Saturday, July 25, 2015

I Love-Hate Taylor Swift

I've been a legitimate fan since 2006. She really does write great songs. I have no idea really what makes a good pop singer, but suffice to say, she sings well enough to be very successful. She's one of those weird people whose biggest fans and biggest detractors are both right.

You may have noticed (even if you want to vomit at the thought) that she's really attractive. She's got that classic red lipstick look that we like, to paraphrase one of her songs. I'm still young enough to notice, and old/pious enough to know that it makes me a little uncomfortable.

She's always used the word "classy" in reference to herself as a goal in presentation, or in reference to how she wants young girls to perceive her (and themselves). We're reaching the point culturally where, if this is the modern culture's attempt at modesty, we are doomed. This is Taylor Swift; this is not supposed to be a person known for trying to shock us. She's not Madonna, or even Mariah Carey, sad to say.

If you've ever seen Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, (she played a prostitute) Taylor Swift walked on stage wearing those leg-suspender deals that are--at least in movies and TV--the sign of such things. I wasn't there; I saw a small clip. Why does anyone think that you can say "classy" and "prostitute" at the same time?

Pretty Woman won't be confused for a family film; not then, and not now. But the reasons it kind of works as a movie are: 1. it communicates that prostitution is bad; and 2. but prostitutes are people, too; and 3. wouldn't it be nice if a sweet girl in a bad way like that could "fall in love" and leave that all behind? I saw it again a couple of years back; it still works. Did you know it's still the most commercially successful "romantic comedy" of all time? It created the genre. I digress. Here's my question: Do you want to live in a culture that is so degraded that Pretty Woman doesn't make sense?

Man, I love Taylor Swift. I'm a huge fan. But I wouldn't go near that concert, unless I hated her, and myself. Those were the thoughts I had. Unchastity is a kind of self-hatred, and a kind of hatred for whoever aids you in it. So great is our dignity. This is why it offends God, who made us as the apple of His eye. Think and pray on that one. And maybe drop some Rosary bombs on Taylor Swift.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Mark Shea, If People Think You Are Liberal (And Frankly, That You Flat-Out Don't Like Them) You Are Earning It

All teasing aside, which I've done in several posts I don't care to link, I love your stuff. I actually like your "edge." We all know I've got one. We've got several noble friends in common, and they don't hesitate to speak well of you. In light of that, I strongly desire to speak well of you, also.

Also, I can tell that you are strongly motivated to affirm all that the Church teaches without exception. We are of the same mind and heart in this. I will not say that being involved in American political activity makes this easier. I also can't say that I have fully understood all of the implications of the social doctrine, especially as it applies to acting politically in public, for the common good.

But I'm really trying.

I need you to give Republicans a break. Honestly, give politics a break. To speak truth to power by means of the social doctrine is an important task, and an urgent one. Nor do I dare to take away satire as a means of doing it, when appropriate. Is this all we are now, though? Is that all you care to be, when you speak about issues that matter?

I think it's highly possible that a right-leaning person could conclude that you despise them, and everything they ever dared to stand for, by reading your posts lately. Are you dismayed that the present state of conservative politics and rhetoric is irreconcilable with Catholic faith, or are you simply angry?

People tell me that these open letters are lame and passive-aggressive. Well, we don't actually know each other, and you're Mark Shea, a really important public figure. I think that when a highly-public figure errs in a highly-public way, there's a certain leeway that must be granted to critics.

Politics is passionate, and intense. If people judged me for every passionate word I spoke on that subject, I would have no friends. We're 18 months out or so from the election; does whatever Donald Trump said yesterday matter? Does anyone who stopped to listen for a moment--even a moment--become suspect and defective as a Catholic? I'm asking, because I honestly don't know your answer.

The biggest thing I don't know--that I need to know--is whether you realize that a lot of us are out here, trying to be faithful, not trying to simply carry water for the GOP or whomever. I may not pick up on the faulty arguments as fast as Confirmation Sponsor Guy, but I'd like to. I'm also not going to verbally crucify someone because they liked what a libertarian said one time, or even more than that.

I'm the most partisan Republican I have ever known, for good and ill. I'm also a person who wonders if I should leave the GOP every single day. I'm not exaggerating in the slightest; I'm that same person. Take it from a friend: You need to think about giving someone some grace, because the committed and the uncertain in this game of politics are often the same people. I could give you a passionate opinion right now, knowing that a "but I don't know" hovers in my soul in most things, even if I don't say it.

Take it all before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament; if there is value in what I say, take it. If not, I'm just a keyboard-jockey who doesn't know you, anyway.

Thanks and blessings in Christ,
Jason Kettinger

Rosary Wars: The Apathy Strikes Back

You know that you ought to pray the Rosary; you actually know that somehow, it is your Obi-Wan Kenobi. You may have mildly impious arguments as to whether Mary is interceding, or whether you are simply distracted from the wickedness you'd rather be doing.

Your enemy is more subtle than we tend to think. He only says, "Don't pray; praying sucks" to a certain kind of weakly virtuous person. To another he says, "Do you really mean it when you pray? Why do it just to do it?" and other things.

Everybody needs a St. Ignatius-style fire-breathing Jesuit (realizing that sounds absurd today) to simply look at you and your devotional life and say, "Just do it." Real Jesuits (and others) laugh at being called Pelagians and such like, because the whole point of grace is to be with God, and to be like Him. Frankly, I don't know that many Catholics today who are actually in danger of trusting in the number of prayers that they've said, as if God needed anything we have. The greater number are ascetic pansies who stumble into bad things because they don't pray enough. I'm one, although admittedly I have enough pride to have been the former at one time or another.

If you are actually afraid that you're treating the Rosary like a charm, then stop, address yourself to God and the saints, and talk about what you want and need. Talk about your sins or your tendencies toward them, that you fear sin and evil because it can separate you from God who loves you. Ask for virtues; ask to understand holiness, to be utterly defined and marked by it.

In short, talk to God as if he's really there.

I suspect that a lot of us regarding prayer are like the people who say they hate vacation: once we're there, we have a wonderful time. Now, someone will say, "The saints tell us God takes away consolations as we grow!" That's true. But I'm saying all this to those of us who know we are nowhere near that unique spiritual challenge. Please be quiet.

By God's mercy, we can win this thing. The point is not to give up before you start.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Principles, Principles

He's right, you know. Only difference is, the Reformed have many degrees, so when they fail to distinguish between human opinion and divine revelation, they don't notice. Their ad hockery is plausible, even to themselves.

There are only 2 questions that matter ecclesiologically: "What is the Church?" and, "From where did this dogma, or set of propositions x come?" I did not really want to re-consider my belief in an invisible Church, but that notion could not account for the data, or keep me in the fundamental position of a receiver; that is, for me to sort through the mess of history to decide what was from God, and what was human is to stop assenting to revealed truth, and to start being its arbiter.

I have always taken doctrine too seriously to sort of glibly say, "Well, we're united in the essentials!" because we have never been, as Protestants. It was a loaded gun, sure, a loaded question, but it doesn't make it wrong: What exactly is "the gospel"? I could see plainly that all the Reformation-era communities were in fact united in rejecting Catholic authority, and the claims thereof. One thing, however, persists as the truth we must face: they aren't united in anything else, dogmatically. Unless of course, they already agree with each other, or the Catholic Church.

Looking at Catholicism in any age makes one say this concerning our rejection of their authority: we can't all be right, at least not in the same way at the same time. If I am going to hold set of dogmas D in contradistinction to the Catholic Church, I will officially have a problem when my buddies come along with sets E, F, and G. The fact that we decide mutually not to consign each other to Hell for our variances from one another does not mean we have established in a principled way the distinction between dogma and opinion, or between essential and non-essential.

I'm just going to let you stew on that.

God bless ol' Steve Martin, banging away in the comments as if the game hasn't changed. The Lutherans--bless them, our brothers--aren't any more skilled in putting together an attractive package than anyone else is. I've already decided to drop Rosary bombs on him, until he comes Home. I don't care if that sounds patronizing at the moment; 1. we subjects of the Catholic Church actually believe it is the Church Christ founded; and 2. when one starts sounding like a broken record, pounding the table, more often than not, it's the fear which precedes the humility that leads to conversion.

For my part, I just couldn't stomach the Mark Galli, "We Lucked Out" version of Christian history; on my most Protestant day, I couldn't so selectively ignore the Bishop of Rome's role in preserving truth; it was like Dr. Evil telling Scott to go away without saying his name. It is intellectually honest and good to forthrightly consider whether Catholic authority is so visible precisely because Christ put it there. It is relatively easy to reject that notion fully and outright; it is much harder to tell a coherent, universal Christian story after having done so, however. Just how thankful to your mother can you be, without openly being her son?

Maybe I just didn't think trying to find out was worth it.

If You Know About Evil, Say Something

I grant that it's harder than I make it sound. But do not assume "everyone knows." Do not assume your obligations to the victims (or at least potential victims) have been fulfilled. That's why I'm not all that upset that good people are getting hit by "failure to report" laws; it's very important.

It's a trending story, Jimmy Walker commenting on Bill Cosby. Yes, something this grave and dangerous, start talking. What he's really saying is, "I'm chagrined that this evil person is maybe the most beloved black person in America, and I'm the guy who yells out, Dy-No-Mite! to a vaguely racist audience." Maybe there was a little satisfaction in knowing America's favorite TV Dad was a fraud. Cold comfort to the ones he hurt.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Don't Be A Jerk, Volume 4000

That's funny, in a truly sick way. In case anyone cares, I'd stick up for you with the Holy Father, as appropriate, even if you called me a warthog-faced buffoon.

Who Ya Like?

I have said that likability is one of the biggest factors in winning the presidency. In the GOP field, who do I think is likable, and how much? I'll just do as many of these I deem necessary. (If I think a candidate has zero shot in any universe, you're not going to see him or her.)

Carly Fiorina: If the GOP base decides to try to take Hillary's "history" card away, this could be the most interesting general election in our lifetimes. Likability (out of 5): 3.5. At least some of the GOP will want to know why HP was so bad while she was there. The religious conservatives might be jumpy about multiple marriages. Women don't catch those kinds of breaks. (It should be noted that I think Mrs. Clinton won't be winning anything, so Fiorina's strongest selling point may be moot.)

Jeb Bush: I think a good number of people are saying they hate dynasties, but they are liars. I'm a card-carrying Republican, but if it purports to tell us history, and says "Kennedy," I am watching. The Bushes are actually no different. I might concede much more to Bush fatigue, but for the fact that Obama has outraged conservatives of all kinds so much that we're ready to forget that Bushes always disappoint us. Likability: 4.2. No Christian voter will ever forget his defense of Terri Schiavo, and when he talks about God, it sounds legit. The Bush family is maybe the most skilled in history. You'd have to be, in order to be "establishment" in every single race, and get tons of conservative support anyway. Jeb and W's mom says Jeb is the most talented. Count him out at your peril.

Rand Paul: The son of Ron Paul, he's obviously the natural choice to carry on his father's legacy of offering a libertarian-flavored alternative. Having won a Senate seat in Kentucky, he has accomplished a greater feat electorally than did his father, a congressman. He is uniquely positioned to offer a Republican spin on racial structural injustices, and if successful, could demonstrate a way to begin making a real play for black votes. On the other hand, Paul is the focal point for the most serious rift in philosophy in the GOP: whether, while necessarily limited, government is a positive good, or a necessary evil. He's combative with the media as well, and while this can be a crowd-pleaser among Republicans, he's not likable enough to get the people on his side against the media routinely. He'll be a frontrunner in what I'm calling the "Jerk Primary," between himself, Ted Cruz, and Scott Walker. One of these guys will say, "You're right; I'm not nice. But I get things done." Likability: 2.2.

Scott Walker: Let's tell the truth: this guy doesn't come across well at all. He's the epitome of why George W. Bush put "compassionate" in front of "conservative." Scott Walker doesn't care what you think. I don't think he'll tear up any time, like Mittens did. Walker takes his attempted recall as a badge of honor. I acknowledge his accomplishments, I like his rhetoric, and I still wish he'd go away. He might be the run-away winner of the Jerk Primary. Likability: 2.0.

Ted Cruz: This guy is actually brilliant. His intellectual credentials are formidable. He went to Princeton, he's a lawyer, and he's Canadian. He's actually not that bad, if he's not running for something. The most shameless panderer I can recall not named Lindsay Graham, he said he started listening to country after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. He might be the most anti-Obama person in the field...and I don't believe a word he says. I just don't. Democrats are secretly hoping we nominate this guy, because he says absurd things routinely. Moreover, I can't shake the feeling that he thinks we're all stupid. Likability: 2.3.

 Ben Carson: This guy is the youngest Chief of Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins ever, if memory serves. Legit black American success story. I'm willing to bet his biography, Gifted Hands, is incredible. He's said some crazy things earlier, but it's so early still; it's not fatal, necessarily. I think Obama is a blessing and a curse for him: he gained prominence attacking him, but some segment of people are just tired of talking about Obama. Can he overcome the latent "benign" racism ("We're not racist! We have a black guy, too!") and more obvious forms, to win? Does he actually know anything about politics and governing? Likability: 3.8.

John Kasich: The sitting governor of Ohio, this guy came out of "retirement" to win. I don't know all that much about him...but I like him a ton. He subbed in a few times on the "O'Reilly Factor," and made it 3 times better, at least. This is my dark-horse pick to win this deal. I've heard some chatter that he's insensitive and rude in private to his fellow Republicans, but I've never seen it, obviously. Likability: 4.0.

Marco Rubio: It's like somebody stopped off at the Candidate Store on the way to the lake. I love this kid. The young guy shouldn't have all the gravitas, but he does. He beat Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor of Florida, and another Democrat, to win his Senate seat. Meanwhile, when he isn't giving soaring speeches, he's a conveyor of Reasonable Things on the Senate floor. If somehow I am wrong, and Hillary becomes the Democrats' nominee, she will have gained considerable momentum. This guy could end it in one speech, or one debate. When he announced his candidacy, the section about his parents' sacrifice choked me up. I don't even like his foreign policy, and I'll be thrilled to vote for this guy. Likability: 4.99. Maybe he's too slick, but I don't think so. Say hello to the next President of the United States. He had Jon Stewart defending him, for pete's sake!

My thoughts.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Herman Bavinck, Closet Thomist

Recently, I noticed that the Reformed types in my internet social network are recommending Bavinck as a systematic theology. My brain is a hodgepodge of half-read books and such, but I remember reading that guy. I remember him being utterly incomprehensible to me, until I sampled Aquinas. St. Thomas Aquinas seriously can make you less stupid by himself. I had a professor at The Old School who made me re-write a Bavinck summary, because I just got ticked, and just began yelling at Bavinck in my paper. DON'T JUST READ THE SUMMARY PARAGRAPHS of anything or anyone.

If you're doing this assignment right now, and about to punch yourself or someone else in the face, take half an hour or an hour and read an article of the Summa. Seriously, just do it. No, you don't have the time, but I promise you, you will save it on the back end. If they aren't teaching you philosophy terms and the rudiments of the natural law, they are just hurting you intellectually. It may make you Catholic, but it may save you some intellectual pain, at the very least, Mr. Reformed Seminarian Guy.

Gosh, I just love learning!

Read It Like This, Part 3

With regard to property or temporal goods, which 2 principles are important to hold together? (CCC, 2401)

Does the Church see any conflict between the universal destination of goods, and the right to private property? Why not? (CCC, 2402-2403)

If there is an apparent conflict, which one takes precedence? Why might this be so? (CCC, 2403)

Private property ought to be used to benefit others. Which others ought we seek to benefit first? (CCC, 2404)

Does the Church believe that a business owner only has a responsibility to his or her customers? (CCC, 2405)

Pray For Us Sinners

This is the most obvious reality: that we are sinners. There is something altogether appropriate about asking Mary to do this. We're all just little kids.

I read a line like that in a story about DeAndre Jordan, the Los Angeles Clippers center, who had considered the idea of playing instead for the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. Their owner Mark Cuban is a billionaire; I'm sure the guys can have some fun. DeAndre had gone so far as to verbally agree to a contract during the moratorium period. He'd gone to see Coach John Lucas, one of the pillars of the black community in Houston, a former NBA coach, and something of spiritual guide.

He's still just an impressionable kid, said Lucas. We all want to make people happy. I'd like to make Mark Cuban happy. He could accidentally drop some money while sneezing, and pay off your house.

A lot of times, we get in trouble with sin, because we want to make people happy. Maybe even ourselves. The devil's playing small ball with most people: sex and booze. You can do worse. The problem is, it's still very strong. You have to want to get out.

If God sees this world as I see it most days, Purgatory will be like Ellis Island: crowded. I don't see malice in most other sinners I meet; I see wounds. Wounds only a mother can fix.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Carmelite Rainstorm

We had an outdoor Mass for the last night of the Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Right after the Gospel reading, the heavens opened. I haven't been that wet in awhile. Some 400 people piled into a small chapel.

The homily was about martyrs, how the secular state always thinks it has the right to impose itself, though I suppose the Roman one did it on behalf of its religion. And the Islamic State, likewise. Father pointed out that their remarkable resolve, forgiveness, and serenity is not a human virtue, but a supernatural one.

I know one thing: Little kids refusing to become Muslims in Iraq and replying, "We have always loved Jeshua" (Jesus) before dying at the hands of the Islamic State will make you wonder why you are such a pansy, and pray for the grace to do better.

We're headed right for it. Martyrdom, that is. There's no real cause for alarm. It's happened so many times before; there is no magic shield around the United States; we're not special; if we pursue vice instead of virtue, a plurality of evils is the end-point of our pluralism.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Process Of Elimination

There are times when the truth is just looking at you, waiting to be spoken aloud. It's going to hurt someone; someone may not want to look at it, whatever it is. I might be one of those crazy people who just doesn't assume that people lie, and hide things. I guess that's pretty stupid for a theologian. Dr. Greg House would mock me, I'm sure. Warning: This post may get uncomfortable.

Somebody spoke a truth to me, at least a potential truth, that I may want to ignore.

In dating and marriage, your disability could be an issue for women. No one wants to say it out loud, because who wants to be that girl? They might not even admit it to themselves.

I guess the thought of that hurt a little. I don't think that way. There's enough self-doubt floating around without adding this to it. So I don't think it. I don't expect my friends to feel this way. If I had a good friend who was a woman say it was true in her case, I'd be stunned, actually.

Would I feel judgmental or angry about it? I don't know. I wouldn't pursue marriage if I thought I was wholly unqualified. On the other hand, if you think I haven't been afraid of whether I could be a husband and father, I've got a bridge to sell you.

But everyone's afraid. I know that. That's human. It's normal, if you'll excuse the slur against my people. Ha!

I guess if we're already making people uncomfortable, I should just say it: There are no canonical impediments to my getting married. Everything works, as they say. Should I put this on a t-shirt, so the pious Catholic girls don't have to ask?

As for the first part, I get it, totally. I worry more than you do.