Environmentalist Proponents Jump The Shark

Friday, October 1, 2010 \PM\.\Fri\.

An environmental confederation in the UK got the talented screenwriter Richard Curtis to produce a short film, ironically called No Pressure, for the 10:10 campaign, an effort to remind people to do their part in reducing carbon emission 10% by 2010 AD.

Unfortunately for the environmental movement the film backfired because it reinforced the image that beneath the surface environmentalists will do anything once in power to make it compulsory to follow their vision for the future, which includes violence.

Read the rest of this entry »


Benedict at Westminster

Friday, September 17, 2010 \PM\.\Fri\.

The text of Benedict’s keynote speech on his trip to the UK is here; video of the speech can be found here.

Obviously, you read or watch the speech in its entirety, but I will present a few highlights for readers:

And yet the fundamental questions at stake in Thomas More’s trial continue to present themselves in ever-changing terms as new social conditions emerge. Each generation, as it seeks to advance the common good, must ask anew: what are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend? By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved? These questions take us directly to the ethical foundations of civil discourse. If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident – herein lies the real challenge for democracy.

Read the rest of this entry »


Glenn Beck: Evangelical Outreach Coordinator?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 \AM\.\Tue\.

I’m on record as not being a member of the Glenn Beck fan club. I don’t like his overly emotive mannerisms, his politics, or his theology. I’d rather the president of my alma mater was more circumspect in praising him, and I’ve written to the university to that effect. At the same time, I’m somewhat fascinated by the accounts of his rally in DC this past weekend. For instance, here is David Weigel (erstwhile Washington Post reporter and Journolist member) reporting on the event:

“It’s about as angry as a Teletubbies episode….The Democrats who pre-butted Beck’s rally by predicting an overtly political hateananny were played for suckers. They didn’t pay attention to Beck’s “Founder Fridays” episodes on Fox, his high-selling speaking tour, or his schmaltzy children’s book The Christmas Sweater. It’s not his blackboard that makes him popular. It’s the total package he sells: membership in a corny, righteous, Mormonism-approved-by-John Hagee cultural family. The anger is what the media focus on, he says, joking several times about what “the press” will do to twist his words.

Beck’s rally ends just as he said it would—without incident, political or otherwise. He’s just taken the world’s most derided TV audience, put them in the National Mall, and presided over the world’s largest megachurch. “Bring out the bagpipes,” he says. Bagpipe players then walk onto his stage, and the sound of “Amazing Grace” fills the mall.

Read the rest of this entry »


Mosque Opponents: Be Careful What You Wish For, You Might Get It

Saturday, August 28, 2010 \AM\.\Sat\.

The debate over the so-called Ground Zero mosque near the former site of the World Trade Center in New York has raised public interest in, and opposition to, other proposed or recently built mosques and Islamic centers throughout the country.

In areas where Muslim migration or immigration has been significant, some citizens have attempted to discourage construction of new mosques. Few come right out and cite the threat of terrorism; more often they seem to resort to time-honored NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) tactics such as creative interpretation of zoning ordinances, claims of decreased property values, or claims of real or potential problems with traffic, noise, etc.

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I understand the need to be vigilant regarding the potential for violent subversion, as well as the dangers of taking such a politically correct approach to militant Islam that people hesitate to report obvious suspicious activity for fear of being labeled bigots (as seems to have happened in the Fort Hood massacre case).

Read the rest of this entry »


Inception’s Leap of Faith: Christianity v. Neo-Conservatives

Sunday, July 25, 2010 \PM\.\Sun\.

My wife and I went to see Inception this weekend and I’ve been mulling over it the past two days. I’ve been looking through the internet to find a good analysis and, not finding one fully to my satisfaction, look Tolkien & Lewis’s advice and just wrote my own. If you haven’t seen the movie, I don’t know why you’re reading this but rest assured you will be lost. For those who did see it, I’ll see you after the break.

Read the rest of this entry »


SCOTUS: 6 Catholics, 3 Jews, Law, Scholasticism and Tradition

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 \AM\.\Wed\.

I read a comment[1] a few weeks ago on GetReligion.org attempting to explain why John Paul Stevens was the last Protestant in the U.S. Supreme Court which simply said that Catholics and Jews have a tradition of being immersed in law (Canon Law and Halakha respectively for Catholics and Jews as an example).

This struck me as interesting because at first glance it kind of makes sense.

Of course there is much more to why the current make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court, 6 Catholics, 2 Jews, and an Episcopalian, is as it is.[2]

But I thought it was an interesting enough topic to dive into.

Lisa Wangsness of the Boston Globe chimes in with her two cents worth [emphases mine]:

Evangelical Protestants have been slow to embrace, or to feel welcomed by, the elite law schools like Harvard and Yale that have become a veritable requirement for Supreme Court nominees. One reason for this, some scholars say, is because of an anti-intellectual strain within evangelicalism.

As Ronald Reagan would say, there you go again, pushing the liberal theory that Christians are stupid (at least Evangelical Protestants).

Lets get beyond these stereotypes done by liberals to Christians.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Boston Globe Has a Great Article About Religion?

Monday, May 3, 2010 \AM\.\Mon\.

It’s true! They let someone onto the pages of the Boston Globe who knows a little bit about religion. Professor Stephen Prothero of Boston University (?) writes about how all religions are actually different, and that these differences matter. We cannot and should not pretend that all religions lead to the same God, because believers do not believe so. To think otherwise is to disrespect believers of all kinds, and it is the opposite of “celebrating diversity” – it ignores diversity and replaces it with a lie. The Professor clearly sees the motivation of advocates of this “all roads lead to the same God” idea in a particularly perceptive passage in the middle of the article:

I understand what these people are doing. They are not describing the world but reimagining it. They are hoping that their hope will call up in us feelings of brotherhood and sisterhood. In the face of religious bigotry and bloodshed, past and present, we cannot help but be drawn to such hope, and such vision. Yet we must not mistake either for clear-eyed analysis.

Those who preach one world religion and who ignore genuine religious differences are reimagining the world, as Professor Prothero aptly puts it. I believe this tendency – the tendency to reimagine the world – is omnipresent in our world today. I get this idea from a philosophy professor of mine from way back when who was fond of saying that the single unifying characteristic of modern philosophy is that tries to project itself onto the world. Modern minds want to project their vision of reality onto the world. This stands in stark contrast to the ancient thinkers, who understood the purpose of philosophy and indeed of reason itself to know the world as it is, and to conform one’s actions to this reality. In ignoring religious differences, modern thinkers indulge in a fantasy that renders them ineffective and unpersuasive. Pretending differences do not exist does not eliminate the differences. In fact, it may aggravate things by obscuring what is truly held in common, these commonalities being the prerequisite of a true conversation. Not to mention, pretending all religions are the same is simply rude. Professor Prothero’s article is a great antidote to the modern way of thinking and I hope read more from him in the future.


Competing Magisteriums

Thursday, April 29, 2010 \PM\.\Thu\.

I give an incredulous salute to the liberal Commonweal for publishing a magnificent column by Kenneth Woodward where he discusses the New York Times Magisterium:

No question, the Times’s worldview is secularist and secularizing, and as such it rivals the Catholic worldview. But that is not unusual with newspapers. What makes the Times unique—and what any Catholic bishop ought to understand—is that it is not just the nation’s self-appointed newspaper of record. It is, to paraphrase Chesterton, an institution with the soul of a church. And the church it most resembles in size, organization, internal culture, and international reach is the Roman Catholic Church.

Like the Church of Rome, the Times is a global organization. Even in these reduced economic times, the newspaper’s international network of news bureaus rivals the Vatican’s diplomatic corps. The difference is that Times bureau chiefs are better paid and, in most capitals, more influential. A report from a papal nuncio ends up in a Vatican dossier, but a report from a Times correspondent is published around the world, often with immediate repercussions. With the advent of the Internet, stories from the Times can become other outlets’ news in an ever-ramifying process of global cycling and recycling. That, of course, is exactly what happened with the Times piece on Fr. Murphy, the deceased Wisconsin child molester. The pope speaks twice a year urbi et orbi (to the city and to the world), but the Times does that every day.

Again like the Church of Rome, the Times exercises a powerful magisterium or teaching authority through its editorial board. There is no issue, local or global, on which these (usually anonymous) writers do not pronounce with a papal-like editorial “we.” Like the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the editorial board is there to defend received truth as well as advance the paper’s political, social, and cultural agendas. One can no more imagine a Times editorial opposing any form of abortion—to take just one of that magisterium’s articles of faith—than imagine a papal encyclical in favor.

The Times, of course, does not claim to speak infallibly in its judgments on current events. (Neither does the pope.) But to the truly orthodox believers in the Times, its editorials carry the burden of liberal holy writ. As the paper’s first and most acute public editor, Daniel Okrent, once put it, the editorial page is “so thoroughly saturated in liberal theology that when it occasionally strays from that point of view the shocked yelps from the left overwhelm even the ceaseless rumble of disapproval from the right.” Okrent’s now famous column was published in 2004 under the headline “Is the New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?” and I will cite Okrent more than once because he, too, reached repeatedly for religious metaphors to describe the ambient culture of the paper.

Read the rest of this entry »


Using Religion To Defend Slavery

Friday, April 16, 2010 \AM\.\Fri\.

My second post using clips from the Birth of Freedom video produced by the Acton Institute.  As historian Susan Wise Bauer, justly popular in home schooling circles for her superb The History of the Ancient World  and The History of the Medieval World, indicates in the video above, defenses of slavery based upon the Bible often confused descriptive passages of the Bible, written in ages where slavery was as common as complex machines are in ours, with prescriptive commands that slavery was right and just.   Additionally, defenders of slavery using the Bible did not work out fully the logical implications of their position.  For example, if Saint Paul’s comments regarding slavery meant that slavery was just, would absolute monarchies also be just based upon Paul’s statements to obey the authority of the Roman Empire?   If slavery was good based upon Saint Paul’s statements, did that mean that enslavement of whites was good since the vast majority of slaves Saint Paul would have had contact with would have been white?  Using the Bible to defend slavery leads to endless questions of this type as the abolitionists at the time pointed out.

Perhaps one of the more elaborate defenses of slavery using religion was that of Richard Furman in a letter to the Governor of South Carolina, John Lyde Wilson, in 1822.  A Baptist pastor, Furman was born in Esopus, New York in 1755.  A preacher of unusual power, he was appointed as the Baptist pastor of the High Hills of Santee Baptist Church in South Carolina at the age of 19.  An ardent patriot during the Revolution, he became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charleston in 1787.

A strong believer in education, he founded literary societies, academies, literacy campaigns and local Bible and tract societies.  With his leadership, Baptists in South Carolina founded Columbian College in 1821, now known as George Washington University.

Furman began his career viewing slavery as an undoubted evil.  By the end of his career he owned slaves and had enlisted the Bible in defense of the “peculiar institution”. 

It would be easy to simply view Furman as a hypocrite and a monster.  However, such is not the case.  He was a highly educated man and a convinced Christian, and his life contained many charitable works, some of which were for blacks, slave and free alike.  The truly depressing fact while reading the very well written defense of slavery below, is the recognition that Furman in many ways was a very good man working very hard to defend the indefensible.  The attempted slave insurrection of Denmark Versey prompted Furman to write the letter.  Furman’s letter to the Governor of South Carolina:  Read the rest of this entry »


Cardinal Newman Development of Doctrine, Fourth Note, Logical Sequence

Sunday, March 21, 2010 \AM\.\Sun\.

Continuing on with my series on the Seven Notes, I would call them tests, which Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman developed for determining whether some aspect of Church teaching is a development of doctrine or a corruption of doctrine.  We began with Note Six-Conservative Action Upon Its Past, and I would highly recommend that any one who has not read the first post in the series read it here before reading this post.  We then proceeded with an examination of the First Note-Preservation of Type here,  the Second Note-Continuity of Principles here and the Third Note-Power of Assimilation here.  This post will deal with the Fourth Note-Logical Sequence.

It is possible as an idea develops during the history of mankind, to logically trace its development.   Afterwards, however, this logical character which the whole wears becomes a test that the process has been a true development, not a perversion or corruption, from its evident naturalness; and in some cases from the gravity, distinctness, precision, and majesty of its advance, and the harmony of its proportions, like the tall growth, and graceful branching, and rich foliage, of some vegetable production.

Newman notes that in the political history of states, it is often easy to see development of ideas at work.   It is illustrated by the words of Jeroboam, “Now shall this kingdom return to the house of David, if this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem … Wherefore the king took counsel and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, Behold thy gods, O Israel.” Idolatry was a duty of kingcraft with the schismatical kingdom.

Newman concludes:  A doctrine, then, professed in its mature years by a philosophy or religion, is likely to be a true development, not a corruption, in proportion as it seems to be the logical issue of its original teaching.

Newman on the Fourth Note.

Read the rest of this entry »


President Kennedy Was Wrong

Wednesday, March 3, 2010 \AM\.\Wed\.

Hattip to Sandro Magister. On September 12, 1960 John F. Kennedy, running for president, spoke to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association to assuage the fears of many in the country that his loyalty would be to the Pope rather than to the Constitution.  (The irony of course was that JFK took his faith quite lightly, to put it politely.)  The text of the speech is here.  On Monday March 1, 2010, Archbishop Chaput, at Houston Baptist University, gave a reply to this speech.

The core of the speech is that Kennedy was wrong:

Fifty years ago this fall, in September 1960, Sen. John F. Kennedy, the Democratic candidate for president, spoke to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association. He had one purpose. He needed to convince 300 uneasy Protestant ministers, and the country at large, that a Catholic like himself could serve loyally as our nation’s chief executive. Kennedy convinced the country, if not the ministers, and went on to be elected. And his speech left a lasting mark on American politics. It was sincere, compelling, articulate – and wrong. Not wrong about the patriotism of Catholics, but wrong about American history and very wrong about the role of religious faith in our nation’s life. And he wasn’t merely “wrong.” His Houston remarks profoundly undermined the place not just of Catholics, but of all religious believers, in America’s public life and political conversation. Today, half a century later, we’re paying for the damage.

Read the rest of this entry »


A Question About “Culture Wars”

Thursday, December 10, 2009 \PM\.\Thu\.

In his great work of literary history, Poetry and Prose in the Sixteenth Century, C.S. Lewis devotes a passage to what he describes, with a certain savageness, as “that whole tragic farce which we call the history of the Reformation.” For Lewis, the issues that divided Catholics and Protestants, that led to bloodshed all over Europe and to a seemingly permanent division of Christians from one another, “could have been fruitfully debated only between mature and saintly disputants in close privacy and at boundless leisure.” Instead, thanks to the prevalence of recent invention of the printing press, and to the intolerance of many of the combatants, deep and subtle questions found their way into the popular press and were immediately transformed into caricatures and cheap slogans. After that there was no hope of peaceful reconciliation.

Is Lewis’ claim valid? If not, why not? I, for one, think there is something to his claim. This point is applicable to an extent, despite the obvious differences, to fundamental political differences. What do we find in political discourse: gross generalizations, demonizing the other size, presuming the worst of the other side, reducing people to their political views, assuming others’ intentions for them, projecting the words or actions of one person within a greater movement onto the whole movement, and the list goes on. Is such an analysis valid; if, no, again, why not?


Religion and Narcissism

Sunday, November 15, 2009 \PM\.\Sun\.

I had an opportunity to read part of a fascinating book recently titled The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. This book, authored by Dr. Jean Twenge and Dr. Keith Campbell, is not just a book about a psychological disorder, but often a sociological study as well.

What particularly interested me was the chapter in the book on religion and narcissism. In an age in which Hollywood, popular intellectuals and a growing number of average citizens have come to think of religion in general, and Churches especially, as the “root of all evil”, it is refreshing to see an objective approach to social and psychological problems that cite the decline of religion in society as a part of the problem instead of a process to be welcomed by all right-thinking people.

Read the rest of this entry »


The New Religion

Tuesday, November 3, 2009 \PM\.\Tue\.

This is from my personal blog – an exploration of what I think is the new secular religion. I took the gloves off for this one, and I’m sure more than a few people will take offense.

But if Larry David can pee on Jesus, I don’t mind returning the favor for the new religion.


Supreme Court Justices and Religion

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 \AM\.\Wed\.

To ask some questions is to answer them, and via Commonweal, I see that UCLA history professor emeritus Joyce Appleby has penned a lovely exercise in anti-Catholicism entitled, Should Catholic Justices Recuse Selves On Certain Cases?. Here is an excerpt:

But because of the Catholic Church’s active opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and capital punishment, it raises serious questions about the freedom of Catholic justices to judge these issues. Perhaps the time has come to ask them to recuse themselves when cases come before their court on which their church has taken positions binding on its communicants…

…Recusal sounds like a radical measure, but we require judges to withdraw from deliberations whenever a personal interest is involved. Surely ingrained convictions exert more power on judgment than mere financial gain. Many will counter that views on abortion, same-sex marriage, and the death penalty are profound moral commitments, not political opinions. Yet who will argue that religious beliefs and the authority of the Catholic Church will have no bearing on the justices when presented with cases touching these powerful concerns?

Read the rest of this entry »


Bush, Orthodoxy, & Damon Linker

Thursday, April 16, 2009 \AM\.\Thu\.

From the always insightful and provocative Daniel Larison:

As I noted long ago, and as Ross has suggested again this week, it makes no sense to blame Christian orthodoxy or traditional Christianity for the religiously-tinged ideology of the Bush administration and the resulting failures of this ideology’s optimistic and hubristic approach to the world. It is no accident that the most strident and early critics of the Bush administration hailed from traditionalist Catholic and Orthodox circles that make Linker’s bete noire of First Things look like the relatively liberal, ecumenist forum that it is. Mr. Bush espoused a horrifyingly heterodox religious vision, one far more akin to the messianic Americanism that forms part of what Bacevich has called national security ideology than it is to anything that could fairly be called orthodoxy.

Read the rest of this entry »


God or Government Spending: Choose One?

Sunday, April 5, 2009 \PM\.\Sun\.

Correlation isn’t causation. That said, I thought this from the Wall Street Journal was interesting:

A recent study of 33 countries by Anthony Gill and Erik Lundsgaarde found an inverse relationship between religious observance and welfare spending. Countries with larger welfare states, such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark, had markedly lower levels of religious attendance, affiliation and trust in God than countries with a history of limited government, such as the U.S., the Philippines and Brazil. Public spending amounts to more than one half of the GDP in Sweden, where only 4% of the population regularly attends church. By contrast, public spending amounts to 18% of the Philippines’ GDP, and 68% of Filipinos regularly attend church.

Read the rest of this entry »


Religion, Culture, & Politics

Monday, March 16, 2009 \AM\.\Mon\.

R.R. Reno reflecting on Fr. Neuhaus:

I have many fond memories of him, but many important and influential ones, as well. During the fall of 2006, I was in his office, expressing my anxious agitation about the upcoming congressional elections. I worried over the loss of  a Republican majority, linking my political concerns to the future of the pro-life cause, the dangers of unfettered bioengineering, and so forth. He sat back in his chair, puffing on his cigar while I prattled on. Then, with a wave of his hand, he dismissed my anxieties with a simple observation:

Read the rest of this entry »


Religion in the U.S.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 \AM\.\Wed\.

According to a recent study, the percentage of Americans who profess no religion has been increasing over the last 20 years:

The Catholic population of the United States has shifted away from the Northeast and towards the Southwest, while secularity continues to grow in strength in all regions of the country, according to a new study by the Program on Public Values at Trinity College. “The decline of Catholicism in the Northeast is nothing short of stunning,” said Barry Kosmin, a principal investigator for the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS). “Thanks to immigration and natural increase among Latinos, California now has a higher proportion of Catholics than New England.”

In broad terms, ARIS 2008 found a consolidation and strengthening of shifts signaled in the 2001 survey. The percentage of Americans claiming no religion, which jumped from 8.2 in 1990 to 14.2 in 2001, has now increased to 15 percent. Given the estimated growth of the American adult population since the last census from 207 million to 228 million, that reflects an additional 4.7 million “Nones.” Northern New England has now taken over from the Pacific Northwest as the least religious section of the country, with Vermont, at 34 percent “Nones,” leading all other states by a full 9 points.

Read the rest of this entry »


Now He Belongs to the Ages

Thursday, February 12, 2009 \AM\.\Thu\.

lincolns-tomb

Now he belongs to the ages.”  So said Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, who had kept vigil at Lincoln’s deathbed, after Lincoln died from an assassin’s bullet.

For the past few weeks in the leadup to today, the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, I have examined various facets of the public life of Abraham Lincoln.  Of course, the most important part of Lincoln’s life, came, as it will for each of us, after his death when he stood before God for the particular judgment.  In this life the outcome of that judgment is unknown to us.  However, I think  the record is well-established that during the Civil War Lincoln found his mind and his heart turning increasingly towards God.

Read the rest of this entry »


Is Religion the GOP’s Downfall?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008 \PM\.\Tue\.

Everyone seems to have their own idea of what it is that the GOP lacks these days. Kathleen Parker seems to think that the big problem is its lack of a columnist with the prose style, intellectual rigor and cultural sensibilities of a Maureen Dowd — and in her most recent Washington Post column she tries to fill that void. [HT: Cranky Conservative]

As Republicans sort out the reasons for their defeat, they likely will overlook or dismiss the gorilla in the pulpit.

Three little letters, great big problem: G-O-D.

I’m bathing in holy water as I type.

To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn’t soon cometh.

Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth — as long as we’re setting ourselves free — is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.

Read the rest of this entry »


On These Slippery Slopes

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 \AM\.\Wed\.

We seem to be teetering on the edge, and there is fear that a President Obama will push us over into the long descent into the night. Those of us who value life and cling (bitterly or not) to our religion are, if not terrified, at least horrified at what Obama intends to do in office. Pass the Freedom of Choice Act, an attempt to legitimize abortion across the board. Make a national health insurance fund that is more appropriately labeled as health care. Raise taxes on the rich and give tax credits and refunds to the poor (definitions of “rich” and “poor” still pending) in order to “spread the wealth around.” Focus on Afghanistan to the detriment of Iraq and, in general, the War on Terror.

Read the rest of this entry »


Serious Catholics Only

Monday, October 27, 2008 \AM\.\Mon\.

Courtesy of Rich Leonardi at Ten Reasons, Catholic Answers’ voter’s guide for serious Catholics.

Read the rest of this entry »


Tom Cruise, First-Rate Philosopher

Friday, October 10, 2008 \AM\.\Fri\.

Okay, maybe not.

But one of his characters was more intellectually- and existentially-consistent that many (or even most) Americans of any religious affiliation, including Catholics. I’m talking about the hitman Vincent in the 2004 film Collateral, starring Cruise and Jamie Foxx and directed by Michael Mann.

Read on…

Read the rest of this entry »