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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Classical Liberalism Is Not Christian, Or Sustainable

It presupposes that justice is reckoned only to the individual, and that his 'liberty'--absolute autonomy--is the measure of justice. In days past, the encroachment of various collectivisms allowed us not to face this important truth. What we call "conservatives" here in the US made common cause with libertarians, and uneasy cooperation continues to this day. But undue coercion is not the only threat to human flourishing. Indeed, man's own selfishness and vice can be as great a tyranny as any state.

The question that matters is, "Does the state exist solely to defend private property, and to protect individuals from unjust aggression? Is it in that sense, a necessary evil?" I have to answer that with a "no." The state exists to promote the common good, both natural and supernatural. What is the common good? The common good is the set of conditions necessary for every person to reach the end for which they have been made. It doesn't diminish when it is participated in, because it's not material, as such. Education is a common good, and is part of that overall good. Safety is a common good. Churches are a common good. Families, and strong ones, are common good. We may well argue until we are blue about how to provide these things, but it seems to me that the biggest problem with the non-Left is that it denies that the common good exists. What do I see as the biggest problem with the Left? Its ends are not good. It is hostile to the individual as such, and the state--as the purported instrument of everyone's good--exists only to propagate itself.

But we cannot continue to believe that fantastic wealth and crushing poverty existing in the same nation comports with justice. Justice is the responsibility of all of us, and frankly, primarily of the state, as our instrument. It neither denies an individual's duty to justice, nor a person's right to the fruit of his labor. Yet we cannot remove the duty of justice, from ourselves, or from the state, and call what we ought to do "mercy." Mercy is the amelioration of the consequences of culpable actions; by its very nature, it is undeserved. Justice is imposed as an obligation by the dignity of the human person, and by the end for which he exists. That's why life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable; they are not conferred by any man or group of people, and they cannot be taken away arbitrarily, or even curtailed, without grave reason.

  America has had a peculiar sickness in recent decades; we have come to believe that religion is exclusively private, and that anyone who appeals to it threatens to impose it upon the unwilling. Moreover, some doubt that anything of the kind exists. Such people are free to believe and do as they wish, within the limits of justice and reason. But the genius of America is not only that it is governed by its people, and that the government is limited by the rights of those people, but that the consent of the governed is bound by an even greater Law. The religious affiliation (or lack thereof) of those who founded America is not material to this unavoidable fact: The justice of a thing, whether an action or a law, is not established by consent alone. People who are not moral are not free.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Tyranny, Elucidated

Ahem. It should be noted that the Natural Law gives no regard to majority opinion. At best, we can say that the people confirmed the truth; they cannot make it.

Follow-Up To Yesterday

In an effort to avoid confusion, I need to explain a thing. What I intended to say regarding the married state or the unmarried state is that I cannot, and will not--by God's grace--choose a thing because of a lack that I perceive will be filled, either by marriage, or something else. I have done too much from selfish desire. It probably isn't true that I don't prefer one, but chastity is a virtue. You either have it or you don't, in a certain sense, but it's good to desire to possess it. After all the fighting I have done, I say with measured but resolute confidence that I will find joy in any case.

I sat there waiting for my niece to be born, and then she was. Beautiful and perfect, more than able to bring the rest of us to puddles. Here's a truth: Hugh Hefner doesn't know anything about moments like this. You can't use another person, and end up with moments like this. Or if you do, consider it a grace, that now blessedly conspires to shake you from your lust toward something greater.

This is why we don't need the Catholic Church to tell us that contraception is wrong. We should see it. Nothing says romance quite like, "I want you, but only for my pleasure."

We can do better. Much better.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

I Have A Secret

It took me every day of these last 35 years to learn it. I realized it in 2 different ways. The first way was realizing there was something I ought to do, but didn't want to do it. I'm the sort of person who is more likely to do something for others than for myself.

You evangelicals say weird things sometimes. Here was the weird thing I read: "I'm staying pure until marriage." Um, what? "I'm for chastity, until the moment when I convince some woman to live with me and have sex with me." No. This is why we can't have nice things.

Here's my secret: As far as I know, I don't have a preference anymore. Married or unmarried. The reason is that the temptation of unchastity is exactly the same. I know what it is. I can see it. It has nothing to do with sexual desire, as such. I had heard married people say that getting married doesn't help them with the temptation to lust, but I did not believe them. I'm sorry, but I didn't.

The real question is, "Do you want a moment's relief from the existential dread, doubt, boredom, and general dissatisfaction?" It's the devil's question, and he knows the answer is yes.

The challenge is to recognize that question for what it is, and turn instead to God to be filled. If I were married, that's too big a burden for any wife to carry. I give that to the Lord, and to Mary (and the other saints). We pray that the evil one will not use our desires against us.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Odd Day

I just wanted to watch Star Trek all day. [You do that every day.--ed.] I watched a 'TNG' episode right before I went to bed. I thought about "Unification" (where an aged Spock engages in overtures to peace with the Romulans, against the wishes of the Federation) but it's too soon.

I didn't feel this sad when James Doohan died. I didn't feel this sad when DeForest Kelley died. It was denial, maybe.

I think we know that Shatner doesn't have too terribly long, and that, when the last of those three goes to his rest, something will be very different. I also think Nimoy as Spock spoke to the marginalized, and that's why it hurts.

Data was Spock with a twist. Tuvok is Spock with another. I think Nimoy made it OK to talk about religion and the culture it creates in Star Trek. Let's face it: Roddenberry's vision undistilled is absurd; it's an optimistic secularism that has never actually existed, and it never will. That's why they took the keys away early in TNG. The first season is hopelessly naive and preachy, and we all know it. Watch the longer version of The Motion Picture; you'll see Spock weeping for the cold, searching V'Ger. (The theatrical version still makes the point well enough; the script was written by a devout Catholic.)

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015

What can you say? He was defined by a role, but he defined it. He played the character that ended up being the driving dramatic force behind a cultural touchstone. All an actor wants to do, if he's really passionate about his craft, is make enough money to begin to tell the stories that matter. Leonard Nimoy did that.

I think I can understand his ambivalence about being Spock, but then again, Star Trek is much bigger and greater than it appears, and he knew that. The greatness of Spock was what you might call the interior life of the character. You have to wonder how much of that mystique was driven forward by his own reflection on the experience of being Jewish.

I still say that Spock's death scene in The Wrath of Khan is one of the greatest visual portrayals of the gospel, encapsulated in John 15:13, that I have ever seen. "Greater love has no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends."

One of the things I appreciate about his acting, in really every role I saw him play, was his beautiful enunciation. It's a small thing that isn't so small. It reflects dedication, and respect for the audience. Our language can be beautiful, and our stories, all the more so, when we decide that's how it's going to be.

These words aren't enough; they can't be. I only know that if he loved his family and friends as much as he loved to act, they were loved indeed. It was a love that spilled over to all of us. He has been, and always shall be, our friend.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Will Of God

I was praying the Rosary just a bit ago, and I had an insight I'd like to share. I've been drawn to the Sorrowful Mysteries ever since I began to pray the Rosary. You may recall that they culminate in Our Lord's death on the cross. I wondered at it many times, but as wise people have told me repeatedly, if you feel led to do a thing, just do it.

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done. My heart kept coming back to this. Each suffering Jesus endured was absurd in its flagrant injustice, its obvious unfittingness. Yet He prayed this to the Father through each one. We know that all of it was the will of God. It doesn't change the evil of what was and is suffered, but it contextualizes it into a much greater whole.

I have no idea what these present sufferings are about in themselves. None at all. And if I'm being frank about it, I want them to end. Still, if this is like that, I don't hope for a greater good; I am absolutely certain of it. From the one man's trespass the many were made righteous, in what is the greatest good which has ever been done or seen. If I unite my life but a little with Christ, I'll be paid back more than I could possibly imagine. Not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us, says St. Paul. For the moment, I get the sense that he knows exactly what he's talking about.

 Joy comes from the certainty of faith, because it cannot come from the experiences themselves. Faith is a light which reveals the hidden truth of reality, truer than what is on the surface. The Kingdom is coming. It has come. Its truth is surer than the old undying rocks. That's a thought worth clasping tightly.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Just The NewsHour, If You Please

I decided recently that the only news I'm going to watch is the PBS NewsHour. Honestly, it was probably fueled by nostalgia for my childhood, watching the show in the late '80s and early '90s. But I was talking with my mom the other day, and I realized I didn't want to be told what to think, or who to be mad at, or about things either that I cannot control in any way, or that don't matter.

In other news tonight, Jim Lehrer--who admittedly doesn't host the show anymore--is probably better than you or me, at the news, or in general. It's just a guess, but he seems like a very honest dude.

I do recall that the best presidential debate nearly every time is the one he moderates. We gotta keep these old guys with us as long as we can; we've lost our way; maybe they can help us.

Confirmation Sponsor Guy would love the whole ethos of PBS: It's an entire network--in theory, if not in fact--that exists for the common good.

Read Of The Day

This is a thing.