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Thursday, December 06, 2012

Reconciliation and Regret

I like talking. Talking and words are how I come to understand. If there's a problem, I value the opportunity to talk it out. Words are the means by which I communicate my deepest desires and thoughts.

Silence is good for many things. Peace. Reflection. Reverence. We need it sometimes, in order not to be bombarded by a Cacophony Of Words, even in our minds. Silence is not so good for being angry. Angry silence is the worst kind. I hate it more than shouting. I try to remember that people need time to cool off, to think about things.

I was once told not to push so hard to reconcile, that it was too soon. Honestly, I don't get that. But like I said, we have different temperaments and all that. So you do what you do. You pray. You fight through the pain and the anger, even if it was your fault. And wait, I guess.

Father Coffey told me it happens. It happened to him. He said he said the wrong thing, and that was it. To this day, I don't understand. I'm not built that way. It seems completely foreign to the reign of Christ in the hearts and lives of Christians. If that sounds like a guilt-trip, it is. There are a few things I know cause conflict between certain friends and me. Politics is a big one. But we don't have to talk about that, or anything else, if we know it's not good for us to reach our goal: to be with God.

But I'm just telling you, straight up: You're sinning against God, not reconciling with your brother. And Jesus spoke pretty plain about it. He said if you don't forgive, you're not forgiven. Not everybody has to be your Andrew, James, and John. But we don't have the option of loving in some generic way, while having that person we can't stand.

I still feel the movements of the anger sometimes. You worry if it would take over, if you got the chance to speak again. But then, it's enough to say, "I'm wounded, and I'm incomplete because we're not OK." Because that's what we mean to say. I heard one wise man say that anger should be sadness oftentimes, and we men especially misplace it a lot.

I am really sad. I wanted to come here and erase all memory of this person, and from every place. But I can't, and I shouldn't. Because if I say they don't matter, that they never did, I'm a liar. If they don't matter, why am I still writing and thinking about them?

So, first things first: I plead with Chris and Adam to reconcile, as is fitting in the Lord Jesus Christ. You can decide how best to deal with those things that drive you crazy and make you mad at each other. But you don't have the option of not being friends. I'm just telling you. You're already brothers. Make the connection.

And for me personally, I renew my sorrow and regret for the offense I caused. If I could undo it, I would. But I can say that I wish you well, and I go toward Heaven remembering that you were and are a blessing to me. It hurts and angers me that I might have to go to Heaven before we speak again, but I'll do it. Just know that I'm still right here, if you want to talk.

CRPD

I have now read the entirety of the United Nations Convention On The Rights Of People With Disabilities. Though precious little jumps out at one as offensive on its face, the people of the United States, who both understand the nature and genius of our Constitution, should oppose the treaty vigorously. The genius of our Constitution is that it limits specifically the government of the United States. It is not an exaustive treatment of the aspirations of the American people as a part of the human family; it entrusts those aspirations to the people themselves.

Without prejudice to the citizens of other nations, who have the right to define their relation to their governments however they wish, this is rare. International treaties, as per the US Constitution itself, "trump" that document itself. We can hope, therefore, that our leaders would only enter in to such agreements in the gravest of circumstances, where the common good of all humanity was in view, and the basic liberties of individuals were unaffected by the United States's entry into such a pact. There is neither a compelling interest to override, nor a protection for the individual inalienable rights, within the document. And what exactly does this treaty accomplish? There is no enforcement mechanism. Nor would you want one, if there were.

I fail to see how the US ratifying the treaty will inspire others to improve their treatment of the disabled, and symbolism seems to be the best rationale for the treaty. Americans don't trade freedom--backed up by judicial review--for symbolism. If it has no effect on the laws of the US with respect to these questions, why ratify it? Even if the UN has no ability to enforce its own mandates, why would any sensible person empower a government official to take any action not subject to judicial review? This even applies to US government officials. If you can't picture an infringement upon your basic rights under the pretext of fulfilling a treaty obligation, you have more faith than I do.

And frankly, because "innocuous platitudes" would be the most generous way to describe the treaty, that just isn't strong enough to justify this ceding of power. Art. 49 states that the treaty must be accepted without reservation. If that weren't bad enough, do we even know who has the authority to withdraw the US from a ratified treaty? Suppose the president needed a 2/3 supermajority to do that?

Read it yourself. If it doesn't scare you, it should. I can't believe the Left didn't think it was a big deal, and why so many feel it's OK to mock those who raise concerns. You can make jokes about black helicopters if you like, but only the foolish entrust their rights to others for transient and debatable objectives. Thank you, Rick Santorum.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Church

I have been accused of many things in my short time on this rock, but undue deference to a man is never going to stick. [You could say that one again, jerk.--ed.] Anyway, I was talking it over with God just now, and if the bishops, guided by the Holy Spirit, want to wade in and short-circuit a political discussion by sanctifying one particular policy over another...well, I'll just say, "Thy will be done," and we can be foolish together.

The rest of you, there's at least a 32.4% chance that I don't care what you think. (This still means you, Bob Costas.) In any case, if any of my previous statements seemed to indicate a possible unwillingness to submit to the authority of the bishops, it was not intentional.

I'm usually a very affable contrarian, but I am a contrarian. As much as I love consensus and agreement and harmony, a false, comfortable version of those things irritates me. We all have to be on guard that we don't make character judgments about people based upon a little information. Believe me, I am the worst. Still. America may run on Dunkin' Donuts, but American politics runs on Ad Hominem.

Politics is something I enjoy. [You don't seem to enjoy it.--ed.] And the quickest way to get me to explore another side of an issue is to call the people on that side "extreme." Not to say real extremes aren't out there, and consequences negative, but in my experience, this is a word in politics often used to silence people you don't like, especially when you don't have an argument to make that anyone will buy. Note to Jason Whitlock: The NRA and the KKK are not the same thing. You're a sportswriter, and not even a good one. You don't have the leeway of The Great Bob to begin with, and I'm looking up from my NRA application and Babyface collection to tell you how dumb your statements are. I don't own a gun, but from what I know of the "gun culture" you gentlemen speak so cavalierly about, I think it's a culture of not getting killed by criminals. Just sayin.' Other note: "Semi-automatic" weapons cover anything you don't have to cock and/or reload after every shot, so let's bear that in mind before we go forward in our emotional overreaction to a tragedy.

I digress. I am probably going to face challenges going forward, grappling with the divine-human reality that is the Church. But may it never be that I dissent from what she teaches as the apostolic faith.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Church-State

"The basic point I want to make is, quite frankly, the bishops have no expertise and no grounds to come down on one side or the other. This is the epitome of a prudential judgment sort of issue, and brandishing a few Bible verses doesn't make it less debatable or contentious."
The reason I say this so strongly is that, the biblical commands do not tell us whether or not to build a border fence, whether to impose tax penalties, etc. I might believe we need a fence and other measures, but if faced with a person in need, those concerns are less pressing, obviously.
Perhaps my annoyance at certain simplistic formulations obscured my strong affirmation of human dignity with respect to immigrants. I have no idea why the bishop of northern GA has deemed it necessary to opine, when none of the proposals on any side will have anything to do with the way legal immigration is conducted, nor prevent Christian people from acting in accord with mercy and the gospel in the case of an illegal immigrant. I checked the Catechism under the subject heading "Immigrants" and found nothing directly applicable to the matter at hand.
If I'm missing something, I would welcome the feedback.

Sports, Politics, Rick Santorum

5 Thoughts For Today

5. That awkward moment when listening to Jay-Z when you realize, "I haven't prayed today."

4. 117 days until MLB Spring Training. Let's cut the crap: In comparison, I don't care about football.

3. Bob Costas, you are one of the greatest sports announcers the world has ever known. I'd rather listen to you than almost anyone. You are a credit to your profession. Loved "Fair Ball." That said, I don't give a rip about your view of the Second Amendment. Shut your pie-hole. This is a football game, not Donnybrook.

2. I enjoyed "Red Dawn." As the problem unfolded, and the bad guys did their thing, I enjoyed saying, "Those commie &^#*@%$" a bunch of times.

1. I still love Rick Santorum, just so you know.

Immigration

If I were al-Qaida, I would start a terror cell in a Mexican border town. Let me preface the rest of this rant with the statement that I'm fairly flexible--even undecided--on what to do about illegal immigration. Right off the top, mass deportation is not an option. It is both unworkable, and un-Christian. I do not, however, believe that the Christian teaching to be hospitable to the alien and sojourner obligates me as a matter of faith to support the specific policy of granting amnesty and citizenship to those who come to the United States illegally. Doing this makes poor schmucks out of those who follow the rules. I wouldn't. Why? Not when US politicians are lined up to dole out the goodies.

On the other hand, we can dramatically simplify the process for becoming a United States citizen, and increase the numbers of people we accept as visitors to the United States. Citizenship confers privileges and obligations, and should never be granted lightly.

The DREAM Act has a great many appealing aspects, but some not so good.

The basic point I want to make is, quite frankly, the bishops have no expertise and no grounds to come down on one side or the other. This is the epitome of a prudential judgment sort of issue, and brandishing a few Bible verses doesn't make it less debatable or contentious.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Faith and Works


“I have no problem with religious acts, as long as they are a result of being saved and forgiven, not as a way to be saved and forgiven.” Why does anyone accept this reasoning as anything close to what the Bible plainly teaches? “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Did not Ananias and Sapphira die when they lied? “True religion that the Father accepts is this: to look after orphans and widows…” Do you recall the sheep and the goats? What’s this nonsense about having to be already forgiven in order to do anything? King Saul lost the kingdom because he did a “religious act.”

 

Let’s tell the truth: This is crazy. This is a theological conclusion so derived from party spirit that the text doesn’t even make sense anymore. If you can be damned by an act, surely you can be saved by one.

 

How did words and deeds working together become, “We save ourselves”? I keep looking for that in the Catechism. It must be in there. After all, the Reformers said it; it must be true.

 

That prideful Mother Theresa! She obviously walked around thinking she was something! It might be time to rethink this other theological trajectory, before somebody gets hurt. Oh, wait.

 

If you want to say “Apart from me, you can do nothing,” fine, we agree. That has never been the issue. But if you think we Catholics just sit around and cower, hoping God will love us, I’m going to laugh in your face. I hope it’s medicinal. Too bad you don’t have the Sacrament of Penance; that’s even more medicinal.

Dr. King

You know, there are people who frustrate me. The way they say things. The way they approach people who may be less intelligent, or at least less credentialed than them. Or maybe they don't see the moral implications of a thing the way I do. It happens.

I'm a very intelligent dude. That's not a boast. It's just the way things are. 97.4% of the time, I'm the smartest person in any room. But I'm the son and grandson of average folks. I like ordinary people. I really do watch NASCAR. I listen to country music. If I ever run for office, my opponent is already doomed, because I connect with people pretty well.

Provided, of course, that I can stay calm. I do have a bit of a temper. My trigger for anger is usually incurious stupidity or rank unfairness or injustice. People who have seen me argue politics and think I make Rush Limbaugh look like a moderate are very wrong. On the other hand, I will argue an extreme position or defend a marginalized person in a discussion if I think the other argument is a needless attack or otherwise stupid. Whatever kind of political conservative I am, I came to it because those positions and people were not being heard. In fact, they were being denigrated as subhuman. And everyone smugly moved on, content in their credentialed elitism. I hated that, and I still do.

But those things that I might be considered a "progressive" on usually have something to do with race, at least indirectly. And just to be blunt about it, I mean black people. African-Americans. I'm sure my own wrestling with becoming me as a "different" sort of person who didn't quite fit in had something to do with it. I listened to black music. I even "talked black" sometimes, and I can do it now pretty easily. [You still listen to black music, all the time.--ed.] When I was 13 maybe, I picked up a book called "The Days Of Martin Luther King." It was probably written in 1972 or '73, not long after he died, and it borders on hagiography. But you know what? I don't care. That's big-time hero stuff right there. The whole Civil Rights movement of that era was. Because most of it was done without hurting a fly, and with the gospel of Jesus Christ as the driving force. If the South had not been profoundly Christian, it would not have worked. And Dr. King knew that. Which is not to say that it was a big huge Bible study. No; his "Letter From Birmingham Jail" is one of the best articulations of natural law you will read.

We all have to try to remember a few basic facts about how we got to that movement in the first place. Essentially, after the North won the Civil War and passed the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution (look them up), we had in place at least the basics for legal equality. But the North lost the political will to enforce Reconstruction. The South "redeemed" their governments soon after, and basically undid or rendered void those amendments. The North and South were like two countries, as they would have been if the South had won. I seriously doubt we would be where we are (such as it is) if some of the major events of the movement had not been on TV, like Emmett Till's funeral, or the Montgomery bus boycott. You know white people; it didn't really happen until it's on TV.

If there was a virtue in Dr. King's assassination (and he definitely deserves that word to be applied to his death) it's that his more narrowly political projects (read: leftish) never came to public scrutiny. And he himself became both more disillusioned and radical than he appeared in public in the early days. I'm glad we never saw that. Leftism is still stupid, even when done by heroes.

If I may make a political digression, I think it will be absolutely critical that the Republican Party begins to have its leaders and figureheads be black and brown. So goes Black America, so goes America. And we're right; we've always been right. The Civil War, won by a Republican president. Constitutional amendments? GOP Congress. Federal desegregation? Republican. Passing the Civil Rights Act? Republicans. I think it's moronic and inane that Republicans today are presumed racist, given these facts.

And as much as I suspect that discussions of "white privilege" are a Marxist plot, (and they are) we also cannot expect that a magic wand was waved in 1965, and made everything OK. It wasn't that long ago. And I'm all for not making excuses, and holding people responsible, but we cannot tell Black America to "get over it." Even as I think that most of the progressive responses to all this are racist themselves, either in outright intent, or in result, I must stress that.

Big-time hero stuff. So please, don't let your mental encyclopedia article on Dr. King or Rosa Parks say something like, "Some people who did stuff a long time ago, and apparently, people are still excited." Well, yeah. In a sense, the great promise of our nation was not realized until it was experienced by those people. How great is America? We can be brought to shame with the true meaning of our own ideals. We still have work to do, but I'd rather tackle a great challenge in America than anywhere else.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Advent

Advent. I'm neither Catholic nor attentive enough to have noticed that the Gloria was missing, although, when the priest mentioned it in the homily, I'd swear I felt it right then. I didn't feel terribly spiritual going to Mass this evening, though I didn't feel weighted down by sin, either.

BUT, when I entered the sanctuary, it was but a few seconds when I sensed that it was Advent. It had slipped my mind intellectually. Still, I could not brush away this anticipation. If I didn't know better, I'd call it agitation. I can't call it joyous, at least not yet. What I felt was need. I need Jesus to be here. Even as I felt shame for losing patience earlier this week, and for being timid in sharing my faith. Yet there is something else: I have something to live for. Or rather, someone. And it really does make all the difference.

We all want to seem normal and well-adjusted. But the truth is, none of us are. You can maybe dance it away, or drink it away, or sex it away, but a gaping wound is hard to hide. There are still fleeting joys for the walking dead, but they are even more fleeting than we think. And here I thought I was being kind, not talking about Jesus. These people are dying, and I'm worried they won't like me?

Existentialists aren't totally nuts, you know. This life doesn't have much in it, if you tire quickly of pleasure and distraction. But if you grab the flashes of good and hold on, the magical rope leads to God. You can't build your own meaning in life, but you can find it. And lo and behold, the ordinary moments aren't so ordinary.

Meanwhile, I was watching Columbo yesterday. If you've never seen this show, it ran on and off from 1968-2003 as a series of roughly movie-length crime dramas starring Peter Falk as the titular detective. He always seems absent-minded, losing his keys, asking suspects for a pen, and "One more thing..." But the joke was on them. It still feels to me like Lt. Columbo could only live in a world where Jesus rose from the dead. Think on it: The unfailing politeness, the silly stories, the relentless pursuit of truth. Lt. Columbo is the perfect example of an ordinary guy living a holy life. Peter Falk died last year, having slipped into dementia in 2007. He had apparently accepted one last Columbo script that year, but it was never made. I hope Peter Falk is in Heaven. His character would be, most certainly.