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Friday, January 24

BUG CHASERS:

A friend sent a story from the Tuesday, January 21st Drudge Report, "25% of new HIV-infected gay men sought out virus, says San Fran health official", claiming that an upcoming story in the February 6th issue of Rolling Stone will announce that one-quarter of homosexual men infected with AIDS wanted to be.

"The men who want the virus are called 'bug chasers,' and the men who freely give them the virus are called 'gift givers.'

. . . One sad passage captures a young man in New York City who wants to be infected: "His eyes light up as he says that the actual moment of transmission, the instant he gets HIV, will be 'the most erotic thing I can imagine.'"

An infector is quoted as saying: "I'm murdering him in a sense, killing him slowly, and that's sort of, as sick as it sounds, exciting to me."


At first glance, this seems to be a hoax. The behavior is too horrendous. But given what even homosexual leaders themselves once said about the men who kept going into the bath houses, leather bars, and other places to have anonymous sex, and the sexual career of the philosopher Foucault, it is alas quite possible that some homosexual men are doing just this.

The friend who sent it to me commented that:

The behavior described below goes beyond "sane" and "insane". It is both and neither - evidence of the inexplicable, the superrational, the demonic.

This is true, but it is also an amazingly sad that such men should feel such a hatred for themselves and for life as to find death erotic. But then what is the homosexual act itself but the perversion of an act designed to make new life into an act of perfect sterility, which is to say, a celebration of death? The stereotyped homosexual couple, allegedly faithful, are not that far from the Bug Chasers.


1:31 PM


BOYS AND READING:

Teachers know that boys do not do well in reading; an article in the National Post claims the problem is the teaching materials, not the boys' abilities.

The study found it is a myth that boys do not read.
While they are less interested in fiction or traditional literature than girls are, they read more on the Internet and memorize vast amounts of detailed material from games or stories they read in the newspaper, the research showed.


Schools may do more harm than good.

The researchers found boys are becoming literate "in spite of school instruction," and may end up better prepared for a career because their skills are more useful than being able to write a narrative or analyze a work of fiction.

The researchers are Canadian, so they think they have discovered the bait that will get boys reading: HOCKEY!

Instead, he said, teachers should focus on making literature relevant and interesting to boys. For example, if they are reading a fictional story about hockey, the teachers could pull out the hockey section of the newspaper

Boys in fact read a great deal. Tolkien is devoured by boys, some of whom have read the entire Lord of the Rings 3, 4, 5, 10 times. What boys do not like to read is stories of subtle human relationships. Boys are males, and males are not interested in analyzing and talking about relationships.

Female: "Dear, I think It is time to talk about our relationship," Male ""I would rather have a root canal."

Most "literature" is the printed version of chick flicks, and produces instant boredom in males. Most females of my acquaintance raved about The English Patient. I thought it an excellent cure for insomnia; the only thing I liked were the panoramic desert scenes.

Men have relationships; they prefer to act in them, not reflect on them. Why this is so is another question, but at least Canadian teachers are beginning to realize they are not going to get boys to read if they inflict Silas Marner and its modern equivalents upon them.


5:11 AM


Wednesday, January 22

THE INCOMPLETE TR:

Fr. Robert Hart, an Anglican priest and frequent contributor to the magazine (and brother to our contributing editor Fr. Addison Hart), writes:

The last two nights I enjoyed the full four hours of TR and American Lion on the History Channel. It went into great detail about his life; but one thing that all those historians left out was the simple detail of which church he belonged to. A very telling oversight is this by the collected historians, especially when one considers the extent to which the church formed a person's identity in the 19th Century.

Because it is of small importance in their minds, in this day and age in which they live, they completely neglected an important biographical detail, and showed an inability to understand the age in which their subject was born and raised. Seems like one of those episodes that tells more about the historians than about history.


Someone else responded noting that the National Geographic special on the making of The Lord of the Rings, never mentioned Tolkien's religious faith, which is just as dishonest.


2:26 PM


MAKING UNITARIAN CHOICES:

Do read this: Rod Dreher's latest column, "Celebrating Roe: The religious left prays". He reports on a visit last Sunday - human life Sunday in Christian churches - to the the First Unitarian Church of Brooklyn. Among the highlights of the service:

A lady minister whose name I didn't get stood to address the children of the congregation. She told them that today's service was to be about "making choices," and having the courage to take risks. She read a Unitarian Universalist poem about an egret named Loretta who was afraid to fish, fly, or do the things egrets are supposed to do, until a fellow egret asked her, "Why?" Then Loretta Egret asked herself, "Why not?" - and was thus set free. With that, the minister sent the children off to Sunday school in the church's undercroft.

. . .finally, a middle-aged woman read "The Mother," a 1945 poem by Gwendolyn Brooks. It's a startling piece of work, this poem, dwelling on the guilt and regret a woman feels over her aborted children. ("Though why should I whine/Whine that the crime was other than mine?"). I thought: If a pregnant woman considering abortion were to read this searing poem, and imagine herself speaking these words, how could she go through with it?

Anyway, the point of including the Brooks's poem in this celebratory service was to acknowledge that choosing abortion can involve emotional pain. Operating on the principle that C. S. Lewis was wrong when he said that "a long face is not a moral disinfectant," members of the congregation then came forward to light "Candles of Joy and Sorrow," meant to "celebrate the right to choose or to mourn ... potential life or both."


* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
By the way, if you read this some time in the future, you must check Rod's archives on the National Review Online site, because the address used in the link above is the address they use for his current article.


1:53 PM


AU REVOIR LES ENFANTS:

Le Monde in Montréal reports "The Sexual Exploitation of Children Grows Constantly"
Sexual exportation often hides under socially acceptable practices, claims ECPAT (End Child Pornography, Child Prostitution and Trafficking).

There are cases "of young girls married to men forty years older than they are."
-----
In Nepal40% of girls are married by age 15 and 7% are married by age 10."
In South Asia and in Pakistan in particular the practice of the sexual exploitation of boys has expanded.
In the north east of the country rich men of mature age buy the services of young boys whom they keep at home for their sexual pleasure. This practice is so widespread, according to ECPSAT, that 80% of those questioned indicated they knew at least one person involved with this type of abuse.
---
According to western estimates, of the $20 billion generated by prostitution each year in the world, more than $5 billion come from child prostitution.


Pakistan is a Moslem country, and western travelers have long detected homoerotic tendencies in Moslem cultures. The strict segregation of the sexes may cut down on fornication, but not on pederasty. The Turk who conquered Constantinople was notorious for his interest in very young men, and one Byzantine official asked that his son be executed before he was so that the father could be assured that the boy would not end up in the conqueror's bed.


6:05 AM


Tuesday, January 21

MENCKEN VS. BRYAN:

The conservative writer Terry Teachout's biography of H. L. Mencken, The Skeptic, has gotten good reviews from a variety of writers, and I assume is a good book. Unfortunately, it is a good book about a dreary, tiresome, and foolish man.

Judging from Jackson Lear's review in The New Republic, "The Sophomore", Mencken wrote from an undeserved sense of his own superiority and with ideas he did not re-examine once he adopted them in his teens and twenties. They were generally bad ideas, and included, not surprisingly, a contempt for Jews. (Why this sort of man is drawn to anti-semitism, I don't know.)

The review is worth reading as a summary of Mencken's life, but it also includes an interesting passage on Mencken's famous assault on Williams Jennings Bryan testimony at the Scopes "Monkey trial." Jennings, so the secularist story goes, proved himself a literalist bumpkin, a story told with great energy by Mencken. The trial, writes Lear,

was a clash between two dogmas, and Mencken's social Darwinism was the less humane of the two. His belief that the ideal of "the survival of the fittest" could be implemented in human affairs amounted to a warrant for eugenics and might well have sanctioned the systematic extermination of the "unfit."

Bryan had been attacking the nihilistic implications of social Darwinism, correctly identifying that creed as "the law of hate - the merciless law by which the strong crowd out and kill off the weak." This was the criticism that was contained in his concluding statement, which was published posthumously. It does not justify legislation against the teaching of Darwinism, but it does suggest that Bryan was something more than a stupid fundamentalist stooge.

Indeed, Bryan understood a key distinction that Mencken missed - even though his [Mencken's] idol Huxley had been one of the first to make it. In his classic essay "Evolution and Ethics," Huxley had insisted that the power of evolutionary theory as a scientific explanation did not make it a suitable basis for making moral judgments and organizing human societies. Bryan, despite his ignorance, avoided this terrible category mistake. Mencken embraced it fervidly.


Some time in my teens, having heard Mencken praised, I picked up one of his books. I enjoyed the abuse, for a while, but it quickly wore thin, because there was little real thought behind it. He hated whom he hated, but he did not understand them well enough to abuse them usefully or enjoyably. Even to my ill-trained adolescent mind, and coarse adolescent soul, Mencken was a bore.


4:56 PM


Monday, January 20

PAYING THE PRICE:

Among those who will suffer because of the bishops' mixture of incompetence and clericalism are the unborn. According to the Berkshire Eagle, in Vatican can stay out of U.S. politics:

Independent of one another, Massachusetts Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, the latter a candidate for president, Thursday dismissed the Vatican's testy warning that Catholic elected officials should stick to the Vatican line on homosexuality, abortion and other issues, by recalling the wise words of President John Kennedy. Addressing America's fears of electing a "papist" president in 1960, the future president said he believed in the separation of church and state and would accept no "instructions on public policy" from the pope or other ecclesiastical source. The commonwealth's two senators said they would continue to serve by those words. The Vatican should concern itself with the problem of sexually abusive priests and the bishops who protect them and keep its nose out of American politics.


11:22 AM


GLOBAL WARMING?

I suspect that Canadians seceretly hope that global warming is real, but they see little evidence for it:

Blizzard hammers Newfoundland, Cape Breton

St. John's - A blizzard buffeted eastern Newfoundland and Cape Breton with wind and snow on Monday morning, prompting police to warn motorists against using the highways.

With up to 20 centimetres of snow in the forecast, schools have been closed in Cape Breton, the St. John's area, as well as around Conception Bay, on the Burin Peninsula and in many areas along the West Coast.

Police said the snow and wind combined to create near white-out conditions on highways.

Corporal Pete Cornick of the RCMP said several tractor-trailers were stranded in heavy drifts.

Meteorologist Bob Robichaud, a forecaster in Newfoundland, says Saturday's storm set a record daily snowfall for the St. John's area. The 16.2 centimetres that fell on the weekend was a centimetre more than the record in 1946.

Memorial University in St. John's was closed Monday morning, as were many government offices and the municipal bus service.

Flights at St. John's airport were delayed or cancelled.

As of Saturday, St. John's had received 251 centimetres of snow, barely under the amount that had fallen up to the same date during the city's record snowfall in 2000-01.


11:15 AM


Sunday, January 19

IT'S LISTENING!

The former bishop of Durham in the Church of England, David Jenkins, has written an autobiography titled The Calling of a Cuckoo, Margaret Thatcher having once called him that name. (A point in her favor, this.) As bishop, he was a great one for upsetting doctrinal applecarts and getting his name in the newspapers. As reported in a story titled "Pushed away from God: The Andrew Billen Interview" (which a friend sent me but I was not able to track down on the web), he still is.

His views are not particularly interesting, except to those people, like the interviewer, who get excited by establishment figures thumbing their noses at the establishment - in this case bishops disbelieving in Christian doctrine. I don't find this particularly interesting - watching this kind of liberal think is rather like watching people play tic tac to - but I think Jenkins has some interest as a specimen of a now dying breed.

Jenkins is a good example of the old-fashioned liberal who plays "on the one hand, on the other hand" games with Christianity, so that he can claim to believe in Jesus without actually believing in the Jesus the Church has proclaimed. At one point the writer asks him:

Did he ever, for instance, look at an image of Jesus on the Cross and think, "No, you weren't the son of God"?

And Jenkins answers:

"I'd have to say honestly not, not if I was looking at Christ, or in my imagination seeing Jesus. Good gracious me, if you've got your eye on Jesus, it's all right!

Perfectly orthodox, even evangelical, you think. But then the writer asks him:

So, when saying the Lord's Prayer, did he ever think that no one was listening up there?

And he answers:

"Well I think that, if I was reflecting on it, I'd have to say I don't think He's listening up there, but I think there is a' listening and I think it's sometimes in me and it's sometimes in it."

It. An it that sometimes listens. That is as much as he is willing to say about God. It is listening, sometimes, but what this listening means when the listener is an "it" and not a "he" is not at all clear. And Jenkins is not about to make it any clearer. When pressed about his belief in God, Jenkins responds:

[W]hy shouldn't I believe in God? Except for the way the Church carries on! At the moment I remain entirely convinced about God but almost entirely unconvinced about nearly all religions."

This sounds profound, and the writer certainly seems to have thought it profound, but it is not a very useful idea. The "religions" he rejects are those bodies and traditions that tell us who God is (or think they're telling us). What he is really saying is that he believes in God but that he refuses to give that term any meaning, which is to say that he really doesn't believe in God at all. Other than as an it that (not who) sometimes listens.

As the interviewer implies, in his review of Jenkins' long and comfortable life, this is a belief that only a man who has lived in security can hold. Not just physical security, but metaphysical: who had his mind and heart formed in a world that believed the cosmos finally benevolent, despite appearances, because that world was formed by the doctrine of the incarnate God. That one no longer accepts that doctrine does not change the way one's mind and heart were formed all those years ago.

I can understand an upper-class Englishman in his 80s believing this, and being happy with an it that sometimes responds and sometimes doesn't. But I don't know how many people now in their teens will believe it: I suspect that for them, growing up yet further along in the West's secularization, it will be classical doctrine, something equally substantive, or nothing. They won't buy Jenkins' classical doctrine watered down to a 10% solution.


7:31 PM


THE TWO TOWERS:

On a website titled "Journeyman: A Journal for the Inquiring Christian," an excellent article on the failings of the movie version of The Two Towers, "Where Have All the Heroes Gone?", by Greg Krehbiel. Admittedly, I may like it because he makes much the same point I made in a blog posted on December 20th, titled "The Two Towers", but then, well, we're right.


12:05 PM


FRANCE GIVES IN, AND GIVES OUT:

In "France may pay for new mosques to beat militants", The Daily Telegraph reports that the French government is thinking about building mosques, banned by a law passed in 1905,

as part of a bold scheme to create a French version of Islam, rather than let France's second biggest religion fall further under the sway of foreign powers, notably Saudi Arabia.

. . . . There are 1,600 mosques in France but most are little more than a small room. But money from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states has been cascading into France for the funding of Islamic cultural centres and new mosques. The Grand Mosque in Lyons, for example, cost 3 million and was 90 per cent funded from Saudi Arabia.


This does not strike me as a terribly bright idea. The French assume that by building mosques for Muslims they will somehow turn them into a safe, unthreatening, assimilated French Muslim. It is just as like, it is more likely, that Muslims will see this as yet another sign that they are right and the West not only wrong but weak and cowardly. The French would do better to give every Muslim family a large color television and free cable.

As a friend commented, "The real significance of this is that it represents the first step of post-Christian France towards its Islamic future." It is also an example of the fact that in religion, as in everything else, the one with the most life - the most clarity about what it believes, the most discipline, the most seriousness about its faith, the most passion for its life - wins. In Europe, Islam is to Christianity as Kobe Bryant is to Bob Cousy. (Assuming Cousy is still alive.)


11:17 AM


THE POPE AND CHRISTIAN WARRIORS:

As the European Union writes the documents that put a spin on the identity of Europe, the drafters have carefully omitted any reference to religion in general or Christianity in particular. Mostly this is because Europeans are secular; but also because Islam is the only vital religious force in much of Europe.

The Pope is unhappy about the neglect of Christianity as a root of the identity and unity of Europe. He does not believe with Belloc that Europe is the Faith and the Faith is Europe, but he wants Europeans to remember the Christian roots of their civilization, roots they seem determined to forget.

Therefore, amid the feelers he has extended to Islam, he is also beatifying an opponent of Islamic conquerors.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

John Paul II is likely to offend many Muslims with his decision to beatify Father Mario D'Aviano, who defended Christian Europe against invading Turks in the 17th century.
D'Aviano, a Capuchin friar, inspired Christian forces to rout the Turks, who were besieging Vienna and threatening to overrun Europe. As a champion of Europe's Christian identity, he is not appreciated by contemporary Islamic fundamentalists: security measures will be particularly rigorous when he and five other people are beatified at St Peter's on April27.
------
Some Catholics accuse John Paul of ignoring Christians persecuted by Muslims in Sudan, Pakistan and elsewhere, but on January13 he rejected this charge, saying he both defends Christians and wants to build bridges to Islam.
Supporters of D'Aviano's beatification portray him as a defender of Christians rather than an aggressor against Islam.
Born in the Venetian republic in 1631, he left his Jesuit college to join the republic's forces fighting Turkish invaders. On the way to the front he had to seek refuge in a Capuchin monastery, where he decided to become a Capuchin friar rather than a warrior.
He became famous as a preacher and a healer, and was appointed an adviser to the Habsburg Emperor Leopold I.
When Turkish forces that had already conquered Belgrade besieged Vienna for two months in 1683, D'Aviano, at the behest of Pope Innocent XI, joined the irresolute Leopold outside Vienna, where he strengthened the emperor's resolve, persuaded the divided and outnumbered Christian forces to choose Jan Sobieski, the Polish king, as their leader, and preached to the Catholic-Protestant-Orthodox forces on the importance of defending Christian Europe.
On the night of September 11, 1683, the Christians forced the Turks, 20,000 of whose troops had been killed, to raise the siege.
Vatican watchers interpret the decision to beatify D'Aviano as the Pope deciding that building bridges to Islam must not be at the expense of Christian identity.


The Pope wants Catholics in Islamic countries to live in peace, and he does not want to foment religious war. But it is heartening that he has reflected that defensive war against Islamic attackers is a Christian duty. Immediately after the World Trade Center attack, he said that he hoped America wouldn't start a war as New York and the Pentagon burned!


7:16 AM




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