Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Of Angels, Aliens, and Adoption
The Write Jerry asks:
Putting science and television aside for a moment, is there anything in the Bible, Judeo-Christian theology or Islamic belief that precludes the possibility of planetary-sustained (i.e., non-artificial) life, especially intelligent communal life, existing somewhere other than Earth?
And don't pick nits - you know what I mean here. I'm not talking about humans going to a terraformed world. I'm talking aliens, not little bits of random plant-life, but alien life forms akin to what we commonly refer to as "science fiction."
If you're a C.S. Lewis reader, the question might make you think about Out of the Silent Planet, and the other books in Jack's sci-fi trilogy. Of course, the stories in the Silent Planet trilogy are really just analogies or "suppositions" about salvation and redemption as it might have been, had our race not fallen into original sin. Or, had it not fallen in quite the way that it did. Lewis's books on the topic are a fun premise... an entertaining distraction, nothing more.
At least, it's an entertaining premise for people of a certain type. Like me. Read the conversation and jump in, if you're of a mind to.
There's also a good conversation going on at the Hidden Blog today about a far more serious matter: Adoption. As an adoptive father, this is a topic that really matters to me, and I encourage anyone with any input to join in.
The impetus for the discussion was the following comment that the Unseen Blogger read at another blog: "Giving up a child for adoption is indeed a sin and evil against him."
Ya justs gotta love polemics. Unseen has some interesting ideas, observations, and input... and so do his readers.
Anyway, read the discussions and chime in. I'm sure that both Unseen and Jerry would welcome your comments.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Your Body, Your Choice?
Attention Pro-Abortion Feminists... can you explain to me how this is about
A GOVERNMENT agency is launching an inquiry into doctors’ reports that up to 50 babies a year are born alive after botched National Health Service abortions.
The investigation, by the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (CEMACH), comes amid growing unease among clinicians over a legal ambiguity that could see them being charged with infanticide.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which regulates methods of abortion, has also mounted its own investigation.
Its guidelines say that babies aborted after more than 21 weeks and six days of gestation should have their hearts stopped by an injection of potassium chloride before being delivered. In practice, few doctors are willing or able to perform the delicate procedure....
“If a baby is born alive following a failed abortion and then dies (because of lack of care), you could potentially be charged with murder,” said Shantala Vadeyar, a consultant obstetrician at South Manchester University Hospitals NHS Trust, who led the study.
It isn't about YOUR BODY. It never was. It's not YOUR BODY that you want to have killed.
Hat tip: The Write Jerry.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 26 - The Last Wayfaring Strangers Entry
In his biographical profile blurb, the Unseen Blogger says that he's a "Practicing Christian," practicing because he hasn't gotten it right yet. That's funny, and I think that all Christians can relate to it. Nonetheless, I'd suggest that he's gotten it right to a far greater extent than I have. Reading his blog makes it fairly obvious that he's done a good job of figuring out what he believes and which church gives him what he needs (needs rather than simply wants) in his journey toward Christ. Figuring all that out has been a windier road for me, and it's been a road full of many self-created obstacles. Last spring, Wendy and I made the decision to finally leave the nominal Christian church we'd been attending and try to see what would happen if we "went to the source," if you will. We decided to try Roman Catholicism, to make an honest effort to dedicate ourselves to it, and I decided to keep an online journal of the learning process here at this blog.
Looking back over the entries I've posted I can see my enthusiasm and dedication to Roman Catholicism growing in leaps and bounds. Now, granted, it could be argued that I'm getting more out of the Catholic church simply because I'm dedicating myself to it more than I ever did to any of the fundamentalist churches I attended as a child and as a young man. I've considered that, and I don't think that's the case. I think that the reason I'm getting so much out of it is because this is the church for me. I think I've finally found my home, in Christ, on earth. I know where I belong.
Nonetheless, when I look back over these Wayfaring Strangers entries, it does seem that I've spent a lot of time airing my gripes about fundamentalism. That's time that would have been better spent enthusing about Catholicism, which I've honestly come to see as the best of all possible paths to Christ. (After all, if I hadn't come to believe that, there'd be no reason to convert.) The tone and mood of much of what I've written has been that of a, ahem, "Recovering Fundamentalist" instead of a happy Catholic in the making. That has to change.
It's time to stop carrying a chip on my shoulder about fundamentalism. Today is the first Sunday of Advent, and maybe it's providential. Maybe now is the perfect time to finally put it down.
With that in mind, this is going to be the last post in the Wayfaring Strangers series. This will be the last post from someone who sees himself as an ex-fundamentalist who's outside the Church he believes in. I'll still write about my conversion experience, and I'll still write about faith. I don't think I have any choice in that. Those topics are the ones I enjoy writing about, the ones I feel compelled to write about. I write it more for my own benefit than anything else, anyway. It's good to keep a journal. Getting occasional comments and feedback from people who are kind enough to read it makes it that much more therapeutic.
Still, it really is time for a major shift in the way I approach this topic. My dissatisfaction with Fundamentalism shouldn't be the focus anymore. It's time to settle that particular account. With that in mind, I'll take a page out of Martin Luther's book... albeit on a much smaller (and maybe sillier) scale. When Martin Luther left the Catholic church, he famously posted his 95 Theses on the Cathedral door. It was a good idea, and I don't mind ripping it off. Granted, I don't have 95 reasons to leave Christian Fundamentalism behind at his point in my life... but I do have seven sound reasons. Bear with me as I post them, figuratively speaking, on the door of Fundamentalism. These are my reasons for leaving Fundamentalism, for making the journey toward Christ via Rome. I'll post them here and get it out of my system.
Darrell's Seven Theses
The Fundamentalists I grew up with and have lived my life with consider themselves "Bible Christians." They believe in the inerrancy of the Bible... and I do, too. The thing is, I believe in the inerrancy of the spiritual truth in the Bible, and they believe in the Bible as a history book.
For instance, they believe in a literal Adam and Eve, in a literal forbidden apple tree, in a serpent that actually spoke, etc. That kind of literal-mindedness was always a roadblock to me. Especially considering that it hinges on a hostile rejection of the theory of evolution, which I think has been all but proven to be scientifically valid. None of that made sense to me. It was only after my agnostic years, when I'd rejected the Garden of Eden as a fairy tale, that it started to make sense to me. Isn't it possible, I thought, that the Garden of Eden is a holy myth, an Old Testament Parable, that tells us something hugely important about our creation and our relationship to God? Isn't it possible that, speaking in terms of science as humans understand it, the theory of evolution is as close as we'll ever get to an understanding of how God made us out of clay? Isn't it possible that what's most important about the Garden of Eden story is what it teaches us about failed human nature, rather than what it might teach us about the historic origins of man? Those questions were rejected by every Fundamentalist I ever discussed them with.
The basis for this literal interpretation of the Bible is Fundamentalism, an outgrowth of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura teaches that only the words of the Bible are necessary for salvation. It's the reason that the Fundamentalists I know have rejected 2000 years of Catholic Church tradition. They believe that if it isn't in the Bible, it didn't happen, and that if it isn't in the Bible, it isn't necessary for salvation. Well, there are obvious problems with that. The most obvious one is that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura isn't scriptural. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Church tradition must be rejected and that only the Book itself must be used by Christians as the roadmap to Christ.
Sola Scriptura, in short, is a human invention. Somebody invented it, and this man-made idea has been adopted as infallible by all the Fundamentalists in and around my family. Papal infallibility is rejected, but the man-made doctrine Sola Scriptura is accepted as infallible. There's a huge conflict in that.
The Fundamentalists in my family, in spite of their doctrine of "The Bible and the Bible only," don't even stick to their own beliefs. Every one of them, to a person, believes in the "rapture," a science fiction idea that is not in the Bible and is more at home in the fictional works of the Left Behind series than it is in any serious Christian church. These supposed Bible Fundamentalists believe that there's going to be a Rapture of Christian souls, that Christ is going to come down in secret and sneak all the true believers to Heaven, before the terrible period known as the "Tribulation." Those "left behind" during the Tribulation will be tormented by the forces of evil for seven years, and then Christ will come back, cast the devil out, and reign for a thousand years in peace. After that thousand year period, he will judge every soul who ever lived. Besides the fact that this theory is (on the surface) really silly sounding, it's entirely unscriptural. It was created out of whole cloth by John Nelson Darby, an English lawyer and self-styled evangelist. Those who believe in it point to a few passages out of the Bible that they claim supports it. None of these passages holds up when read in context.
That's the problem with the Fundamentalists I know... they pull verses out of the Bible one or two at a time, and use them devoid of context to support all kinds of beliefs. I don't know if any of them have ever sat down and actually read a whole book of the Bible, from the first page to the last. I was absolutely shocked once I finally read the book of Romans, in it's entirety. I'd been raised to see it as an absolutely angry, hateful book. It's not. It's beautiful theology and an amazing, instructive guide to the Christian life. I wish my Fundamentalist loved ones knew that.
So they claim Sola Scriptura, and then they reject it by believing in totally unbiblical science fiction notions about the end of times.
Sola Scriptura and it's cousin, Sola Fide (belief that we are saved by "faith alone") have been used by the Fundamentalists I know to justify all kinds of unchristian behavior and ideas. They believe that it is our faith and our faith alone through which we are saved by Christ. Alright, fine. I don't have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with, however, is the idea that having real faith in Christ doesn't produce a radical change in your behavior. The Fundamentalists I know love to justify their beliefs by quoting Ephesians 2, Verses 8 and 9:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.
Fine. The problem is, they stop reading there. They don't read the very next verse:
For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.
The emphasis above was mine.
In short, yes, it is our faith that allows us to be saved by grace... but once we are saved by grace, IT SHOWS.. Don't just talk it. Live it.
The Fundamentalists I know are very hostile toward the Catholic church, and yet they don't know much about the Catholic church. They believe a number of wrong ideas, and they're not interested in learning much of the truth. The shame of that is that if they want to learn the real history of their own church and their own religious practices, they need to trace it back to the Catholic church. The Bible, for instance, is seen (and rightly so) as a holy and inspired book. Of course, the Bible was written by Catholics and Jews. Somehow, the Fundamentalists I know have blocked that out. Yes, it was inspired by the holy spirit, but it was Catholics and Jews who were inspired to do the writing. Furthermore, it was a council of Catholic Bishops who canonized the New Testament. Catholic Bishops picked out the books that make up the New Testament. Am I to believe that the Holy Spirit moved through the Catholic church during this process and ONLY during this process?
Fundamentalists go to churches that are rooted in the Bible... but the Bible itself is rooted in the Catholic church. It is the Catholic church's gift to the Christian world.
How come there are two different accounts of the death of Judas in the Bible? There are, you know. One in the Gospels and one in Acts. Look it up.
I've asked that question for years, plenty of people have. The answers I've gotten from Fundamentalist clergymen have never answered the question.
They'll tell me that I'm wrong, that there aren't two different accounts of the death of Judas. That's not true. I've read it myself. The accounts are short and simple.
They'll tell me that the accounts are really two different descriptions of the same thing, that both accounts happened to Judas. Huh?
They'll tell me that both accounts are correct, but that the details need to be understood as having taken place in a very specific order. The text itself contradicts that order, however.
The point is, one of the accounts has to be wrong. At least one of them. The greater truth of the matter is the spiritual circumstances of the death of Judas, not the specifics. A Catholic priest told me that. Why couldn't a fundamentalist ever have said that to me?
The Fundamentalists I know accuse Catholics of Mariolatry, the worship of Mary. Well, we don't worship Mary. We venerate and honor her, and there's little we could do to honor her that would go beyond the honor that God himself placed upon her at the annunciation. That's not the point of this, though. I've written plenty about Mary in the past. The point of this item is that the Fundamentalists I know are guilty of a form of idolatry of their own: the worship and misuse of the printed text of the Bible.
The Fundamentalists I know don't see the Bible as a document of church History, inspired by God. They see it as something separate and different from the church, and they see the church as subservient to the book itself. This strikes me as worship of the book itself. Of course they'd argue that they don't worship the book, that they use the book to get closer to God, that they're only giving the book the honor it deserves in the scheme of salvation, and that they see the book as a template for the Christian life. The fact that that's the same argument that we Catholics use to justify our honoring of Mary is beside the point.
What really bugs me about the Fundamentalist approach to the Bible is how they use the Bible as a weapon, pulling certain verses out (and out of context) to hurl at others as evidence of their sinful ways. Never as a way of examining their own sin, just as a way of indicting others.
I believe, like the Fundamentalists, that the Bible is a living book. I believe it is the living water of Heaven. I think, though, that it should be used to nurture sinners (including this one), not to drown them.
Granted, I'm biased... but I honestly believe that sitting down and reading the Bible and the works of the great apologists and Christian historians leads one, inevitably, to the Catholic church. It seems obvious to me, at this point, that the Catholic church really is the Church that Jesus founded on earth, on the rock of Peter, who was given the keys to Heaven and was told that what he bound and unbound on earth would be bound and unbound in Heaven. There's just no getting around it for me at this point.
Which makes my confirmation unavoidable. I believe it is what Christ expects of me.
I've come to truly believe that Jesus Christ is the salvation of the world (and, more directly, the salvation of ME), and that the church he founded and wants me in is the church that's stood for 2000 years. At this point, knowing what's been written on my heart, for me not to join would be blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. That's a big, big, big no-no.
There. That's my list. Those are the reasons that I had to leave Bible-based Fundamentalism in order to find a fundamental relationship with Jesus.
And, with that, the Wayfaring Strangers series comes to an end.
I'll still write about my conversion process, I haven't been confirmed yet... but the tone has to change. I'm a pre-Catholic now, not a post-Fundamentalist.
I imagine, in fact, that I'll continue writing about Christ and the church long after my confirmation. It's what I'm most interested in, what I get the most joy out of, and what I like reading and writing about more than anything else.
Thank you, reader, if you've read this or any of my posts on the topic... and thank you for any feedback you've contributed. There'll be plenty more to comment on along these lines. This is not the end of my journey. This is just the first small movement of the very first step.
I know you will complete,
This work started in me,
I need you more than ever now that I've come so far.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Walk The Line Review Up At film geeks
I've posted my review of Walk The Line at film geeks.
Circuit City, WHA??
Alright, so my son wants a digital camera for Christmas, and Wendy and I are trying to find the best possible deal. My son is only eight years old, so I don't want to drop a bundle on a camera for him yet. Wait and see how well he takes care of it, how much he actually uses it... and, if he really gets into it, in a couple of years I'll get him a nice one with all the features he wants.
So I'm browsing through the Circuit City online sales ad for Tomorrow's big sales, and I see what appears to be a really great deal:
Pretty good looking camera, right? I mean, for the price, you can't beat it. So I decide to click on it and get more information, and then I see the REAL price of the thing:
Somebody screwed up. I have to think that the actual price is the one with only two digits left of the decimal point. Nobody would pull this kind of bait and switch scheme, would they?
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
As a child, I was ungrateful for celery. Now, I despise it.
Can't a guy be both? Isn't Spider-Man both?
When I was a child, I had recurring dreams about being trapped in a room with the walls closing up. I always woke up terrified from those dreams.
Here's the weirdest, freakiest dream I've ever had. Nobody believes me about this, they think I'm making it up, but I really did dream this psychotic nonsense six or eight years ago:
I had been invited to a costume party at Val Kilmer's, and it turned out that Val Kilmer lived at the top of the Empire State Building. The only stipulation to going to the party was that nobody could come dressed as Elvis. We'd been warned that Val had a tendency to go into a rage anytime he saw anyone dressed as Elvis. We were told that if anyone came dressed as Elvis, he or she would likely end up in a fistfight with Val immediately.
Therefore, I decided to go dressed in one of those horse costumes that outfits two people; you know, those costumes where one person is the front of the horse and the other person is the behind. My partner in this costume was Chris Rock.
I have no idea why these celebrities were in my dream. I like Chris Rock, I can't stand Val Kilmer, and in general I've never given either of them a second thought enough to warrant their inclusion in my dreams. Anyway, the dream gets weirder:
In my dream, Chris and I were walking around in the horse costume in Val Kilmer's Empire State Building apartment, and I was the horses behind (no comments from the peanut gallery, thanks) and Chris was the horse's front. Chris was saying that he wanted to lift a souvenir from Val Kilmer's apartment to prove that he'd been there, because nobody would believe him, otherwise. This struck me as kinda weird, but I was willing to help Chris steal something if it was something small. He agreed to steal a salt shaker. As we were trying to pilfer the salt shaker and sneak it into the horse costume we shared without being seen, Val himself made his entrance into the costume party. And guess who he was dressed as? You got it, he was dressed as Elvis.
My reaction was that Val had put the word out that he'd flip out if anyone dressed as Elvis just to ensure that he'd be the only "Elvis" at the party. Chris, on the other hand, saw it as an indication that Val was onto us and our salt shaker scheme. He started yelling "We gotta go, man! We gotta go!" So Chris starts running toward the window, intent on jumping out of it (remember, we're in the top of the Empire State Building), and because he's the horse's front and I'm the horse's behind, I had no choice but follow. So Chris and I both run toward the window as hard as we can and jump through it.
Chris and I fall to the New York City street below, were our fall is broken by the very plush horse costume we share. We both survive without a scratch. We get up and get out of the costume, looking around to see if anyone saw us. However, there's nobody around to have witnessed our fall because New York City has been overrun with deer. There are no people around anywhere, only thousands of deer.
Yes, I REALLY DID dream that. All of it. I have no idea why I dreamed it. I have no idea what it means, but I present it here as a way to remind my readers of the importance of taking our prescription medication.
Is there a DVD player onboard? Is there a microwave? Can we blog from space? Is there an Xbox with Halo 2 onboard? HELLO! You can't ask a question like that and leave out the important stuff.
I'm not on the anti-Wal-Mart bandwagon. The only thing that Wal-Mart has ever done that bugged me was when CEO H. Lee Scott, Jr. recently called for an increase in the minimum wage. I had to stop and think that maybe Wal-Mart really does want to put all the smaller businesses out of business, after all. In general, though, I don't buy into the whole crusade against Wal-Mart.
No, the reason I hate going to Wal-Mart is because I hate standing in line. I hate dealing with moron cashiers who put the soda on top of the bread in the cart. I hate searching all over the store, trying to find help with an item I can't locate, only to end up talking to some kid in a blue vest who doesn't know anything about the store or the item I'm looking for. I hate how they always MOVE THINGS just when I'm getting to where I know where they are. AAAAGGGHHH!
Ya know, maybe I should get on that anti-Wal-Mart bandwagon.
Bad CNN Mojo
I know I said the other day I'd be doing less blogging for a while, but I can't tear myself away. Is there a twelve-step program for compulsive bloggers?
Anyway, about the following: There's probably a technical explanation for this faux pas, and I'll give CNN the benefit of the doubt. I spent enough time in radio to know that these things happen. Personally, I once accidentally "potted up" (a radio term) a Steve Earle song over top of a clip of a campaign speech by Chuck Robb. As Robb was delivering his remarks, suddenly he was drowned out by Steve Earle singing "It's called Snake Oil, Ya'll! It's called Snake Oil, Ya'll!"
So, yeah, these things do happen accidentally. Still, this is odd:
At 11:04:45 AM ET Monday CNN was airing Vice President Dick Cheney's speech live from the American Enterprise Institute in Washington -- when a large black 'X' repeatedly flashed over the vice president's face!
Innocuous, probably. Weird, but innocuous.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
God Gave Rock And Roll To You
Some people think I'm crazy because... well, people think I'm crazy for a number of reasons, all of them perfectly valid. Specifically, though, some people think I'm crazy because of my Christian interpretations of a number of rock songs. The thing is, most Christian rock is just boring. What's wrong with Christian rock? I'll tell you what's wrong with it: It sucks. It's awful. There are a hand-full those bands that are decent... I can think of a few Jars of Clay and 12 Stones songs that are OK, and I really enjoy POD and early stuff by King's X... but most of it is just so amateurish. The musicians are mediocre, and for the most part, the lyrics are just tepid. It seems like the really talented musicians and songwriters don't come out of religious colleges, where most of the Christian rock bands are formed. Now and then, though, some of the best secular rock bands write lyrics that seem to fit my spiritual life and my ideas about Christianity... so I end up finding Christian messages in songs that probably weren't written with anything spiritual in mind. Like this song, for example. And this one. Other times, a secular song will have sort of a spiritual element, and I'll find a Christ-centered interpretation of my own, like with this song and with this one.
Of course, I haven't always done this. When I was a teenager, I was pretty heavily into rock and roll for rock and roll's own sake. My parents, of course, frowned on this. I remember being in my late teens and going to see the Monsters of Rock show, with Van Halen, The Scorpions, Dokken, Metallica, and Kingdom Come (remember Kingdom Come? Me neither.) at RFK stadium, and knowing that my parents would have frowned on the debauchery taking place there. I saw the show with my friend's John and Saul, and after the show, when we got back home and dropped Saul off at his house, his dad came out to greet us. He asked us how the show was, and we told him it was OK. John and I were afraid to say too much, because Saul's dad was, after all, a parent. At this point, Saul's dad regaled us with tales of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath show's he'd seen in the '70's. He told us about one show where the cops had come in and, to use his phrase, "teargassed the whole f---ing place, man." John and I listened to these stories in amazement. I remember telling Saul afterwards that his dad was the coolest human being who had ever lived.
Saul's dad was not just interested in the music that we were listening to, he actually shared our taste in music. Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin were like gods to us, and meeting a parent who was a fan just blew our minds. After meeting Saul's dad, I decided that he was the kind of father I wanted to be... I wanted to share music with my son, to be as relevant and hip, musically speaking, as Saul's dad was, and to be just as cool.
I remember when my first wife was pregnant with our son, it was very, very important to me that I pick just the right album for him to hear as his very first album. I agonized over the decision. It had to be an album that represented rock and roll at it's very best. The music had to be perfect, the lyrics had to be perfect, and the arrangement and sequence of songs had to be just as unassailable. It had to be an album that "spoke to me," an album that summed up not just rock and roll but the world and life in general. It had to be something he could brag about to his friends when he was older. I wanted him to be able to say "The very first rock album I ever heard was..." But, what? What would it be? Finally, I decide on what I thought was the perfect album. My son was born at a hospital an hour away from home, and on the car-ride home I played for him, in it's entirety, his first rock album. This rock album. Looking back, I'm still sure I made as good a choice as I could have.
Of course, all his life, I've subjected my son to my music. The (clickable) picture to the right is him when he was just a year or so old, munching on a Ritz cracker, wearing a custom-made onesie that advertised one of my favorite bands. Over the years I've played a ton of music for him, and he's developing a fairly distinct musical taste of his own. When he was only a two or three years old, he could identify just about any song that came on the radio, or at least tell you the artist. "This is Lenny Kravitz," he might say... or "This is Metallica." I remember being in the car with him once, listening to a Top 40 radio station. A Janet Jackson song came on and my son said "This is Garbage." I was surprised at him having made a mistake, since Shirley Manson and Janet Jackson don't sound anything alike. I said "No, actually this is Janet Jackson." To this, he replied "I know. And, it's garbage."
Some of what I've played for him hasn't set well with him. Two bands he flat out hates are Thrice and Faith No More. Faith No More, to put it in his terms, just sucks. His only comment about Thrice was "I have no idea what this guy is trying to say."
He's a big Lyle Lovett fan, though, which I think is just great, because Lyle Lovett is coolness personified. He also likes Toad the Wet Sprocket and Jimmy Eat World and he thinks Fishbone is alright. I'm just glad he's heard Fishbone. How many eight year olds do you know who have distinct ideas about Fishbone? My son is so cool.
I have visitation with him on the weekends, and every Sunday I take him back to his mother, which is an hours drive. When I take him back by myself, we usually have a chance to check out new music. I'll put CDs in for him and ask him what he thinks. Today I decided to try Tom Waits on him. If you've heard Tom Waits, you know that his vocal style is... well, unconventional. I put in the Bone Machine album and went to the track I Don't Want To Grow Up. My son got a big kick out of that song, but asked me if he "always sings that way." I said that he pretty much did, and said that he even sang that way on the slow songs. He asked to hear some more, so I skipped to That Feel and Who Are You This Time, both of which he said were just "weird." I asked him if he'd like to hear some more or hear something else, and he said he'd try some more Tom Waits... so I took out that CD and reached for my copy of Rain Dogs. While I was changing CDs, the radio was on the AM band and was just playing static. After about thirty seconds of static, my son said "He sounds even worse on this song." I laughed and told him that it was just radio static, and he laughed like crazy about that.
I don't know if I'll be considered one of those "cool dads," and I imagine that most dads can't do much to make their teenage kids think they are cool. Oh, well. For now, my son and I have a shared love for music, and for now it's a fun common interest. I know that lot of kids end up rebelling against their parents by getting into music that is offensive and awful. The day might come when that happens. The day might come when he only wants to listen to music that offends and disgusts me. Can you imagine? My own son bringing Shania Twain CDs into my house?
For now, though, it's all good.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Kurt Vonnegut and "Sweet and Honorable" Terrorism
Kurt Vonnegut was my favorite writer when I was a kid, and I still have a lot of affection for his classic novels. His blend of black humor, humanism, and pessimistic socialism remains one of the shaping elements of my world view, believe it or not. Vonnegut was a hero of mine for most of my teens and early twenties. Like most of the conservatives I know, I when through my "angry young man, wise beyond my years, world weary liberal" phase, and a Vonnegut paperback was usually in my back pocket back then.
The best of his work... like Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle and Breakfast of Champions and Sirens of Titan... still holds up. I can read those books now and still enjoy them and agree with much of what I'm reading. However, I no longer buy into Vonnegut's notion that mankind's ruination simply can't be helped.
Vonnegut's latest book, A Man Without A Country is a thin memoir made up of essays he's published in magazines over the past five or eight years, and a series of new essays in which he rails against the Bush administration, America in general, and the "hydrogen bomb," which seems to be the boogie man in Vonnegut's closet. I haven't heard anyone else mention it in ages.
A couple of the old essays are actually quite good. The new material, all of it, is virtually unreadable. Cindy Sheehan is more lucid than this stuff.
Vonnegut also talks briefly about an unfinished novel he's been working on for several years now... and admits that it will probably never be finished. In A Man Without A Country, Vonnegut harvests a few of the jokes from the novel... I suppose just to get them out there while he's still drawing breath.
Vonnegut admits in the book that even he doesn't find himself funny anymore, that he's finishing his life as a bitter, angry man. That's sad. And, then, there's this:
ONE of the greatest living US writers has praised terrorists as "very brave people" and used drug culture slang to describe the "amazing high" suicide bombers must feel before blowing themselves up...
Vonnegut, 83, has been a strong opponent of Mr Bush and the US-led war in Iraq, but until now has stopped short of defending terrorism.
But in discussing his views with The Weekend Australian, Vonnegut said it was "sweet and honourable" to die for what you believe in, and rejected the idea that terrorists were motivated by twisted religious beliefs.
"They are dying for their own self-respect," he said.
I'm not sure that liberalism actually causes senility... but, sometimes, it's hard to tell them apart.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Light November Blogging
Just like last November, I'll be doing little blogging for the next month or so... Every year at Christmastime, we put together an elaborate DVD of the past year's home movies and photographs to mail out to family and friends out of state. I'm an A/V junkie and love to spend a lot of time editing and assembling these movies (which means that if this were the 70's, I'd be one of those annoying relatives who bored you to tears with slides and 8mm home movies). The point is, putting this thing together takes up a lot of my PC time... so while I'll be working on a project that bores our friends and family to death, I won't have time to work on this project, which bores the internet in general to death.
If you've ended up here and you're looking for a good blog to read, there's a great blogroll to the right.
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 25
(Wayfaring Strangers is a continuing series about our experiences as my wife and I study to convert to Catholicism.)
To be quite frank, we do not at all like the idea of a "chosen people". Democrats by birth and education, we should prefer to think that all nations and individuals start level in the search for God, or even that all religions are equally true. It must be admitted at once that Christianity makes no concessions to this point of view. It does not tell of a human search for God at all, but of something done by God for, to, and about Man. And the way in which it is done is selective, undemocratic, to the highest degree. After the knowledge of God had been universally lost or obscured, one man from the whole earth (Abraham) is picked out. He is separated (miserably enough, we may suppose) from his natural surroundings, sent into a strange country, and made the ancestor of a nation who are to carry the knowledge of the true God. Within this nation there is further selection: some die in the desert, some remain behind in Babylon. There is further selection still. The process grows narrower and narrower, sharpens at last into one small bright point like the head of a spear. It is a Jewish girl at her prayers. All humanity (so far as concerns its redemption) has narrowed to that.
............From Miracles by C.S. Lewis
I haven't written much about Mary since since May, when I was struggling with some of the church's doctrines about her. I decided at that time to just put it all on the backburner, to let it all simmer while I attended to more pressing elements of my catechesis. Nothing in the church's teachings about Mary offended or bothered me, but something about it just didn't seem settled within me.
I think I've come to more of a "Catholic" (if you'll allow) understanding of Mary as of now. The last piece locked in place for me the other night, out of the blue, when I wasn't even looking for it. Please keep in mind that what I am writing here reflects nothing more than my own personal journey; my own feelings and struggles and attempts to understand. I'm not an authority on Catholicism or Christianity, and some of what I feel about my faith may, in fact, be categorically non-Catholic or even un-Christian. I'm a "practicing" Christian... and I need the practice, because I'm really not very good at it.
You can say a lot of things about Christianity, but one thing you can't call it, if you try to practice it, is convenient. The presence of Christ in your life can absolutely plague you, demanding recognition and reconciliation, and often at the worst of times. The other night I was awake for most of the night, contemplating my own sins and the distance I put myself between myself and Christ. It seems to me that, when presented with any given situation, I tend to respond badly. Sometimes in the worst possible way.
I got to thinking about those WWJD stickers and shirts and hats that were so popular a few years ago. What Would Jesus Do? The idea being that if you ask yourself that question, you'll be more likely to make the right decision when confronted with problems or challenges. I always reacted negatively to the WWJD thing, not because I think there's anything wrong with the concept itself, but because I almost always have a strong averse reaction to anything trendy. I remember seeing people wearing WWJD bracelets while telling bawdy jokes, swearing, etc. I remember thinking to myself that maybe they were claiming too high a standard for themselves. Of course, upon reflection, I realize that WWJD is far too high a standard for me, too.
That's the main problem with the WWJD thing for me. For me, the answer to the question What would Jesus Do is always "He'd do the right thing, he'd do it perfectly, and he'd do it far more generously, lovingly and Gracefully than Darrell could ever dream of."
Of course, that's because Jesus wasn't just a man. He was fully man, but he was also fully God. The divine nature of Jesus always overshadows his human nature for me, and I suppose that's natural. I have to actually make myself concentrate on the human side of Christ if I am to consider it at all. I can think about his divinity without trying to... but I really have to make myself focus if I want to realize that he got hungry, that he got too hot and too cold, that he felt fear, that he laughed... and especially that the crucifixion, which he endured for me, was torture and physical pain beyond my ability to endure. Had I been on that cross, posessing the same powers that Christ posessed, I'd have been back down again in about 10 seconds.
What would Jesus do? He'd feel everything I feel, he'd know about my fears and my desires and needs and wants, and yet he'd always, irrevocably do the right thing. The best thing. The Holy thing. The Divine thing.
Yeah, it's a pretty high standard.
So, I got to thinking about the concept and I eventually told myself that I'd probably do well to first ask myself "What would a Christian do?" I don't think Christ expects me to be able to handle everything as perfectly as he would. He knows what's wrong with me, he knows about my fallen nature. I mean, after all, he died in agony to redeem me, so of course he knows what a jerk I am. He doesn't expect me to be able to respond to every crisis and opportunity with his own divine perfection. All he wants me to do is respond to him as his follower; to simply do his will, not to posses it.
What would a Christian do? That's a better question for me. That one, I can get a handle on. That one I can grasp. That question seems to possess more real possibility for me and doesn't seem to be an overwhelming magnification of my own sinful nature.
It helps, though, if that question has a name attached to it, doesn't it? It helps to attach a face, an example, someone to think about and try to emulate in times of need. That's the idea behind the whole WWJD thing, after all.
I thought about it and realized that the best possible example to emulate, as a Christian, is Mary. In terms of fully human Christianity, without divinity present, without that perfect understanding that only God can possess, you can't do better than Mary. What a picture of perfect Christian obedience. What an amazing example of love for Christ, willingness to sacrifice herself and everything she loved for him. What a total and complete example of charity. (That's "charity," which looks outward, as opposed to "unselfishness," which looks inward.) As far as faith and devotion to Christ goes, Mary really is the total package. You just can't do any better than that.
What would Mary do?
I started trying to put myself in her shoes, and I realized that she really is the best possible strictly-human access that we have to Christ. There are the obvious reasons, of course. She was his only human parent. She was his mother, after all. She knew him better than any other person did.
Then I started thinking about my own life as a parent, and compared myself to Mary. (That's a bad idea, by the way, if you're looking for a way to feel good about your parenting skills.) I think that reaching some kind of feeling of understanding of and love for Mary might be easier once you have kids. I mean, who among us is a perfect parent? None of us. And yet, Mary was... and she was fully human. She didn't have that "edge" of divinity that Christ had. She was just a human being.
I wondered how much she knew about Christ's plan in advance. Of course she knew who he was; before his conception, an angel had visited her and told her that she'd bear the Christ child, that she'd bring God into the world. How much did she know about his ministry in advance, though? Did she know, for example, how it would culminate?
There are probably scriptures and teachings that answer that question, to some degree... but that's not really what I'm getting at with this. What I'm really getting at is a feeling of empathy and love for Mary based on trying to imagine what she went through as a parent.
If you're a parent, think about all the times you've seen your own child in pain, or in trouble, or hurt and confused. Nothing feels worse than that. Nothing makes you feel more desperate to help, and yet more helpless.
I started thinking about the crucifixion. I've tried, since my conversion to Christianity, to think about the crucifixion on purely personal terms. I think that's the best way to approach it as a Christian. Christ didn't die for the "world's" sins, or for "our" sins... he died for MY SINS. Me. Personally. Christ died in agony for Darrell's redemption.
That's hard to grasp.
Then, something easier to grasp hit me: Mary watched her innocent and perfect Son be falsely accused and convicted, tortured and murdered. She watched him die slowly, and in agony. She tended to his bloody, decimated body, and she laid him in the tomb.
And she did it for me.
Imagine that. Imagine watching your child murdered for someone else's well being.
It hit me like a ton of bricks.
I cried that night, probably harder than I've ever cried during a moment of religious contemplation. I know what I put Christ through... I know the suffering that my sinful nature caused for HIM. I'd never previously considered the pain, the fear, and the horrible emptiness that my sin caused for his Mother.
Mary loved her son as any of us could love our children. And she watched him be tortured and murdered for us. FOR ME.
It all makes sense to me know. Even the doctrine of the coronation makes sense to me now... not because I can believe it logically, but because I WANT to believe it. After all I put Mary through, her coronation in Heaven is the least I could wish for her.
So now I have a new problem with Mary. Previously, when I'd pray the Rosary or the Hail Mary, I'd feel somehow false about it... like I wasn't doing it right, or like I didn't feel it enough. I prayed the Hail Mary the other night, and my new problem was that I felt it too much. It was hard to pray it without blubbering like a baby. It's a short, simple prayer... a petition to the mother of God that she pray to her son for us... and I couldn't get through it without crying. All I could think was "I want to make it up to you. I want to make it up to you, Mary. I want to make sure that your suffering on my behalf wasn't in vain. I have to make sure that you weren't forced to watch the murder of your son, so that I might live, for nothing. As you said at the wedding in Cana, I want to 'do whatever he tells me'."
What would Mary do?
What DID Mary do?
She did more than any human being should have to do.
And she did it for me.
In the spirit of ecumenism, here are some Mary related links that my protestant friends might find interesting. I'm not arguing for or against any of this, but it makes for some interesting reading:
Recovering a Protestant Mary
Responses and discussion of a Time article about the Protestant traditions of Mary
Religion and Ethics: The Protestant Mary
What did the Protestant reformers (like Luther and Calvin) believe about Mary?
I really like this T-Shirt
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
The Liberal Media Vs. C.S. Lewis
The December 9th release date of Disney's The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, the movie based on the beloved Christian fairytale by C.S. (Jack) Lewis, is getting closer.
It's no surprise, then, that the secularists and Christian-haters are really stepping up their attacks on Narnia and Lewis.
Remember how Mel Gibson was all but crucified about the time of the release of The Passion Of the Christ? Gibson was accused of being an anti-Semite… he was called a homophobe because of the way Herod was portrayed in his film… he was called misogynistic because Satan was portrayed in the film by a female actor… yadda, yadda, yadda.
Well, here they go again.
The liberal media has started flogging C.S. Lewis, with obvious hopes of killing The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe before it's even released. Why are they so threatened by a story with a Christian message?
Adam Copnik has written a piece for the New Yorker, in which he says that while Lewis is loved in America, he's an embarrassment to most Englishmen. Further, Copnik reads into Lewis's struggles with his faith and deduces that he didn't so much have "belief but a very strong desire to believe." Copnik tries to shoot holes in the Narnia series, saying that the books work best at their most pagan and least Christian. The icing on Copnik's cake is in the form of speculation that Lewis's sex life was "weird and complicated." Then, for good measure, he compare's Lewis's wife to Barbra Streisand. Boy, I really wanted to punch him over that one.
Writing for the New York Times Magazine, Charles McGrath continues with many of the same themes, although somehow voices them less artfully than Copnik. I suppose that's to be expected from the Times, at least when compared to the New Yorker.
It's apparent from both articles that neither of the writers have read much of Lewis's apologetics. Each of the supposed holes they congratulate themselves on finding in his faith was explained, explored, and resolved by Lewis himself over the course of his many theological volumes. Copnik and McGrath, of course, approached the subject with an end already decided; not surprisingly, neither of them found anything in the source material that stirred second thoughts.
I'm glad to have found some well-written, sound rebuttals of those two pieces in the blogosphere. I'm happy to defer to better writers than myself:
The greatness of Lewis's achievement, then, has nothing to do with an "escape from Christian belief into the darker realm of magic," and everything to do with the way that Narnia's magic lets the reader experience the Christian story again, as if for the first time, in an alien landscape shorn of all the baggage that historical Christianity has accrued. There have been a thousand children's books about witches and dragons, dwarves and talking animals, and none have succeeded half so well as Narnia - and it's precisely because Lewis thought his fairy story wasn't just rich, but also fundamentally true in a way that no other fantasy could be. Calling this dream of a truth behind the beauty "the futile hope of the mystic" may make Adam Gopnik feel better about his unbelief, but who's to say it's futile? (The mystics certainly don't think so.) And if it is, then what comfort, really, are all the "ghosts and kings and magical uncles and strange coincidences, living fairies and thriving Lilliputians"? I like poetry and fantasy just fine, but if they are all we have to fill the "deeper spiritual appetite," then I say to hell with them.
One of the very first items I ever wrote at this blog was inspired (at least indirectly) by Lewis. The guy is a hero to me. It's tough to his legacy mocked and butchered by the likes of Gopnik and McGrath… but I'm glad to have found other bloggers who seems to feel the way I do about the matter.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
All The News That's Fit To Mock
It's All In The Editing
Ever wonder how Michael Moore puts his movies together so that his point of view almost seems valid and considerable?
It's all in the editing.
Click the picture of the president below for a wonderfully funny video that illustrates what I'm talking about.
This video, along with several other wonderful clips, can be found at the Young Nationalist.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Secular Liberals: The "Useful Idiots" for Radical Islam
"The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was
convincing the world he didn't exist."
They're commonplace in offices and on desks everywhere; those spongy, squeezable "stress relievers" that we're supposed to clamp down on during times of frustration. In late September, the British town of Dudley in Worcestershire received a shipment of them for town employees. The rubbery little pig-shaped doodads may have been a waste of town money, but a reasonable person would consider them innocuous in every other respect.
Or, one would think.
The little piggies were viewed as an outrage by the Muslims local to the Dudley area. Muslims, after all, don't eat, keep, or tolerate pigs. Even squishy ones designed for squeezing when you're on the phone with some tough customer. In their ire, the Brit Muslims demanded that the squeezie piggies be rounded up and removed from town offices.
That's unreasonable and childish. This is worse: The township of Dudley complied with the demand. In fact, in an apparent state of panicked appeasement, town authorities even ordered one employee to get rid of a box of tissues because it featured the Winnie The Pooh character Piglet. In a statement that another age would have recognized as comic irony, a Muslim member of the town council declared that the town had acted in "tolerance of people's beliefs."
If this were an isolated incident, it would indicate little more than the silliness level of Dudley, England. But, it's not an isolated incident. It's just one more indication that secular liberals expect the world to crawl under the prayer rugs of Muslim extremists.
Political correctness has turned the idea of religious tolerance into a perverse parody of itself. Secular white liberals, cowed by an irrational shame of themselves and a deeply hidden (and deeply racist) fear of other cultures and races, no longer recognize the devil when they see him. Anyone who agrees with radical Islam's hatred of the west is thought by secular liberals to be a progressive free thinker. Anyone who doesn't agree, conversely, is vilified as an oppressor.
Not only have secular liberals turned religious liberty into a mockery, they've radically distorted another doctrine they claim to hold dear: the separation of church and state. To the secular liberal, that very phrase is really just pale camouflage for his or her hatred of Christianity. If they were really concerned about the evil of state-sponsored religion, secular liberals would tirelessly rail against Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, and any other nation where Islamic hatred is public policy.
Speaking plainly, even George W. Bush (certainly no friend of secular liberals) has hardly been as much of an enemy of radical Islam as he should have been. It's inarguable that the U.S. role in bringing democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan has been heroic. Never has the selflessness of the American military been more evident than it has in those two countries. Still, as long as we continue to turn a blind eye to the pro-terrorist activities of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, we aren't doing enough. Alex Alexiev writes for the National Review:
The basic facts of Saudi sponsorship of radical Islam are too well known to require much rehearsal here. According to Riyadh’s own admission, the kingdom has spent an average of no less than $2.5 billion per year for the past three decades to support “Islamic activities.” This has allowed it to build and control 210 Islamic centers, 1,500 mosques, 2,000 schools, and 200 colleges in non-Muslim countries alone. As a result, there is hardly a Western city today that does not have an Islamist-controlled institution of one kind or another spewing hatred against the West and Muslims who refuse to submit to radical Islam. It is this infrastructure of extremist mosques, madrassas, “charities,” and foundations that was and continues to be the real incubator of fanaticism worldwide and a foe vastly more potent than al-Qaeda...
Washington exhibits much the same shortsightedness with respect to our other “strategic ally” in the region, Pakistan. After the London bombings — four years after Islamabad switched sides from being a patron of the Taliban and al-Qaeda to becoming an American ally — President Musharraf admitted that he had, in effect, done nothing to curtail the pervasive jihadist networks and madrassa hate-factories in his country. He has now made new promises to do that, but there is no reason to believe that it will happen. Indeed, the man charged with carrying out the task, minister of religious affairs Ijaz ul-Haq, recently denied any link between the madrassas and terrorism...
We might then ask ourselves a simple question: If democracy is good for Iraq, why is it not good for Pakistan and Saudi Arabia?
(The emphasis above was mine.)
Given it's agenda, the spread of radical Islam should be viewed as no different than the spread of Nazism in the 1930's and 1940's. Why didn't we learn this lesson then? No world view has been more violently aggressive or destructive as radical Islam since the heyday of Nazism. Given the causes they claim to champion (homosexual rights, women's rights, religious tolerance and pacifism), secular liberals should be absolutely obsessed with bringing an end to radical Islam.
Why aren't they?
I believe that radical Islam is tolerated and even supported by secular libearals because they share one common enemy: Christianity.
Secular liberals aren't concerned with state-sponsored Islam and the oppression and murder it causes because, to the secular liberal, "separation of church and state" begins and ends with getting rid of any Ten Commandments plaques that might be on the wall in some courthouse in Mississippi.
Secular liberals are all for "human rights," and they have the bumper stickers to prove it! But for the secular liberal, support of human rights begins and ends with that bumper sticker and the latest Beastie Boys album. Since actually liberating people from dictators involves getting up, taking real chances, and doing something, secular liberals are dead set against it. They won't be getting their hands dirty, thank you.
Secular liberals hate anyone who ridicules gays and women... and they'll prove it by telling you exactly what they think of Larry the Cable Guy and Eminem. But what about those Islam-controlled nations where women aren't even allowed educations, and where gays are hung for being gay? Hmmmm... somehow, secular liberals don't have much to say about that.
As secular liberals pull further and further away from the real causes they claim to champion, Christianity, merely by being what it is, reminds them of their own hollow core. And, secular liberals see anything that makes them ashamed of themselves as an oppressor. Therefore, regardless of the real barbarity of radical Islam, secular liberals will always see Christians as their greatest threat. Theodore Dalrymple, also in the National Review, exposes their hypocrisy all too well:
Islamists have beheaded hostages and opponents in Algeria, Chechnya, Iraq, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Thailand. In late June, for example, a traveling salesman from northern Thailand was publicly beheaded by Islamists outside a teashop in southern Thailand and his head thrown away a mile or two down the road by his executioners. No doubt this will stifle theological debate in the area for some time...
Compared with this, even the most literal-minded Bible fundamentalist in the West lives, de facto at least, like the child of Voltaire, for even such a fundamentalist probably wouldn’t dare justify decapitation as a policy by reference to David and Goliath. And if by any chance he did, he would rightly be laughed at by his fellow citizens.
Evidence of how radical Islam has secular liberalism under it's thumb is everywhere:
Wake up, secular liberals. You're in bed with the devil.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Oh, man. Like I need this pressure.
I'm going to need more information than this. Is the collision going to be fatal to all life on earth? Or is the damage going to be relatively small, compared to what one might expect from such an event? Is it going to wipe out all life, or just some life? And, if just some life, is it going to be in the area where I live? And are we talking about my home town being wiped out, or my whole state, or the whole East Coast? Or, all of America? Or is it, by chance, just going to hit France? Geez, the possibilities are endless.
If all life is going to be wiped out... or even all life in my part of the world, I don't guess I'd say anything about it to anyone. Why bother? Why start a panic? I'd just go into work and tell the supervisor of my department that he could kiss my behind because I quit, and then I'd go home and just hang out with the family for our last three days. Although we'd still not enjoy it because they'd be all like "Why'd you quit your job? Why? WHY?!??" Like I need that pressure, on top of everything else.
On the other hand, if it's just going to wipe out France, I'd just tell all my friends to have their VCRs and Tivos set to record the news in three days.
They'd be ALF, The Bear from BJ and The Bear, and Carla from Cheers. To pass the time, Carla and The Bear and I would throw rocks at ALF. You have no idea how much I hate ALF.
My first pet was a German Shepherd puppy who I only had for three days when I was about four years old. My parents took him back to the breeder because he kept trying to eat my face.
When I worked in radio, I was a two-pack-a-day smoker. I also had a bad habit of using Coke cans as ash-trays, dropping one cigarette butt after another into half-empty Coke cans if I didn't think I was going to drink anymore. On one particular night I was very busy and... you know, just remembering this makes me feel like I'm gonna puke.
This is a silly question. I'd do the same thing everyone else would do. I'd commission the construction of a 75 foot tall tricycle and peddle it at light speed to Alaska, honking the bike horn like a fiend the whole way.
Don't blame me, blame The Burr In The Burgh.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Jerry Kilgore For Governor. I Suppose.
I'm voting for Jerry Kilgore to be Virginia's next governor this coming Tuesday, and I'm just sick about it.
Kilgore has really killed a lot of my enthusiasm over the last month or so, and at this point, the best thing I can say about him is that he's the lesser of two evils.
There are, of course, several good, solid, conservative reasons to vote for Kilgore, but Kilgore himself hardly makes mention of them in his campaign ads.
The campaign has been focused almost exclusively on the death penalty for what seems like the past five hundred years... and the problem is, I'm opposed to the death penalty. I'm a Christian, and I can't find a single thing in the teachings of Christ that condones execution as a viable punitive option.
Tim Kaine, the Democratic candidate for Governor, is (of course) a huge hypocrite on the issue. Kaine says that he opposes the death penalty because he's a Catholic. Fine. Me too. I also oppose abortion on demand for the same reasons, and Kaine is all for that.
The situation is made all the murkier by the fact that the Catechism of the Catholic Church doesn't exclude the use of the death penalty if he who is executed is clearly guilty and if executing him is the only way to protect other people. In other words, Kaine uses his Catholicism to justify his opposition of the death penalty, even though the Church does admit that sometimes, there's no other choice. Besides, even though Kaine says he opposes the death penalty as a Catholic, he also says he'll enforce it whenever it's handed out. I don't know how he can reconcile that, but I do know what that makes Kaine in my opinion. Of course, on the subject of abortion on demand, Kaine seems to forget that the Catholic Church even exists.
Meanwhile, the Republican candidate, Jerry Kilgore, gives me little to feel good about with regard to these particular topics. Kilgore is pro-death penalty to the point that he seems bloodthirsty about it. He's run ads saying that Kaine wouldn't even execute Hitler if given the chance, which is just stupid. I don't think I've seen a politician's campaign mishandled this badly since Bob Dole.
By the way, Kilgore, who is ostensibly opposed to abortion, lacked the courage of his convictions when asked about abortion on demand during the September debates.
Again, I know that there are solid, conservative reasons to support Kilgore.... but in this Death Penalty Obsessed Governor's race, I've forgotten them. I'd imagine that most of Virginia has, too... especially those who weren't strongly in Kilgore's base in the first place.
So here's where I stand:
I can't wait till this race is over.
PS - there is a nominally conservative third candidate running as well, and he'll do nothing more than drain a few votes away from Kilgore. Meanwhile, Virginia will end up saddled with another tax-jackin' liberal Democrat governor. Oh, joy.
Friday, November 04, 2005
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 24
(Wayfaring Strangers is a continuing series about our experiences as my wife and I study to convert to Catholicism.)
Apologetics and "Christianity-And-Water"
Sometimes I think I'd like to be a Christian apologist... or even, specifically, a Catholic apologist. At other times, though, I realize that I'm nowhere near ready to debate or argue for my faith. That's not because my faith is weak, and certainly not because I see Christianity as difficult to defend. The problem is that, by trying to be an apologist at this stage in my life, I'd be using God to glorify me instead of using myself to glorify God.
That's bad. I think it actually qualifies as taking the Lord's name in vain. That's a big no-no. One of the top ten, I believe.
My hero is C.S. Lewis, one of the best popular apologists of all time. Still, the ability to read, learn from, and understand his work doesn't translate into an ability on my part to present my own ideas as well as Lewis presented his. Neither, for that matter, am I qualified to present Lewis's ideas for him. Two recent events really made that clear to me. In one of them, I tried to argue my point of view and became combative... in the other, when presented with arguments that are counter to what I believe as a Christian, I simply remained mute. In neither case did I serve my faith well.
Sinning by transgression: Me and my big mouth
The incident wherein I said too much... or, rather, said what I said badly... was during an open thread at the Hidden Blog. The Unseen Blogger had invited his readers to participate in a discussion about what it would take to bring about unity among Christians. That kind of thing is right up my alley, so I jumped in with both feet. At one point, another blogger challenged one of my ideas, and I interpreted him to be saying that I wasn't narrow-minded enough to really be a Catholic. Let me say that again: I interpreted him to be saying that. That doesn't, of course, mean that he was really saying anything of the kind.
So, being who I am, I basically jumped up in his face and started wagging my finger. "Don't YOU tell ME..." "Who do YOU think you ARE..." That kind of thing. Of course, in retrospect, I looked back over the discussion and thought that I had probably overreacted. (Me? Overreact? NAAAAH. Couldn't have been.)
What it boiled down to was, in a discussion of Christian unity, I behaved in a way that certainly didn't encourage Christian unity.
Sinning by omission: Silence is the voice of complicity
I posted an entry at this blog while that thread at the Hidden Blog was active, encouraging readers to come over and participate. I got a couple of comments to the effect that it was wrong to discuss unity among Christians unless you are willing to discuss unity among anyone with any religious faith, and that Christianity is really just part of the big picture. I really didn't say much in response to that, even though I did disagree with it. That was wrong, too.
I've got to have the ability to disagree politely and in a loving way if I'm ever going to be any kind of Christian. In one instance I noted above, I found myself getting kinda cruddy with people who share my faith... disagreeing, but not politely. In the other, I found myself staying mute when someone posted something I didn't agree with... sure, I wasn't rude, but I wasn't true to my beliefs, either.
That's pretty poor apologetics on both counts.
I refer to my hero, C.S. Lewis, and I find his arguments compelling, as usual:
When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view. But, of course, being a Christian does mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions, Christianity is right and they are wrong.
When I examine my own reluctance to even voice a meek disagreement with people who don't share my faith, I see that it comes down to a terrible fear that I will come off as "unenlightened." I don't want to seem like a "narrow minded Christian" or some "pious Catholic." That, in and of itself, really is putting myself before Christ. After all, I claim to worship a Savior who said that he brought not peace, but a sword... a Savior who warned his followers that the world would despise us just as it despised him. Forget being an amateur apologist... just to be a good Christian will require more from me than this.
The great Catholic teacher and writer Peter Kreeft finds ample evidence in Lewis's work that C.S. himself expected Christians to be thought of as divisive, insensitive, amateurish, fanatical, and simplistic. If it's good enough for my hero to be viewed that way, why isn't it good enough for me?
Not only that, but Lewis felt that watered-down Christianity wasn't much better than atheism:
Atheism is too simple. And I will tell you another view that is also too simple. It is the view I call Christianity-and-water, the view which simply says there is a good God in Heaven and everything is all right -- leaving out all the difficult and terrible doctrines about sin and hell and the devil, and the redemption. Both these are boys ' philosophies.
Being considered divisive, simplistic, and fanatical was good enough for my Savior. Why am I so afraid of being thought of badly by those who don't share my faith?
Part of it is that I do have a sympathy for those who espouse religious pluralism. There was a time, when I found myself unsatisfied by (what I saw as) the rigid, unrewarding trap of Fundamentalism... and I actually thought that Buddhism might offer me a chance to follow Christ more than Christianity (as I knew it) would. I never studied Buddhism seriously, but there was an appeal to it. Buddhism seemed to me to be about tranquility, charity, and peace. And, I suppose, it is about those things. (I'm sure that any given Buddhist would say it's about more than that or maybe less than that. One of the appeals of Buddhism is it's vagueness. If Fundamentalism is a vacuum, Buddhism is a sea.) Buddhism seemed to me to teach many of the same things that Christ taught... and before I discovered Catholicism, I thought that it taught them better (in some cases) than Christianity.
But, that was then. This is now. The more I learn, the more I realize that there are huge fundamental differences between Buddhism and real Christianity. Another of my heroes is G.K. Chesterton, the Catholic apologist and writer (we actually named our new puppy after him! And, he was a hero of Lewis's, too.) Chesterton was familiar with the idea that there is a harmony between Buddhism and Christianity, but it's only there in the sense that both religions can inspire their faithful to be kind and decent people. That's admirable, true enough. Still, when you examine the religions on a basic, philosophical level, they're as different as night and day. Chesterton put it this way in his book Orthodoxy:
That Buddhism approves of mercy or of self-restraint is not to say that it is specially like Christianity; it is only to say that it is not utterly unlike all human existence. Buddhists disapprove in theory of cruelty or excess because all sane human beings disapprove in theory of cruelty or excess. But to say that Buddhism and Christianity give the same philosophy of these things is simply false. All humanity does agree that we are in a net of sin. Most of humanity agrees that there is some way out. But as to what is the way out, I do not think that there are two institutions in the universe which contradict each other so flatly as Buddhism and Christianity.
The differences between the philosophy of Buddhism and the philosophy of Christianity becomes even clearer when you think about the symbols of the two faiths:
Even when I thought, with most other well-informed, though unscholarly, people, that Buddhism and Christianity were alike, there was one thing about them that always perplexed me; I mean the startling difference in their type of religious art. I do not mean in its technical style of representation, but in the things that it was manifestly meant to represent. No two ideals could be more opposite than a Christian saint in a Gothic cathedral and a Buddhist saint in a Chinese temple. The opposition exists at every point; but perhaps the shortest statement of it is that the Buddhist saint always has his eyes shut, while the Christian saint always has them very wide open. The Buddhist saint has a sleek and harmonious body, but his eyes are heavy and sealed with sleep. The mediaeval saint's body is wasted to its crazy bones, but his eyes are frightfully alive. There cannot be any real community of spirit between forces that produced symbols so different as that. Granted that both images are extravagances, are perversions of the pure creed, it must be a real divergence which could produce such opposite extravagances. The Buddhist is looking with a peculiar intentness inwards. The Christian is staring with a frantic intentness outwards.
Realizing these inherent differences between Buddhism and Christianity really bothered me. I'd always seen the two faiths as possible evidence that we really are all "on the same road" to salvation. Now, thanks to Chesterton's clarity, I'd realized that there's basically no common ground between Buddhism and Christianity at all. One faith demands charity and brotherly love from the faithful based on the premise that God Himself will settle for nothing less. The other encourages charity and brotherly love simply for their own sake. One faith sees man as the created entity and God as the separate, sovereign Creator. The other faith is pantheistic, seeing a presence of "god" in everything. The basic differences are never more apparent than when you consider the vast dissimilarity between the central images of each of the two religions: One is of a divine Man, tortured and murdered (in the most heinous way possible) so that he (and he alone) might save mankind. The symbol of the other faith is of a happy, peaceful fat man, content with what he has found inside himself.
Night and day.
I'm not trying to knock Buddhism, I do disagree with it, but I still have a lot of respect for Buddhists and the kindness and altruism that their religion inspires... but to see them both as twins, or as two halves of a whole, or as two ways to say the same thing, just can't be right.
So, there I am. If I no longer see real philosophical harmony between the two religions that I once considered the most similar, how am I to tell myself that all religions (or even most) are relatively equal?
I have to learn to express disagreement with non-Christians, but do it in a way that Christ would approve of. Christ didn't scream and yell and force his beliefs on anyone, and as one of his followers, I'm compelled to behave as much like him as I can.
At the same time, I have to learn to curb my zest when I disagree about specifics within the different practices of Christianity itself. It doesn't do anyone any good (and it especially doesn't do much for the cause of Christianity) when I turn into a zealot and start a crusade against other Christians.
The solution to both problems is the same: Disagree and love.... But love first, last, and most.
Meantime, I think it's probably best to remember that I'm no apologist. Before I can event think of becoming one, I've got to become a much better Christian.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Racism Rears It's Ugly (Liberal) Head
This is a picture of Michael Steele. He's the Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, and he's running for the senate. You might have noticed from the picture that Michael Steele is a black man. Now, like any politician, Michael Steele has his friends and he has his enemies. There are those who support him, based on shared ideology, and those who oppose him because they don't share his ideology. And, like any politician, Michael Steele has had to put up with mockery and vicious attacks from his enemies. What makes his situation unique is that many of Michael Steele's political enemies are attacking him because of his race. That's right. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina and the death of Rosa Parks, there are those who feel perfectly justified in attacking Steele because he is a black man.
Steele has been called an "Uncle Tom" by some of his enemies, including Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr., President of the Maryland State Senate.
Some people, in what I suppose is supposed to be a symbolic protest, have taken to throwing Oreo cookies at Steele during campaign stops.
Blogger Steve Gilliard posted an entry about Steele entitled "Simple Sambo wants to move to the big house." Below a picture of Steele, Gilliard has a caption that reads "I's Simple Sambo and I's running for the Big House." (Gilliard, by the way, also insists that conservative bloggers don't allow comments at their blogs.)
As you might imagine, members of the NAACP and racially "progressive" liberals everywhere are.... wait a minute. What you might actually imagine, as I did, is that the NAACP and progressive liberals are outraged about this kind of racial hatred. Turns out, they're fine with it.
Did I mention, by the way, that Steele is a Republican?
"There is a difference between pointing out the obvious and calling someone names," said a campaign spokesman for Kweisi Mfume, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate and former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
OK, so the NAACP's best known name let Steele down. But, what about other black politicians who've had to endure this same kind of treatment? People from Steele's own home state? Surely they know wrong from right, and will speak out against it? Right? Wrong.
State Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, a black Baltimore Democrat, said she does not expect her party to pull any punches, including racial jabs at Mr. Steele, in the race to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes.
"Party trumps race, especially on the national level," she said.
So race-based attacks against a black man are OK, then, if they're motivated politically? According to the liberals, yes.
Delegate Salima Siler Marriott, a black Baltimore Democrat, said Mr. Steele invites comparisons to a slave who loves his cruel master or a cookie that is black on the outside and white inside because his conservative political philosophy is, in her view, anti-black.
"Because he is a conservative, he is different than most public blacks, and he is different than most people in our community," she said. "His politics are not in the best interest of the masses of black people."
Calling Steele and Uncle Tom is "not racial. If they call him the "N' word, that's racial," According to Marriott.
The definition of racism I was taught as a kid is out of date, I suppose. I was taught by my parents that it was wrong to judge people based on their race, or to discriminate against them because of their race.
I guess that's no longer the case. Now, it's OK to discriminate against people based on their race if they don't think and behave exactly as the liberal members of their race think and behave. Racism, as it turns out, is not really about race... it's about philosophy. It's about ideas. It's not about unfair bigotry because of the color of a man's skin. It's about that man's stupid refusal of good ol' ideological conformity. Racism, as it turns out, is not about judging a man based on the color of his skin. It's about despising a man because of the content of his character. Right? Right?
Bullsh!t. Don't you believe it. We've come to far now to accept this kind of behavior from anyone. Too many good people, black, white, and otherwise, have made far too many sacrifices for this to be tolerated.
Bob Parks says it better, and far more passionately, than I can:
...you who like blaming everyone else for your laziness, your shunning of the very FREE education that could have made you something other than a 40-drinkin’ welfare recipient, it’s time we left you behind. You are racists and we don’t want to hear it no more. The real ignoramuses and racists are you.
Despite their love and acceptance of Ebonics, Democrats fear blacks that slip through their cracks and learn to read. Liberals hate those of us who dare think without their direction. Democrats denied blacks the right to vote before and hate those of us who utilize the gift of choice when voting now for more than the one party they so authorize.
(Thanks to The Write Jerry for bringing this story to my attention.)
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
New Family Pics
If you care, there are some new family pics up at our family site.
Clinton's Phantom Surplus
Did you know that there's a website, maintained by the Bureau of Public Debt, that shows our national debt to the penny? I didn't until today.
Of course, it shows that the national debt has risen steadily.
The interesting thing to me, though, is that it shows that the national debt rose steadily through the Clinton years, too:
Now, I don't pretend to understand the deficit, the government's spending operations, or any of this. I defer to those with a better grasp on it than I have. Like this guy and this guy. However, I do know that, in our family, if our debts are going up and up and up, we don't talk about how much extra money we have.
Here's my point: All we've heard from the Democrats and the media is that Bush has wasted this wonderful national surplus that Clinton had stockpiled for us. Can somebody explain to me, in simple terms, how we had such a wonderful surplus during the Clinton years if our national debt increased by the hundreds of billions during every year of Clinton's presidency?
It's odd, too, that nobody was running around in the 90's talking about how our country had it's largest national debt ever under Clinton... when, in fact, that was the case. I suppose that the liberals had a better understanding of relativity then than they do now.
Clinton wasn't fighting a war... he wasn't rebuilding cities after hurricanes... and yet, during his presidency, the debt went up and up and up.
Liberals (the especially nutty ones, anyway) accuse the Bush White House of trying to scare us all to death with "phantoms" called terrorists. Meanwhile, the Democrats try to scare us to death with a "phantom" called the deficit. The obvious difference, I suppose, is that the deficit didn't do this:
I ain't no economist, but I know BS when I smell it.
What Clinton surplus?
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