Saturday, November 16, 2019

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 has become a man feel strong and valued.

I don't know what we're going to do when Daniel Craig retires from acting. And remember: George Clooney can be usually counted on at the movies, but not when there are goats involved! There's a solid chance I'll be seeing that Top Gun sequel at least twice. Alyse beat you to it, but we'll definitely go.

Also...VEGAS, BABY!!! So fun seeing Garth Brooks there, too. Even if we stayed in the Trump Hotel. (sorry not sorry)

Anyway, try not to work too hard, Mom. You've earned a break all these years. And say hi to the puppies for me! I love you!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

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 something of them in every single one.

Pete's sake, I know I can sing it at least as well as Todd Rundgren did, and I love that one! (No offense, Mr. Rundgren.)

Monday, November 11, 2019

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 better than someone who does?"

I had this in my mind when America's best living theologian began to talk about his 25 years living and working with L'Arche. I was not inclined to radically separate myself from the people he'd met. We have enough ground for solidarity that I figured any talk about disability, and living with one as a person would be highly pertinent. How right I was, though I couldn't have known how much beforehand.

The man said, "People with disabilities are unable to camouflage their need for love." Aptly, I nearly lost a grip on my emotions in that moment. I was seen, as I'd never been before. And I gave to myself a gift of self-acceptance--dare I say, self-love--by the grace of those words.

Draw the conclusion with me: If this cross of physical infirmity takes away my hiding place, if I cannot pretend to be tough, strong, and independent, then where else do I foolishly try? And if this is truly so, I'm not sensitive, or womanly, or weak--as if any of those are bad--I am gifted with an opportunity for the humility and vulnerability that admits me and all of us into the Kingdom.

That was in itself worth a word of thanks to the speaker, and so I gave it to him later. Infirmity of whatever kind is not a gift, as such. But the opportunity to draw close to others via my own need, and in that, to extend mercy for living, absolutely is such a gift. Who am I to refuse to give it?

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 bad indeed, to chase some people's version of "happiness."

If I firmly believe in something, and it is of sufficient importance, you can expect me to fight for it. My morality is absolute and unchanging. Don't expect "evolution" on something I tell you is most crucial. There is no "center" in the bright lines of ethics. People often say they want a politician who fights; trouble is, we support those who fight for the wrong things, or those who in themselves have no right to be leaders or exemplars for others.

I want to be so good that the people of my state don't think about me, until it's time to vote again. I'll show up and say positive things about the people of my state, smile, and get out of the way.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

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 it--it's at once fruitless and manipulative to say, "We can't just play church; we gotta be the church!" How will you know when you've succeeded?

The door is open.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

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't be dismissed or denied enters in; you lose your balance, as any reasonable person would. Maybe you even wonder if your life is even worth living. Even to an extent that would scare your loved ones and friends.

"My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?" Abandoned. There is no one singing your praises now. Maybe I even begin to think that anyone who ever had was lying. Maybe I am a fraud. Maybe I always was. If you get here, oddly enough, you're in good company.

Jesus is waiting right in this place. It doesn't make sense, and yet it makes every sense. If I think no one understands me, or loves me, I'm factually incorrect. And this Jesus intuitively understands this dark place. There was nothing theoretical about that for him.

It's truly unexpected to find that Jesus wants to be with me. He wants me here. And it's not some grudging dictate from the Father; he knows me in every moment, and it cheers him that I am with him.

I may have no joy as I'd thought of it before; the pleasures of a day may seem drab and false. I know that smiling or laughing now has this quality of belonging to someone else. I do know that suffering has become a door. I anticipate that goodness and true joy awaits on the other side, but truthfully, I can't see that far.

Any place without Jesus is a void; any place with Him is a paradise. I'm no less misunderstood or wounded, or even angry, as I walk through the valley alone. But with Jesus, there is some part of me that is not confused or lost; I know my purpose. My purpose is to go wherever Jesus goes. We go together. When we finish the journey, loss will be gain. I believe it, and so I go.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

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 society at large. Without this, we risk elevating what is accidental to being human--or even fictitious--to a fundamental expression of personal identity. [Hey, someone should write a book about that!--ed.] Hmmm.

Friday, November 01, 2019

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 Cross. And therefore, on the way to glory.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

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 judgment matters, including God. Yet in reality, God has a Name, and a face. And the Holy Spirit, mind you, may be mysterious, but He's personal, if anyone ever has been.

You'd have to wonder at people's tragedies, if they'd rather believe in impersonal forces than in the God who made them. The God who gave them a name and a face, too.

Monday, October 28, 2019

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 debate about it.

The Enemy loves the times when I have doubted everything I thought I knew, about myself, about God, and the goodness of creation. That father of lies loves my bitterness, my resentment, my anger, and whatever bad else. If that snake can keep me from praying, it's the only chance he has.

I just hit back with the Memorare; I cast myself into the arms of Mother, and thereby, into the arms of God the Father.

I don't know what the future holds, or how to handle it. I do know that I am ever and always Jason Layne Kettinger, renewed in Christ by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and one could do worse.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Leviticus Simple Outline

I. Various Sacrificial Offerings (1-7)
II. The Ordination Of Aaron and His Sons (8-9)
III. Clean and Unclean (10-15)
IV. Day Of Atonement (16)
V. Regulations, Holiness, and Feasts (17-27)

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

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)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

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 thankful for those opportunities. And yet, little soul, if you cannot pray 50 prayers, pray 3, or one. If we can never return to Jesus the love He's given, it is for us to give our small portion back, rather than to despair of our smallness, and to give Him nothing.

I can give to God in these moments my widow's mite, and He is pleased. And I can do it throughout a day. And if we do this, we find that we have become great warrior souls of prayer, one small prayer at a time!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Genesis Simple Outline

I. The Primordial History (1-11)
II. The Patriarchs (12-38)
III. The Story Of Joseph (39-50)

Monday, October 14, 2019

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 claims, because through its economic expression--capitalism--it treats everything as a commodity with a price, including people.

I think the tricking of American Catholics in regard to the compatibility of our political/economic system with Catholicism has happened because of the apparent harmony of subsidiarity with federalism. As you may guess, I think that harmony is only an appearance, not real.

Finally, there is no principled distinction between libertarianism, and anything we might call "conservatism". This is so because there is nothing systemic which obligates the individual to subordinate his individual whims to the common good, because the common good doesn't exist in classical liberalism. "Left" and "Right" are just the presently palatable versions of this same individualism, marketed--fittingly, that--to different segments of the populace.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

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 action. I was not yet born. Little has been done.

I’m sympathetic to the main denialists, and their motivations. Communism is evil. Total state management of economics is total management of people, which ends in tyranny. Oreskes named this fear, and did not dismiss it out of hand. That was a great act of friendship. She took me seriously as a listener. She seemed to anticipate the strongest impediments to being heard.

The other exercise of intellect was for me to realize that the mere existence of dissent from the consensus doesn’t falsify the consensus. What authority and expertise the doubters have is a crucial question. As a non-expert, I should follow the expert opinion, if indeed there are no strong reasons to believe it’s wrong.

Conversely, if doubting scientists are engaged in motivated reasoning, it seriously damages the skeptics’ case, and the weight I should give to that case.

I still have the liberty to choose among many options for combatting the problem of climate change, provided they confront the problem with sufficient urgency.

Friday, October 04, 2019

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 fault. On the other hand, many people use that freedom to enforce of kind of vincible ignorance concerning our social doctrine.

(Sorry, Tony Esolen.)

So I'll just get to it: I'm not a one-issue voter.

In fact, all options are on the table, in terms of voting.

And yet, I cannot disregard the present state of the Democratic Party with respect to abortion. It needs to be said in words: Until major leaders and voters and platform writers understand the basic scaffolding of the pro-life position, and make room for it, and stop denigrating it, they don't deserve to be a majority party that wins elections.

(Nor do their putative opponents deserve to win anything, but that's another post.)

You know, I wasn't too comfortable with the pro-Trump sentiment in the room that night. I don't think it's morally acceptable to treat any immigrants of any kind with the kind of blatant hostility that this administration has. Add to that the violations of international law with respect to seekers of asylum, and too many other things, and yeah, voting against this xenophobia, this flagrant racism, tolerance for violence against the innocent, is a live option for any reasonable person. (And that doesn't even touch general unfitness!)

And yet, I know Joe Biden's or Liz Warren's HHS wouldn't help this pro-life organization like this HHS has. Quite the opposite. I know that none of the Democrats would keep the Supreme Court as an aid to the rising pro-life momentum. This is not news, or it shouldn't be.

To put a point on it, I might say--and have said--"You won't be buying me off with judges!" but that doesn't mean I want progressive judges. If I act against Trump, I must consider the ways that even unintentionally, I would be acting against the things I say I want.

And let us dispense with the false notion that anyone in the so-called "New Pro-Life Movement" is being persecuted for being pro-life in a different way. Weiss and others deserve criticism, if and to the extent that their actual opposition to abortion and willingness to face public criticism for it, is not at all clear. I could agree to turn America into a democratic socialist paradise, but if I don't sign my name at some point to measures actually making abortion less accessible, my opposition deserves to be put into question. The present state of things--in which many politicians oppose any restrictions at all--is morally unacceptable. One is not permissibly working incrementally by standing still.

So here we are. Until I run for office, I feel a bit stuck. How about you?

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 inevitable that he'd be derided as a "liberal" and a "social justice warrior." But listen guys: You've done this to yourselves. "Evangelical" just isn't big enough to answer the pleas for justice--no, the demands--and it never was. All your artist types are nearly destined to be enraged, graceless mutterers, especially if they don't stay close to grace. And of course, one big problem is Sola Scriptura, and the lack of agreement in the Protestant world on major issues of dogma and morality. And please spare me the "Catholics are divided, too!" objection. The major riposte to that is this: The "right" answer on anything is knowable, and freely available, probably believed and taught for centuries.

"Bus Driver" is still my favorite song on the record, even if it was never as deep as we thought at the time. "Standing Up For Nothing" is the other. And "Center Aisle" is worth it, even if it is exactly what it is: a window into someone else's deep grief, something I think I shouldn't be hearing. Then again, in sharing it, they invite us as friends into that grief.

Once again, I apologize for being a musical ignoramus generally, in terms of the music. But what can you do? With pop music, probably ignorance is bliss. It's still a great listen.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

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's not that I wouldn't do it all again; it's just that part of me went in the distance. Who am I without this part of myself?

If I don't say I feel abandoned and cast aside, I do not truly name my sorrow. If Christ had not been abandoned, I would have given up already. There is a sense in which saying, "We should unite our sufferings with the sufferings of Christ" can be just claptrap that we say to ourselves, and to each other. Yet there is a way in which it is not, and I'll try to explain.

When I was about to receive Holy Communion after the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, I said to Jesus, "All that I have is sorrow." He took it as if to say, "It is enough." I didn't have to take it far, for Jesus was waiting for me in my sorrow! I don't pretend to understand, but Jesus was waiting. He said, "I will never leave you, or forsake you." I knew he told the truth. I cried freely, as if he had given me a permission I could not give myself. I don't understand why this has happened. I cannot make sense of the explanations of my supposed failures. I still wait for some healing and purpose that may never come.

I live, but I do not enjoy. My favorite chicken, or the triumph of my beloved baseball Cardinals, are but the bare signs of things I used to enjoy. My world right now is in black and gray. All the color has gone elsewhere.

I don't have a profundity to wrap like a bow around these words. But I can say this: Better to live and to die than to never have lived. Or loved and lost. Whichever you prefer. I somehow owe it to the memory of my earlier living self to endure, and to persist. I do not understand, but I believe.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

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.

Monday, September 23, 2019

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 dinosaur and a Neanderthal for even using words like "virtue" and "vice." And the plain truth is that this society is moralistic and unforgiving about the wrong things. You sense it, don't you? I know I do.

In the end, I need "To know what it is to forgive/And be forgiven." The only way to function in this life is to be a person who knows forgiveness. How to give it, and how to get it. This may complicate the quest for an unbelieving society and life, for some of you. That's not my problem, for I have found the secret of life, and I share it freely with you all, my friends.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

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 who doesn't is likely better than me, anyway. But everyone should be subject to the Pope, definitely.

I don't do internet dialogue with the Reformed anymore, mostly because I can be impatient and uncharitable at times. That was my world. It's a world and people that I still love. Love impels us to dialogue and to pray, and so we do.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

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.

Friday, August 16, 2019

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 surrender, to say, "I am a failure. I want more than this." The people who know they are failures yet go toward God don't have any need for someone to tell them it's really not that bad. You have nothing to offer them, if you need them more than they need your message. Folks might be grateful you don't despise them, but they'll also know you don't love them enough to tell them the truth.

Monday, August 12, 2019

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, in a time when the base is less "woke," I think Mayor Pete could make this Obama move work. Not this year. Kamala Harris could steal the nomination from Biden theoretically, but her problem is that she isn't all that more liberal than Biden, so she has to make his age/race an issue, and she and everyone else is running out of time. If Biden wins Iowa by a significant margin, he's the nominee. That's not sexy, but it's the truth. I don't care what the Democrats have done to their delegate process; you have to look like a winner by Iowa and New Hampshire. You don't have to win, but those in front of you had better be mortally wounded. That's just the facts.

Another unsexy or impolite truth is that the race-consciousness or wokeness is being pushed by young, white progressives. The people for whom they purport to advocate are much more conservative, and Biden is counting on this. There is a straight line from Clinton to Obama to Biden in the minds and hearts of these voters. The ideal scenario for Harris or Booker is to get one-on-one with Biden, and convince them that Biden is literally worn out. Ageism will be a significant factor, if they succeed. But they have to do it carefully: the primary voters are older themselves, and Biden is close to a beloved figure. These gaffes are not hurting him. I can easily see Booker or Harris delivering "heartfelt" praise for Biden's long service to the party, and its causes, if and when Biden is in the rearview mirror. Biden's strategy is to be the giant for as long as possible. With this many candidates, all he has to do is run out the clock. If he looks inevitable after New Hampshire, there is no reason to take a flyer on anyone else.

And I just can't see Trump beating Biden in the general election. Biden is a more likable version of Trump, and he knows it suits him to play this up. If the thing turns on white voters in the upper Midwest, Biden wins easily. He's got enough pull on the Eastern seaboard as well to make Trump defend anything gained there last time.

My official call is that Trump maxes out absolutely around 220 electoral votes. If he messes up badly, he will be crushed.

Friday, August 09, 2019

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 news" of once-for-all justification and forgiveness, what are you supposed to do when the thing you keep doing is eating you up inside? The one thing you know for sure is that you don't love Him as much as he loves you. But Christ, the ever-willing Victim, never has and never will change his mind about how far he's willing to go for you and me. Therefore, every failure honestly confessed is an honest plea: "Help me to understand the depth of Your love for me!" And then hope becomes pointed and sharp like Jacob: "I won't let go, until you bless me!" We're not running on a sacramental treadmill of fear; we're in the presence of the Lord, staying with Him on the mountain, until we shine like the sun!

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

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.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

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 someone to indulge semi-orthodox teaching or worse, in order to build a bridge to those people, but that's not me. I will not claim to understand everything in the Catechism, or the Catechism of Trent, or the Baltimore Catechism, but I affirm it, without hesitation.

I don't care who your least and most favorite Bishops are. I. Do. Not. Care. It is actually no one's job to gossip about what they say or do. If a Bishop asks my professional opinion, or as a practicing member of the faithful what we ought to do, I'll offer it. Outside of that, I offer you nothing but my best understanding of a catechism paragraph. (Or a passage of Sacred Scripture and the like.)

We can always pray. And not through gritted teeth, mind you. I have only done that once or twice, and I went to Confession both times. Who are these proud people, who seem to think they have been appointed saviors of the Church in the US or the West? I take orders, not give them. It remains true, especially now: "If you see something, say something," but short of that, I am happy to be a drone in this Borg Collective. I have no good gossip for you, and I don't want to read any "working documents" or Catholic news stories about such things. I pray, I write, and hopefully, I pray more.

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

Friday, July 19, 2019

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 range from silly to downright dangerous, but at the end of the day, these women are as American as apple pie. They have the right already as people to be treated with respect, and doubly so, as representatives of the American people.

I don't know why this is so hard. Yet there are many things that have gotten harder to grasp for some people in the last 4 years. "Sad!", you might say.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

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't mean a law is bad. Nothing immoral is "safe" or can be "regulated". We can have a prudential conversation about how much force and effort should be applied against an activity that is illegal and immoral, but that's a different conversation.

I think our political system encourages us to think of government sanctions like the 10 Commandments for governments: "Government shalt not..." and that bleeds over to our thinking about morality. Politics, however, is public morality by definition.

Most people think of themselves as remarkably self-possessed, unaffected by civil sanctions, or the lack thereof, but obviously that's not the case. Most people associate legality with moral licitness, and rightly so. Can something perfectly licit be made illegal? Of course. I still happily believe in legislating morality. No one involved in politics should pretend otherwise.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

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 blessing is a gift of that benefit, and we need a stronger word than simply, "It's better if…" I contributed anonymously to this book because the experiences of children from broken families are not told. If we get to a point where the powerful are not ignoring the data about the kind of family structure that makes for successful people, then we will have plentiful information that is not simply stories to bolster this point. We could also talk about an implicit scientism, and numerous other things in that intellectual failure, but stories form an important part of the art of persuasion in these times. There is something about telling a story that creates a pathos which binds the hearers and the teller together in something special. Pardon the digression.

Are we willing to fight for marriage? I can remember a professor of mine at the seminary I attended in my Protestant days, who said passionately that non-Christians fight for marriage harder than we do. Are we standing around and simply shaking our heads, saying, "That's a shame," when we hear about Catholics married in the Church getting a divorce? Or are we getting in there and saying, "No, you can't do that" to the extent that we have influence over the couple? Abuse of various kinds always comes up when the topic of fighting for marriage and against divorce is raised. No one I know is suggesting that abuse is acceptable, or that to escape abuse is somehow a moral failure. Quite frankly, what we are really talking about are Catholics who are divorced and remarried civilly--against the Church's teaching--and are uncomfortable hearing from others about their sin. I do not know how exactly the bishops will handle the sheer number of people who are in this irregular situation. I do know that we should not excuse sin, simply because it has become acceptable, or has gone on a long time. I am confronted with the question that arises in myself whenever I consider divorce and remarriage: "Do I really intend to say that a person with free will and the grace of God through baptism at the very least is not able to detach themselves from an immoral situation?" Indeed, do any of us intend to say that the teaching of the Church about civil divorce and remarriage without a declaration of nullity, is in error? I know as much as anyone that the pastoral situations around these questions are not easy. But anything that suggests that God the Holy Spirit could make a mistake, and that the Church needs to "get with the times" is beyond the pale for me. And let us be clear that contraception is intimately connected to where we are with this question of divorce. It may in fact be largely the cause of many of these divorces. I run the risk of being dismissed as a reactionary for saying this, but I do not have the luxury of pretending to accept falsehood as truth. I am the living witness to the blunt force of that falsehood lived out in real life, and I cannot disregard my experiences, or the truth of the moral law, or the teaching of holy Church, in order to make people happy. It's a false happiness anyway, and we ought to know it.

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 black person, who didn't take long to confront all the white people in the house about their racism, and more importantly, their alleged participation in an entire racist system. And he did all the right things, according to his theory of how a person in his position should act: he remained calm, when the others understandably became very angry. He took their upset as proof that he was correct. Naturally, he had several allies in this, and as I sat and thought about it, I realized that he did not present one shred of evidence for anything that he said. In fact, I recognized everything he said as a kind of dogma that I have heard in left-wing thinking on race. How else could most of the people in the house--barely older than 20--recite it so exactly? It is their catechism, their dogma. Everything that those who received the challenge said in response only served to prove what the young man already believed. Once again, I am not averse to many of the ideas that these theories present; I only know that any idea which says that I am guilty, and all my perspectives are invalid, because I am white, is a ridiculous idea. Moreover, it could be argued that these deconstructions based upon power are a clever version of poisoning the well, or perhaps shooting the messenger, because one does not have to actually listen to anything a particular person says, if they are in the wrong category. Now, this might be a crude oversimplification of the academic theories, but then again, many people aren't putting much stock in those theories to begin with, at least among those I know.

Fundamentally, I believe that people are free to choose. They are free to be what they ought to be. It doesn't mean that everyone is free of challenges; it doesn't mean that racism is dead, or that grievous injustice does not take place even today. (I trust police today less than I ever have, and with good reason in many cases.) But I saw that kid, and I heard his talk, and I thought, "These will be his excuses, when he comes up short, and he has no one else to blame or make ashamed."

Please forgive me if these thoughts strike many of you as insensitive, or clueless. I don't know what I can say for myself. We might have to do a lot to help people who haven't gotten a fair shake in life. It might even be based on race. After all, the government promised people lots of things, and never delivered. Today's equivalent of 40 acres and a mule would be a huge chunk of money. It might be money well spent. Yet I also believe at the end of the day that people are responsible for what they do and do not do. There are a lot of fashionable theories that spend a lot of words to basically deny this. I'm not in for those.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

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, "Really?" when I get asked the inevitable question, "Which parts of Church teaching do you think are wrong?" and I say, "None." This isn't the buffet at Ponderosa; this is literally eternal life or death. I struggle in many different ways; I do not struggle in faith.

It seems to me that all the saints have unwavering faith. Not that they never sinned; indeed, they will be generous in telling you that they are sinners. But that they know by faith that God can be relied upon, even when nothing else can, including their own perceptions.

Anyway, it doesn't make sense for Catholics to argue with professed Catholics who aren't sure whether Church teaching is true. At worst, we'd be causing scandal; that is, causing doubt about what the Church teaches. At best, we may be expecting too much from people, who may need to go back to the beginning.

In addition, I have observed that by God's mercy, Catholics have attained no small amount of influence over this country over the decades. We're kind of baked in the dough, as it were. But you see, that's where the phrase, "cultural Catholic" comes from. Catholic, but as a garnish to life in this society, rather than a transforming force.

I think that this society teaches us to distrust those who believe anything too intensely. Tolerance, and a certain freedom to be wrong has gotten weaponized into an aggressive skepticism. If Steve down the street does things that are wrong sexually, well, he's a good citizen, who pays his taxes, and is pleasant at the block party, so who am I to judge? And the powers-that-be scare us in school about the so-called "wars of religion," so don't be like them, you see? They've been trying to domesticate religion ever since. If we have too many John the Baptist types, we'll miss the Super Bowl, and the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.

It seems like every time I go on social media, there's some month or day to commemorate. Some of this is fine. Rare illnesses, historical figures, quirky trivia. But Catholics and other Christians, God has told us what to commemorate, in His own redemption of His people, first through the patriarchs and prophets of old, and then through Our Lord in His paschal mystery, now proclaimed to all through the Church. If this is the defining reality of your existence, you ought to act like it.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

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 the forwards. They'd rather block a shot, than have the goalie have to stop it. It doesn't matter how great your goalie is; the fewer shots he has to stop, the better.

They knew where each other were on the ice; they skated in concert, like a savage ballet. They are not the most individually skilled players. That may fall to players from Boston, Dallas, or San Jose. But together as units, I've rarely seen things like them.

And then, there's Jordan Binnington. In the early days of his rise, it seemed like he was a good luck charm. Then when I watched him closely, I saw it: He's the second coming of Curtis Joseph. (Joseph is a Hall of Fame goalie who played for the Blues in the '90s.) Curtis never won the Cup, but he got close. And we loved him. He made the miraculous look routine, and shrugged, as if it was supposed to happen. Sound familiar?

And then came the playoffs. They were underdogs every single round. Slowly, systematically, they ground each team down. They hit them into oblivion. Hockey is becoming a finesse game, and the Blues turned that on its head.

I believe there will be a movie. The actual story writes itself: being the worst team in the league, hearing "Gloria" in that bar, GM Doug Armstrong deciding to stick with this group, instead of trading the stars, hiring Craig Berube, unheralded coach cast off from other teams, and the rise of Binnington.

I guess the only thing to do now is to play "Gloria."

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

“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.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

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 another person has the right to decide what a "person" is, ontology becomes utility. Utility as a measure of rights is sanctioned violence and oppression.

Of course, this is about abortion, but not only that. There are myriad ways that people can be "un-personed." It happens all the time. It's just in this case, we permit it, and celebrate it. We fancy ourselves "enlightened" and "progressive," don't we?

How effective our propaganda is, too! If the dissenters can be dismissed as misogynists and haters, the exploitation of the vulnerable continues with barely a fuss. There was a man who warned us about this. Against the backdrop of #metoo, that man may say,--in a slight paraphrase of an American president and actor--"Are you better off than you were 60 years ago?" Everything he predicted came true.

Many people claim that love motivates their support for abortion rights. How are you loving the woman in your life by escorting her to a place where a mother leaves as a grieving mother? This wretched popular society likes to ignore those women, and give them every opportunity to push the grief aside, to ignore it, and then to become dead to it. Death begets death, in a cruel mockery of the life it takes.

Motherhood is thankless and hard, and in some ways, involuntary. We know this. Just ask your mom what she'd have rather been doing when she was cleaning up after you. But she did it anyway.

The rock band U2 has an old song called, "Mothers of the Disappeared" about the victims of a brutal Latin American dictatorship. Mothers are still mothers, even when their children are gone.

Mothers are still mothers, even if they didn't want to believe they were. As the reckoning at Nuremberg came for the brutality of a previous age, so also there will be a reckoning for us. All the fine parties and refined speech will be stripped away, and what we have done will be laid bare. Lord, have mercy!

Monday, June 10, 2019

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 one pesky jerk in the sea of humanity. After you take your brave stand against me on social media, the silence and the wounds are still there, even if I'm not.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

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, there is no reason to be unnecessarily combative. LGBT+ identifying individuals already think that we hate them. Some traditionally Catholic responders are committed to using the most inflammatory terms possible, almost as if they have to prove their zeal to others among their fellows. I know about being the guy who thinks he's being pushed to speak the truth that others won't; it is indeed part of how I lean into the world. Believe it or not, some people think I am inflammatory. Still, I ask myself what I truly want in these interactions, and my answer is this: 1. I want people to understand what I am offering; and 2. I want them to believe that I love them, and want what is best for them, and all of us. To that end, I choose the words I choose, and not others. My interlocutors will never believe I love them if they are Them, if that makes sense.

As recent days make abundantly clear, I cannot please everybody, especially if I tell the truth as I understand it, and particular people are committed to hiding from that truth. Still, I really like people, and I want them to like me, as anyone naturally would. Maybe some people just don't like other people. I don't think in the end that such an attitude is particularly conducive to winning them over.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Quality Of Life

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves wide acceptance: Most of the people who blather on about other people's "quality of life" have never actually lived.

I used to be scared to lose my mind, to get Alzheimer's, or some other dementia. But you know what? I don't need my wits; I just need my joy. And if I have no consolation from the gospel, my faith is enough. Faith proclaims what is true, even if it has no companions.

If people say of me, "He believed, and he loved, and therefore, he lived," then it'll be a good life, no matter what I suffer at its end.

A Reductio Ad Absurdum Worth Considering

It is often claimed that individuals have the right to claim absolute sovereignty over their reproductive faculties; it is argued that frustrating, blocking, or even mutilating them is an indispensable part of freedom. Let's simply call this "reproductive freedom." If every man and woman actually chose this option, we would literally all die, and there would be no one to replace us. The human race would not survive.

Let's put it in a syllogism:

 Reproductive freedom is the right to regulate the natural human capacity for reproduction, up to and including the absolute prevention of conception (or the termination of the products of conception at will);

If every person chose to exercise this right--in the direction of prevention of conception or termination--the human race would become extinct;

It is not good that the human race should become extinct;

Therefore, the right of reproductive freedom as described above is bad.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Poison In The Well

I don't want to control uteruses; I want us to stop killing people, intentionally and systematically. But do you notice how we can't really have a conversation about anything else important, because the politics of abortion are so stark?

Please don't tell me that "Until you..." support all these other policies, you don't trust my motives, because that's no way to have a discussion. Suppose, my liberal friend, that you were right on every other issue you brought up. It would still not be morally acceptable to intentionally kill a child in the womb. That's really the key, and it's why this well-poisoning isn't going to work.

And you don't know me, or what I think about all the other issues of concern, because you didn't ask. I'd actually be a "liberal", in many minds. Perhaps you don't actually care, because you've decided that to be a good feminist is to support abortion. I can't imagine why. You know, we'd have a lot more women in the world, if we never legalized and nationalized abortion. China intentionally does sex-selective abortion, though now with their imbalance and aging population, they regret it. (On the other hand, if you want to erase "male" and "female," maybe this doesn't bother you, anyway.)

I'm a proud kitchen sinkist on this, in the sense that I believe economic pressures, sexism, social isolation, and perhaps other factors play into the choice to have an abortion. Whatever I can do to take those things away--that is itself morally licit--I will do. But in the end, to procure an abortion, to assist in it, to support laws making it more available, etc. is to be a morally responsible party to a grave evil. We will have to answer for this.

Monday, May 27, 2019

I Didn't Order A Package (Confusedly Yet Passionately Loving Truth)

I need to start in an odd place: Mark Shea. If you talk to some fairly prominent "conservative" Catholics, they'll talk about how "sad" it is now, and they'll pretend that they aren't a bunch of unprincipled tribalists. On the other hand, I've tangled with The New And Not Improved Shea, and it hasn't been fun. Anyway, he still strikes me as that guy who got really justifiably upset at the numerous outrages and absurdities of the GOP primary,--Ted Cruz actually asserted that bombing an entire region indiscriminately based upon their religion was a good idea--and never had someone vaguely conservative go, "Actually, you're right. This is completely immoral and insane. This entire thing." And if someone is angry, and no one cares, they get more angry. I don't know about him, but I can't really think clearly when I'm really angry. I will turn a person I love into Pol Pot, and not even regret it, if no one tries to talk me down.

It's the curse of the stubborn genius, if it's not too vain to say that. And if someone is outraged for about 4 years in public, they'll have a long string of stuff that's barking nuts, that sounded like a good idea at the time. I may have achieved an equilibrium; I'm no worse than mildly agitated these days. You had better believe, people who love me had to watch me cry, and not with joy, at the events of these last couple of years. Friendship is my gateway to re-visit ideas; I give Left-liberal ideas their due--and make the best case I can--because darn near everyone I love is in the helping professions, living flat-out heroic lives of service to all manner of vulnerable and under-served people. If there were a case to be made against conservatism (whatever that even means, anyway) these are the people to make it. You know, the Kochs or the Walton heirs don't put up the money that my friends use to help the struggling; the government(s) do/does.

This is of course quite aside from the fact that the Church's attitude toward American rightist individualism is...not favorable. I've had two friends tell me they lean libertarian as Catholics. They might as well have said they planted a dozen square circles in the garden yesterday morning.

Insofar as "politics" teaches us to find weaknesses in people, instead of our own arguments, it's worse than useless. Oddly, too many people settle for a package deal, instead of thinking. If you ask me about spotted owls, or bees, or Arctic sea ice, I'm going to come up with a plan for those things. I'd be kind of a jerk to go, "But what about abortion?" Or maybe a better example is undocumented immigrants, in terms of their rights and dignity. Too soon?

What Is A Person? Further Abortion Thoughts

"At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." ---The United States Supreme Court, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, widely attributed to Justice Anthony Kennedy

(Author's Note: I can't find a juicy opposing quote. Find your own! I am neither a trained philosopher, nor an expert in Google, nor do I have an encyclopedic memory, despite some claims to the contrary. Who do you think I am, Bryan Cross? [No one would make that mistake.--ed.] I know, right? [At least you have hair.--ed.] For now.)

When you ask a metaphysical realist philosopher--or better yet, someone schooled in the Catholic Philosophical Tradition (CPT) what's wrong with societies today, he or she might point to this quote right here. It's not merely because this case reaffirmed abortion-on-demand in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. Look instead at what it says about the nature of reality. We make our own reality. We define it. Words themselves become not expressions of meaning aiming at the truth, but self-expressions of personal desire. Post-modern deconstruction is a great example of this, and another name for it is emotivism. That is, every statement is reduced to an expression of preference. Post-modern deconstruction assumes emotivism, and then speculates. In the end, though, it ends up being a list of reasons why we don't have to listen to an old dead guy, because we don't want to.

Metaphysical realists had always operated under the assumption--to put it in simple terms--that reality was discovered, not made.

Idealism says that all reality originates in the mind. Other ideas, like nominalism (Ockham) and skepticism, (Descartes) undermined people's confidence in their capacity to know reality. Our political system, while encouraging us to be radical individualists and idealists, more fundamentally supposes that a collection of individuals creates the political society, in some sense trading absolute autonomy for the securing of certain rights (see Locke, Hobbes). The older thinkers, meanwhile, believed that the society predates any human political machinations, and no one is absolutely autonomous. Today, we have majoritarian will to power in slightly nicer words (Nietzsche, with some help from John Rawls).

7 justices (and then 5) on the Supreme Court said we can make our own reality, and we eventually went along with it. Then we said, "No one will take away my rights to do with my body what I want!" Conveniently, we re-defined that other body, that other person, as a "blob of cells" (scientism, reductionism). As I am fond of saying, reality has a way of asserting itself. On almost every conceivable issue, from city planning to euthanasia to divorce to alternative families, there will a reckoning. It'll be a reckoning for this arrogance, and it won't matter much who's in power, because true reality will leave us all with egg on our faces.

Friday, May 24, 2019

What Do You Really Want?: Abortion Reflections, Continued

We must ask, "What is an abortion?" The reason we have to do this is because the nature of any action determines the licit range of solutions or responses to it. In general, if an action is by its nature immoral, (that is, intrinsically evil) then it falls to every person to oppose it, to understand why it is evil and to show others the truth about it. This means of course that intention or circumstances might change the culpability of a person who participates in the evil act, but an intrinsically evil act can never become a good act, no matter what good is intended from it, or what difficulties surround the commission of the act.

Therefore, I propose this definition: "An abortion is the deliberate taking of the life of a human person at some stage of development before birth." Consider also this definition: "Murder is the deliberate, unjustified killing of an innocent human person." The definition of "murder" rules out self-defense, justified killing in war, accidents, and perhaps other situations. Notice also that our definition of abortion rules out a time after birth. An unjustified killing after birth is called, "infanticide."

Now, please consider the following argument:

Murder is always wrong, by its very nature. That is, murder is intrinsically evil;

Abortion is a species of murder;

Therefore, abortion, by its very nature, is always wrong.

This is the heart of the pro-life argument. It rests philosophically on the first principle that good is to be done, and evil is to be avoided.

We are not ignorant, any of us, of extremely difficult cases, and of the sheer terror that leads women to think they have no other option. We absolutely can and should do more as a society to support the forming of families, to counteract economic pressures that militate against life. Indeed, we ought to recognize that our economy itself is disordered with respect to the telos of the human person.

However, it is a grave mistake to argue that because we cannot stop every attack against human dignity, we have no authority or responsibility to speak on behalf of the unborn. Yet this is precisely what many people argue. To charge people with hypocrisy in the absence of evidence, or while actually holding a pro-abortion position, is flatly contradictory. Or stated another way, my objections to the inconsistencies in someone's political philosophy, no matter how trenchant, do not alter the nature of the ethical question with regard to abortion itself. It is hard to believe that such an argument [that an incomplete or hypocritical worldview renders moral judgment on abortion moot] could hold sway, especially when completely elective abortions comprise roughly 95 percent of all abortions.

In short, if someone opposes any restrictions on abortion, it is highly unlikely that the objection to a pro-lifer's general political philosophy is offered in good faith. If we claim to want fewer abortions, even to the point of accusing others of not acting in good faith, we have to support those things that actually reduce the incidence of abortion. One cannot coherently claim to oppose abortion while fighting to keep the current regime in place. If reducing abortions are a goal, reduce them. If one does not intend to reduce abortions, the blindness or hypocrisy of one's putative opponents is actually irrelevant.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

"If Pro-Lifers Really Wanted To Lower Abortions..."

Let me stop you right there, because I do. You don't have to wonder, or speculate. So you can stop the ad hominem. If we are discussing the deaths of vulnerable people for dubious reasons, I have no other motive, but to make it stop.

It's a tactic, you know. It's not really a discussion about the prudent way to solve the problem. Hundreds of thousands of children potentially died yesterday, and the person I'm talking to doesn't favor any restrictions on this practice at all. I'm not the one who feels guilty, and we both ought to know it. But if this person can make you feel like any sort of ethically flawed person, they'll do it. They're participating in a genocide; I don't think who I may have voted for in the last few elections compares with that. But in case it comes up, I didn't vote for Trump, and I can't in the future. I find him so appallingly unqualified to be president that doing anything other than not participating in that decision would violate my conscience.

But then, they want to know if you care about all the vulnerable like they do. They'll look for (or assume) anything they need to to make this discussion go away. When they want to find out if you're a good democratic socialist or something, again, they don't really want to know. What they don't get is, I absolutely can out-liberal them. I'll just go, "I'd turn this place into Sweden, if you'd give up your support for killing defenseless children." Watch. No dice, every time.

It's about judging you and me, the Dirty Right-Wingers, not about any perceived injustice in our society. If we as a group cared about it, a massive semi-pro-life consensus would have already formed.

One final thing: The contraception advocacy as a way to lower abortions gets tossed about, but it's dumb. It's like saying, "If you want to end the death penalty, you should support firing squads." We do realize that ethically, it's the same thing? And even if it weren't gravely immoral to interpose these chemical mutilations between ourselves and our partners, oral contraceptives kill unborn children, anyway. Read the box. If it doesn't prevent ovulation, it makes the uterus hostile to new life. A human being still dies horribly, in many cases. We'll never know how many. So no, I don't support handing out free contraceptives.

I'll lower abortions by making it illegal. We know this will work. Then we'll be arguing about hard cases related to enforcement or punishment, which is fine, because the bad PR will NEVER approach the 60 million kids killed, or the 150 or so million who were never born, because the first generation never lived and had children.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Notes For The Dense, I Guess

Some secularists are constantly worried about Christians, and other religious believers, calling down a Dark Cloud of Theocracy over everything. I've seen this for a solid 25 years. It hasn't happened. In fact, it's only some poor beleaguered nuns and other unfortunates in court, fighting not to be told how to live, by the government.

At the risk of being glib, I'll say this: Revealed religion doesn't tell you that killing a child in the womb is wrong; revealed religion tells you that you will burn in an unending torrent of flames, for eternity, for disregarding that dictate of conscience. If you wish to ignore the frame story of death and judgment, be my guest. We're still accountable to reality, even if it were safe to ignore what God had purportedly revealed.

Which is to say, a great many people are engaged in reality-denial, and somehow need to blame the Jesus people for their troubled consciences. After all, if everything about abortion were perfectly acceptable, why shout about it? We know bloody well it's different from going to the convenience store for some snacks. There is no stigma attached to that kind of trip, unless you like authentic licorice, and then you're just a weirdo. I digress.

I never once quoted a Bible verse, or said the Name of Jesus, when I wrote to the women's basketball writer at ESPN about their celebratory fawning over Sheryl Swoopes, who left a husband and children for a woman. I humbly suggested--if you will pardon the category confusion--that we would crucify any man who committed adultery, abandoned his family, and "started over" with another woman. Is it a double-standard? I report, you decide. You don't need a church to figure out the good right here, do you? We applaud old people for being married to each other for their whole adult lives; comedians don't get unironic applause lines for Aunt Sally, who's been married and divorced 4 times. Why not? Because we know that Mom and Dad, who sacrifice their wants and desires for each other (to some extent) and for their children, end up becoming pillars, a safe resting place, for everyone, in some way or another. You don't need a church to figure that out, either. She still had me pegged as a Bible-thumper. Oh, well. If the Jesus freaks are the only ones unwilling to play Calvinball with reality, words, and truth itself, I'll take them.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

"Control Is An Illusion, You Infantile Egomaniac!"

One of the great quotes in any Tom Cruise movie, spoken by Nicole Kidman, trying to convince his character that driving 200 MPH in circles with 42 other infantile egomaniacs isn't maybe the safest career choice. Man, I love Tom Cruise. I just do.

Anyway, they say we want to control women's bodies. In fact, we argue that a woman is rational enough to control her own body, up to the moment where she becomes a parent. I don't know why this is so hard for people. Well, I do know why. A disordered sexuality leads people to do almost anything in service to it, including murder. "Uncle Tony" is right this time.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

I'm "Anti-Choice," Happily And Obediently

The US Catholic Bishops note, "Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior, if the voter's intent is to support that position. In such cases, a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate's opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity."

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Gimme One Reason

I was going to post about the paragraphs in the universal Catechism about murder and abortion. Those paragraphs (say, 2268-2275) will never be a waste of your time. Yet it seemed more important to say this: One cannot actually reason if one's attempts to do so are nothing more than expressions of disdain for someone else's hypocrisy. It may be startlingly satisfying to make broad statements about one's opponents, and their alleged moral inferiority, but that's not an argument.

Let's get practical: It is either always morally acceptable to obtain an abortion, or it is never morally acceptable to obtain an abortion. Nuance--for the moment--is for sissies, and sophists. I'll grant you that hard cases exist; that's why they're hard. "Abortion" for this discussion means the deliberate killing, by any means, of a human being in his or her mother's body.

Make a choice. If it had to be one or the other, and all the squeamish hem-hawers and "Well..." throat-clearers had something else to do, I know what I'd choose. The rest is just dressing for heinous evil, pretending to be something else.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Anti-Anti-Political Correctness

People say "political correctness" bothers them. You know what bothers me? A lack of care about correctness in general. Moreover, a lack of care about caring. If you want to talk about how the regime of political liberalism rules certain ideas out of bounds in an allegedly pluralistic society, say that. The funny thing about claiming to "tell it like it is" is that you'd better be right. Too many use an alleged opposition to political correctness as an excuse to be jerks. Racists, religious bigots, whatever else.

I still may end up shot against the wall, but these Catholics throwing their lot in with the latest prince (let the reader understand) are a bunch of wimps and cowards. Natural law remains true. It doesn't actually matter how much government-sanctioned disapproval they bring to bear; we've still got the truth, and it's truth that the world wants and needs, even if they make a big show otherwise. I won't sell foreigners and immigrants down the river for a seat at the Christianist table.

I can remember the Super Bowl a couple years ago. There was a Coke commercial where they showed immigrants singing "America The Beautiful" in every possible tongue, including Arabic. Leaving aside the cynical assertion that Coke doesn't actually care about this issue, I found that I really do. I would rather be accused of wanting our nation to be overrun by outsiders than to intentionally be unwelcoming. If you will pardon the crudity here, I said out loud, "Screw you, Donald Trump!"

I will even grant that some people have an agenda to use sensitivity and compassion for immoral ends; this does not grant anyone a license for a lack of empathy. I admit that I view the present iteration of political "conservatism" fundamentally as a profound lack of empathy. It's not easy for me to say this; Jason Kettinger and "Left" just don't really go together. The problem is that today, Jason Kettinger and "Right" don't go together, either. If you've made your peace with it, fine. I'm apt at any time to tell you that you lack philosophical and moral imagination.

I can't give you an exhaustive list of my "prudential" judgments, or issue positions; I only know that the rightist impulse threatens to make "prudential" things that in fact are not. I simply do not trust or honor the moral instincts of people who countenance flagrant immorality and injustice, and then when challenged shout, "But abortion!" In this case, you're not arguing with Nancy Pelosi, you're arguing with me. And we have too quickly forgotten that Speaker Pelosi automatically deserves better than to simply be an avatar of what we loathe and fear.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Thinking About Emotion In Politics

I got to thinking about this because I have noted my own intellectual journey from one rooted in emotion and tribalism, to one more open to reason, and then as one who sees the possible error of ignoring feelings--from oneself or others--in an alleged devotion to "facts" and "logic" that is in fact another form of emotional tribalism.

It's a sobering thing to realize in one's mind, My "enemy" has made an argument, the moral force of which I have yet to take account. The "Left" does this all the time. I had become so adept at expressing outrage against the murder of children in the womb, and the sexual libertinism that leads to it, that in large part I simply ignored whatever a "liberal" said. I sneered at his morality, I seethed at it, I did everything except take his moral claims seriously; that is, as they are offered in good faith. Then I begin to think, "Hey, man, you were just a kid," and yet I answer, "No, I think I was about 34."

That is to say, I might be angry about the overvaluing of spotted owls, or dogs, relative to people, yet the stubborn intellect rouses itself to ask, "What is my position on spotted owls? Or climate change, or subsidized child care?", or dozens of other things. We had become so fond of marinating in our own certitude of rightness that we ourselves had become lazy. Satire in moderation may be useful, and even hilarious, but it's not argument, as such. Have you seen anything in the body politic that isn't contempt, or withering sarcasm?

I push so hard against the "Right" because that was my native land. I'll leave others to break their friends out of "Left" intellectual prisons.

I can't just say, "I'm a man of the Left," because I don't know what that means here today. If you figure out what the common political descriptors actually mean, you'll let me know, won't you? The only thing I know for sure is that I'm a Catholic in a world that couldn't care less, while fitfully yearning for that which it has rejected.

I still don't trust people without hearts. Maybe in that sense I was always a "liberal," in the reductionist parlance. I need to hear a person say, "Of course I agree that treating immigrants inhumanely is wrong," or, "I don't want poison in the air and water," full stop. And then you'd better be prepared to show how you're not advocating for something opposite of what you've said. Most rightists don't do that now, it seems to me. Too many wear a hardness of heart like a badge of honor, as if compassion itself were proof of error. We cannot disagree about prudential means to ends, if we do not agree on the ends. And we'd better be prepared for the fact that a Catholic anthropology is not identical--or perhaps even consonant with--these American political philosophies we've stewed in our whole lives, great as America is, in many ways. We need real leaders, whose vision is clear, and whose hearts are full. We cannot meme or tweet our way to the kind of political life we want. We must give truth when we find it, but we also must receive it, in humility, from our brothers and sisters, no matter how unexpected the timing, or the source. Anger and resentment are understandable, and even just, when injustice is present. But a politics of resentment does not become any people that aspires to be truly free.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Franklin Graham Is Right (Someone Has To Say It)

I saw a couple of news and magazine pieces after his tweet about Mayor Pete’s homosexuality. They all had the same stupid mistake, so let’s address it here: Mayor Pete does not have to repent for “being gay” (whatever that means); he needs to repent for engaging in homosexual sexual acts. I don’t begrudge him at all for attempting to “reclaim” particular issues from the Right, or helping to rebuild an active Christian Left. Well and good.

But the worse sin is to lead people to believe that homosexuality is acceptable, ordinary, and good. Lots of conventionally-attracted “allies” may be surprised by this. Read Romans 1:32 closely.

Many people desperately want to believe that God doesn’t care what we do with our bodies, especially in regard to sex. Curiously, no one makes this error when there is a rampage shooting.

It might as well be Franklin Graham. To say that he is disliked, or that he lacks the diplomatic talent of his father, is probably an understatement. Then again, it might as well be me.

My dislike of other things Graham might say or do doesn’t change the reality of this particular question.

A person might also say, “Mayor Pete believes a lot of other things I like,” and that’s fine. We don’t always see the bad fruit of the things we do. That’s a great mercy to us. What if we could physically see the devastation of adultery or divorce? Or even a “tamer” sin, like fornication? Maybe we wouldn’t do it.

As I was reflecting on this, I thought briefly of a science fiction story called, “Children Of Men.” I haven’t actually seen or read it. Yet there is one woman who is pregnant, in a world where this doesn’t happen. Some people want to kill her and the child, I think. Here is a real-life reductio ad absurdum: Given the premise that people can choose their sex partners, and it’s claimed that it doesn’t matter, what if everyone was homosexual? Literally every single person? We would slowly die, literally. This scenario reveals the natural law truth of men, women, and sexuality. We live in a time where we are accustomed to absolute freedom, but the reality of who and what we are asserts itself, despite our efforts to deny it.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Rejoice? Easter In Grief

I don't have anything profound to say. It's just weird, which is to say, we're used to death, and it is still fundamentally absurd. I just couldn't get past it, which is not to say I had tears. It's deeper than a feeling; it's a gut conviction: You're supposed to be here, and you're not. We all have those people, and the list gets longer and longer as we go through life.

Christianity is not a bunch of sentimental claptrap about being in a better place. It's in fact a contention that this world we know isn't real in some sense at all, that we feel sadness and sorrow at death because our immortal souls know that the separation of our souls from our bodies is just wrong, and that things won't be right again until that separation is reversed. If you don't believe in the resurrection of the body, you're not actually a Christian. Christ rose from the dead to defeat death itself. This is what Easter is about.

Anyway, I had this thought: My resurrection hope has names and faces, more than it did before. As though every tear was a down payment toward joy in the life of the resurrection. This is grieving in hope. I know that it's messy and uneven at times, but then, so am I.

I felt like an idiot today, because I asked a friend how he was doing. I know he has reason to cry; it was a stupid question. But then, how am I doing? I don't even know. I just know that they're all supposed to be here, and they're not. I know this for sure: I want the Father to command the dead to rise, just as surely as He commands that we be delivered from eternal damnation, and counted among the flock of those He has chosen. It's the same reality; You only need forgiveness of sins if you're going to live forever. We're soft on sin, because we forget the stakes. Religion isn't that important to people, if the message is, "Learn to be nice, and good." Pete's sake, Tony Robbins could help you with that, or Oprah. You don't need a priest for all that. We know it, too. I don't blame the "nones," because we make Christianity trivial, and then wonder why people exchange our triviality for the Patriots, or The Real Housewives of Atlanta. I would, too.

I need to see their faces again. Every single person I have lost. The gift of faith is an amazing gift, but I was disposed to receive it, because at bottom, I refused to accept the idea that this life, and a meaning we make ourselves, is all there is. I have seen an inexpressible glory in their eyes, in their faces, and that glory is out of place here. Have you sensed that, too?