Monday, June 14, 2010 \AM\.\Mon\.
In the Mass Readings last Sunday, for the reading from the Old Testament we had Nathan the Prophet denouncing King David for his sin of adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband Uriah the Hittite after Bathsheba became pregnant with his child. It is a familiar tale for us, and the familiarity conceals from us just how remarkable it is and how important for us it is, not just in a religious sense but also in our secular lives.
A forgotten masterpiece from Hollywood, King David (1951), helps remind us of the importance of the two great sins of David and their aftermath. David is well-portrayed by Gregory Peck. No longer the shepherd boy, he is now an increasingly world-weary King. God who was close to him in his youth now seems distant. Rita Hayworth gives a solid performance as Bathsheba, David’s partner in sin. The best performance of the film is by Raymond Massey as Nathan. Each word he utters is with complete conviction as he reveals the word of God to those too deafened by sin to hear it. In the video clip above we see this when David attempts to argue that the soldier who died when he touched the Ark of the Covenant may have died of natural causes. “All causes are of God”, Nathan responds without hesitation. He warns David that he has been neglecting his duties and that the people are discontent.
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Tuesday, April 13, 2010 \PM\.\Tue\.
A trailer for a documentary from the Acton Institute. This documentary examines the role of Judaism and Christianity in creating the conditions which led to the concept of human freedom cherished in the West. A number of short clips from the video are available on-line and I will be using them in posts in the days to come. In regard to the trailer I would state the following propositions for discussion: (1) The clash between Church and State that characterized Western Europe in the Middle Ages was a fundamental pre-condition for the concept of limited government as it developed in the West; (2) the insistence of the Church that all men and women were equal in the eyes of God established the basis for the concept of human rights; and (3) that as a Western society becomes divorced from its religious roots the very concept of freedom as it has been understood in the West becomes difficult to maintain from a philosophical standpoint.
Thursday, April 8, 2010 \PM\.\Thu\.
When Catholics justified their decision to vote for Obama, they did so on two grounds: healthcare and foreign policy. The premise was Obama would actually save lives through healthcare and through his more peaceful foreign policy, thus outweighing the damage he would do through his promotion of abortion.
I never found that premise convincing. Not only did I think they underestimated the damage abortion does, but I also believed that they were ignoring what Barack Obama was actually promoting in his foreign policy. To make a long story short, I think most people assumed that since Obama was a Democrat who had opposed the war in Iraq that he would be the opposite of Bush when in truth their positions are very similar.
Since taking office, Obama has largely followed the lead of his predecessor. However today news is coming out that he has surpassed his predecessor in circumventing due process: Obama has authorized the CIA to kill a US citizen believed to be involved in terrorism (H/t Vox Nova).
The idea that an American citizen can be killed without a trial outside of battle is a troubling one, regardless of whether you voted for Obama or not. The death penalty is something that should be used only rarely (if at all-I’m w/ the bishops that it’s not good in modern America), and if used then used in the context of a trial. The rights of trial are not merely procedural technicalities but safeguards designed to protect the dignity of life: that is, regardless of what someone has done, freedom & human life itself are so precious that we take it away only after a deliberate and careful process.
To take away human life outside of self-defense is a power no one, including the President, possesses. One will hope that the media will publish this and emphasize it so that public pressure will dissuade Obama from taking this course of action. Unfortunately, one has to doubt that that hope will be realized.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010 \AM\.\Tue\.
In a story those in homeschooling stories may already have heard about, Federal Judge Lawrence Burman issued a ruling in late January granting political asylum to a family of Evangelical Christians from Germany, on the basis that they faced religious persecution in Germany over their belief that they needed to homeschool their children in order to provide them with proper religious formation. With a number of writers, both American and European, pursuing a narrative in which Europe is far more civilized and tolerant than the US, this event provides an interesting example of how European laws are often, in practice, far more restrictive than people in the US would be comfortable with.
The family in question had suffered repeated fines for homeschooling their children, and had been threatened with jail time or loss of custody.
Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, who are evangelical Christians, say they were forced to go the the US because they wanted to educate their five children at home, something that is illegal in Germany….
In October 2006, police came to the Romeike home and took the children to school. In November 2007 Germany’s highest appellate court ruled that in severe cases of non-compliance, social services could even remove children from home.
Uwe Romeike told the Associated Press that the 2007 ruling convinced him and his wife that “we had to leave the country.” The curriculum in public schools over the past few decades has been “more and more against Christian values,” he said.
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Friday, January 15, 2010 \AM\.\Fri\.
Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco addressed on January 13, 2010 a free will defense of abortion by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House:
In a recent interview with Eleanor Clift in Newsweek magazine (Dec. 21, 2009), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked about her disagreements with the United States Catholic bishops concerning Church teaching. Speaker Pelosi replied, in part: “I practically mourn this difference of opinion because I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that we are all endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And that women should have the opportunity to exercise their free will.”
Embodied in that statement are some fundamental misconceptions about Catholic teaching on human freedom. These misconceptions are widespread both within the Catholic community and beyond. For this reason I believe it is important for me as Archbishop of San Francisco to make clear what the Catholic Church teaches about free will, conscience, and moral choice.
Catholic teaching on free will recognizes that God has given men and women the capacity to choose good or evil in their lives. The bishops at the Second Vatican Council declared that the human person, endowed with freedom, is “an outstanding manifestation of the divine image.” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 17) As the parable of the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov, makes so beautifully clear, God did not want humanity to be mere automatons, but to have the dignity of freedom, even recognizing that with that freedom comes the cost of many evil choices.
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Monday, January 4, 2010 \AM\.\Mon\.
I was talking with a relative recently who was telling me about an incident a while back where the maintenance staff at the building he worked at had gone on strike and were picketing the building. Emails had gone out from the building management telling people not to get into arguments or cause incidents with the picketers, and it became a source of quite a bit of topic around the office. My relative was amused to hear expressed several times the sentiment, “That’s what makes our country different from the rest of the world. Here, they have the freedom to hold a protest like that.”
It if, of course, true that they have the freedom to picket their employer here. However, that’s not necessarily a contrast with the rest of the developed world. They could do the same in thing in Canada, or the UK or France or Germany, etc. There is, as my relative pointed out, a tendency at times for Americans to assume that because our country was very consciously founded in order to secure certain freedoms, that this means that people who don’t live in the US don’t have the same freedoms. Obviously, some don’t. One’s freedom of political and economic expression is severely limited if you live in North Korea or China or Cuba or some such nation. But there are many other countries in which people enjoy basically all the same freedoms that we do.
This American tendency to assume that we are the only ones to enjoy the freedoms outlined in our Bill of Rights is something which very much annoys many people who consider the US to be dangerously nationalistic, or who would prefer that we see the US as just one other region, not better or worse than others. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday, August 8, 2009 \AM\.\Sat\.
The Anchoress is on fire here about the ham-fisted efforts of the Obama administration to stifle dissent. Eventually someone in Obama’s administration is going to have a “Yamamoto moment” and turn to him and say words to the effect of: I fear all we have done is to rouse a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.
Friday, August 7, 2009 \PM\.\Fri\.
With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy.
You may be a member of an angry mob if:
1. You think your Congresscritter works for you and not the other way around.
2. You’re real sure that the First Amendment protects your right to free speech.
3. You believe that townhalls are something more than photo ops for members of Congress.
4. You recall that the right to vigorous political debate is one of the reasons why this country was founded.
5. You remember something in the First Amendment about the right of the people to petition the government for redress of grievances.
6. You have always regarded this picture as one of your favorite Norman Rockwell paintings:
7. You agree with President Reagan that one of the scariest phrases is, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”.
8. You are pretty sure that a lot of brave Americans didn’t die for this country so you would just keep your mouth shut and do what you’re told.
9. You strongly agree with this quote from George Washington: “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
10. You think that it might be a good idea for Congress men and women to actually read bills before they vote to make them laws.
Sunday, June 21, 2009 \AM\.\Sun\.
Rioting in Tehran Saturday is shown in the above video. Protests are quickly developing into an insurrection. The Iranian government is using brutal force to suppress the dissidents, but reports from Iran clearly indicate that the situation is moving well beyond the ability of the government to suppress it without massive bloodshed. The Guardian has an hour by hour account of the events yesterday here. Nico Pitney here has been doing yeoman work in covering the crackdown at the Huffington Post. Ed Morrissey here has been doing his usual fine work covering breaking events at Hot Air.
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Thursday, June 18, 2009 \AM\.\Thu\.
The above picture says it all regarding the attempt by Ahmadinejad and his mullah puppet-masters to steal the Presidential election in Iran. Thus far the dithering statements by Obama on this matter are well-parodied by the indispensable Iowahawk here.
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Tuesday, June 16, 2009 \PM\.\Tue\.
Monday, June 15, 2009 \PM\.\Mon\.
In the proud tradition of news photos of beautiful women protesting against political oppression, the Boston Globe provides a series of photos of the protests over Iran’s apparently rigged presidential election, but the first is this one:
(In all seriousness, this is some of the best photo journalism I’ve seen in a long time, go check it out.)
There’s some reasonable dispute as to whether it would help or hurt the protestors for the Obama Administration to break silence on the issue and speak in support of the protestors. Given Iran’s history and the fierce national pride across the political spectrum, if Obama openly supported the protestors it might give Ahmadinejad the ability to paint Mousavi’s supporters as stooges of the US. However, the US and the rest of the world should make it clear that a violent crackdown ala Tiananmen Square would be absolutely unacceptable.