Charlotte Hays is on leave until December 1. Beliefnet has asked some of the most respected and popular conservative Catholic bloggers and writers to fill in during her absence. Please check back every day for the next two weeks to read a new guest blogger.
Amy Welborn is the author of many books, including "De-Coding Da Vinci: The Facts Behind the Fiction of the Da Vinci Code" and "The Words We Pray: Discovering the Richness of Traditional Catholic Prayer." She is also general editor of the forthcoming "Loyola Classics" series of reprint editions of great Catholic literary and popular fiction, beginning with "Mr. Blue" by Myles Connolly in February 2005, from Loyola Press. She has blogged since 2001, presently at Open Book.
Advent Food for Thought
This past Sunday, Christians pulled out their purple and pink candles and commenced four weeks of singing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel."
Yes, it's Advent.
Like anything else, Advent resources and reflections abound on the Internet, but I stumbled upon one this morning that gave me more than the usual food for thought, and not just because I birthed my own baby 11 days ago, assisted by a midwife. It's from the blog of Alicia, a Catholic midwife from parts up north, I believe, who says, among other interesting things today:
Being a midwife means spending a lot of time seemingly doing nothing, simply waiting on the baby and helping the mom cope. If I have done my job well, I will seem to be unnecessary. If I have helped a mom to stay healthy during her months as a lady-in-waiting, her hours of labor will be more manageable. I think that God has given us the equivalent of midwives to help us prepare for the coming of our Messiah - He has given us the sacraments and the priests to minister them to us. We are cleansed by Penance, fed by Eucharist, healed through both these sacraments and also through the Anointing of the sick.Something to Be Thankful For
Thanksgiving may be past, but the time for giving thanks isn't--and never should be.
The National Catholic Reporter's Washington correspondent, Joe Feuerherd, gives thanks for his late parents in this moving tribute, evoking the strength of a good marriage to endure through changes, pain and sorrow. And to teach a few lessons as well:
Twenty-two Thanksgivings ago, their 19-year-old son, a marginally-performing college sophomore with few visible prospects, informed Vic and Lil that he planned to marry the young lady with whom he was in love. Their response, amazingly in retrospect, was unconditional support (a reaction the now 41-year-old father of three teenagers and his wife of 21 years wonder if they could replicate). They understood the desire to build a life together.Something to offer thanks for, to be sure.
One of the more puzzling election results was, in my mind, the enthusiastic passage of California's Proposition 71, providing billions of state money for embryo-destructive stem cell research.
The moral dimension of destroying human embryos is one thing, but not, I admit, something that I expected the public to care much about. (Especially given the lopsided disparity in spending by both sides: proponents of the measures spent 25 millions in advertising, while opponents shelled out about $400,000.) What surprised me was the passage of this bill in a state that's in perpetual financial crisis. I don't get it.
Anyway, a couple of recent articles look a bit more closely at the potential ramifications of Prop 71:
A November 26 New York Times article raises questions:
Leaving aside the continuing controversy over the morality of this research, matters of business and governmental ethics remain.
The syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, a member of the President's Council on Bioethics, supports some types of stem cell research but says the California initiative goes too far.
"This is an unbelievable rip-off by people with an interest in the business of stem cells," said Mr. Krauthammer, who suffered a crippling spinal cord injury when he was young. "This is a huge grant from the people of California to a very specific biotech business, and it's only because of stem cells' notoriety that it's this and not something else. If taxpayers were to spend $3 billion, the logical thing would be to devote the money to the most promising areas of research, but that was never discussed because of the sexiness of stem cells. The oversight provisions are abysmal and it's basically a slush fund." Not that the NYTimes would have seen fit to run any critical articles before the vote. Nah.
And then, in today's Spectator Online, Tom
Bethell takes some shots at what he calls "Mengele Medicine."
Steve Milloy of the Cato Institute believes that stem cell hype began with researchers and investors who were counting on taxpayer funding to increase the value of their stakes in biotech companies. They could then "cash out at a hefty profit, leaving the taxpayers holding the bag of fruitless research." When Bush failed to cooperate they "were enraged and began a campaign to pressure the President into opening the taxpayer spigots...on the basis of a wild-eyed hope that cures are near at hand."
It's an interesting theory, and one would like to see more of this skepticism from the mainstream media. There may be some truth to it, too, although I would like to see more in the way of specifics. Who was behind California's Proposition 71, for example? What a rip-off, taken from the realm of outrage to tragedy because of the human lives involved and the corruption of our moral sensibilities, as we let imagined utility, rather than simple respect, define our attitude towards a whole category of human beings.
Today's Flannery O'Connors
In this past Sunday's New York Times Book Review, James Wood reviews Marilynne Robinson's latest--and second in twenty years--novel, "Gilead."
I never read "Housekeeping," Robinson's first, acclaimed novel, and although "Gilead" sounds like the kind of serious, thoughtful work (the letter of a dying Iowa Calvinist minister to his young son in this case.) I generally, much to my shame, avoid (so I like to laugh. Is that a crime?), I have to say...if James Wood can vouch for it, perhaps I need to pick it up.
Wood is a critic who fascinates me, among other reasons, because he takes spiritual and theological issues quite seriously, grapples with them, appreciates it when others do the same:
Robinson's words have a spiritual force that's very rare in contemporary fiction--what Ames means when he refers to "grace as a sort of ecstatic fire that takes things down to essentials." There are plenty of such essentialists in American fiction (writers like Kent Haruf and Cormac McCarthy), and Robinson is sometimes compared to them, but their essentials are generally not religious.
In ordinary, secular fiction, a writer who "takes things down to essentials'' is reducing language to increase the amount of secular meaning (or sometimes, alas, to decrease it). When Robinson reduces her language, it's because secular meaning has exhausted itself and is being renovated by religious meaning. Robinson, who loves Melville and Emerson, cannot rid herself of the religious habit of using metaphor as a form of revelation. Ames spends much time musing on the question of what heaven will be like. Surely, he thinks, it will be a changed place, yet one in which we can still remember our life on earth: ''In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets." There sings a true Melvillean note. And Wood himself is an atheist, which makes his critical perspective all the more compelling.
As a person with a keen personal and professional interest in fiction, and as a person who also spends a lot of time excoriating religiously-themed schlock like "The Da Vinci Code," "Joshua," and "Left Behind" and most other "Christian fiction," I'm often asked for recommendations of contemporary novels with a spiritual resonance. Okay, we know what we don't want to waste our time on, I'm asked. We get it. But where, people always want to know, are the modern Graham Greenes, Flannery O'Connors and Evelyn Waughs? What's worth reading?
Well, there don't seem to be any peers of that particular trinity operating today (although I'm always eager to be corrected on that score), but really, there is no dearth of fiction out there for the reader interested in this sort of thing, either. You just have to keep your eyes peeled.
Ironically enough, one of the more bracing fictional theological novels of the past couple of years came from the pen of James Wood himself--"The Book Against God," in which an atheist son spends much of his life doing spiritual and intellectual battle with his Anglican cleric father. "Lying Awake" by Mark Salzman is a lovely book about a contemporary cloistered nun, a mystic who is diagnosed with a brain disorder. The questions her diagnosis raises about her mystical experiences are sensitively raised and intriguingly resolved.
"Unveiled" by Susanna Wolfe, like my bete noire, "The Da Vinci Code," also deals with secrets and art--in this case an altarpiece in the process of restoration--but in a completely different way: in a spirit of authentic spirituality, honesty and wisdom. And by a real writer, to boot.
Probably my favorite book in this group that I've read over the past 18 months is also the oddest: "Hungry Ghost" by Keith Kachtick. Not for everyone, to be sure, it's the story of a Buddhist photojournalist from New York who falls for a very traditional young Roman Catholic woman from Texas. It's told in a rather quirky style--second person--that has the potential to annoy until you get it--"Oh, Buddhism, detachment from self...so yeah, the Buddhist narrator might tell the story in second person"--but I really was charmed by the book and thought that Kachtick did a fabulous job of exploring these contrasting worldviews.
Plus, it was funny.
Jeremy Lott is the foreign press critic for GetReligion.org. His feature story on the Christian culture industry, "Jesus Sells," was collected in The Best Christian Writing 2004. Lott has worked for several magazines--most recently the American Spectator--and written for publications ranging from Christianity Today to the Washington Post to Seattle's alt-weekly The Stranger. He was still getting settled back in to his old place in Fairfax, Virginia, when he bumped into Gary Bauer at an IHOP.
Bad Purveyors of Pernicious Popcult
The videogame JFK Reloaded has all the usual suspects up in arms but a few unexpected voices have joined the fray. My former boss Nick Gillespie, normally a titan of ambiguity, wrote on Reason's blog that while he doesn't "get outraged" at this sort of thing, he had a message for the purveyors of pernicious popcult: "If you're going to traffic in something like this, at least have the guts not to wrap it up in a pedagogical package."
The package that he refers to includes claims by the game's marketers that by allowing a generation of gamers to take shots at JFK, they will come to believe that a) there was only one gunman necessary to take out Kennedy and b) that the gunman was Lee Harvey Oswald. It might be bit of a stretch but--how should I put this?--so what?
Creators of various entertainments have felt it necessary over the years to wrap cheap thrills in some larger, ostensibly noble public purpose. It was, among other things, a chance to beat the censors ("But this movie condemns drugs and violence! How can you keep such a message from America's youth? It would be un-American."). Nowadays, it might be fun to throw off such hypocrisies but some content codes still apply. As we've seen with crackdowns on television, the federal government is pushing the envelope right back, and videogames are still subject to the hysterical legislative overreactions.
Also, in this case the admen might not be entirely off the mark. Assume that videogames help shape the thinking of kids these days. How will it hurt for gamers to spend hundreds of thousands of man hours learning that, yup, Oswald could have done it all by his lonesome, no second gunman or magic bullet required?
This article in Tech Central Station has a subhed that's worthy of comment: "Enemies of the reality-based community manage to change reality for the better." My least favorite smug liberal anti-Bushism during the campaign was this "reality-based community" tag. If I was forced to find a phrase to encapsulate all the reasons to vote against JFK II, there she was.
The reality-based label came from a long, not terribly coherent New York Times Magazine cover story. The quote, attributed to an anonymous source in the Bush administration, contrasted the "reality-based community" with a newly-formed consensus in favor of a Holy American Empire. The author then wretched the epithet out of context and reapplied it to paint all Bush opponents as members of the reality-based community, and used the contrast to show Bush supporters to be a bunch of hicks and religious know-nothings who looked to the president as their political messiah.
This was so far off the mark as to elicit laughter among some Bush-supporting acquaintances (for the record, I voted Libertarian for president), but for a lot of left-of-center writers it became part of the anti-Bush gales. Supporters of the president were said to be deluded, and, it was often added, they would face a rude awakening on election night.
That didn't work out so well and the phrase has largely vanished from the liberal lexicon. Now, conservatives have picked it up and are using it to taunt their adversaries a second time. I had almost forgotten that the spoils of victory extend even to the English language.
Talk about Hitting a Brick Wall
The other day I hiked about five miles into the heart of my suburban wasteland in search of a mattress store, failed to find said store, and was thoroughly annoyed with myself as I dragged these young, tired bones back to the old townhouse. Along the way I got a bright idea. My portable CD player held the Crash Test Dummies' first album, "The Ghosts that Haunt Me," so I inserted the earpieces and hit play.
The rest of the trip flew by and the internal griping evaporated. In "Ghosts," and "God Shuffled His Feet," the band had a sound and a voice that is, in my experience, unparalleled. They aren't naïve or sunny but their first two CDs are pure audio joy. There's tragedy in the world but there's also wonder, and laughter, and both records have failed to grow old from usage.
And then it all went sideways. Released in 1996, "A Worm's Life" would be about half a good album for a run-of-the-mill band but, coming from the Dummies, it's rubbish. "Give Yourself a Hand," their senior effort, is a bear to listen to even once. I thought "I Don't Care That You Don't Mind" would be the low point--I mean, at least the Christmas album gave us some songs with Ellen Reid on lead vocals--but it looks like I was hopelessly optimistic.
I ordered the Dummies' latest, "Songs of the Unforgiven," before I took the opportunity to listen to the samples on the band's official website. Not so smart. The press release begins "The newest Crash Test Dummies CD...is an unabashedly melancholy collection that listeners may compare favorably with the work of a Nick Cave or a Tom Waits." Or they may prefer to compare it unfavorably to be a steaming pile of marshmallows.
Here are the lyrics. Any reader who can get through all of that and still smile is either an idiot or a saint. I am by no means a don't-reinvent-yourselves purist but Brad Roberts has been tossing out everything that worked in favor of that which guarantees failure. The sense of joy and wonder has been sucked out of the Dummies' music, and the band is worse for it.
Religion of Peace
"[T]his pope is currently all but leading a rebellion against the legal recognition of the post-Christian reality that is the European Union." So says my GetReligion colleague Terry Mattingly in summary of an article in the London Telegraph.
The piece notes that a mass of petitioners--over one million by the end of last week--wants the right for the member states of the EU to add their own preambles to what will be the new EU Constitution. These preambles that take note of the importance of Christianity in the history of Europe, to serve as counter-ballast to the otherwise secular document.
The move, according to the Telegraph story, is "keenly backed" by John Paul II and is gaining a lot of support from, of all people, the Dutch. Obviously, the Netherlands is reacting to the November 2 brutal murder/mutilation of Theo van Gogh. Christopher Caldwell in the Weekly Standard fills in some of the gruesome gaps for readers who haven't paid close attention to the recent goings-on there:
The past 10 days have seen almost continuous protest. At least a dozen mosques and Muslim schools were set on fire. The subsequent firebombing of several churches fanned the fury. There were raids across the country on Moroccan, Kurdish, and Pakistani terrorist cells. At one pre-dawn arrest of two suspects in the Hague, police were met with a grenade attack, and a siege that lasted 15 hours, while the cornered suspects hollered, "We will behead you!"The note pinned to the corpse of van Gogh threatened further violence against two of the country's controversial elected officials, who have since gone into hiding. The nation's people and its elected officials, says Caldwell, are now "inclined to move from Live and Let Live to its opposite, and are calling for laws that make the Patriot Act look like Kumbayah."
The Dutch are interested in rehabilitating their country's nominal Christian identity as a way to combat militant Islam's growing influence. Most of the arrests have been of Muslim immigrants, but a few home-grown John Walker Lindh types have been caught in the net as well.
Barbara Nicolosi is the founding Director of Act One: Writing for Hollywood, a screenwriting training program that keynotes artistry, professionalism, ethics and Christian spirituality. A screenwriter herself, Nicolosi has completed full-length feature and television scripts, and has consulted on numerous film, television and video productions that deal with Christian history and spirituality. Her screenplay, Select Society, on the life of the poet Emily Dickinson is currently in development with a Los Angeles production company. She blogs at Church of the Masses.
Familial Dysfunction Film Fest
For the last four years, I have been a judge for the Angelus Awards Student Film Festival. Sponsored by the Catholic organization Family Theater Productions in Hollywood, the Film Festival gives the largest cash prizes available to student films. The "catch"--and it's a fine once, by me--is that an Angelus Award winner has to combine mastery of craft with thematic content that illuminates some truth about human experience. That is, the projects have to offer some good to the audience, beyond just the good of technical harmony. This years Awards wrapped October 23 with a gala awards and screenings of the winners at the DGA in Hollywood.
Watching the finalists roll by on the screen, I was struck--once again this year--by how seven of the top ten winners revolved around the same theme: dysfunctional parent-child relationships. This current generation-- Gen.com/Gen Next/Gen Y/Whatever ya call the kids Younger than Me and My Friends--seems to have one overarching theme on their collective creative brains: "Why Weren't My Mom and Dad There for Me?" "How Is It Possible to Love and Hate Your Parents?" "What Does it Look Like When An 8-Year-Old Has to Be the Parent of a 45-Year-Old?" "How Does a Parent Lose Their Child?" "Can People Love People Who Were Too Busy To Love Them?"
Without exception, the films don't come across as bitter. They are just very sad.
This year's crop also included an Honorable Mention Award for budding filmmaker, Alexandra Kerry, daughter of the recent losing candidate. Naturally, thanks surely to family financing, Kerry's project had laudable production values. It was a well-put together piece and she deserves credit for her skills as a young director. But even hers was thematically in line with the rest of her generation's most talented up and coming directors. Kerry's project told the story of the little daughter of an emotionally withdrawn Vietnam vet. Her father has repressed his war experiences to such an extent that he can not be vulnerable with his child. And the child, who picks up on the idea that this is not a normal way to be raised, is sad.
It was just kind of interesting.
The Academy vs. Mel
A front-page article in USA Today profiles the directors who must be considered in top contention for the next Academy Award.
Profiled filmmakers include Oliver Stone for his three-hour-long "Alexander," which one major critic has already labeled "worse than mediocre." Next is Mike Leigh, for this year's "important" film, "Vera Drake," about the courageous and compassionate British matron who kindly, you know, purges fetuses from young women in the 1950s. Again, another critic gulped that the film might prove "hard to watch" for holiday audiences. Then there is Mike Nichols, who arguably should get the Oscar for wrangling Julia Roberts and the sexiest man alive in "Closer." A friend who saw the film assured me that, although gorgeous Natalie Portman is frequently shown in striptease posture in the film, it isn't "totally" exploitive. Phew.
Of course, USA Today reckons that Martin Scorcese has to be considered the lead contender if his "Aviator" manages to coax the man out of Leo DeCaprio. Holding the long-shots are Clint Eastwood for his upcoming "Million Dollar Baby"--can the film be quite so good as to overcome that unfortunate title?--and James L. Brooks for "Spanglish"--you know, the highly-anticipated Adam Sandler vehicle, which a cynical person might snort is probably only in this list as a trade-off for a big ad buy in the pages of USA Today when it opens.
Now, I ask you, if you asked any moviegoer on the planet, wouldn't they come up with perhaps one more director who deserves to be on this list?
You'd think the leading contender would be the director who looked all the Hollywood studios in the eye and spit when they told him how he needed to change his vision for his particular project. He believed in his artistic vision so much, in fact, that he bankrolled his beloved project to the tune of $30 million of his own funds.
This was the same guy who decided to make a film that would hearken back to the universal language of the early silent cinema, and be so lavish, frame by frame, that people in any language could follow its story. Using everything the cinematic palette has to offer, this director finely crafted his piece using lyrical imagery and stunning juxtapositions in a way that filmgoers are rarely treated to.
Wouldn't you want to give an Oscar to a fellow who created the biggest box-office surprise of--well, the last century--by breaking every industry convention about whether American audiences would pay for a non-English movie?
And then, this same director broke another rock-solid industry dogma and made a blockbuster of a film without using a star in any lead roles! Finally, this filmmaker demolished the last defining Hollywood convention, and made a movie that was not targeted to any demographic. And then, it worked with pretty much all of them.
Heck, if you were a director, voting for Best Director, wouldn't you want to give that guy your vote? Wouldn't you think he at least deserves to get an honorable mention alongside Oliver Stone--who threw some homoeroticism into his deadly dull film seemingly so there would be something to say about it in the press junkets?
But no, Mel Gibson is disappearing off all the industry lists for being in contention for "The Passion of the Christ." And it really comes down to plain old anti-religious bigotry. The film won't get an Oscar nom, because then, people in Hollywood would have to see the film. And they really, really don't want to. There wasn't even going to be a screening of the film at the Writers Guild of America (the screenwriters' union) until a group of Christian writers I know got together and demanded it. One of them told me that she went to the screening, and only about ten other people were there, and, she said, "They jeered and laughed throughout the movie."
I bet if Bush had lost, "The Passion of the Christ" would have had a fairer shake at the Oscar. But now, ignoring it is a kind of pathetic shaking of an impotent fist at those god-fearing blue-state people. "We'll show you!" The only question is, how low will the Academy have to go to find something else to worship?
Mark P. Shea is Senior Content Editor for www.CatholicExchange.com and blogs at Catholic and Enjoying It!. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
Noticing a number of snap judgments in the comments field.
Turns out I'm "rich" cuz I made fun of Greeley. No doubt it will also soon turn out I'm a zealous supporter of the war because I revere our troops and the courage they display.
Just for clarity's sake, I think the war failed to meet just war criteria.
I also think that, now that we're there, we owe it to the Iraqis to help them get on their feet, which means getting them to the place where they can police and govern themselves and the Foaming Bronze Age Thugs in their midst. As one Vatican type put it: however the baby was conceived, it's been born now and needs care.
Then I think we should get out as fast as we can.
Email from a Marine
God help us be worthy of such courageous men and their sacrifices.
If You Had Only Reuters to Go On...
...you'd kinda get the impression that it has never occurred to anybody in the English-speaking world to translate the Old Testament directly from Hebrew to English till Robert Alter had this bold new idea. You'd also get the impression that those darn religious believers are, 'ow you say?, "manning the barricades" against this unheard of newfangled idea. Is it possible for mainstream media (MSM) journalists to conceive of religious believers as something besides fearful, censorious, ignorant obscurantists?
If I were king for a day, I would sentence every member of the MSM to spend at least a year reading Get Religion every single day.
And in the Far-Flung Land of Australia...
...an Anglican pastor draws spiritual insights about the state of the Anglican communion from a film critic in New Jersey writing about the Polar Express.
The Internet makes such interesting cross-fertilization possible.
Ascendant No More?
Catholic Exchange chronicles lefties going through the five stages of dying.
There's more schadenfreude in this piece than I care for, but I have to confess that the histrionics of the Left after the election have been so over the top in their narcissism (I mean, come on: "Post Election Selection Trauma"? A whole psych disorder just for losing an election? Get a grip!) that it's hard not to laugh.
My hope is that the Left pulls itself together, gets a clue, and helps to provide a moderating influence on the creepy Ledeen tendencies of the Right (see below).
I'm a Film Fan
... and some of the most literate commentary on film (both cinematically and theologically) can be found at DecentFilms.com. Check it out!
Not That Religious Conservatives Can't Figure Out Ingenious Ways to Trim Out Inconvenient Truths When It Suits the Cause, Too
Exhibit A: Michael Ledeen and his numerous Faithful Conservative Catholic Defenders in the comment boxes on my blog. Ledeen argues for the glories of Machiavelli and says, "those called upon to make ... tough decisions have to be willing to 'enter into evil.' Sometimes ...doing that...means doing things we know to be morally wrong." In short, Ledeen makes the plea "Let us do evil that good may come". It is a plea that is directly contradicted by inspired Scripture in Romans 3:8 where Paul specifically declares that those who say such things are "justly condemned".
Yes, I know Ledeen's Jewish and you can't expect him to care what Paul thinks. I don't. But I do expect alleged Faithful Conservative Catholics[TM] to care. But if you have the time, do scroll down the blog and read the astounding amount of hemming, hawing, excuse-making, fog, equivocation, insults and general avoidance behavior displayed by readers eager to make excuses for the glorification of Machiavelli when a Big Noise in the Conservative community does it.
If allegedly serious Catholic are this willing to make excuses for this when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry? I pray the salt does not lose its savor.
Andrew Greeley's "World Class" Losers
What a refeshing blast of elitism!
Fr. Andrew Greeley trashes that tiresome bit about God being no respecter of persons, not to mention "Woe to you who are rich" and "Blessed are the anawim". Nosirree! People who live in "world class cities" (you know: Babylon, Nineveh, Hitler's Berlin, Nero's Rome, Andrew Greeley's Chicago) have it all over those red state yokels from Green Acres and Nazareth.
Remember when Greeley's Democratic Party had respect for the Little Guy?
Domenico Bettinelli Jr. is the managing editor of Catholic World Report magazine and Catholic World News web site. He resides in Danvers, Mass., and has been blogging at his own web site, Bettnet.com, since 2001.
Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles is set to give his first deposition in the lawsuits combining hundreds of sex abuse allegations against him in both LA and his former diocese of Stockton, California. While the time and location are secret, it is expected that the deposition itself could become public next month. That would be devastating for him.
Time and again, we have seen that when bishops are put in the legal hot seat, whether it's Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston or Archbishop Flores in San Antonio or Bishop Joseph Imesch of Joliet, when these bishops emerge from behind the pulpits (and from behind their official spokesmen and PR flacks), you get right to heart of what's wrong in the Church in the U.S., problems that have yet to be corrected by the "reforms" put in place by the bishops' conference.
For example, check out this excerpt from a 1985 deposition by attorney Mark Bello of Bishop Imesch:
Bello: What do you feel, or do you know, is the penalty for violation of these premises?
Imesch: Eternal hellfire. I -- you know, what's the penalty? Put in that I laughed.
Bello: At the question or the answer? What rhetorical gems and "nuances" of Church teaching can we expect from Cardinal Mahony's deposition? Perhaps these 2002 emails between the cardinal and his inner circle offer an interesting preview, of temperament if not content.
Should the Center Hold?
Last week, the U.S. bishops held their biannual meeting and one of the hot items discussed by the press was a proposed uniform policy on Communion for Catholic politicians who are pro-abortion. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington is heading up the task force delegated to handle that task and he told the Washington Post that most U.S. bishops and the Vatican are not inclined to deny Communion on that basis.
How can he say that when we have the text of a letter sent by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the leading Vatican voice on the matter, to McCarrick that says just the opposite?
Ratzinger is very clear and unambiguous:
Apart from an individuals's judgement about his worthiness to present himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion may find himself in the situation where he must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to someone, such as in cases of a declared excommunication, a declared interdict, or an obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin (cf. can. 915).Notice he uses the word "must" not "may", implying that the Eucharistic minister has an obligation and a duty to follow through.
There's something else that's strange about the interview McCarrick gave to the Post. He didn't make similar comments at any of the press conferences. Neither did his task force make any statement at the conference, and in fact the issue was never discussed. In other words, how can he say he's expressing the view of the majority of the U.S. bishops when they've had not direct say in the matter?
A couple more details: McCarrick says that most bishops "are moved by the fact that the Roman position has always been you don't have a confrontation at the altar rail." Funny he should use that term, since most U.S. Catholic churches no longer have altar rails, having had them torn out long ago by pastors and liturgists operating at the behest of the bishops conference's liturgical documents. Perhaps if the bishops didn't spend so much time worrying about not offending pro-abortion politicians, they could fix the liturgical mess affecting the Church.
Also, he says: "The vast majority of bishops are in the center, and the center is holding." I'd rather have a bishop who is "extreme" for the truth than one who is wishy-washy toward it. Moderation is not a virtue when it comes to doing the will of God.
In the end, some bishops continue to say that being a pro-abortion legislator is such a grave sin that one should be denied Communion, while others say that it is not, and the Catholic faithful are left in confusion. Cardinal McCarrick's solution appears to be that it is better to leave them confused. Is this more relativism sneaking in through the back door of the church?
Catholics in Congress
There are more Catholic Republicans in Congress than ever before, according to the Associated Press.
In fact, there are 67 Catholic Republicans, including six of the nine new Catholics in the House. There are 86 Catholic Democrats.
There has been an interesting shift in Catholic political belief in the past several decades as many Catholics have left their former home in the Democratic Party and crossed over to the GOP. Or to be more accurate, the Democratic Party has left behind practicing Catholics, as it sought to become more "progressive," more concerned with social engineering, and more at odds with Catholic teachings, while the Republican Party became a more hospitable home for Catholics who actually believe what their Church teaches. It will be interesting to see how this trend carries out to the future.
The article makes at least one mistake. The name of the Republican representative from Nebraska is Jeff Fortenberry, and he holds a theology degree, not a divinity degree. It may be all the same to most people, but there is a distinct difference. And I know this because Jeff and I were roommates at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
In addition, I think it's a rather shallow analysis. For example, it lists the ten most Catholic states by percentage of the population and says that the top nine went for Kerry. But what percentage of those populations are actually practicing Catholics and how many are nominal Catholics, whose religion is an identity they keep in their wallet and that's about it?
There's going to be a lot of analysis of "morality" voters and religious voters over the next few years because of their impact in this election. It will be important to use a critical eye when judging which ones to take seriously and which ones aren't worth the pixels they're pushing.
War on the Boy Scouts
Last week, the Pentagon agreed not to sponsor Boy Scout troops on military bases after the ACLU sued the government. The ACLU's suit ridiculously claimed that "the government should not be administering religious oaths or discriminating based on religious beliefs." This is stretching believability.
For one thing, the oath involved here is not an oath of loyalty to the government, but an oath provided by the Boy Scouts organization (although some government oaths do mention God). And for another thing, the Boy Scout Oath only mentions God once and not in a way tied to a specific religion. But then, the ACLU and its liberal anti-religion allies have successfully lobbied the courts over the years to declare that the First Amendment requires an absence of religion in the public square.
Also, if the ACLU's argument were taken to its logical conclusion, then you'd have to ask how religious chapels on military bases and the military chaplaincy itself are any better. In fact, they are more explicitly religious than the Boy Scouts. Will the ACLU's next lawsuit demand the termination of any accommodation for religion in the military? Or will they just be satisfied with the absurdity of including atheists as military chaplains, too. (What will the insignia on their uniforms be--a question mark?)
But the real target today is the Boy Scouts of America. The liberal elites have decided that the BSA must be destroyed because, unlike the Pentagon, it has not bowed to the forces of political correctness by weakening its belief in the civic virtue of religious belief or by allowing homosexuals as Scoutmasters or any of several such attempts to water down their traditional principles. In 2000, the Scouts were able to argue in court that they should not be forced to include homosexuals because they are a private, religious organization. Now the forces of political correctness are using that argument against them.
Thus the ACLU and others have filed numerous lawsuits against the group across the country. San Diego was recently sued because it allows the Scouts to keep a campground in a public park. Chicago was sued and it pulled its sponsorship of 30 scout programs. In Berkeley, California, the city stopped giving a Sea Scouts troop free berthing space at a city marina. And now the Pentagon is under fire from the ACLU again over its support for the Scout Jamboree held every four years at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia that gathers about 40,000 scouts and leaders.
So, while the Boy Scouts provides a real public service to America--forming boys into young men imbued with all-too-rare virtues-- the ACLU is on a crusade to shut it down. Which one is the real threat to the American way of life?
Charlotte Allen, the author of "The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus," co-edits the InkWell weblog for the Independent Women's Forum.
Remembering Gerald Serafin
Gerald Serafin's A Catholic Blog for Lovers and A Catholic Page for Lovers were some of the loveliest things on the Internet. He died yesterday of a chronic and worsening heart condition. Gerald had once been a Catholic priest, but during the late 1970s, he was arrested in a sexual episode involving a 17-year-old youth and had to leave the priesthood. He spent the rest of his life living quietly and making amends. When the priestly sex scandal broke two years ago, many Catholics, including me, tended to be over-censorious toward Gerald, who had always been kind and generous to us. Now, I hope that he will pray for us all.
Gerald blogged until last Monday, ever cheerful about his condition, and continuing to mark the saints of every day. Here is his last post on his website, a quotation from Hans Urs von Balthasar:
"The first thing that must strike a non-Christian about a Christian's faith is that it is all too daring. It is too beautiful to be true: The mystery of being, unveiled as absolute love, coming down to wash the feet and the souls of its creatures; a love that assumes the whole burden of our guilt and hate, that accepts the accusations that shower down.. all the scorn and contempt that nails down his incomprehensible movement of self-abasement -- all this absolute love accepts in order to excuse his creature before himself......"
Gerald, you are now awash in that absolute love. Please take care of us who are lesser than you.
Celts vs. Anglo-Saxons
Amy Welborn, America's premier Catholic blogger (and she's just gone to the hospital today to have her third child--so let's offer prayers for both), alerts me to this wonderful article in the U.K. Tablet about all the American and English New Agers who make pilgrimages to Ireland, Scotland, and Wales to find their "Celtic roots":
Tablet writer Marcus Tanner writes:
"A ceaseless flow of books spreads the idea that 'the Celts'--usually taken as a homogenised lump--once professed a superior brand of Christianity that conveniently anticipated modern Western society's relaxed attitudes to sex and its interest in alternative medicine, wildlife, conservation, gender equality, and so on. The Celtic churches, so this narrative runs, were in touch with nature, proto-feminist and anti-hierarchical.
"One book that I picked up on my journey, called the Celtic Alternative, which was fairly typical of a whole genre, suggested the Celtic Church had more in common with Buddhism than, say, institutional Catholicism. A 'church without martyrs', it was at peace with nature, was at peace with nature, feminist and concerned with "celebrating life" - not death."
In fact, as Tanner points out:
"What traditional Irish Catholicism, the Calvinism of the Highlands and the Calvinist Methodism of Wales shared, at least until recently, was a set of values that would have most modern Celtic revivalists shuddering, namely a keen interest in theological nitpicking, spiritual severity, and a fairly hard and unforgiving attitude towards the flesh."
As the offspring of lace-curtain Irish myself, and also a medievalist, I can say Amen to that. All you have to do is pick up The Vision of Drythelm, the Venerable Bede's account of Purgatory as seen by a seventh-century Northumbrian. If you didn't make it to heaven, in Drythelm's vision, your naked soul spent thousands of years jumping back and forth between unbearable heat and excruciating chills. Hell was even worse. When Drythelm returned from the other world, he spent the rest of his life in a monastery, where he practiced asceticism by standing up to his neck in an icy river. When friends asked him about the temperatures, he answered, "I've seen colder. That was the way it was for the Irish hermits. There were no martyrs in the Celtic lands, so they made their lives living martyrdoms. As Tanner writes:
"It was the English, with their cut-and-paste national creed, who first cornered the market in 'touchy-feely' religion--Anglicanism being not much more than what Elizabeth I felt comfortable doing, seeing or hearing in her chapel. It was the Celts, the real Celts, who have always provided the hard, uncomfortable ideological edges in British or Irish religion, and the Anglo-Saxons who have added the fudge."
Yes, they both claim to be Catholics. Nancy Keenan, the former Montana legislature who's just been named president of NARAL-Pro-Choice America, the nation's flagship abortion lobby, and Ralph G. Neas, president of People for the American Way, for which Keenan worked as education policy director before she got her new job, both belong to the Church of Rome.
The two are thick as thieves, too. When NARAL picked Keenan to succeed Kate Michelman (another Catholic, sort of) as its head, Neas wrote this gusher of a press release:
"At a time when many of the fundamental rights of American women are at risk, NARAL has found the perfect champion in Nancy Keenan....
"We will miss her skill and savvy, but we know we will still be fighting side by side in the looming battles over the Supreme Court, on Capitol Hill, and in legislative chambers across America. With Nancy in charge, Naral Pro-Choice America and People For the American Way will continue their steadfast partnership in safeguarding reproductive rights and personal privacy for the women of America and their families."
It's interesting: NARAL is, of course, about abortion, abortion, abortion, without the slightest restriction--but People for the American Way began its life a half-century ago as a group of religious Protestants concerned about what they perceived as unconstitutional government aid to Catholic schools. Now, as the symbiotic Neas-Keenan relationship indicates, both organizations make up a unified front dedicated to imposing a militantly secular world-view upon religious and pro-life Americans. Praying at a football game goes hand in hand with Laci and Conner's Law in the NARAL/PFAW worldview: both must be eradicated.
Both Keenan and Neas, however, are not above whining about religious persecution of them as Catholics when it serves their purposes. The Washington Post notes:
"In 1989, when she was a Montana legislator, Keenan and a colleague were publicly rebuked by a Montana bishop for speaking at an abortion rights rally, she said. The ordeal became news, she said, with talk of her being excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church. 'It was a very personal experience for me having been born and raised Catholic,' she said. 'It was very, very big.'"
As for Neas, he made like St. Thomas More, when John Mallon wrote an op-ed for the Washington Times pointing out that PAW's aggressive opposition to Bush appointees with pro-life leanings did not sit well with the Catholic Church's moral opposition to abortion. Neas lashed back in a letter to the Times:
"In addition to misrepresenting the substance of my remarks, Mr. Mallon's article includes contemptuous remarks about my faith - I am a lifelong Catholic - that are appallingly beyond the pale. His article is part of an unfortunate and deeply offensive campaign attacking Catholics in public life based on the selective enforcement of theological orthodoxy. (Mr. Mallon does not address, for example, church teachings on the death penalty or artificial birth control. Does he believe people who support access to contraceptives or who support current death penalty laws are anti-Catholic?)"
I'm not advocating public excommunication for both the holier-than-thou Keenan and the even-holier-than-thou Neas--but it's a thought.
The Irony of the Episcopalian Druids
One of the many things that makes me glad we Catholics don't ordain women is that when I go to my parish church, St. Dominic's, on Sunday no one, absolutely no one, will ever, ever substitute this liturgy for the Mass:
"We gather around a low table, covered with a woven cloth or shawl. A candle, a bowl or vase of flowers, a large shallow bowl filled with salted water, a chalice of sweet red wine, a cup of milk mixed with honey, and a plate of raisin cakes are placed on the table.
"When all are seated on the floor and comfortable, one of the women lights the candles saying, 'Mother God, Giver of light, let this flame illumine our hearts and minds. May its warmth remind us of the love in which you embrace us all. We thank you, Mother, for light.'"
Nope--no "salted water" or "raisin cakes" at St. Dom's! No "Mother God," either. And although we might have to sing "On Eagles' Wings" every once in a while, we don't have to sit on the floor.
What I have quoted from above is, of course, the infamous "Women's Eucharist" that appeared for a while on the Women's Ministries pages of the official website of the Episcopal Church U.S.A.--until reporter Ted Olsen at Christianity Today got wind of the new liturgy and pointed out that it was actually "promoting pagan rites to pagan deities."
As Olsen pointed out, those raisin cakes come right out of the Bible (Hosea 3:1), where they're the offerings of the heathen Canaanites to their idols. The idol at issue in the Women's Eucharist is the "Queen of Heaven"--no, not Mary, Regina Coeli and blessed mother of our Savior, but Ishtar of Babylon or perhaps Aserah, wife of Baal, whose worship was specifically condemned in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 7).
Here's the Raisin Cake Anaphora:
"Mother God, our ancient sisters called you Queen of Heaven and baked these cakes in your honor in defiance of their brothers and husbands who would not see your feminine face. We offer you these cakes, made with our own hands; filled with the grain of life--scattered and gathered into one loaf, then broken and shared among many. We offer these cakes and enjoy them too. They are rich with the sweetness of fruit, fertile with the ripeness of grain, sweetened with the power of love. May we also be signs of your love and abundance."
What if you had to recite this stuff every darned Sunday?
In the most amusing turn of all, the entire Women's Eucharist seems to have been kiped from a Wiccan website called Tuatha de Brighid and dedicated to worship of the Mother Goddess. Once Olsen broke his story, the Episcopal church went into a frenzy of backtracking, erasing the Women's Eucharist from its website (but you can read the whole thing here), claiming that it wasn't intended for actual worship but only "to spark dialogue, study, conversation and ponderings around women and our liturgical tradition," and apologizing for a possible copyright violations in connection with the Brighid people.
Then it turned out the the author of the Women's Eucharist, Glyn Ruppe-Melnyk, an Episcopal an priest, wasn't just making like a Druid; she was a Druid. She and her husband, William Melnyk, also an Episcopalian priest, worshipped a la Stonehenge when they weren't tending their respective churches in Malvern, Pa., and on pagan websites they went by the names Raven and Oakwyse. William "Oakwyse" Melnyk's personal web page says that he was interested in "Celtic Sprituality," which undoubtedly got him into his Druid robes when he got out of his clerical collar. Glyn Ruppe-Melnyk descibed herself to the press as a "non-conforming, high energy, old hippie." That she was.
To their credit, and thanks undoubtedly to Christ's grace, both Melnyks not only apologized but renounced their Druid affiliations and affirmed their Christian faith. William Melnyk resigned from his church.
The irony of all of this is that no part of the Women's Eucharist, or indeed the Wiccan Druidism to which the Melnyk's recently subscribed has anything to do with any historical pagan religion, Canaanite, Celtic or otherwise. Three years ago, I intereviewed a bunch of scholars who actually study pagan religions and wrote this article for the Atlantic:
"In all probability, not a single element of the Wiccan story is true. The evidence is overwhelming that Wicca is a distinctly new religion, a 1950s concoction influenced by such things as Masonic ritual and a late-nineteenth-century fascination with the esoteric and the occult, and that various assumptions informing the Wiccan view of history are deeply flawed. Furthermore, scholars generally agree that there is no indication, either archaeological or in the written record, that any ancient people ever worshipped a single, archetypal goddess--a conclusion that strikes at the heart of Wiccan belief."
That should give you comfort if you dread having to eat rasin cakes on an empty stomach on Sunday morning.
What's with the Bishops?
What's with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops? First the bishops, meeting in Washington, D.C. this week for their annual convention, elect William Skylstad, bishop of Spokane, Wash., as their president--just a week after the diocese announces plans to file for protection under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code to deal with the $1.8 million in legal costs it has incurred from 101 credible claims of sexual abuse of minors allegedly committed by Spokane priests.
That shores up confidence in our nation's bishops, doesn't it? Furthermore, as the National Catholic Reporter's John Allen points out:
"Three decades ago, Skylstad was pastor of a parish where one of the most notorious abusers, Fr. Patrick O'Donnell, served as an associate. In court depositions related to the case, Skylstad repeatedly said that he does not remember or cannot recall many of the circumstances surrounding the abuse committed in the rectory he supervised."
"Many" of the circumstances? In his own rectory? What could the bishops have been thinking when they catapulted Skylstad to the most publicly visible post in their organization on Monday?
Then, icing the pederasty scandal-tinged cake with gruesome liturgical frosting, the bishops reelected Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pa., to head their liturgy committee. The combination of Trautman and the diocese of Erie virtually guarantees a double-whammy continuation of everything bad, banal, and downright demoralizing about contemporary Catholic worship these days. Whether it be unsingable hymns, churches that look like bank branches, or politically correct English translations of the Mass that skirt around calling God a "he," you can bet that either Trautman, the Erie diocese, or both have something to do with it.
First, Trautman. He's baaack! Trautman served as chairman of the liturgy committee during the mid-1990s, when he became known for his aggressive promotion of "gender-neutral" liturgical language--avoiding all reference to sex-specific pronouns in the Mass, such as reciting in the Creed that Christ became "man." That apparently makes man-hating feminists feel bad; they'd prefer to say that He (no, not "He"!) became "fully human." As the Vatican sought to crack down on the International Committee for English in the Liturgy, the bureaucrats who propound this sort of of thuddish and theologically obtuse "free" translation from the Latin, Trautman invariably sided with ICEL against the Holy See.
In 1997 Trautman, according to this report from Catholic Net, blasted the Vatican's new Lectionary for its failure to use "inclusive language." As Adoremus reported:
"The absence of inclusive language, Bishop Trautman argued, 'denies women their own identity.' As authority for that statement he cited an exchange between two female university students (perhaps unfortunately identified in the [Erie] diocesan newspaper as 'college girls'), one of whom asked the other: 'Why should I come to church when all I hear is language that excludes me?'"
Furthermore, Trautman is co-author of a book, "Building From Belief: Advance, Retreat and Compromise in the Remaking of Catholic Church Architecture". The covers shows the kind of Catholic architecture that Trautman wants to see more of: the cross on top of the church that looks like a TV antenna, and so forth.
Trautman's co-author, Michael DeSanctis, is a professor of fine art at Gannon University in Erie. Gannon U., from what I can tell, is the epicenter of all that is avant-garde in today's Catholicism. I remember interviewing a liturgy professor at Gannon a few years ago who told me that he never referred to the Mass as the "Mass," because that sounded too medieval. If you're avant-garde, you're supposed to call it a "Spirit-filled community eucharistic celebration" or something like that. Erie itself is the headquarters of liturgical consultant Richard Vosko, who promises that for a few dollars he can turn the interior of your own parish church into a Druid's Circle by removing only a few pews.
DeSanctis fights the liturgical wars on the architectural front, taking on the neotrads in his profession who want to get back to basilicas and other centuries-old models of church designs. The San Diego News Notes reported:
"Writing in the April 21, 2000 National Catholic Reporter, DeSanctis blasted the University of Notre Dame's Institute of Sacred Architecture for eschewing modernist design in favor of classical, sacred architectural elements. He described their designs as 'an expanse of lovely, antiqued shrine boxes' that would be embraced by 'today's tabernacle-obsessed bishops, biretta-topped seminarians and a handful of cardboard monsignori.'"
I don't think that seminarians wear birettas--that's only for ordained priests--but you get the idea.
Trautman's most recent blast at traditionalists came last year, after Pope John Paul II issued his encyclical Ecclesia de Euharistia, requiring that Catholic churches get back to a few sacred basics during Mass, such as, say, kneeling during the Consecration. Trautman wasn't having any of that. According to Adoremus, he told a liturgists's conference:
"When such Roman liturgical drafts call us to return to a liturgical mentality prior to Vatican II, we need to say to one another: Keep up your courage. When liturgical expertise is not respected, we must say to one another: Keep up your courage. When fundamental principles of liturgical renewal are reversed, we must remind one another: Keep up your courage. When liturgical offices are closed and liturgical budgets are slashed, we must say to one another: Keep up your courage.
"When we see liturgical renewal still wanting in many parishes and when we feel the pain of the clerical sex abuse scandal and its impact on worshipping assemblies and presiders, let us give hope to one another."
Hmm, if I had been Donald "Chapter 11" Trautman, I wouldn't have brought up the sex abuse scandal. Trautman might well have to slash his own liturgical budget in the near future, and I have a feeling that many of the Catholics of Spokane, tired of having avant-garde worship shoved down their throats along with the crimes of their priests, won't mind at all.
Rod Dreher, 37, is assistant editorial page editor of The Dallas Morning News, and a contributing editor to Touchstone and National Review magazines. Formerly the chief film critic for the New York Post, he is also an occasional contributor to the Wall Street Journal's "Houses of Worship" column. He is a Roman Catholic convert. Contact him at email@example.com.
The Catholic bishops voted today to quit having outside auditors come in and assess their compliance with policies to combat clerical sex abuse, instead opting for--try to say this with a straight face--"self-auditing". I'm not making that up. A majority of them seem to be under the impression that they have restored their credibility on this issue, and that we can get back to business as usual.
And you know what? They might well be right. I don't expect ever to trust the bishops again, but then again, I have way, way more information about the scandal than most Catholics. I spend a lot of time in the relatively tiny world of Catholic blogdom, and because I have a particular professional interest in the scandal, I stay up on the latest news on the Church scandal. I am constantly amazed, however, even after everything that's happened since January 2002, when the rocks began to be overturned in Boston, that many, many American Catholics simply don't grasp the magnitude of what's happened. There were some of us who thought back in 2002, "Surely this is going to be the straw that breaks the bishops' collective back. Surely there will be no going back after this. Surely the people won't stand for the status quo."
But they have.
Now He Tells Us!
Cardinal Adrianis Simonis of Utrecht, a Dutch city that once gave the Catholic Church a pope, says that Holland has morally disarmed in the face of Islamic extremism:
Cardinal Adrianis Simonis of Utrecht believes that the "spiritual vacuity" of Dutch society has left the Netherlands open to an Islamic cultural takeover.
"Today we have discovered that we are disarmed in the face of the Islamic danger," the cardinal told the Italian daily Avvenire. He pointed out that even some young people who were born and raised in the Netherlands have become militant Muslims. The rise of Islam, Cardinal Simonis said, is related to "the spectacle of extreme moral decadence and spiritual decline that we offer" to young people.
Thanks, Eminence. The Dutch Catholic Church has been an infamous disaster zone for the past 40 years. Last time I was in Holland, in 2002, my family and I went to mass in a parish near Amsterdam. There were few people present, and aside from a single other family, we were the only ones there without gray heads. We introduced ourselves to the other family, a couple with three teenage boys. Great folks. They invited us over for dinner. They told a very sad story of decline and fall. The father said he was one of 12 kids raised Catholic by devout parents--and the only one left still practicing his faith. The mother told of trying to take part in diocesan activities to pass on the faith to younger people, and being reprimanded by the bishop's catechist for, get this, her fidelity to Catholic teaching. In 1991, I went to midnight Christmas mass at a Catholic parish in a small city in the heart of Noord-Brabant, once a thriving Catholic area, and the priest led everyone in singing John Lennon and other secular songs in the liturgy. This, my friends told me, was the only church service anyone in town bothered with anymore. My friends, all lapsed Catholics, approved of the priest's attempts to bring young people to mass. "Does it work?" I asked. Said they, "Well, no."
Here's a National Review story I wrote a couple of years ago, in the wake of the Fortuyn assassination, about the moral collapse of Dutch society. Even if you don't care about the Netherlands, you need to read this story, because the Dutch are canaries in the cultural coal mine. Says one guy I quote in the story: "The things you Americans are facing today, Holland faced ten or fifteen years ago," says Rob Hondsmerk, a child psychologist who directs Focus on the Family-Netherlands. "I see America going down the same path, and if things keep going at the present rate, it's not going to take you fifteen years to get there."
How Doctrine Dies
I was recently visiting my hometown, and talking to a friend about her church, a mainline Protestant denomination. Mind you, this is a town in the Deep South, the kind of Red America hamlet you expect to be a stronghold of religious traditionalism. My friend mentioned to me casually that her Sunday School teacher didn't believe in the Trinity, or that Jesus was the Son of God.
"You're kidding," I said.
"Nope," she said, unpeturbed.
"Do you understand that your teacher is technically not even Christian?"
"Now, now, everybody has the right to their own opinion."
I thought my friend was being ironic. She wasn't. That's much of the South for you: the unforgivable sin is to embarrass everybody by saying something unpleasant in a social setting. Comity above all. Better to let someone who doesn't even believe in basic Christianity teach your Sunday School class than to upset folks by saying, "Umm, y'all, this is kind of important, don't you think?"
Liberalism and Islam
Comes news that a 14-year-old Iranian boy has died after receiving 85 lashes, imposed by a mullah because he broke his Ramadan fast. This death will go entirely unremarked by American liberals, who are too busy obsessing about "the Ayatollah wing of the Republican Party" (in Ellen Goodman's asinine phrase) to pay attention to the fact that radical Islam is by far and away the greatest threat to everything that liberals -- and the rest of us in the West--prize.
In fact, as Andrew Sullivan asked the other day on his blog, "Can anyone point me to a single liberal American columnist who has written about the Theo van Gogh murder? Hitch doesn't count. I've been a bit stunned by the silence. But maybe I've missed some." Know what he's turned up from that bleg? A single line in a Roger Ebert column. That's it. A filmmaker is ritually slaughtered on the streets of a Western capital for having had the gall to make a short film protesting the way women are treated under Islam, and his assassination is greeted with ... silence.
Why is that? Is liberal guilt so great that liberals cannot bring themselves to take their own side when the attacker is a racial or religious minority? In the Netherlands two years ago, Pim Fortuyn ran a successful campaign for prime minister by making an issue of the threat to Holland's secular liberalism from the growing, and increasingly radical, population of unassimilated Muslim immigrants. Fortuyn was openly gay, and his politics were far to the left of John Kerry's. But the politically correct media in Holland and elsewhere routinely denounced him as a racist, and compared him to Jean-Marie Le Pen and Jorg Haider, who really are racists. Fortuyn was set to win the election, but was murdered by an animal rights activist only days before balloting; the killer said he was acting in part to defend immigrants.
Now that the jihadis have butchered a liberal for his liberalism, the Dutch people have had enough of political correctness, Deo gratias. What's it going to take for American liberals to wake up? Islamic fundamentalism is thriving in mosques throughout this country. Here in Dallas, local Muslims earlier this year held a quiz competition in which high school students were quizzed on the finer points of "Milestones," a book by Sayyid Qutb that is the "Mein Kampf" of Islamic fundamentalism. This quiz contest is a national thing, sponsored by a couple of Islamic radical organizations playing at being mainstream. Do people know about it? Do the liberal American news media care to tell them? Or are we all supposed to pretend we're still living on September 10, because that's so much easier than facing unpleasant facts?
On Others Not Getting Religion
Yesterday, we at the Dallas Morning News editorial board received a visit from Aaron David Miller, the president of what sounds like a wonderful group, Seeds of Peace, an organization that takes groups of Israeli Jewish and Palestinian kids to a camp in Maine, to help them get to know each other as human beings, and not as the Enemy. Miller is a former top U.S. diplomat on Dennis Ross's negotiating team trying to broker peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He knows as much as anybody in this country about the conflict there.
We asked him what should happen next, now that Arafat is gone and Condi Rice is coming in to run the State Department. He answered the question, then I asked him how any Palestinian leader can overcome the fanatical--and heavily armed--opposition to peace with Israel coming from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, both of which have already said they're not going to participate in the January election, and that they have no intention of making peace with Israel. Miller said that these groups have to be "delegitimized," and that you do that by denying them financial and logistical assistance, by denying them the ability to provide social services (in Gaza, primarily), and by providing the Palestinian people with hope for a better life.
A "better life" by whose standards? By materialist standards? Can that possibly satisfy a pious Palestinian Muslim who believes the Jews have taken from him what God requires him to seize back? I think what's missing from Miller's analysis--though perhaps he would have said as much had he more time with us to expand on his views--is a recognition of the motivating power of religion. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are religious movements attracting people who are willing to slaughter and be slaughtered--and even slaughter themselves, via suicide bomb--to destroy Israel. They promise their followers rich rewards in the afterlife. What possible material rewards can be offered that would compete with the power of that religious vision? It seems to me that secularists simply do not grasp the mentality of someone who would sacrifice his life to serve God--whether it's a martyr, like Christian missionaries killed for their faith, or an Islamic so-called "martyr" who won heaven by blowing up himself and Israeli innocents.
Someone who does get it is "Spengler," the pseudonymous Asia Times Online columnist. In his latest piece, Spengler addresses the motivation of the jihadi who assassinated the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. Excerpt:
Radical Islam stems from despair in the face of cultural death; precisely for that reason it bespeaks a ghastly indifference toward individual death, analogous to the Mut der Verzweiflung, or courage borne of desperation, that impels the soldiers of a defeated army toward a final charge at the enemy cannon. Absolute certainty informs the faith of the assassin Mohammed B, but it is the certainty of cultural extinction that makes the death of the individual the supreme test of faith. Existential despair inspires the conclusion that better than defeat is to fight to the death. Peace is to be achieved when those who hold this view will have had the opportunity to do so.The opposite of despair is hope. But what the Palestinian followers of Hamas and Islamic Jihad hope for--the end of Israel--is not achievable. Thus they'd rather die than live as they do now. I don't know how this problem is solved, except, as Spengler suggests, by giving them their wish.
The USCCB's Pomps and Works
I knew the US Conference of Catholic Bishops couldn't get out of their November meeting without embarrassing themselves and all us Catlicks. As has been noted elsewhere in the papist blogosphere, Our Friends the Bishops managed to name as their new president Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, a diocese that had to declare financial bankruptcy over clerical sex abuse claims. The best Skylstad quote ever was reported by the Seattle Times, which relayed the bishop's statement to his flock on what he'd learned from the scandal: "I also came to understand better that there really is no such thing as a supposed consensual sexual relationship between any adult and a minor."
Golly, ya think! See brethren and sistren, this is the kind of penetrating moral insight you have to become a bishop to acquire. I know you're saying, "Hey, my garbageman could have told me that!" But that just shows how little spiritual discernment you have.
Then came news that the bishops, in their wisdom, voted down a project that would have resulted in a pastoral letter urging the faithful to read the Bible more. Some bishops griped that the conference tries to do too many things, and because Bible-reading is already encourged by the Catechism, this is not a pressing project. I'm somewhat sympathetic to this, only because it's silly for bishops to have to fund a study to tell Catholics they ought to be reading the Bible more. I mean, duh. If you are a successor of the Apostles, do you really need a commission to tell you that?
Yet I appreciate the fear expressed by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Sullivan of Brooklyn, who said: "I can imagine the headline tomorrow: 'Bishops, in attempt to cut expenses, do not encourage people to read the Bible.'" Take it from a Catholic convert living in Dallas, the most vigorously Evangelical big city in America: Bishop Sullivan is right. I am amazed by how well Evangelicals here know their Bibles, and how much it's a living part of their spiritual lives. In general, Catholics can't hold a candle to them.
The Washington Times quoted Milwaukee Auxiliary Bishop Richard J. Sklba saying, "I worry a bit about an increasingly evangelical slant" among Catholics who study the Bible. It seems clear that he was afraid Catholics were going to become like Evangelicals, and believe that they have freedom to interpret Scripture as they wish. Still, what a pathetic statement to make! I've been a faithful, massgoing, orthodox Catholic for over 11 years, and I almost never hear or have heard clear doctrinal teaching from the pulpit. If lay Catholics are drawn to the Evangelical love of Scripture, and find sustenance there, perhaps it's because our own clergy, bishops first among them, aren't giving us what is rightly ours.
Funny, but when I was 13 or so, I left my doctrinally empty mainline church for a passionate yearlong dalliance with fundamentalism. I was a devout reader of Jack Chick comics, which are, of course, virulently anti-Catholic. Years later, after losing my faith and coming to Catholicism in my mid-twenties, I chuckled over how appalled my 13-year-old self would have been by my consorting with the Whore of Babylon. Sadly--sickeningly--everything we've learned about the Church since the revelations of 2002 out of Boston has given validation to the most lurid prejudices of Chick-reading fundamentalists. So does the bishops' inability to get it right on the Bible.
"The Press ... Just Doesn't Get Religion"
That Bill Schneider quote is the motto of one of my favorite blogs, and has been on my mind a lot in the past few days. I started a big stink on the listserv of the National Conference of Editorial Writers, the professional organization for people like me, when we began to discuss possibilities of inviting religion experts to our next conference to brief us on current trends in American religion and politics--this in response to the "moral values" voters and the 2004 elections.
Some of the editorial writers suggested inviting Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who haven't really mattered in a serious way to US politics for a decade or so. One suggested inviting Daniel Berrigan, the radical Jesuit who was a fringe player 30 or 40 years ago. The writer who suggested Berrigan was clearly angry over religious conservatives, and wanted to spite them. Another writer suggested bringing in John DiIulio, who might be a good choice, but not for the reason the editorialist suggested (and I paraphrase): to explain to us how "values"--the ironic quotes were his--can be exploited for political gain.
I pointed out on the list that this kind of thing is exactly what's wrong with editorial writers. It sounded like we weren't interested in hearing from thinkers who could actually tell us what we needed to know about the current religious and political landscape, but from people who would tell us what we wanted to hear. This listserv is famous for going to pieces anytime one of the few conservatives on it voices dissent, and that's what happened this time too. The discussion ended abruptly, and I was deemed the source of incivility.
See dear hearts, this is the kind of fresh, critical thinking that make the nation's editorial pages so scintillating, informative and relevant to leading public opinion. No wonder we're all losing circulation.
Kathy Shaidle started RelapsedCatholic.com in 2000, making it one of the world's oldest weblogs. Orthodox yet curiously irreverent, her blog looks at religion and pop culture from the vantage point of that rarest of creatures: a Canadian conservative.
Fr. Neuhaus: In the Zone!
I think it was every Canadian conservative's favorite atheist, Colby Cosh, who observed forlornly:
"Sometimes 'the zone' is just 'too much coffee.'" Whatever Fr. Richard Neuhaus has been drinking lately, I pray he keeps it up; his long form musings in "First Things" have displayed even higher-than-usual levels of pitch perfect prickliness in recent months.
To take just one example: you can almost hear him dismissing Barbara "Poor People Aren't Smart Enough To Know They're Stupid" Ehrenreich with a finger snap, and really: who deserves it more?
Earlier this year, in the New York Times, Ehrenreich wrote about her two abortions with something approaching stubborn pride. Neuhaus winds up his takedown:
"Sure it1s unfair, but, then, life is unfair. The children died in the cause of giving the public Barbara Ehrenreich and giving Barbara Ehrenreich some really neat advantages. Do these women know what it1s like to live in a grubby lower-middle-class world with a husband who works in a warehouse? Barbara Ehrenreich should feel guilty about what she did? Get real, ladies."
(PS: Being "just a dollar an hour freelancer"--one excuse Ehrenreich serves up for her decision to abort--sounds darned impressive to me. A U.S. dollar!? Twenty years ago?! Sheesh. America is wasted on some people.)
When Televangelists Attack!
"It's Tough Love time bucko! Jonathan Bell says we're stupid, Pastor Don Caviness says we're little sissies, Arnold Murray says our future's all tied up in the number 153 and WV Grant explains why Jews can cheat on their wives and still be blessed!"
Tune in for the righteously funny clip show at DoorTV.
Will the Real Intolerant Bigots Please Stand Up?
Toronto Sun columnist Michael Coren introduces us to a few of his friends from the Christian Right. Folks like the Burmans:
"The Burmans lead their church mission to the inner city. They never discuss Jesus unless asked, but they do work with alcoholics, drug addicts and the abused. Both Dean and Cindy Burman have been physically attacked in their work, but they wouldn't abandon their friends for anything. They voted for Bush."
"The Christian Right. Some are saints, some are the contrary. They can be intolerant and annoying. Just like, in fact, The Secular Left.
"But we all have a right and a responsibility to have an influence over our political system. How outrageous that the smug and powerful encourage one group but despise the other.
"Thing is, Jean, Dean, Cindy and Rick will forgive them. Perhaps it's this that makes them so very angry."
Meanwhile, over at The American Spectator, George Neumayr proposes "a new strategy for the Democrats: What if they treated Christians as respectfully as they treated Yasser Arafat?"
Paging Dr. Mengele--I mean, Dr. Kinsey
The mainstream media is raving about "Kinsey," and why wouldn't they? The film glorifies the man whose dubious "research" gave us the now-debunked statistic that "10% of the population is homosexual", among other ridiculous yet politically useful "facts".
Not everyone shares their enthusiasm. At ChristianityToday.com, Jeffery Overstreet rounds up the reaction from conservative Christians:
"Robert Knight of Concerned Women for America says Kinsey deserves a place in history next to 'Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele or your average Hollywood horror flick mad scientist'" and "adds that the film 'ignores the massive fraud, Kinsey's sado-masochistic practices, and barely touches on his use of data on children in sex experiments.'"
Plus: "Family Research Council has produced a documentary about the children who were abused in Kinsey's experiments. It's called 'The Children of Table 34.' Focus on the Family has organized a page listing other valuable resources in exposing the things that the film Kinsey covers up. Another group, Generation Life, declared that it would have picketers ready at screenings of the film."
Pickets are tired and patently counterproductive, but I'm heartened to see the Family Research Council doing something I've advocated for years: if Christians really want a seat at the cultural "grown up table", they should forget boycotting other peoples movies, and start making their own.
Starting tomorrow, Loose Canon is off for two weeks to finish a book that is long overdue. Filling in for me will be such an all-star cast that I'm almost afraid to leave. Holding the fort as LC is holed up in her apartment are the some of the best and brightest of the blogsphere. They are (in no particular order) Kathy Shaidle, who is best-known as Relapsed Catholic; Amy Welborn of Open Book; Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News and formerly of National Review; Charlotte Allen, author and my colleague at the Independent Women's Forum; Dom Bettinelli; Jeremy Lott, Mark Shea, and Barbara Nicolosi. Please, mini-board posters, be nice!
Bishops As Usual
The U.S. Catholic Conference has just elected a new president, Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, making him one of the most important and visible churchmen in the U.S. The AP reports that Skylstad "has released the names of priests accused of molesting children and reached out to victims but who also plans to seek bankruptcy protection for his diocese because of abuse claims."
Loose Canon cannot report overwhelming rejoicing in her circles. Catholic World News notes that ...
"The first-ballot selection of Bishop Skylstad represents a vote against any major change in the operation of the US bishops' conference. In several successive elections, the USCCB has chosen the incumbent vice-president to assume the presidency. Bishop Skylstad's move into the top leadership position was not deterred by rumblings of dissatisfaction with the workings of the bishops' conference. In casting the ballots, the American bishops were also evidently unaffected by reports that the Spokane diocese will soon file for bankruptcy."
Also less than thrilled with the selection of Skylstad is Dom Bettinelli, who says the election means that "help is not on the way." But His Excellency definitely has a gift for understatement. As Dom notes, when a predecessor, the late Bishop Lawrence Walsh, was named in a police report for having tried to strangle a male prostitute, Bishop Skystad responded, "Obviously, he had a very serious drinking problem. Certainly, it's very sad behavior associated with that drinking. That would be my observation."
I had not seen John Leo's column when I blogged on sexologist Alfred Kinsey, subject of a new movie.
"Outraged critics of Kinsey often focus on Table 34 of the male book," writes Leo. "It lists the sexual responses of children acquired from one of Kinsey's sources, a pedophile who kept detailed records of his child rapes, including those of a baby of 5 months and a 4-year-old he sexually manipulated for 24 hours. As a nonjudgmental person, Kinsey of course did not bother turning the pedophile over to the law. His critics accuse Kinsey of 'Mengele medicine,' meaning that he presided over Nazi-like experiments. Not so. We have no evidence that Kinsey and his team conducted or approved of any child rapes. He just used the records of pedophiles, coldly described in the first Kinsey report as males who 'with their adult backgrounds are able to recognize and interpret the boys' experiences.' Table 34 was a moral horror, and neither Kinsey nor his patron, the Rockefeller Foundation, seemed to think that anything was amiss.
"Table 34 set the stage for what has become dogma in the sex world: All humans are sexual from birth, and since children are sexual, they should be expected to behave sexually. Does this mean that children should be able to have sex with adults? Kinsey didn't say, but he wrote that the psychic damage to children who have sex with adults comes from the horrified reaction of adults, not from the sex itself. That opinion, a very large bone tossed to advocates of adult-child sex, has become a mantra in the sex world. Some who promote the mantra are sincere--a show of horror by parents of an abused child may indeed make matters worse. But many are advocates of adult-child sex hiding behind a pro-child argument. In my Time days, the air was so thick with sex-world arguments in favor of incest and adult-child sex that I threw a lot of them together in a one-page report. The list included a defense of incest by Wardell Pomeroy, a coauthor of the Kinsey reports. Now that people are once again chattering about Kinsey's legacy, I hope across-the-board nonjudgmentalism and adult-child sex come up for discussion."
It Takes a Universe
Loose Canon must admit having a soft spot for stories by scientists/existentialist philosophers who come to believe in God through using their noggins. ABC's longtime medical editor Tim Johnson is the latest and he's written a book titled "Finding God in the Questions."
Christianity Today has a new piece on Dr. Johnson's discovery:
"Our apparently insignificant place in the universe turns out to be quite ideal for the development of our species," [Johnson] adds. "In fact, contemporary science is telling us that it takes a universe as large and as long in the making as ours to allow for the development of the precise conditions necessary for life such as ours."Dr. Johnson isn't the only media figure to find God lately. Disgraced New York Times reporter Jayson Blair tells New York Post media reporter Keith Kelly that he, too, has found God (Headline: "The Blair Switch Project"). "I believe there is a better purpose for me, that there is something else I'm supposed to be doing," Blair told Kelly. "I don't think it is journalism."
That's probably just as well as it would take an act of God to get him a job at any newspaper in America. Oh, and don't forget Blair's memoir:
"Blair gives talks in the Virginia area four or five times a month, where he discusses his memoir, 'Burning Down My Master's House.' The book, which hit stores in May, sold poorly before the publisher, New Millennium, declared bankruptcy. He's trying to get the paperback rights back, he said, so he can reissue it and correct some of the mistakes."
(Via Relapsed Catholic)
Arnaud de Borchgrave, one of the last of the swashbuckling foreign correspondents, chillingly suggests that the death of filmmaker Theo van Gogh and its aftermath are just the beginning of a conflict of civilizations that will take place in Europe:
"Europe's largest mosque is in Rotterdam, which is also Europe's busiest port. Half the people there are of foreign origin. Unemployment among the Muslims is high. And the Dutch live-and-let-live permissiveness made this nation, a quarter of it below sea level and protected by 1,500 dikes, ideal breeding grounds for Muslim fundamentalism and the kind of extremism that spawned one of Osama bin Laden's European fan clubs. But for years the government was in denial about Islamist extremism in what is otherwise a well-managed society.
"Dutch Muslims, repelled by the freewheeling lifestyle, sought solace with radical imams in the mosques. There men outnumber women. And women are relegated to a part of the mosque where they can be neither seen nor heard. ..."
For Once, Reform Would be the Right Word
On the evening news, departures from the CIA are reported with such solemnity you'd think they'd left in tumbrels. But these departures are long overdue, according to Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute: "It was widely reported that the CIA had not a single human agent in Iraq as of Sept. 11, 2001. That alone shows the magnitude of the failure of those people now leaking and whining as they finally leave," writes Ledeen.
The Weekly Standard has a more in-depth look at what's behing the agency's beef with new director Porter Goss and the President.
Nat Hentoff Rows the Boat Ashore
"Of all the targets of vitriol and attempted ambushes during the presidential campaign, I most admired John O'Neill of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth for his calm determination to stand his ground on his charges against John Kerry's Vietnam service in Unfit for Command, the book he co-authored," writes the Village Voice's bravest columnist alive, Nat Hentoff, in a must-read column.
The Blue States: Embracing Dr. Strangelove?
If "The Passion" was red and "Faherenheit 9/11" was blue, "Kinsey", the new flick about the sexologist Alfred Kinsey, played by the sexy Liam Neeson, is really, really blue. As a charter member of the Give Them Enough Rope Club, Loose Canon sincerely wishes that various religious groups would rethink plans to picket the movie. Nothing sells tickets in the blue states like a bunch of Catholics saying the rosary at the box office.
But I'm all for sharing interesting tidbits about and intriguing insights into Dr. K's life work. Blue state libertines might worship Dr. Kinsey for having given them all sorts of permission slips, but Robert Knight of Concerned Women of America prefers to compare Dr. Kinsey to Dr. Mengele, the Nazi doctor:
"Instead of being lionized, Kinsey's proper place is with Nazi doctor Josef Mengele or your average Hollywood horror flick mad scientist," Robert Knight of Concerned Women of America's Culture & Family Institute tells Life News.
Knight adds that Kinsey was "a sexual revolutionary masquerading as an objective scientist."
Meanwhile, the Agape Press reports:
"Lisa Wheeler, associate editor of Catholic Exchange, says her group believes there are many facts about the author of the highly-touted Kinsey Report that the public needs to know. 'We feel that the film is going to distort the truth about Alfred Kinsey,' she says. 'He wasn't an expert. He was a zoologist.'
"Wheeler does not understand how a zoologist can 'one day wake up and decide that he is going to document and provide clinical analysis on the way people are supposed to respond to each other in a sexual way,' she says, 'and then the country just embraces that. The film doesn't tell the truth about that.'"
"According to scientific fraud specialist Dr. Walter Stewart of the National Research Council, evidence of problems in Kinsey's research is 'compelling.... disturbing...and requires investigation,'" says the Family Research Council.
"Kinsey, Sex, and Fraud: The Indoctrination of a People" is the big debunker of the Kinsey myth. I haven't read it, but I plan to see the movie. I bet it's not as funny as "Fahrenheit."
Wacky Evangelicals: They Really Believe this Stuff
Head-scratching San Francisco Archbishop William Leveda reflects on weird evangelicals in an interview with John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter: "These are people acting out of their own sense of the missionary apostolate. They are not people touched by the vision of ecumenism. They are convinced that Catholics are going to Hell and need to be saved, so they reach out to them."
(Thanks to feisty blogger Diogenes for calling this to my attention.)
Maureen Dowd: Doesn't Quite Deny Report That She Has Horns
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd alludes to LC's favorite Democrat Zell Miller's remark that "Maureen Loud" has little red horns sprouting on head--but you'll note she doesn't quite deny it:
"I'm getting more the feel of a vengeful mob--revved up by rectitude--running around with torches and hatchets after heathens and pagans and infidels.
"One fiery Southern senator actually accused a nice Catholic columnist of having horns coming up out of her head!"
In a Sunday column urging blue staters not to go completely mad over Bush's re-election, Washington Post veteran political reporter David Broder singles out Ms. Dowd:
"The always diverting Maureen Dowd of the New York Times suggested the other day that 'the forces of darkness' are taking over the country. The voters' confirmation of Republican-led government brings with it 'a scary, paranoid, regressive reality,' Dowd said, with 'strains of isolationism, nativism, chauvinism, puritanism and religious fanaticism.' After a campaign of 'blatant distortions and character assassination,' Republicans have returned to Washington bent on 'messing with our psyches' and punishing 'society's most vulnerable: the poor, the sick, the sexually different.'
"I know that many agree with that view. But before throwing yourself over a cliff or emigrating to Sweden, consider a couple of things...."
Is "diverting" the gentlemanly Mr. Broder's way of saying out of her mind? Just asking.
Democrats: Trying to Come to Jesus
In the wake of the election, Democrats are trying to learn how to talk about their deeply-held religious beliefs. Columnist Kathleen Parker says it reminds her of a scene in a movie:
"As this discussion evolves, I keep associating to that memorable scene from 'When Harry Met Sally' when Meg Ryan, sitting in a deli, convincingly fakes That Very Special Moment to prove that women can and do fake their lovemaking satisfaction. Co-star Billy Crystal is duly impressed, as is an older woman sitting nearby, who tells her waitress: 'I'll have what she's having.'
"The Democrats apparently have decided they'll have what Bush has been having. I half expect to see aspiring Democratic presidential candidates showing up at Promise Keepers conventions, high-fiving for Jesus, and photo-oping with little Baptist blue-hairs on their way to Wednesday-night prayer meeting."
Baptist. Jewish. Whatever
But the blue staters and their minions in the media are having a hard time learning the lingo-and we all look alike to them. Powerline mentions Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank's description of Dennis Prager, one of the right's best-known Jewish commentators, as a Christian.
"The fact that Dennis Prager is a Jew who has worked hard (and successfully) to build bridges between Jewish and Christian conservatives is not exactly a closely guarded secret. This is a good illustration of how far out of the mainstream the 'mainstream' media are. They take seriously little-known fruitcakes like Larry O'Donnell, while at the same time, they are entirely unaware of serious, thoughtful commentators like Dennis Prager, who influence millions of Americans."
The Angry White Redneck?
Loose Canon almost always agrees with Charles Krauthammer. But today I don't. While LC believes that the issue of gay "marriage" was the sleeper that helped catapult the president into a second term, Krauthammer says that "the great anti-gay surge was pure fiction."
The values voter--whether real as LC believes, or fictional as CK believes--is really, really scary to Swami and his friends. Writes Krauthammer:
"This does not deter the myth of the Bigoted Christian Redneck from dominating the thinking of liberals and infecting the blue-state media. They need their moral superiority like oxygen, and they cannot have it cut off by mere facts. Once again they angrily claim the moral high ground, while standing in the ruins of yet another humiliating electoral defeat."
Although syndicated columnist Mona Charen also plays down the values voter, she does see that the election told us something very valuable about the American people and their capacity for sacrifice."Before every recent conflict in American history," writes Mona, "the experts have warned that the American people have no stomach for sacrifice and will tolerate very few losses in battle. President Bush challenged that assumption. He asked the American people to support not just a punishment raid on Afghanistan, but a far-reaching war on terror that would include overthrowing one of the terror masters -- the monster Saddam Hussein."
"The Arafat Lady Sings"
"In a statement on Arafat's death, the Vatican sounded as if it were speaking of Mother Teresa," writes Cal Thomas. Yeah, it's disappointing. Even less surprising, though, was Jimmy Carter's predictable encomium ("Casting a Vote for Peace") on his fellow Nobel laureate. Carter admits that it could be "frustrating" to deal with Arafat. It was even more frustrating if one was standing in the way of an oncoming suicide bomber. As always, the New York Post, cutting through the sanctimony, had the last word--a cover picture of Suha Arafat with the caption "The Arafat Lady Sings: Rich Widow's Farewell."
Lint Me Your Ears
"Would you take Communion from [the veddy liberal Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A.] Frank Griswold?" asks Classical Anglican Net News. Showing that not all Episcopalians have lost their minds, 14.89 percent of the respondents replied, "Would rather attend navel-lint club." This wonderful site, which posts the daily readings for Morning and Evening Prayer (from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer), is having financial problems. Consider logging on and sending them some money. In other Episcopal Church news, two priests in Pennsylvania have publicly apologized for being pagans.
What's Catholic for Augean Stable?
Most sins are done in the dark. That's why it continues to shock me that the bishops of the Catholic Church seem not to want the full nature of the sexual scandals to go public.
The latest is that the chairman of a panel created by Archbishop William Levada in San Fran to prove allegations of child abuse has resigned. Here's the scoop:
"James Jenkins, one of six members of the Independent Review Board and its chairman until last December, said Archbishop William Levada has blocked the release of the panel's findings on sexual-abuse allegations involving 40 priests.
"At least nine of those priests have agreed to refrain from 'public ministry,' the archdiocese said Thursday without identifying them.
"'There has been no public acknowledgement that these accusations were made and whether they were sustained or not sustained,' Jenkins said in an interview.
"In his resignation letter to Levada, Jenkins said the archdiocese panel could soon be reduced to 'an elaborate public relations scheme.'' He said he doubts the church could restore public trust 'given its present leadership and the state of its corruption.'''(Many thanks to Amy Welborn for spotting this dispatch.)
Out of Africa
The future of Christianity may lie with the orthodox Africans. Archbishop Amedee Grab says the godless EU constitution means it's time to send in the missionaries.
Forget the blood of Saint Januarius, said to have liquefied miraculously in its vial. E-bay is offering an unusual new relic: an image of the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich. The owner writes:
"This is an ordinary real grilled cheese sandwich that I made about 10 years ago. I went to take a bit [sic] out of it and the "Virgin Mary" was looking back at me... I feel she want to bless people that she touches."
God Bless Those Who Serve
Veterans Day has a special poignancy today. We must be grateful today to people like Jan Strand, the mother of two U.S. Marines, one of whom is now at Fallujah. "Some days are good. Some days are not so good," she tells the Chicago Tribune. "They have a mission. They're going to accomplish it, and I have this sense that he's going to be OK. Every so often, though, your heart jumps in your throat."
John Kass, the journalist who spoke to Ms. Strand, tells how the interview happened:
"A few days ago, she wrote me and wanted to talk. [Lance Cp. Ryan Smith, her older son] had called her, and by his voice but not his words she figured he might be going to Fallujah, to hunt the terrorists, the decapitators of Americans, the people we in the media call 'insurgents.'
"'We all want our children home. But I just want people out there to think about this mission in Fallujah,' she said. 'I think it needs to be done. I don't care what anybody says. I don't care if they think we should be there or not. It's too late for that. Let's do it right so we don't have to go back. Let them do it right. Thank God the people there believe in what they're doing. You wouldn't know that from some of the media. But they see themselves as doing good.'"
The New York Post salutes our young soldiers of many wars, including the present one.
Relapsed Catholic prints the haunting words to "Flanders Field," the great poem about those who died in First World War. She also links to a moving story on CBC News that starts like this:
"On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Canadians are asked to pause and remember the thousands of men and women who sacrificed their lives fighting for freedom and democracy during the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War and during peacekeeping missions."
Death of a Terrorist
Unlike the countless victims of the modern terrorism he helped create, Yasser Arafat died in a hospital bed in Paris. Yes, there was some comic scrambling about to find Arafat's numbered Swiss bank accounts and the announcements that he was dead, no not dead, yes dead, but all and all it was a far better exit than Arafat deserved.
"In a just world, the PLO chief would have met his end on a gallows, hanged for mass murder much as the Nazi chiefs were hanged at Nuremberg," writes Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe. "In a better world, the French president would not have paid a visit to the bedside of such a monster. In a better world, George Bush would not have said, on hearing the first reports that Arafat had died, "God bless his soul."
The Telegraph obituary is far too nice--the headline is "Hero or Terrorist?"--but informative and, like many English obits, quite a good read. The Telegraph also has a picture gallery, misleadingly headlined "From Fighter to Leader"--but the pictures do capture the essence of Arafat.
Several people on the mini-boards have complained that my attitude towards Arafat is not Christian. I should be sorrowing for an ill-spent life. Of course, I would rather Arafat have been a great leader of the Palestinian people. But he wasn't. I feel no inclination to close my eyes to the truth about Arafat. I'm disgusted that the French gave him full military honors, but par for the course, n'est-ce pas? I am also sorry that the Pope is so sorry about the loss of Arafat.
And before you get too misty eyed about Arafat, Powerlineblog has a great post on Arafat as the godfather of the terrorist war against the United States:
"Some date the beginning of the terrorist war against the United States to the seizure of 67 American hostages at the American Embassy in Tehran by the followers of Ayatollah Khomeni in November 1979 or to the bombing of the barracks in Beirut by Hezbollah that killed 241 Marines in October 1983.
"Yasser Arafat, however, is the true father of this war. First Arafat created Black September as an offshoot of his Fatah organization. He presided over the operation resulting in the massacre of the Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich by Black September in 1972. The following year Arafat became the first Arab terrorist to target Americans."
Will Arafat's death bring a new chance for peace? I fervently hope so, but I wish I could be more optimistic. "Rarely in history has a political movement been so deliberately set by its founder on a course towards chaos," writes Arafat biographer Barry Rubin. "Arafat not only left no successor, but also no order. Over the decades, the movement has developed a political culture of indiscipline. Arafat presided over a sort of anarchy, encouraging rivalries, undermining other potential leaders, and ensuring that all authority (and money) ran through his hands."
Mock on, Mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau...
I somehow missed yesterday's piece in the Wall Street Journal by Rocco Buttiglione, the Italian leader who, under enormous pressure, withdrew his bid to become an EU commissioner. It was because of his outspoken adherence to his religion--he's a Catholic.
When I saw the subhead to Buttiglione's piece--"Unlike America's, Europe's political establishment is hostile to religion"--I thought, this guy is nuts. But I've been reading too many of the outpourings of the demented blue staters who believe that GWB is going to establish a theocracy. Buttiglione is not only right, he has some interesting observations about why the Europe and America are so different when it comes to religion:
"One of America's founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, was convinced that politics needed values it could not produce itself and had to rely on other agencies (mainly the churches) to nurture the virtues civil life needs. The state could therefore not privilege any church in particular but had to maintain a positive attitude to religion in general.
"Jean Jacques Rousseau thought, on the contrary, that the state needed a kind of civil religion of its own and the existing churches had to bow to this civil religion by incorporating its commandments in their theology. Many scholars see in this idea of Rousseau's the seminal principle of totalitarianism. The tradition of Rousseau and of the Jacobins has survived in Europe in less virulent forms than in the not too distant past, but it's still part of the European political and ideological landscape."
For you highfalutin blue staters who don't know the difference between St. Paul and Tertullian, the headline on this blog item comes from a William Blake poem. Here's another stanza--just for your edification:
"The Atoms of Democritus
And Newtons Particles of light
Are sands upon the Red sea shore
Where Israels tents do shine so bright."
AG for AG?
As much as I love Rudy Giuliani, I couldn't vote for him for President. He's a pro-choice Catholic. Attorney General is a lesser office, however, and I find Alberto Gonzales, who seems to be less than a hundred percent on issues important to pro-lifers, an appealing choice. (If initial reports that he's not great on pro-life issues are true, I would not want him to be on the Supreme Court. See "Why I Would Not Vote for Giuliani for President.")
Gonzales has a powerful story--he's the son of migrants who, if confirmed, will be the first Hispanic A.G. But I do think that pro-lifers, who contributed handily to Bush's victory, must be listened to. Some aren't pushovers like old Loose Canon. See herea for an alternative view of the Gonzales nomination.
Give Until You're Blue in the Face
Did you know that there's a state-by-state ranking of charitable giving? It's called the "generosity index" and it's compiled by the Catalogue for Philanthropy. Columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin explains how they do it:
"It is computed by taking each state's average income and average charitable contribution, then subtracting the second rank from the first to get a single number for each state."
Malkin has done something very interesting-she's adapted the table to show the 2004 election results, "by state, ranked for generosity." Do look at the sea of red. "Keep scrolling until you come to a blue state," says Powerlineblog.
Poor losers. Uncharitable. What will it be next?
Why Bush's Victory is a Win for Secularism
Hats off to Loose Canon's favorite atheist, Christopher "Hell Bound" Hitchens, as we inevitably referred to the Hitch in those halcyon days when I toiled for a New York gossip column, for a brilliant column arguing that GWB's reelection is a win for secularism:
"Only one faction in American politics has found itself able to make excuses for the kind of religious fanaticism that immediately menaces us in the here and now. And that faction, I am sorry and furious to say, is the left. From the first day of the immolation of the World Trade Center, right down to the present moment, a gallery of pseudointellectuals has been willing to represent the worst face of Islam as the voice of the oppressed. How can these people bear to reread their own propaganda? Suicide murderers in Palestine--disowned and denounced by the new leader of the PLO--described as the victims of 'despair.'
"The forces of al-Qaida and the Taliban represented as misguided spokespeople for antiglobalization. The blood-maddened thugs in Iraq, who would rather bring down the roof on a suffering people than allow them to vote, pictured prettily as 'insurgents' or even, by Michael Moore, as the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers. If this is liberal secularism, I'll take a modest, God-fearing, deer-hunting Baptist from Kentucky every time, as long as he didn't want to impose his principles on me (which our Constitution forbids him to do)."
Will a Van Gogh Change Holland?
Our artists are awfully busy having conniption fits about George Bush's reelection--but you'd think they'd spare more time to be angry about the murder of Dutch artist Theo van Gogh, who was slain by Islamic extremists.
"It's stunning how silent the American artistic community, Hollywood in particular, has been about [van Gogh's murder]," writes blogger Roger L. Simon.
The Dutch are among the most liberal people on earth, but a piece in the Telegraph suggests that van Gogh's murder might be a wake-up call:
"Unlike his great, great, great uncle Vincent, Theo van Gogh was not a genius. Was he really an artist at all? But van Gogh's murder has proved him right about the hard-line Islamists. Their ideology is inimical to all that the Dutch hold dear. Last night, as van Gogh's cremation was seen on television, the tension was palpable. Holland is now the crucible of Europe. Not even the most tolerant people on earth can tolerate the Islamists."
(Thanks to Relapsed Catholic for noticing the intriguing Telegraph piece.)
A Patriot Steps Down
Except for the president himself, nobody has taken more abuse from the snobbocracy than Attorney General John Ashcroft, who has announced his resignation. (Here's a Blue York Times report on the resignation.) Thank you, Mr. Attorney General, for making us safe while we slept. When Ashcroft was appointed, Roger L. Simon--yes, I'm linking to him twice today--thought it was further proof that GWB was a chimp, but that's not how he sees it now:
"...Ashcroft, whatever his indiosyncracies, his prudish desire not to be photographed with nude statues, etc., was fully aware of one of Jesus' greatest teachings - render unto Casear what is Caesar's - and behaved accordingly. Nothing remotely happened during his tenure to dispute this. We owe Ashcroft a debt of gratitude for his service during exceptionally difficult times."
The New York Post also gives Ashcroft a nice sendoff in today's paper.
A Front Row Seat in Hell?
I must chastise Swami's blue state pal Jerry Rosen, the retired violinist who penned an open letter to us red state ignoramuses, transmitted yesterday via the Swamster. "I can't blame you if your pleasure in victory is enhanced by your knowledge of my misery in defeat," Mr. Rosen whined. "Observing the torment of those condemned to hell only augments the bliss of the saved. Didn't Paul, or was it the Revelations of John, say something like that?"
Hey, Mr. Blue State, brush up on your history. Neither Paul nor John ever said anything remotely like that. The famous quote about enjoying watching the pains of the damned comes from Tertullian, a second-century convert to Christianity. Ultimately Tertullian was excommunicated--or, as a character in a Walker Percy novel puts it, "We kicked his ass out." It ain't how I'm supposed to feel, I know, but, wherever Tertullian is, I hope he knows: LC's having a hot old time watching those damned liberals writhe in silliness. Mr. Rosen, for my fallen nature, you got that much right.
But in a way, it's not funny at all. As Tony Blankley points out today, "never before in my memory--which goes back faintly to 1956--has either party in its loss reacted with such venomous contempt for the American people."
Speaking of venomous contempt for the American people (or the ones who don't live in the blue states), Geraldine Ferraro epitomized it in an interview that my friend Lucianne posts today: "You know what? Just let me make one point. You were talking about the map before. If indeed all those blue states all got together and seceded from the union, think what would be left for those red states, nothing. There would be no educational system. You would have nothing. What would be left to you? I mean, where is all of this talent in this country? It's on both sides, the Northeast corridor." It must be hell to look at other people like that.
No Tears for Yasser Arafat
As Yasser Arafat lies dying, or perhaps dead, and while his greedy wife and closest associates scramble for access to his numbered Swiss bank accounts, PLO Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath tells the Washington Post: "His brain, his heart and his lungs are still functioning and he is alive."
I don't know about the brains and lungs, but Arafat's heart, if he ever had one, has been dead a long time. Please have the decency to be shocked that, while the majority of Palestinians live in poverty, Arafat's wife Suha collects $100,000 a month from Palestinian coffers.
Arafat is a man who goes to meet his Maker with an untold amount of blood on his hands. My friend Barry Rubin, who with his wife Judith Colp Rubin, wrote a biography of Arafat, has pointed out Arafat's romance with violence: "In each phase of his life," Barry has written, "Arafat has ended up destroying his own position because of the belief that violence always benefits his cause, the conviction that he doesn't have to implement his agreements, and the use of extremist front groups to commit violence for which he can disclaim responsibility." Needless to say, in destroying his own position, he has destroyed the lives of Jews and Palestinians too numerous to count.
"Don't expect too many tears on the street of the West Bank and Gaza when Arafat dies," Ami Ayalon, head of People's Voice, a peace initiative, writes in the Jewish newspaper Ha'aretz. Still, the aftermath of Arafat has the potential for fresh horror: "Hamas, which has been sluicing through Palestinian hearts during the past four years of bloodshed, is eager to fill the void left in Arafat's wake," writes Ayalon. Ayalon, however, does see an opportunity for real change for the better, if Israelis to reach out to Palestinian pragmatists.
Swami epitomizes the Uptown mindset. Even so, I have to admit I was shocked when he quoted yesterday from novelist Jane Smiley's post-election rant in Slate:
"The election results reflect the decision of the right wing to cultivate and exploit ignorance in the citizenry. I suppose the good news is that 55 million Americans have evaded the ignorance-inducing machine. But 58 million have not. (Well, almost 58 million--my relatives are not ignorant, they are just greedy and full of classic Republican feelings of superiority.)"
Smiley's tantrum also includes this:
"Ignorance and bloodlust have a long tradition in the United States, especially in the red states. There used to be a kind of hand-to-hand fight on the frontier called a 'knock-down-drag-out,' where any kind of gouging, biting, or maiming was considered fair. The ancestors of today's red-state voters used to stand around cheering and betting on these fights..."
If you want to know why Kerry lost, it's because of Smiley's people, the people who supported him because basically they spurn the average American. I won't impugn Ms. Smiley's patriotism, but it sure sounds as if she hates America.
Just to give Smiley's people heartburn, I want to mention Jim Webb's book "Born Fighting," a history of the Scotch Irish, in connection with something another novelist, Tom Wolfe, who doesn't take a Smiley's people view of them, had to say about the election. (Many thanks to Instapundit for tipping me off to the Wolfe piece.)
Dallas Morning News columnist Rod Dreher is also plumb shocked by the way liberals see their fellow Americans:
"[L]iberals are shrieking that unwashed hordes of Shi'ite Baptists and the Taliban Catholics have raised the curtain on a new Dark Age (no kidding, Garry Wills wrote exactly this in The New York Times). 'Conversations yesterday suggested despondency among Democrats unequaled in contemporary times,' wrote Wall Street Journal liberal Al Hunt. A friend even wrote comparing this election to the 1933 burning of the Reichstag in Berlin, which brought in the era of Nazi dictatorship.
"I know it feels good to think this way, but it has exactly nothing to do with reality. As I was dropping my kid off at his church school kindergarten one morning last week, a minivan-driving mom and I talked about the election, and she said, 'They really do think we're all a bunch of religious extremists, don't they?'"
Yes, they do.
The Un-Jane Smiley Novelist
Speaking of Tom Wolfe, Mr. Wolfe has a new book out, "I Am Charlotte Simmons," about "hooking up" and other aspects of campus life on a fictional Ivy League university.
Wolfe is the un-Jane Smiley novelist and his new book sounds just as dandy as the author's wardrobe. But a lot of people--Smiley's people, no doubt--seem not to "get" Mr. Wolfe. My colleague Charlotte Allen has some well taken remarks about the response to Charlotte Simmons:
"The intellectuals don't get why their candidate John 'Hari' Kerry tanked so badly a week ago at the ballot boxes. And now come the same bunch of smarter-than-thou folks who don't get why Tom Wolfe's 'I Am Charlotte Simmons,' his 676-page new novel about college life, is now No. 2 on the Amazon best-seller list.
"The reviewers, many of whom hail from the groves of academe that Wolfe satirizes, are nearly uniformly holding up their noses at the book--because its theme is the undergraduate 'hooking up' culture of rampant, drink-addled casual sex, and they don't understand why anyone would want to make fun of that. ..."
Loose Canon confessed to being "stunned" that so many liberal hysterics believe we're on the verge of a theocracy. Canny Beliefnet member hermesloin replies, "LC is stunned that we've all realized a theocracy just took control of our government? I highly doubt that she's stunned at all." Oh, durn, busted.
Yes, I'll be very busy in the coming scary theocracy. In addition to conducting theocratic reeducation camp--Swami, you're signed up for round the clock screenings of "The Passion"--I am going to be establishing a new organization for disgruntled Democrats: Growup.org.
There's something blowin' in the wind--your gray locks and sixties ideology. The first step to growing up is the realization that the dominant philosophies of that low dishonest decade known as the sixties were like really immature.
There was a great piece in Friday's Wall Street Journal by Daniel Henninger on the Peter Pan/boomer generation:
"The most notable phenomenon of the 2004 election was widespread liberal 'hatred' of George Bush. Many wondered what sleeping volcano brought this lava to the surface. It came from the style of protest politics born in the 1960s. A famous liberal political phrase then was 'the personal is political.' Letting oneself become emotionally unhinged during a protest, as at Columbia, Harvard and Berkeley, became a litmus of authenticity. ..."
Are you also afraid? Here another thought from Henninger:
"Another phrase heard often in the campaign just ended was, 'I'm frightened.' Admiration for childlike fears in politics received approval in 1970 from Charles Reich's bestseller 'The Greening of America,' a paean to youth and 'a new and liberated individual.' Reich's book, by the way, also popularized the notion then that something called the 'Corporate State' was blotting out the Aquarian sunshine. This is the mindset that just produced the Democrats' weird obsession with 'Halliburton,' as if anyone would care beyond the people who were long ago baptized into the blue faith."
Another step to attaining maturity is realizing that those who don't share your idiotic opinions aren't morons. As columnist Mark Steyn explains: "H. L. Mencken said that no one ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American people. Well, George Soros, Barbra Streisand and a lot of their friends just did: The Kerry campaign and its supporters--MoveOn.org, Rock The Vote, etc.--were awash in bazillions of dollars, and what have they got to show for it? In this election, the plebs were more mature than the elites."
No pain, no gain: The most painful part of attaining maturity for many of you may well be adjusting your image of what Christians are like. Yes, I know I am scary, but many Christians are perfectly nice--and, boy, do they ever like to vote! The left got all excited by the long lines of early voters, but, as a piece headlined "God Bless America for Dropping the Dead Donkey" in the Scotsman on Sunday points out...
"They were mostly Christians; but they were not, for the most part, bible-thumping disciples of white-suited tele-evangelists - at least not in the states that crucially mattered. They were ordinary, church-going husbands and wives, mild in their manner but firm in their convictions. In 2000, when it was "the economy, stupid", no fewer than four million of them abstained. This time, they came out. "And no wonder they did. The East Coast and Californian liberals had made a science of provocation. ..."
The Neo-Secessionists: Will You Please Take Alec Baldwin with You?
The Sunday New York Times captured the mood of Hollywood in a piece headlined "The Gurus of What's in Wonder if They're Out."
Here's what guru Lawrence O'Donnell said:
"'There's a mournfulness going on - people are talking about secession, and they're not completely joking,' said Lawrence O'Donnell, a writer on "The West Wing" and a political commentator. 'The intensity of disappointment is so enormous. I haven't experienced or witnessed anything like it since 1972,' when George McGovern lost to Richard Nixon."
A Matter of Faith
The Democrats got religion in the waning weeks of the campaign. Why didn't it help them more? Kate O'Beirne, writing yesterday in the Washington Post, hit the nail on the head:
"Kerry glibly declared in the final debate, 'My faith affects everything I do and choose... And I think that everything you do in public life has to be guided by your faith, affected by your faith, but without transferring it in any official way to other people.' Had Bush made such a declaration, it would have signaled to liberals an underlying intention to usher in a theocracy; but secularists were unconcerned about Kerry's pledge because they knew he didn't mean it."
A columnist for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette wonders if conservative Christians' unwillingness to take it anymore was a factor in Bush's victory:
"After the election my e-mail inbox contained several rueful but hilarious gags from disappointed Bush-bashers, including the accompanying post-election map of a North America divided into the 'United States of Canada' and 'Jesusland.'
"As someone who was doubly inoculated against evangelical Protestantism -- by a Roman Catholic childhood and college religion courses taught by liberal Protestants -- I will be the first to concede that adherents of the Gospel According to George W. are often described in insulting and stereotypical terms. Actually, I'm not the first -- lots of 'liberal' commentators have examined their consciences about the temptation to caricature religious conservatives."
Europe is Even Worse
"There was an era-running roughly from the dawn of time until about three weeks ago-when Rocco Buttiglione would have been considered an adornment to any parliament or pan-European body," writes Christopher Caldwell. Buttiglione's sin is that he's a devout Catholic and part of the political right.
The notion of Buttiglione, who holds highly unpopular views on homosexuality and abortion, serving as a commissioner was just was too much for the European Commission. I would have preferred that Buttiglione steer clear of making the presumptuous assertion that AIDS is divine retribution in a 1989 article, but the rejection of the Italian philosopher nevertheless bodes ill:
"[This event] has locked the E.U.'s parliament into an adversarial relationship with the religious feelings of the people it claims to represent," writes Caldwell. "Suddenly the Catholic church in Europe has no more clout than any other pressure group. What are ACT-UP and the Pope? Two lobbies. Will those citizens who have been promised a referendum on the E.U.'s just-written constitution be happy with this new dispensation?"
Scary Theocracy Watch
Loose Canon is stunned by the strange notion that a theocracy is afoot. Even conservative Christians like LC have no desire for this, but you'd never know it from the hysterical outpourings of the left in the wake of Bush's victory.
Former Clinton insider and now a columnist at the Guardian Sidney Blumenthal finds the new Republican majority both physically ugly and theologically frightening: "Brought along with Bush is a gallery of grotesques in the Senate: more than one new senator advocates capital punishment for abortion; another urges that all gay teachers be fired; yet another is suffering from obvious symptoms of Alzheimer's. The new majority is more theocratic than Republican, as Republican was previously understood; the defeat of the old moderate Republican party is far more decisive than the loss by the Democrats. There are no checks and balances."
The Village Voice's James Ridgeway is similarly unhinged: "The dream of a secular, liberal democracy is lost: Christians are stronger than ever, and whether it's true or not, the spin will be that they played a key role in building the Bush base. The visceral, cutting edge of the Bush mandate is the attack on same-sex marriage, led by the Christian right."
Christians are stronger now (here and here and here, as well as here for Christianity Today's inimitable Ted Olsen's round-up on the subject), but that doesn't mean they--we--want to impose a theocracy. This is just plain crazy stuff. We want to advocate against abortion and gay "marriage" just as the secular left wants to advocate in favor of these two items. We want to express our values in the public arena--just as the secular left does. But nobody I know is in favor of a theocracy.
Interestingly, as Bernard Lewis points out in "What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response", the idea of the separation of Church and state is a Christian concept, developed during the early Christian era when Christians were in opposition to the Roman state. It is one of the West's greatest ideas, and Christians don't want to ditch it. But I can argue this until I'm blue in the face (which takes a lot for somebody with a red state heart), and the hysterical left will not believe me. It is too mired in anger and its own superstitions.
Gay Republicans: Not as Rare as You Might Think
According to the Washington Blade, the capital's gay newspaper, about a fourth of the nation's gay voters cast their votes for George W. Bush. In its election round-up, the paper mulls this intriguing fact:
Patrick Guerriero, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, the national gay group that chose not to endorse Bush, said he was not surprised over the size of the gay vote for Bush.
"I predicted that Bush could get as much as 30 percent of the gay vote in the middle of a war on terrorism," Guerriero said.
Gay Republican activist Carl Schmid of D.C. said he, too, wasn't surprised over the gay GOP vote.
"Obviously, gay people vote on issues other than gay issues," said Schmid. "Everyone knows who is better on gay issues. But there are other issues that people think are important." Loose Canon wonders if the gay voter turnout for Bush might signal that a sizeable portion of gays recognize that they can lead a good life in the mainstream without gay marriage. Just a thought.
Arlen the Awful
What do you do about a problem like Arlen Specter? Specter, the liberal Republican for whom the White House pulled out all the stops to help win reelection, is now saying that he didn't warn Bush that he'd oppose his Supreme Court nominees after he said he would oppose them. I guess Specter is flip-flopping on this because he wants to hang on to his now in jeopardy plum job as majority chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Loose Canon is inclined to agree with a piece on National Review that argues for depriving Specter of the chairmanship:
"[Specter's] comparison of Roe to Brown was a gratuitous and vicious insult to the bulk of his own party. Pro-lifers are not segregationists, and Specter's side of this debate is not that of human rights. Nor is Roe settled law, the way Brown is. Specter noted that the Court had reaffirmed it in the 1992 Casey decision. But Casey modified Roe in ways that Roe's author disliked. In 2000, the justices who gave us Casey were unable to agree on whether it protected partial-birth abortion. And if Roe is so settled, why does Specter feel it necessary to exert himself to defend it?
"It is one thing for Specter to believe that abortion should be unregulated. What he is saying is that the voters of no state should be allowed to act on a different view--and that he will go to the mat to block the confirmation of judges who would allow them a say. And given the incompatibility of Roe with a properly restrained view of the enterprise of judging, Specter's test would eliminate justices who are conservative on other issues as well."
Bishops: Don't Drop the Ball
Loose Canon is hoping that the Catholic bishops in the U.S. won't drop the issue of pro-choice Catholic politicians. Now, I'm not asking for the bell, book, and candle routine. But it is time to start instructing them on this. Along this line, I wanted to mention former Wall Street Journal scribe Bill McGurn's thoughts on the subject in the first Casey lecture, delivered at the Archdiocese of Denver and reprinted in National Review. The lecture is named in honor of the late Pennsylvania Bob Casey, a pro-life Democrat who was marginalized in his party because of his opposition to abortion.
McGurn talks about politicians but also the culture in which we live:
"How easy it is to blame everything on politicians blowing with the wind. Whereas the real question is, How was it this wind gathered such a head?
"That wind is what I mean to talk about tonight: the failure not just of Democratic politicians but of a Catholic culture that once contributed so richly to this party but today takes a back seat to NARAL. Republicans, to be sure, are not without their own pro-choice culture, though its character is less NARAL than a tweedy, historic Planned Parenthoodism with all the cold WASPy baggage that implies."
Eton or the Zoo?
I want to thank Arts and Letters Daily for pointing out two intriguing articles about the recent discovery of the remains of homo floresiensis, a small hominid, that was made on the Indonesian Island of Flores.
Jackson Kuhl, who writes about anthropology, explains on Tech Central Station why this is such an incredibly fascinating discovery:
"What boggles the mind is not so much the size of the 'lady of Flores' but her expiration date of 18,000 years ago; the youngest of the eight has been dated to 13,000 years ago. The fact that floresiensis's time on this Earth overlapped our own means every college textbook written on the subject of human evolution will have to be thrown out the window."
There have been two main theories on how homo sapiens evolved--the Eve hypothesis (based on DNA samples from women all over the world) and another model that suggests that homo sapiens evolved in various places but that there was enough gene-swapping to keep one group from getting ahead of another:
"Floresiensis throws in a kink in both theories. While it proves that the evolution of erectus into distinct regional forms (like Neandertals in the out-of-Africa theory) was possible, it also casts doubt on whether the 'gene swapping' of the multi-regional model or the displacement by sapiens of other hominids in the out-of-Africa scenario was as complete as the theories' authors would have us believe."
Naked Ape anthropologist Desmond Morris asks, "Are they merely advanced apes, or are they miniature humans? If an explorer brought back one of their infants to study, would you put him down for Eton or the Zoo?"
Morris, not one of my favorite thinkers, goes on to say that the discovery is causing nightmares for Christians because it is so close to us, a bridge between us and other species. There they go again, misunderstanding us. It simply doesn't matter a whit to me whether God used evolution or something else to create us. But: Eton or the zoo? You've got to admit it's a fun question. It raises the fascinating question of when we became human.
A Great Moment for America
Even though I staunchly opposed John Kerry's candidacy, I was moved by his gracious concession speech yesterday. He was simply wonderful, and he clearly wanted to bring the country together after a bitter campaign. The words that kept echoing through Loose Canon's mind were Andrew Marvell's on King Charles I on the day he (literally) lost his head--"He nothing common did or mean/ Upon that memorable scene." No, Kerry wasn't about to have his head chopped off, but conceding his lifelong dream of being president must hurt almost as much. Still, he nothing common did or mean. (Here's a nice piece how Kerry reached the painful decision to concede.)
Age of Aquarius Ends--and Not a Moment Too Soon
Despite all the fun and exuberance, the sixties were a terrible decade. But here's the good news: "The sixties ended on September 11, 2001," writes Hugh Hewitt in the Weekly Standard, "but they were interred on the morning of November 3, 2004, when a senator from Massachusetts played the reverse role of another senator from Massachusetts 44 years earlier....
"When the first JFK won, it set in motion events that would pummel America and its politics right through this just-completed campaign. The triumph of Jack Kennedy elevated style, new money, and a new elitism into the mainstream. It launched a war that would divide the country as none before--excepting the Civil War--had. It led to the credentialing of a media elite just now beginning a long overdue mass retirement. And it set in motion a swirl of cultural change that would culminate in the bipolarization of the political world into red and blue."
"The Kerry campaign was the last hurrah of the sixties values: "Scratch one of Kerry's angry supporters and you'll find one of the old guard still organizing. What is MoveOn.org and the Michael Moore crowd but SDS grown up and using video cameras instead of bullhorns...gone gray and with bad knees, but still amusing the middle class with the rhetoric of rage against the backdrop of vast comfort?"
Hewitt is optimistic about the smash-up of a Democratic Party that embodied the sixties values, seeing in the emergence of Barack Obama and Ken Salazar a new kind of Democrat who will help forge a post-sixties party. I'm not so sanguine about the future of the Democrats.
Big Fat Obnoxious Boss? Big Fat Obnoxious Media?
Loose Canon's bad moments came when she wondered how George Bush could win with Big Media and Hollywood arrayed against him. Turns out these two Goliaths weren't so powerful after all. They, even more than John Kerry, were Tuesday's big losers.
First, Hollywood. A terrific piece in the Boston Herald suggests that Kerry, far from garnering votes because of his glitzy connections, may actually have been hurt by a celebrity backlash:
"...[W]hen it came time to hit the voting booth on Tuesday, Ohioians thought Bruce Springstein was just another Big Fat Obnoxious Boss!...
"But [Emerson College Professor Gregory Payne] believes someone like 'Mr. Fahrenheit 9/11' Michael Moore, who spewed anti-Bush venom at every turn, did more damage to Kerry's campaign than Karl Rove ever hoped!
"'Someone like Moore tried to galvanize people against Bush, but in fact energized the evangelicals,' [Payne] said.
"Even P. Diddy, who started up Citizens Change, the group behind the ever-so-creative 'Vote or Die' campaign, had second thoughts about his slagging of the Commander-in-Chief.
"Apparently, P. realized, albeit a little late in the game, that yelling to the masses to get Dubya's 'ass out of office' wasn't, as his incarcerated pal Martha Stewart would say, a good thing."
And Peggy Noonan has penned a nice obituary for Big Media:
"Every time the big networks and big broadsheet national newspapers tried to pull off a bit of pro-liberal mischief--CBS and the fabricated Bush National Guard documents, the New York Times and bombgate, CBS's '60 Minutes' attempting to coordinate the breaking of bombgate on the Sunday before the election--the yeomen of the blogosphere and AM radio and the Internet took them down. It was to me a great historical development in the history of politics in America. It was Agincourt. It was the yeomen of King Harry taking down the French aristocracy with new technology and rough guts. God bless the pajama-clad yeomen of America. Some day, when America is hit again, and lines go down, and media are hard to get, these bloggers and site runners and independent Internetters of all sorts will find a way to file, and get their word out, and it will be part of the saving of our country."
Mea Culpa, Swami
In commenting yesterday on my colleague Swami's pre-election gratitude list, I said his list was composed of "45 who made a difference" in ensuring Kerry's election. Swami was actually thankful for those who "did so much, gave so generously, took time from work and family--this was the greatest mobilization of spirit since those rare weeks of kinship after 9/11." Sorry, Swami. How many Hail Marys do you want me to say?
We Are of Good Cheer
Congratulations to the Kerry campaign and the Democrats for winning the exit polls! Republicans should feel okay, too, having won the presidency, the Senate, and the House.
Swami yesterday cheered "45 who made a difference" in ensuring the Kerry victory. Loose Canon would like to comment on just a few of the more telling entries on Swami's gratitude list (but not in any particular order):
Among those who spark gratitude in the Swamster are Tina Brown, the former magazine editor whose TV show "Topic A" is a "beacon of intelligence and taste on a network known best for business news." Tina & Co. will have lots to mull over now--namely how did Bush win when nobody they know voted for him.
Swami is grateful for Andrew Sullivan, who is "exasperating, infuriating, impossible--but in the end, for reasons only his own, he was the leading Conservative for Kerry." He's no longer a conservative. It's not "reasons" of his own--it's a reason of his own. Andrew became a single-issue voter. It's a single issue on which the majority seems to disagree. See "Voters in Ten States Okay Gay Marriage Ban."
Also on Swami's gratitude list is rabidly anti-Bush billionaire George Soros. Sez Swami: "Money talks. This time, it said something profound." Yes, it did: George Soros couldn't buy the American election. Oh, and guess what walks.
Also on Swami's List: Author Howard Rheingold who is, "So far ahead of the curve he's around the next bend. Two years ago, Smart Mobs told those who were listening that kids with cell phones were.different." I'm like you can sign up all the mall rats in the world, but if they don't actually, like, vote... (Here's an Associated Press story on who voted and for whom.)
And then there's comedian Chris Rock, who made the list for saying, "I ain't afraid of Al Qaeda. I'm afraid of Al Cracker!" Note to Chris and Swami: Al Cracker votes. And he doesn't like it when you condescend to him.
Blogger Kos (Markos Moulitsas) merits this accolade: "His site was a model of clarity and sanity; if he ever slanted a single piece of information, I missed it." This prince of a guy is already advocating challenging the Ohio votes.
Of course, the first entry on the Swami List was: "L.L. Bean: Damn, that barn jacket made John Kerry look good." But apparently not good enough, hombre.
Loose Canon would like to thank the anonymous lensman at NASA who snapped the photo of John Kerry in the bunny suit.
Does God Bless America?
I spent much of yesterday believing that George Bush was going to be defeated. I was going to write about what a good guy he is. So I'll still say it now that he has won.
Here is a leader who had the courage to do what he believes is right in the face of incredible criticism. We won in Afghanistan, once billed as the "graveyard of empire," because no European power had ever been able to defeat the brave Afghans, because Bush had faith that we would win. We did this partly by "outsourcing" some of the work to the Afghan warriors.
Eventually, we'll get that bedraggled monster Osama bin Laden, who, as one wag noted, has gone from saying he wanted to blow us up to saying he wants to talk to us, and Iraq now has a very good chance of becoming a stable democracy.
Sure, most of us will never be able to enjoy Teresa Heinz Kerry's low (12.5) tax rate, but thanks to Bush's victory, we're saved from really ruinous taxes.
I hesitate to say this because none of us knows how God works or how prayers are answered. (My favorite example of this is in the Muriel Spark novel, "The Ballad of Peckham Rye," when somebody says she'll believe in God if her lover doesn't go to prison--he goes to prison, and she is furious with God, not knowing that he was going to kill her if he got off.)
Have I hemmed and hawed enough? Let me just say it: Did the prayers of millions of evangelicals help Bush? The sleeper issue was gay "marriage," and those of us who are against it were praying hard.
You Only Had to See Their Faces
George Bush couldn't have done it without talk radio and the internet--the long overdue correctives to the bias and sheer nastiness of the MSM (mainstream media). This time the MSM really lost it and won't be able to get back into the Objectivity Closet anytime soon.
I watched the election returns with Republicans, and we knew Bush was ahead the minute we saw the grim expressions on the faces of MSM commentators. They had been giddy earlier, when the exit polls were giving it to Kerry.
Here's what Powerlineblog, which was essential in revealing that CBS had relied on forged documents in a story on Bush's Texas Air National Guard service, had to say about the results:
"Bush won this remarkable victory in the face of a campaign of disinformation the likes of which we have not seen since the heyday of the Big Lie, and in the face of an orgy of hatred (the phenomenon we have previously dubbed Chaitred) the likes of which we have not seen in the West since the days of the Nuremberg rallies. From Leni Riefenstahl to Michael Moore--what a falling off was there!"
How 'Bout them Exit Polls?
What about those exit polls that had John Kerry winning in a walk? Yes, I was getting ready to order a new copy of The Consolations of Philosophy. But how did they get it so wrong?
Here are two interpretations:
It's voting patterns, says Mickey Kaus of kausfiles: "Specifically, angrier voters vote earlier. This year, Kerry voters were angrier, so angry that they lined up at the polls as soon as they could in the morning and got disproportionately counted by the NEP survey-takers. Unfortunately, they could only vote once, and their vote was cancelled by the less angry Republicans who sauntered in later in the day. Just a theory. ..."
It's fraud, says former political apparatchik and New York Post columnist Dick Morris: "Exit polls are almost impossible to get wrong this way. They are based on interviews with voters as they leave the polling places having just cast their ballots...."
We Must Be of Good Cheer
Someone will lose today. Perhaps it will be my guy, or perhaps the other fellow. I will be profoundly sad if George Bush is defeated--I think that the latest bin Laden tape revealed bin Laden as a whipped man, and, of course, I'd love for the voters to reward Bush for that. But they may not, and, whatever happens, we must strive to be of good cheer. Quoting Scripture, my friend Lucianne has hit upon the perfect text for today: "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles" (Isaiah 40:31).
The Ecstasy and the Agony
What will happen to Democrats if Bush wins? What will happen to Republicans if Kerry topples our guy? Who is better prepared for the wilderness? There's a terrific piece today on Tech Central Station that explores the subject of which side in better able to handle the anguish of a loss today.
If Bush wins, the centrist Democrats would probably see it as a routine loss, but...
"On the other hand, large segments of the Democratic Party--the Michael-Moore, Moveon.org, and it's-at-least-conceivable-that-Bush-was-behind-September-11 people--would be virtually inconsolable. They think the president stole the election four years ago and that he has now used the War on Terror to consolidate power and march us toward a Roveian dictatorship where stem-cell researchers will be held as enemy combatants and members of Operation Rescue will be nominated to the Supreme Court."
If Kerry wins:
"While the Republicans want this election badly (what party in what election doesn't?), they tend at least to understand why their fellow citizens might vote against the president. Even among the most die-hard Republicans, there is recognition that the war in Iraq has gone quite poorly. Whether or not the Bush administration could reasonably have been expected to keep the peace better after the fall of Baghdad, there's no getting around the fact that we didn't find any weapons of mass destruction."
Loose Canon would argue that maybe we didn't want it badly enough to fight as hard as we could have. But that's not the immediate focus if we lose today. There is something harder and more important that we must do. See above: "We Must Be of Good Cheer."
If I Should Die...Please SHUT UP!
As Beliefnet member catholicseeker rightly observes, Loose Canon is perpetually annoyed by one thing and another in contemporary liturgical arrangements. So why not add one more gripe to the long and growing list?
I hate eulogies. They are so banal, given to such forced humor. God doesn't need to be reminded about the deceased and neither do the people in the pews. (The latter is why eulogies are often unintentionally funny and nudge-provoking.) Yesterday's New York Times had a piece on eulogies with a headline that captures the essence of many a modern eulogy: "She Loved Life. (And Bourbon. And Bowdy Jokes.)" Yuck. The piece was pegged to All Souls Day, which we celebrate today.
Loose Canon is totally against eulogies. Period. But the Times story shows how things have gone from bad to worse with funeral orations deteriorating from "respectful remembrances" of the dead to "Friars-style roasts."
But the real thing about eulogies is that they mark a decline in Christian beliefs about death. James Hitchcock, a Catholic Church historian, raises this issue in the Times piece:
"'But the belief in purgatory is in decline, said James Hitchcock, an expert on church history at St. Louis University who has written on how eulogies have become more secular. Most souls seem to go to heaven, today's more casual Christian believes, so it seems fine to eulogize the deceased's fondness for bourbon or worse, Dr. Hitchcock said.
"'In fact,' said Dr. Hitchcock, 'at a majority of the Catholic funerals I've attended in the last 10 years, some mention has been made of drinking habits. It seems to be done to signal that the deceased, now in heaven, was human, like the rest of us.'"
The Shrine of the Holy Whapping, a delightfully eccentric blog run by self-described "nerds" at the University of Notre Dame, today prints all the words to Dies Irae ("that dreadful day, when heaven and earth shall pass away, Both David and the Sybyl say...") which used to be sung at Catholic funerals.
Mel Gibson Is My Hero--Again
I forgot to mention how much I admire Mel Gibson for once again going against the grain. In an appearance on Good Morning America, Gibson stepped forward to be the celebrity spokesman against embryonic stem cell research. As reported on ChristianityToday.com:
"'I'm very concerned with the stem cell question,' Gibson told Diane Sawyer. 'I'm for stem cell research. I think it can do a lot of good. When I heard about a Proposition 71 ... I began to look further into the proposition and I found that the cloning of human embryos will be used in the process and I have an ethical problem with that. Why do I, as a taxpayer, have to fund something I believe is unethical?'
"Sawyer responded to his convictions with a tone of bewilderment, as if she couldn't understand his opinion. When Gibson said he has an ethical objection to the destruction of human embryos, Sawyer's response amounted to little more than baffled interjections that other celebrities think the process is okay, something along the lines of: 'But ... Brad Pitt says embryonic stem cell research is just fine!' Meanwhile, viewers saw images of Christopher Reeve and Michael J. Fox suffering from injury and disease, as if to 'prove' that embryonic research is clearly necessary. (Apparently, a defenseless human embryo is worth less than a suffering Hollywood celebrity.)"
You might also get something out of Braveheart's interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review.
"I'm Osama bin Laden, and I Approved This Message"
You've decided. You've probably voted by now. I can't persuade you. But I do want to mention two good pieces about the bin Laden video. James Robbins on National Review makes the argument that bin Laden wants America to reject Bush and go blue. Maverick liberal David Ignatius of the Washington Post doesn't say which candidate bin Laden wants to win, but he says all the video lacked was the words, "I'm Osama bin Laden, and I approved this message."
"The weakness of bin Laden's organization is clear to Peter Bergen, one of the few Western journalists to have interviewed him. 'I don't think they have the people here in the United States to conduct operations. It's that simple,' contends Bergen, who is now a fellow at the New America Foundation. This view is shared by Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA operations officer who is now a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. 'He would have struck us by now if he could have,' he argues."
Unlike Ignatius, I'm willing to say that we owe this safety to George Bush's courage, in the face of bitter opposition. But I'm trying not to go there today. The word for today, and in the days to come must be, whatever happens at the polls today: Pax vobiscum (peace be unto you).
Thought for the Day
"I, John, saw another angel come up from the East, holding the seal of the living God. He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who were given power to damage the land and the sea, 'Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.' I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal, one hundred and forty-four thousand marked from every tribe of the children of Israel.
"After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice:
"'Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.'"
--Scriptural reading for the Solemnity of All Saints, which is today
John Kerry: He's Not Pro-Life
Loose Canon must add some important information about John Kerry's supposedly pro-life vote for what was billed as a ban on late term abortions in 1997. The amendment was written by Senator Tom Daschle, another stalwart of the pro-choice ranks, and was, as a Washington Times report at the time noted, "designed to head off a ban on 'partial birth' abortions."
The beauty of the legislation--from the pro-choice point of view--was that it in all probability wouldn't actually ban a single abortion. It proposed a mix of federal and state sanctions but the decision ultimately came down to the abortionist's judgment.
"I will certify that any pregnancy is a threat to a woman's life and could be the cause of 'grievous injury' to her 'physical health.'" Dr. Warren Hern, a Denver gynecologist and an expert on abortion practice, was quoted saying. His language echoed the wording in the Daschle proposals.
No wonder that Douglas Johnson of the National Right Committee termed the Daschle proposal "a scam" at the time and that real anti-abortion solons such as Rick Santorum voted against the Daschle dodge.
And He's a Big Michael Moore Fan...
Were you bowled over by the realization that Osama bin Laden has been getting his news and views from Michael Moore? Yep, it was all there in his garbled recounting of the President's reading "My Pet Goat" as bin Laden attacked the Twin Towers.
But I thought Osama seemed sort of whipped. For my money, the Belmont Club had the best take on the bin Laden video:
"It is important to notice what he has stopped saying in this speech. He has stopped talking about the restoration of the Global Caliphate. There is no more mention of the return of Andalusia. There is no more anticipation that Islam will sweep the world. ...He is not talking about future operations to swathe the world in fire but dwelling on past glories. He is basically saying if you leave us alone we will leave you alone. Though it is couched in his customary orbicular phraseology he is basically asking for time out."
LC doesn't want to leave this monster (or other terrorist monsters) alone to regroup, and neither does Belmont Club:
"The American answer to Osama's proposal will be given on Election Day. One response is to agree that the United States of America will henceforth act like Sweden, which is on track to become majority Islamic sometime after the middle of this century. ...The electorate can strike that bargain and Osama may keep his word. The other course is to reject Osama's terms utterly; to recognize the pleading in his outwardly belligerent manner and reply that his fugitive existence; the loss of his sanctuaries; the annihilation of his men are but the merest foretaste of what is yet to come: to say that to enemies such as he, the initials 'US' will always mean Unconditional Surrender."
Tom Wolfe: The Elite Is Clueless
Novelist Tom Wolfe--who's promoting his latest, with the delightful name "I Am Charlotte Simmons," about a girl who arrives a virgin at an Ivy League college--talks to the Guardian about the clueless elite, why he's casting his vote for George W. Bush tomorrow, and makes some kind remarks about the dreaded Religious Right:
"'Yes, there is this puritanism,' says Wolfe, 'and I suppose we are talking here about what you might call the religious right. But I don't think these people are left or right, they are just religious, and if you are religious, you observe certain strictures on sexual activity--you are against the mainstream, morally speaking. And I do have sympathy with them, yes, though I am not religious. I am simply in awe of it all; the openness of sex. In the 60s they talked about a sexual revolution, but it has become a sexual carnival.'"
But Does He Know It When He Sees It?
My favorite headline today: "Bush Surrogate Sees Need to Define 'Terror'" on Townhall. The story is about Retired General Wesley Clark, who's on the Kerry campaign trail and is trying to figure out just what the heck that thing called terrorism is: "It means dealing with our allies to agree on a common definition of terror. What are the standards of proof? What are the elements of the crime? How do we exchange information?"
Rhapsody in Red
The Chinese love the classical music of Europe, which according to London's Independent, they regard as "heroic." Acording to a new book, "Rhapsody in Red: How Western classical music became Chinese," by Sheila Melvin and Jindong Cai, the whole thing may have started with the Jebbies: "The famous Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci presented a clavichord to the Ming emperor Wan Li in 1601 and even taught his eunuchs to play a few pieces."
Passive Aggressive Prayers
Next to the sermon, Loose Canon dreads the "Prayers of the Faithful" at Sunday Mass. Having grown up in a less touchy feely era and in what was once the far less touchy feely Episcopal Church, LC wonders why we can't just pray for those who "in this transitory life are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness or any other adversity."
But, no we have the passive aggressive prayers of the faithful. At last somebody else comes out and says he's as miserable as LC during this point in the Holy Mass:
Feisty blogger Diogenese, in an item headlined "Lord, please DON'T hear this prayer," introduces me to a soul mate:
"Ever been nettled by Prayers of the Faithful at Mass that sound like National Public Radio? George Weigel hits a live nerve in explaining why he can't join in petitioning God to let Himself be instructed by Nina Totenberg:
"The subscription services that supply many parishes with their general intercessions often turn the petitions into mini-sermons in which various messages, theological and political, are encoded. I particularly dislike the now-widespread custom of jumping immediately from a pro forma prayer for the universal church or the pope to a second, much lengthier petition for some political desideratum, often accompanied by a protracted secondary clause suggesting, not too subtly, that all social goods are to be secured by government action."