Thursday, June 16, 2005

Here and There . . .

An irregular roundup of blogs, articles and commentary.

In Political Matters

  • "Every child born or unborn ought to be protected in law and welcomed in life." Sound familiar? According to Stuart Buck the phrase -- alternatively rendered as "welcomed in life and protected in law" -- has been Bush's mantra on abortion since his 2000 presidential campaign. However, the original source of the phrase happens to be from a 1996 Statement published in a distinguished ecumenical publication we all know and love. As Stuart concludes: "I had never noticed this connection before, and -- as far as LEXIS and Google are concerned -- neither has anyone else. Some would say that Bush has been using "code words." But it is not a very successful use of code words, if only a handful of people in the entire country would know what Bush has been quoting."

  • "Lo, the U.N. By What Name Do We Call Thee?" -- Bruce Thornton on the "failed, useless, dubious, impotent, pernicious, morally exhausted" United Nations:

    Such global parliaments had been the stuff of numerous utopias over the years, a dream particularly attractive for those horrified by the nationalist-inspired carnage of modern warfare and enamored of the idea that humans could progress beyond war and violence, which were considered primitive vestiges of a less civilized world rather than eternal realities of human nature.

    But that dream is itself based on a questionable assumption: that rational negotiation, discussion, and appeals to self-interest and material benefits can trump force. In fact, rational discussion and negotiation work only when everybody at the table respects them, bargains in good faith, and sincerely desires peaceful coexistence. Unfortunately, history teaches us that for those who respect only force and see it as an instrument for realizing their ambitions, or for those driven by irrational motives like fear or the lust for domination, such discussion, diplomacy, and negotiation will be mere tactics for furthering those strategic goals. Finally, negotiated settlements and resolutions are only as good as the credible threat of force backing them. Lacking that credible threat, and cursed with these false assumptions about human nature and the self-interested behavior of states, the U.N. could only degenerate into a politicized body in which every state sought to advance its own interests.

    The sorry history of the U.N. demonstrates precisely this truism. When it hasn't been a cash-cow for venal international bureaucrats, a venue for the machinations of corrupt autocracies, an anti-Semitic and anti-American megaphone, or a tool for furthering the totalitarian designs of Communist nations, the U.N. has been good only for issuing high-minded resolutions that it can't or won't back up, all the while corrupt regimes pursue their oppressive ends. . . .

  • Last week, the Daily Demarche invited bloggers from the left and the right to pair up for cross-blog debates on "the future of global democracy and the role that the United States should play in the spread of democracy to oppressed or less developed nations." Marc Schulman of American Future and Eric Marten of Total Information Awareness do just that. You can find the links to their debate -- now in its fifth round -- here.

  • On the Iraq War, Potential Future Wars, and the Probable Positions of the Popes Thereof - "Tales of the Mailbag" Dept., I. Shawn McElhinney corresponds with critic of the Iraq war. Here is a continuation of the same discussion. Shawn notes that the person with whom he is corresponding is a polite and principled individual -- apparently a rare combination in the anti-war crowd.

  • "Fusion? or just Overlap?" - Someguy from Mystery Achievement reflects on the much-discussed article by Jody Bottum (The New Fusionism First Things 153 June/July 2005):

    The pro-life/anti-war squad needs to take seriously the possibility that there are times when they do not make clear the distinction--to themselves or others--between innocence and guilt, and consider the impact of the failure to make that distinction on life and family issues like abortion, gay marriage, and fetal stem cell research. As one who has lived in anti-war, anti-death penalty Europe for going on a decade-and-a-half now, I can tell you this: Where that distinction is lost, the result is not that all killing stops. The result is that, whether you're talking about abortion clinics or Bosnia, only the killing of the guilty stops. Then, too, there may also be some correlation between the lack of belief in anything worth killing or dying for, and the lack of a will to produce a human future by having families. You know; something to which one is willing to pledge his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor.

    The pro-war/pro-social engineering squad needs to ask itself whether some of its own goals and means of accomplishing them might not harm, rather than sustain, our ability and willingness to fight and defeat Islamofascism or any other outside threat. For example: Was the Lawrence vs. Texas decision worth the price of employing extra-national law to support it? Is it one we'll pay for later (and dearly) if our sovereignty becomes so compromised that we can no longer defend ourselves without asking someone else's permission (which we almost surely will not get)? And don't condemnations of Islamists who enslave non-Muslims (as happens in Sudan and other parts of Africa) sound a little hollow coming from a source that endorses fetal stem cell research? Don't both practices treat the human person as commodity and product; as an object to be used and disposed of?

    Someguy claims that Bottum's editorial is of historical importance, being the first occasion that the editorial staff of First Things discover blogs. Or, rather, actually cited bloggers as sources of commentary. Not necessarily so -- it seems that FT has recognized blogs/bloggers in its pages on several occasions, mostly in the context of Fr. Neuhaus' column "The Public Square":

    • disassociating himself from them in December 2002 ("Don't get me wrong; I rather like the blogger insurgency. I quickly learned it can be addictive; going from link to link, you discover that you've wasted an hour or more on mildly entertaining ephemera. So I have a rule of giving the bloggers no more than fifteen minutes per day, which has the happy effect of cutting about the same amount of time from reading the Times");
    • crediting "that notable blogger Mark Shea, who is concerned about what he calls the Lidless Eye Crowd on the rightmost fringes of Catholicism" in January 2003;
    • acknowledging the Anglican blog TitusOneNine as a source in February 2004,
    • and actually publishing an editorial by Brooklyn blogger Noah Millman in the very same issue

    The author of the Catholic blog Cries in the Night posts some good thoughts on Bottum's essay as well, particularly his explanation why "faith-based initiatives are such a dangerous idea for the lives of welfare programs." (And if that isn't enough, there is, as always, Amy Welborn's commmentariat).

On Religion . . .

  • Gerald Augustinus ("The Cafeteria is Closed") has an interesting post on Hitler, Nietzsche and religion, responding to a commentator who alleges that Hitler was a devoted Christian. Apparently this is a popular contention among some critics of the faith. However, it is readily apparent that Hitler's approach to Christianity was purely utilitarian -- he being a master of propaganda and a sucker for a photo-op that would appeal to the masses. At the same time, perhaps it can be argued that he was more sincere in his vegetarianism than his "practice" of Christianity.

  • James V. Schall on Lumen Gentium and universalism - Dr. Blosser directs our attention to a provocative observation by Fr. Schall in the latest issue of Crisis on the question of salvation by "invincible ignorance."

  • In the wake of his announcement that he is, at long last, becoming a papist, Fr. Kimel responds to the question Why not Eastern Orthodoxy?, regarding which he offers two criticisms: first, the inescapable "Easternness" of Orthodoxy, that is to say, "The coherence and power of Orthodoxy is partially achieved by excluding the Western tradition from its spiritual and theological life"; and secondly, "the absence of a final court of appeal in controversies of faith and morals." Suffice to say there are plenty of responses from the commentariat (217 and counting . . .)

  • Edward Short has a good piece in the May 2005 issue of Crisis Magazine (back issue now online) on The Catholic Novels of Graham Greene, whose tales of disgruntled and lapsed Catholics, reflecting his own struggles of the faith, serve as a testimony in and of themselves:

    Suggesting that Greene can be read without reference to his Catholic faith is like suggesting that Surtees can be read without reference to fox hunting. Suggesting that his faith was bogus, or assumed to sell books, is simply untrue. Greene’s faith was central to his being. That he failed to adhere to certain Church teachings does not invalidate his recognition of the binding truth of those teachings or brand him a hypocrite. He saw his failings clearly enough and never tried to appear better than he was. If anything, like Swift, he delighted in appearing worse.

    In all events, in failing his faith, he blamed himself, not the Faith. In “A Visit to Morin,” one of his later short stories, a lapsed Catholic novelist declares:

    I can tell myself now that my lack of belief is a final proof that the Church is right and the faith is true. I had cut myself off for twenty years from grace and my belief withered as the priests said it would. I don’t believe in God and His Son and His angels and His saints, but I know the reason why I don’t believe and the reason is—the Church is true and what she taught me is true. For twenty years I have been without the sacraments and I can see the effect. The wafer must be more than wafer.

  • "Neophilia, the hankering for the new, the devotion of the month disease apparent in the Church may, in some instances, be symptomatic of good old-fashioned sloth," says Disputations. (And yes, one can only marvel at Chris Sullivan's skill in turning this, of all topics, into an opportunity to direct criticism at "U.S. Catholics support theological novelties which coinicide with the Imperial Interest" -- Is this a hobby of sorts?). See also the Thomistic musing "Whether neophilia is a daughter of sloth".

  • John Heard, aka. DreadNought stands his ground:

    The usual suspects will assail my response, but I don't care. It is far more noble to stick at something worthwhile, no matter how hard it might at first appear, than to give up and run away. Particularly when the thing in question is salvation and immortality. Perhaps, after all, God has made homosexuals to furnish a caste of hyper-saints, tested so sorely on earth that through prayer, grace and sheer determination, we come at last to heaven shriven by a lifetime of spiritual suffering met with loving submission. I'd prefer such a life, however extreme, to an arrogant and ultimately pessimistic rejection of Christ's Church.

    What can one say but, AMEN.

  • "Feeding the Flock" - Nathan Nelson offers a stirring meditation on the Gospel reading (Matthew 9:36--10:8), the relationship of doctrine to the Catholic faith, and reflections on Dominus Iesus (published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Cardinal Ratzinger, in August 2000).

On a lighter note . . .

  • Lauren undertakes the excruciatingly painful and "Herculean" task of reading The DaVinci Code.

  • What is the Problem with Blogs? -- Valerie Schmalz polls various members of "St. Blog's Parish" in the conclusion of Ignatius Insight's four-part series on the subject. (In case you missed it, here is Part One; Two and Three).

  • Sudoku Clarification - Eamon Fitzgerald provides some background on a logic-game that's captured my interest as of late. It was introduced to me by a friend who plays it every morning. "Better than coffee," she says. I'm not sure I'd make the same comparison, but it is enjoyable and -- warning! -- potentially addictive.

  • Did you know Franklin Herbert -- most popular for his SF novel/series Dune -- wrote a novel loosely-based on the philosophy of Martin Heideggar, of all people? It's called The Santaroga Barrier. The Heideggerian philosophy blog Enowning relays the story and a brief critical review. For those who aren't amused and/or impressed by Herbert's literary exercise, try browsing a copy of Heidegger's 1927 Sein und Zeit ["Being and Time"] next time you're at a bookstore, and imagine rendering it as fiction.

  • Francis Beckwith @ Right Reason:

    What if it turned out that the guards at Gitmo did in fact flush a Koran down the toilet, but that they did so because they received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to photograph the "event" and display it at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City under the title "Flush Koran." It would not be unlike what happened in the late 1990s when NEA recipient Andres Serrano offered to us for public display the now infamous "Piss Christ," a crucifix upside down in a jar of urine. Liberals, as you recall, decried the "intolerant" Christians for asking the government not to fund this "art." (These Christians did not ask that the law obstruct Mr. Serrano's freedom of expression; all they wanted was for him to pay for it on his own dime, not their's). In any event, if "Piss Christ" is art, so is "Flush Koran."

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