June 30, 2006

From an NR Article...

...As I pondered this materialist superstition, it became increasingly clear to me that in all the sciences I studied, information comes first, and regulates the flesh and the world, not the other way around. The pattern seemed to echo some familiar wisdom. Could it be, I asked myself one day in astonishment, that the opening of St. John’s Gospel, In the beginning was the Word, is a central dogma of modern science?

In raising this question I was not affirming a religious stance. At the time it first occurred to me, I was still a mostly secular intellectual. But after some 35 years of writing and study in science and technology, I can now affirm the principle empirically. Salient in virtually every technical field — from quantum theory and molecular biology to computer science and economics — is an increasing concern with the word. It passes by many names: logos, logic, bits, bytes, mathematics, software, knowledge, syntax, semantics, code, plan, program, design, algorithm, as well as the ubiquitous “information.” In every case, the information is independent of its physical embodiment or carrier.

Throughout the 20th century and on into the 21st, many scientists and politicians have followed Darwin in missing the significance of the “Central Dogma.” They have assumed that life is dominated by local chemistry rather than by abstract informative codes. Upholding the inheritability of acquired characteristics, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Trofim Lysenko, Aleksandr Oparin, Friedrich Engels, and Josef Stalin all espoused the primacy of proteins and thus of the environment over the genetic endowment. By controlling the existing material of human beings through their environment, the Lamarckians believed that Communism could blend and breed a new Soviet man through chemistry. Dissenters were murdered or exiled...

For some 45 years, Barry Commoner, the American Marxist biologist, refused to relinquish the Soviet mistake. He repeated it in an article in Harper’s in 2002, declaring that proteins must have come first because DNA cannot be created without protein-based enzymes. In fact, protein-based enzymes cannot be created without a DNA (or RNA) program; proteins have no structure without the information that defines them. As Yockey explains, “It is mathematically impossible, not just unlikely, for information to be transferred from the protein alphabet to the [DNA] alphabet. That is because no codes exist to transfer information from the 20-letter protein alphabet to the 64-letter [codon] alphabet of [DNA].” Twenty letters simply cannot directly specify the content of patterns of 64 codons.

But the beat goes on. By defrocking Lawrence Summers for implying the possible primacy of the genetic word over environmental conditions in the emergence of scientific aptitudes, the esteemed professoriat at Harvard expressed its continued faith in Lamarckian and Marxian biology.

Over at NASA, U.S. government scientists make an analogous mistake in constantly searching for traces of protein as evidence of life on distant planets. Without a hierarchy of informative programming, proteins are mere matter, impotent to produce life. The Central Dogma dooms the NASA pursuit of proteins on the planets to be what we might call a “wild goo chase.” As St. John implies, life is defined by the presence and precedence of the word: informative codes.

I began my 1989 book on microchips, Microcosm: The Quantum Era in Economics and Technology, by quoting physicist Max Planck, the discoverer of the quantum, on the resistance to his theory among the scientific establishment — the public scientists of any period whom I have dubbed the Panel of Peers. By any name they define the “consensus” of respectable science. At the beginning of the 20th century, said Planck, they balked at taking the “enormous step from the visible and directly controllable to the invisible sphere, from the macrocosm to the microcosm.” ...

After 100 years or so of attempted philosophical leveling, however, it turns out that the universe is stubbornly hierarchical. It is a top-down “nested hierarchy,” in which the higher levels command more degrees of freedom than the levels below them, which they use and constrain. Thus, the higher levels can neither eclipse the lower levels nor be reduced to them. Resisted at every step across the range of reductive sciences, this realization is now inexorable. We know now that no accumulation of knowledge about chemistry and physics will yield the slightest insight into the origins of life or the processes of computation or the sources of consciousness or the nature of intelligence or the causes of economic growth. As the famed chemist Michael Polanyi pointed out in 1961, all these fields depend on chemical and physical processes, but are not defined by them. Operating farther up the hierarchy, biological macro-systems such as brains, minds, human beings, businesses, societies, and economies consist of intelligent agents that harness chemical and physical laws to higher purposes but are not reducible to lower entities or explicable by them. - George Gilder

June 29, 2006

Richard Neuhaus...

...makes a good point:
So has the Episcopal Church in the United States strayed so far from Anglican principle (putting aside procedure) in the whole Gene Robinson business? Anglicans have suffered agnostics and Unitarians as bishops—John Shelby Spong has spent his entire career mocking and denying every single tenet of historic Christianity—now suddenly the election of an openly gay bishop in Gene Robinson or a woman presiding bishop in Katharine Jefferts Schori breaks the back of the Anglican Communion? I think the question is less one of whether a denomination can agree on what “born of the virgin Mary” means, as opposed to, once this is accepted as an article of faith, what to do with those in ministry who do not believe it and openly teach against it. That then becomes a matter of church discipline.

There is some hope, though. In a letter to the faithful dated June 27, Rowan Williams lists as a summary item the following: “Commitment to the Communion’s teaching, on the basis of Scriptural and historic teaching reached in common council.” A council, did he say? Would this mean the production of another, modern confession—a more complete statement of faith? Perhaps even a catechism, which is what the Anglicans really need? Until Bishop Rowan and all Anglicans of goodwill reposition Anglicanism on a confessional foundation, even appeals to scripture and tradition will not be enough to keep their house from crumbling.
Ham o' Bone...

...reviews Bill Luse's novel The Last Good Woman.
Running Hangover

I felt like Rodgers at Boston
Shorter at Munich
a Kenyan running
into the East African sun
towards a horizon easily consumed.

I feel like Otis after a bender.
Know Jesus?

Thank an Apostle!

More here.

June 28, 2006

A Poet On Baseball

From an Atlantic review of a poem in Gail Mazur's book, Zeppo's First Wife:

...the concluding poem, "Baseball," is a three-page ode to the game's
"firm structure with the mystery / of accidents always contained."
And from an interview with the poet:
You write, in the final poem in the collection, "The game of baseball is not a metaphor." Why do you go to such lengths to insist that you're not using baseball as a symbol for something else?

Saying that baseball "is not a metaphor" was actually a strategy to get around the fact that baseball in fact is such a perfect metaphor for life, or for creative work. To have said it is a metaphor would have left me embarrassed by the cliché. The strategy, I'm sure, came out of my feeling of being stuck with the truism. When I uncovered the missing "not" in the declaration, I could go on to deny everything in the poem, an ironic denial, a trick to say what I wholeheartedly felt in the writing—that the world of baseball, the players, the park, the fans, is a world and a microcosm of the greater world. Sometimes I think that the longer a thing that is "not a metaphor" lives in a poem, the more of a metaphor it becomes.
Have to Laugh...

...because I can so relate to Eric Scheske. A fellow beer-drinker extraordinaire with a pessimistic streak, he writes of drinking on a summer afternoon on a deck overlooking a lake:
[I] thought, “Life isn’t so bad after all” and “I probably have at least forty more years to enjoy such moments.” Unfortunately, such thoughts are often followed with mental disruptions, like “I probably have cancer,” but I was able to banish them this time. I think the key to such moments is the existentialist approach: just enjoy. Don’t look at the enjoyment, just look. Just enjoy.
So true.
Twice Blessed

The pastor at the Dominican parish downtown was a delegate to some sort of official Dominican gathering in Rhode Island. For three weeks he sat on commissions and was held captive at endless meetings. He didn't quite put it this way but it sounded like hell. He said that arriving back home reminded him of how blessed he is to pastor here. But in the same sentence he also described himself as blessed to be a delegate. I suppose that is in keeping with St. Paul's admonition to rejoice at all times. Given that there's the phrase "damned if we do, damned if we don't", a double-cursing, it's appropriate there's a double blessing: "blessed if you have endless meetings, blessed if you don't".
Russell Kirk & Marty Haugen?

Good post from Pink Logician via Terrence Berres:
I think that he would do well to take a page (well, yet another page) from the Kirks of Mecosta.

The Kirk family attends mass at the local Catholic parish, St. Michael the Archangel in Remus, Michigan. Now, when I lived in Mecosta, I too attended St. Michael's and it was, hands down, the worst worst WORST parish I have ever attended. Ever. Really. We're talking hand motions with worship songs (songs undeserving of the term "hymn"), an ancient keyboardist whose "instrument" seemed constantly stuck on the Whitesnake-album setting, the ubiquitous smiley risen Jesus replacing the crucifix behind the altar, and the processing of a cross (it wasn't a crucifix, by any means) with a figure on it that my husband and I not-so-affectionately referred to as "tiki-head Jesus" and "Easter Island Jesus" by turns.

When I asked Mrs. Kirk why she stayed there at St. Michael's, why she didn't go down to Grand Rapids for a Latin mass or a visit to one of the nicer ethnic churches, she would usually say "It's gotten much better."

June 27, 2006

Habemus Blogemus

Less than three weeks ago I wrote, "One site that still doesn't have a blog yet is New Advent...".

Didn't take long!
Kinda/Sorta Schism?

From an outsider's perspective it would seem to Rowan Williams' credit if he "demotes" the American Episcopal church to a lesser status. From a financial point of view, it seems the Anglicans have more need of the Episcopalians than the other way around and it's always inspiring to see money take a back seat to principle. By my reading, most of the liberal Episcopalian bloggers could give a flying fig about being in the Anglican Communion and that was certainly the message they tried to send at the General Convention. It was hard to watch - like an errant husband french-kissing his mistress in front of his wife in an effort to try to entice her to declare a divorce, as if it would be a bit unseemly to declare it himself because no one wants to be labeled the Protestant these days, not even Protestants.

Meanwhile, Bishop Gene Robinson is certainly comfortable in his skin: "Let's not forget that we have been given a foretaste of the heavenly banquet where the marginalized are given an honored seat at the table," he preaches to fellow gay and lesbians, and I don't doubt they will have the best seats at the banquet - that is, those gays who've chosen the harsh and narrow path by remaining chaste. Seeing the audacity of Robinson and the liberal bloggers has been fascinating if only for their self-certainty. No mealy-mouthing around; they exude confidence, their consciences clear as pure grain alcohol. There is about them the spirit of Martin Luther, who I can admire for his own astonishing bravery. Liberal Episcopalians are as sure their homosexual acts are not sins as Martin Luther was of his doctrines.

And what else do Martin Luther and gays have in common? Perhaps their childhoods. It's a cliche to say that children are cruel but children are infinitely crueler to children who are different, a group to which homosexuals belong. And of Martin Luther it was said, "Extreme simplicity and inflexible severity characterized their home life, so that the joys of childhood were virtually unknown to him. His father once beat him so mercilessly that he ran away from home and was so 'embittered against him that he had to win me to himself again.' His mother, 'on account of an insignificant nut, beat me till the blood flowed, and it was this harshness and severity of the life I led with them that forced me subsequently to run away to a monastery and become a monk.'"

Maybe a tough childhood leads one to that toughness born of victimhood, a toughness so pronounced that one can't even imagine oneself as being wrong. Having been wronged, you think the "Emperor has no clothes" and thus have confidence in your own rightness if only by comparison. (Of course, that's not limited to those with tough childhoods but...).

Update: One commenter on Ruth's blog is underwhelmed by the statement of Rowan Williams:
Further, it is NOT in any way an intense theological teaching as Ruth suggests - just the reverse - a continuing refusal to come to grips with Biblical and Christian sexual morality. As usual, the Archbishop cannot find it within himself to say what the Bible and Christ clearly do. An intense theological teaching would teach WHY chastity is required of Christians, outside the union between man and wife. Archbishop Williams is a million miles away from that. Other Christian churches are able to do that; the Church of England is not. One truthful statement from the Archbishop in his letter? - the Church of England is unsure about sexual morality. How useful that must be to a teenager in this world. How unimportant the Church of England must believe that is to the teenager's soul.

Finally, the Archbishop further revealed his weakness, and his fundamental inability to say no - by suggesting the creation of different levels of Anglicanism - as if there are different levels of God's truth. That is a disaster waiting to bloom - and it will.

The future? Intense arguments and rhetoric about what is needed to leave or be in 'associate' status.
If the C of E is unsure about sexual morality I would invite those seeking it to "swim that Tiber" (sing to tune "Catch that Tiger").
Karen Hall...

She shoots, she scores!

I Came, I Saw, I Contemplated - title of a new blog

I post with some trepidation, since I've noticed that whenever I slip into inactivity I start picking up subscribers (mostly people who sign up for any and all library blogs whatsoever), but when I make an effort to post more frequently I lose them. Extrapolating from this trend, if I never posted I would attain the popularity of an Instapundit, but probably the strategy has diminishing returns. So here's a post for form's sake. - blogger at biblioblog.blogspot.com

Posting something even in not-even-trying-not-to-be-fake Latin is like telling your fellow Knights of Columbus you have too much beer in your refrigerator. People will lend you a hand without being asked twice. - Tom of Disputations

The real problem isn't that the Herald's light is under a basket. The Herald is the basket. For example, when a local pastor, Fr. David Cooper, permitted a prayer service for women's ordination at St. Matthias Church, Archbishop Dolan demanded he apologize. Yet our Catholic Herald recently ran this column by Fr. Richard McBrien taking the same problematic position. - Terrence Berres of "The Provincial Emails"

As we wandered the arena, we fell into conversation with Art, a representative of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. He was taken aback, to say the least, that (1) we were not pig farmers, (2) not from Ontario, and (3) we had wandered over from the Shakespeare Festival where we were spending our honeymoon. Since an industry gathering isn't the best place to find Christian fellowship walking by, he was probably genuinely glad to chat with us for a while about his organization, his family's roots in farming, and his hopes (however remote) that one of his children might take over the farm someday. One of his daughters gave us a small New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs. I haven't had one of those since my college days. They're very handy to keep in a purse, so I accepted with thanks. As we strolled away, Henry began paging through it and found a favorite passage. He began to read it aloud, as he does so well. It was delightful, but one of the more improbable romantic moments one might hope to encounter during one's honeymoon. And that's how to came about, boys and girls, that Roz's dear husband ardently declaimed to her Proverbs 31's praise of the excellent wife in the middle of the Ontario Pork Congress. - newlywed Roz of "Exultet" speaking of Henry of "A Plumbline in the Wind"

This was the spirit of the time--an awakening, some might say, from the torpor and sleep of Victorian prudery and oppression. Others might describe it as a long slide into the slough of sin. The truth probably lay somewhere between the two. The excesses of Victorian prudery and were well laid to rest, but they were only replaced by the excesses of the decadents from whom too much was never enough. - Steven Riddle on the opera Salome derived from Oscar Wilde's play

I honestly have my doubts as to whether, as a whole, Protestant preaching is any better than Catholic homiletics...Most of the evangelicals of every stripe are repetitive, and if they're not repetitive, they're disjointed, and they more often than not lapse into self-helpfulness. The mainstream Protestants I hear on television or on the radio don't strike me as particularly engaging, either. They are earnest, and that is about it. I am tough on priests and homilies...But I do think that there is also no agreement out there (and I mean among people who write and teach about this) as to what Catholic homiletics should be all about, anyway, and some of that even goes back to the disarray in Catholic Scripture scholarship over the past few decades. The fundamental question is: if the bottom line of Scripture scholarship has been the skeptical line (and it has)...from where can the power of preaching come? - Amy Welborn

A wise judge will not give the wrong decision in the face of a hard case. He will allow himself to appear to have hardened his heart, because he knows that truest mercy lies in not making a bad law. - Ghandi

Honestly, it breaks your heart to see the traditional Episcopalian wonder what is going to happen to their church.  As my wife said to me, imagine how you would feel if some group or social movement tried to take over the Catholic Church?  Well it almost happened.  I distinctly remember being in grade school (1970’s) and hearing a liberal priest telling a friend’s parents, “Just wait by the end of this decade all of the barriers of this Church will come crashing down.”  I distinctly recall trying to figure out what that meant as this friend’s parents grew angry.  I was reminded of this conversation a few years ago. This man is no longer in the priesthood and I don’t think he even attends a church anymore.  It was all about an agenda for him. - David Hartline of "Catholic Report"

The Episcopal Church: doing its part to make the USCCB look good. - John at "The Inn at the End of the World"

"[Henry Kissinger] is fascinated with how national characteristics translate into [soccer] playing styles: Brazil’s unbridled joy, England’s noble purpose, Germany’s grim determination.” Wow! You can interpret the psyche of a nation through soccer? Perhaps that is the reason why, although an anti-globalist, I prefer international sporting events to national ones. American Football would be much more interesting if the Buffalo Bills' and the Miami Dolphins' playing styles were influenced by climate and local cuisine, not which club had more money. - Josue of "Katholik Shinja"

What saying "And With Your Spirit" can teach us...The Liturgy is the work of the Holy Spirit, not the individual presider. In fact there is no "individuals" in the liturgy save the Body of Christ. Our response acknowledges the one Holy Spirit poured upon the presider and reminds us that the work we witness in this Eucharist is the Opus Dei...the work of God. - Michael Dubruiel of "Annunciations"
Future Shock Revisted

You probably recall Alvin Toffler's early 1970s book Future Shock. I was hoping to find some sort of list of predictions contained within and see how many came true. But there is no neat summary; much of the book contains anecdotes about the fast rate of change, something we're all quite familiar with now.

But a few excerpts caught my eye. Such as the addictive nature of the fast pace of life and how some actually choose it. (Looking at my own high school graduating class, the top 20% academic achievers are mostly in far-flung places like California or New York. The bottom third still live in our (relatively) quiet hometown):
Some people are deeply attracted to this highly accelerated pace of life - going far out of their way to bring it about and feeling anxious, tense or uncomfortable when the pace slows. They want desperately to be "where the action is."...James A. Wilson has found, for example, that the attraction for a fast pace of life is one of the hidden motivating forces behind the much publicized "brain-drain" - the mass migration of European scientists to the U.S. and Canada. After studying 517 English scientists and engineers who migrated, Wilson concluded that it was not higher salaries or better research facilities alone, but also the quicker tempo that lured them.
But what is really fascinating about the book is how Toffler completely missed the "baby bust". There seemed to be no recognition that in technologically-advanced societies the birth rate would fall. This is in tune with the times since one of the reasons the birth control pill was so lauded was that it would supposedly prevent a huge overpopulation problem. He predicted earlier marriages and having children at a younger age when the trend has been the opposite. He also seems to have predicted that men would want to have lots of children and raise them alone which strikes a completely false note. In fact, the opposite mostly happens in this age when deadbeat dads are hardly rare:
In London, photographer Michael Cooper, married at twenty and divorced soon after, won the right to raise his infant son, and expressed an interest in adopting other children. Observing that he did not particularly wish to remarry, but that he liked children, Cooper mused aloud: "I wish I could just ask beautiful women to have babies for you. Or any woman you liked, or who had something you admired. Ideally, I'd like a big house full of children - all different colors, shapes and sizes." Romantic? Unmanly? Perhaps. Yet attitudes like these will be widely held by men in the future.

Today the family cycle is accelerating. We grow up sooner, leave home sooner, marry sooner, have children sooner. We space them more closely together and complete the period of parenthood more quickly...'The trend is toward a more rapid rhythm of events through most of the family cycle'.
He was more on target with respect to homosexuality (if he were writing today, I suspect the word marriage would probably lose the quotation marks):
As homosexuality becomes more socially acceptable, we may even begin to find families based on homosexual "marriages" with the partners adopting children. Whether these children would be of the same or opposite sex remains to be seen...In the United States a meeting of Episcopal clergymen concluded publically that homosexuality might, under certain circumstances, be adjudged "good"...We might also see the gradual relaxation of bars against polygamy.

June 26, 2006

The Delta Factor

Walker Percy always believed that what separates man from animals is language. Korretiv links a video of a Helen Keller moment.
Be Veddy, Veddy Quiet

I always wondered why the lack of Muslim voices against terrorism. Kathy Shaidle links to an article that helps explain why.
CEO Salaries

I had the bright idea to live-blog Saturday's Columbus Dispatch, giving my opinion on many of the articles contained therein. This exercise in hubris wasn't accomplished not on account of my realizing it was an exercise in hubris but because of the hard work involved. I laid down until the desire to blog went away.

But one article caught my eye. CEO pay is up to something like 242 times the average worker's pay. And I find it hard to have a problem with it. I look at the modern corporation as a glorified lottery scheme. There can only be one chief, but many of the Indians want to be that chief and so fueled by that ambition they play the corporate lottery. I say pay the guy well and there'll be hard-working individuals wanting that job (or jobs close to it) and that will only help the company and therefore the economy. Certainly even if the corporation isn't a meritocracy (i.e. see The Peter Principle) it's more so than a straight lottery.

Execs play an increasingly dominant role in the business world. A few generations ago you could basically rest on your laurels if you were a big company. Now you have to constantly innovate, diversify your portfolio, make quarterly earnings numbers, etc. A CEO can make one bad decision - say, hypothetically, you acquire a company and that company becomes a sort of East Germany to the rest of the company's West Germany. The result is that that decision swamps in importance all the individual decisions the indians made over the course of the year. Ten thousand indians can make good decisions but the helmsman can still crash them on the rocks.

So you say "why can't the CEO be paid 141 times the average person's pay instead of 242 times?". Good point, except I've always been fascinated by what happens with the Ohio lottery. When the jackpot falls to say $4 or $6 or $8 million, there are less players. When it's up around $15 or $20 million, there are many more. Why? The difference between four million dollars and twenty million dollars is miniscule to the average person. Four million dollars is plenty, isn't it? But no, people are making decisions based on it. So maybe 141 times the average pay really isn't as attractive as 242 to the high performers.

You can’t listen to Hank Williams Sr’s I Saw the Light and not feel the thrill. And yet he was a troubled soul. Is it merely the addiction? Or was the addiction a sign of a deeper illness? Chicken or the egg? He reminds me of Jack Kerouac. At the end of his life, the beat poet was throwing up vodka while reading the Bible and National Review. It’s a banal observation, but tragic ends are so depressing and scream “why?”. A friend of my brother committed suicide last week. Why? 36 years old, married, with two foster children. He didn’t want to go to Vegas with the group back in May, the first sign (in hindsight) my brother noted.

Went to the annual Communist Fest Friday. I didn’t enjoy it but went out of a sense of duty. Communist Fest (actually called Comfest) is the annual weekend at a large park in downtown Columbus where progressive types celebrate. It’s a chance for me to experience the Other, where the other is the anti-bourgeouis. The music is rock, the politics frightening. Come to think of it, it functions well as one of those Halloween horror parks. I really wasn’t sure why I was there since I don’t listen to much rock anymore and if I want political horror shows I can just bring up the Daily Kos website.

I recall it was the late ‘90s and Ham o’ Bone was calling a radio station pretending to be a Vietnam veteran.

“When I was in ‘Nam,” he said, and a chill ran through my bones because the authenticity of his voice was undeniable. I couldn’t do it in a hundred years. If I did, I’d probably say “When I was in ‘nam” and then start to giggle. But Bone knew how to keep a straight voice.

“Got gut-shot by Charlie and…”. Turned out he knew the talk show host and all was well, but it never lessened the amount of creativity it took to come up with his war stories. Ham was always the plot man. When we co-wrote our novella, a science fiction romp titled “Steinberg!”, it was always Bone who soberly wanted me to move the plot along. We’d take turns. He wrote his couple pages and then I’d email it back to him with my pages appended. But I had a hard time advancing the plot in a serious way. Updike was my model and I wanted only to describe, in excrutiating detail, the flora and fauna and physical characteristics of amatory couples. In fact there was an element of sabotage as I’d tired of it early and often. Bone would leave the characters in a situation of grave danger and I would somehow manage to find them swapping saliva.

I’ve decided in the interim that God is contrarian, on the basis that everything I said I would not do I ended up doing. Taken to the extreme, this means that I should take write plot and Bone should write detail...

My lust for travel increases exponentially during the summer months. During the fall and winter I’m as hibernatory as a bear. But in the summer even the smallest bike ride can trigger travelin' pangs. Even in the suburbs there is much to see. The variations of houses, the flowers and gardens and half-seen arbors in the backyard, the doors, the cornices, the statuary and the trees. Little things…like a house with her all her windows flung wide open – one can imagine the scent of the outdoors in that house.

Today was the “Haus & Garten” tour in beautiful German Village. And I missed it, due in part for the good reason of my father-in-law’s situation, but it’s funny that I’ve never been to a Haus & Garten. I’ve missed a premiere travel opportunity not fifteen miles from my house. Such is life. We live on an oasis of art and literature and watch American Idol and read The DaVinci Code.
(Mostly) Fictional Friday (on a Monday)
His writing life began by virtue of being an inveterate collector. At age eight, hiking in the woods, he'd pick up rocks and lift up bark and whatnot in a hopes of taking something home in order to extend the experience into the morrow. He wasn't yet conscious that collectors don’t have experiences for experiences’ sake but for the re-experiential purposes: a photo, baseball card, a book.

A natural outcome of the collecting mentality was to preserve travel memories in the amber of a journal despite the fact that he rarely went back and to re-read what he’d written. But he had great need to preserve the experience in writing as a hedge against a "travel famine".

Only permanency was charismatic. He liked the experience of things but didn’t take them too seriously due to their short shelf life. They vaporized upon contact, so ‘twas better to collect some artifact that could be referred to repeatedly in the future. Later he would begin to believe the rather obvious fact that life on earth was itself extremely impermanent.

Maybe there were three kinds of people, he thought. Those who live for the moment. Those who collect for an earthly future. And those who collect for eternity.

June 24, 2006

Remarkable Story

My father-in-law is in the hospital. Fortunately he is doing well and is out of immediate danger. The subject of prayer came up and the nurse overhead and told of a recent fiery car crash.

He was injured to the point of near death and was rescued and lifeflighted.

He reported to the nurse that he had felt himself leave his body for a time. He had floated above the cars behind him and in the first two he heard people complaining about having to wait. In the third car he heard the woman praying for him and so he remained with her.

He remembered the license plate number and told the nurse. Police cooperated in finding the owner of that third car because the doctor asked them to. She was asked to come to the hospital for a reason they couldn't share. The injured patient introduced himself and his family and thanked her for her prayers.


They say people in the medical profession believe in God more many other professions (doctors are far more likely to be believers than scientists) and one can see why.
"How Shall I Know This?" vs "How Will This Happen?"

The gospel reading for today's remembrance of the birth of John the Baptist is from Luke. And in the first chapter there is the sharp - if initially subtle - difference between the response of Zechariah and Mary to good news from the angel Gabriel.

Zechariah doubts and asks, "How shall I know this?" which is the same language Abram asked God in Genesis 15:8 when Abram responds to the promise of numerous descendents with, "How can I know that shall I possess it?". In other words, both are asking of GOd how can I know you'll deliver? But at this point Abraham is Abram; he hasn't been called yet and lacks the covenant and his doubt isn't held against him. Zechariah, on the other hand, was a high priest, one of the few who could visit the Holy of Holies.

God's response is different in each case. With Abram, He responded by making a covenant with him and by working a great sign, bringing down fire from Heaven. Zechariah, on the other hand, already had the covenant and its promise. He was expected to have faith and did not and was struck mute for three days (a comfortingly mild punishment although more difficult for some than for others: today not blogging for three days might constitute a worse punishment).

Mary, on the other hand, inquires how the plan will enfold. The phrasing is different: It's not "how will I know what you are saying will happen?" but "how will this happen?". A big difference.

What is particularly interesting in this is how it relates to the as yet upbaptized Camassia, who seems half-way between the religious Zechariah (who was given the advantage of growing up in the Covenant) and the unchurched Abram (to the extent one can use "church" in that pre-Covenant age). So she's stuck between whether she should know better like Zechariah or whether she should receive a sign like Abram, although all of this is probably presumptuous for me to speculate on as I don't know her and I may be mis-reading her anyway.

June 23, 2006

Pope Benedict...

...on devotion to the Sacred Heart.
Quality Blogging

...over at The Inn at the End of the World. See especially the art, pictures, and text of a post about St. Thomas More's remains.
An Authority Unto Herself

In the quote below, a liberal female Episcopalian blogger experiences the cognitive dissonance of being led where she does not want to go by someone of her own gender. For perhaps the first time she has to choose between the message and the messenger and between two ideas she holds. One is that it doesn't matter what the message is as long as it's a woman she can identify with (in this case Bishop Jefferts Schori) doing the "messengering". The other is that only the message matters. Fascinating:
I was shocked and annoyed by the resolution we got. I was feeling like the Presiding Bishops were shoving it down our throats. When Bishop Jefferts Schori was speaking I also had this bizarre experience. For the very first time in my life I was really feeling invested in authority. Here was this woman in a very high office and I felt compelled to listen to her and her office. I've never in my life had that experience. It was weird and confusing because I was totally not in line with what she was asking of us.
She didn't say how she ended up voting concerning the resolution B-033.
Ham o' Bone...

...seems to be getting a bit big for his britches (metaphorically speaking only). So place tongue in cheek for this rejoinder! :-)

Food Song

I weigh two twenty two
a number hard to chew
but do not feel dismay
I'm just big-boned they say.

Of veggies I'll have none
I'd 'druther a Hahn pun
Or a cold and drizzly run
For of pizza I say 'yum'!

Call me quite a sinner
don't call me late to dinner
I'd rather not be thinner
if the food tastes like paint thinner.

Hitler ate no meat
and barely filled his seat
While Aquinas was rotund
His holiness fecund.

I'd rather be the latter
even though I would be fatter
guess I still can't be a satyr
when it comes to chocolate batter.
Where I Come From

I tried this meme, via Studeo, but kind of went back and forth between humor and seriousity and so gave it up.

I am from rotary dial telephones, Guinness Stout and Quisp.

I am from the Great Ohio River valley, where from under every streambed rock there's a crawdad.

I am from the poplar, rose, clementine...oh, nevermind.
Standing Firm

Sarah Hey writes movingly, comparing the Episcopalian cause to a "little stone bridge":

For some very strange reason, a number of us -- a small unit -- are being told to fight for or over this bridge. It is a pitched battle, full of hurled insults and cyber bloodshed, tactical actions, retreats by some [or perhaps calls back to their camp to await further orders], logistics and communications challenges, going awol, unexpected heroism, despair, and much more. We keep waiting for further orders, but so far the same command keeps reaching us -- to hold the bridge...

There's a reason why I love the excerpt from Teddy Roosevelt's Speech at the Sorbonne which I posted so many days ago. I struggle with practical action and love more the world of ideas and creativity. And as a person who has tended to avoid conflict at all costs, I am certainly similar to that young lord in my favorite line of that speech's excerpt, who "but for the vile guns would have been a valiant soldier.".

So we ask the question. Why on earth are we out here fighting over this little stone bridge?

I will leave the theologizing and the philosophizing and the issues of Truth and the gospel to other minds, for now, although I have some arguments along those lines. Instead I'll address the question with some very practical responses.

First, we must take note that our Worthy Opponents are in the thick of the battle too. They seem to want this little stone bridge with a great deal of fervor, and all of us must ponder that fact and speculate as to why. I won't speculate, other than to say that we are fighting over this little stone bridge because it is greatly desired by others. That in itself is noteworthy.

I suspect that this particular little bridge is of interest for a number of reasons -- it is little, for one, and thus easily captured. It is crumbling, so that is attractively weak, yet still carries the troops from one bank of the river to the other and so is a useful vehicle. And for a number of decades its bridgekeepers and watchers were somewhat . . . slumberous, shall we say.

Second, once ground is taken, and territory conquered, battle-hardened units don't generally set up fine, plush camps, smoke pipes, and cook gourmet food. They don't establish themselves there . . . they rest a little, tend their wounds, and move on.

In other words, they advance their flag, and seek other territory to conquer. The little stone bridge over which they had fought so vigorously the day before, they now use as a launching pad, as a base of operations, from which to field more forces. The leader may establish a base camp, a field operation camp, but he only does so in order to send more troops into battle farther out into the woods, and the fields beyond.

There is a reason, for instance, why the national secular media presents two sides to the Episcopal church issue, rather than *one side* and that is because full rulership of the Episcopal church has not at all been fully established. The church is not able to "speak its prophetic voice" to the culture, without another voice piping up from within saying "that's not true and here's why" -- or, to say it another way, "we're not dead yet". If you think this is not a source of endless frustration to the powers-that-be -- that they are unable to make pronouncements without having that very annoying voice *from within* clogging up their news articles -- then I urge you to ponder just how vexed *you* would be if in your organization, your corporation, the same thing were happening. Most such "annoying voices" are your outside competitors, not your internal employees! ; > )

What about those who have left this particular little stone bridge or are thinking about leaving?

First, I say go with God, brother or sister in Christ, if you receive other orders. You are a worthy ally, and no doubt we shall meet again on some other field or plain. And second, I hope that you learned whatever it was you were supposed to learn while fighting this battle -- that is, as long as you were fighting it. Because if you were sitting under a shady oak tree and sipping dry martinis when you suddenly heard the sound of warfare a few yards downstream, and having just recently noted the battle, have now suddenly discovered new orders to other more comfortable climes . . . I somehow suspect that those orders have been forged and that you have not at all learned what you were meant to learn.

I am reminded of an early blog comment some time back in 2004, I believe, when a man posted on some site the happy news that he was "outta here" and on to a much better place. He could finally cease all of this silly, and useless fighting over an unworthy trivial corrupt Episcopal church, because he had crossed the Tiber and joined the Roman Catholic church.

He had not learned a crucial lesson, one that I suspect that God wants us all to learn.

I considered a response -- it would have been somewhat cruel, I am sorry to say -- but before I could do so, someone else had piped up with a comment along these lines:

"Welcome, brother. We hope you find rest and refreshment here on the shores of the Tiber. It is a beautiful place. Cast yourself down on its grassy banks and rest a while. . . . . But after you've rested -- and please don't do so for very long -- get up, strap back on your armor, and get back into the battle. We have a whole lot of fighting to do in this church and it is under assault as well."

Sweet! ; > )

But that leads me to what I think is a lesson I've been learning and that is . . . you're not going to leave the battle for long. Wherever you go -- there you are. And there'll be something fierce, something hideous, something demoralizing, something that seems doomed all over again, to fight your heart out for.


A commenter named Ramon follows up:
I watched this battle from across the Tiber as I am an orthodox Roman Catholic but let me tell you, as you so aptly pointed out in your analogy above, this is a battle and indeed whether one is a orthodox Anglican or an orthodox Roman Catholic, we indeed are fighting much the same battle. From my perspective, you and many other folks are truly fighting a valiant rear-guard action and I am cheering you on.

At West Point we studied many battles in which “a little stone bridge” was at stake. The 300 Spartans at Thermopyle died to a man, including their King Leonidas, not because they thought they could defeat 20,000 Persians, but because they had committed themselves to slow the Persian advance, their own little stone bridge. They did die but what they showed the world was that an “irresistable” force was not so irresistable in the face of resolute courage and determination and that lesson was well learned by the rest of the Greeks. Darius, the Persian King, didn’t last very long in the Greek peninsula and while the battle was “lost” (I would argue that strategically it won the war by breaking the Persian myth of invincibility).
Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus 

Inspired by this, this, and this...

Two Out Rally

Hurling bullet-fire he,
Billy Wagner came to see
if he could get the Redlegs out
and two he did, that dirty lout.

Ninety-eight his speed was clocked,
surely 5-4 was locked
in the ninth the Reds last chance
bases empty I watch askance.

But the Mighty Wagner threw
the count went full, a walk was drew
another pass, a small dink hit
and hope arrived, the bases lit.

Shootout at the green corral
oh-and-two on a strike and foul,
a single stroke to separate
the sheeps from goats at this late date.

Ninety-nine came a speeding train
but Phillips swung his fragile cane
and crack! the ball went in the field
and vict'ry for the Reds was sealed.

And while we're on the subject...

Fine Art Friday   (via Summa Mamas)

This mosaic shows the great "Big Red Machine" of the 1970s. If that ain't fine art then I don't know what is!

June 22, 2006

Slate piece...

...on Garrison Keillor.

...has a moving post on the poison of too much irony and cynicism. (Me: "Lord, take away my irony and cynicism, but just not yet.")
Randomized Thoughts

courtesy Knights of Columbus
Let's raise a figurative glass (though it is noon somewhere) to St. Thomas More! If he's not the only lawyer in Heaven, it would definitely have to be an exclusive group. One would think the temptation to perform jesuitical jujitsu in order to avoid a beheading would be nearly overwhelming but the saint did not succumb.

One great advantage of God having come to earth is that it helps us discount whatever negativity we feel. If we look at the problem of evil, or natural disasters for instance, we know that Christ knew of them and it didn’t alter his love for the Father. We know that even personal suffering didn’t alter that equation either (i.e. the Cross). We know that he read and inhaled the Old Testament and there was nothing in it that shook his faith. He had no problem reconciling the difficult passages therein. There was no Marcion disconnect between the Old & his own teachings that would form the basis of the New. There is great comfort in all of that.

It’s a time of madness. The summer equinox. The heat has come and it is so humid that walking outside is like walking into a wall. I am full of deep yearnings and not just for sex. No I have a yearning to write, "write like the wind". There are moments of beauty in unexpected moments. Driving to work today I was floored by the undulating hills of clover next to Neil Avenue. There was the grace note of a tall dark blue flower against the background of this happy flowering pink/purple clover. And it feels like being indoors is a crime against nature. Ol' Jim Curley & Jeff Culbreath are saying their told-ya-so's. It seems a crime not to notice, but summer will go along without us whether the lightning bugs are appreciated and the hammock is bowed and the hummingbirds are spotted. The days already begin to shorten. Early summer is shot through with wistfulness. What part does nostalgia play in the Christian’s life? The bible is not friendly towards it (look at Lot’s wife). What part does sentiment play?

An odd thing about blogging is the disproportionality it tends to encourage. I pray much for an ex-Catholic blogger who has become a Mormon. Why? I don’t even know her. How odd is that? How odd that I pray for her more than I do some of my own in-laws and family members?

The great challenge is to bravely note other people’s blind spots and not feel a crisis of confidence concerning how gaping your own might be. You can't know your blind spot else it wouldn't be called 'blind'. You must go forward in a Pickett’s Charge, unafraid of being wrong. Reading of fallen evangelists like Jim Bakker discombobulates me because it shows how short-lasting the Scriptural imperatives adhere to us. James writes in his epistle that we forget who we are, and that is so. The spiritual evaporates quickly without prayer and the gospel.

I go to an ultra-orthodox parish downtown a lot. There are long lines for Confession and more devotions that you can shake a stick at. And the sermon is often one concerning the besetting sin of the orthodox: self-righteousness. And I had to laugh because - get this - during one of those sermons I'm thinking, "it's good that at an orthodox parish we hear about self-righteousness. I wonder whether at the liberal parish down the street they're hearing about sin and heterdoxy." and I imagined not, that that's the difference between the orthodox and the heterodox. You simply can't make it up. I felt self-righteous during a sermon about self-righteousness!

I saw one of the Episcopalian ministers identify herself on her blog profile as an ENFS or whatever those Myers-Briggs initials are. I sometimes think about what would happen if Jesus say about Myers-Briggs. Would he give a pass to introverts? Would “feeler” types be given a doctrinal pass since logic might not be their forte? Would “judgers” be less judged on judging? Maybe, but that's also what grace is for.

Regarding the Episcopalian madness, I do feel sorry that St. Paul's passage about marrying if you would otherwise be given over to lust can't apply to homosexuals. Which is why they are called to be saints. But the amazing way in which the liberals in that church have demanded their own way reminds one of what Josef Pieper wrote decades ago:
There seems nowadays some strong imperative to conduct ourselves as though eros really were a kind of absolute authority. There are those who feel that they are right, are carrying out a kind of religious duty "in the service of eros" - even though they may be deceiving a spouse, betraying a friend, abusing hospitality, destroying the happiness of others, or abandoning their own children. Then everything appears as a "sacrifice" painfully offered upon the altar of love.

So what else is in the hopper? Let me look in the discontinued items bin. (Please make shuffling noise.) Oh yes. Don't tell Steven Riddle, because he could change this in a heartbeat by adding thousands of books to his librarything collection, but the current standings as far as books we share in common with Amy Welborn goes: TSO (40), sriddle (34), TLSouthard (31), scipio (29) where TLSouthard is MamaT of "Summa Mamas" fame and Scipio is he who blogs here. Of course, it's not a competition so please no wagering.

What else from the bargain bin? Here's something from Right Angle blog Ohioans may be interested in concerning gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland's view of religion.

June 21, 2006

Matthew Lickona...

...pens a haiku about the movie A Prairie Home Companion:
Death comes for us all
Keillor sings as she draws near
A jowly stoic.
I saw it and was somewhat disappointed. I'd had high hopes which is always the wrong way to approach a movie. It was full of eye candy, in the sense of being well-photographed and getting a backstage glimpse at the set. Some of the music was good. But that's about it.

Lickona reviews it here, and in another post points us to a Godspy article titled Porn and the Sacred Heart.
Novak on the Trinity.
Beatin' a Dead Horse...

...but manishevitz, what a soap opera. And the 'Piskie bloggers, not unexpectedly, are articulate and witty and full of gallows humor. I'll miss 'em when they're gone. Ruth Geldhill writes from England:
So there will be a desperate, last-minute attempt in the US today to get something past the bishops and deputies that allows Bishop Schori to take her seat on the world Anglican state. Thus, in an extraordinary way, the election of a woman might have actually saved the Anglican Communion from schism. Had it been a man, they might not have cared so much. They really, really want to see Bishop Katharine up there, alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury. And actually, I have to admit, so do I. The thought of real schism happening now is utterly heartbreaking.
Funny if it wasn't also sad. One deputy, a female pastor in New Jersey, wrote that she was ashamed that while there were starving people in the world they were wasting time on resolutions about gay bishops. But if sexuality is minutiae, gender isn't. She writes breathlessly:
The Episcopal Women's Caucus and Integrity held a party last night in honor of Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori, our new Presiding Bishop and Primate. The EWC had buttons made in pink which declare: "It's a girl!"...I woke up yesterday morning, the first day of life in the Anglican Communion with a Primate who is a woman, and noted that the sky had not fallen. Neither had the world changed the rotation of its axis nor was the sun hidden by cloud or eclipse. I do confess that my next thought was this: The Primate of The Episcopal Church is probably just waking up and was, no doubt, beginning to get dressed.

And, she's putting on her bra.

It's a brave new world.
It sounds almost fetishistic. Almost a "divine feminine", a cult of raising up of woman to the divine (and that the author quoted above is a lesbian isn't surprising. Men have been doing the same for years.). Another conventioneer posts a sermon from that new Presiding (bra-wearing) Bishop Elect:
Our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation and we are his children. We are going to have to give up fear.
Our mother Jesus? There's a new one on me. I knew Geldhill would have a field day with that.

The female pastor from New Jersey is hoping for schism. She complains of Canterbury and certainly gets to the heart of the issue:
Ahem . . . . Can you say, ‘magisterium’? It is becoming reality – The Episcopal Church is becoming more and more dominated by the same ‘foreign rule’ that provided the impulse for the first Reformation. Except, of course, that the purple sacristy slipper is on the other foot, as it were. Now it is England that is the “foreign rule” to America, instead of the Britons objecting to Roman rule.
Update: "The Pontificator" comments about "Mother Jesus" on another blog: "I do not see anything objectionable to metaphorically describing Jesus as our mother. It is precisely the fact that the masculine pronoun is retained that makes this kind of metaphorical usage permissible (see Julian of Norwich)."
Faith & Reason & Sex

Regarding the Episcopalian situation, part of the reason I find it so interesting is that it pits those whose belief rests on Scripture in a sort of faith-alone position against those who exercise reason alone and give Revelation short shrift.

God knows that obedience is hard enough for us even when reason alone is invoked (i.e. don't do drugs since they'll wreck your life) or faith alone (i.e. Christ is God). But Catholicism tries to rest on both the faith & reason wings and this is never more clear than in her teachings on sexuality. Once you disconnect sex from procreation it seems contrary to reason to say that masturbation and gay sex are wrong. Is God arbitrary? What principle(s) underlay human sexuality? The Church doesn't scorn God's gift of reason while holding firm to the constant interpretation of Scripture regarding the sinfulness of homosexual acts.

I'm listening to a course on WWI and the instructor says that new technologies changed moralities. The newly invented machine gun was looked upon as a barbarous weapon, something never to be used on so-called "civilized" peoples. And yet we know the rest of the story. It seems the invention of the ever-so-convenient birth control pill has likewise changed moralities.

Another lesson of the Episcopalian Convention is how if the guiding principle of Anglicanism is lex orandi, lex credendi (or "what we pray is what we believe") then it doesn't seem to be working. (An off-the-cuff thought: does this mean the Latin Mass isn't the panacea Traditionalists think it is?) To the extent that Anglicanism's reason for existence is to ignore doctrinal differences (i.e. as a compromise between Catholicism and Protestantism) then are the liberals in that church ironically more in keeping with what Anglicanism is about after all?

June 20, 2006

Interesting National Review Jonah Goldberg Article:
Ever since the dawn of the Progressive Era, conservatives have been fighting progressive assumptions about the role of the state, the nature of justice, and the relevance, if any, of the transcendent to public life. With few exceptions, this argument has been almost entirely on the opposition’s terms.

Consider, for example, the debate about same-sex marriage. Among those already convinced that same-sex marriage should be illegal, invocations of the Bible and natural law are common. But these arguments are useless when it comes to persuading the secular-minded. That’s why Maggie Gallagher, Stanley Kurtz, and others consistently invoke not God’s law but the laws of regression analysis and standard deviation (“deviation” in a strictly statistical sense, of course). These are useful arguments, and it’s good that someone is making them. But the implied assumption seems to be that if numbers and charts demonstrated that same-sex marriages were better for kids than “traditional” ones, conservatives — or at least many of them — would throw in the towel.

Indeed, so steeped are we in progressive assumptions that “traditional” has become a category to be tested and prodded like any other. One can imagine some study with towers of numbers falling in neat columns. One of these appears under the heading “traditional” and stands alongside a dozen others. Whichever category scores the highest, wins.

Why has this happened? The answer is that we live in a progressive world. If you live in Japan, you’ll be hard-pressed to persuade people of anything if you don’t speak Japanese or understand the culture. Similarly, conservatives must speak the language of progressivism in order to persuade progressives that they are wrong. The danger in this is that you can go native. John Blackthorne in James Clavell’s Shogun becomes more Japanese than many Japanese people. So, too, conservatives can end up more progressive than the progressives.

But what, exactly, do I mean by “progressivism”? Certainly not — or not merely — the tinfoil-hattery that gets called “progressive” on the web and elsewhere. Progressivism has overlapping meanings. It refers both to the generic leftism we associate with the word “progressive” and to the Progressive Era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But both of these senses rely on a more metaphysical meaning. Progressivism was perhaps best summarized by Condorcet’s declaration that there is “a science that can foresee the progress of humankind, direct it, and accelerate it.” Progressivism takes it as a given that mankind, not God, is the pilot of Spaceship Earth. The good is measured in material terms — greater health, greater prosperity, greater comfort — and the social sciences are the disciplines that allow us to engineer society in ways that will maximize the good. Recall that the phrase “social engineering” didn’t start out as an epithet; people once bragged that they were social engineers. Even if the term has fallen into disrepute, the practice is alive and well.

Progressivism was an entirely rational response to the scientific method’s success at what Francis Bacon called “the relief of man’s estate.” Rather than beseeching God for bounty and good fortune and giving thanks when these were received, mankind learned to do for himself. Irrigation replaced rain. Animal husbandry and domestication brought more happiness and prosperity than praying for a good hunting season. Medicine substituted for crossing your fingers that the smallest cut wouldn’t lead to deadly infection. While one occasionally hears sophomoric voices — on the left and the right — opining about the superiority of medieval life or the rapture of living in a “state of nature” with one’s fellow noble savages, few of us are eager to defenestrate dentistry, cable TV, and air conditioning in exchange for such joy. And rightly so.

But there was a considerable downside to the displacement of the Almighty by the trinity of the slide rule, the microchip, and the test tube. Eric Voegelin was among the most alarmed critics of the rising progressive tide. According to Voegelin, you cannot eliminate the religious instinct. “When God is invisible behind the world, the contents of the world will become new gods; when the symbols of transcendent religiosity are banned, new symbols develop from the inner-worldly language of science to take their place.” Translation: When you rely on science and technology to do God’s job, it won’t be long before you worship science as a god. Marxism, the apotheosis of progressivism, purged the divine and replaced it with materialism. For the Marxist, proclaimed Voegelin, “Christ the Redeemer is replaced by the steam engine as the promise of the realm to come.” For many people today, the steam engine has been replaced by the embryonic stem cell as the promise of the realm to come.

Conservatives, or at least a majority of them, retain an admirable opposition to crossing bright lines on “life” issues. The passionate denunciations that this “dogmatism” elicits from liberals are a sign of how fundamental is the progressive faith that we are our own gods. The Left’s rancor also reflects the fact that protection of the unborn is one of the last redoubts of conservative adherence to immutable moral law. Pro-lifers often concede that having an unwanted baby is “bad” for both the baby and the mother in material terms (though it is of course not as bad for the baby as death). They simply say that a higher law applies.

But very few conservatives would dream of making such an argument when it comes to, say, economics. They note that eliminating the “death tax” would be good for “growth,” or for minorities, or for entrepreneurialism. The cuts would pay for themselves, we are assured. But even when conservatives believe that the death tax is not only unwise but unjust (as indeed it is), they recognize that this position simply won’t fly. Indeed, the supply-side school of economics was born of the progressive desire to prove that cutting taxes for the rich would be good for the poor. Why? Because conservatives either accepted or surrendered to the prevailing view that high taxes on the wealthy would be justified if they advanced the common good. As a matter of logic, this view offers no principled reason for the state not to confiscate all wealth if doing so would be beneficial to society (though there are of course pragmatic reasons to think it would not). As a matter of justice, it is no more legitimate to rob a man of nine of his apples for the “public interest” than to take all ten.

Many supply-siders tout John F. Kennedy’s tax cuts — meant to counteract the worst stock-market crash since the Great Depression — as their model. But they were not implemented in the spirit of supply-side economics at all. They were rather a form of Keynesianism, justified in the language of Cold War competition. As H. W. Brands notes, Kennedy was the first president to claim that the government had an obligation to ensure economic growth. It is a sign of how thoroughly conservatism has absorbed progressivism that most of us take JFK’s view for granted. Believing it is the government’s job to ensure growth is tantamount to saying that the government should superintend the economy. A captain need not keep his hand on the tiller every second to remain a captain, and today’s “laissez faire” means “Let it be — until things take a bad turn.” In short, conservatives, too, have accepted that there is a science of human progress.

I offer no solutions here, in part because it is difficult to see exactly where the problems lie. The West may need a new metaphysics to deal with the challenges of modernity. I am not up to the task of crafting one. But conservatives could help that project along by asking themselves more regularly whether they favor something because it is right in itself, or simply because they like its outcome.

I left the Episcopal Convention so grateful to be Catholic. I have a profound sense of sadness as I reflect on the day. I am still digesting all I saw and heard. Make no mistake about it. The folks at the Episcopal Convention, are on the whole, very liberal. As a matter of fact, a part of the convention is even more liberal than Bishop Robinson. The majority of those at the convention would make the National Catholic Reporter’s views seem like that of Spirit Daily in comparison...I only wish those Catholics who disagree with our church could spend some at the Episcopal Convention. I think they would appreciate our Catholic faith, history, diversity, tradition and orthodoxy so much more. I will be praying for our Episcopal friends. They will certainly need many prayers. - David Hartline of "Catholic Report"

We can’t get anywhere with unity unless we figure out the Eucharist. When we come to an agreement on the Eucharist, we will have unity. - Anglican Father Victor King of Liberia, interviewed by David Harline

I feel like one sleepwalking, lost in the cosmos (to steal from my most interesting of recent reads, Walker Percy's book of that title), beset by demons of epistemology in the garden of ontology, wondering whether I really have the will to be a saint, sullen and withdrawn like the child I once was (who preferred the company of his own imagination to that of any other people, and ran around the deserted parts of the playground by himself playing the dinosaur hero). So I haven't exactly been up to writing anything of substance. Trust me, though, I'll be back. All it takes is my next epiphany. - Patrick of Orthonormal Basis

I think one thing that bothers me about ex-gay theology is that it doesn't just say "God CAN do this," but "God WILL do this"--God WILL change your life in this very specific way, removing a temptation, if you want it badly enough. And there's so little help on how to live before that change occurs, too. It just seems like such a setup for failure. - Eve Tushnet

The philosophy department at Notre Dame has about 60 faculty members. In 90 percent of the courses, friends at Notre Dame say, eminently pertinent documents such as the encyclicals Veritatis Splendor and Fides et Ratio are not read and, probably, not even referred to. In the world of academic certification, the philosophy department ranks 13th in the nation. The question persistently asked is not, “How do we create an authentically Catholic philosophy department?” but, “How do we get to a single digit?” - Fr. Neuhaus of "First Things"

Michael told me the other night of a news story he'd read indicating that the more plugged in a young person is, the more anxious and depressed they are. Now, there could be an inverse relationship as well - that the more depressed a kid is, the more they plug in. But as we were talking about it, we decided that the reason might be this - because of computers, text-messaging, cel-phones and God knows what else, young people are never, ever disconnected from their peers. Peers are the center of most kids' lives - they give them the most joy and fitting into that group is the cause of the most anxiety. Before the day of constant communication, there was space to be free of that. Oh, it might still be in your head as you worried about it, but you couldn't constantly be IM'ing or texting about who went where with who and who wasn't included, or worrying about the image that you're presenting. For a lot of young people, that space - the space to really be free and consider yourself apart from anyone else's eyes or ears - has disappeared. No wonder they're tense. - Amy Welborn

We shouldn't be too quick to separate this life from eternal life, since through Baptism our eternal life has already begun. Jesus does promise us comfort and security, not as a reward after we die, but as a gift right now, right here. It's not the material comfort and security we might want, but it is no less real, no less present in our fallen world, for being spiritual. In fact, to the extent comfort and security are subjective measurements of how we perceive ourselves, it doesn't make much difference whether they are based on material or spiritual reasons.The question, then, is to what extent material comfort and security can be sought without interfering with spiritual comfort and security. And the answer, I suppose, was given by Jesus: "Seek first the kingdom of God...." - Tom of Disputations

In 28 years of priesthood, I've been able to celebrate Mass in several other European languages. German has rhythm, Italian has poetry and Spanish is very strong when it's used in the liturgy. Catalan is intimate and French is elegant, but the English we use is impoverished and often trite. Sometimes, the translation is inaccurate and occasionally it's bewildering, such as the Arianism that was slipped unawares into the fixed Preface for the Fourth Eucharist Prayer: "You alone are God, living and true" addressed to the Father. I've been told that there's also quite a bit of Pelagianism in the translations, with the presumption that we get there by our own efforts. We need to sort out this mess and should express our regrets to the Protestant churches which have followed us too closely in altering their own words of worship. - Fr. Ferguson commenting on "Open Book"

If I had grown up heterosexual, I don't know if I would be Catholic today....Throughout my childhood I had a strong sense that something had gone wrong--that I was not only different but broken. I connected this feeling to my sexual orientation, and developed intense shame. This despite being raised in an extraordinarily gay-positive household--I could be misremembering, but I'm not sure I even encountered stigma against homosexuality until I was in junior high. The doctrine of original sin offered a startling and hopeful possibility: Suddenly the thing that made me different, my sexual orientation, was not the focus; my alienation was a distilled version of what every person experiences after the Fall. My orientation was a source of insight, not solely a burden or a political cause. - Eve Tushnet

June 19, 2006

The Increasingly Joyful Mysteries

Joy knew not man
until the Annunciation
and from Mary Joy found
Elizabeth and John and then
a score of shepherds keeping watch
till Simeon prophesized a wider dispersal
to be fulfilled in the Heavenly Temple.
Tom & George

He calls it justice, which it certainly is, though it could be considered a show of mercy on some of his readers. Others might think it an exercise in prudence, for irritation makes intellectuals irrational, or so Ramesh Ponnuru posits in an artice in National Review concerning George Will's sudden distaste for social conservatives, with Ponnuru pointing out a string of illogicisms in Will's columns:
Will got in another Schiavo shot, describing social conservatives (no sneer quotes this time) as “unchastened by public disgust about their attempt 10 months ago to drag the federal government into the Terri Schiavo tragedy.” But social conservatives didn’t drag the federal government into this tragedy; it was there from the start. The Supreme Court had ruled, in 1990, that all states had to make it possible for a surrogate to direct that a feeding tube be removed from an incapacitated patient. Florida, Schiavo’s home state, never had a choice about whether to comply. Social conservatives were merely trying to contain the damage from that federal intervention.

Social conservatives often deserve criticism, even sharp criticism, and some of Will’s hits the mark. What fair-minded observer would deny that they can be intolerant, or self-righteous? Will is right to say that too often they play the victim card. They do, sometimes, overreach. Will is probably right to consider both intelligent design and the marriage amendment instances of such overreaching. (I would also point to the insistence, by many social conservatives, that America is in some constitutional sense a “Christian nation.”) Social conservatives, whatever they should be called, can learn from his rebukes. By any sensible reckoning, Will is, even today, a moderate social conservative himself. But lately, when social conservatives are the topic, Will’s reasoning loses its customary intricacy.

How to explain it? I will venture a guess. George Will is the most coolly analytical of commentators. (He is cool even — especially — when he is scorching.) Look closely, however, and it is just possible to see that his thought is being distorted by an emotion. It is a powerful yet underrated emotion: irritation.

In the Byzantine Rite's cycle of readings yesterday's gospel was the calling of Andrew & Simon Peter. And this morning I heard the delightful Sara Evans tune Suds in the Bucket. So I combined them for you (as always, remember what you paid):
They were out fishin', say it was a little past nine
When the Lord pulled up, a white pickup truck
The scribes shoulda seen it comin' - it was only just a matter of time
Plenty old enough, and you can't stop God.
Andrew stuck a note on the screen door "sorry but I got to go"
That was all he wrote, his mamma's heart was broke
That was all he wrote, so the story goes

(Chorus) Now his wife's in the kitchen starin' out the window, scratchin' and a rackin' her brains
How could 38 years just up and walk away?
He left the boat in the water and the bait hangin' out on the line

Now don't you wonder what the preacher's gonna preach about Sunday mornin'
Nothing quite like this has happened here before
Well God must've been a smooth talkin' son of gun
For such a grounded dude to just up and run
Course you can't fence time, and you can't stop God


(3rd chorus) Got his sandals on they're headed to Jerusalem tonight
How could 38 years just up and walk away?
Trouble is a comin' and they say that the night is near
The fisherman is gonna be a saint
'Cuz he left the boat in the water and the bait hangin' on the line...
Various and/or Sundry

So this is how a schism happens. We weren't there in the 11th century when East and West officially went separate ways. We weren't there during the Reformation. We weren't around to watch the Anabaptists get out of Dodge or watch the Mennonites split from the Old Order Amish. But we are watching a train wreck now as the American Episcopalians begin divorce proceedings from the Anglican communion (although admittedly the former comprise a tiny fraction of the latter).

From the Columbus Dispatch:

At least 1,000 people pushed into Trinity Episcopal Church to celebrate the Eucharist and show their support for New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man. His supporters filled the pews, balconies and basement and spilled out onto the S. 3 rd Street sidewalk. They laughed and cried and stood clapping as a teary-eyed Robinson urged them to love those gathered about a mile away in a modest, windowless room at Nationwide Arena.

There, Bishop Peter Beckwith of Springfield, Ill., presided over an intimate service. Although their numbers were small by comparison, roughly 80 people, they sang loudly and held tightly to their convictions.
Re: the phrase "tightly-held convictions" with respect to conservative Episcopalians. "Tight" seems often used in conjunction with conservatives in the media but seems here an adjective very applicable to the progressive Episcopalians, who not only have tightly-held convictions but are not shy about imposing them.

From a progressive Episcopalian blogger at the Convention here in Columbus:
Yesterday a really cool resolution came before the House of Deputies it called on dioceses and congregations to do education about debt and debt reduction for families and called for February to be designated 'Debt Awareness Month'...We had amendments and amendments to amendments and people were debating the month that should be debt awareness month and someone suggested April instead of February and someone else said we shouldn't pick a month and it was taking a long time. Someone got up and said we should really have September be debt awareness month because that prepares people for Christmas buying and doesn't overlap with Easter. I strongly agree with him and right after he spoke they called for a vote. I ended up voting for the resolution because I think in essence its a good resolution while at the same time thinking February is the wrong month...All in all, I'm excited about debt awareness month and think any month is really a good month to talk about it and every month is essentially debt awareness month.
I think that pretty much speaks for itself. Later she expresses qualms about using her child as prop:
I've been struggling with the idea that Naomi is someone or something that helps me make political points. Many times before and during convention people have told me that Naomi's presence really makes a point (her being here in general, me having her on the floor with me, me bringing her to a committee meeting, me bringing her to a hearing). I decided during morning worship that although I often feel uncomfortable with politicians 'posing' with their kids I could find a balance between using her as a prop and finding a way to be truly me, protect her, and have her presence here with me be the natural thing I think it is and if all that happens to be a political statement then so be it.

A thought: the Beatitudes begin "Blessed are the poor in spirit" and continue in that sort of third person vein. "Blessed are those who mourn...Blessed are the peacemakers". We may or may not be able to identify ourselves in those categories (which is the source of consternation - Bob Deffinbaugh writes, "I was thinking of the statement Nikita Krushchev made a number of years ago while in the United States, when he said, “I’ll tell you what the difference between Christians and me is, and that is if you slap me on the face, I’ll hit you back so hard your head will fall off.” He was impacted by the Sermon on the Mount. He knew what it said, and he didn’t like it at all. The truth is that the natural man does not like its message. This is not the message one would take to write a best selling book—even a Christian book. The message of the Sermon on the Mount is not one that sells.")

But then the Beatitudes suddenly switch to the first person: "Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake." (emphasis mine). I wonder if this suggests that not all are called to be martyrs in the sense of the verse before ("Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness' sake") but that all Christians will be persecuted in the sense of falsely accused and reproached.

As Roman Catholics, there is a tendency to think the events at the Episcopalian Convention have nothing to do with us but they are momentous in the sense that we are all affected by each other and by the climate of the culture. Artificial birth control was universally prohibited before the Anglicans, in 1930, okay'd their use. Some thirty years Rome visited the issue and the papal commission apparently approved the Pill, while Pope Paul VI (suprisingly given his generally diffident management style) condemned the practice. I know of Catholics who date their disobedience to the pope to the promulgation of Humane Vitae. So, at the risk of great oversimplication, the actions of the Anglicans in 1930 eventually led to a great deal of our current division in the American church.
Excerpts from Scott Hahn's Scripture Matters:

I propose that St. Thomas [Aquinas] is best understood not simply by looking at his metaphysics, or by studying his appreciation of Aristotle, or by updating him with modern science. Rather, I suggest that St. Thomas is fundamentally a biblical theologian. In fact, many of his biographers tell us that Thomas would have described himself primarily as a teacher of Scripture...Many scholars now are rediscovering the biblical depth of his teachings, and the importance of appropriating the scriptural categories that formed the framework of much of his thought.

...Because of sin's blinding effects, the "book" of nature must be translated by the inspired Word of Scripture. Nature, since the fall, cannot be truly understood apart from Scriptures...Apart [from them], not even a genuis as St. Thomas could have made much sense of God's purpose for salvation history...

I'm convinced that many well-meaning people have fastened onto the natural law for the purpose of helping Catholics enter the American public square and discuss morality in a religiously neutral way...[but] fallen human nature is incapable of knowing the natural law with certainty. As St. Thomas teachers, it is only possible with much effort, after a very long time. Only a few will come to know it, and even then with an admixture of error. If we are going to adopt the natural law tradition that our Church teachers, we should not do it with an apologetic strategy of selectivism or minimalism, because the natural law is not something that is non-religious. In drawing from the natural law tradition, we cannot escape religion...St. Thomas, as I understand him, is a consistent and committed theocrat.
Another tidbit from the same book:
But what about the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8)? Notice that Jesus did not condemn her, but neither did He apologize for her public shame. He does not refrain from judgment. Judgment, after all, is a precondition of mercy. Jesus sets her free, but He makes clear that mercy has its price, and that price is the fulfillment of the Law: "Go, and do not sin again." (Jn. 8:11).

June 17, 2006

More Episcopalian Talk

Fr. Manning's an openly celibate priest

Still hyp-mo-tized by the Episcopalians in town. Heard some of the protagonists and antagonists on Larry King’s show. Three were pro-homosexual sex (including Andrew Sullivan and Bishop Gene Robinson) and three anti-. The anti- folks seemed to track well with their respective religious groups. The Baptist emphasized Scripture (though surprisingly he said that we look to tradition for help in interpreting Scripture). He insinuated gays need not be gay; they can be transformed by the power of grace. Which seemed a Cross-less Christianity though at the same time is indicative of an adamnant faith that refuses to sell God’s power short. The Catholic priest emphasized the positive side: you can be gay and have deep friendships and love – but it just can’t be physical. No sex; a definite cross. He argued from a natural law perspective, how we have to track as closely as we can to the true purpose of sex. Men are made for women and vice-versa. And the third fellow, an Episcopalian priest, basically argued that 2,000 years of Christian tradition can’t be wrong and that Scripture should be the standard against which we measure ourselves rather than the other way around. Sullivan kept insisting that he can’t bear false witness and to deny that he’s gay would be to bear false witness. Absurd, because the priest had that covered. You can be gay, you just can’t make it about sex. And the fact that that is never taken seriously means that despite protestations to the contrary, being gay is about sex. Duh. But that doesn't make their situation less pitiable; they are called to be saints and that many are resisting is not exactly an unfamiliar situation, gay or straight.

A commenter on a blog thread about the King show said that the big elephant in the room that went unmentioned was the Fall and how things aren’t the way they should be after that. It’s interesting that the priest (Fr. Manning) argued from nearly the opposite perspective. That nature is good and that nature intends men be with women for the positive purpose of children.

Sullivan's attitude is symptomatic of modern Christianity in the West, which is the attitude that we’ve already seemingly errored on the side of too much rigor so why not error on the side of too little rigor for awhile? From "masturbation will cause insanity" and "the death penalty for sodomites" to "gay sex is God's will" in one easy ...er...stroke. Reading about Presybterians of the 18th and 19th centuries is illuminating as they are the anti-Sullivans. Back then God took all “ties” – in other words, any doubt about something was settled in favor of the more rigorous fashion. Now not only does man take all ties but more often than not man is taking even what is clearly God’s. The head of the Episcopalian church – the one who promoted Gene Robinson to bishop - argued that we’ve learned so much in the past centuries in the fields of medicine and physics then why not sexuality? But is it really that we have learned so much about sexuality or that we have made it our god because it’s tough enough getting through life without forgoeing pleasures that modern man has come to expect?

The Episcopalian prelate was asked by Larry King to sympathize with Sullivan but surprisingly he tried to one-up Sullivan's victimhood and play one too. He said that he wishes he and other orthodox folk weren’t being marginalized and isolated in the present Episcopalian church. Can we buy that Episcopalianism is as important to the prelate as sex is to Andrew? Maybe we could if we lived in a different age?

CNN kept showing the graphic beneath Gene Robinson referring to him as an “openly gay bishop”. I thought a possible parody be to have a graphic under Fr. Manning that said “openly celibate priest”. It seems in today’s world celibacy is rejected out of hand and is now more courageous than being openly gay.
Judgment Day

White-hot the black-wrought
iron bench off High Street
where I read a Bill Luse novel
to the beat of the sun’s beatlessness.

She splits the sky and renders judgment
strong and hot, visible to all
inescapable astride the 'sphere
plain as the nose on your face.

At home the tomato plants slump
and I look at them sideways and debate
between the tough love of asking their roots to go deeper
and the pity of watering them now.
5K College Reunion Race

I could hear her struggling for breath
“’86” she said,
as in class of ’86,
a year after me.

Life was repeated
for I was a step ahead
though just as breathless.

June 16, 2006

'08 Prez Campaign

What'll be interesting to watch in the next election is which of the Forces-Which-Determine-Who-Will-Be-Elected will dominate. I think the three forces are:
1) Whiplash Syndrome
2) The Smiler Gets the Worm
3) Authenticity: If you can fake it you can make it
The Three Forces

  • Generally there is a natural tendency to vote for the person who is least like the last president. Call it a pendulum or "previous occupant fatigue" but this is how we got squeaky-clean outsider like Carter after Nixon and straight-talking Bush after smooth but forked-tongue talking Clinton. This would suggest that Hilary is in a good position because people might be ready for nuance and talking-out-of--both-sides-of-your-mouth again. (As well as someone who can pronounce "nuclear".) This force also favors Hilary in the sense that she's a woman. On the Republican side one could argue that Newt Gingrich could woo voters with his smartness and fluid command of the English language.

  • The nicest person wins. This theory is that most of the time the more genuinely likeable person wins. (Someone said that if Bill Clinton could've met every voter individually he would've won his elections unaminously.) This would seem to favor John Edwards, Mike Huckabee, John McCain. Test the candidate by forming a mental image of them bonding with Oprah. If you can't really imagine it then they don't have much of a chance of winning.

  • In post-modernity the hunger for authenticity is so great that it might trump everything else including competency or ideology. Gore in '00 was perceived as non-authentic (recall his dumping his environmental agenda, his consultations with Naomi Wolf about how to dress like an alpha male (if you have to ask...) and the "I invented the internet" attitude). Kerry in '04 was as fake as the day is long. It's difficult to see his "I voted for it before I voted against it" as anything other than subjugating the war to his political ambition. If the Democrats had nominated someone capable of authenticity we might well have had a Democratic president. For '08, John Edwards or Russ Feingold seem well-positioned here since this is Hillary's Achilles' Heel.