On Not Having Sex At Harvard

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

From the New York Times:

There was a time when not having sex consumed a very small part of Janie Fredell’s life, but that, of course, was back in Colorado Springs. It seemed to Fredell that almost no one had sex in Colorado Springs. Her hometown was extremely conservative, and as a good Catholic girl, she was annoyed by all the fundamentalist Christians who would get in her face and demand, as she put it to me recently, “You have to think all of these things that we think.” They seemed not to know that she thought many of those things already. At her public high school, everyone, “literally everyone,” wore chastity rings, Fredell recalled, but she thought the practice ridiculous. Why was it necessary, she wondered, to signify you’re not doing something that nobody is doing?

And then Fredell arrived at Harvard.

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From Franco to Flaccid in 40 Years: Why Christians Must Embrace Liberty Instead of Government

Monday, July 19, 2010 \AM\.\Mon\.

I am currently reading through one of the most fascinating and relevant books of our time, America Alone, by Mark Steyn. One of Steyn’s most provocative and convincing arguments is that demographics  will decide the future of Western civilization and the entire world.

Steyn argues that while the entire planet is or will be entering a phase of birth rate decline, some areas decline faster than others. America’s birth rate is falling, but Europe’s is falling faster, and Russia’s faster still. Meanwhile countries throughout the non-Western world are falling from much higher birth rates and will take decades to match our levels. Falling birth rates are bad news for everyone, but especially bad news for those who fall further and faster.

An analogous situation can be seen in the decline of the Church, and Christianity in general, at least with respect to the Western world. The number of Americans identifying as Christian or Catholic has decreased in recent years, but it will take some time for that number to reach abysmally low European levels. Here however I think it is important to move beyond a pure numbers game and look at some of the more qualitative  aspects of Christian/Catholic decline as well.

Read the rest here.


Civilizational Love Triangle: Will Islam Seduce You?

Thursday, July 15, 2010 \AM\.\Thu\.

geert-wilders-03

The recent success of Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Netherlands has caused European and, to a lesser extent, North American leftists a certain amount of discomfort, and a silently growing segment of the population a significant amount of joy. The Islamification of Europe through what the brilliant Mark Steyn has called “creeping sharia” has finally met its first formidable and successful political challenge – in spite of its long-standing threats and fatwas against the man of the hour.

I’ll be quite straight-forward about it; I’m with Geert, at least on the big issue he confronts. Those who label him as a racist, and his position as one of “hate”, are engaging in character assassination. A symposium at FrontPage Magazine addressed the Wilders phenomenon. One of the contributors, Roger L. Simon, stated:

I believe that consciously or unconsciously those who brand him as excessive, or even racist, are living in fear that he may be right.  They have to hate Wilders, because if he is correct, their whole world disintegrates. Who would want that?

I don’t hate Muslims. Not wanting to be ruled by sharia law, be reduced to second-class status, have my freedoms curtailed, and watch my fellow female citizens be subjugated isn’t about hatred of Muslims, but love of Western and Christian civilization and those who inhabit it and benefit from it along with me. It isn’t a matter of indifference to me, and it shouldn’t be to you, whether or not Western or Islamic values prevail. What happens in Europe, moreover, may well happen here in the United States in the future, and will affect us in the present.

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Elena Kagan and the state of Democracy

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 \PM\.\Tue\.

I’m not sure I ever expected to wake up to read the New York Times coverage of a new nominee to the Supreme Court and find myself in agreement.

Of course, they think she’ll be a fine justice and I think she’s a pro-abort and could do without her. I also think she looks like Ursula from “A Little Mermaid,” which is less a comment on her than it is a comment on how many Disney movies I watch with my wife (curse you, Disney movie club!). That’s not what we agree on.

What we agree on is that she is a stealth candidate and that just by itself makes us uncomfortable. The official editorial reads:

President Obama may know that his new nominee to the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan, shares his thinking on the multitude of issues that face the court and the nation, but the public knows nothing of the kind. Whether by ambitious design or by habit of mind, Ms. Kagan has spent decades carefully husbanding her thoughts and shielding her philosophy from view. Her lack of a clear record on certain issues makes it hard to know whether Mr. Obama has nominated a full-throated counterweight to the court’s increasingly aggressive conservative wing.

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Academic Tolerance At Duke

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 \AM\.\Tue\.

Hattip to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air.  It is one of the rich ironies of our time that colleges and universities which were once hailed as centers of independent inquiry and temples of freedom of thought are often now centers of frantic intolerance and temples of deadening ideological conformity.  Case in point Duke University where, apparently, a pro-life point of view in regard to motherhood is considered to be beyond the pale.

Duke University’s Women’s Center has canceled an event about motherhood because the sponsor was engaging in pro-life expression elsewhere on campus. A Women’s Center representative told Duke Students for Life (DSFL) that “we have a problem” and an ideological “conflict” with the event, which was supposedly canceled to protect Duke women from encountering the event during the group’s “traumatizing” pro-life “Week for Life.” The group’s president has turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.

“Duke appears to have an unwritten but officially enforced stance regarding abortion that has resulted in pro-life groups being shut out of the Women’s Center,” said FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley. “This treatment is a deeply hypocritical violation of the Women’s Center’s promise that it ‘welcomes discordant viewpoints from varied experiences.’”

As part of a “Week for Life” series of events held at Duke over March 15-19, DSFL had reserved a Women’s Center space for a “Discussion with a Duke Mother” on March 18. A Duke student and mother was to speak about motherhood and the challenges of being in both roles. But the day before the event, the reservation was abruptly canceled in a voicemail to the group.

Meeting with the group on March 18, Duke Women’s Center Gender Violence Prevention Specialist Martin Liccardo said that because the event was associated with the Week for Life and DSFL, the event could not be held at the Women’s Center.

Liccardo told the group that the prospect of holding a pro-life event in the Women’s Center during Week for Life was too upsetting for some students: “We had a very strong reaction from students in general who use our space who said this was something that was upsetting and not OK. So based on that, we said, OK, we are going to respond to this and stop the program.”

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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.

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Lent 2010; The Tide Continues To Turn Toward Catholic Orthodoxy

Monday, February 22, 2010 \PM\.\Mon\.

As we work our way through Lent 2009, we need to rejoice in the turning tide. Though there has been much negative news about the Catholic Church this past decade, much of the negative news had its roots in actions taken during the 1960s and 1970s. Yet, the seeds of the good news planted during the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI is just now seeing its shoots and blossoms become visible to the naked eye.

What are the shoots and blossoms?  They can be seen in increasing vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and the strong orthodox nature of these new, young priests. A new crop of Catholic bishops is also boldly showing their orthodoxy, which often befuddles and mystifies the mainstream media and the secular culture in which we live. In addition to this, many in the laity have for years now been writing and blogging about the desperate need for Catholic orthodoxy in a world full of hurt and self absorption. Many ask how can the Church possibly grow when the Church’s active laity, especially the young along with those who serve her in ordained and professed ministries, are so different from the culture in which they live? It is that culture in which they live that causes them to see the wisdom in Christ’s words and the Church He started through the first pope, the Apostle Saint Peter.

There were fewer shoots and blossoms in the 1970s when the seriousness of the Catholicism was questioned after the Church seemed to be trying to be relative, whether it was related or not, thousands of priests and nuns left their vocations. However, starting in 1978 with the election of Pope John Paul II, the tide began to turn. All of the Polish pontiff’s hard work began to be seen in the shoots and blossoms of events like World Youth Day 1993, which was held in Denver. Later in his pontificate thanks to events like World Youth Day, vocations to the priesthood and religious life began to increase.

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Saint Valentines Day

Sunday, February 14, 2010 \AM\.\Sun\.

Here is a good explanation on the origins of Saint Valentine’s Day, which today has been truncated to Valentine’s Day.  It is written by Ronald J. Rychlak of InsideCatholic titled simply St. Valentine’s Day.

The Catholic Church actually recognizes several different saints named Valentine or Valentinus (including St. Valentin Faustino Berri Ochoa, St. Valentine of Genoa, and St. Valentine of Strasbourg). Most people, however, trace the story of St. Valentine back to a Roman priest in the year 270. He was arrested and imprisoned for performing marriage ceremonies for Christian couples at a time when such ceremonies were prohibited (as married men were exempt from the Roman army). Valentine also may have aided other Christians who were being persecuted during the reign of Emperor Claudius Gothicus (Claudius II).

Valentine was brought before the emperor and told to renounce his faith, but even under extreme torture he refused to do so. According to legend, couples whom he had married brought him flowers and gifts while he was in prison, which gave rise to the tradition of giving flowers and gifts in his honor.

Valentine tried to convert Emperor Claudius to Christianity, but his efforts were not well received: Claudius had Valentine executed outside Rome’s Flaminian Gate on February 14, 270. According to another legend, while still in captivity, Valentine restored the sight of his jailer’s blind daughter. On the day before his execution, he sent her a farewell message and signed it, “from your Valentine.” That, of course, is said to have established another tradition.

More than two centuries later, in 496, Pope Gelasius marked February 14 as a celebration in honor of Valentine’s martyrdom. According to some accounts, this date was chosen to preempt a pagan fertility festival known as Lupercalia, which took place at about that same time. Lupercalia involved a lottery by which young people would draw the name of a mate for a year. With the new holiday, Gelasius instead had participants draw the name of a saint to emulate for a year.

Unfortunately, the heroic story of Valentine’s piety has been almost completely eclipsed by the “flowers, candy, and cards” holiday that we know today. Gelasius’s efforts to Christianize mid-February seem to have come to naught, and we are left in the ironic position of celebrating romance on a day named after a celibate priest.

To read the complete article click here.

Happy Saint Valentine’s Day!


To Save a Life: The Film Commissars Attack

Saturday, January 23, 2010 \PM\.\Sat\.

A movie which has just debuted caught my attention this morning. It is called To Save a Life, and it is purported to be a film for teens, dealing with teen issues, with an underlying but not-too-subtle Christian message. Here it is in a nutshell: a popular high school athlete’s life is changed forever when his former best friend, ditched because he wasn’t cool enough to remain friends with, commits suicide in front of everyone.  The popular athlete begins to question everything, and everyone – encouraged by a hip youth pastor, he leaves behind a hedonistic life for one of Christian fellowship, and makes it a special task to prevent the next rejected loner from following in the footsteps of his deceased friend.

A few clips from the movie I’ve seen floating around on the Web initially left me with mixed feelings. The brand of Christianity being promoted in this film seems, at times, to be a world apart from my own traditional Catholicism. We hear the typical speeches in some instances about how “church” is “judgmental” and “hypocritical” – which are two words often thrown around by people who want to rationalize their own rotten behavior without having to think about it. We ought to be chastised, and another person’s hypocrisy has nothing to do with the objective truth or falsehood of their chastisement.

That being said, it dawned on me that among today’s teenagers, this Christianity-lite is radically good compared to what they are typically exposed to in the purely materialist-hedonist culture that surrounds them like a choking fog 24-7. What really sort of sealed the deal for me though, and prompted me to write this defense of a film I haven’t yet seen, were the reviews that the – yes – liberal media were saying about it. The reviews, as you might guess, are almost unanimously negative: The Village Voice, the NY Times, NPR, and the list could go on for some time, have all panned the movie. Wikipedia states that the reception has been “generally negative to mixed.”

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Marriage Improvement

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 \PM\.\Wed\.

It seems to me that marriage and family are probably the area in which different sub-cultures of our country have diverged most radically. Reading this New York Times feature about the author’s attempts to improve her marriage is in some ways a more alien experience than reading an anthropological study of some distant tribe. The instinct behind the exercise is laudable:

The idea of trying to improve our union came to me one night in bed. I’ve never really believed that you just marry one day at the altar or before a justice of the peace. I believe that you become married — truly married — slowly, over time, through all the road-rage incidents and precolonoscopy enemas, all the small and large moments that you never expected to happen and certainly didn’t plan to endure. But then you do: you endure. And as I lay there, I started wondering why I wasn’t applying myself to the project of being a spouse. My marriage was good, utterly central to my existence, yet in no other important aspect of my life was I so laissez-faire. Like most of my peers, I applied myself to school, friendship, work, health and, ad nauseam, raising my children. But in this critical area, marriage, we had all turned away. I wanted to understand why. I wanted not to accept this. Dan, too, had worked tirelessly — some might say obsessively — at skill acquisition. Over the nine years of our marriage, he taught himself to be a master carpenter and a master chef. He was now reading Soviet-era weight-training manuals in order to transform his 41-year-old body into that of a Marine. Yet he shared the seemingly widespread aversion to the very idea of marriage improvement. Why such passivity? What did we all fear?

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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.


Thanks to the Young, the Tide is Still Turning Toward Catholicism

Thursday, October 8, 2009 \PM\.\Thu\.

All too often I hear the familiar refrain; “how can the tide be turning if the world seems to be increasingly at odds with the Church?”  The skeptics of my book, The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism refer to many newsworthy stories in their query of my thesis. They point to elected officials and government czars seemingly supportive of ideas that not only challenge the core of Catholic beliefs, but conventional societal beliefs about the family as well. The skeptics of my thesis point to the latest Hollywood Cause Célèbre which involves rallying around a man (famed Film Director Roman Polanski) who has admitted to raping a child of 13 when he was 45 years old. They also point to the outright mockery of the Catholic Church at the hands of the entertainment industry by those who believe the tide is turning in their direction. In addition, the skeptics of my thesis also point to stories that barely get any media attention such as an abortion clinic who prominently displayed a crucifix in their window with Jesus replaced on the cross by a chicken. Another sign in the window of the same abortion clinic read “no job too big or too small.” How could the tide be turning if this is what we see and don’t see on television news, the morning paper or on the internet they asked? Thankfully, there are many reasons that tide is turning, and we need to look no further than the young to understand why.

Keep in mind that while the tide is turning for the Church, it is turning in the wrong direction for for the world. The Church is the only one who can save the world and it is something which has already been done many times in history, which is why the enemies of the Church are so upset. If the enemies of religion would be as kind to us as they are toward the liberal mainline Protestant churches, one would have cause to be worried. However unlike the mainline Protestant churches, the Catholic Church’s numbers are not in a free fall and vocation numbers are on the increase.

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Don’t Flatter Your Honor Roll Student

Friday, September 4, 2009 \AM\.\Fri\.

I came across this book review last week in the Wall Street Journal, and thought it was interesting:

Now, in “NurtureShock,” Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman survey the newest new findings about child development. Little in the book is all that shocking, but given our enthusiasm for turning tentative child ­research into settled policy, the studies that the ­authors discuss are of more than passing interest.

A striking example is the latest research on ­self-esteem. As Mr. Bronson and Ms. Merryman remind us, the psychologist Nathaniel Brandon published a path-breaking paper in 1969 called “The Psychology of Self-Esteem” in which he argued that feelings of self-worth were a key to success in life. The theory became a big hit in the nation’s schools; in the mid-1980s, the California Legislature even ­established a self-esteem task force. By now, there are 15,000 scholarly articles on the subject.

And what do they show? That high self-esteem doesn’t improve grades, reduce ­anti-social behavior, deter alcohol drinking or do much of anything good for kids. In fact, telling kids how smart they are can be ­counterproductive. Many children who are convinced that they are little geniuses tend not to put much effort into their work. Others are troubled by the latent anxiety of adults who feel it necessary to praise them constantly.

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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.

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Road To Tyranny

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

It’s a commonplace of sorts in Catholic and conservative circles that democracy without virtue will quickly become tyranny. At the same time, this is one of those phrases which seems to drive secular commentators to distraction. How could liberal democracy lead to tyranny when it’s clearly those authoritarian religious people who want to be tyrants?

Damon Linker (the “the theocons are coming” chicken little whom First Things once made the mistake of briefly employing in his younger days, thus giving him the claim to know the “theocon conspiracy” from the inside) has a post on The New Republic blog which seems to me to throw this point into sharp relief. Linker, it seems, tired of attacking “neocons” and decided to go after the more quixotic paleocons as his newest batch of crypto-authoritarians. The following section is fascinating in its thought process:

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America’s First Secular President?

Thursday, November 6, 2008 \PM\.\Thu\.

president-elect-obama

 

Damian Thompson from the Holy Smoke blog in London’s Daily Telegraph newspaper has declared Barack Obama as America’s first secular president.  Not far from being the truth some would say that Bill Clinton was pretty secular as well.  But I believe the point that Mr. Thompson was attempting to get across was the simple fact that the majority of church-going Christians voted for Senator McCain than did Senator Obama.  What is more revealing is that ‘Christians in name only’ voted overwhelmingly for Senator Obama.

The breakdown of voting figures in the US election indicates an extraordinary gulf between churchgoing and non-churchgoing voters. Barack Obama hoovered up the votes of non-churchgoers to an unprecedented extent: 65 per cent of them voted for him. I’ve thought for a long time that American agnostics and atheists are a growing force, under-represented in opinion polls. Obama will be their president.

 

He’ll also be the president of non-practising Catholics who, according to Beliefnet figures, voted 61 to 37 per cent for Obama. That’s no surprise: the Democrats were always the party of Catholics.

 

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