Saturday, September 01, 2012

I stopped by
I almost knocked.
It would not have been welcome,
And I know that.

For all I know
You'll be happier
Never to see my face
Or hear my voice

I just wanted to see
That you're OK
Even if you couldn't care less
That I wanted to know.

My friends know
That I'd rather die
Than hurt them,
And that was true then.

I keep saying it again
Because it matters.
As bad as I feel
I can't feel that.

And what is it?
The conviction that I never
Called you friend
Nor deserved it.

"It just happens,"
They say.
No, it doesn't;
It's a decision.

I'm still so sorry
But I will not accept
The hardness of your heart
Which was there long before me.

In this world or the next
You will look me in the eyes
And tell me why
You deny mercy.

Have you learned nothing
Of what He taught us?
What will be your answer
When He knocks?

Friday, August 31, 2012

Because I am a faithful Catholic, unflinchingly loyal to the Magisterium and what she teaches, if there is some blatant inconsistency with Catholic Social Teaching and some political belief of mine, I definitely want to know about it, so I can correct it. Moreover, if I can re-phrase something to avoid giving the impression that I am ignoring some aspect of it or willing to, I'm happy to do it. I'm speaking as a guy who, if given the opportunity, would relish the chance to run for an office in the future. You have no idea.

I have no idea if the Ryan Plan is a good idea. I've only glanced at a few articles about what it contains in bare outline. But what I have heard about it is at least worth consideration (I think). If you hang around free-marketeers long enough, you hear interesting things about what's possible, what we could try, that hasn't gotten a fair shake because of caricatures of markets or economics that especially as Christians we just accept because we don't know better. If Paul Ryan's plan does ignore the Church's preference for the poor as stated in the teaching, show me. But on the face of it, if a man tells me he cares about the poor, that he believes his policies will actually alleviate poverty, my first charitable response should be, "Please show me; this sounds interesting." If I think he fails to do it, or it proves unworkable, OK. (And if you want to know, Speaker Boehner did make me very uncomfortable right at the end in introducing Cardinal Dolan; the Cardinal did not intend in any way to lend his approval to the specific proposals of the GOP ticket; the best he would say is that those formulations in matters of prudence are consistent or not, broadly speaking, with Church teaching.)

I just need to be honest here: I identify in broad ideological strokes as a conservative and politically as a Republican precisely because I never heard it advocated on its own terms, stated affirmatively by people who held it with conviction. I thought exactly as young people think: liberals care about people, and conservatives care about money. Frankly, I know most adults who call themselves liberal or progressive still really believe this. Knuckle-dragging, money-grubbing bigots. Racists. Homophobes. Feel free to stop me any time. Anyway, it was too simple a picture. I could sense it intuitively. My desire to be compassionate, caring, and frankly, seen as a good guy all of a sudden wasn't a good enough reason to be a progressive. In other words, it was reckless to project my sense of my own good will on to matters of public policy as a simple matter, and then judge everyone and everything by it. There are well-intentioned people everywhere. Don't laugh. This revelation changed the course of my entire life. Any of us could be wrong, blind to some truth, or whatever, but none of us gives up on ourselves. Very few people believe they are bad people, even when they are. Why are we so quick to judge whole groups of people we don't know, when we don't do it to ourselves? I can't say I've always fairly characterized political opponents (especially not in private conversations) but I can tell you that I'm willing to listen. I really am. Are you?

When you realize that you might be a partisan, but are not unduly partisan is also a liberating moment. I'm free to say, "You know what? Most of my party is wrong on this thing" or, "I'm with the other guys on this one." This is the beginning of conviction, and we can only hope that such courage aligns with the truth.

What we have to do as a people is re-establish that fundamental belief in the goodwill of our opponents. Politics is a tough sport, and that's exactly what it is, a contest. It's high-stakes, because we're talking about lives and livelihoods, but it's still a contest. Even if we had roughly the same view of the world, the "frames" of the contest and its slogans are bound to hurt some feelings, even in days when we listen and like each other. But we've got to try, even so.

What am I saying here? I'm saying that I actually like Barack Obama. I really do. Because he gave me that positive impression (you can't really like a person you'll likely never meet) he made it easier to do what I did 4 years ago: vote for him. It may have been a poor assessment of my moral obligations as a Christian; it certainly had an emotional component that may have been inordinate on my part--after all, my dislike for McCain made it impossible to go back once I considered it--but I have never apologized and never will apologize for being hopeful and optimistic about our country and the men and women we choose to lead it. It hurts me to vote against our president. I know what his election meant--what it still means--to so many of us, far beyond the merits or demerits of policies and the issues of the day. When McCain noted the historic nature of what we were witnessing, he hit a false note just a bit. It wasn't Black America's moment; it was our moment. Oprah was crying, and so was I. It was and is a great American moment, and our sins and errors past and present--and his--will never take the goodness of it away. The heat of the battles won't take it away, either. You can't pay me to dislike him. I need you to understand that. I've been mad, sad, and every other ill feeling you can have about his policy choices, and even the way he's advocated for them since. But I've never lost that generally positive view of him, crazy as that sounds.

But I know deep down in my guts that we've gone wrong. I thought it would be different; I thought he understood what he had a chance to do. But he didn't. And that same Democratic Party, beholden to the ideas of an inhuman collectivism, a deadly idealism that dares to demand our children in sacrifice, and that brooks no dissent on the prudence of our chosen means of providing for the general welfare asks for my support again. Not this time. Whether the Republican Party stands entirely for what truly matters is beside the point; depending on who the name describes and what is said by them, a prudent man must be ready to answer "no," to varying degrees. But I have only one choice to make, and I shall make it.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dear Lee Ann Rimes,

At the risk of sounding like the Church Lady, I'd probably be anxious too, if I was married, had an affair, "fell in love," 'married' that guy, (who did the same thing to his wife) and just generally made a mess of things. If God--who I'd be willing to bet you've met before--was trying to tell you something, what would He say? He did say, "I hate divorce." Please think about it. There is always forgiveness, but the thing about it is, we can never enjoy it without change. We can't do the same things we know are wrong and expect to be happy.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I've become aware today that it's Captain Jack's birthday. I'm too in awe of him to add him as a Facebook friend, to be perfectly frank. He's probably the best teacher I've ever had, and I've had a lot of them. More than that, he leaves one thinking, "I want to be like that guy." I have fantasies of being at the forefront of a conspiracy to convert him and have him teach in several Catholic institutions. Wouldn't the squishiness of American Catholicism drop by a factor of five instantaneously? Yes, from one guy. He's Scott Hahn on steroids.

Of course, the Politiburo--er, I mean, the CDF--will have to encourage the good doctor to align his scriptural views to that of Mother Church, but I am certain this could be done.

If you've never had Captain Jack as a teacher, you wouldn't get it. But I do. So does Confirmation Sponsor Guy. If there were any good reason to stay Reformed, it would be to remain in the same ecclesiastical structure as Captain Jack. But such is the power of God and the motives of credibility that even so great a man could not keep me from seeking communion with the Church. I want you to really think about that, now. You Catholics don't know, but you should. Maybe there can be an exchange program or something. I would love for Catholic seminarians or PhD students in theology to experience what it's like to sail with Captain Jack.

I use that name for two reasons: so my familiar readers know exactly who I'm talking about without giving away his identity or anything like that, and to allude solemnly to the fictional teacher that he reminds me of: John Keating, from Dead Poets' Society. I'm sure those of you who've seen the movie recall the classic scene where the boys stand on their desks and exclaim, "O Captain, my Captain!" This is exactly what it's like to be a student of his. You don't even realize that you're being inspired, made more complete as a human being, until it's over. Sure, there's the funny quips and odd assignments. No one would deny that it's a good time. But weeks and months later, even years, you think back and say, "I'm privileged that I was there to be taught by him."

So, on his birthday, I thought you should know. I've got a million reasons not to be triumphalistic about being Catholic. But a huge one is the Captain. It may well be that I remained in schism longer because of him. But I don't regret it, and I never will.
I haven't watched the Republican National Convention yet; I don't really want to. I've made my election prediction; anything else would just clutter it up with emotional baggage. Nate Silver of the NYT may be a statistical genius, but he's smoking crack on this election. Romney is winning, I'm telling you. Silver has to make it look good for the liberals who read the Times, but this thing is over.

Do you realize that all the structural advantages were in Obama's favor last time? Anti-incumbent sentiment? Check. Once-in-a-generation candidate? Check. Nominating contest that divided the losing party? Check. (AKA, The Base Hates McCain) McCain would have had to cure cancer to win that election, AND financial crisis. Yes, they were comically inept, and McCain is an erratic, hotheaded putz. But all that means is that an almost certain loss turned into a trouncing.

Anyway, all the advantages are in favor of Romney this time. The only thing that could stop him was a failure to get his party behind him, and Santorum himself has been enthusiastic. Any lingering animosity dried up entirely with the Ryan pick. What a brilliant choice: Reinforce the main Romney campaign message AND get the Santorumites behind you! Sheesh, this guy is good. I'll try not to notice that he's a polytheist.

It is going to take an Akin-sized mistake by Romney to put Obama back in the Oval Office. It's not impossible for a man to overcome disadvantages like these, but Obama doesn't have the goods to do it. There have seldom been candidates as skilled as Mittens. He's like "Iceman" from Top Gun. By-the-book and waits for a mistake. The question is never whether the polls will narrow; they always do. The question is when, and by how much. When I saw how much strength Mitt Romney was showing in poll surveys in May, I knew Obama was in trouble. There has to be a reason, a narrative for a winning campaign, and there is no narrative for the Obama campaign. The history has been made; the cool points have been awarded. They've done plenty to torpedo what should be a big incumbency advantage. The GOP knows that Willard's only job is to assure the electorate that he's not nuts. And he's done that very well. The closest electoral scenario that I could come up with that made sense is 275-263 for Romney. Don't be at all surprised if he goes north of President Obama's total from last time of 336. You look at all the factors early on and say, "Who's got the advantage? Is there anything that could change it?" Not that I can see. If they have any dirt that Mittens literallly killed a guy, or drinks puppy shakes for breakfast, now would be the time. Otherwise, turn out the lights; the Faculty Lounge Cosby Presidency is over.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Alright, we need to talk about sex. No, really. I'm one of those people with a physical disability, as I may have mentioned. Everything is pretty much the same, except that I need lots of help with everyday things. And I use a wheelchair. I'm pretty sure people are a little nervous about lots of things they want to ask. I don't really notice, well, until I do.

So let me be frank: there are plenty of things I can't do, but intercourse is not one of those things. If you are a beautiful woman, there is a 99.7% percent chance I will notice. I'm like every other guy on this planet. Sure, I'm a Catholic and a good one, so that changes the purpose and the manner by which I seek that companionship, but I do seek it. And I make no apologies for that. I don't really care if that makes you uncomfortable. You'd do the same thing if you were me. It might make you feel better if I were asexual and OK with that, but I'm not.

Catholicism adds another wrinkle for relatively young, single men who are passionate about their faith. What about the priesthood or religious life? We'll get to that. But I need you all to know that being disabled is not going to be an excuse to choose one vocation over the other; if God leads me in such a direction--I need to be absolutely clear about this--I will, like every other man, lay down the good of my sexuality and sexual expression for a greater good of the Kingdom. But I will not do it or even entertain it, again, to make you feel better, or because I'm afraid.

I'm sorry to everyone I've hurt by not loving myself enough to be open about this. To be perfectly honest, I blamed lots of people for the loneliness I felt, which might have been caused partially by the sinful fear of others. On the other hand, God has a plan. If he wanted me to be married right now, I would have been. If we get afraid, we can spiritualize a lot of BS, or blame women for any number of things, when what we're really saying is, "I'm wounded and scared, and I don't know how to handle it." That root of bitterness can destroy a lot of things. Again, I'm sorry.

But we all need to recognize that sex is not our goal, fellas. Our goal is Love. Spiritual and natural. In the end--and I mean the very end--it ends up the same. At the feet of Love Himself. Sex is an expression of love, but it isn't the only one. Tell you what, guys: You wanna stop abusing your bodies, and embracing a counterfeit sexuality that leaves you empty? Admit that you need love in as many forms as God permits. Stop acting like you don't care. You are not at the present time loved or known as you would like. And the truth is, you haven't loved well, yourself. But God is waiting to forgive you, and to lead you in a new way, if you are honest with Him and yourself. If you have a habit of pornography or acts related to it, go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If you foul it up again, go back. Rinse and repeat as necessary. Jesus loves YOU more than you do! Do you have any idea? Probably not. But it's never too late. I'm telling you. I know, more than you know. (And a special side-note to you Protestants: knock that whole thing off. The Protestantism, I mean. No wonder you can't stop sinning! I couldn't either, if I had only one sacrament! I digress.)

Monday, August 27, 2012

I was away for a couple days at my grad school classes. Glad to see you're stopping by. If you're feeling frisky, leave a comment. Your insights often provide fodder for my ridiculously interesting posts. [Which means the fodder goes nowhere.--ed.] Bah! Anyway, I'm thrilled to be taking Christian Anthropology, Prophets, and Catholic Spirituality. For the class on the prophets, sue me, I'll be comparing it to Captain Jack. Well, my teacher is possibly funnier than Captain Jack, (and he used "cranium" in a weird way) but they'd get along great. Well, except that rant about how we're not "people of the Book." On the other hand still, we're going to know the Scriptures as well as anybody. End of story. After all, it's our Bible.

It was great to see Confirmation Sponsor Guy and family at that party. "Incorrigible Papist" is also a correct designation. We were officially there to say goodbye and good luck to Jeff Ryan, who is taking a position as a religion teacher in Minnesota. What I was there to do--officially or otherwise--had very little to do with Jeff, I'm unafraid to say. My timing stinks, but it could still work out. Ahem. Anyway.

I should be writing a paper, and I'll get to it, as soon as I do my best to keep up the ol' page views. I want to write. It makes me happy to write words, to color outside the lines on the coloring book of your lives, for my amusement and yours. If the "Stuff White People Like" guy and the "Stuff Christians Like" guy can get book deals, I should be able to get one, right? Especially since they should be called, "Stuff Liberal White People Like" and "Dumb Stuff White Evangelicals Like," respectively. I digress in a grumpy fashion.

Have I mentioned how much I love Rick Santorum? I mean, honestly. I know that Romney's charge during the primaries that he's an "economic lightweight" is pretty true, and I'd STILL vote for him in under a tenth of a second. I'm not even kidding. Senator, seriously, I would be honored to write speeches for you, sir. Or whatever you needed. He's A) ACTUALLY pro-life, B) ACTUALLY Catholic and Christian, and C) not a Communist. If I'm missing something here, let me know. But we gotta go with this Romney dude. Not only would a standing HHS mandate be an affront to our cherished rights (and God-given ones, at that) but I do believe that it will cost Obama the election. Care to note how many Catholics and evangelicals are in Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin? Do you think that they--and voters worried about the economy--are going to admit to a pollster in August that they're voting against the first black president? I'm telling you, Obama is gonna get destroyed on Election Day. Destroyed. But nobody wants to say it.