Saturday, December 31, 2005

Where's the Standard?

Troutsky made a comment to my post about swingers:

Interracial sex was consdidered degenerate not that long ago. Who gets to decide and based on what? In the past(and still), chastity and purity were more valued in the female sex so one aspect of the sexual revolution has been egalitarian in nature. This emancipation comes with risks for social structure and control.

Due to the incredible lack of volunteers, I get to decide. Actually, I will merely yield to the authority of the Church on this one. The Judeo-Christian ethic is clear when it comes to marriage. It is to be between one man and one woman. Thus, homosexual acts are disordered, as is pre-marital intercourse. Now, one could claim that this is too strict, but it is wholly consistent. The main end of marriage is children, though it also draws a man and woman closer together fullfilling a unitive purpose.

Thus, interracial marriage is perfectly acceptable. Opposition to it was founded in our country's racist past, which has thankfully begun to fade.

The problem with the sexual revolution is that it has no real vision. It wishes to throw off the old standards of Puritan love and replace them with something new. Of course, it is not so much something new, as something which only gives the appearance of being new. Having come to the right conclusion that sex was not a bad thing, they have come to the incorrect conclusion that sex is always good. Chesterton wisely calls progress "a comparitive of which we have not settled the superlative."

It is pretty sad that swinging is deemed even remotely socially acceptable. At first, the revolution pretended that it was about love. Pre-marital sex was okay because sex was an expression of love. It helped that birth control allowed those nasty side-effects to go by the wayside and Roe v. Wade allowed the momentum to continue. Next came gay rights, since gays too, just loved each other.

Well, swingers have done away with that nonsense about love. Yet there is no condemnation from anyone save a few from the old school of Christian chastity. This is actually not surprising. Having dismanteled the old guard of Puritanism, the new wave is supposed to be a panacea. Do not question the revolution.

The sexual explosion is everywhere. Eventually there will be a backlash. Tired of sex being profaned, it will again be made more sacred until the pendulum swings full the other way and sex is again thought to be bad. Then it will be time for another revolution.

I could be wrong, but the left has yet to provide a standard when it comes to sex. Anyone can point out that something is wrong, it takes a great deal more to say when something is right. Until then, we will go from extreme to extreme; it is the habit of human history: doing things incorrectly. We need to remember that life is a balancing act. Sex is no exception.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Your Body, My Choice

Pro-lifers take a lot of grief for supporting capital punishment. It goes without saying that there is a very large difference between the murder of an unborn child and the termination of life of a confirmed criminal. Tookie Williams may have been reformed--it is difficult to tell--but he was a murderer. Killing him may not have been a pro-life thing to do, but it is a far cry from abortion. After all, actions have reprucussions, and society would be less just if killers were allowed to roam the streets in a spirit of forgiveness.

In other words, the supposed hypocrisy of the pro-life movement is, if problematic, less of an issue than commonly protrayed. Of course, if we would just lock up all murderers, rapists and child molesters for life, we need not suffer this constant talk about hypocrisy.

Yet, for all this talk concerning pro-life inconsistency, the pro-choice movement suffers from a similar ailment. I should probably clarify that not all pro-choicers fit into the classification that will follow. The two-party system has given rise to a strange and often false dichotomy. Most individuals will not agree with their party on everything. Thus, the pro-choice hypocrisy will only apply to a limited number of leftists.

My home state of Minnesota is considering a statewide smoking ban in bars and restaurants. While it is good that this issue is being decided by the states, I would have the state decide not to ban tobacco. A brief word from Minnesota Public Radio:

Minnesota could go smoke-free as early as this summer under a proposal to be introduced at the Legislature. A bipartisan group of lawmakers says momentum is building behind a smoking ban that would cover virtually all indoor public spaces. A similar measure failed last year, but several cities and counties have adopted various smoking restrictions that are creating pressure for a uniform statewide standard.

Apparently, counties have adopted conflicting standards for the ban. This may seem to illustrate the problem with local control. For those who set county precedent have realized what anyone with an even amateur understanding in free enterprise knows: if people wish to smoke when they drink, they will smoke when they drink. If Hennepin County wishes to prevent folks from choking down a couple of Marlboro Reds when they have a cold brew, they will travel to Washington County where they can legally indulge in both habits.

There have been a series of poor economic studies claiming that the smoking bans in these local counties has not hurt business. This is rubbish. Anyone with a second grade education know sthat kicking smokers out of bars is going to hurt the bars. By coming up with inconsistent standards, the counties are trying to force a statewide showdown.

This is all a bit of back story. My point was to demonstrate that pro-choicers should support the choice of individuals who are of legal age to smoke. After all, if "my body, my choice" applies to abortion, it should apply here as well. The MPR piece has a surprisingly selfish comment that illustrates the absurdity of the argument of the anti-smoking zealots.

Sarah Morales, 21, is a college student who's making ends meet by waitressing -- but she says the extra money may be taking its toll on her health.

"Unfortunately, because other people choose to make poor and unhealthy choices by smoking, I lose out," Morales says. "And it is my right that I shouldn't have to sacrifice my health in any workplace."

There are three things I would ask Miss Morales, as well as anyone who holds a similar opinion. First, why should you decide who gets to smoke? It makes much more sense that the person who will suffer should make the decision. This is the land of the free, dear, and if a grown man or woman wishes to pollute his or her lungs, sobeit. There is another person--not Morales--who should have a say in this, and that is the proprietor of the restaurant. Legislators forget whose choice is most being run over, and whose livelihood is most harmed by these egregious bans.

Secondly, didn't you know that waitressing in a restaurant would mean an exposure to the always dreaded secondhand smoke? Why would you take the job if you knew it would be unpleasant? Is it perhaps, because the sacrifice is in fact worth it? After all, waitresses make much more than those who work in fast food or at the equally dreaded Wal-Mart. If you wish to avoid secondhand smoke, I suggest you find a new job.

Thirdly, have you read anything about the effects of secondhand smoke? Or do you simply believe the rhetoric that the anti-smoking zealots spew? Secondhand smoke may be unpleasant, but it is not the hazard to health it is often portrayed as. The World Health Organization's website's search function wasn't working, so I got this from a page from some Wisconsin fellows. It's reputable because I've heard this study quoted multiple times from different sources.

The largest study ever made on [secondhand smoking] was conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency on Research on Cancer (IARC) extending over 10 years and 7 countries. In October 1998, the results were published, showing no statistical relationship between environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and lung cancer. The American media and the anti-smoking zealots has ignored the results of the WHO study choosing to cite the EPA study. This in spite of the fact that the EPA study has been thoroughly debunked by science and legally vacated by a federal judge, it is still regularly quoted by government agencies, charity organizations and the anti-smoking movement as if it were legitimate.

Shocking. Smoking may not be as evil as once thought. For the sake of the argument of the anti-smoking crowd, I will grant that secondhand smoke is a health concern. Yet it needs to be determined just how big a health concern must be in order to allow government intervention. Terrorism, so-called conservatives argue, demands we let go of some civil liberties. Evidently secondhand smoke allows the government to revoke the right to use a legal product. Yet cars kill many more people per year than secondhand smoke. Will there come a day when the government takes away our right to drive to save us from ourselves?

The ban on smoking is tyranical. If cigarettes are that bad, we need to make them altogether illegal. This won't happen because of the tax revenue involved. It's unfortunate that this simple liberty is going by the wayside because we need to protect ourselves. What is even more unfortunate, is that liberals are the culprits in this preposterous scheme. I thought that if anyone understood the danger of giving away liberty, it would be my friends to the left. Evidently the right to smoke is less important than the right to privacy. Is it only the libertarian who considers them the same?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Swing Away

On a recent night out on the town, Michel and Chantal Delbecchi left their suburban Montreal home and drove to the L'Orage Club in the city's east end, where they had sex with a couple they had never met before.

This strikes me as curious. My dates typically take the form of a dinner and a movie. I am not here to defend my modest and uncreative romantic maneuvers, such that they are. Swinging appears to be so much more fascinating.

Though dinner and a movie are accepted by millions, I have no idea just how popular swinging actually is. The phenomenon has come into the news recently because it is now legal in that wonderful hoser-ridden land to the north, namely Canada.

In a landmark decision on Dec, 21, the Supreme Court of Canada lifted a ban on swingers' clubs, ruling that group sex among consenting adults is neither prostitution nor a threat to society.

The ruling sparked outrage, largely in English-speaking parts of Canada, where critics said it would erode limits on indecency or obscenity, encourage prostitution and even contribute to the corruption of minors.

This is one of those times when the libertarian in me shrugs, while the Catholic side goes beserk. Strictly speaking, the ruling makes sense. It is not so much that consensual sex between individuals is not a threat to society, so much as it cannot be stopped. It is not prostitution so much as mutual degredation of the sexual act, but this is a moral principle, one that could not be held up by any legal scrutiny.

There is a case to be made that free loving types--swingers being only one sub-set of this group--do pose a threat to society, but that case is not particularily solid. Facts such as higher divorce rates, fewer traditional homes for children to grow up in, as well as infidelity are problems, but ones that tend toward moral. There is also the curious exception in the case of swinging of mutual infidelity. That's a new one.

Which brings me to my main point, or rather, my main question: what is the new goal of the sexual revolution, that appears to continue to this day? Not long ago, there was an incorrect notion about which said sex was itself bad. The revolution asserted that sex was good, which is correct. But it forgot something important. Just because something is good does not mean we should always engage in it, or that there are not limits to the circumstances surrounding this good thing. Chocolate is a good thing, but eating it constantly is bad for the body. Alcohol, likewise, is a good thing, some would say that it is even better than chocolate. For that very reason, the abuse of alcohol is a very bad thing.

In my last post I discussed a wrong thinking done by members of the right. The left does mean well, even if it would seem otherwise. Likewise, this sexual revolution was supposed to be good for us. Does anyone else think that swinging is not a degenerate behaviour? It is time the pendulum swung back a bit in the direction of chastity and purity.

There is one other bit from the article which exposes a fallacy of modern liberal thinking.

As for Michel and Chantal, a 25-year-old woman has become their mutual lover and all three plan to move in together early next year. Despite that new relationship, the Delbecchis expect to continue exchanging sex partners in Quebec clubs.

Said Michel: "At the club, we have sex with people. At home, we make love."

Someone please explain the distinction.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Life Trumps All

A couple of weeks ago, I was discussing the topic of abortion with a friend of mine. I always enjoy talking about one of the "bigger issues", and the fact that it meant a diversion from the studying we were supposed to be doing only kindled my desire. I made the point that regardless of the kind of life the child would live, I would rather he or she be born than be aborted. My friend told me to hold on, as he was not sure. I am sure, and I am sure of another thing. This basic divide in value systems is one very big reason that the debate on abortion never goes anywhere. While I do not claim to be able to cause the rift to disappear overnight--if at all--I may be able to shed some light on some of the values of the pro-life idealogy I hold dear.

A common critique of the pro-life position is that we are not actually pro-life at all. We are anti-abortion zealots who hide behind a friendlier moniker. I, for one, have no qualms with being construed as an anti-abortion zealot. The problem with the term "pro-life" is that we all consider ourselves to be in favor of life. We differ in the value placed on life at different stages. We also differ in the ways we go about favoring lives. Traditional pro-lifers put an emphasis on ensuring that all forms of life are protected. There is a bit of a strange exception when it comes to capital punishment, but for the most part, the right tries to ensure that life, at a minimum, is allowed to exist. The left places a higher emphasis on the quality of life.

There is a tremendous fallacy in considerations of the idea of "pro-life". Ann Coulter, who, though witty, tends to win few awards for class and tact, likes to claim that the left likes to kill babies. While they do kill babies, if this was all they were concerned with they would also purge the land of all infants under, say, the age of two in Herod-like fashion. The vast majority of pro-choicers are ignorant of the evil they commit. Perhaps it is a simple matter of allowing me to sleep better at night, but I cannot believe that every woman who has an abortion wishes to kill her child. Humans may tend towards evil, but the prospect of half of American society incurring the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah seems too frightening. Judge not.

There is a similar fallacy that often trips up the left. Pro-lifers may not always favor massive wealth redistribution at a federal level, but that does not mean that we are immune to the cries of the poor. In fact, it may be more "pro-life" to oppose welfare programs as they dehabilitate the human spirit by rendering the recipient addicted to financial aid. If my view of human nature is to remain constant, I cannot believe that everyone who receives a welfare check wishes to cheat the system. Yet the left owes the right the same consideration. Most conservatives do not wish to tread upon the already down-trodden. We disagree about the best way to create a more just society. We do not, as a whole, disagree about the value of justice. Again, judge not.

Now I am afraid I must introduce an element of Christianity into all this. I am not ashamed of the Gospel. It is more that I try to make most of my arguments from a purely rational point of view, or, as near to purely rational as possible. When I introduce an element of Christian faith, I do not alter the truth, but it does not ring true to those who do not believe. Yet I see no way around it, thus, Jesus enters here.

In a bit of round about fashion, I start with my own family. My father and mother are orthodox Catholics who have not used--to my knowledge--birth control. The Church position on birth control is quite clear, and my parents following of said teaching is one reason I have seven younger brothers and sisters.

I have long struggled with the prospect of bringing life into the world as well. Since my attempts at romance have been notable failures, this won't be an issue for some time. Yet I have come to terms with it. It is a simple matter of faith. Just as God thought it worthwhile to create us, so we should have the same faith to create new life--in the context of marriage of course. God knew that we could turn our back on him. He did not have to give us free will, and doing so brought us closer to the brink of disaster. Indeed, it brought some of us--of our own volition of course--to eternal damnation. It is the same dread, I am sure, which fills parents at each time they contemplate the future of their children. But to focus on the dread leaves out the wonderful joy of life, especially the joy that comes with being a parent.

Chesterton claims that Christianity is a giant paradox. In other words, he says it is much like a cross. We are to be pessimistic about this life but optimistic as well. It is not a matter of the summation of optimism and pessimism--or the stoic life--it is the wonderful encapsulation of both. In the end, although we often suffer in this world, our belief in the existence of the next world makes this life a good thing. This applies regardless of the status of the life. Be it physical or mental impairment or insufficient means to meet the basic needs of human existence, a human life is still worth living. It is still, in the words of the Creator, "very good".

Thus, we have the lack of concern for the material things of one's fellow man on behalf of the pro-lifer. I would have the right send more money to Africa and less money to stop the liberal war on Christmas, but that is me. Christ warned against the spiritual dangers of wealth, not poverty, and it is the third world that has been most receptive to the message of Jesus. It is through our sufferings that we are united to him and his cross. Further, too much wealth allows us to pretend that we are in charge, or that security and peace can be found apart from him.

It doesn't matter what kind of circumstances the baby will be raised in. It is morally repugnant to kill the "fetus" to prevent it from reaching legal personhood. Groups associated with social justice, though well intentioned, sometimes miss the greater point. As long as we continue to wipe away the lives of millions of the unborn, all gains made to better society will pale in comparison. Life comes first of all. Without a basic right to exist, justice is a non-issue.

The Value of a Good Christmas Homily

It is Christmas day, a time when the many millions and millions of Christians come together to celebrate the birth of the Christ child. It is a time to be with family and friends, a time to be merry. Pessimist though I am, I will try to refrain from too much melancholy on such a joyous day.

From time to time I have contemplated a vocation as a priest. There are certain aspects of the job which I think I might enjoy, but the matter is more serious than that. There are not many shepherds for an increasingly needy flock, and I would hope that my priest signed up for more reasons than because it seemed enjoyable.

There is one task for which I do not envy the priest. Ordinarily, giving the homily seems like it would one of the more exciting details in the job description. Yet Christmas--like Easter--provide the Priest with a full church. Hand in hand comes much pressure. Dubbed C & E Catholics, the pews are full of families who come bi-anually to pay their respects to Jesus. I have long felt that Father must agonize over his sermonon these days; a good one just might bring back some lost sheep.

I attended Mass last night with my family, taking up an entire pew as per usual. As the homily drew near, my anticipation grew. Father began by recounting a story of a parishioner from a former parish who died at the young age of seven. The child's body was unable to fight off infection easily and so died young, but the "little trooper" was still a model of faith in God's will. The priest then read a children's book written in memory of the youngster.

He invited the little ones up front and took his place at the foot of the altar. The story was short and simple. St. Francis of Assisi was bemoaning the hustle and bustle of his little town, worrying that the people were missing the real reason for the extravagance. Fortunately, with a little help from his dear animal friends, Francis was able to create a manger scene for the people to view. The absence of a child in the manger, reminded them that they too, had been missing something in their lives. The story closes extoling the readers to share the message with their families. Of course, we had all heard the story as well, so sharing was a little redundant, but children have a way of reminding us of things we are so good at forgetting. If only for the one hour of mass, we could all concentrate on the "reason for the season". The fact that it is cliched does not make it untrue.

I was a bit surprised at the simplicity of the sermon, but pronounced it good. The Christmas story is quite evident, and a firm but gentle reminder is all the laity need on such an occasion.

After all, there is little Father can do to bring people back to the pews. An amazing homily may encapsulate the audience and compel them to attend the following week, but just as easily a stunning pre-game show may keep them away. Augustine reminds us that faith is a gift, but living that faith is a personal choice--even if God's grace helps therein as well. If Christ came to earth to save us from our sins so long ago, we aren't going to think twice about attending weekly mass. If Christ is not Lord, there is no argument anyone can make to ensure a surge in post-Christmas attendence. It should be noted, too, that mere attendance at Mass does not a good Catholic make. Faith in Christ plus good works is still the formula for salvation, protestantism notwithstanding.

It may be a bit silly to take this angle regarding the celebration of Christ's birth, but I have a penchant for silly angles. While it may be fair to criticize those who attend church as part of a social obligation twice a year, it is absurd to think that even casual attendance is worse than abstaining completely. In light of the recent scandals, it does good for people to see the Church in a good light for a change. If Christmas mass--complete with glorious hymns and with church in full celebratory decor--can't cast this light on Christianity, no sermon in the world can. Stuart Chase put it best when he said, "For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible."

May the light of the world which has so graced my life one day grace all of yours as well. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Happy Holidays in Jesus' Name

I didn't think it was a slow time of year for news. We've got Bush listening into phone conversations of American citizens, things don't look so pretty in New York, and there's that whole war thing, not to mention the wonderful Patriot Act. Forgive me for not taking up sides on the alleged War on Christmas.

I'm a personal fan of the late Savior of the world, but the holiday has become pretty secular. While Linus reminds us of the true meaning once a year--between commercial breaks of course--Christmas just isn't about Christ anymore. This is unfortunate, but worrying about semantical considerations is a petty thing to do. Wishing someone Merry Christmas doesn't change the fact that Jesus is probably not exceptionally pleased with the way we celebrate his birthday.

This being said, there is another story of late in which Jesus is heavily involved.

To pray -- or not to pray -- in Jesus' name is the question plaguing an increasing number of U.S. military chaplains, one of whom began a multiday hunger strike outside the White House yesterday.

"I am a Navy chaplain being fired because I pray in Jesus' name," said Navy Lt. Gordon Klingenschmitt, who will be holding 6 p.m. prayer vigils daily in Lafayette Park.

The hunger strike is intended to persuade President Bush to issue an executive order allowing military chaplains to pray according to their individual faith traditions. The American Center for Law and Justice has gathered 173,000 signatures on a petition seeking an executive order.


Mr. Baugham said the 350 chaplains he oversees are concerned about a new set of guidelines issued in August after complaints about Christian evangelism at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. The Air Force guidelines allow "a brief, nonsectarian prayer" during military ceremonies "to add a heightened sense of seriousness or solemnity, not to advance specific religious beliefs."

"So, to what deity do you address your prayer to?" Mr. Baugham asked. "No one knows. And who gets to write the prayers? Once the government becomes the approving authority, the poor chaplain is forced to be an agent of the state."

This one reaches the level of absurdity. I am not sure who is behind this nonsensical policy. Lest we forget, these kids are out there dying. If someone who is going to take a bullet for me wants to pray to the smurfs, and a chaplain can help him out in that regard, by all means pray away. Who on earth is complaining about this kind of thing?

This has got me razzled. I know I've said this before, but I think we've all lost our minds. As I recall from history class, the pilgrims came over here for religious freedom. The reason our soldiers go to fight--in theory anyway--is to protect these and other freedoms. Just how on earth we are worse off if a chaplain prays to Jesus is utterly beyond me. I just don't get it.

It's a wonder we still have people who wish to die for this country at all. It shouldn't take an executive order from Bush to get this mess straightened out. We just need a little common sense, we are absolutely lacking. Jesus, err.... God help us.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Rush: Civil Liberties Don't Actually Matter?

I made the mistake of listening to Rush today. I was wondering whether or not he would call out Bush for this nefarious business about the wire-taps. I hoped that Rush would prove that he is more than a public relations fellow for the Republican Party. I was wrong.

Rather than criticize Bush for acting like a tryant by listening into the telephone conversations of average Americans, Rush actually defended the policy. Since I couldn't remember what he said word for word, I took a quote from his website.

We don't go to war to protect our civil liberties; we go to war to save our lives. Our civil liberties are worthless if we are dead. If we have all assumed room temperature, folks, our civil liberties don't count diddly-squat.

What happened to "better dead than red", El Rushbo? If Bush allows us to become a left-wing utopia to win the war on terror will Rush say anything then? Bush has made winning a war on terror--an impossibility--the goal of his administration. Evidently, Mr. Limbaugh agrees. As long as the terrorists don't win, civil liberties be damned.

There are two major problems with this line of thinking. First, if we lose all civil liberties, we are no longer a country worth defending. It does no good to defeat the terrorists abroad if our government is becoming tyranical at home.

The other problem with Rush's defense is that it is the furthest thing from conservative. It is entirely possible that Bush has only used his wire-tapping privelege to fight terrorism. Assuming this slightly large possibility exists, violation of civil liberties is still an idea that is anti-conservative.

For conservatives are frightful of the government. It is naive to think that Bush--you can hear the cheers from Rush, "he's on our side"--can be given a power and will give it back once the reason for the particular power is over. If Hillary becomes president with Patriot Act powers, it will be interesting to see if Limbaugh changes his tune.

Benjamin Franklin carries the day. "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Position: No Position

After an exhausting week of finals that treated me none to well, I am back. Did you miss me?

With Bush stumbling all over himself because of Iraq--he hasn't sounded this humble in... forever--the Democrats should be able to capitalize, right? Not according to the Washington Post.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said yesterday that Democrats should not seek a unified position on an exit strategy in Iraq, calling the war a matter of individual conscience and saying differing positions within the caucus are a source of strength for the party.

This makes a lot of sense Nancy. It's only the biggest issue of the 2006 elections. Ignoring the elephant in the living room is a brilliant move. The Republicans are vulnerable, but rather than try to win a few games, the Democrats are throwing in the towel and playing for a draft pick. After all, Reggie Bush is one heck of an athlete.

"There is no one Democratic voice . . . and there is no one Democratic position," Pelosi said in an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors.

That's why you keep losing, Nancy. The Democratic party is a hodgepodge of special interests, often enough only divided against the Republicans. Maybe if Reggie Bush runs with Barack Obama... no pun intended of course.

In all seriousness, there is a reason for Pelosi's party not taking a stance on the most important issue of the election. Simply put, they cannot afford to.

If they come out in support of this war, they end up copying the Republicans, losing any chance to capitalize on Bush's mistake and alienating the liberal base at the same time.

If they say although we shouldn't have invaded Iraq, we should go ahead and try to finish now that we're there--the correct position--the Dems have some questions to answer. First, why didn't Congress declare war? Why wasn't debate raised about Iraq? Why was Feingold the only one among you with balls enough to vote against the Patriot Act?

Bush may be a rotten president with a poor excuse for foreign policy, but the Democrats are, by and large, cowards. Too scared that opposition to a war or an unconstitutional act decmicating personal liberty would mean an end to the eternal term in Congress, the Democrats played along.

One had hoped they have learned a valuable lesson, but meanwhile, we the people are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The Republicans and the Democrats are not fit to lead this country, and the time is more ripe than ever for a viable third party to fill the large gap. Good luck to us all.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Benedict Defends the Virtuous Life!

In a stunning move, Pope Benedict XVI has declared that the virtuous life is not "boring." Apparently, poor Christians can't shake the stigma of being lamewads who posess no propensity for fun. While there have certainly been sects of Christianity that have done their best to hide their mirth, to assume that living morally is boring is a bit of a stretch. The Pope missed an excellent chance to quote Chesterton, who said "The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice." It is safe to say that the deceased theologian and the current Pope are on the same page.

There must be people who still feel that Christians are some sort of fun police, preventing the good pagans from having an enjoyable time. This is not the case at all. Augustine, who was himself a good pagan, demonstrates this rather nicely, as he too fell prey to this fallacy. In one of his most human and slightly amusing moments, he notes in his Confessions that he would pray, "O Lord, help me be pure, but not yet."

Augustine knew full well the pleasures of the flesh, and was hesitant to give them up for dreary celibacy. Yet, ultimately he did. If we go earlier in the same Confessions we hear, "Late have I loved thee. O Beauty so ancient and so new! Too late have I loved thee." Obviously it was worth the sacrifice.

Christianity is misunderstood, even by many of its members. Christianity does not make everything all rosy on this earth. Although Woody Allen's classifications of life as things "horrible" and "miserable" is a stretch, cheery Christians should remember that we have been kicked out of Eden. It is hope that ensures us that things will be better in the next world.

All this does not mean that we must suffer through this life. Christianity is more than a pot of gold at the end of a miserable rainbow. It is a common misconception that freedom means the ability to do whatever one wants. True freedom is found in obedience to a moral code. It is knowing that what one is doing is worthwhile, holy and good.

Is it really so hard to believe that their is more to the Church than sadism? I eagerly await something a little more earth-shattering from the new Pope.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Lode 12-7 II

The abortion front again....

As I write this Samuel Alito, Bush's nominee to replace justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court, has yet to be confirmed. The Democrats and a handful of pathetic "moderate" Republicans, most notably Arlen Specter, are worried that Alito may allow his personal views to seep into his judgments. For you see, Mr. Alito is a Roman Catholic and this could theoretically mean an end to abortion as we know it.

Whether or not Roe is overturned, pro-choicers have a good reason to fear. Abortion is immoral, and one not be of the Judeo-Christian persuasion to see this. Though it is currently legal, other evil practices—slavery comes to mind—have been held sacrosanct by law. Legality aside, the "fetus" is actually a human life and deserves constitutional protection. Those who wish to remain clinging to the silly tenants of the faith of modern liberalism need tread no further. Earnest seekers of truth are free to continue the journey in a spirit of open-mindedness.

First, the "fetus" has unique DNA, giving it individuality. Hence, it does not belong explicitly to the women. This is indisputable. What is presently up for debate is the value of the fetus. I contend that it is a human life. If it is not human, I shudder to think what monstosity it could be. If it is not a life, then someone is going to have to explain to me how on earth it is growing. The only logical point at which life starts is conception, for there is nothing that can change its nature at a whim.

The law has settled on the easy—but incorrect—conclusion that location determines the value of a human life. When put plainly, it is preposterous. If the fetus is in the womb, it can be terminated for it has no value. If, some hours later, it is outside the womb, it deserves the full protection of the law as an American citizen. It is like claiming that driving one's car out of a garage transformed it into a dragon. The law is consistent; it is consistently wrong.

In an effort to defend their sorry philosophy, pro-choicers claim that the fetus is not a child because it cannot survive on its own. They forget that a newborn baby cannot do this either. There is no need to spell out what kind of society we would find ourselves in were self-sufficiency the only means for determining the value of a human life.

The case against abortion is quite clear. Yet it does not need to be. If there is even a remote possibility that a fetus is a human life, we must outlaw abortion and proceed with caution. The burden of proof is not—as it is commonly supposed—on the pro-lifer to prove that the fetus is a human life. Responsibility hinges on the pro-choice side of the debate. If abortion proponents are unable to prove that the fetus is just a meaningless clump of cells, we cannot allow abortion.

At worst, abortion has resulted in the deaths of over forty million human beings since that awful day when Roe became American law. At worst, abortion is morally ambiguous. Prudent and intellectually honest individuals must concur that anything shy of treading softly on abortion is reckless. The fact that pro-lifers are construed as extremists is very telling. Believing that the fetus is not a human life is a tremendous act of faith. I am sick of pro-choicers forcing their beliefs upon me.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Great Evolutionary Debate

"Intelligent Design" has been in the news as of late. Yes, I'm late on the bandwagon for this one, but there is a good reason. First, I've never claimed to be cutting edge. Secondly, and more importantly, the subject bores me.

I have read a book called "Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds" by Phillip E. Johnson. Before reading the book I was skeptical evolutionist; I am still a skeptical evolutionist. Johnson pointed out a lot of holes in the fossil record. Alleged holes aside, evolution remains our best theory as to the origin of the species to date. Some day I'll actually get around to reading Darwin's earth-shattering book of the same name, but for now, I'd prefer to concentrate my attention on more important matters.

Still, there is something that needs to be said surrounding all the nonsense over ID. Intelligent Design is not a theory at all, and teaching it is a dangerous measure. The Religious Right is making a big mistake when it pushes for ID to be taught over evolution in school for two reasons.

First, evolution in no way contradicts Christian teaching. As Thomas Aquinas points out, a first cause and a first mover is still needed to set the whole affair in motion. That role falls to the Most High. God can, presumably, do what he wishes when it comes to enacting his plan for salvation. If he wishes to allow humans to evolve from ape, it does not undermine his supremacy.

The other reason ID is problematic is that it sends very mixed signals to young Christians. Science is not actually at war with religion. It is not an "either-or" choice. In fact, it is through science that we understand God's creation--err, evolutionary masterpiece. Christian students should be encouraged to enter into scientific fields to add further to the incomplete picture we have of God.

An irrational fear of science has turned this discipline into an almost secular field. With issues such as human cloning, stem cell research and now facial transplants becoming important issues, it would do society well to have a handful of Christians among their ranks. That is, of course, largely a personal preference as I am not enthusiastic about plunging over the slippery slope of amoral scientific discovery.

There is one more reason that Christians should not make war on science. It helps prove us right from time to time. Just one example has been the development of 4D ultrasound to demonstrate--albeit thus far unsuccessfully--that the fetus is a child. If a belief has truth in it, that truth will be confirmed by the world. Though God does break the natural law from time to time--in the form of miracles--he plays by the rules most of the time. An understanding of these rules can lead to an understanding of him.

I was watching a documentary concerning this very thing this morning. The History channel had a two-hour special on Marian Apparitions, that is, times where the Virgin Mary has appeared on earth to simple humans. Although I missed the first hour, the show was fascinating. There were lengthy bits on Fatima, Lourdes and Medjegorie.

The show would have clips of experts on apparitions and the like. While most of the people confirmed the appearances, there was a skeptic who was wonderfully funny. He would come up with the most far-fetched and asinine explanations to cover up for these miraculous occurrences. I am biased to be sure, but I think that it would be more difficult to believe his explanation than simply taking at face value what millions profess to be true. Sometime atheists can have very stalwart faith.

One of the experts was an elderly Catholic priest. He said that, "For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible." To a large extent, this is very much true. The so-called intellectual conversion is a rare thing. Yet the world is the portrait for a master painter. The study of his painting tells about him, and miracles do this in a very profound way.

Atheists will continue denying that the miraculous takes place. That is an integral part of their creed. Yet it behooves Christians to be a bit more open-minded. If Christianity is outright contradicted by science, Christianity is not real. The pathetic depth of faith of the modern Christian is readily evident when he fails to put his dogma up to scrutiny, even if it is only the docile and non-contradictory scrutiny of a fellow named Darwin and his disciples.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Hard Times for Good Causes

I have a weekly Bible Study with some of the guys from my school. One of the guys is a graduate of the university and teaches physics at the local high school. We know him through frisbee, and he joins us for our Thursday get togethers. He had something to share tonight. It seems his dad is going to be sentenced to a three to sixth month jail sentence. The crime: trespassing at the School of the Americas.

Formerly known as the SOA, in typical beareaucratic fashion it has been renamed and now falls under the moniker Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation and is located in Fort Benning, Georgia. The school has come up on the radar of many a human rights group. Indeed, it was difficult to find information on the school amidst all the protest sites.

The renamed institute's official purpose is now: provide professional education and training to eligible personnel of nations of the Western Hemisphere within the context of the democratic principles set forth in the Charter of the Organization of American States ... while fostering mutual knowledge, transparency, confidence, and cooperation among the participating nations and promoting democratic values, respect for human rights, and knowledge and understanding of United States customs and traditions.

I am a bit flabbergasted that the Army would have the audacity to pretend an emphasis on human rights. The record of abuses of graduates of the school is long and horrid. SOA Watch is one site which claims otherwise, and proudly stating that "We Are Going to Close the SOA!" Though they are a bit left-leaning for my tastes, I wish them luck. The school is, at a minimum, and egregious waste of taxpayer dollars. Closer to the truth though, it is our stamp of approval on state-sanctioned murder. I'd rather that were not on my conscience.

This from SOA Watch:

Over its 59 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins.

Not exactly a good track record. Still, this is old news for the most part. My point is not to call into question the SOA. That has been done many times, and much better than I could do in this space. Instead, I want to come at this one from a public relations angle. My friend's father is no doubt a bit perturbed that his protests are not getting anywhere. This is the third time he has trespassed; this is the reason for the pending prison term.

Yet, without a close link to the event, the school would have remained in the far reaches of my mind. There are two parallels that can easily be drawn that should serve to show the inefficacy of protests, at least at times.

The Libertarian and Green party presidential candidates were arrested in a mostly symbolic effort to draw attention to the nonsense surrouding the debates. Debates between two people who mostly agree are boring. Unfortunately, had I not visited the Libertarian website, I would not have known of the protest.

In like manner, every year there are protests outside the Minnesota state capital--as well as others--on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. My dear mother never feels we get enough press, and I cannot say I disagree with her. One would think that several thousand abortion foes marching in the snow would get a news story, and we do. Although, in an effort to show both sides, the cameras are inevitably filled with the handful of token protesters with their tired cliches of "my body, my choice".

The point of course, is the power the media has. Bloggers love to claim that we are changing this, but that is mostly rubbish. Dan Rather notwithstanding, the news media still runs the show most of the time. Without cameras, protests can be ineffective. Blogland is still but a fantasy realm, yet to wage a real war.

Still, it's worth taking a stand for the important things in life. We are not judged by the battles we win, but by the ones we choose to fight. Although the school may not be closed any time soon, that dear soul can rest peacefully behind bars, knowing he's doing something. One cannot but admire that kind of courage, and wonder where the rest of us are hiding our own.