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Friday, November 16, 2018

If You End Up At "The Church Is Wrong," Turn Around

I just read a really long piece from a Catholic guy who's same-sex attracted. "Gay," if you like. He was faithful. He lived in a great community. He was ashamed and afraid for a while. But when he was honest, it seems like he faced less hostility than he figured. Well, yeah. True Catholicism is love for literally everyone. Few practice it, but it's true. I can't claim success in that practice, but I do try. With God's power, I will succeed. Anyway, this guy believed in the Church's teaching, so he tried every celibate path known to mankind. I believe him. I can also believe it's terribly hard.

It's also true that he just gave up.

And there is a cottage industry of people not only ready to celebrate that, but ready to place the blame on orthodox faithful, who simply believe what the Church teaches on faith and morals. If you ask, "Is it really true that God said..." the answer is likely "Yes."

We don't follow the Church's teaching because we're fearful of those who don't, or how they live. We follow the Church's teaching on faith and morals because it is revealed by God, either in nature, or revealed supernaturally. If something about human beings and how they should live is revealed by God, it must be true. God cannot deceive, or be deceived. In all the chatter about inflexible people and their old traditions, they forget God. There could be a debate about whether a particular thing is revealed by God, but the Church can both discern that, and make it clear. The Church was founded by Christ Our Lord, and he can't deceive, or be deceived, either. He's God.

Some people say that the Holy Spirit blows in new ways and directions, but the Holy Spirit is also God. So either God contradicts Himself, or people are wrong. It also strikes me as especially convenient that people find these new interpretations where sex is involved.

Most of the time, I just wish people had the brass to say, "It's too hard; I'm giving up, and doing something else."

Outside this particular issue, someone was telling a story of someone they know who's "been together" with his girlfriend 5 years. To be plain about it, I got tired of the lack of clarity, and I said, "There is no 'together.' You're either married, or not married." My friend said, "That's a narrow-minded view." I replied, "Yeah, yeah, it is. You know what else is narrow? The way to Heaven."

Don't get me wrong; I understand weakness better than most people. If there weren't an authentic "gradualism," I'd have been tossed out of the Church on day 2. Bottom line, though: We're either made for God, or religion actually is "the opiate of the masses." If we choose the latter, there's no point in hectoring people about being more like Jesus, because Jesus would be a fiction, a figure for the imagination. Other people choose the former, but they are so fond of the pleasure of approval, they think somehow that they will avoid the hostility heaped on Jesus and His followers. Let me know how that works out.

I can remember the next leader of the free world saying that marriage involves a man, and a woman. 10 years ago. In fact, he said it was revealed by God, and that as a result, he didn't have the right to believe otherwise. Either the entire world has been composed of hapless bigots in every time and place, or people are making things up. I think people yell, "Love is love!" because they know it isn't.

Monday, November 12, 2018

You Shall Not Murder

We're still struggling to get this right. This one gets broken all the time, in every place you can think of. It's actually not a wonder that King David committed murder to cover up his adultery, because illicit sex makes men unable to think clearly. How many people today are committing a worse crime to cover their shame?

You can drop balloons from the ceiling of a sports venue to celebrate the chance to become the leader of the free world. Imagine the fawning press. Imagine the euphoria, and rightly so. You might even win. I dare the Washington Post to ask that man about his meditations on "You shall not murder." I would like to see it.

Even the second-best newspaper in the land is apt to cloud the matter with an array of euphemisms. We let them, really. In a lot of ways, no one likes to be uncomfortable. I'd rather ask him if he thinks Villanova can beat Duke in basketball. The smoke from the evil incense offered at the wicked altar smells like springtime flowers.

People have this funny way of needing to be heroes. It's almost like we're made for something big, you know? But if a man is a coward and a failure, he has to pretend he isn't.

This culture isn't "sensitive," it's guilty. Several million camels have been swallowed, and there are still gnats around. We somehow think if we stay active, the truth will not find us. How is that working out?

I don't have the answer for you, necessarily. I won't tell anyone what to think when the familiar scenes play out, as they tend to do. I do know that reality has a way of intruding, forcing us to reflect on things we'd rather ignore.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Thoughts On The Elections

It went about how we all thought: the Democrats took the House, and the Republicans strengthened their hold on the Senate. In 2 years, the GOP will have more seats to defend in the Senate. That should benefit the Democrats. Events, of course, have a way of upending that, as always.

I absolutely think this election was a referendum on President Trump. I also think he both hurt, and helped his party. The moderate GOP of Romney and Kasich is dead, at least in the Congress. They lost over and over in districts carried by Clinton. They'll keep losing, until Trump is gone. There was nothing to be learned for the young progressive Democrats. They'll feel vindicated by their close losses, and give no quarter to the disaffected moderate Republicans. I call all that a net negative for the nation. After all, the establishment found the same hostility within the GOP.

I don't mourn for the loss of Senator Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana. I'll tell you why. Even if he's less enthusiastic about abortion than activists would want him to be,--even having personal convictions against it--he isn't willing to speak about it as a matter of public morality, and objective reality. It helps Democrats even to this day to appear to struggle with it, even as a matter of religious conviction. Yet that natural law reality is not being discussed. It's not a matter of religious conviction, as such; it is a matter of basic moral reasoning. There will, and ought to be, an ongoing discussion about the surrounding economic and social circumstances that fuel abortion. I have no problem with a gradualism of many kinds, with respect to which evils to combat first. That said, I have no use for politicians who cannot see the moral issue clearly, and to speak accurately about it. I suppose that results in having no use for most politicians.

So even as it may be of a benefit that the Democrats are getting younger, and less white--for a slew of good reasons--this moral blight upon them tempers any celebrating I might do, as thoroughly disgusted and disaffected as I may be with the GOP. It is true that the GOP have ceased to be a serious political party, essentially ceding or denying a great many issues of great consequence. They have become servants of their voters' irrational appetites and resentments. They deserve whatever electoral disaster befalls them. Nevertheless, I don't see a case for joining the Democrats. The same things are true of them.

If there is anything left of our nation, we'll need leaders with more courage, wisdom, and foresight. I don't mind saying, perhaps the nation needs me. That's neither here nor there, for now.

I lament the continued death and dearth of civility, not as a matter of sentiment, but as the means to create the civic space to think, to reason together, and to compromise. Notice we don't even make gestures of civility and unity toward opponents anymore. That is tragic.

I was overall satisfied for now, at the results. Anything other than divided government would have been worse in the short-term.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Kidnapping Is Wrong, But...

Would it really be that wrong to kidnap Dr. Patrick Deneen, and force him to go on a car trip with me, and Confirmation Sponsor Guy? Does he even know how awesome that would be? [Probably not, since you said "kidnapping".--ed.] It's a term of art, OK? [It's also an aggravated felony in most states.--ed.] Details, details! Anyway, he would become aware of my elite fanboy status, which is fine. It's not my fault his books are great! Whether he wins the argument(s) is almost secondary to the sheer pleasure in reading the guy, in thinking his thoughts after him, and so forth. I definitely wish I had studied political science with him as an instructor! [Are you ever going to review "Why Liberalism Failed"?--ed.] Yes. My real life has intruded, but yes. And then I'm going to read Dr. Jordan Peterson. He's earned the right. I'm guessing Deneen has better things to say, but everyone is reading, watching, and talking about Peterson. I might want this blog to be relevant at some point. [Are you now saying Deneen is irrelevant?--ed.] Absolutely not! But if you translate his name from the original Gaelic or whatever it is, it means, "papist niche market". [Touche.--ed.] So there! [So you're boldly implementing Deneen's grand vision of localism, tradition, and virtue ethics by capitulating to market demand for Jordan Peterson.--ed.] Exactly! Uhh, wait.

So anyway, I think the blog will be fairly entertaining the next few weeks. Stop in! America's foremost public intellectuals have their books shredded--I mean, reviewed--by yours truly! And no kidnapping. Hopefully.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Love Is The Answer, Redux

I was thinking about my favorite movies, and especially what makes them effective in terms of pathos. The writer sets up for the things he wants you to feel; he or she seeds the ground, so to speak, so that when the big climax comes, it doesn't feel forced, cheap, or silly. One of the great things about the troika of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley--better known as Kirk, Spock, and McCoy--is that those actors spent a lot of time thinking about their characters in relation to the others. What would it be like if I were this guy, and these other two guys were my closest friends in the universe? Everything you would say, or could say, changes as a result. In the greatest scene in Star Trek history--the climax of The Wrath of Khan--the whole thing was set up by another scene in Spock's quarters. Kirk just found out that someone has blocked his radio transmission with Dr. Carol Marcus, as they tried to find out who is playing games with Marcus's Genesis project. The Enterprise is ordered to investigate, and now Admiral Kirk is authorized to take command. (Captain Spock is technically in command, training Starfleet cadets.)

Kirk is emotionally invested in convincing Spock that he has no interest in poaching his command. He's possibly feeling guilt from having done so many years before, when he took command from an inexperienced Will Decker at the outset of the V'Ger probe crisis. Spock first says his first iconic axiom in response to Kirk's continued resistance to take command. "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." Kirk continues his protest, and Spock says, "Jim, you proceed from a false assumption. I am a Vulcan; I have no ego to bruise." Spock tells him that his "first best destiny" is commanding a starship, and quite probably, the Enterprise. Kirk never should have accepted the promotion to Admiral, Spock says. And then Spock ends the scene with this: "You are my superior officer. You are also my friend. I have been, and always shall be, yours." Kirk takes his next steps boldly, in the confidence of that support and loyalty. When Spock later sacrifices himself to save his comrades using the same words he used in the prior scene, Kirk realizes the depth of Spock's love, for him, and for the crew. Powerful bookends.

As a side-note, many people remind us rightly that love is not a feeling, but a determined willing of the good for another. Observers often say these things in response to a perceived pervasive sentimentalism without content. Yet it is also true that strong emotions of thankfulness and affection are appropriate responses to heroic acts of love. I can recall reading a story of one of many Christians who sheltered Jews during the Nazi reign of terror. The unalloyed justice of that action overwhelms one, as well it should.

Feelings are not the whole story, but they are valuable and good. In fact, when people have inappropriate emotional reactions to reality, that can be the first sign that something is wrong. In any case, I have observed a kind of spiritualizing of stoicism. Expressing emotion is for Them, and you know how those people are. It spills into all sorts of areas in life. If I become aware of some injustice, as a matter of emotion and intellect, I should desire to address the injustice, thinking of possible ways to do that. There is no purpose in prattling on about being people of "logic" and "facts,"--unlike others--when what one intends to say is, "I don't care about this." You may find yourself morally at fault in such an admission. Yet it's better than hiding the truth. The Love that begets all other loves can free us from that fault as well.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Don't Lose Your Audience

I'm not the "Resistance," if you didn't know. For some, the presidential absurdity that is Donald Trump afforded them the opportunity to shout what they already believed even louder than they did before. One of the dangers of being politically engaged, and specifically in something that you're truly passionate about, is that you might think more people are with you than actually are. Not that what I think is--or ought to be--is determined by how popular it is, but depending on the audience, I try to calibrate what I'm saying to be at least in terms that those people will agree with, and understand. Persuasion can be an act of love, and a cooperative act of walking together, if you do it right. I'm not saying I'm good at it, but I do try.

Still, to this day, I agree with Mark Shea more than I disagree. I believe there is probably a moderate pro-life Democrat in there somewhere. Like a lot of us, he was a Republican at some point in the past, because abortion and related sex politics hangs over the Democrats like an albatross. Maybe to talk in party terms isn't even helpful, because a coherent anthropology of what a human being is and does goes beyond a party system. Since many people aren't ready to question things like classical liberalism and capitalism--and I'm still working this out on the fly--we have to interact with the political system and people in it where we find them.

I still kind of think like a Republican.

I like Republicans, mostly. I recognize myself in them. They are familiar to me. To be more direct, they are family, both in reality, and in my imagination. No matter what comes out of my re-imagining of my own political philosophy, that will remain true. That's just how it happened. If I want to persuade someone who identifies as Republican, or who once did, I will talk like I know how.

Mark Shea forgot how.

More than that, I don't blame any "conservative" person for thinking he just doesn't like them. I told him this. He told me I was a Trump cultist, and an anti-Semitic apologist. Me! He obviously hasn't been reading this blog! I could think of no more obvious proof of my accusation that he was a "clanging cymbal" than this interaction. Yeah, I was spoiling for a fight. But he needs it.

He needs to go dark, for a while. Come back when he is actually "enjoying" being Catholic.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

I Pray In The Bathroom

I've always had a big bathroom. Ever since I was 12 years old, I've had a giant bathroom. It comes with the territory I guess, as a person with a disability. When I moved out of my house into an apartment in the city, I got another giant bathroom. Maybe it's not as big as the other one, but it's big enough.

Most people spend a lot of time in there, for reasons both obvious and less obvious, and it got me to thinking. I remember a music video from the time I was in high school from that pop singer, Jewel. She's singing her song in the bathroom. Actually, it's a public one as I recall, and I wouldn't say the video is worth your time, on the whole. Still, someone asked her about it, and she said, "A bathroom is a sanctuary."

She's right, you know.

When Jesus said we should go into our inner rooms and close the door, and pray to our Father in heaven, it carries a deeper meaning than simply to go someplace private. After all, you can pray anywhere. Yet a bathroom is a unique place of intimacy and vulnerability. I can think of no more Catholic notion than to do with my body what I intend to do with my soul.

I'm just as weak as any man, so I don't truly understand how much God, the Creator of the entire universe, loves me. I believe it; it's something I understand by faith that is beyond my natural capacity. Yet I long to understand it, to live in it as my experiential reality. Our conversations tend to be of the postmortem variety, because I just botched something up. They're not very formal, though. They are conversations between two friends. I can say that without hesitation. As a side note, do you think that all the people who complain about "religion" are thinking about the intimacy of addressing God as a close friend, and as "Father"?