Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2019

Christian Left Versus Mindless Right

I liked the Christianity Today editorial calling for Trump's impeachment and removal. I was wondering why it took Mark Galli and them so long. He's nothing if not thoughtful and deliberate, and maybe that's my answer. On the one hand, I have my own reasons for agreeing with Galli here; I don't suddenly pronounce Trump fit and noble, after four and a half years of saying otherwise. My position won't change, just because my investments are doing well, or because sexual politics on the Left are absurd. On the other hand, the sorts of people who celebrated this piece as a clarion call of righteousness from an evangelical leader are the same people who have ignored those sexual politics--who've almost bracketed them off from off from serious consideration in all spheres--and perhaps deserve some share of dismissal for that. Frankly, "evangelical" doesn't mean anything. If it's a sociological phenomenon that demurs on the major questions of dogm

I Mull Things Over

I'm not a sudden changer of routine. I'm open to suggestions, mind you, but "my people" know I don't do anything quickly. On the other hand, once I decide to do something, I do it. I might even say, "That's a great idea! I should do that!" Still, it's gonna be 2 weeks, minimum, before I do it. I apologize for any inconvenience or frustration this may cause. The enduring circle of associates already knows, but others of you may not. I do try to show appreciation in that moment for the suggestion, but I'm not 16. The timeline is the timeline. It won't be shorter, unless my current plan or method is actively dangerous, or immoral, or something else of gravity. I would like to think other people are like this, too, but I don't know. I could just be crazy. I love parties, because I love people. But whoever those people are who actively enjoy planning things--more than the thing itself--obviously should see a doctor! Ha! I did buy a

Who Is This Tim Keller Guy?

Just kidding. This guy is planted theologically in what was native soil for me, before I became Catholic. Which is not to say I know his work well. What I knew was filtered through my seminarian colleagues at the time. To be quite honest, I felt a twinge of annoyance at the time, because it seemed like his was the only voice for our times in our circles. It's easy to proclaim a guy overrated by default in those circumstances. That's not fair to Pastor Keller, and I know that. On the other hand, do you notice these philosophers? I intend no disrespect. Let me state it another way: Do you notice who's not mentioned? Christianity already has resources in our Catholic philosophical tradition. Feel free to steal it, fellows. You can still disagree theologically with the Church, but your philosophy of knowledge--your epistemology--needs to be on firmer ground. I remain shocked that philosophers trained today many times want to move away from realism. It's like reinventin

Whatever We're Calling "Conservatism" Right Now Is Literally Idiotic

Pick a side. It seems to be implied. The narrative seems to be that "The Left" hates Trump, and nothing he does is good. This seems like a fake right-wing framing, especially in the "conservative" media. I think it's for people that are culturally Republican, who may find him appealing, even in his more unsavory aspects. If his opponents can be shown to be "unhinged," one doesn't have to have a reasoned defense for one's support; one can say, "Well, I'm not like those people." It's the fruit of emotivism in action. You can't really consider the justice of a $7.85 minimum wage relative to say, $12 in isolation. All you care to know is that the same people who call for higher wages, and higher government spending also favor abortion-on-demand until the moment of birth. Well, that settles it. And you're done thinking. It must be nice. Or maybe another group bears in mind the lessons real and imagined from largely 20th

Yes, I Will Impose My Values On You

Because that's what governments do. That's what politics literally is: public morality. If we make choices about what "marriage" is, or we decide that the makeup of a family is a matter of taste, we necessarily disfavor those traditional views. We also suffer the consequences of failing to appreciate those realities whilst being awash in misplaced sentimentality and false notions of "equality". I suppose we'd always sought refuge in "freedom," believing that a healthy pluralism would make room for our views, too. What if that viewpoint neutrality was always a ruse, an illusion? I hold Mr. David French in the highest esteem. His work to make America livable for all of us should never be forgotten. But maybe the biggest mistake is to believe that most people want to be reasonable. Or perhaps the illusion was so plausible because most Americans and their neighbors around the world still benefited from the West's consensus about the nat

Some Implications Of Politics As Public Morality

Everyone has almost a practiced habit of lamenting the incivility of politics today, and that's not altogether wrong. The conversation is uncivil, often emotional, and illogical. On the other hand, there is a privilege inherent in telling everyone else to calm down. Personally, I get angry when real issues of justice are at stake. I don't want to sing Kumbaya, politically speaking, with those who don't recognize children in the womb as persons, or who think separating families at the border as a punitive measure to discourage illegal entry is acceptable. As a consequence, the memes telling us all to just "get along" are patronizing and stupid. I know I find default libertarianism kind of stupid. A sort of dependence on the fact that large segments of the populace could and would find various instances of federal government conduct excessive, silly, or otherwise injurious to some notion of individual liberty has the curious effect of obscuring the fact that lib

Get In The Ark

I'll just come out with it: I think evangelical Protestant Christianity is becoming mainline and "liberal" Christianity. I think it's inevitable, and inherent in Protestantism. Within those communities, you will have reactionaries and progressives just shouting at each other. The progressives eventually win, until the lines are drawn again. It's Sola Scriptura. You either end up a reactionary with a Church of one, or whole communities--deciding together as individuals, mind you--that this or that tenet is no longer binding. Some subgroup can form a new denomination, but the same process repeats. It has to be personal conduct, and usually sex, to cause the problem. With no natural law--or the rare bird that appeals to it, against his or her own hermeneutical process, you'll note--how much can those Scripture texts bear, without appeal to something else? It makes sense. Dogmatic things are pretty arcane; arguments are confined to specialists, experts, and nerd

Farewell, And Thanks

The professor that taught my two favorite classes during my undergraduate days--L. Marvin Overby--taught his last undergraduate classes for Mizzou today. I have very fond memories of those 2 courses: Congress and Legislative Policy/Politics, and Politics of the American South. It was a memorable experience. I'm not sure he knew he was my favorite, because quite honestly, he scared the crap out of me at the time. It was like something out of a movie: the scary professor who'd shut you down if you weren't prepared, like an edgy, off-color John Keating. I can't really explain what that was like, except to say this: I never missed a lecture, and I never wanted to. This dude is a throwback to the days when a university and the exchange of knowledge was for its own sake. It was good, because it was the truth, and no matter how indirect, it's for the good of others. He's good at playing the roguish cynic, but really, some pretty high ideals are lurking behind the prese

Serious Films Are Pretentious And Boring

I don't mean to say they don't have a place. They do. Drama is good. And sometimes a longer running time is just necessary. But I think Serious Films are like beer or kale: we're all pretending to like them, because nobody wants to break first. It's like a game of chicken, over dumb things. Wes Anderson makes weird movies. They're comedic, in a sense. You're not allowed to laugh like at a comedy show. You chuckle awkwardly, and salute the irony. It's some kind of surrealism, but let's be honest: if you met these characters, you'd call the cops, or some doctors. The longer a movie goes, the more Serious it is. It can't win an Oscar, unless someone is black, brown, and/or gay, unless a white person learns a lesson. In which case, the underrepresented characters will be utterly ignored in terms of development. Under no circumstances will a Serious Film be popular with ordinary people. If a film is popular with ordinary people, it must be simpl

Kicking Off A New Tag

I'm going to start a new tag called, "Observations." It's going to be what some call, "observational comedy." I could use a few laughs, and so I'm sure could you. The Editor is sure to make a few appearances. [What?! I mean, yeah, I wasn't paying attention. I was at the fridge.--ed.] Anyway, have you noticed that a standard-size water bottle contains precisely 16.9 ounces? Not 16. Not 17. An integer would make too much sense. Can you imagine that marketing meeting? "OK, people. We obviously don't use metric here in the US. How many ounces should we sell at the price we determined?" "12!" "16!" "18!" [pregnant pause] "How about 16.9?" "Genius!" -- Now, some enterprising soul has noticed that 16.9 ounces is precisely 500 milliliters. So we've caved to our European betters after all. I have a couple of questions here, though. Does anyone know why we don't just go

Happy Birthday, Mom

You're 64 today. I'll bet you thought those kind of ages were never reached, when you were a kid! Well, anyway. I am your proud and thankful oldest son. To be honest, some things we'd have been better not living through, or so it seems. Then again, who are we, to argue with God? I'm thankful for little things from you. I love books and words because of you. I pay attention--to a healthy extent--to what's going on in the world because of you. I'm sensitive and funny because of you. I could be wrong, of course, but I think that was you. You sacrificed all this time and energy so that we could have every advantage. You work as hard as anyone I have ever seen. And the thing I love most that you taught us is that enjoying life is about recognizing the moment, and being thankful. Honestly, this will sound a little weird, but I love that we are friends. I'll always be your son, but you also trust me with things that are important to you. That makes a son who

I Love This Bloody Song ("Wait For Me," Again)

Apparently, my destiny in free moments is to scour among the stones with our friends at YouTube, listening to "Wait For Me" by Daryl Hall & John Oates in as many different versions as possible. Old Daryl, Young Daryl, Daryl With The Band, Just Daryl, '70s Daryl, Today Daryl, etc. It's probably my Official Favorite Song now. I sing it all the time. I guess there are worse obsessions. Dare I say, it means something to me now. I'm going to record this song, mark my words. Even if it's just friends goofing off, it's going to happen at some point. Provided, of course, the Lord doesn't call me home a bit early. "I'm not even a good singer!" I thought. And then I realize--having been a performer of a different kind many times--that talent is only part of the equation. Does the audience believe me? That's what matters the most. Daryl and John are the kind of guys that don't just write a song for the sport of it. There's some

He Took Away My Security In A Moment

I didn't expect to be utterly taken apart. Certainly not by one sentence. And maybe I expected fireworks from arguably America's best living theologian, who also has a penchant for public vulgarity. Yet I didn't think the fireworks would go off inside me. Let me pause the story to tell you another one. One day, I went to a trivia night to benefit L'Arche, a Catholic community made up of "normals" and those with intellectual disabilities. Most often, it's Down Syndrome. Mr. Vanier (founder of L'Arche)--in plain, undramatic terms--wanted us all to see Jesus in each other, even if some of us are pushed to the margins. And so it goes. Anyway, I had a few odd interactions on the way into the trivia, and my friend says, "Sorry some folks treat you like you live at L'Arche." Now, without doubt, I am a proud man. I'm proud of my mind, my words, my degrees. But in a sudden attack of good sense, I said, "Who am I to think I'm bette

If I Governed A State

I would be an executive, which means I would attempt to let the legislature be the legislature. You're not allowed to do this today. You're supposed to have legislative priorities and victories. When did this happen? I generally would want to administrate well, to keep my head down, and avoid embarrassing the people of my state. On the other hand, if you give me the power of commutation and clemency, I'll use it, and boldly. I take very seriously the idea that the last person who can show mercy in light of justice would be me. If I don't have a Board of Clemency and Pardons on board with my vision, I'll replace every single person until I do. I generally have a socially conservative vision, which doesn't mean I can't tolerate anything else, but it means that we don't have to make anything and everything normative. We don't change everything we've known, just to make some small group of people happy. Depending upon what it is, it might be ba

You Can't Give What You Don't Have

"[X] is very damaging to the witness of the church." Put anything in there you like. It could either be true, or it might be false. I know what's even more damaging: not being in the Church. This is the thing that drives me crazy about a statement like this from an evangelical: the referent "church" is empty; the speaker knows what she means. Perhaps some of the hearers think they know. The reality, however, is that there is nothing visible to which "church" actually refers. At a practical level, imagine your exhaustion at having to answer for every single person who claims the name of Christ. Imagine believing that major questions of ethics--even dogma--were matters of liberty! And then, gentle reader, do you dare wonder why religious non-affiliation is on the rise? When people get tired of searching for truth, sometimes they give up. Frankly, without a way to know that any one thing is supernaturally revealed,--or a matter of morals connected to

Restore To Me The Joy

I think that one of the things that happens when things are going well is that we become overconfident. No wonder there are so many "influencers" about! If you've got money, and something to say, a platform is nearly inevitable. In the end, it won't matter if what you say is true; someone will give you money and affirmation, even if you should be washing your own face, instead of telling people to wash theirs. I lost a certain clarity to my life, or at least the shape of what I thought it would be. I wasn't prepared for how invested I was in the certain shape of a dream. Maybe I'm trying to say that I've been an idolater, though it didn't seem that way at the time. It's easy to take joy in the pleasures of life when the blessings seem to rain down. You can talk a great game about understanding how fleeting it all is, too. How easy it is to even extol my alleged single-minded devotion to God! Then a true cross comes. True suffering that can&

I Don't Know Who Needs To Hear This, But

My diagnosis of cerebral palsy (CP) is most accurately described as a condition. It's not a disease; it's not progressive, except in the most indirect of senses, if one fails to manage the results of the neuro-muscular adventures one gets to go on. I can have kids, and if we do, your kids will not be disabled, at least not because of my CP. I have the urge to say this publicly periodically. Some able-bodied people get to see CP up close, so they know. I don't feel like giving an overly-detailed description of CP. Look it up, if you want. Some instances of CP are more severe, and some are less so. Interesting tension exists, between wanting to be "normal," and knowing that you're not, in general, as people with disabilities. It's an interesting tendency in this society as well, to change all defect into mere difference. As we talk about inclusion and participation, what we face is not being able to define the ideal: from our bodies themselves, to soci

Solid Food

I don't want to say too much, but Jesus is our brother. It's a new thing, when Jesus is no longer our fire insurance--though we never presume--and we are indeed family. Am I ready to accept that Jesus considers me His friend and brother? Do you remember the day a younger sibling was his or her own person, and not just the kid you have to keep safe? When warriors talk about brotherhood, it means, "I'd die for you, and you'd die for me." It's thicker than blood. It's the kind of love that men rarely speak of. We're rarely allowed to, these days. Jesus wants me with him. This is what he meant when he said, "I no longer call you servants, but friends." I will never outgrow my need for Him, but--mystery of mysteries--it is not foolish to console Him. He did not turn away St. Simon of Cyrene; it was not a show. He was consoled. And the holy women, they consoled Our Lord, too. If Jesus invites us to console Him, we are on the Way of the

I Don't Believe In "The Universe." I Believe In God.

"It almost makes you believe in the universe again. Almost." First of all, in context, I'm sure Washington Nationals pitcher Daniel Hudson is a great guy. (It's not his quote.) And of course he missed World Series Game 1 to be with his newborn daughter, because that's what a good father and husband does, if he can. Secondly, whatever personal problems players on the Houston Astros have, God is not punishing the team for those. I'd love to know one day the intimate workings of Providence, in regard to individual games and their outcomes, but as it appears from here, baseball just isn't that important, in the grand scheme of things. (Don't misunderstand me; if you're reading this, I love baseball more than you do.) Most importantly, what is so charming about some seemingly arbitrary, impersonal force? Admittedly, one sees or hears this a lot. I guess if we're tossed to and fro by impersonal forces, we're not accountable to anyone whose judg

Still Not Quite Right

Grief wreaks havoc. I still have a rather ambiguous relationship to eating; I do it because I have to. I graze, rather than eating big meals. It will be nice to experience the enjoyment of eating again. I know I will. No pain lasts forever, especially not in the light of eternity. Then I feel guilty, because this grief is not in some objective sense the worst loss. I have an internet friend who could tell us all about loss and grief, and I defer to her. Yet when she says, "I will never be OK with this," that corresponds with something I understand, and it helps me. On the other hand, I need and want the freedom to say that I'm not OK, that I have been changed somehow by grief, that in these moments, the world does not look quite the same, and in some way, it never will again. The Lord retains the right to make something good out of bad, and in faith and hope, I expect Him to do it. But there's no rush here; if I want to cry, I'll cry, and I'll brook no d

Exodus Simple Outline

I. Moses and Israel in Egypt as Slaves (1-11) II. Passover, Exodus, and Sojourning (12-19) III. The Law and the Tabernacle (20-31) IV. Broken Covenant, Intercession, and Restoration (32-34) V. Building the Tabernacle, As The Lord Commanded Moses (35-40)

The Memorare

The Rosary gets all the good press among Western Catholics, and rightly so, probably. Our Lady has a funny way of appearing and telling us to pray it. Fair enough. For my devotion recently, the Memorare is becoming my favorite Marian prayer. I'm taking into account my situation, my strengths and weaknesses, and other things. We are told in Scripture to "pray unceasingly". St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta, along with St. Therese of Lisieux, teach us to do little things with great love. St. Jose Maria Escriva gave us a whole spirituality of divinizing the ordinary. God is not some ethereal ogre that I must placate and visit periodically; he's with me and for me, right here, and right now. By the mystery of His great love, he elevates you and me to sit in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. I do not know your crosses, but I know that I am tempted with discouragement when the tasks of the day seem especially arduous. There is a time to grow in fortitude, and I'm

Re-Thinking The Purpose And Foundations Of Government

I'll let Deneen and others make their case against classical liberalism, but suffice to say that a Catholic is on unsteady ground with anything that makes the individual the focal point of political action and concern. As we discussed various things after a conference on the future of liberalism, Dr. Cross helped me to see that liberalism's major flaw is that it imposes a regime of individual rights upon the family, community, and society which  already exist as goods before any attempt at political organization.  The idea of the common good cannot exist in any system that denies the common good, in principle, or in practice. This basic contention should be obvious, but it isn't. The basis for legitimate authority of government is the natural moral law. Liberalism fails because it purports to be neutral in regard to the moral law. It fails also because it treats the procedural questions of exercising one's liberty as the only consideration. It commoditizes moral cla

Changing My Mind, With Naomi Oreskes

I’m not sure when I watched the video in Bryan Cross’s giant climate change thread. It’s on YouTube as, “The American Denial Of Global Warming”. I’m not sure why I watched the whole thing. I was a contrarian and conservative, if anyone was. But I noted right away that Dr. Oreskes had no desire to be sensationalist or provocative. Just the facts, take it or leave it. It’s a rough overview of the consensus view of climate change. I knew I had plenty of reasons to deny it, if I wanted to be lazy, or to stick it to “the Left.” Then, this thought: These geeky scientists don’t care about my beefs with Democrats and communists. This is generations of their life’s work. They are experts, and I am not. To summarize the data, it’s been known that our consumption of fossil fuels was a major cause of climate change since the middle of the ‘60s. The IPCC was created as a clearinghouse for the data and studies. The government studied the data and issued a report in 1979, recommending urgent

I'm Pro-Life. Now What?

I recently had a chance to participate in a fundraising gala for a pro-life organization I really believe in. Several friends and I really enjoyed it, were inspired, and gave what seemed right, as we were able. At the same time, you note I'm sure my disaffection with the current forms of even mainstream "conservative" ideology. I'll never be "the Left," as it were. There is no David Brock-like conversion coming. Yours truly might make a big change over the course of years or a decade, but I'm a writer and an extrovert; I'm gonna telegraph it, if so. I digress. The point being, personhood won't change. No sob story rooted in consequentialism would make even one abortion acceptable. No other heart-wrenching identity crisis makes any anti-human (thus, anti-Catholic) ideology tolerable. Yet I'm reminded of something Archbishop Sheen said, in paraphrase: If a person listens to the Church, he can believe dozens of foolish things besides, without

Caedmon's Call

I can tell you this: It's pretty hard to get your hands on the eponymous major label debut from this band. But Darth Bezos can get you anything. The music isn't as old as I thought, but the original songs appear to have been composed between 1994-1997. I just had flashbacks to my early days as a Christian in the late '90's, and their music was resonating well into the early aughts. Sorrow and struggle, sin and wandering, changes the tenor of everything we hear from them. It still has that pretentious charm of a Serious Band Doing Serious And Real Jesus Songs. It's like they would wink and smile at the prospect of not being played on Christian radio. That's kind of the point. I have had some negative and probably uncharitable reactions to Derek Webb and some of his songs, but I'm still a fan. He's an intriguing vocalist, and has apparently never lacked for something to say. The political and cultural fault-lines being what they are, it's inevitabl

Oh, There's The Cross Again!

At the risk of glib bitterness, I knew there was too much happiness the last couple of months. We know how this goes. There must be a holy way of waiting for the other shoe to drop. If you find it, let me know. I've taken joy in the cross before, so I'd have to suppose I will again. Not right now. It seems like a sick joke. Death is horrific, wrong, and sad, but there are definitely sorrows worse than death. When our loved ones die, most times, they don't mean to leave. Death is a thing that snatches us, sometimes without warning. This thing is different. What do you do when someone you love says, "I don't want to be close to you anymore"? There is no way to feel anything other than broken, or defective. We men, we want to fix it. What should I change? Did I somehow become a pale imitation of myself? It seems like what I have given is lost, never to return. This is where our heroic notions of giving without expecting anything in return seem to die. It'

Make This Promise To Yourself

I’ve got another secret to share. I have to write it down, because I don’t know if I will get the chance to speak it in the place where it needs to be said. I think it’s applicable to all kinds of situations, and I hope you will agree. You had better sit down. I refuse to be responsible for managing another person’s emotions. Therefore, I make a conscious choice today to let go of the, “If only...” paralysis of the past couple of weeks. I was me. I authentically gave myself, and that’s all there is to do.

The Unsettling Duality Of Being Human

"That charming man..." said Rhoda Henry. The truth about Wolf Stoller--the banker-extortionist, "Goering's man for extorting the Jews" in Victor Henry's memorable phrase--was becoming clear to her. Of course, the presence of Nazis, Communists, or other monsters is unsettling, because they existed and exist as people, and not, even after all this time, as symbols or pictures of evil. We owe the author of these stories, Herman Wouk, and all who faithfully hold up a mirror to us, a word of thanks. Thanks for--among other things--for letting us remain unsettled. What a lot of the "cancel culture" misses is that we're all complicated. Sometimes, great virtue and vice co-exist in the same person. That battle exists in me. One of our huge problems in society is that we're still moralists; indeed, we're as zealous as ever. But now, as a group, we do not forgive. There is no mercy in the way we talk to each other. I get it, I'm a dinosau

A Generous Truth

The Catholic Church is the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ. Symbolically, I'm much more Pope Francis than Torquemada about it. Yet we all must believe it, and the true children of the Church do believe it. Other people, it seems to me, keep the truth about the faith and the Church as a kind of keepsake, a family heirloom. Any faith or practice that is not Catholic is Wrong and Evil, and cannot be spoken of in positive terms. That's not me. I know what it was like making my way here; I'm the very last who wants to be unnecessarily caustic. I'm more likely to speak in harsh terms toward other Catholics who don't respect the faith journey of others. Still, there is no better reason to be Roman Catholic than the fact that it is true, and that what the Church teaches is revealed by God. I don't prefer it to something else, in the common usage of "prefer" today. I can simultaneously hold that Catholicism is true, whilst also holding that everyone

Against The Grain

I do my share of criticizing ideas and people in my neighborhood of the political spectrum, so to speak. You've seen this if you've hung around. It behooves people to learn as much as they can about obviously political questions. What we find as we do is that our system only allows questions and ideas within a narrow range. In fact, "issues" are just hooks for what I might call, "socio-cultural tribal conflict." " We are like this, and They are like that." And never the twain shall meet. A sick and corrupted political culture produces "leaders" that love this sort of needless rage. We have the leaders we deserve. Yet new generations of leaders desire to rise up to make a better way. They can't please everyone, nor should they. But we can and must do better than we have done.

He Ate With Tax Collectors And Sinners

Have you ever wondered why the "wrong" people were so comfortable with Jesus around? We tend to turn this around and go, "Jesus ate with sinners. We should, too." That's not wrong. But what do the sinners see? What do they get out of it? The best kind of sinners know they are sinners. There is no pretense or hiding. There is no act to put on. Other sinners like to find Gripe Rooms (like bars) to hang out together and talk about those who judge them unfairly. If you hear about a megachurch or something that proclaims itself a "judgment-free zone," for example, you have found Christians who have fallen for the act. You can't lure the proud into a deeper union with God. They don't want it, and it's opposite of the Kingdom. Seriously, though, how are you gonna save someone from a disaster they can't name fully? What are you saving them from? The gaze of Jesus shows the truth without pushing away. The gaze of Jesus grants the freedom to

Democratic Nomination Update

The chattering class is doing their best to make this early stage compelling. It's not, really. There is one fundamental question: Can progressives unite around someone with an actual chance to win the nomination/presidency? Look at this: Sanders and Warren are playing for the same voters. Biden loves this, because one compelling progressive who can convince moderates he/she can win is a problem; two or more is a gift. Full disclosure: The steady state of this blog in general will be nominally pro-Biden. As both a voter/participant and an analyst, I think Biden has the best and only shot to beat Trump. Booker and Harris are self-styled compromise candidates between the moderate and progressive wings, rather in the Obama mold. President Obama played that role to perfection in 2008. The problem is, well, there can be only one. Mayor Buttigieg is a moderate masquerading as a progressive, also, but he's white. Ditto Beto O'Rourke. Why is he still running? In a smaller field,

Scrupulosity: The Enemy Within

Scrupulosity is an excessive fear of having offended God, or the belief that what I have done renders me beyond God's mercy. Believe it or not, I have struggled with this. It's a species of pride. Last night, as I was contemplating the superabundance of God in various blessings--and noting ruefully that there must be some mistake--something just clicked. "Where do I get off, telling Jesus he made a mistake?" You see, my friends, Jesus didn't wait until any of us were "acceptably spiritual." Indeed, what does the Scripture say? "God shows his own love for us in this: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Think about that, now. Are we trying to tell Jesus he doesn't know what he's gotten himself into? On the face of it, it's absurd. Do you think someone who hasn't received Confession in 40 years may have some shame? And that's another thing: All these ex-Catholics out there proclaiming the "good ne

5 Thoughts For Today

5. You have the right to keep a handgun in your house for self-defense. (And other types of guns for sport.) You have a duty to yourself and others to seriously consider whether you need one/them. 4. I don't really blame Black America for supposing that this passion for the Second Amendment is and would be less enthusiastic if Black men starting advocating for themselves in the same way. 3. We do have a white nationalism problem. 2. We do have a problem of angry white men in general. Terrorism, that is. 1. I know one way we can all do our part, and solve lots of problems: Stop getting divorced.

I'm Just In Sales

Anybody remember the show "Law & Order"? Yeah, the original. I used to think "SVU" was an abomination, but it's fine. I think back to those Lennie Briscoe episodes (RIP, Jerry Orbach, and thanks). More than once, Lennie discovered that he had a colleague or a mentor who was into some bad business. They'd look at Lennie and go, "Hey Lennie, I thought you and me..." and they'd find out Lennie believed in the ideals of the organization. Being Catholic right now is a lot like being Lennie. There will be those who seem like they're on your side, but they're not. They might even ask you or me to protect some beloved figure for the good of the Church. They might ask you to sell out for the sake of "mercy" or political power, or something else. And you and me will have to decide what we believe, and what we're about. And the thing is, I don't have time to disbelieve anything the Church teaches. It may be profitable for

Top 5 Rejected Biden Campaign Slogans

5. Biden 2020: Old, White, Male, But Not Trump 4. Biden 2020: The Candidate Of The Actual White Working Class 3. Biden 2020: Obama 2.0, With Less Racists 2. Biden 2020: Not Woke, But We Need Some Bush Republicans To Win, So 1. Biden 2020: You Know It Could Be Worse

Am I Pro-Life Enough To Have The Right To Say Something?

That's a ridiculous question, but apparently, if you're wrong about something really important, you can't have a correct moral intuition about anything else. In fact, this is an ad hominem. You know, LOGIC and FACTS. Anyway, the president's infamous tweet was in poor taste, to put it mildly. It was unpresidential, unbecoming, dishonorable, mean-spirited, untrue, and a hundred other things. It feeds into dangerous notions of nationalistic racial purity, and encourages distrust of those who may look different than some of us. We are a country based upon a set of ideas. The downside of those original ideas--that people can be unmoored from culture, family, and traditional morality--are still there, but the good side is that people can come to America and start over. It doesn't matter where you came from, or who your parents are, or where they came from. A fresh start. Now, I could go through and talk about all the ideas of the women of this "Squad" which

I Don't Want Fewer Abortions; I Want None

"You're not stopping abortions, you're just making abortion less safe." Well, let's talk about that, shall we? It's not safe for the baby, first of all. Secondly, the data shows plainly otherwise.  I think a lot of left-of-center Christians would like to believe these comforting fictions about abortion, because they feel culturally alienated from right-of-center Christians, they dislike them acutely in many cases. I get that, I suppose. Let's obliquely refer to the ignorant, unfit elephant in the room. Ahem. Anyway, if what I propose to do does not include making abortion illegal at some point, I do not really want fewer abortions. I have to take my medicine at some point as a "bad" person denounced by popular talk show hosts as an extremist. Fine. If  we go through a spike in "unsafe" abortions after it's made illegal, that's tragic, but unavoidable. Just because people work around a good law and hurt themselves or others doesn

Getting It Right

I'm a little biased here, but my friend Casey Chalk is in a good habit of writing great pieces on the good life in some of the political magazines and websites. Here is one in The American Conservative. I endorse everything he says in this piece, but I want to take a little part of it and use it as a jumping off point for my own reflection here. Casey mentions fathers and sons especially, and how playing baseball, or even watching baseball, can bring them together. We don't talk enough about fathers. We don't talk enough about good fathers, and how necessary they are. More than this, we don't talk about what a necessary blessing it is to be part of an intact family. I say "necessary" because there exists an obligation for all people of goodwill to fight for intact families. I say "blessing" because the damage of experiencing a broken family is outweighed in the lives of those from intact families by a factor of 10, and perhaps much more. The bless

Must Love Dogs

I don't know if I'll have a dog, when I form a family. I suppose I should say "if" I form a family. It's true, you know, that people are keeping dogs instead of having children. It's absolutely true that some people are clearly compensating for their lack of having children--of being parents--by treating dogs like children. On the other hand, I love dogs. Almost every time someone says what I said in this first paragraph, they are a bunch of dog-haters. I don't like that. And it kind of blunts the force of your argument, to be honest. And it's a ridiculous juxtaposition in the first place, because I'm no sociologist, but there's a pretty strong correlation between having children and having a dog. Therefore, in the fine tradition of a popular meme, "Why not both?" It's just something I had to get off my chest. I hope you don't mind.

Re-Thinking Race And Racism (Again)

I'm not one of those people who thinks that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, a magic wand was waved, and racism ended forever. In fact, that's ridiculous. I am probably one of those people that would pass as a "liberal" on race in many respects. I believe in structural racism; I believe in principle in the idea of reparations for slavery and other degradations against African-Americans and others. Yet I had something happen to me the other day, and it has me feeling and thinking that I can see the other side of this issue more clearly than I could before. I saw an episode of the show "The Real World". Now you may know that it's a web series now, but it premiered of course many years ago on MTV. They try to get the most interesting and diverse cast they can. Quite frankly, especially now, TV producers are trying to get people that will conflict with one another. Anyway, I was watching this show, and one of the participants was a very militant b

The Profession Of Faith

It wasn't a hoop I jumped through. When I said I believed and professed all that the Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God, it was literally the most important vow I have ever made, or will ever make. I made it without prejudice to other vows; that is, I may take others that do not conflict, and surely I will do so. It's another illustration of grace building upon nature, and of the interrelation of different facets of true reality. In this way, the profession of faith is the grounding for all other promises, and this makes sense, because the vow's truth rests on God, who can neither deceive, or be deceived. I have to therefore take this opportunity to say that I don't "get" pick-and-choose religion. I'm fully aware that people do it. I can even see that it would be appealing. After all, every time we sin, we're retreating into this pick-and-choose mentality. Anyway, I remain surprised at how many people go, "R

Storybook (And I Called It)

Well, not the Stanley Cup. But there's a nun I see at Mass sometimes, and she LOVES St. Louis sports. She asked me in January--when we were the worst team, or near to it--if I thought they'd make the playoffs. "Yes," I replied, matter-of-factly. I think I caught her by surprise, and the way she responded let me know she was wondering if I was nuts. But for me, watching sports is a mixture of faith, and a keen eye for talent. I had watched a couple games in November and December, and thought, These guys are really good. Most people just see results and scores, and that's not wrong. Eventually, to be a winning team, you have to win. But winners also are the people who do the right things when it doesn't matter, or doesn't seem to. What I noticed right away is that these guys did their best to cover for each other's mistakes. They used most of their energy helping each other. The forwards came back to help the defense; the defense came forward to help

“Cheating” Doesn’t Exist

If you’re dating someone, and they cheat, so to speak, it can only be a couple of things. If it’s actual sex, it’s called “fornication,”—sex between two unmarried people—and that’s a mortal sin. If it’s “fooling” around, that’s called “masturbation”—the intentional stimulation of body parts to derive sexual pleasure, with no intention of having sex—and that’s a mortal sin. Christian couples shouldn’t be doing this stuff anyway. In case you’re wondering, yes, I was provoked by one of those internet videos, where some guy of dubious credentials lectures other guys about how to be less skeezy versions of our culture’s worst, with the earnest piano in the background. Pete’s sake, maybe all these women are anxious because we expect them to be perfect wives, with none of the permanence? Sure, good people trying their best slip up sometimes. Seek Reconciliation, and move forward. But this culture is so far from good that we cannot even figure out why we’re unhappy.

Ontology For Dummies

I'm no Bryan Cross, or Roger Scruton, or Alasdair MacIntyre, but when I see a young chicken hatching from an egg, it's not a "potential" chicken; it's a chicken. If someone plants a young sapling of a tree, it's not a "potential" tree; it's a tree. Trees and chickens are supposed to be trees and chickens. Neither one--apart from what we decide to do with them--is a cow, or a brick. There might be different developmental stages of each, and we could call them by different names at each stage, but what the thing is should not be under serious question. We've got people out there (apparently) confused about what the thing is as it pertains to humans. A human fetus is a human person at a very early stage of development. This person is not a brick, or a tree, or a chicken. We don't become persons by exercising capacities; we are persons who exercise capacities. If we decide--as has been decided many times before, to disastrous effects--that

All We Are

"All we are is an evolved monkey!" Or tons of similar things. While I'm at it, I don't think we should perpetrate a genocide against monkeys, either. At the risk of being glib and reductionist myself, how many wounded children of divorce are drawn to these Dawkins-esque origin stories? How many of these guys treated their own girlfriends like trash, and so, cloak themselves in euphemisms for abortion to cover the guilt? There was that one Fulton Sheen story on an airplane. Guy said he was a deacon in some parish, but he didn't believe, and didn't go to Mass. A bunch of hypocrites (true) believing in fairy stories. His Excellency looked at him and said, "How long have you been stealing from the collection plate?" In a certain way, all we are is souls. Wounded souls. Why cling so tightly to something like abortion, so obviously problematic at best, even in the hardest cases? Rage at me is fine. Most times, I probably deserve it. But I'm just

Straight Pride?

Our friend Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got in a few mocking cracks about this, and while society at large is apparently pleased with themselves in deciding that any and all sexual activity has the same moral value and meaning, it raises an interesting question: Should the rest of us--especially faithful Christians--celebrate "straight pride" in response? I say "no." I have a couple reasons: Firstly, accepting the "gay/straight/other" taxonomy inadvertently sends the message that procreative sex between men and women is but one valid option among many. We do not celebrate the fact that we are sexually attracted in the normal way, but that this wonderful design is fruitful, intended, and a benefit to all of us. Calling it "straight pride" focuses on our sexuality and pleasure, instead of that sexuality's purpose. Secondly, even as we say that these Pride events celebrate a false anthropology that is contrary to humanity's purpose, the