Saturday, August 10, 2013

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go

Johnny Irish and I are going to go shopping. We lost a bag in our last outing, a bag with some most necessary equipment. He's coming at 10:30. For all the talk about how I don't like to get up early, I sure know how to wake up paranoid that I'll be late at 6:30.

I told him to bring the Jack Jones, because I like it. I'd bring stuff I like to listen to, but he's old school; I still want him to talk to me when it's over.

Maybe I'll go get ready, and then read Canon Law. All together now: "Fun with Canon Law!" Yeah, it still sounds funny to me, too.

Friday, August 09, 2013

I'd Be Called Liberal By Some, And That's Just Fine

I don't think it's OK to kill people. That means abortion is wrong, but so is the death penalty, right down to the ritualistic way it's done. I know a Liturgy of Death when I see one. The United States lacks even a reasonably coherent foreign policy with respect to military intervention. Frankly, I can't remember the last time our military 'defended our freedom,' or whatever we're supposed to say now. That isn't to say that I don't respect a great many of them; quite the opposite. In fact, I'm saying they've been fighting and dying for no defensible reason for generations. And we sow the seeds of the next crisis while we invent a reason for our morally questionable involvement. Some well-meaning do-gooders like the humanitarian missions; well, I do too. But that's for UNICEF and church groups and Doctors Without Borders, not scary dudes with guns.

That court system of ours, by the way? It's awful. A few things here: I hope you're not poor or black, because you're doomed. Don't think we don't remember how you dragged your feet in MA clearing an innocent man on that murder in '83, Martha Coakley. Here's an idea: How about you leave public life for good? Thanks. A prosecuting attorney should never be elected. Ever. Find the most honest person in the whole community, and appoint him or her. The Governor can review them, but if that gets arbitrary, we'll vote him out.

I'm not for the legalization of drugs, per se, but I think I know what a non-violent drug offense is. No way you rot in jail forever, unless you killed someone, or you sell to kids. And don't even try to tell me that the disparate sentencing for crack versus powder cocaine makes sense. If Washington is going to spend our money fighting this, at least they could shift toward rehabilitation. It is a moral scourge, but not the way we think.

Did you know that government is good in itself? But not when it strips the people of their rights and duties. We cannot even assist the poor properly until we collectively have a better moral sense, and frankly, when the entire system is unresponsive to the people, whether as pawns of an immoral and arbitrary statist imperative, or a corporate one.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Wal-Mart Follow-Up

Yes. This. More than worthy of reflection, we must say.

Haiku For A Friend In Diologue

"Punctuation? Bah!
I shall give you history;
thus, Rome awaits you!"

Listen To Mr. Tate, Children!

Dude. That was awesome! I'm just saying. I can recall one interesting aspect of the journey, the struggling aspect, and I'm able to articulate now: The struggle was the awareness of paradigms in conflict, and an earnest desire for objective criteria to evaluate them. If I may speak personally, if you do not struggle, you do not love. I went to war on behalf of the Reformed tradition; I fought so hard, I thought Confirmation Sponsor Guy would kill me or something. But I fought honest. If you fight honest, you lose. I fought because I thought I was fighting for Travis, Thom, Captain Jack, "Grandpa" Billy, Dorothy, and so many others. Yet by losing, I won. More than I could've hoped.

Why does Mother Church say she accepts unreservedly those Christians born (that is, reborn) in other traditions outside the Church? Because she knows there are armies of people like the ones I just named. If they knew, they would stampede in this general direction, with their arms and hearts wide open. That's why it's primarily an ecclesial authority question, really, and not a question of the quality of the spiritual experiences, or of zeal. If it were, I daresay the Catholic parishes would lose that one every time. But that's why we need you!

When the visible church in my Reformed paradigm lost its reason for being, when it lost its role as the means by which I received and assented to the truth, I could no longer be Protestant. That's why this ecumenism of the invisible church makes everyone Catholic: it eviscerates the visible church as we find it, or it forces us to pretend that our little segment of it offers us a nice dogmatic suggestion, but it can't be true; that'd be rude or arrogant toward our other brethren in the "Church." And what a delightful little trap God sets! Because the instinct is not wholly wrong; it just usually refers to settled doctrine before all the schisms. Once I realized that the stuff we'd really die for predated the Reformation,--that's what "Mere Christianity" means if it means anything; that's why the cool Reformed kids read Chesterton and Flannery O'Connor, and not to refute them--
(stop lying) you naturally ask, "What about our contribution? What's the truth value of our tradition?" Whether you are faced with the Tyranny of the Plausible just on the Protestant side, or with the claims of the Catholic Church, you will be forced to confront the ultimate truth value of your theological system, and the visible means through which it comes to you. Oh, dear. That's problematic. Not to mention the "arbiter" problem, restated: Can I be the final arbiter of orthodoxy and a humble receiver at the same time? No. That scream you just heard was either you, or the Witch of Sola Scriptura dying a quick death from the holy water of that simple question. [Wow, you are a papist.--ed.] In theory, and in practice, my brother.

Really, the final piece is this question: "Am I properly related to the means by which the ancient orthodoxy was maintained and held?" Yikes. Get your mitres ready; it's a short trip. I think I detect the faint smell of incense. I think I just saw an old man dressed in white, who obviously has almost too much power. Almost. Oddly, I'm moving toward him! I can't get away! AHHH! Resistance is futile.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Even A Haiku Needs A Friend

Sometimes, I depend
On promises unseen for
the meaning of now.

I Say What I Think (And Maybe What You Are, Too)

5 Thoughts For Today

5. "Marriage equality" movement: A political movement to enlist the government to change the definition of "marriage" to facilitate greater social acceptance of homosexual practices via the consequent coercion.

4. I wouldn't call myself "liberal" or "conservative" politically, per se; I think the best way to describe me is "contrarian."

3. Question to annoy a "disability rights"/CRPD activist: If the treaty won't change our laws, and the opponents are paranoid, why do we need to ratify it?

2. Just keep in mind that I agree with Rick Santorum 91.7% of the time. Maybe you should ask, "How can we convince Rick Santorum to support this?" If that whole concept repulses you...see, you're a liberal, and not a nice one, at that.

1. If John Stossel is worthless, consider me dirt. Worthless dirt.

It's True

5 Thoughts For Today

5. I want to take singing lessons.

4. I probably know more song lyrics than you do.

3. I've written songs for the same reason Lionel Richie started the Commodores.

2. Still grossly underappreciated: Richard Marx.

1. Let it be known far and wide: I LOVE Gorge Michael.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Just So You Know

The next time you hear someone popping off about how Republicans who are Catholic or Christian more generally believe such and such that is contrary to Christian teaching, you can direct them to this post. This is just to clear the air.

I'm opposed to the death penalty, aggressive wars, abortion, torture, and any other thing offensive to human dignity. My only regret is that things had to get really bad and really stark before I understood the principles that underlie Catholic social teaching.


But I'm still a conservative. Before someone else goes blathering on about how cutting a social program hurts the poor, and the teaching says we should care about the poor, and so we should uncritically support whatever inane thing the Democrats are proposing, might I suggest that the efficacy of a certain program along with its intent should be our primary concern in public policy. I want to be the kind of conservative that says, "I hate poverty too, and that's why I hate your liberal policy just as much." I don't know why Democrats deserve points for compassion when their policies don't work, they don't dignify, and they don't have a moral foundation, beyond the self-gratification of whoever proposed them. Thomas Sowell may not be a Christian, but he's right about that. A government that is large enough to be the principal means by which economic and distributive justice takes place is large enough to trample human dignity. Ayn Rand may be anti-Christian, but she was right about that.

In recent times, the battle within conservatism broadly speaking has taken place between social conservatives and economic conservatives. This should not be. The strongest social conservative argument beyond that of natural law is that because of natural law, bad moral acts have social consequences that policymakers must face. Part of the lack of efficacy of our social safety net is that it failed to take account of the moral dimensions of not only the public policy, but the consequent reactions of those impacted by it. And so, we wander around and attempt to convince each other that public policy is amoral, when it never has been, and never will be. It is either in accord with reality, or it is not. Activists on the side of liberalizing policy in terms of social issues are well aware that policy has a social dimension; why should we be afraid of presenting the contrary, and presenting the good as having a beneficial social dimension that can be argued? Economic policy and any other kind has a moral dimension as well, and it is foolish to pretend otherwise. With respect, we cannot help but see that individual autonomy absolutized gives us both abortion, and unjust economic inequality. And that is not simply the result of a fair process, but is the result of pretending that a tool in the hand of an unjust person will somehow produce a just result. We have no right to blame the Bernie Madoffs of the world on a systemic flaw, yet we should not expect our system of "free enterprise" to function without the true freedom that comes by moral justice. If we teach our MBAs when they are undergraduates the truth is relative, then they will behave as though truth is relative when they steal the savings of the people they serve, and lie to the regulators, and defraud the taxpayers. I believe that a free market is a mutually beneficial free exchange of goods and services that is in accord with the moral order. Economic freedom is but a species of that true freedom that is ordered liberty. That ordered liberty is ordered to the common good, and is directed toward it, even when the person is not consciously aware of that orientation.

I will not hector you much longer, but I wanted the opportunity to sketch a brief outline of what I am thinking and feeling as a passionate conservative Republican who identifies first as a Christian.

Haiku In Darkness

Be not far, O Lord;
Evil is close at hand here,
goodness, illusion.

Monday, August 05, 2013

A Brief Retort

Back on March 25, I wrote this. It came in the midst of discussions of ecclesial visibility and authority. I do have to say that there is always a risk that I will reply with more heat than light, as it were. All the more reason to let the ideas presented by my interlocutors stew, and perhaps to let the passionate, personal edge that can be a part of such discussions be blunted.

A commentor said this: "There were no doubt times when God had appointed someone to do something. But, it was always specific. The priests and kings were at times rejected by prophets who had authority not derived from the priests and kings, but from God. And, it is clearly not the splitting off of the Northern Kingdom from the Southern, but what they do afterwards that gets them in trouble. Even then, when God appoints new lines of kings, he also ends those lines and even continuing lines are challenged by those rogue Reformers, err, prophets.

More to the point, those most clearly appointed to lead by God in, say, 30 AD were opposed by the Son of God himself. In the subsequent years, Christ's followers -- both Apostles and not (see Stephen, for example) -- boldly challenged the clearly appointed authorities with the authority of the Law and the Prophets... and ultimately, the authority of Paul's letters. Stephen didn't say, "Well, you may disagree with me, but I have the Apostles on my side." He laid out Biblical history in his challenge to the authorities."

One obvious reply is that he still assumes that there is some definable word of God by which the Jewish authorities of the first century could be judged. But the word of God to Israel was always a word in community. When Israel had failed to keep the covenant, it was God himself who spoke to correct the error. That's what makes the parallel between the Pharisees and the medieval Catholic Church fall apart: I do not recall any prophetic sanction given to any one or all of the so-called reformers. If they were prophets, why did they contradict each other? If they were prophets, which one should we follow? If they were prophets, God's people would not be confused and divided, even if those divisions are well-intentioned, and have a significant covering of cultural anti-Catholicism to hide the internal disagreement.

Moreover, even if we grant that the Pharisees were corrected by the long-established word that God had given to his people, it still remains that his people are visibly marked out as such. And the reply seems to ignore the obvious: God Himself came in the flesh to correct the errors of the established authorities. He never said they were not the established authorities; in fact he said the opposite. But we do not mistake his prerogatives to revise and even reinterpret and reconstitute the people of God as some sanction for mere men to do the same, as if they are the Incarnate Word.

Finally, were we to see the Old Testament Scriptures as a stable norm from which to draw in correcting the Pharisees, the same logic convicts the so-called reformers in their unjustified innovations. The Sacred Tradition that had been expressed in all the ecumenical councils up to that point would have been part of that stable norm to which all of us are bound. This is why Luther was asked about the councils when the controversy began. It is not impossible for God to sanction a whole new interpretive framework for Christians, but I daresay that he would do it in person, as he had done for his people before.

Apostolic succession, communion with the successor of Peter, and a true Eucharist had been the boundary lines for the people of God from the very beginning. Whatever reforms need to take place must take place in the Church. One cannot reform something from the outside. Even if that definition is far from clear, one cannot create a new definition, and then use it to critique the Church. This is why I said that one cannot be the arbiter of divine revelation and a humble receiver at the same time. I do not define "the Church" and then presume to mold her to my whims; I either receive what she teaches, or I do not. If I do not, however, I presume to have a part with Christ, and in vain at that, if that presumption is culpable.

These Are Not Easy Questions

Read this. On the one hand, community benefit and local awareness is part of the reason economic central planning doesn't work; there are factors and reactions that a disconnected planner doesn't see, and in some cases, no one actually sees. Smith's "invisible hand" isn't a love-poem to supply and demand; it's just a recognition that Johnny-Bob buying a hamburger has lots of effects that Johnny-Bob and the guy who sold it to him don't intend and wouldn't be aware of. Beneficial effects, that is. On the other, there could be something obviously negative if the only judgment we used to assess an economic arrangement was how efficiently scarce resources were conserved. Then again, that's what markets are supposed to do. That's what economics does: manage scarcity. I don't have all the answers, but there had better be more support for localism and small firms than sentiment and nostalgia.

Is there actual proof that Wal-Mart (for instance) harms the common good, or is that just economically illiterate prattle? How do we decide what a "just wage" is? When should intervention take place? When are we actually unwittingly creating injustice by attempting to act for the common good? That's a fun one.

Don't ask me.

Haiku For Your Day

Be who you are now
as grace makes you worthy still
in the Beloved.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Haiku Again

I can see past it,
to the trouble it hides deep;
truth waits not its turn.