Friday, March 11, 2016

These Three Words

I heard my three favorite words in combination yesterday. No, not those three! But as I reflected a little more on the mystery of Christ, and his goodness to us in the gospel, I realized that "I absolve you..." means the same thing as "I love you."

I think about the possibility of just going through the motions as a Catholic, and strangely, all I can do is laugh at the mercy of God. Once you understand the story of redemption, there is nothing mechanical about our sacramental system!

I think it means that the true work of evangelization is to teach the biblical story. Once people understand at a heart level what the basic message of the Bible is, everything the Catholic Church teaches and does makes too much sense. Just think: the age of the Church is by definition the outworking of the blessings of the New Covenant! They already know the rules, to some extent. They think they know what "Catholic guilt" is. Who forgot to teach them about Catholic love?

I've been participating in a Bible study on the prophets. When we got to Jeremiah, and the famous passage about the New Covenant in chapter 31, I felt a great warmth. The sacraments, and the grace they realize, are exactly what Israel hoped for, in the midst of the exile! Of course, we take them for granted, but step back and realize that God's love is so great, we are like children, unable to comprehend the goodness given to us. Instead of condemning ourselves and each other, let's help each other to understand and grow.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Why Is This Still A Discussion?

Even if every single person in the GOP leadership is a craven, unprincipled, lying hack, (I don't believe this, but stay with me) who rolls over to get their belly-rubs from Obama, the answer is not Trump. Do your best to convince me that this is not the stupidest campaign in the history of the country; you won't. I kept waiting for some sense of normal, some personal thought of, "This is a real campaign, that I could see myself supporting." It never came, because there is nothing there. Nothing.  We have reached the point where winking and nodding at fringe theories and websites becomes dangerous, not because they are wrong, though they are, but that the people who consume them are so consumed by rage that they can't reason. At all. The lesson for the much-maligned establishment is this: you cannot control mindless rage. The lesson for the rest of the alleged conservative movement is that anger is not always morally appropriate, and the people are not always right. I have no obligation to listen to unreasoned rage, no obligation to pretend that there is some noble popular wisdom I'm missing out on. That's always the sentimental error of populism.

I stopped reading "conservative" news a couple of years ago. I realized it had taken leave of reality, and wasn't returning. If you can't craft workable solutions and arguments for them from the mainstream media, you don't have a philosophy, you have an opinion, and one that doesn't need facts behind it. Don't misunderstand me: I don't think the mainstream media is bias-free, or will give a person a correct view of the world. But here's the thing: most ordinary people read and watch the mainstream media.

Contrarianism is a feature of conservatism if anything is. But the failure in the conservative movement has been essentially to believe that any sentiment, no matter how silly, dangerous, or crazy, is worth entertaining, as long as it was against Obama and the Democrats. That's not conservatism, that's demagoguery.

Maybe I'm not the best messenger for this; my ideological purity is in question for certain, depending on the person you ask. But that may be a great example of the problem: you can't defend an ideology you can't define. And what help are you to the rest of us, if you don't even bother to try?

In the moment, I am hoping I'm wrong about Ted Cruz. I really hope that if and when he becomes our last hope to be taken seriously as a party, he sees not enemies to be defeated, but fellow citizens to be persuaded. I hope he apologizes for saying he'd make the Middle East glow. I hope he just spoke thoughtlessly in talking about carpet-bombing. I hope he actually believes many things he does say. Most of all, I hope he can make a humane, inspiring case for his philosophy, that reasonable people who don't already agree may find compelling.

Those were fortunate days not long ago, when we had the luxury of calling Ted Cruz extreme. Now, he's the establishment, in the best sense of that word. This is the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Reagan, who not only represented us, but governed so well as to become American icons. That's what's needed. Right now, we are staring at a human mirror, showing us the worst parts of ourselves.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

In Praise Of Marco Rubio

If this is the end for him, I wanted people to know all along why I have so vocally supported him. Firstly, and most importantly, he's completely pro-life/anti-abortion. It took a tremendous amount of guts to go on 60 Minutes and other places and say he didn't believe in exceptions, because that's a person we kill, and there is no "sweet spot," morally or otherwise, in that case.

Secondly, I think that, if we as a party have decided that the minimum wage cannot or should not be raised (which I believe is morally dubious, mind you) the only thing close to a defensible compromise position would be tax credits aimed right at married families, and that's what Rubio has suggested. Senator Paul may be right that it will be very expensive. Ideologues may well be correct that it's a clever redistribution tool, to give money to people who haven't paid it in taxes. Well, yes. If the economic hazards of the marginal working-class are such that emerging from it is almost pure luck, we have reached the point where fretting about "welfare spending" is just so much noise. Philosophically, we cannot assume that the general welfare or the common good is served by the increase of profit by itself. That position is no more defensible than to assert that government alone is the engine of economic progress. I can at least appreciate Sen. Rubio's rhetorical questions to the effect that his bartender father and hotel maid mother couldn't make it in America today. But we're not socialists, now, or ever.

In fact, the gravest crime against the people with the president's health care law is not that it should be the beginning step toward basic health care and preventative medicine, regardless of economic situation, but that it does so on immoral terms. So long as abortion and abortifacients are argued to be so urgently necessary that the United States government must compel citizens to participate as customers and subsidizers--and against the free exercise clause of the First Amendment!--our government is arguing appalling absurdity. To be immoral and ineffective, that should be the worst outcome in public policy, but it hasn't been. Yes, repeal it, and quickly.

Thirdly, I trust Marco Rubio to at least appoint judges who will not attack the free exercise of religion, traditional values, or federalism at the earliest opportunity. I don't look for judges who will always give me what I want. I want a Supreme Court where I barely know their names.

Fourthly, he's right on his weakest issue vulnerability: immigration. He's been right the whole time. There absolutely is a happy medium between outsiders streaming across the border looking for free stuff, and treating Mexican immigrants and others as subhuman outsiders. I'm tired of pandering to immoral, thoughtless nativists. If that makes me "establishment," good. I haven't heard a good, honest argument against being downright "liberal" on this. We will never end birthright citizenship, and we never should. And that's the beginning of what we ought to do.

Finally, I still believe he could easily win a general election. I don't think Cruz will. It's that simple. And no amount of hectoring about neoconservative cabals changes that. You can't fake the ability to connect with people. Marco Rubio inspires people, left, right, and center. I'm well to his left, and I'd be thrilled to back him. That's all there is to know.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

It's A Simple Answer

Why do Catholics support a strip-club owner for president? Because they are Catholics in mortal sin, that's why. It's the same reason why they feel they can support pro-abortion politicians in the Democratic Party, though that plainly violates our principles governing the dignity of human person.

We see a lot of immorality, on a range of issues, precisely because Catholics don't think or live like Catholics. Granted, if we did, the Republican Party might be more centrist on economic issues. But for all we know, the GOP might have become the abortion party. The reason it didn't is because white Protestants realized that the Catholic Church had been right on abortion all along.

Ask the much smaller percentage of Catholics who attend Mass at least once a week for whom they intend to vote. To paraphrase Saturday Night Live, the answer sounds like a Miami law firm.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Personal Jesus

It's often hard to be contemplative right in the moment of receiving Holy Communion. I need the moments after, and even then, my ability to focus is questionable.

But it means something that He wants to be with me, and I with him. I tell him every day that I am not worthy to have him come under my roof, and yet he does. Suppose we are all Zaccheus, hoping to catch a glimpse, but Jesus wants to stay for dinner. I think we have no idea the love waiting for us.

When you put it in a biblical metaphor, you get "wedding" or "endless party." That tells me that we lack the ability to describe the joy that awaits, as if youthful revelry is a pale shadow of what we're made for.

It fits. The most fun I've had the last 5 years is in celebrating the chance to receive the sacraments. Those sacraments are pledges of the future glory.