Saturday, May 18, 2019

I'm "Anti-Choice," Happily And Obediently

The US Catholic Bishops note, "Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior, if the voter's intent is to support that position. In such cases, a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate's opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity."

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Gimme One Reason

I was going to post about the paragraphs in the universal Catechism about murder and abortion. Those paragraphs (say, 2268-2275) will never be a waste of your time. Yet it seemed more important to say this: One cannot actually reason if one's attempts to do so are nothing more than expressions of disdain for someone else's hypocrisy. It may be startlingly satisfying to make broad statements about one's opponents, and their alleged moral inferiority, but that's not an argument.

Let's get practical: It is either always morally acceptable to obtain an abortion, or it is never morally acceptable to obtain an abortion. Nuance--for the moment--is for sissies, and sophists. I'll grant you that hard cases exist; that's why they're hard. "Abortion" for this discussion means the deliberate killing, by any means, of a human being in his or her mother's body.

Make a choice. If it had to be one or the other, and all the squeamish hem-hawers and "Well..." throat-clearers had something else to do, I know what I'd choose. The rest is just dressing for heinous evil, pretending to be something else.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Anti-Anti-Political Correctness

People say "political correctness" bothers them. You know what bothers me? A lack of care about correctness in general. Moreover, a lack of care about caring. If you want to talk about how the regime of political liberalism rules certain ideas out of bounds in an allegedly pluralistic society, say that. The funny thing about claiming to "tell it like it is" is that you'd better be right. Too many use an alleged opposition to political correctness as an excuse to be jerks. Racists, religious bigots, whatever else.

I still may end up shot against the wall, but these Catholics throwing their lot in with the latest prince (let the reader understand) are a bunch of wimps and cowards. Natural law remains true. It doesn't actually matter how much government-sanctioned disapproval they bring to bear; we've still got the truth, and it's truth that the world wants and needs, even if they make a big show otherwise. I won't sell foreigners and immigrants down the river for a seat at the Christianist table.

I can remember the Super Bowl a couple years ago. There was a Coke commercial where they showed immigrants singing "America The Beautiful" in every possible tongue, including Arabic. Leaving aside the cynical assertion that Coke doesn't actually care about this issue, I found that I really do. I would rather be accused of wanting our nation to be overrun by outsiders than to intentionally be unwelcoming. If you will pardon the crudity here, I said out loud, "Screw you, Donald Trump!"

I will even grant that some people have an agenda to use sensitivity and compassion for immoral ends; this does not grant anyone a license for a lack of empathy. I admit that I view the present iteration of political "conservatism" fundamentally as a profound lack of empathy. It's not easy for me to say this; Jason Kettinger and "Left" just don't really go together. The problem is that today, Jason Kettinger and "Right" don't go together, either. If you've made your peace with it, fine. I'm apt at any time to tell you that you lack philosophical and moral imagination.

I can't give you an exhaustive list of my "prudential" judgments, or issue positions; I only know that the rightist impulse threatens to make "prudential" things that in fact are not. I simply do not trust or honor the moral instincts of people who countenance flagrant immorality and injustice, and then when challenged shout, "But abortion!" In this case, you're not arguing with Nancy Pelosi, you're arguing with me. And we have too quickly forgotten that Speaker Pelosi automatically deserves better than to simply be an avatar of what we loathe and fear.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Thinking About Emotion In Politics

I got to thinking about this because I have noted my own intellectual journey from one rooted in emotion and tribalism, to one more open to reason, and then as one who sees the possible error of ignoring feelings--from oneself or others--in an alleged devotion to "facts" and "logic" that is in fact another form of emotional tribalism.

It's a sobering thing to realize in one's mind, My "enemy" has made an argument, the moral force of which I have yet to take account. The "Left" does this all the time. I had become so adept at expressing outrage against the murder of children in the womb, and the sexual libertinism that leads to it, that in large part I simply ignored whatever a "liberal" said. I sneered at his morality, I seethed at it, I did everything except take his moral claims seriously; that is, as they are offered in good faith. Then I begin to think, "Hey, man, you were just a kid," and yet I answer, "No, I think I was about 34."

That is to say, I might be angry about the overvaluing of spotted owls, or dogs, relative to people, yet the stubborn intellect rouses itself to ask, "What is my position on spotted owls? Or climate change, or subsidized child care?", or dozens of other things. We had become so fond of marinating in our own certitude of rightness that we ourselves had become lazy. Satire in moderation may be useful, and even hilarious, but it's not argument, as such. Have you seen anything in the body politic that isn't contempt, or withering sarcasm?

I push so hard against the "Right" because that was my native land. I'll leave others to break their friends out of "Left" intellectual prisons.

I can't just say, "I'm a man of the Left," because I don't know what that means here today. If you figure out what the common political descriptors actually mean, you'll let me know, won't you? The only thing I know for sure is that I'm a Catholic in a world that couldn't care less, while fitfully yearning for that which it has rejected.

I still don't trust people without hearts. Maybe in that sense I was always a "liberal," in the reductionist parlance. I need to hear a person say, "Of course I agree that treating immigrants inhumanely is wrong," or, "I don't want poison in the air and water," full stop. And then you'd better be prepared to show how you're not advocating for something opposite of what you've said. Most rightists don't do that now, it seems to me. Too many wear a hardness of heart like a badge of honor, as if compassion itself were proof of error. We cannot disagree about prudential means to ends, if we do not agree on the ends. And we'd better be prepared for the fact that a Catholic anthropology is not identical--or perhaps even consonant with--these American political philosophies we've stewed in our whole lives, great as America is, in many ways. We need real leaders, whose vision is clear, and whose hearts are full. We cannot meme or tweet our way to the kind of political life we want. We must give truth when we find it, but we also must receive it, in humility, from our brothers and sisters, no matter how unexpected the timing, or the source. Anger and resentment are understandable, and even just, when injustice is present. But a politics of resentment does not become any people that aspires to be truly free.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Franklin Graham Is Right (Someone Has To Say It)

I saw a couple of news and magazine pieces after his tweet about Mayor Pete’s homosexuality. They all had the same stupid mistake, so let’s address it here: Mayor Pete does not have to repent for “being gay” (whatever that means); he needs to repent for engaging in homosexual sexual acts. I don’t begrudge him at all for attempting to “reclaim” particular issues from the Right, or helping to rebuild an active Christian Left. Well and good.

But the worse sin is to lead people to believe that homosexuality is acceptable, ordinary, and good. Lots of conventionally-attracted “allies” may be surprised by this. Read Romans 1:32 closely.

Many people desperately want to believe that God doesn’t care what we do with our bodies, especially in regard to sex. Curiously, no one makes this error when there is a rampage shooting.

It might as well be Franklin Graham. To say that he is disliked, or that he lacks the diplomatic talent of his father, is probably an understatement. Then again, it might as well be me.

My dislike of other things Graham might say or do doesn’t change the reality of this particular question.

A person might also say, “Mayor Pete believes a lot of other things I like,” and that’s fine. We don’t always see the bad fruit of the things we do. That’s a great mercy to us. What if we could physically see the devastation of adultery or divorce? Or even a “tamer” sin, like fornication? Maybe we wouldn’t do it.

As I was reflecting on this, I thought briefly of a science fiction story called, “Children Of Men.” I haven’t actually seen or read it. Yet there is one woman who is pregnant, in a world where this doesn’t happen. Some people want to kill her and the child, I think. Here is a real-life reductio ad absurdum: Given the premise that people can choose their sex partners, and it’s claimed that it doesn’t matter, what if everyone was homosexual? Literally every single person? We would slowly die, literally. This scenario reveals the natural law truth of men, women, and sexuality. We live in a time where we are accustomed to absolute freedom, but the reality of who and what we are asserts itself, despite our efforts to deny it.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Rejoice? Easter In Grief

I don't have anything profound to say. It's just weird, which is to say, we're used to death, and it is still fundamentally absurd. I just couldn't get past it, which is not to say I had tears. It's deeper than a feeling; it's a gut conviction: You're supposed to be here, and you're not. We all have those people, and the list gets longer and longer as we go through life.

Christianity is not a bunch of sentimental claptrap about being in a better place. It's in fact a contention that this world we know isn't real in some sense at all, that we feel sadness and sorrow at death because our immortal souls know that the separation of our souls from our bodies is just wrong, and that things won't be right again until that separation is reversed. If you don't believe in the resurrection of the body, you're not actually a Christian. Christ rose from the dead to defeat death itself. This is what Easter is about.

Anyway, I had this thought: My resurrection hope has names and faces, more than it did before. As though every tear was a down payment toward joy in the life of the resurrection. This is grieving in hope. I know that it's messy and uneven at times, but then, so am I.

I felt like an idiot today, because I asked a friend how he was doing. I know he has reason to cry; it was a stupid question. But then, how am I doing? I don't even know. I just know that they're all supposed to be here, and they're not. I know this for sure: I want the Father to command the dead to rise, just as surely as He commands that we be delivered from eternal damnation, and counted among the flock of those He has chosen. It's the same reality; You only need forgiveness of sins if you're going to live forever. We're soft on sin, because we forget the stakes. Religion isn't that important to people, if the message is, "Learn to be nice, and good." Pete's sake, Tony Robbins could help you with that, or Oprah. You don't need a priest for all that. We know it, too. I don't blame the "nones," because we make Christianity trivial, and then wonder why people exchange our triviality for the Patriots, or The Real Housewives of Atlanta. I would, too.

I need to see their faces again. Every single person I have lost. The gift of faith is an amazing gift, but I was disposed to receive it, because at bottom, I refused to accept the idea that this life, and a meaning we make ourselves, is all there is. I have seen an inexpressible glory in their eyes, in their faces, and that glory is out of place here. Have you sensed that, too?

Monday, April 08, 2019

Tim McGraw Versus George Strait

Someone has a ridiculous poll on Facebook, like "Who's The Greatest Country Artist?" and it's ridiculous for 2 reasons: 1. It's like being asked to choose between family; and 2. George is better, and Tim would agree.

I actually love Tim McGraw. His music is great, he paid his dues, he's a normal guy who's earned everything he's ever gotten. Hard beginning to life. You can understand that wistful sadness in many songs, knowing his story. I love him. He's the Daryl Hall of country music: We all love him, we know he's underrated, we can't make it up to him, so we just relax and enjoy his gifts.

George Strait is arguably the greatest of all time. He's the Roger Federer of country music: the greatest, and still great. He's had so many number 1 country songs that a new release on such a collection became number 1, and screwed up the count. It's 50-something. They put out a companion album of beloved Strait songs that barely missed number 1, and it had 22 songs on it. People still demanded more. It's utterly impossible to describe what he's meant to American popular music. His was arguably the greatest live concert I've ever seen. No fireworks, no graphics. Strait, and the band.

Let me put it this way: Only 11 artists in any genre in the rock & roll era have sold more records in the US than George Strait. I've seen the legend Garth Brooks himself stand on stage and say, "I'll never do it as good as Strait." Believe it. He tried to retire; we wouldn't let him.

"50 Number Ones" was released in 2004; it's #107 on Billboard's 200 Albums chart (any genre) right now. His latest release, "Honky Tonk Time Machine," has recently been #1. He's #1. The End.

"Strength Has No Gender," But

It's asinine to believe we can change genders, or sexes. It just is. If you are struggling with gender expectations/gender dysphoria/wounds from your family of origin, I'd want to actually help you, not mutilate you, first of all.

I don't care what Brawny paper towels does with their marketing, in a sense. I don't actually know what paper towels I use. But I won't do a boycott, and here's why: I am not principally a consumer or buyer. I don't want to communicate in any sense that the truths about human sexuality are reflections of merely my preferences; I'm not part of an interest group, and I can't be bought off or pacified. Reality asserts itself, even when it's unpopular. If I'm the only one who says it, what else is new?

Maybe I can have a "moment," where the world starts listening to me, as if I have something new. I don't, but our culture is like that. It's actually funny that these unfortunate people keep "discovering" things they've always known, but everyone forgot, or ignored.

I notice in these high-profile transgenderism cases that the individual's expression of gender is highly exaggerated. Bruce Jenner didn't just want to be a woman; he wanted to be his idea of our culture's desirable, "hot" woman. And there are things I've read about how he felt when he was literally the world's greatest male athlete that tell me his models of "male" and "female" are pretty messed up to start.

I've only dabbled in counseling; I'm no expert. On the other hand, we've got legions of experts that are too cowardly to call a man a man. They'll attempt to change every definition in their profession to get along. Meanwhile, the hurting people they've "helped" are all alone, when the madding crowd finds a new cause to champion.

I don't want to be a culture warrior, which might be just my way of saying that I don't need a bloviating vulgarian to protect me from "the Left." Then again, I am allergic to obvious stupidity. Someone will have my reputation, eventually.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Don't Knock It 'Til You Try It?

Sometimes, people will say, "Unless you do/have/experience X, you don't get to have an opinion." It's a radical subjectivism, from one angle, and a pragmatism, from another. Quite honestly, it's a move people usually make to shut down debate--especially with regard to abortion, for example--most likely because the moral justification for such an act is dubious, and they know it. Funnily enough though, when they are wronged, many people conveniently rediscover their notion of objective truth!

The pragmatism is almost centered on the body, as if the actions we take with our bodies are by definition morally neutral. Then again, when someone isn't trying to justify themselves, they are able to see how foolish this would be, applied to all situations. I have never committed adultery in the strict sense, but I can give you all sorts of reasons and examples of its harm. Again, when you're not implicating someone you're talking to, you're a trenchant social critic; when you do, you're a judgmental zealot, with too much time on his hands.

Anybody remember the "Sister Act" movies? Quite frankly, I think they give a more positive picture of the Catholic Church than the Vatican press office. Anyway, Kathy Najimy quite brilliantly played "Sister Mary Patrick," the most optimistic, joyous nun you've ever seen. In one scene, she's teaching these kids at St. Francis School in San Francisco about sex. One of the teens asked her how a celibate nun could teach them about sex. She said, "You don't have to taste the doughnut to know it's sweet." That's got layers: 1. She compared sex to another good thing; 2. She hinted that her vocation involved giving up a good thing for a better thing; and 3. She rejected the premise that a person has to know something personally to know the truth about it. Particularly with vice, it is never necessary to do vice to understand that it is vice. In fact, saying that one must experience something to know its moral qualities likely implies that only the practical and pragmatic reasons to do or not do an act are relevant to the decision.

It may be prudent to give a particularly vicious person the pragmatic reasons not to do an evil act, but if we want to form people in the virtues, it would be harmful to stop at the practical. Maybe that's a big part of the trouble we've had lately in the Catholic Church: we haven't given people the truest and best reasons to do or believe the things we do and believe.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

The Uncomfortable Flip-Side Of The Sexuality Tu Quoque

One of the arguments in favor of the mainstreaming of homosexual relations goes like this: "It's more than a bit rich for the hypocritical heterosexuals to worry now about the downfall of our society."

I agree.

Which is why adultery, divorce, abortion, contraception, etc. are all wrong. I find it hard to believe that no gay "allies" could see this argument coming. They may take advantage of the destruction of all the laws and mores with respect to human sexuality, but anyone trying to rebuild the culture would say, "Hypocrisy is still the tribute that vice pays to virtue."

That's also why a slippery slope argument isn't always a fallacy. The long form of, "It's a slippery slope" is, "The basis for a principled distinction between a behavior you deem acceptable, and one you deem abhorrent, has been removed."

The very purpose of a reductio ad absurdum is to create the conditions where a person of good will will critically re-evaluate premise or premises in their arguments in the light of reason, because those premises lead to an absurd conclusion. As we get deeper and deeper into skepticism and emotivism, it becomes all the harder for people to take moral claims seriously; that is, at face value.

Say What You Mean, And Mean What You Say

It's somewhat disorienting, to not know for sure in some instances what is true. It seems like many people are using half-truths, or outright lies, to advance an agenda. It happens all over. Behind this is an internalized skepticism that sounds something like, "Well, everyone's got a perspective." On the contrary; they are not all equally valid. The truth is the truth, and lies (or honest errors) are not.

To be blunt, I may not be willing to engage in lying to discredit Planned Parenthood--I may even be angry about various willful deceptions for that purpose--but it doesn't actually change the fact that the intentional killing of children in the womb is a species of murder. No amount of right-wing exaggeration, or cowardly moral capitulation in another area, makes such actions acceptable.

Suppose we even take the dubious claim that only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's funding goes toward abortion. There is no doubt that the purpose of such a claim is in effect to say, "See? It's not that big of a deal."

One is still left with these basic claims: "Abortion is morally acceptable," and/or Abortion is not morally acceptable."

Quite honestly, I think some people would rather point out others' hypocrisy, rather than confront the basic question. In point of fact, we cannot prudentially disagree about how to combat abortion, if we do not agree on the fundamental nature of the moral act. All the sniping is a distraction from the central question.

For my part, I could be derided as a "kitchen sink"-ist, if only because I am willing to consider that other factors are driving the arrival at that moral decision. Yet not all kitchen sinkists are created equal.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Benedict Option: A Strategy For Christians In A Post-Christian Nation, (Dreher) Chapter 2, "The Roots of the Crisis" (III)

Dreher begins with a story of two middle-aged or older women, lamenting the loss of previously-held sexual mores; namely, that they know so many young women having children out of wedlock. Indeed, although that crisis has hit minority communities even harder, it is interesting that he cites Charles Murray's recent sociological survey of White America, Coming Apart. It's at this point that the chapter becomes interesting, because what follows is a brief survey of Western civilization. Dreher is not after a jeremiad here, but an exploration of ideas. Ideas--or better said, philosophies--have consequences, and our author wants us to look at them. Dreher says that five movements built upon each other, and in a sense conspired together, to bring our societies to this moment:

1. The loss of metaphysical realism, or the classical theory of epistemology. It's very possible to get into the weeds here, but following the lead of the Greek philosophers, we believed that reality as we know it was ordered and knowable, that human beings were able to observe reality and abstract the essences of things. The purpose of a philosophy of knowing is to understand reality, and build upon it. Into the 14th century, Dreher says, people believed that God was very active in the world. That is, it was "sacramental," as Dreher calls it, a sort of theater for the miraculous. Even the natural sciences saw their fundamental purpose as an elucidation of the work of Providence. When this basic approach to knowledge was lost or set aside, the results were disastrous. One fundamental aspect of this classical account of knowing is a very close relationship between the knower, and the thing known. In addition, there remains a link between universals and particulars.

2. The Protestant Reformation. The rejection of the authority of the Catholic Church came with a new religious epistemology, or method of discerning revealed truth in Christ. The consequent loss of consensus, and the sheer proliferation of competing ecclesiastical authorities, cut into any consensus that could be relied upon. Advocates will say of course that a consensus that is false isn't worth its supposed benefits. Meanwhile, in this account, the new philosophy that replaced the classical epistemology was called, "nominalism." One of the results of nominalism is to sever the link between universals and particulars. In a sense, as I understand it, it's as if the universals do not exist. If I am looking at a particular tree, I cannot abstract that which belongs to the concept "tree"; I cannot say that this tree shares anything by the very fact of being a tree with any other tree. We call them "trees" because we've decided so, not because the universal "tree" actually exists. I'm going to rely on Dr. Cross to clean up any errors in my account here, but suffice to say, nominalism is so stupid that I'm baffled that anyone would defend it. It's a standard Catholic claim to say that Protestant theology relies on nominalism, and your mileage may vary.

Also, I find it snarkily amusing that Dreher can't really push this point too far, because the first Protestants in vast numbers were the Orthodox. Sad, and possibly offensive, but true. It's at this point also that his lamenting the general loss of religious authority can do everything, except recommend a return to the Catholic Church. You will note again that his audience is all Christians, so when he says "church" in this work, he's conceiving of the universal Church as invisible. "Back to the sources!" is only as strong as his weakest link, and that's Protestant ecclesiology. Unstated and sort of implied is somehow that the East escaped these disasters, and that's more than debatable. Anyway, let's move on.

3. The Enlightenment. This movement in the 18th century replaced the Christian religion with "Reason," says Dreher. What's happening philosophically is a truncation of what counts as true knowledge to the empirical. Rene Descartes (1596-1650) was a major figure here, for our purposes, mainly introducing a starting-point of skepticism into a working epistemology. Notice also it's the exact opposite of the classical account. Indeed, Descartes thought we should doubt our own senses, rather than extrapolate from them to higher things. He may be the father of modern philosophy. Frankly, he's lucky I don't blame him for everything. I will add in capitalism and democracy as fruits of the Enlightenment, and if you catch me on the wrong day, (most of them) I won't see either one as good.

4. The Industrial Revolution. This mostly 19th century phenomenon accelerated the movement to cities and away from farming villages. In addition of course, great technological advances were happening at the same time. Many commentators will argue (to some extent Dreher among them) that all these causes are linked in some way or another.

5. The Sexual Revolution. Dreher marks this beginning in 1960, with the advent of widely available hormonal contraception. This of course fully and finally severed the link between procreation and pleasure, and in the Catholic phrasing, made pleasure the primary end of sex. A whole host of disasters are the direct result of this revolution: divorce, adultery, abortion, sexual violence, etc. In short, Pope St. Paul VI was absolutely right, and I doubt Dreher disagrees.

In the end, this is a common traditional Christian recounting of the West. Dreher concedes that it's an intellectually-driven account of historical causation. I'm not inclined to quibble with this basic account.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

"Intemperate" Thoughts Related To Yesterday's Post

I'll start by saying I read Anthony Esolen on bad poetry. He's right, of course. And despite my healthy dislike for some of his other pieces, I got through it all right. I did snarkily wonder when they were going to start putting "Trump 2020" banners on all of his essays. [You flat-out consider voting for Trump a moral failing, don't you?--ed.] Yes.

Anyway, I got to thinking about it--there was a funny moment in my grandmother's funeral Mass, of all places--when we sang "On Eagles' Wings". I get it, it's a terrible song, that no faithful Catholic should ever love. Yet I do. I really do, and I'll tell you why: I've experienced some really tough things in this life. I'm not trolling for sympathy, I'm just letting you know. I got pretty emotional just typing that out, honestly. Anyway, every time I hear that song, I understand God is here, and He loves you. That's what it means to me.

I understand people hate it, and I understand that many people associate it with liberalism in the Church in the '70s. What is that to me? I wasn't here. I would even agree that we shouldn't sing it in Mass, if we have a choice. I'm still glad somebody wrote the song.

Which brings us to the funny moment: Father hates it as well. He processed out in his beautiful, reverent vestments, heard the song, and rolled his eyes. Then, in a great act of virtue, humility, and service, he began singing loudly, with great gusto. Think of what that says: I hate this song, but I'm the priest. We're thankful to God, and we're going to act like it.

Finally, I have a vague distrust of people who don't like popular things. Even if I become a total snob, I'll never lose this. I'll probably dislike myself, if I turn my nose up at Bette Midler, or Barry Manilow. Yes, mock if you must. I've obviously overcome this vague distrust, in several instances. Ahem.

Perhaps I could learn to regret that I know more pop songs than sacred songs. Then again, I am The Man Of A Thousand Friends, and such people know the words to "Don't Stop Believin'".

Another thought on this "moral failing" discussed above: It's not that I don't understand the difficulty of making a binary choice, especially if you think you ought to. But I don't see the cause for celebrating, cheerleading, that kind of a thing. If I know that you see what I see, and can articulate it, I can see voting against transgenderism, homosexuality, abortion, etc. but somebody ought to be able to say that the daily denigration of the office that's occurring now is really happening. I don't fear "The Left". I am who I am; I don't need a champion or a "fighter". I expect my presidents to behave with a modicum of dignity, and good sense, and despite my own radicalism, I don't favor blowing up "the system" just to make a point. I'm happy for President Jimmy for being the oldest living president ever. It's common and decent to wish your opponents well, even to think of them well, and so I do. We can't even get the current guy to lay off a dead guy! Don't dare ask me why I don't like Trump. If you don't know, I can't help you.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Beauty Is Objective, But

I heard a lecture on beauty by my good friend, Dr. Larry Feingold. I am fully convinced that Aristotle and St. Thomas are right about this, of course. I'm Catholic, after all. [You don't realize how easily, or how often, that is taken for granted.--ed.] Nevertheless, as far as I am able, I will intentionally plant myself in that tradition, and I will take the Catholic philosophical, theological, aesthetic, etc. as a starting position.

So it's not rap I will defend, but pop-folk-rock legend James Taylor. This is my "teenage rebellion" of the day. My musical formation is partially owed to this guy. Don't worry; I will listen to Mozart or Palestrina after this or something. How I wish Dr. Cross knew this man's music as well as I do! Which isn't to say that I know it well, in some respects. But you could do much, much, worse. As a side-note, you'll see in fact that he's the whitest guy ever, in case there had been some doubt.

I appreciate that Dr. Feingold said that there is some goodness in any art, no matter how low-brow, or lacking in the transcendentals. For the purposes of this discussion, that's all I needed to know. [You just want license to indulge your terrible taste in music.--ed.] Perhaps! Ha! But what's really exciting is, I'm always expanding my tastes. I'm no longer an egalitarian, with respect to any art, or with respect to expertise. Therefore, experiencing art in the broad sense is about discernment, from here on in. For whatever it's worth. Inquiry: If the problem with modern art or music is that it prizes self-expression that ends in a kind of nihilism and banality, how do we convey things like sorrow, deep disaffection, and tragedy, in a world made by God, against the backdrop of putatively desiring to be in harmony with Good?

As one example, evangelical Christian movies are preachy, heavy-handed, and arguably, not art. This is because the works themselves are so subordinated to conveying the message of good news as they understand it that the works lack the mysterious power of the beautiful. We want to inspire mankind to its highest end, but we don't want to destroy the natural in that pursuit. It's a trickier set of questions than it may appear. Further investigation is warranted. And long live JT!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Goodbye and Hello (Loretta G. Kettinger, 1925-2019)

There are a lot of things I might say about my Grandma. That's how I knew her, too. Sometimes, even before she died, I wished to know her in younger days. What was she really like? What was my Grandpa Bill like, who died before I was born, in 1979? He had to be quieter than her! It's odd, you know, a family in Missouri, that's to a person Dodgers fans (except my brother and me). That's weird, you know. You'd have to let my Uncle John tell you the story. The boys, her sons, they all love baseball. That's why I love baseball. They wore out the tape of Game 1 of the Series in '88. Kirk Gibson's home run, when he could hardly walk. It's as much a part of our family as anyone's. My Aunt Karen made the mistake once of saying, "Haven't you guys seen this enough? You know what happens!" John, without missing a beat, said, "Be quiet! I'm afraid he'll strike out this time!" Grandma would laugh and laugh, as if we'd never heard it, or a hundred other stories. She poured herself into her children and grandchildren. That's who she was. If you know us, you know her. Her house is where we always met. And she always cooked, and we always ate. "No thanks, I'm not hungry" would be ignored, as if it were not spoken. That's just how it went.

And then I think of my aunts and uncles I still have, and those departed. How hard they worked, and still work, as well as the kind of reputations they have. The point makes itself: This lady was their mother. When I think of how much I admire my Uncle John, and have heard the stories of who my father was, especially, I realize: Who do you think taught them all that?

You notice she was preceded in death by 6 of her 10 children. How strong do you have to be, to bury one child? I gave you the obituary, so you could perhaps pray for all of them. But how strong do you have to be? I guess you have to be a Kettinger. We have cried rivers over the years, and that is true. But if you saw us together, you'd see the joy of living. She was the focal point, but we have lived. It seems we take joy in every little thing, and we got that from her.

I think I was about 30 when I realized Grandma snuck off to an early Mass before I woke up, on the days I stayed over. She never spoke of such matters, but I knew we were Catholic. I had my own journey to the Church, but I also understood another blessing: I am to be the one who fills in the hole in her heart. Every Mass, every prayer, every thought of higher things, was for her, and for those we lost.

We're not a churchy bunch, as a group, but someone has to do it. I will never fully understand the power of the Church's intercession, nor of the sacraments, but I understand we have been leaning on them, one way or another, our entire lives.

If I could stay in 1988 forever, I would. I still had my Dad, Rick, and most everybody, except for Uncle David, and Aunt Janet, who died as children. They made a funny video celebrating Loretta, and Dad was the director. It may be in the same shape as that Dodgers World Series tape, for all I know. Those were joyous days. Those are the days I remember.

I didn't feel too sad today, because she poured all she was into us. I remember the way she called me "Jay," and mountains of fried potatoes. I remember the way she laughed, how she started, and could never stop. I remember how loud her phone was when it rang, and how it was one of us, usually. Then again, everyone who came through her door was family. I took it for granted, because I thought that's how everybody was. I would love to be this naive again, and I would love to be as generous as she was.

Friday, March 15, 2019

St. John Vianney, Pray For Us!

What a great day! I resolved to go to Holy Mass, because a relic of St. John Vianney would be there. I don't always get to go during the week these days, but today is special. I had in mind Confirmation Sponsor Lady, and one of my sisters, who has been sick. Truthfully, whenever I am at our parish, I think of them.

It strikes me as odd that the separated brethren of the Reformation are so convinced of the error of the cult of the saints. As one hymn puts it, "Yet she on Earth hath union/With God the Three in One/And mystic sweet communion/With those whose rest is won." As I was thinking about this, I realized that in the hearts of the saints, there are no strangers. Therefore, in the one Eucharist, we know each other, and are fully known. There is so much loss in death and suffering, but even this can be rendered sweet in redemption. John Vianney got my requests to heal some people--not usually his normal thing--and my thanks for my family, especially since we are partly French (on one side) like him. I heard a talk about Therese of Lisieux last night. I felt much closer to her since I heard that she struggled with prayer. In recent days, I find my sole anchor in repeated recitations of the Memorare.

I had my normal Lenten dinner at the neighborhood restaurant, and as I walked home in the bright sunshine, I said to a dear departed friend, "Man, Raff, you'd have loved a day like today!" I caught myself, and added, "Then again, in Heaven, every day is like this." I hope she gets to meet my Grandma Loretta, who died this week (if they haven't already). Maybe we cry on this side of the vale, but the joy of Heaven utterly swallows up every sadness. The exercise of hope is to invite God to give us a foretaste of it while we are here.

There is so much fellowship denied or delayed by the trials of this life. In any case, beloved brethren, I'll see you in the Eucharist, by the mercy of God.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Keep It Simple

The trial of life eventually reduces down to this reality: every joy, prayer, work, and suffering is brought to the altar. Everything becomes a question of faith, or the lack of it.

Everything pertaining to worship that isn't the Mass imitates it. It is both intriguing and tragic to know that so many people believe other things, and quite doggedly at that. God in Christ either answers sorrow and sin with grace, or he does not. I find myself with little patience to debate the theological particulars of the holy Mass with those not yet reconciled to holy mother Church, if only because there is little time to reconcile that which remains unredeemed in my life, and in my sphere of influence. If ecumenism does not include the possibility of return to the Catholic Church, it is a waste of time.

It still remains true that I am gentler on those outside the Catholic Church than I am on those within. It may be in part a function of my own pride and forgetfulness, in the sense that I did not know once that which I know now. I have become a native now, for better and worse.

This life will be beat you down, and just when you think that you can't take anymore, this life will demand more. Without faith--without the reality of the supernatural--there is no comfort in religion. May we be spared this nonsense of religion as a comfort despite not being true. I would laugh at such patronizing foolishness, except for the fact that so many people think it is a true account of what is going on. Christianity is either maximally true, a totalizing reality, or it is useless. I'm not the first to say it, and I won't be the last. But there's probably someone out there who hasn't taken religion seriously enough to consider it. Perhaps someone even reading this blog.

There is almost a cottage industry of those who set up a false dichotomy between piety, and an ability to deal with reality. Such people almost use "pious" as a slur, or a backhanded compliment. To be pious, however, is to accept what God reveals to be the truth; indeed, the total truth, and to order one's life in accordance with that reality. We are quite aware that life here offers us many opportunities for distraction, and even to be convinced of some other reality, but in the end, we either believe that God has spoken, or we believe that he has not.

Friday, March 08, 2019

The Blunt Force Of Unbelief

I used this phrase with a friend the other day, and I think its aptness is its directness. If God does not exist, then all manner of things become possible as choices that decent people don't consider, at least most of the time. This is not to say that one must be devoted to religion in order to be good; not at all. It's that the intelligibility of goodness makes sense in a world created by the God who spoke to Abraham. It's a subtle difference, but it's real.

A lot of people may not sign on the dotted line, as it were, for what the Church teaches. They like their adulteries, their abundance of strong drinks, or the glamour of believing in Reason. Press them a bit, though, and they are not ready to actually live in a senseless world. This inconsistency is an implicit acknowledgement of God.

I thank God for this inconsistency. I thank God, in a way, for this hypocrisy. If we are open, we can be led in virtue to the threshold of faith itself. Faith is ever and always an unmerited gift, but the path is not completely dark for those willing to follow the truth of goodness wherever it leads.

Unbelief, true unbelief, is blunt; it is violent. It admits of no degrees; it has no pity or sentiment. An inconsistent theist may be amusing, or even galling; a consistent anti-theist is a monster. When we struggle, we are invited by our worst inclinations to cast aside our furtive movements toward goodness, to live consistently in our rejection of God. Most don't take this path, thankfully.

The trouble is that none of us will be held guiltless for our inconsistency. The trouble is that we will become what we have exerted ourselves to become. Such is the reality and finality of judgment.

Suffering And The Inner Logic Of God

Suffering is an evil. Even the saints don't desire suffering for its own sake. But I keep saying: physical pain, sorrow, whatever else, those are distinct modes of existence. I can feel the pain of that, even rightly hate it, while accepting whatever has brought me to this place. One of its great gifts is the opportunity to explore the meaning of me. This experience of pain or loss is not intrinsic to me, nor to the world, but it's a part of my existence, and therefore, it's part of the world and part of others I have touched.

There's a fundamental difference between asking Why? in hope, and asking Why? in despair. Hope starts with the acknowledgement of the fundamental problem: It's not supposed to be this way. Yet it is this way. Why? Experiencing suffering isn't so much a matter of logical argument, but here it is:

Suffering is an evil;
God is good, indeed all Good;
The all-Good God has permitted me to suffer; (Why?)
There must be a more profound goodness to be found.

There's no how-to book in getting from the first premise to the end. There's no timetable. But I believe this is the Christian answer to suffering. The despairing argument is this:

Suffering is an evil;
Suffering should be avoided;
Some claim there is an all-good God;
But there is not;
Therefore, suffering is meaningless.

You could even add extra premises to the despairing argument, such as, "When you run out of meanings you make yourself, you can and should end your life." Functionally, it makes absolute sense why existentialism has ended in suicide. This is the blunt force of unbelief.

On the other hand, Jesus Christ who loves me is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. He had a reason to endure. "He shall see his offspring; they shall prolong his days." (see also Psalm 22) The crucifixion was the most senseless miscarriage of justice ever, because Jesus was not only innocent of the crimes for which he was accused, but innocent and perfect in everything. The human injustice of it sits right alongside its theological meaning. To affirm one is not to deny the other.

I once did not know it was possible to cough continuously, almost uninterrupted, for 10 or 12 straight hours. I do now. (Part of the recovery from the car accident.) I don't know what meaning or merit it had. I would have done almost anything to stop it. But if I found out its meaning, especially for someone else, in the Grand Tapestry of Providence, would I be able to refuse it? I should hope not!

What a lot of people don't seem to understand is that the righteous hatred of suffering fuels the search for its inner logic. If it were not seemingly in conflict with God's perfect goodness, there would be no reason to ask. There is joy in the asking, joy in the waiting, and joy in the aftermath. Not joy in the suffering, as such.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

"The Right To Choose" As A Function Of Market Ideology

Basically the argument goes like this:

1. This political and economic system prizes individual consumer choice above all else;

2. That is, this econo-political system is utilitarian;

3. Utilitarianism values people only in relation to their value to someone or something else, especially considered in economic terms;

4. Therefore, "the right to choose" endures as the maximum expression of individual choice, and economic empowerment.

A thought for your consideration, if you haven't: There are a great many things simply taken for granted by us as Americans which also communicate that human value ought to be understood in utilitarian economic terms. 

Of Course I'm Disaffected; Why Aren't You?

I took one of those implicit bias tests, actually for partisan affiliation. It said I was a raging Republican. Honestly, I have doubts about its scientific accuracy or applicability. On the other hand, it's true that I fell in with Republicans shortly after starting college. A huge thing was becoming convinced about the murderous nature of abortion. I had, and still retain, a deep sense of compassion and thirst for justice, so I never was unchangeable on other things, but I said, "These are my people, because they see this issue clearly."

And I don't know how your family is, but my family on my mother's side reads Ayn Rand. Now, please spare me your vituperative judgments here. That's just how it goes. Never made it through Atlas Shrugged, or The Fountainhead, but I've read Anthem at least 15 times. Smart people find her dull and plodding, and her philosophy wanting (fair enough), but I am still mesmerized by that story. I'm an American, after all. I know that Communism and various socialisms are bad; it's in the water here.

Then I was 23, and I read Radical Son, by David Horowitz. I cried like a baby. "This is what actual Communism does: it destroys a family, and destroys this man that I think I like." Now, he says and does a lot of things I don't like, but I felt I understood him. I still think I understand him, because I read this memoir. And quite frankly, when I surveyed my landscape, politics as I saw it then, it seemed like the fault-lines were still the same as the late '60s. I joined the conservative side fully at that moment. It was still a Boomer family argument, but I was in. The picture he shows you is leftist radicals without principle, abandoning all pretense of principle, abandoning morality, and justice, in service to an ideology in the negative sense, or for power. On my scene, that's also what I saw: Mizzou (the University of Missouri-Columbia) is not a radical hotbed, and it wasn't then, but the leftists I met, I didn't like. Same with most of the College Democrats, quite honestly. They were smug, loud, and it seemed to me, impervious to reason. I wasn't nearly as reasonable or thoughtful as I thought I was, but we can't see ourselves as clearly as we think we can see others.

I loved George W. Bush, and I wasn't alone. Loved him. People don't really understand what that's like now. The Iraq war went so bad in some ways, and was ethically dubious in others, that folks forget how happily his voters supported him. I don't care how close that first election was. Gore had no chance, and we all knew it. Smug know-it-all, who felt entitled to the presidency, it seemed. And showed it, often. Then 9/11 happened. I still carry a great fondness for the president and his words then. When he is on his deathbed, as his father was a short time ago, he will absolutely deserve the nostalgia and the victory laps he will receive. Even the "Hold on a minute" pieces that follow will have to speak favorably of the basic decency which characterized the time of George W. Bush.

Kerry had no chance, either. He's also an arrogant know-it-all, but he was different: he was so afraid to tell people what he really believed that he sounded downright unprepared to be the president. Bush probably won that election when he responded to Kerry's "global test" comment with something like, "What's this stuff about a global test? I don't need to take a test, but I will defend the American people." Lame, but effective, especially against Kerry, who seemed annoyed at having to explain his views to the peons, and suffered the loss consequently.

By the time I was 28, I wrote, "The GOP idea machine has run dry, lulled into complacency by too many easy elections against unworthy and unlikable opponents." I had also grown tired of voting pro-life, it seemed, to little effect. In support of Obama, I had written that. The Democrats were always so dour; we could ignore them, and still win. Obama had aspirations, and he wanted you to have them, too. He knew, as a practical matter, that he could be against the Iraq war without it costing him or the region too much, and for all intents and purposes, he cruised to victory. I'll skip ahead by saying I grew to love Mitt Romney, and was thrilled to support him. The HHS mandate alone was reason enough to vote against Obama, and so I did.

Donald Trump? Seriously? I don't get the decency of Bush or Romney, or the intellect of Obama. This isn't a great treatise on policy substance, I grant you. But this person is dumb. This might be a worse crime in my mind than anything else. We don't even have the pretense of high-minded principle, or aspiration. We went from Bush 41, who counted Maureen Dowd of the New York Times as a friend--in spite of all the mean things she said--to this. The bipartisan things about both Bushes were the best things. Did we abandon aspiration and even basic decency, because we couldn't beat the black guy? How did basic norms of behavior become liberal things?

I can honestly say I never had a racist thought about Barack or Michelle Obama. I got tired of him; I stopped watching the State of the Union somewhere back there. Take it back, I watched his last one. I loved Nikki Haley's direct shot at Trump in her response that night. Immigrants are my people, and they always will be. That was one of Bush's "liberal" and bipartisan things, and he was right. Maybe I should have known something was up when Romney chose immigration as the issue to prove he was "conservative." Nativism, pure and simple. "Enforcement" needs to keep the basic humanity of border-jumpers always in view. If in fact you are actually concerned because there are too many Mexicans at the factory in town, you are not my people. Nobody's in favor of murderers and drug dealers, OK? Why is this even an argument? I think we should do what Nancy Pelosi proposed. No, seriously: Spend a whole bunch of money on sensors, drones, and agents. If you're illegal, pay a fine, taxes, and we'll move on. Obama actually said this exact thing 5 years ago. Now, you've got ICE agents tossing families apart when people do what we've asked them to do! Make them citizens, or leave them alone. Aside from being contrarian for the sake of argument, this is what I've always believed. And immigration is Trump's reason for running. This is it. You, sir, are definitely not my people. I want the stodgy Republicans back. I want the Bushes back. I might be a pro-life liberal, but that was the Republican Party I knew and understood. And I'm done with it, for the foreseeable future.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

I Am Seeing A False Choice

It may not have been from a place of charity when the evocative phrase, "Republican Rite Catholic" was first deployed, but it's often apt. Just today, I was invited to choose between the transcendentals (goodness, truth, and beauty) and diversity, inclusion, and tolerance.

Why not both?

Let's say what this is really about, shall we? Those people over there want to lecture me about racism, and they can't even recognize a baby. Believe me, I've been here; I know what this feels like. You might even be able to say that a particular hierarchy of values is misaligned. It is an act of love, and deep respect, to submit yourself, even theoretically, to another person for correction. We're not seeing a whole lot of deep respect across politics these days. One cannot do much honest reflection when the only goal of politics is winning. Maybe Ian Barrs is right: There's no winning this culture war, in the arena of politics. It's going to be a longer game, and frankly, we might have to change more than we thought we would.

Yet this truth remains: If we ignore a moral problem long enough, we become desensitized to it. We may repeat like a mantra that racism is less grave than the murder of a baby in the womb, but that calculation does not render the damage of racism to zero. There could be 5000 Jussie Smollett stories a day, and it would not relieve me from the obligation to consider my participation in racism, and to take steps to correct it. It may even be true, for example, that the vast majority of police do a wonderful job in trying circumstances. Truth, however, does not allow me to disregard those who do not do a wonderful job. The popular culture even invites us to be reactionary about this. Almost every cop show I've ever seen treats Internal Affairs officers (who investigate other police) like betrayers to the brotherhood of cops.

I think it's rather silly to assert, in another vein, that having children as such is harmful to the environment. This doesn't mean that anyone who raises the question has nothing good to say. It doesn't mean that climate change is a hoax, or that it is imprudent (at best) to consider large-scale changes to the use and production of energy. Those who raise alarms may have their own reductionisms to contend with; my first obligation is to my own reductionism, as a matter of intellectual honesty.

Prudential disagreement involves choosing different means to the same ends. It does not mean ignoring whatever problems it does not suit me to consider. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken: A Thought On One Common Response To Suffering

"If I'm gonna go, let me go. I don't want to suffer." Honestly, the people who say this have no idea what they are talking about. This is spoken by a fearful person, who hasn't actually lived. I gotta be honest. I wasn't close to death, really, but I know about this suffering people are afraid of. The death of the body is a fearful thing, though the death of the soul (that is, the second death) is worse. When you realize that you could die, there is a profound joy in the fact of not having died yet.

I'm a Christian of course, but aside from thoughts about the eternal human soul, I have no religious thoughts, as such, to share. Some people have life "flash before their eyes," but others get plenty of time to imagine the world without them in it. Unless your picture is distorted by some other illness, the very idea that suffering is less preferable than death is patently absurd. I don't know how this idea has gotten a foothold! I have to believe that people haven't actually enjoyed anything; that is, allowed themselves to co-mingle with the stuff of Earth, to plant a flag and say, "I was here!"

The spark of life is the difference between living, and simply existing. If you're honestly afraid of physical suffering, ask yourself why. Because in my experience, while I can point to moments that were hellish, and tough to endure, the pain is somehow suffused with every joyful moment of what it has been like to be me. To commiserate in the pain is one kind of solidarity, and the joy from the spark of life is another. The reason why we are so sad when others die is because we have seen this spark of life; we have seen the planted flag. Whatever the soul is, it is this spark of life. If you are so sure you want to "pull the plug," you may not have considered how the spark of your life has colored every other one. I'm not talking about tough decisions about extraordinary measures; I'm asking you whether you regard yourself so slightly.

We are the stuff of Earth, too; when this sadness touches us, it's because that spark of life has somehow co-mingled with us. When we love, we are never the same. I am irrevocably The One Who Was Loved. It's never the same, but it's true with every friendship, no matter how brief.

To push back death for at least a few moments is to rejoice in friendship with myself. It's to say--to see--that there is something about me that I can't see from inside, at least not always. It's pretty amazing to say to the Maker of all things, "Hey, pretty good!" It's not vanity, because whatever makes me me is not completely mine.

A Few Follow-Up Thoughts On Yesterday

I think one of the frustrating, damaging things about classical liberalism--and this has been noted before--is that it makes people lie about what they truly believe, in order to achieve majorities and pluralities that wield political power. The system--economic, social, and political--sells people on the idea that electoral legitimacy in itself stands in for deep satisfaction, for all that is good and right. When they've been strategically dishonest for too long, and hope is dashed, and we haven't revisited what our purpose is--much less how to get back there--people get enraged. In short, we're being trained to exchange questions of telos for questions of process.

Notice how different people in the political system talk about ideas they disagree with: "extreme," "outside the mainstream," "out of step with ordinary Americans," etc. We're so used to it, we haven't thought about what it's training us to do: assign moral praiseworthiness to whatever achieves power, and assign moral blameworthiness to whatever doesn't. In fact, this ends up turning all truth claims into merely expressions of preference. It's literally systematic, institutionalized emotivism. The system knows to deal with that, too. The news media has literally commoditized the fact that many people have picked up on this, and refused to affiliate with one side or the other, and so they subsist on writing stories about the mysterious "independents" who could swing the election one way or the other. We don't know anything about those independents and their relationship to the truth of any matter. Frankly, we know less and less about our relationship to the truth on our own side, and less and less about those on the other side. The system does not reward the pursuit of truth.

And I'm not saying that everyone who participates is one of the "sheeple," and "The truth is out there" in some "X Files" conspiracy way. What I'm saying is that, if you participate, prepared to be aware that all parties are selling you a package deal you may not feel comfortable buying. I'm even using consumer language to describe voting! See how pervasive market ideology and consumerism is?

We need to articulate a correct anthropology of being human. We need to be prepared to say, "This statement, policy, program, etc. avoids the fundamental questions" and say it so many times, and in so many directions, that a principled non-participation becomes a live and acceptable option for us.

Politics, they often say, is the art of the possible. The problem is, no one seems to know the ends for which they are pursuing and doing what's possible. This system presents golden means like they are the treasure of El Dorado, and when you open the bag, there's nothing but sand.

For my part, I've been tending to appreciate things that Democrats say, precisely because I hear general rings of truth that my own enculturation had taught me to ignore, or dismiss. Actually, my joining the Republicans in college had a lot to do with rejecting what I heard liberals/progressives said were the preferences of those who supported the Republicans. To at least hear them out, on some sort of neutral ground. I wanted truth, even in this. Even today, if the political system grants no neutral ground upon which to discover the truth, then I must create it myself, even as I rebuild a working philosophy. It's a species of friendship, to listen sympathetically and cooperatively in the pursuit of truth. Bernie Sanders is my friend, to the extent that I have heard the ring of truth in what he says. Marco Rubio, same. And anyone else you could name. Yet admittedly, I have no fixed loyalty to anyone in the system.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Silly, Manipulative Deception Of Pro-Homosexual Activism

Here's the news today. I won't say necessarily that there are no conservative Protestants who treat a homosexual inclination itself as a leprosy, or that no one faces an unjust ostracism based on their experience of sexual attraction. In point of fact, despite some raucous debate among orthodox Catholics about the licitness of supporting clergy and potential clergy who experience SSA, I am comfortable with the Catholic reflection on homosexuality (that is, what the Church teaches). I don't necessarily agree with Fr. Z that a priest should "man up" and that he shouldn't ever say he experiences these temptations. If crosses were easy, Our Lord would have had no need for St. Simon and his consolation.

Still, I think it's manipulative and dishonest to say that a vote against accepting gay marriage is a Christian refusal to "see" my LGBTQIA brothers and sisters. It begs the question, when the central question is, What do I believe about the moral licitness of homosexual sexual activity? A person who believes that the natural law reflection upon human sexual activity, and the Scriptural exegesis that undergirds the traditional Christian teaching is wrong, should simply assert that. Do you notice how a gay-affirming stance is rhetorically focused on acceptance of persons? There is a hidden premise that homosexual behaviors (or other disordered actions common to all people) are intrinsic to the human person.

In the end, it is either sinful to engage in homosexual relations, or it is not. We could debate the pastoral engagement of people who experience sexual attraction non-conventionally all day long. It still remains a separate question to consider the licitness of particular acts.

Finally, if the Church is conceived of as fundamentally invisible, and does not speak authoritatively on faith and morals, the aspiration of "Christian love" and the "gospel" will remain unrealized. More specifically, such a "Church" has to be agnostic on the sexual moral questions, since it functionally renders these ethical questions as "non-essential." That is, this notional Church contains those who believe these particular acts are sinful, AND those who who believe these particular acts are not sinful.

Frankly, it causes me to pray for the visible union and communion of all Christians in the Catholic Church, and the conversion of Catholics who remain unconvinced as to the truth of what the Catholic Church teaches.

Democrats And The Abortion Fight Lately

Of course, they blocked this attempt to protect infants who survive abortions. Let's set aside the anger over this, and think about it from their perspective (Shocking, I know). First, a few facts:

1. Most Republicans know that Human Life Amendments proposed in Congress are DOA right now, no matter how great the GOP does in any election, or how many members they have;

2. A pro-life politician's only effectual option is to chip away, not only at the right itself, but at the ideas that make it seem reasonable. That is, s/he knows he is working incrementally;

3. The pro-choice advocates and their elected representatives believe that the GOP is in fact working incrementally against the right to choose abortion;

4. Both sides fundamentally agree with respect to what the GOP is doing; [(2) and (3)]

5. Therefore, it is fundamentally dishonest for a pro-life lawmaker to claim, "This is not about abortion," as Sen. Ernst did.

The only honest answer to, "He's trying to undermine the right to choose!" is, "You're right."

This is why I'll never be elected.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Dogma And Unity, Continued

We have been talking about dogmatic certainty in Christianity, and across both paradigms, whether Protestant, or Catholic. Understand that the use of those particular terms may include those who use the Catholic interpretive paradigm but are not in union with the Catholic Church, or conversely, someone may use the Protestant interpretive paradigm without considering themselves to be Protestant. The respective terms are therefore broadly descriptive of methodologies for discerning truth revealed by God in Christ.

The first assertion of the Protestant interpretive paradigm is that the purported authority of the Catholic Church, rooted in the Magisterium, the ecumenical councils, and fundamentally in the sacramental (perhaps better, but redundantly said, "sacerdotal") priesthood secured by apostolic succession, is unnecessary. We can call the bluff of anyone who makes the argument that certainty is unnecessary, because we know that the spiritual fathers of those who carry on the Protestant Reformation were quite serious about certainty, as David Anders has noted, and as we linked earlier. Indeed, by what means would someone even begin to declare that Catholic faith and practice was marred by so many accretions, distractions from the unfettered glory of God, if there was no expectation or belief (e.g. Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1, paragraph 7) that the alleged method by which we remove these accretions was able to produce certainty?

Understanding this implicit need for certainty, even if it is never explicitly acknowledged, helps explain why Catholic interlocutors tend to challenge the alleged certainty and clarity provided by Sola Scriptura. A lack of agreement among those who profess loyalty to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is not in itself an argument for the bad faith of those participants. It is not a case of simple point scoring on the part of Catholics; it is an invitation to reevaluate the clarity and certainty of particular dogmatic beliefs, especially against the backdrop of a relatively stable and long-standing Sacred Tradition. As an adherent of the Protestant interpretive paradigm, I cannot hold every non-Catholic belief simultaneously, but only that which I believe to be true. This is why any purported Protestant unity is an illusion: its only common denominator is non-Catholicism. That is, Protestant theologies diverge at mutually exclusive points as well. If I lose 1. Dogmatic certainty via the failure of Sola Scriptura to deliver what it promises; 2. ecclesial stability because of the resulting disagreement; and 3. the ability to honestly account for the first millennium of Church history, I have two options:

1. Give in to skepticism/atheism. I could say that no one has revealed truth, because if we can't agree on what it is, maybe there is no "it." Or,

2. Re-evaluate my process for how I've come to know what I know. Every past, present, and future Catholic chooses (2). I realized this rather quickly. I saw atheism as my only other option, precisely because if I couldn't know the difference between divine revelation, and my own opinion in a principled way, I knew the trappings of church authority wouldn't stem the tide of individual dissent, repeated millions of times over, every day. And it will dissolve into a consumeristic hodgepodge in short order, and probably naturalism and paganism, too. If you claim the authority, you'd better be holding the guns, or in this case, the keys. To use another metaphor, if you say, "All synods or councils, since the apostles' times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both", (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 31, paragraph 4) that's a tell, and that bluff will be called. Solo Scriptura is nothing more and nothing less than ecclesial fallibility (Sola Scriptura) applied to the ecclesial communities of the Reformation, and against their feigned authority!

Therefore, it's a question of head, heart, and hands, but definitely of the heart: Did God Himself establish the Catholic Church, and is continuing to protect it today? Whether you kick and scream, or whether you sprint, everyone who seeks full communion with the Catholic Church rightly must answer this question in the affirmative.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Unity, Continued: Dogma, And The Mechanisms Of Certainty

I know that many theologians and converts have written on these subjects better than I could, but I still want to look at the problem of dogma and the question of certainty as I essentially understood it on the eve of seeking full communion with the Catholic Church.

One of the more mystifying developments in Catholic and Reformed dialogue in recent years is the abandonment of certainty in matters of dogma among the Reformed. Indeed, there seemed almost a tendency to spiritualize the lack of knowing as a sort of virtue, that it was somehow inappropriate to desire certainty in faith. On the contrary; our most cited definition of faith in the Scriptures in the letter to the Hebrews presupposes it (11:1). It could be said of all the "heroes of faith" that they acted upon what they knew, even if it wasn't plain to their reason. And what did they know? They knew that God was speaking and had spoken, and that He would not deceive them.

To get right to the point, it's wildly inappropriate to stake my eternal soul on something I do not think to be certain. Let's dispense right away with any notions of faith or religion that conceive of these things as coping mechanisms or as reflections of our self-awareness. As a consequence, realize that if I ever had said that Catholic dogma was a damnable heresy, I was saying that it would cost people their souls to believe it. Plenty of people do, and insofar as they believe it sincerely, I respect it. Yet this reality is why ecumenical dialogue--aimed at finding agreement in revealed truth--is an invitation to explore the bases for certainty in any purported revealed truth, not an attack on certainty as such.

In personal terms, I would have said it this way: "How do I know that these particular truths of Reformed theology as I understand it are true?" I wasn't after the quality of my relationships in a Reformed congregation, or the zeal of my colleagues and teachers at my Reformed seminary; I take it as a given that everyone I have ever known has believed what they shared with me in matters of faith to be completely true, even if they doubt themselves in the profession of it. As one example, if one believes Calvin's doctrine of the Eucharist to be true, I take it as a given that one does not believe Aquinas' to be true simultaneously. One may well seek a harmony--if it were possible--for any number of reasons, or undertake an appreciation of one or the other, for any number of fraternal and ecumenical aims, but in the end, one professes what one believes to be true, and rejects what one believes to be false.

In any case, if I had a question about my Reformed faith--historic, or immediate in the church on Sunday, I'd ask the elders. Ask any and all teaching elders, or really, anyone with applicable knowledge. Perhaps this was an invasion of the Catholic paradigm, but, If my elders are not at least situationally infallible, what's the point of asking them about any matter of revealed truth?

Same question with the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, or any other authority you can claim.

Really, we're wasting time convening all manner of Council of any form or name, if we don't know that what they come up with is ratified and vouchsafed by God Himself! This is why the argument that certainty is a fool's errand for insecure people is so stupid, and why it's probably a dodge: If God didn't say it, no reasonable person should say that it means everything for them, and everyone they know. As another example, this is why I concluded that "Derivative authority is a sham." If you say that any creed or confession is a restatement of the Scriptures, a summary, a shorthand of what they contain, you are saying that this creed or confession is maximally true, that it has the same quality as the Scriptures themselves, and the God who breathed them out! You'd have to; the pursuit of divine things doesn't have lower stakes in precisely the moments of greatest importance! It's nonsensical to call something an authority that has no authority at all. So, it was lurking out there, this question:

If I'm supposed to believe that only the Scriptures are certainly infallible, why is it that the quickest way to be a non-Christian would be to deny the Nicene Creed, or that of Chalcedon? How do I know that? I could make any number of qualifications and hedges about this, or I could claim that it's been tested and proven by the Scriptures, but functionally, if I say Nicea is true, I'm saying that God spoke authoritatively through the Nicene Creed. Most people in my world would have copped to this, as long as they weren't being inquisited by someone in authority. And in response to this evident hypocrisy, if one is willing to make common cause with radical biblicists and Reformers, who have no open fealty to these "secondary" authorities, then Sola Scriptura really does collapse into Solo. To put a sharp point on it, why use something in these crucial matters that isn't infallible, and isn't necessary? That's exactly what "Bible only" Christians would ask, and it's a great point. Funnily enough, however, I never met an advocate of "No Creed But the Christ" who didn't at least give me a pamphlet.

Back when Derek Webb sang about things that mattered, he said of the Church, in the voice of Christ, "You cannot care for me/With no regard for her/If you love me you will love the Church." So true. Tell me, though: How do I love a people, a thing, a divine family, I cannot find? Moreover, what does seem to be the most foolish of errands is to love something that exists pristine, but only in my imagination. Instead, we have to consider the possibility that we have been in fact separated from the Church Christ founded, even if inadvertently. Indeed, I had reached the conclusion that the Church--wherever it was--had to be visible, long before I submitted to her. Indeed, the pursuit of a (false) Protestant unity that includes broad evangelicalism has indeed ravaged ecclesiology. What is truly scary is to imagine losing "essentials" imperceptibly, because there is no impulse to identify the source of what we know, or to draw nearer to it, as an act of obedience to Christ. This is so even if my classification of things as "essential" and "non-essential" is ad hoc, and unworkable. Any time we find something divine that is true, it calls us back to God, and to one another.

If I'm totally wrong, and the Catholic Church is the true Church, I should be able to find out the proper terms upon which I could assent, and submit. In other words, I knew that a favorable disposition toward all who name Christ as Lord was not enough. Truth was calling me toward Himself, and toward others. In a true sense, to understand the claim of the Catholic Church upon me, I had to get as close to the inside as I could. Even before saying in effect, "I have found the Church Christ founded," I had to see what it would look like, intellectually, practically, and spiritually. In a way, from a certain standpoint, the Church is playing with loaded dice. Not all claims have equal evidences in favor. But would you expect God, who desires all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth, would want to make it exceptionally hard to find Him and His Church? There is revealed truth that absolutely travels across both paradigms, Protestant and Catholic. The first step is simply to acknowledge that fact, and then to frankly inquire and account for how a particular truth or truths got to me. Could the fact that Protestants and Catholics still agree on x be reasonably accounted for by a schism? Could this in fact be Catholic truth I am affirming?

Rejecting the notion that one is in schism from the Catholic Church usually involves, at a basic level, considering one's own dogmatic and ecclesial counter-claims as valid interpolations or developments from something earlier, which may or may or may not include the Catholic Church as a valid expression. Some of these feats of ecclesial plagiarism are truly impressive, even convincing, after a fashion. Yet the reason why "history" is so often dispositive on this question is rooted in what learning from history implies: that the God who reveals has left His footprints, so to speak, upon all human societies, and that He's still calling us back. Ecclesial deism is comfortable by definition with a god of disruption, of discontinuity, of enigmatic, inscrutable arbitrariness. The God of Israel, while not without profound mystery, has been here, quite unchanging, the whole time. I set out to follow the God of hesed as we read in the Scriptures, and I bumped into the Chair of St. Peter. More than once, an honest person asks frankly if he had ever intended to be a modern day Miriam or Aaron, rebelling against God's anointed! I saw prayers printed in a bulletin at my parish, describing Pope Francis as God's anointed (under Our Lord, ever and always) and, despite his apparent failures and human foibles, I dared to wonder if I had truly loved the pope for Christ's own sake, in obedience to God? One day, another will come, and by mercy, another, as has happened for 2000 years. We are Catholic because we believe that this successor of Peter is so by the will of God. The man is, of himself, of no account.

My, this is long! I leave you in peace to think it over.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Thoughts On Christian Unity (A Quasi-Response To Cara Wiskow)

Let me just start in an odd place: I'm happy to lose friends, in order to foster as much unity among all Christians (and frankly, all people of good will) as I possibly can. There may be people out there who have a vision of being Catholic that is more concerned with an image of "pure" Catholicism than with the truth. I believe both of these two statements are simultaneously true:

1. Catholics should affirm, celebrate, and rejoice in truth wherever it is found; and (all together now: "Grace builds upon nature, but does not destroy it.")
2. The Catholic Church is the one true Church founded by Christ, and all people everywhere should be in full visible communion with her. (see CCC, 811 and Lumen Gentium, 14)

I believe these two things, precisely because the Church believes them. Many people see these two statements as embracing a contradiction, but I do not. My new friend Cara Wiskow has some thoughts on Christian unity, and I appreciate so much of it, because I have been a non-Catholic and a Protestant before, and I am now a Catholic. For my part, the motivating factor in my decision to seek full communion with the Catholic Church was twofold: 1. internal inconsistencies within my paradigm of being a Christian up to that point; and 2. A thread of truth common to both my Protestant paradigm, and to the Catholic paradigm--and the Church which subsists in it--and no reasonable way to account for the common thread between them, but for the fact that the Son of God established the Catholic Church. True God of true God is but one, though somehow He is three--I bow before the blessed Mystery!--which is to say, Presbyterian Jesus does not exist. Jesus, the Son of God, loves all of us to the end at this very moment, no matter where we are, but truth binds us, and bids us always to seek it, indeed Him.

It was easier, and relatively easy, to abandon Presbyterian dogmas if and when I realized that I would not lose Christ--nor the Blessed Trinity--to abandon them. Two dogmatic claims cannot be simultaneously true, if in fact they are mutually exclusive. Consider this simple syllogism:

The Catholic Church teaches that bread and wine are totally changed substantially into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ by the words of consecration in the Liturgy of the Eucharist; (transubstantiation) (see CCC, 1376)

The Catholic teaching of transubstantiation is true; (see the Profession of Faith more generally)

Lutherans do not hold to this dogma; (see here, for example)

Therefore, the Lutheran teaching on the Eucharist--as distinct from the Catholic teaching--is false.

This is but one example of disagreement. And to be fair to Lutherans, one good reason to deny the Catholic teaching is the sincere belief that the teaching is not true. I cannot and should not coerce or compel adherence to the truth proclaimed by the Catholic Church, but neither should I be neutral about whether the Catholic Church's teaching on any particular matter of faith or morals is true. The reason I believe what the Catholic Church teaches (even if I do not know it in any one particularity) is that God has spoken in Christ, and speaks authoritatively through the Church today. She cannot err in this, because God cannot err, nor can he deceive, or be deceived. (For the nature of divine faith is to assent to whatever God reveals.)

Where does that leave us, in ecumenical dialogue? It means that, when we celebrate what we hold in common, with Christians, or with anyone else, we celebrate with care. We celebrate and affirm ideas with great care, because we have an obligation to the truth, but also because we respect the freedom of another's conscience. A false unity erases difference, and refuses to acknowledge that a difference is sincerely held. It also pretends that an imperfect unity is perfect. The truth is that differences between Christians are rarely minor, and the reality of division is painful. Even though I find myself inadequate to the task of direct ecumenical dialogue with the Reformed for instance, I pray in a special way in those words of the Mass, "and gather to Yourself all Your children, scattered throughout the world." I know that literally billions of people could be in a living, saving relationship with Jesus Christ, despite their dogmatic, or even moral errors, and I pray therefore that all error be burned away like chaff, as I pray for myself, and all who are dear to me.

One reason not to accept the "branch" theory of ecclesiology is that the branch theory fails to distinguish between heresy and schism. To schism is to separate from the Church that Christ founded. A heresy is, in simple terms, to hold a false opinion concerning a matter of revealed truth. (see CCC, 2089) It is possible of course to be joined to a schism without being personally guilty of the sin of schism (see CCC, 818). I can absolutely tell you though, when I understood what schism was, and that I might be a part of one, the desire to heal that breach, firstly with respect to myself, became nearly overwhelming. The heart demands things that the intellect and conscience cannot abide, at least not right away. As CCC, 820 says, "The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit." I praise God for this gift and call in my heart, and in Cara's heart! There are always dangers afoot, and many ways to err, even in this desire. But it's a good desire, and may we all be purified, so that we may enjoy its good fruit without fear.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Same Philosophy

"My body, my choice." A person can rightly see the error in this. A baby is another person. What if we changed it a bit? "My money, my choice." "My life, my choice." My. The same philosophy that permits the taking of a life in the womb is that which permits suicide, or paying people a substandard wage.

And, the language of the Declaration notwithstanding, there is no "general welfare" in classical liberalism; there are only sets of individuals, whose one or more interests coincide. Government is only legitimate insofar as individuals or sets of individuals deem it so. Only a lack of will to start another revolution, or the power to succeed, keeps the peace.

That's why something like, "We have an obligation to protect the environment" is met with, "What about the right of individuals to make money?" The common good is said to be preeminent over the private good, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, but liberalism exactly reverses that. Of course our nation is failing; it cannot do otherwise.

Monday, February 11, 2019

If I Ran For President

My thought is that I should sketch out 5 big legislative or administrative things I would get behind. I'll give you a list, and then offer broader comments at the end.

--Federal minimum wage increase: Did you know that if we had indexed the minimum wage to inflation, it would be $21.50 per hour today? Kinda makes the $15 per hour radicals seem reasonable, doesn't it? One counter argument is of course that if you increase the minimum wage, companies will replace people with technology. Well, if they do that, I'll tax and fee them into oblivion, and no, I won't feel bad about it. How much does it actually cost to make it in America? It seems like a waste to have abstract discussions about "socialism" and government spending, while people at the bottom are struggling to survive. Wages are wages; you have to earn them. But we'll put the dignity of people over abstract ideological commitments every time.

--Comprehensive environmental protection legislation: Environmental scientists have been sounding the alarm about climate change and its harmful effects for decades. I don't care if it makes me sound like a "liberal": ignoring a major, potentially catastrophic disaster to take cultural jabs at hippies in California, or Democrats, or whomever, is not what sensible leaders and voters ought to do. We will be "picking winners and losers," if in fact we can get cleaner, safer technologies employed faster.

--Moratorium on the death penalty: I will immediately commute the death sentences of every affected inmate in the federal system. I will lead a national conversation in all 50 states arguing for its abolition. Any state refusing to comply with court decisions involving disclosure and process involving the penalty will be forced to comply. No nation who claims to cherish the sanctity of life should tolerate the horrors our system has tolerated. In addition, we are willing to pay all associated costs in choosing not to take the life of one who has murdered others. If we truly ask, "Has capital punishment been a benefit to us?" we would have to answer in the negative.

--A comprehensive approach to ending abortion: Firstly, I will choose judges committed to challenging the legality of abortion, if I can find them. Again, I will lead a national conversation concerning the morality and justice (or lack thereof) of abortion. We think that steadfast anti-poverty efforts, and federally-led--though not exclusive--efforts at increasing social support should lessen its demand. We reject the easy recourse to other forms of abortion claimed as an alternative to surgical abortion.

--Large incentives for married, two-parent families, up to and including paid family leave: Aspects of these ideas are popular across the ideological spectrum, and rightly so. A more just and healthy society begins at home. All people of good will should be alarmed that the United States, along with the developed world, is not even replacing itself. We will not accept literally the slow death of our nation, or society at large. To be somewhat humorous about it, we will literally pay you to have babies, if you're committed to giving them the families they deserve.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

"Wait For Me"--The Song That Just Won't Go Away

I'm not exactly sure when I first heard this song by Daryl Hall and John Oates. It could have been the LP, X-Static (1979), or it might have been the web show "Live From Daryl's House." By the way, if you have a life, don't start watching the show. Just don't. You've been warned.

Anyway, I love this song. The mystery to me is, why? It's not a complicated one, to be sure. From what I can gather, Daryl's got himself in a mess. Let's be honest: We're assuming it's Sara (yes, that Sara) and she's just done with this. Daryl is kind of saying in that first verse, there was a magic time, and it's ending. The carriage is turning back into a pumpkin, so to speak. He says it's his fault, but we've tried again. What's one more?

She's still kind of on the fence, you see. "Is it easier to stay?" he says. But he doesn't know what she's going to do. He wants to keep her, but then, we don't know what he keeps messing up. But then seriously, if it's gonna "fall down" when you're away, is it worth it, bro? [You just called Daryl Hall "bro."--ed.] Yeah, I did.

"Love is what it does, and ours is doing nothing." Are they long distance, or is it just not working? It's been going on so long, it's gotta be worth something, it means something. He knows he's the one trying to hold on, but he thinks he's got enough good will, he can say what he feels. And apparently, he's not giving up. She's coming back, and he'll be ready.

I don't have any direct experience with anything like this. That's probably a good thing. I had a thought that our love songs would be boring if we were not sinners, but that's not true. Yet what is true is that we're so enmeshed by The Fall that we can hardly imagine anything else. Men and women will never be easy.

What I appreciate about most of the live versions is that they are toward the present, pertaining to a song that is, as of this year, 40 years old. Daryl sings it slower nowadays; he lets it breathe. And frankly, if we're singing along, it lets us breathe! It would only be me and some buddies goofing off, but I wanted to record this song. The story of every great Hall and Oates song is that it was ahead of its time, and was underappreciated, and this one is no exception, in my view. It's been stuck in my head for a year; now it can get stuck in yours! You're welcome.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

A Simple Pro-Life Argument

Call it the Axiom of Epistemic Humility: “What someone (including myself) does or does not believe, in and of itself, bears no necessary relationship to reality.” Take a moment to reflect on this, and then consider this argument:

Sex, properly speaking, makes people;
Those yet to be born are the most innocent of all people;
It is always wrong to intentionally kill an innocent person;
Abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent person yet to be born;
Therefore, abortion is always wrong.

Sex is one of those things that implies its obligations, even if you ignore them. Consequence-free sex does not actually exist. To insist upon consequence-free sex requires this act of brutality, and others like it, to maintain its regime. Indeed, sexual "liberation" is like a dictator of the mind and soul, who relies upon lies to deceive people.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

I See You, Rick (Or, The Inspiration Isn't What You Think It Is)

I saw more than a few stories in the last few years about Rick and Dick Hoyt. Rick has CP, as I do, and in brief, Dick wanted to include his son Rick in something they could do together. They started doing triathlons together. No, really. Dick had to do a whole lot extra to bring Rick with him. In a sense, Rick needs help with everything. So I have seen this before, and I've seen news stories and videos lay it on a little thick with the "inspiration" stuff. But I love their story, because I know why Rick did what he did. He could have had a pity party, and decided to sit on the sidelines. (And there's truly nothing wrong with rooting on your Dad, and living vicariously.) Rick wanted to do more. And as I think back on the footage I've seen, the image of Rick's spastic arm raised in celebration as they approach the finish line is something that resonates. It's that warrior spirit, and it belongs to Rick. In my view, the inspiration is not in what Dick is doing for Rick, but what Rick does for his father. The elder Hoyt often called his son a "competitor" and said that had they not begun training together, he would be dead. And that's factually correct.

When I appreciate great feats of athleticism, I don't spend time brooding about the fact that I can't do them. You don't, either. Why should I? When I see the warrior spirit, I recognize it as kindred to my own. So many times in our lives, we lament the fact that we fail at this or that. Maybe quite frankly, we're unhappy with who and where we are. It still remains to cultivate the true warrior within, that true person of greatness we are supposed to be.

 Josiah Viera died recently. He was a Cardinals baseball minor league coach. He had a rare form of progeria, or rapid aging disease. They probably thought they were doing this little dying kid a solid when they first met him. And that's fair enough; I have no gripes with the myriad Make-A-Wish chapters all around the world, and what they do. And we make a certain allowance for the publicity of inspirational stories, and how we're all encouraged to be more intentional, thankful, and filled with purpose.

But I don't see a dying kid when I think of Josiah. I see a guy in uniform, with a bat in his hand. I see those strong forearms, ready to hit a ball. Honorary coach, my foot. He loved that game as much as anybody out there, and the players knew it, too. That's what  saw. Don't miss the warrior spirit while feeling pity or sadness.

Some Context For Defenses Of Abortion Centered On "Bodily Autonomy"

"My body, my choice." It means more than simply being wrong about how many people are involved, though some people do need to consider how many lives are at stake in the question of a particular "choice." Yet I think the reason abortion rights has dovetailed so easily with feminism is that, with limited exceptions, the political counterweight to "progressive" feminism--some kind of "conservatism"--has accepted the general degradation of women. This is how abortion can be seen as "empowering." It disregards the male contribution to the sexual act, and any rights or duties that flow from that, because in extreme forms, radical feminism denies the goodness of maleness as such.

If you begin with an a priori assumption that a relentless and crushing patriarchy exists, and it squelches all femaleness and its creativity, and you add in political opposition that has taken to calling concerns about consent as "puritanical", perhaps add in genuine sexism and discrimination in workplaces, rape, sexual assaults in varying degrees, and the reality that oftentimes justice is not done in such cases, you could see how a reasonable person might miss the full and true contours of the moral question of abortion, and so such "reproductive choice" becomes a matter of being heard and seen as a person, as something more than an object for male use.

We might say that the patriarchy kept the power, and abandoned the virtue. Christians, do you hear me? There's only so far I can walk across this bridge, because 1. I don't believe in anyone's absolute autonomy; and 2. I do believe in some kind of patriarchy, in the end. A Catholic who doesn't believe in general in hierarchy is likely in dissent. That's the way we tend to see the world, as mediated by the Church.

As one example, though, have you seen those pick-up artists? I doubt those guys are leftists. And true enough, some radical women would have no patience with my genteel paternalism, anyway. Admittedly, I have clicked around a few of those PUA sites in moments of quiet desperation, but those dudes are not Christians, or they certainly don't talk like us. Of course, somebody should write a startling expose about how PUAs and institutional "feminism" are just mechanisms for the capitalist monolith. [You could probably get Deneen to write the foreword.--ed.] Yeah, totally.