort of coming of age. You're a complete adult now, having typically completed your formal education, embarked upon a career and vocation, fully established, experienced, and capable of assuming leadership while retaining the strength of youth. The moment marking the prime of life. Very close to a hobbit's coming of age at 33 years (ref. The Lord of the Rings).

One could also make an argument for observing one's conceptionsecond (and conceptionday), as that is when one's life really began. We are all about nine months older than our birth age. But it's difficult to determine the exact day, much less the time of day, marking that beginning. Births tend to be more public events than conceptions, and so birthdays and birthseconds are more readily observed.

At any rate, I think it a worthy and interesting subject for thought. So much so that my first foray into javascript programming is a series of simple calculators that compute the elapsed seconds between two dates and times, and so facilitate (among other things) the observance of one's billionth birthsecond. If you're interested, check it out at http://cyberjerry.net/dogpatch/seccalc.php. If you're 31+ years of age, your billionth birthsecond is near!

(I wish I'd thought of this 25 years ago, in time for my own personal odometer event.)

Note: Your browser appears to have javascript disabled. The linked page requires javascript, and will not run properly, if at all, without it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Cultivating patriarchy

At the risk of stating the obvious, I would like to fold two previous posts into a single simple thought:

If patriarchy is the cornerstone of civilization, and if civilization requires vigilant cultivation, then we ought to deliberately and patiently work to reassert a patriarchal structure for society. Feminism and egalitarianism are ideological failures.

I say this should be obvious and self-evident, but, unfortunately, many folks have not yet recognized this to be so.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Cultivation

At work in the garden A garden is an excellent metaphor for civilization. A garden is a thing of nature, and most of us gardeners are nature lovers. At the same time, a garden goes beyond nature; it is a harnessing of natural energy to dramatically enhance nature's fruitfulness and loveliness. In harmony with nature, the garden moves beyond mere nature.

In a similar way, let no one deny that man is a natural being, an animal with all the drives, instincts, and appetites thereof. But the basis of civilization is man moving beyond mere animal nature. In harmony with his animal nature and with his unique nature as a rational and spiritual being, civilized man seeks to harness his natural energy in a controlled and orderly manner.

Unfettered nature is not a garden. Unfettered nature is a random mixture of wild plants and animals. Left untended, a garden will easily revert to such a wild and unordered randomness, the weeds and vermin moving in and obliterating the order and fruitfulness. A garden takes hard work and constant vigilance; a weed patch requires no effort.

To be sure, there is beauty and life outside the garden fence, and the gardener might be tempted to wonder if his labor is worthwhile. Does it really make much difference? A casual observer might even accuse the gardener of being a control freak, of engaging in repression and manipulation. Indeed, from some plants' perspective, the gardener would be have to be regarded as a violent killer, spending much of his energy in uprooting or digging up the plants he doesn't like. So, it would seem that the more liberal and caring approach would be to cease such mean-spirited oppression, and instead allow full rein to the uninhibited forces of nature. Relax, let the forces of nature flow freely, and celebrate the increasing diversity and freedom that would result.

Nice beets from the garden But time is the proof. In April, the garden looks rather barren compared to the wild meadow. By mid-July, the superior fruitfulness of the garden is apparent. And later still, when the bitter winds of January howl outside the door, the gardener's well-stocked larder and root cellar remove all doubts about the garden's worth.

My point is, of course, that our culture's moral demise, its 'Slouching Towards Gomorrah', is a very effortless movement, and may even appear quite attractive, but will prove fruitless and barren in the end.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Folding table

folding table Over a month now since any comments have been added to the 'Roundtable' piece below, so I guess that particular discussion has petered out, and I will now remove the sidebar invitation. (But feel free to continue to comment on that or any other article in this blog.)

Thanks to 'Summerfields' and 'Deepwoods Mike' for your comments in the Roundtable. I was hoping for more of a sharp exchange, a real roundtable, and so was sorry that no one of opposing viewpoint expressed any comments. Especially disappointed that no Herald staff responded to my specific invitation for them to explain their policy (cf. our email of June 8).

That policy continues to mystify me. Week after week, the Herald pays money for the dissident comments of Father McBrien, ostensibly in the interest of a broad-minded freedom of thought. But the Herald will not contract with true Catholic writers, and will only print a single comment by any one reader, with no opportunity for clarification or rebuttal. Their support for freedom of thought would seem to be rather one-sided.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Sign 'Stop CEDAW' petition

C-Fam logo Related to the previous post, I would like to invite anyone interested to sign another online petition. This one is to urge our Senators to not ratify the CEDAW treaty. This U.N. treaty is ostensibly designed to protect women's rights, and may have innocuously begun thus. But it has now become the means by which U.N. thugs pressure member nations to legalize abortion, same-sex marriage, even prostitution.

Read more about at it this C-Fam webpage, and sign the petition there. It only takes a moment.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Thanatos - 2

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is the official U.N. facility for seeking to reduce human fertility worldwide. This means pressure on developing nations to legalize abortion (of course), and also entails incentives for sterilization programs, often coercive ones.

The latest "Friday Fax" from C-Fam details how most of the funding for UNFPA is coming, interestingly, from rich nations whose own population decline is an obvious problem for their future prosperity. The current manifestation of Thanatos, then, is apparently quite evangelical. The same folks who are bent upon their own extinction want to proactively spread their neurosis.

It would appear from this same C-Fam report that the United States is a sort of battleground nation in all this. Under The Bush Administration and the Kemp-Kasten amendment, the United States is currently witholding funds for UNFPA, while Democrats want to reinstate funding.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Patriarchy - 2

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.
  - Malachi 4:5,6 [RSV]

This was the reading for morning prayer this past Sunday, the Solemnity of the birth of John the Baptist. The scriptural reference to fathers and their children caught my attention, coming just one week after Fathers' Day. One week, also, after my last post on Patriarchy, which I might synopsize as follows: The best indicator of whether or not a particular human society is civilized is to ask whether or not men know their children, and children know their father.

Uncritical adoption of egalitarian and feminist ideals is feminizing our culture, often preventing fathers from acting like fathers (like men), and then despising them for being irresponsible. The more radical feminists openly deride fatherhood as useless or obsolete. Thus we droop slowly into savagery.

Looks like it's high time for the promised Elijah to come and turn us from our collective stupor.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Patriarchy

Thanks, Dad! Patriarchy, the word and the concept, has gotten bad press in the past few decades. And that's a shame, because patriarchy, a.k.a. fatherhood, is perhaps the key element of civilized society.

The mother-child bond is irrefutably primary, dictated by nature, by biology. In a completely natural (i.e. savage) society, the one stable relationship would be the one between mother and child. As social beings, humans would still congregate and form other, lesser relationships (when I hear "it takes a village to raise a child", I picture a circle of grass huts occupied by women and children, with the men off in the bush), but motherhood is primary.

Fatherhood is a bit more tenuous. It requires two steps that go beyond biology: 1) the bonding of the woman to one man, and 2) the acceptance of that bond by the man, the decision to shoulder responsibility. When the woman thus 'belongs' to the man, he can know that her children belong to him as well. Thus he will be motivated to care for the children whom he now knows as his own. Further, he will be motivated to care for his wife. And, thirdly, other men become his partners in this patriarchal arrangement, rather than sexual rivals. And all that makes civilization possible.

In simple terms, civilization consists of the domestication of men, the protection of women, and the nurturing of children in stable homes. And the early feminists were correct: this structure is patriarchal. Only by putting fathers in charge is it going to happen.

Put another way: Without fathers there would be no families (there would only be 'villages'). Without families, there would be no real civilization.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Global Warming - 2

This time I will quote someone else (who, in turn, quotes another), as a better appraisal of the Global Warming question. The outer quote is from Mick Eugene Hunt of G.A.P. (Genocide Awareness Project), and a fellow blogger:

We need rain. The weather is uncanny. Early heat wave, late freeze and now a drought. Global Warming? I don't know; it could be. Are we causing Global Warming? Maybe yes, maybe no, but if yes, not the way the GW crowd thinks. I have shared this passage before, but it bears repeating.

There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgement of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying.
  - Hosea 4:1b-3 [NIV]

Friday, June 8, 2007

Something for everyone

I have been quoted. No kidding. Little ol' corn-pone, backwoods hick Dogpatch of the North Jerry DePyper has been quoted on the Internet. Not once, but twice!

The first quote was no real surprise. Matt C. Abbott is a young Catholic writer (a good one), and I had e-corresponded a bit already with him in connection with issues detailed in the Roundtable post below. Matt has reproduced that first letter from Lenore and me to the Catholic Herald in an article on the RenewAmerica website. (Scroll about 1/3 down to see our letter referenced.) This is a website of Alan Keyes, and it's an honor for us to be included therein.

The other source is a bit more interesting. A site called "The Picket Line" advocates, among other things, tax resistance as one of its focal topics. In that vein, Dave Gross, quoting from my Strike Three! post below, identified me in his 30 May 2007 article as a rare "right-wing counterpart to left-wing war tax resisters". Again, I am honored, and I heartily accept the moniker.

Now, Alan Keyes and left-wing tax resisters may not represent extreme opposite poles. In fact, in an interestingly radical manner, they have much in common. But I think it's fair to claim that these two groups span a pretty wide ideological range, wouldn't you say? To be mentioned in a favorable light in two such diverse forums is gratifying indeed. Such broad appeal is seldom attained by even the big household names.

Maybe I should run for President.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Abortion is Genocide

22-week-old aborted baby As demonstrated in some previous posts, I take a dim view of changing the definitions of words to suit an ideological bias. Words mean things, and their accurate and honest usage is important. So I do not lightly make the statement equating abortion to genocide, or to the Holocaust.

I recommend the Abortion is Genocide article by Mick Eugene Hunt and this CBR page as providing good insights into why this is a fair statement. Another thinker made this succinct observation:

Abortion will continue to be trivialized until the American people understand the parallels between historical genocide and abortion genocide which is happening now -- contemporary genocide for which we ourselves are responsible.

And while we're on the subject of using words properly and honestly, how about naming abortion what it really is - the killing of a defenseless human being (and the maiming of another), rather than the euphemistic "termination of pregnancy". And start calling abortion clinics the slaughter-houses of pre-born human beings, rather than "centers of reproductive health".

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Dogpatch, Ergo Sum

As you can see, I have given my blog a new title, one that reflects the ideological and philosophical tenor that it has come to possess. The change comes with the addition of two new Dogpatch sites, as seen in the sidebar, "Dogpatch Journal", the true story behind Dogpatch of the North (the name of my homestead in the north woods), and "Dogpatch for sale" (Yes, I would like to move on to something else soon).

This, my original blog, will continue as before. Only the title has been changed.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Roundtable

Catholic publications: Embrace diversity of thought, or teach Catholic truth clearly?

Lenore and I recently wrote the following letter to our diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Herald of Superior, WI. The letter was printed in the May 3 edition:

In this information age, we can easily experience information overload. TV, Internet, books, all combine to create a cacophony of ideas and opinions on every subject imaginable. This may be quite suitable for political and ideological controversies, but the truth of our Catholic Faith must surely rise above such mere subjectiveness and speculation. The highest purpose of Catholic journalism must be seen in this light: to shine the light of the true Faith as a sure beacon and reliable guide in the midst of the chaotic and confusing cacophony in our world.

By publishing the left-leaning and often heretical ideas of Fr. Richard McBrien and Fr. Ron Rolheiser, the Catholic Herald is failing to achieve this high calling. Weighing their own supposed academic prowess and subjective opinions against 2000 years of consistent Church teaching and billions of believing saints, these two priests have no problem preferring the former. But such insufferable hubris is not the primary problem. To give these two a podium is to undermine one's own reliability as a source of Catholic teaching. Such has been the Catholic Herald's error.

Surely more authentically Catholic writers can be found -- writers such as Matt C. Abbott, Amy Welborn, or Russell Shaw, to name a few -- who have consistently written intelligent reflections on our Faith without departing from its truth. We call upon the Herald to replace McBrien and Rolheiser with real Catholics. Enough cacophony!

The May 17 edition contained 6 response letters, all of them opposed to ours, although we also received many favorable responses in person. Regretfully, The Herald does not include letters to the editor in its online version, so links to the written responses cannot be included here.

In light of the interest shown, this blog post is an invitation to engage in a roundtable discussion on the proper role of Catholic publications in the marketplace of ideas. Feel free to click here or on the comment link for this post (below) to read the roundtable discussion, and to add any comment you like. No comments will be edited or deleted unless they are obscene or exceedingly uncivil. The first comment is our letter as sent to The Herald in response to the 6 unfavorable responses.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

World Congress of Families

World congress of Families logo This just in from C-Fam, (a Catholic presence at the U.N.): The World Congress of Families in Warsaw, Poland successfully concluded this past Sunday. Among other items, I found this part of their report especially interesting:

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey touched on one of the more controversial debates in international law, and one in which the U.S. and Europeans have diverged during debates at the UN. She affirmed the position found in foundational human rights documents, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares that the family is legally above the state. More recent human rights treaties such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) have been used to argue that the family is just one of many institutions and does not deserve special protections by the state. Sauerbrey noted that "more than 2000 years ago Cicero spoke of the family as 'the seedbed' of the state. The state did not create the family; rather, families created the state."

A ray of hope, and Poland is truly a bright spot in the E.U.

Read the full text of the C-Fam statement, and visit the World Congress site for more info.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Healing the Culture: A book review

If you want to buy Healing the Culture, try this Life Principles link. You can also order it through ignatius.com, or call 1-800-651-1531.

The faculty of reason should be seen as the common denominator uniting people of various beliefs and persuasions. As rational beings, we have an obligation to use the discipline of logic and reason in addressing human difficulties and controversies.

Healing the Culture, by Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D., qualifies as a work of reason. Spitzer employs a step-by-step common sense approach to construct a framework of timeless and universal principles, and applies those principles to current cultural crises, namely, abortion and euthanasia. While disputes over these two issues are typified on both sides by political posturing, anecdotal arguments, and emotional pleas, Spitzer's reasoned and methodical approach is both refreshing and extremely important. It is an example of good philosophy that is practical, rational, and engaging.

The book: Healing the Culture Spitzer begins by defining four levels of happiness. The first level is characterized by immediate gratification, of maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. The second level is typified by the comparison mentality, of achieving competitive advantage and bolstering one's ego. The third level goes beyond self, toward seeking the good of others. The fourth and highest level of happiness is derived from giving and receiving ultimate or transcendant goodness -- Truth, Love, Justice, Beauty. These four levels move from the immediate to the enduring, from the shallow to the profound.

Next, Spitzer draws connections between one's view of happiness and one's view of other principles: success, self-worth, love, suffering, ethics, freedom, personhood, rights, and the common good. He treats each of these in depth, but perhaps personhood, when looking at abortion and euthanasia, is the critical point. Using rigorous logic, Spitzer concludes, quite reasonably, that every being of human origin should be considered a person, as I have noted in my previous post entitled "Persons". It is important to note that Spitzer does all this in a way that even an unbeliever would find compelling, providing that said unbeliever is honest, willing to think, and is a person of basic good will. It is also important to note the legal and cultural ramifications of these simple but profound ideas.

Pope John-Paul II repeatedly called upon Christians to build a 'culture of life'. Benedict XVI has emphasized the importance of using reason in our dealings with the culture. In my opinion, Healing the Culture fulfills both of these mandates, and is well worth reading, digesting, and sharing.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Why do i write 'i'?

As a general rule, i try to write using standard textbook English. So i use the male pronouns he, him or his rather than the inclusive but clumsy he/she, him/her, his/her, and the standard 'man' rather than 'humankind'. Moreover, i try to construct my sentences in a fairly standard manner, keeping in mind, for example, that a preposition is not a proper word type to end a sentence with. And that it's usually bad form to start a sentence with a conjunction. I likewise do my best to never split an infinitive. Not that i don't occasionally slip up inadvertently, but you get the idea.

But i have deliberately broken one rule of standard English, namely, spelling the word 'i' without capitalizing it (except when it begins a sentence). Why? I'll tell you why:

The better question would be why would i capitalize the nominative case of the first person singular pronoun? I don't capitalize other pronouns like 'me' 'we' 'she' 'you' 'they', etc. It's not a proper name. Other languages don't capitalize its equivalent ('yo' in Spanish, 'io' in Italian, etc.). Why does written English single this pronoun out as something special? Do we have a collective tendency toward narcissism? Might this subconsciously be the root cause for the Me generation complex? You might say that the unorthodox uncapitalized form not only makes more sense, but is a small attempt to de-emphasize self, to deliberately counter the 'me first' tendency implied by standard English.

The idea was first proposed to me by the folks at Miles Jesu, a small and humble lay religious order personally known to me in Chicago. In all their writings, they employed the lower case 'i', for pretty much the same reasons as i have just offered. (See this article, for one example.)

But now i see that, in their recent writings, these people have reverted to standard English. (See this article, for a more recent example.) I don't see an explanation for this, but i can guess that their reasons for reverting might go something like this:

The unorthodox approach may be well-intended, but mostly ineffective, and even more of a distraction than anything else. Words are meant to convey a meaning, and if the words draw attention to themselves by such non-standard usage, they lose their effectiveness. It could even be argued that such unorthodox writing style draws undue attention to the writer, an ironic defeat of the original intent to diminish self!

So, after giving this some thought, i think i'm ready for a personal compromise. I still reserve the right to spell the word 'i' as lower case in my personal notes and correspondence, but starting right now, I will revert to standard upper-case in my published writings, for the sake of clarity. This little crusade was fun, but rather pointless, if you know what I mean. The I's have it.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Homosexuality and same-sex marriage

We think that the sins we hug tight are ourselves, but we are wrong. They weigh us down, they deform us, they obstruct our sight.
  -Anthony Esolen

Having mentioned it in a few previous posts, this post is my endeavor to focus on the subject of homosexuality and same-sex marriage...

Tolerance

Tolerance is commonly invoked as an argument for legalizing or sanctioning same-sex marriage. Namely, that the mainstream majority heterosexual world must learn to accept people who are different, and not fear or hate homosexual individuals.

I have no problem with this sentiment as far as it goes. Certainly we should neither fear nor hate any other individual or group of people. But accepting people does not mean accepting all behavior without question. Tolerance, as i have argued in a previous post, does not necessarily entail the abandonment of behavioral standards.

Justice and equity

Another major premise is that allowing same-sex marriage is simply a matter of fairness and equity, that it is unjust to withold this basic human right from a group of people who just happen to have a different approach to sexuality.

The problem here is with an illogical view of marriage as a 'right', defined by human society. The unspoken assumption is that by altering the definition of marriage, we can change what it is. But true definitions don't work that way. Human rights, at least the important, inalienable ones, are natural rights, determined by nature. That's what makes them inalienable and universal. Likewise the real definition of marriage is not subject to arbitrary change. It is what it is. (See natural law argument below.)

If marriage could be redefined to include same-sex couples, then it could also be redefined to include triples or any number of individuals. (This idea is already being pursued.) It could also be redefined to include non-human partners - someone who wants to marry his dog (or goat?). Once you start claiming the ability to redefine such things, the sky's the limit. Lest you be tempted to dismiss this as reductio ad absurdum, remember that, not many years ago, same-sex marriage would have been considered an absurdity.

Science

Some assert that, since science has proven homosexuality to be biologically determined, it must be recognized as purely natural and on a par with heterosexual behavior.

Scientific theories come and they go. There have been some studies seeming to show a genetic basis for homosexuality, while others dispute that claim. The principle of natural selection demands that, for a 'gay gene' theory to hold up, a pleiotropic argument would have to be advanced as well. That is, there would have to be a corresponding genetic benefit to offset the obvious biological handicap of the homosexual trait. To date, there seems to be no hint of evidence for such a beneficial pleiotropy. (See this article for further articulation of this and other points.) Other theories currently being advanced point to either developmental causes or non-genetic organic (chemical or microbiotic) causes. While far from certain, this general tack seems to be more plausible than the fading 'gay gene' theory.

This is all interesting, but not terribly germane. The debate over what underlies homosexual tendencies can never address the nature of marriage, or its heterosexual essence. Neither can science ever really address the rightness or wrongness of human behavior. I suppose that moral theology and legal jurisprudence may both draw from the well of scientific knowledge, but science itself must be concerned only with empirical observation, and be silent on matters of judgment, else it ceases to be science and becomes ideology instead. (See my Epistemology post.)

Consider: There may well be organic or genetic factors that dispose some individuals to alcoholism. Would this make the consumption of alcohol into a human right? (Ask a highway cop that hypothetical question.) In the same way, the question of whether homosexual behavior is chosen or biologically determined is an interesting question, but it has no real bearing upon whether the behavior should be sanctioned.

Scripture

Due to man's inherent religious instinct, many have attempted to justify homosexual behavior on Scriptural grounds.

This invariably involves 'discovering' the sin of Sodom (Gen. 13:13, 19:4-11) to be inhospitality rather than homosexual rapaciousness. Further, stringent Mosaic laws (Lev. 18:22, 20:13, Deut. 23:17) against homosexual relations are facilely dismissed as outmoded and irrelevant. In the New Testament (Rom. 1:26,27, 1 Cor. 6:9, 1 Tim. 1:10), the Apostle Paul is condescendingly stereotyped as a homophobe, or as an unthinking product of the narrow culture of his day. (Of course, the moderns making this charge are not shaped by their own cultural biases!) And, most wonderfully, Jesus' lack of explicit mention of the subject is taken to mean that He endorses homosexuality.

This 'explaining away' of relevant texts is a classic example of Scriptural eisegesis, the reading into Scripture to attain a predetermined interpretation. Moreover, it betrays an attitude of hostility or at least condescension toward the Bible. Rather than docilely receiving Scriptural truth as a disciple should, such eisegesis involves a rather arrogant critiquing of Scripture, judging the Word of God instead of allowing oneself to be judged.

Rather than turn this blog post into a lengthy Bible study, i would invite anyone interested to search the Scriptures for yourself. If you avoid the heroic intellectual gymnastics described above, and stick to an honest exegesis, letting the Bible teach you, i think it will be obvious enough that every Bible passage that speaks of homosexual activity, in both Old and New Testaments, clearly treats it as sinful.

Love

Following from the above misunderstandings, many assert that Christian love demands the acceptance of same-sex relations as being normal and good.

But true love isn't characterized by a bland approval of everything. This would not be love, but complacency. Christian love flows from love of God, and from a desire to obey and honor God in all things. The Christian is commanded to love the sinner but hate the sin. To do less is actually a failure to love as Jesus commands us to. (Ref: the opening quote above.)

Jesus loves the sinner, and then calls the sinner to repentance and to holiness. That's what real Christian love looks like.

Defense against aggression

Homosexuals are often portrayed as a persecuted minority unjustly attacked and oppressed by the powerful majority. This may be the silliest argument of all.

With very few exceptions, the popular movement to resist same-sex marriage is just that - a resistance movement. The proactive aggression is clearly coming from the militant gay culture, seeking to overthrow centuries-old social and legal norms. The counter-movement seeks to protect the institution of marriage and the family from such undue and destructive aggression.

The arguments for tradition

Although the pro-family counter-movement is mainly a resistance and a reaction to militant homosexual advocacy, it also involves several of its own proactive and fundamental points:

Marriage as foundational

Briefly, this argument is for recognition of marriage as the very foundation of civilization. The sanctioning of heterosexual monogamous marriage advances the domestication of men, the protection of women, and the rearing of children in stable environments. It provides men with the means of knowing their children and thus the motivation to provide for them. It allows men to become co-workers with other men instead of rivals. In other words, marriage makes civilization possible. This is not to claim that civilization has perfectly achieved these benefits. It is to say that marriage is the means of achieving them. Other types of social arrangements cannot advance these same essential principles.

Therefore, to the extent that a society embraces and is founded upon marriage with all its rights and responsibilities, it will be civilized. To the extent that it eschews these principles, it will cease to be civilized. Do not imagine that man became civilized and then decided to 'invent' marriage. You could even say it was the other way around: Marriage 'invented' civilization.

From this simple point it can be seen that any redefinition of marriage would detract from these foundational principles. This would be, in effect, to move away from civilization and toward savagery.

Natural law

Closely associated with natural rights (life, liberty, etc.), natural law is law which is determined by nature, and so is valid even in the absence of statutory law or positive law.

So, natural law regarding marriage derives from the essential nature of marriage. In its very nature, marriage can only be the pairing of a man and a woman. The complementarity, mutual dependency, and potential fecundity of this arrangement are of the essence, and objectively so, not subject to arbitrary interpretation. (I also explored this thought further in a previous post.)

Common law

What nature is to natural law, history is to common law. The plain fact is that for centuries upon centuries human societies and their governments have recognized marriage as being between a man and a woman. The long-standing precedent is an important argument in its own right.

Some have disingenuously argued that, just as the long-standing institution of slavery was abolished, so should the common law precedent of monogamous heterosexual marriage be revisited. But for a long-standing law to be overthrown, it should first be proven to be flawed.

The American institution of slavery, only a couple of centuries old, was clearly flawed, and so its demise was just and right. Roe v. Wade, now 30+ years old, is also flawed. The common law institution of heterosexual marriage, millenia old, is not flawed. (In fact, as argued above, it can be seen as the foundation of civilization, and thus preceding all other legal precedents.)

Love and tolerance

As noted above (and here), the Christian concept of love goes way beyond mere passive acceptance, to the much more compassionate offer of repentance and forgiveness.

It is very honest and loving to agree with God that homosexuality is a problem, not a gift. Having homosexual tendencies and temptations is not in itself sinful. Exercising one's free will to engage in homosexual acts is sinful. But it doesn't end there; there is remedy in God's grace.

Repentance and forgiveness

There is first of all the remedy of forgiveness for sin. That is what Jesus died on the cross for, so that sinners could be forgiven. He didn't die so that we could excuse ourselves, or identify ourselves with our sin, but so that we could reject sin and be forgiven. This necessarily involves repentance - agreeing with God that our sins are evil, and that we should try to avoid doing them. The good news for all of us is that Jesus keeps on offering forgiveness for our repented sins, even when we fail again and again and again and again... I suspect that the vast majority of people repeat the same embedded and habitual sins over and over. That's not good, and one should always endeavor to gain mastery over such sin. But it's not beyond God's grace. Repeated sin, when confessed with contrition, is taken care of. Sin that is excused or rationalized is not. Jesus didn't die for our excuses, but for our sins.

Healing

There is sometimes a remedy for the underlying same-sex attraction as well. Jesus can and does heal individuals, replacing their interior brokenness with His wholeness. Miracles of grace still happen.

Holiness

For many, the homosexual feelings never go away. These individuals have a heavy cross to bear, one of chastity and self-control. In such cases, the decision to bear the cross is the only 'remedy'. This becomes their path to holiness, and their very powerful means of glorifying God, achieving their own sanctification, and making the world a better place. For one very moving example, see this story.

The call to holiness is, of course, given to all. The specific cross we each have to bear on our way is unique to each one.

From the Catechism

Here's what the Catholic Catechism has to say on the subject:

Chastity and homosexuality

2357. Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,[140] tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."[141] They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358. The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359. Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

Amen. Much more articulate than my blatherings.