Thursday, January 18, 2018

Somebody Made Senator Cory Booker Mad

Frankly, I liked what he had to say. A few of the phrases are indicative of what many on the Right derisively call "identity politics," but they didn't bother me. The president's comment was appalling and indefensible, but we're so used to it now, I probably just wasted my life saying it.

I seem like a liberal to many people, because I'm not willing to set aside my revulsion to defeat the Baby-Killers. I think that civility and respect should be a hallmark of politics always. And it may be galling that Barack Obama gets credit for that supposed civility in the face of his heinous policies. But when did Republicans decide that winning took the place of that civility? Is it my fault that I don't agree with that decision?

Absolutely, I'd rather lose with honor than win without it. Me just saying that is inspiring many of you to start sentences with, "But..." I don't want to hear it. If you don't agree, or don't understand, there it is. Read it again. In the end, this is my political philosophy.

There are people who will point out that Democrats and progressives don't hold themselves to the same standards. Granted. Why does that alter what I should expect from my own side, and from myself?

It all seems romantic, moralistic, and pretentious to many, I'm sure. Then again, if the words a president or potential president says have more staying power, more timelessness, than the average puff of smoke that is a human being, what would you say? If you knew that schoolkids will be reading about you one day, I'd hope you might modify a few things. And since I can't be dismissed as a moral degenerate gay activist or Planned Parenthood toadie, I'll ask:

What are you going to say about Donald J. Trump?

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Spock And The Battle Of The Mutara Nebula: A Brief Reflection In Moral Theology

In one of the more memorable events during the lengthy career of Starfleet Admiral/Captain James T. Kirk, the USS Enterprise was under the command of Captain Spock, as a training vessel for Starfleet Academy cadets, in the year 2285. In the course of overseeing those exercises, the crew discovers that someone is attempting to interfere with communications between the Enterprise and space station Regula One, in the Mutara sector. The director of the secret project on Regula One had contacted Admiral Kirk about an unusual order regarding control of the project, allegedly issued by him. Unable to establish communication, and after determining that the communication breakdown was the work of a malevolent third party, Starfleet Command orders the Enterprise to investigate, and places Kirk in command. Upon further investigation, it is determined that an old foe, Khan Noonien Singh, had stolen the overseeing vessel, the USS Reliant, marooning her crew on Ceti Alpha V, the place where Kirk had sent the enhanced human and late-20th century autocrat Khan, after his deadly attempt to commandeer the Enterprise in 2265. Khan also stole the secret project, in the hopes of luring Kirk there. Khan wanted vengeance for the death of his wife, a former Enterprise crew member, who chose to go with Khan and his associates when their exile was imposed. She died on Ceti Alpha V, and Khan blamed Kirk. After a series of battles, the Enterprise is badly damaged, and the Reliant is nearly destroyed. Khan uses the project as a kamikaze time bomb, knowing that the Enterprise is too badly damaged--or so it appeared--to escape the explosion.

Captain Spock surreptitiously decides to enter the central engine compartment--sealed off because of lethal radiation levels--to repair the damaged warp drive, which would allow the Enterprise to escape. He succeeds, and the Enterprise leaves the area. He later dies, after poignantly suggesting to Kirk that he had undergone a real-life "Kobayashi Maru" simulation (an unwinnable simulation scenario administered to Starfleet Academy command officer candidates). Spock said, "I never took the Kobayashi Maru test...until now. What do you think of my solution?"

In a personal axiom that helpfully serves to explain his moral reasoning in this situation, Spock noted, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." Provided that we exclude more utilitarian readings of the statement that would instrumentalize the few or the one, let us analyze the moral action itself.

Firstly, in the abstract, it would be wrong of course for Spock to directly kill himself for no reason at all. It would be wrong of him to take a mysterious and likely lethal "mineral supplement" in the hope of winning the ship-wide chess tournament. This action instead is proportionate to the great good of saving his shipmates. He does not intend his own death, but rather, to rescue the ship and crew. No other less harmful options are available at the time. So a good suitably proportionate to his own certain death is present. He is laying down his life, not someone else's. He's not directly doing an evil act to bring about a greater good; he's doing a good act, and its result is his death. Its object is repairing the ship. His intention is to save his crew. The circumstances foreclose other options, and a failure to act would cause the death of everyone aboard.

We should say that Captain Spock's death is an evil--a privation of a good that should be there--but it's not a moral evil, a morally blameworthy act. Quite the contrary. 

Monday, January 01, 2018

Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken: The Spark Of Life

One of the reasons why it's not terribly hard to feel joy during a recovery like mine is that you get to spend some time with yourself. You get to imagine what it would be like if you weren't here. There is a great joy in knowing and seeing that you have something utterly unique to bring to the world. There is a goodness in the soul that is Jason Kettinger. I might make all manner of mistakes and sins in the next hour, say, but those aren't the essence of me. 

I don't understand death, really, but because I've had a brush with it, I know that death won't change what makes us, well, us. I didn't have any cause to doubt the Church's teaching about our eternal souls, but I have less reason now. I'm not even sure I can explain how I know. I think I understand why most sinners should be able to say that what makes them sinners isn't intrinsically part of who they are, at least who they are supposed to be. It's simply that my worst day as a moral agent on this Earth has no part in the essence of who I am. We're facing a choice to be increasingly defined by the things we do, good and bad. Welcome to life. But if you could spend one minute or five thinking about how the world would be that much darker if you weren't in it--seriously--life would be different. There are proud people who don't need to be doing that, sure, but then again, that "self" of theirs isn't the real one, anyway.

Who you are and what you are is revealed when you lack the power to pretend to be someone else. If you only had a moment to give yourself to someone else, what would you say? What would you do? We'd like to hope that we've got something to give that isn't from selfishness.

Oddly enough, I feel like saying something about Confession. It's an odd tension, knowing that I did x, y, and z, but that, in a sense, that wasn't my best me. You can only go and receive the benefit of it if you're willing to say in various ways that you acted contrary to who you're supposed to be. And of course that you do not intend to continue acting in those ways. What makes people afraid to go? I don't really know. Pride, I suppose. But unless you believe foolishly that this is the best version of yourself there will ever be, you have reason to partake. There are people who must think they will die if they go. I must admit, I want to laugh at them. I had a funny thought, like, "No, the lady and her car who hit me are not waiting for you." I can remember only one time having a less-pleasant experience, and 1) he's right, and 2) he's a military chaplain. And frankly, I'm a big boy; as long as he says the right words at the right time, he's free to say what he likes. He's the Lord's priest. I'm here for the "I absolve you..." What insanity makes people go decades between these experiences? If you figure it out, let me know.

Let's keep things really simple. Jesus loves you to pieces, way more than you or any of us are ready for. We know that even today hasn't been a banner day reciprocating that love back to Him. Confession is a way to say you're sorry before you die, and it's too late. I defer to the Church that the Eucharist is the greatest sacrament, but Confession is my favorite. If you don't know how to do it, numerous guides are available. Beloved Monsignor Pins (RIP) walked me through my first one, because I froze up. It'll be fine. Just go.

A Word About Ecumenism

I have never believed that it's good to change your mind about big things quickly, or without reason. Even in my Reformed days, I did not leave a church (parish) on a whim, or for a trivial reason. Some people out there seem to think that I suddenly and arbitrarily decided to hate my Reformed heritage, and that I hate and misrepresent it to this day. That's false. The story of becoming Catholic is the story of remaining where I was, knowing what I knew, until the triune God made a way for me to do what he called me to do: seek full communion with the Catholic Church. If you cannot even imagine that the only true God might be calling all people into the Catholic Church, then don't dialogue with real Catholics, because that's what Catholics are supposed to believe. At a minimum, this means that the faith professed by Catholics is the true faith, and that anything distinct from this is in that respect, false. There are gentler, and more open, inviting ways to live this or not, and I try to be as warm and inviting as possible. But bottom line: Any Roman Catholic who doesn't tell you, show you, invite you into the one true Church, as it were, is either misinformed, or lying. I think you need to know this. We don't have "distinctives" as some of you Protestant evangelicals might call them, because we got bored one day, and others are OK, too. We call them "dogmas," and we call the contraries "heresies." Now, I realize that's equal parts impolite, and possibly scary for some of you. But look, this is religion, not a bridge club.

All the innumerable qualifications exist: No, you are not hopelessly damned right now, because you are a Baptist. You could be closer to God than I am, for all I know. But that will be in spite of  something you profess, in some respect. And, to look at it from the other direction, the well-catechized Baptist knows why he's not a Catholic. You can take him at his word, and still think he's incorrect. I don't need to misrepresent him, because if I understand my faith properly, the best presentation of his I can make is still different, and therefore, wrong. Is he mostly right? Well, probably, if most things he says are what all Christians would say. But there is a key point: We don't need to talk about all the parts where we agree; that's actually not the point of ecumenism. The point of ecumenism is to reach agreement together in the totality of the truth. If you as an individual need affirmation, just tell me. I'm happy to do it. But that's not ecumenism.

Now, someone says, "But you're playing with loaded dice. Ecumenism from your seat means everyone must agree with you." Well, the One True Church would be pretty lame if it didn't say that, no? And sure, I am aware that the Orthodox of various kinds also say this, but given their own lack of even nominal unity, that's just bluster, and most know it.

Part of the reason this conviction is so annoying is that most Protestants have a radically different notion of the Church than we do. The universal Church is invisible for them, if not explicitly, then in fact. And it's easy to just assume this is correct, getting mad at the Catholic that he won't join the little model UN project of denominations, right alongside yours. But the visibility of our Church--its hierarchy and unity--is part of the faith we profess. The surest marker of being a Catholic is being in visible union with Pope Francis. If your bishop doesn't answer to Pope Francis, you're not Catholic, or catholic, or any such thing. Now, bishops, priests, on down to your neighbor Phyllis might profess the doctrines of demons. You might be a better "Catholic," so to speak, than any of them. Granted. But if you want to know the truth, ask the Catholic Church.

[No one has a neighbor Phyllis, unless they are 84.--ed.] Could be, could be.

This should be obvious, but a Catholic cannot profess "faith alone" as the Protestant "Reformers" understood it. In fact, it became a slogan precisely to differentiate that profession from what the Catholic Church taught and teaches. For this reason, I don't find it terribly helpful to discuss the "5 Solas," musing on exactly which parts I could affirm. If I could affirm them, I'd be a Protestant.

The Church contended with the leaders of the Protestant Reformation mostly on the definition and function of agape, the Greek word for supernatural love, or charity, in justification; that is, the state of being just before God. On both sides, the discussion can get pretty technical. I don't recommend it for most people. That is, unless you need to know. And you might.

Anyway, please feel more than free to show me, quote me, refer me, to documents that exemplify your profession of faith, if we are in dialogue. I don't like to make mistakes. If I do, tell me, and graciously, if at all possible. It is in fact my goal, however, to show how that position is incorrect. Because those details are actually the reason you aren't Catholic, and I want you to be Catholic.

If you accuse me of misrepresenting you repeatedly without showing me how, I reserve the right to call it whining. If the root of that whining is anger that someone you love is Catholic, or just bewilderment that any sane person would become fully Catholic, I cannot help you. I'd like to, I just can't. I'll readily concede that most passionate Protestants are better Christians than Joe Catholic, but that's not really relevant to the question of truth, ultimately. True ecumenism isn't always sunshine and rainbows, even when we're actively trying not to offend. God bless and keep you always.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Confessions Of An Emerging Liberal (Or Something Close)

I am a Medicaid customer. I say "customer," for reasons that will become clear. In some sense, I am not what I regarded as the target group for Medicaid: desperately poor people with no health insurance of any kind, and thus, no regular access to health care services. I am participating in Medicaid because Medicare does not pay for personal care assistance, and those costs can get prohibitive for persons with disabilities. That is, choosing between eating and personal care kind of prohibitive.

I have been successful in recent days in expanding my income beyond my Social Security Disability Income (Yay for me!) But did you know that we pay for Medicare out of Social Security? Part of every Social Security check has a withholding for Medicare. Medicare is not free. Anything in the way of rhetoric suggesting that Medicare is simply spending by the federal government is false. It amounts to a premium, like any other insurance.

Medicaid works in a similar way. There is something called a "spend-down," which is essentially a deductible. One must pay this amount every month, and then any cost above this incurred by the customer is paid by Medicaid.

Let me put it this way: If I'm paying $240 per month for Medicare and Medicaid, our elected officials owe me what I'm paying for. Even if the money I'm paying with came from the blood, sweat, and tears of my father or someone else's. We're all in this together, and into each other for some amount of money somehow.

Any Republican governor who refuses federal funds for Medicaid expansion as some heroic stand against government spending is either stupid, (possible) dishonest, (very possible) or cruel (I'd like not to think so).

We need to stop acting like "government program" means, "handing out free money for ne'er-do-wells to go to the casino, in between naps on the couch."

And while I'm here, maybe we should have the food stamp discussion *after* we are absolutely certain that everyone receiving them is morally at fault somehow, and not before. I digress.

I can see why "Uncle Bernie" advocates for Medicare for all. We always seem to have money to drop bombs on innocent children somewhere. Is that too direct? Sorry.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Faith Comes From What Is Heard, Feingold (III)

The second chapter in this section is called, "The Virtue of Divine Faith."

As we have already seen, the starting point of sacred theology is the fact of God's revelation of himself. If there is to be a relationship between God and man, then man needs a power by which he assents to what has been revealed. At the supernatural level, Feingold says, this power of assent is called divine faith. We are reminded that in Catholic theology, grace builds upon nature, so that the supernatural definition of faith is not wholly unlike that for human faith.

Feingold defines faith in general as a “firm assent of the mind to things unseen." He points out that a thing can be seen in two ways: by the senses, and by the mind. First principles are self-evident, says Feingold. These are immediately grasped by the mind as true. Things which can be empirically observed are “seen” by the senses. Thirdly, truths can be seen by the mind that are deduced from a sound process of reasoning. He concludes therefore, “Something is unseen, therefore, if it is neither empirically observed, nor self-evident, nor deduced from evident principles through a sound process of reasoning."

One important question we might ask is, “How much of a Protestant and Reformed epistemology is premised upon epistemic skepticism?” To the extent that it is, much of what a Catholic would classify as able to be seen by the senses, or by the mind, would be re-classified by the Protestant as belonging to faith in general, or to supernatural faith as such. Thus, the Protestant could reject much of the putative common ground--in an area the Catholic regards as preambles to faith--as an appeal to supernatural authority, that is, the Catholic Church, an authority they have rejected. If we suppose also than non-Christians of various sorts have adopted the same skepticism, we can see why so much contemporary discussion in terms of morality and ethics is dismissed as an appeal to religious authority, when it fact such an appeal is not being made.

Returning to Dr. Feingold then, he points out via St. Thomas that true things that are seen motivate the assent of the intellect by their nature. That which requires faith cannot motivate assent by its very nature, because the object is not seen. Feingold asks, "Why would the will choose that the intellect assent to something unseen?" He points out that the will never moves without some motive. In addition, because this firm impulse of the will moves the intellect toward an unseen object, it is entirely voluntary. Feingold says, "Faith therefore can be defined as assent not moved by the intrinsic evidence of truths, but rather by a firm impulse of the will based on a sufficiently credible witness." St. Thomas had been cited earlier to explain that a firm impulse of the will, moving an assent of the intellect to an unseen object is faith. If the motive for assent to these credible witnesses is uncertain, the resulting act is called opinion, he says. Faith--in its divine and supernatural dimension--is distinguished by its certitude, ultimately rooted in the character of God, who can neither deceive, nor be deceived. I will have some personal reflections on this point in my next Addendum.

We have a paragraph from Dr. Feingold in regard to human faith, and it provokes a personal story. When my mother left my apartment this morning, she said she'd be working at the home improvement store from 12:30 to 9 PM. My mother is a sufficiently credible witness. Excepting unforeseen happenings beyond her control, it would be irrational for me to believe my mother is anywhere other than the home improvement store. She is not at the dog track; she is not in Bali. I don't need to personally verify that she is there right now. Moreover, I do not need to be unreasonably skeptical of my sense data, were I to call the store, and ask to speak with her, that it would be her speaking to me on the phone. Feingold writes, "Withholding assent in such a case, without cogent reasons to the contrary, would be irrational and contrary to social communion and friendship." Larry certainly has that Thomistic penchant for humorous understatement!

The moral duty of divine faith emerges from the character of God, Feingold says. Therefore, giving credibility to the witnesses of the Apostles and the Hebrew prophets is reasonable, if it is reasonable first to agree that God has revealed himself, and if those people have been sent by God to communicate supernatural revelation. If divine faith is the proper response to this supernatural revelation, then the exercise of divine faith is reasonable. In fact, the biggest obstacle to agreement between Catholics and Protestants is the Church, which Feingold says, "preserves and passes on the deposit of faith." It is not necessary to answer the fullest expression of skepticism for our purposes, because it questions the existence of God and the supernatural as such. However, insofar as agreement between Catholics and the Reformed on the matters of supernatural revelation is premised on epistemic skepticism, it is vulnerable to skepticism in general. Suffice to say that consistency with skepticism and its premises is not at all conducive to adherence to any revealed religion in Christ.

Absent any prejudice to the effect that God cannot and has not revealed anything supernatural, I do not find any great difficulty in the assent of faith, as Ratzinger describes it, because my worldview has never depended upon faith as contrary to reason, even if I cannot give an exhaustive account of how reason functions. 

Feingold appeals to a definition of divine faith from the First Vatican Council as a, "supernatural virtue whereby, inspired and assisted by the grace of God, we believe that what he has revealed is true, not because the intrinsic truth of things is recognized by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither err nor deceive."

Feingold says that supernatural faith consists in assent to all that God has revealed because he has revealed it. Because God cannot lie or be deceived, the motive for this assent is the character of God.  

Feingold says, "In summary, divine faith is the freely chosen, firm, stable, joyful, and self-abandoning adherence of the mind, moved by divine grace, to the truths revealed by God about himself and His plan of salvation, not on account of their own intrinsic evidence, but based on the veracity of God, who cannot err or deceive."

The reality of self-abandonment to God recognizes the all-encompassing nature of faith, and communion with God. It is,--as I have written previously--where the intellectual collides with the personal. As we will see, there is no inherent conflict between grace and nature, if "nature" is understood properly.

It is wise to recall that in the mind of the Church, other religions, especially those that do not possess supernatural revelation as such, still represent the human effort to ascend to God by way of reason. Dr. Feingold points out that the seventh paragraph of a document issued by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Dominus Iesus, makes the distinction between belief, and divine faith. This distinction must be firmly held, and represents the clearest difference between the Christian religion, and other belief systems.

It is also possible to see how epistemic skepticism threatens the foundation of reason, such that Catholic ecumenical dialogue aimed at establishing the preambles to faith rooted in reason, seems from a certain vantage point to be capitulation. If everything that is known must be supernaturally revealed in order to be known, then any dialogue with other religions implies an equivalence in matters of revealed truth. It is incumbent upon us to maintain the distinction between truths accessible to reason--and thus identified as beliefs--and revealed truth as such, all in a spirit of social communion and friendship, so that all people can come to the fullness of truth. If we can remove any stumbling blocks for our separated brethren in Protestant communities, we should do so. However, the prior judgment that right reason is unknown or inaccessible should be discarded as a premise. To even suggest this is to ignite a vigorous discussion, but if this premise can be seen as a philosophical assumption, and not as a truth of faith, it will be much easier to leave behind. 

The right of private judgment is intrinsic to Protestantism, Feingold says. The Reformers did not anticipate that their own authority would be denied, as surely as they denied the authority of the allegedly infallible Church and its Magisterium.

Feingold writes, "In consequence of the multiplication of Christian denominations, faith has increasingly become identified with mere religious sentiment or opinion." He goes on to say that such a notion was prevalent in liberal Protestantism in the 19th century, but is fairly common today. Feingold quotes Newman to this effect:

"That truth and falsehood in religion are but matter of opinion; that one doctrine is as good as another; that the Governor of the world does not intend that we should gain the truth; that there is no truth; that we are not more acceptable to God by believing this than by believing that; that no one is answerable for his opinions; that they are a matter of necessity or accident; that it is enough if we sincerely hold what we profess; that our merit lies in seeking, not in possessing; that it is a duty to follow what seems to us true, without a fear lest it should not be true; that it may be a gain to succeed, and can be no harm to fail; that we may take up and lay down opinions at pleasure; that belief belongs to the mere intellect, not to the heart also; that we may safely trust to ourselves in matters of Faith, and need no other guide,--this is the principle of philosophies and heresies, which is very weakness."

This is in contrast to what Newman calls the "dogmatic principle," which enables the assent of faith. Feingold says by contrast that private judgment destroys the submission of faith, because it does not allow the total submission of the mind to God.

Catholic teaching distinguishes two kinds of heresy: material, and formal. Formal heresy involves an obstinate denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and Catholic faith. Material heresy is either not done obstinately, is in good faith, or is simply an error. Feingold says, "The sin of formal heresy has a very special gravity because it goes against the common good of a Christian society in a very weighty matter."

After pointing out that Protestants today are most likely in material heresy, rather than formal heresy, Dr. Feingold adds, "Nevertheless, it is reasonable to think that the founders of heretical sects were heretics in the formal sense because, while still within the bosom of the Church, they obstinately opposed the voice of her authentic Magisterium. Nevertheless, God alone knows the interior state of the heart."

Dr. Feingold points out that committing formal heresy on just one point makes other beliefs the realm of religious sentiment or opinion. Indeed, it must be so, because such beliefs are not being held with the aid of grace.

Faith is a gift, of course. But the dispositions proper to faith are also a gift of grace, and can be cultivated. Feingold quotes Newman to the effect that faith is easy for those who have the right dispositions, and difficult for those who do not. May we be like those praised in the Scriptures, expectant for God's Revelation.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Personal Reflections On Perspicuity, Or The Lack Thereof, With Respect To Sacred Scripture

It's been insisted to me many times that I in particular, and those of us at Called To Communion, denigrate Sacred Scripture, or must make it seem opaque, in order to make a case for the Catholic Church and her Magisterium. This is false. The Church herself makes no such case, and as her loyal son, I have no interest in discouraging the reading of the Bible by anyone. How far back do you want to go? As many people have said before, critiquing Sola Scriptura is critiquing a methodology, not the source of the method. We Catholics understand that Sola Scriptura as a method and a rallying cry is an attempt (even unwittingly) to read the Scriptures against the Church, instead of within the Church.

It is beyond my purpose to explain exactly how clear (or not) the Scriptures are, not to mention beyond my ability. I want to reiterate and agree with what Bryan Cross and Neal Judisch have written, echoing also the contribution of my friend Fred Noltie. I have yet to successfully lobby for a change in that article's title (to, "The Noltie Conundrum," alas) but I do try. In any case, my appreciation in particular for Fred's insights stems from the fact that before I was a Catholic keyboard warrior "apologist"--which has some weird connotation of, "manipulative liar," if some are to be believed--I lived the uncertainty of what Fred describes. I absolutely agree with Keith Mathison that all appeals to Scripture are appeals to an interpretation of Scripture. "Whose interpretation of any text, or the whole of the Bible will be normative for Christians?" seems to be the real question. My understanding of the freedom granted to me by the faithful guardianship of the Magisterium is that a range of acceptable interpretations exists--in understanding Sacred Tradition or Sacred Scripture--and that my uses and applications ought to fall within this range. To this point I may return.

It seems to me that the entire point of saying, "The Catholic Church's doctrine X contradicts Scripture" or, "On the contrary; the Bible says..." is to say that what the Catholic Church teaches falls outside the acceptable range of meaning of the Biblical text. Irrespective of the merits of that argument, it should be noted for the sake of clarity that the statement, "The Bible says..." is an appeal to authority, which in light of Protestant views of Scripture (largely shared by us, as discussed above) is functionally equivalent to, "God says..." This is why Fred's insights are so important. Explore the dilemma as he lays it out there, in all its many aspects. For the sake of my argument, though, let's take the bad faith assumption out of the equation ("My interlocutor is wrong, because he is not led by the Holy Spirit."). Let's also take any assumptions about human depravity and weakness out, if only because we have a tendency to apply them to our interlocutors readily, but conveniently, not to our own interpretations. If we do this, we are left, it is claimed, with only the Holy Spirit speaking through the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit cannot say 2 mutually exclusive things about the same matter, at the same time. He neither lies, nor is mistaken, by definition, as God. I implore you to think about this, before you react in revulsion to any alternatives.

Here's the point, as forcefully as I can make it: If I say that the Bible teaches contrary to the Catholic faith, I appeal to one reading of one text. I cannot marshal every non-Catholic reading of every text, and behave as though it is one, because I know very well that I haven't triumphed with absolute clarity over Mark Dever's interpretation of the texts on baptism, for example, any more than I have silenced the Catholic on any other matter. Bare-minimum unity on dogmatics, and an invisible "Church" are the proof that perspicuity to the most necessary degree cannot be found. Not to mention the fact that such a "unity" is ad hoc. This reality alone begins to whisper to the pious heart that the Catholic Church is our home, even before the possibility is seriously explored and considered. Suppose the merest Mere Christianity is Catholic. Suppose my ad hoc thrashing about for the barest essentials from the first two Councils is in reality the grasping of a child for his mother? Dearest Lord Jesus, is it so? Is it, my brethren?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

We Need A Bigger Black Elite

Just out of curiosity, I looked up the enrollment numbers of the most well-known historically black colleges and universities, because I was trying to explain to a friend what an HBCU was. Not that I really know. Truthfully, it was distressing. If there is any truth to the idea that any society is only as good as its elites, we all are in trouble. In a more general sense, we are imperiled by the fact that the American elite believes the wrong things about humanity and our purpose. More specific to this point, if the black experience is marred by a power imbalance with the wider white monoculture, then a contest between the elites--or at least a dialogue--needs to occur. If this black elite is too small, then it can't get enough power to make a difference in black life more generally.

I honestly thought these centers of black expertise were bigger than they are. Please remind me not to take any notions of "reverse racism" seriously for the rest of my life.

On the other hand, remaining extremely small insulates any college or university from the prevailing classical liberalism, which is neither metaphysically nor morally neutral. [You've been reading Bryan Cross again.--ed.] If you're going to read anyone's social media feed... [You sniveling sycophant.--ed.] On the contrary; I don't think Bryan is always right, but I generally get a sense of what I don't know, just by reading or hearing him. A public intellectual, in the best sense, is a person who is curious in public.

Food for much thought.

I Wasn't Going Back To Pop Music

But I mentioned to Johnny Irish the other week that I didn't think I'd actually heard Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys all the way through. Well, we know what's going to happen. I listened to it at least 4 times yesterday. [Bet I know which song is your favorite. Besides "God Only Knows". That doesn't count.--ed.] Alright, what's my favorite song? ["Caroline, No".--ed.] Dangit, right! [You're so utterly predictable.--ed.] Can't argue with that.

Maybe George Capps is right: You can't be a huge pop star and not be a ruin. I don't know how much responsibility we can take for the whole thing, but I'm sure we have some. This Cranberries album I have on is amazing. I hope everyone in the band is happy, healthy, and going to Mass regularly.

I am pretty sure I could listen to this woman sing for a year straight, and not tire of it. It's actually too bad I was 13 when this was big. It's hard to appreciate anything when you are 13. Even if you "like" it. [So now you extol the virtue of 25-year-old pop-rock that everyone else has moved on from.--ed.] You only know the value of pop music when it ages.