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Friday, April 25

CHILLING STORIES:

Two interesting stories, the first featured on the Weekly News Update of the The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, the second found while looking for something else.

One, from the London Daily Mail titled "Fathers Not Included", began

The package arrived more than an hour late in a battered people-carrier, rather than by special medical courier as I had been promised.

After signing for the delivery, I was handed a stainless steel Thermos flask by the driver. Little did he know what was inside - a specimen jar containing the sperm I had ordered over the internet, complete with a sterile syringe and instructions on how to inseminate myself.


The reporter, Andrea Thompson, who writes that "the thought of any child being brought into the world through such seedy, commercial and soulless means still chills me to the core," goes on to describe her revealing interview with the company that does this.

The other, the writer Julie Burchill's "Abortion: still a dirty word" appeared in the English newspaper The Guardian last May. She begins with a visit to see a friend's new born baby and her return home with her boyfriend.

"I love babies," I said, surprised at the simplicity of my statement. And then immediately, perfectly naturally, "I'm so glad I had all those abortions."

She has had, she says, five. She then describes the progress of what she calls "creeping foetus fetishism" in English society, which she finds appalling and I find cheering, and complains bitterly that the prime minister's wife did not abort her last child. One reason for this "fetishism," she says, is

Me-Ism - psychiatry, psychoanalysis, any sort of navel-gazing - has to take part of the blame for the demonisation of abortion. The idea that everything we do or have done to us stays with us for ever is a reactionary and self-defeating reading of modern life. No doubt if you're the sort of lumbering, self-obsessed poltroon who believes that seeing Mommy kissing Santa Claus 30 years ago irrevocably marked your life, you wouldn't get over an abortion, as you wouldn't get over stubbing your toe without professional help.

But you choose to be that way, because you are weak and vain, and you think your pain is important. Whereas the rest of us know not only that our pain is not important, but that it probably isn't even pain - just too much time on our hands.


And she blames even the pro-choicers:

"No woman takes abortion lightly," even the valiant pro-choice spokeswomen have taken to saying, not realising that they are adding to the illusion that abortion is a serious, murderous, life-changing act. It isn't - unless your life is so sadly lacking in incident and interest that you make it so.

Myself, I'd as soon weep over my taken tonsils or my absent appendix as snivel over those abortions. I had a choice, and I chose life - mine.


I used to get angry at this sort of thing, but now it mostly makes me sad. Julie Burchill writes as a lost soul.


12:55 PM


HITLER'S BOOKS:

Adolf was a voracious reader, and Timothy Ryback describes in the Atlantic what he discovered by going through the books from Hitler's library that the Library of Congress has tucked away. Hitler also liked to underline things he found important.

No what do you suppose he found important (besides the Jews)?

Spirituality.

more than 130 books on religious and spiritual subjects, ranging from Occidental occultism to Eastern mysticism to the teachings of Jesus Christ-books with titles such as Sunday Meditations; On Prayer; A Primer for Religious Questions, Large and Small; Large Truths About Mankind, the World and God. Also included were a German translation of E. Stanley Jones's 1931 best seller, The Christ of the Mount; and a 500-page work on the life and teachings of Jesus, published in 1935 under the title The Son: The Evangelical Sources and Pronouncements of Jesus of Nazareth in Their Original Form and With the Jewish Influences .

Adolf was a deeply spiritual man.

O yes, also a lot on the occult, such as Magic: History, Theory and Practice (1923), by Ernst Schertel.

Hitler had read it and underlined a lot, especially the line:

"He who does not carry demonic seeds within him will never give birth to a new world."

Leni Riefensthal had offended Hitler by asking for protection for a Jewish colleague. She made up by giving him a set of Fichte, which he read carefully.

Fichte asked, "Where did Jesus derive the power that has held his followers for all eternity?" Hitler drew a dense line beneath the answer: "Through his absolute identification with God." At another point Hitler highlighted a brief but revealing paragraph: "God and I are One. Expressed simply in two identical sentences-His life is mine; my life is his. My work is his work, and his work my work."

Hitler was seeking God:

"Mind and soul ultimately return to the collective being of the world," Hitler told some guests in December of 1941. "If there is a God, then he gives us not only life but also consciousness and awareness. If I live my life according to my God-given insights, then I cannot go wrong, and even if I do, I know I have acted in good faith."

Hitler knew that God would approve what he had done, because Adolf Hitler was God:

Hitler believed that the mortal and the divine were one and the same: that the God he was seeking was in fact himself.

Hitler, a very perceptive man, had seen beyond the silly neo-pagan trappings of the German New Age movement to the essence of the New Age: God and man are one, the same thing.

Hitler was deeply spiritual, as I said. He followed the lead of that great spirit who sought to occupy the throne of God, and who whispered to our first parents: You shall be as gods.


12:11 PM


A NEW VIEW OF NARNIA:

A fascinating article from this week's Times Literary Supplement, "C. S. Lewis the astrologer", that argues of The Narnia Chronicles that although

Their Christian symbolism has often been remarked on and sometimes objected to - most notably of late by Philip Pullman. What no one has noticed before is that Lewis intended the Chronicles as an embodiment of medieval astrology.


11:12 AM


BAD WRITING? REALLY!

According to an Associated Press story on the report of the the National Commission on Writing in America's Schools and Colleges, "Report: Uh, it's like student writing is bad", most American children can't write very well. I trust you are not surprised.

Scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress show eight in 10 students have mastered writing basics in grades four, eight and 12. But only about a quarter are proficient, and just one in 100 are advanced.

In one NAEP test, 11th-grade students were asked to describe "Appleby," a haunted house. Forty-eight percent of the responses were judged unsatisfactory, 50 percent were adequate and 2 percent were elaborated.


I worry about a writer who uses the word "elaborated" to mean "good," "competent," or "better than average," but the story does not make it clear whether this was the report's term or the reporter's. But I found most interesting, and perfectly predictable, the commission's recommendations:

* Every state should revisit its education standards to make sure they include a comprehensive writing policy.

* Those writing policies should aim to double the time most students spend on writing and insist that writing be taught in all subjects and in all grades. They should also require writing theory in teacher licensing.

* Political leaders should call for a national conference on writing.

* Higher education should provide all teachers, no matter what their discipline, with courses in how to teach writing. Writing courses for students should be improved.

* States and the federal government should provide more money so schools have the time and staff needed to focus on writing.


One, two, and four are obvious enough, though one would have to see what these courses will teach about writing before approving of them. Three and five are predictable enough, because whenever the schools fail, they ask for more money. Forgetting that the last time they failed, they asked for more money, and the time before that, etc.

As someone who writes for a living, and also teaches graduate students how to write, I find this all grimly amusing. The Commission says nothing to criticize the "just express yourself / there's no right way / what matters is how you feel" school that has dominated American public education for decades, which was skewered so brilliantly by the "Underground Grammarian," Richard Mitchell. (He is very funny, and in my reading of his works he is always right. Do check out the website.)

To write well you must learn the rules, to accept that the language is something given to you and not made by you, as for example that words have meanings before you learn them and you cannot use them as you wish. "Fulsome" does not mean "very full" and "alternate" and "alternative" have different meanings.

You have to learn that people do not exist to serve you and do not owe you anything, as for example that you cannot declare of the reader that he must figure out what you mean. He does not have to read you at all. If he takes the effort to read you, you must make sure you write so that he can understand you.

You must use the language as a craftsman uses his tools, as a woodcarver uses his awls and chisels and saws, not as a small child uses finger paints. You must respect the tools, and you really ought to love using them, but even if you can't love them - and some people do not love language, amazingly enough - you must use them with care and respect as the only tools that will let you create the thing you are trying to create.

And you must accept that some people will be better at writing than others, that not every child will be able to write well - though if properly taught, almost every child will be able to write better than he does. You can only do your best with the gifts God and education have given you. You may or may not have an ear for the rythym of sentences and the music of language - few people do - but by learning and following the rules you can write clear sentences readers will understand, even if they clank or come down at the end with a bump.

In other words, to write well you must think about the world in a way that American public education does not seem to encourage. Outside, I suppose, the sciences, where reality cannot be so easily evaded as it is in the humanities. You are not a creator, you are - you are privileged to be if you try - an explorer and a craftsman. You must submit yourself to authority.

Which way of thinking about the world many, many teachers (outside the sciences) do not seem to teach. This basic problem the Commission does not address, and so I do not think we can hope for much from its recommendations, even if they are instituted.


9:49 AM


Thursday, April 24

FOUR CHEERS FOR THE SENATOR:

As you all know, Senator Rick Santorum is now being assaulted for his comments on the logic of the argument against Texas' anti-sodomy laws. The major media and the homosexualist lobbies scream that he is a bigot and oppressor, in what does seem to be a rather calculated hysteria.

For the latter, who despite decades of effort, including the constant intimidation of their opponents, have not achieved the social acceptance they crave - children now use "gay" as an insult, for example - any comment on the subject gives an excuse for an attack that they hope will cow the subject and convince everyone else to stay quiet. One would like to think better of them.

Let us look at what the senator said. All he did was a) make a simple and rather obvious logical argument, then b) point out that the Constitution does not in fact include the principle upon which those opposing such laws depend, and then c) describe the effect of such a principle upon the family, a claim whose truth is close to being self-evident. (Read the whole interview here.)

The rather obvious logical argument:

AP: OK, without being too gory or graphic, so if somebody is homosexual, you would argue that they should not have sex?

SANTORUM: We have laws in states, like the one at the Supreme Court right now, that has sodomy laws and they were there for a purpose. Because, again, I would argue, they undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family.

And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does.


Can anyone find a logical flaw in Santorum's argument? If you have the right to do in bed anything you like with anyone who agrees to it, you can do it with your sister, your brother, your father, your mother, your cat, and your dead best friend. And with any married man or woman you know, and with any number of people at a time.

The principle "you have the right to consensual sex within your home" allows every type of consensual sex. This is what broad principles do. Suppose you live in an historic district in an old town and a neighbor challenges a zoning law that limits the colors he may paint his house. He argues that he has the right to do anything with his house he wishes, as long as it does not endanger the neighbors.

If he is right about the principle, he has the right to paint his house in orange and black tiger stripes or flourescent lime green, as well as a tasteful off-white or gray. Grant the principle, and you agree to look at a house across the street painted in orange and black tiger stripes. You may not like it at all, you may have thought he only wanted to paint it a colonial blue, but you have approved it. If you do think historic neighborhoods should not include houses painted in orange and black tiger stripes, you may want to question the principle.

Now, just as such a zoning law will undermine the aesthetic coherence of an historic neighborhood, such a sexual principle as "you have the right to consensual sex within your home" will undermine the sexual order of a society based on the idea that you do not have such a right. You may think this a good thing, but you cannot argue that Santorum was a bigot for pointing out that opening the door to one thing opens it to everything else.

The Constitutional point:

It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was created, it was created in Griswold - Griswold was the contraceptive case - and abortion. And now we're just extending it out.

Can anyone pick up the text of the Constitution and find anything remotely like a "right to privacy"? Can anyone look at all the laws states passed for the first hundred or more years of the country's existence, including the years when the Constitution's authors were around to interpret it, and find a great concern for "the right to privacy"? No.

You can argue that the "right to privacy" was somehow implicit in the Constitution - and therefore in the subconscious minds of its authors, perhaps - and that the Supreme Court eventually discerned it. But you must admit that Santorum has a reasonable argument, based upon the text and its authors and first interpreters. You cannot call him a bigot for taking seriously the text of the Constitution. And if Santorum is right, much that you value may be a public good, but it is not a constitutionally protected good.

The almost self-evident claim:

And the further you extend it out, the more you - this freedom actually intervenes and affects the family. You say, well, it's my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that's antithetical to strong, healthy families. Whether it's polygamy, whether it's adultery, where it's sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family.

This is a more difficult argument to prove, but it does seem self-evident, especially with his use of "traditional" in the last sentence. A traditional family grows from the union of two people whose children are the fruit of their loins, who have pledged to each other their sexual fidelity, which is both a sign and a guarantee of their fidelity in all other matters and in the self-sacrifice a marriage and family require. Look, for example, to the ancient biblical story of Adam and Eve, the story that has set the model of marriage for Western culture.

Bigamy and polygamy deny the uniqueness and exclusivity of the commitment. Adultery breaks the fidelity the partners have pledged each other. Sodomy denies the possibility of children who are the fruit of the parents' sexual union. These destroy, they do not create or nurture, traditional families.

Again, you may think that the definition of "family" should be expanded to include homosexual couples, but you ought to admit that you want something significantly different from the traditional family. And more to the point, you ought to admit that any principle you present for expanding the definition will expand the family to include a lot of sexual alternatives besides homosexuality, like bigamy, polygamy, and adultery, and incest and bestiality for that matter. You may not like them, but you have approved of them.

In summary, Senator Santorum has only said what any logical person with a traditional understanding of the family would say. His argument follows logically from his principles, and these are the principles assumed throughout most of American history and by (if the sociologist Alan Wolfe's studies are right) most Americans today.

His critics may not like his principles, but they ought not to accuse him of bigotry for holding them. That is just dishonest, the attempt to turn a disagreement into a moral failing and by incessant abuse to silence anyone they disagree with. It is an attempt to win an argument by political force, not reason and evidence. And it seems to me a desperate attempt to make a bad case better by presenting it aggressively.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
For an interesting defense of Santorum, though one I don't entirely agree with, see Stanley Kurtz's Defending Senator Santorum. And his article from two years ago,
The Ashcroft-Logger Alliance , which is interesting but I think quite dodgy in the legitimacy he grants homosexualists.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
My thanks to Carl Olson writing on the Envoy magazine blogsite for the link to the interview. He also quotes OpinionJournal's amusing observation on indignation at The New York Times:

The New York Times editorial page weighs in on the Santorum kerfuffle:

"Hear ye, hear ye: Senator Rick Santorum feels obliged to offer gratuitous guidance to the Supreme Court in the form of an ad hoc, highly unlearned ruling that equates homosexuality with bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery."

"Gratuitous guidance"? That's a criticism? Does the New York Times editorial board ever do anything other than offer gratuitous guidance?


12:14 PM


"TRUE ISLAM":

In Will the "True" Imperialist Religion Please Stand Up?, Ann Coulter examines the often expressed fear that Christian missionaries will do horrible things to the Iraqi people, like to convert them to Christianity. But, she notes,

absolutely everyone concedes that a lot of Muslims are going to have to convert to some new religion. That's the point of the much-ballyhooed claim that the terrorists and their sympathizers are not practicing "true Islam." Well, they think they are.

Muslims who share Mohammed Atta's religious beliefs as it pertains to infidels are bossily informed that they are incorrect and ordered to practice "true Islam." Only if a Christian mentions Jesus Christ, evidently, does it constitute imperialism.

In fact, the "true Islam" ruse is straight out of the imperialist's handbook. When the British colonized India, they encountered such charming Hindu practices as "suttee," which involved throwing the widow on her husband's burning funeral pyre. Instead of convincing the Hindus that this hideous practice was a priori wrong, the British went to great lengths to produce ancient Sanskrit texts proving that the natives were not practicing "true Hinduism."


She goes on to give evidence from Anthony Pagden's book Peoples and Empires, including Napoleon's telling the Egyptians he'd just conquered that the French were the "true Muslims." She concludes, quite sensibly, by asking

Could we at least stop pretending that the British colonial office approach of pandering "true Islam" is any less "imperialistic" than Franklin Graham's missionaries showing videos on the life of Christ?


9:29 AM


RUBBISHING MEN:

An eighteen-month-old but interesting article I found while looking for something else entirely: Lay off men, Lessing tells feminists. Speaking at the Edinburgh Books Festival in August 2001, the novelist and "feminist icon" Doris Lessing said

"I find myself increasingly shocked at the unthinking and automatic rubbishing of men which is now so part of our culture that it is hardly even noticed," . . .

"Great things have been achieved through feminism. We now have pretty much equality at least on the pay and opportunities front, though almost nothing has been done on child care, the real liberation.


She then described a class of nine and ten-year-olds, who were being taught that the "violent nature" of men caused wars. The teacher assumed she'd approve, but

"You could see the little girls, fat with complacency and conceit while the little boys sat there crumpled, apologising for their existence, thinking this was going to be the pattern of their lives."

. . . She added: "This kind of thing is happening in schools all over the place and no one says a thing. It has become a kind of religion that you can't criticise because then you become a traitor to the great cause, which I am not.

"It is time we began to ask who are these women who continually rubbish men. The most stupid, ill-educated and nasty woman can rubbish the nicest, kindest and most intelligent man and no one protests. Men seem to be so cowed that they can't fight back, and it is time they did."


Bravo for Lessing. "Conceited" describes much of contemporary feminism, I'm afraid, and it is a conceit the conceited have done nothing to earn. To be given political and (even better) social and (best of all) spiritual status without actually doing anything to earn it will attract the best of us, and the mediocre, greedy, and self-pitying will fly to it like flies to dung.

A feminist does not have to do so, as Lessing shows. If such feminists as she describes truly believed in sexual equality, they would not want to. They would want men to be men, with (as a Christian would say) the effects of the Fall upon men left off.

But that would create a much livelier world than the average feminist wants, I suspect. It would create a world in which they would have to earn their place, not take the top simply because they are women. They would have to compete with men, who might prove in certain areas to be better, or more skilled, or more committed, or more driven. They might find that sexual difference mattered, sometimes to their disadvantage.

The great irony is, as Lessing suggests in the rest of the interview, that indulging this conceit has kept many such feminists from combatting the forms of inequality and inequity they oppose in theory. They are too busy displaying their superiority. It is the lazy woman's feminism.


8:45 AM


Wednesday, April 23

DASCHLE UNREPENTANT:

As noted in Asking Daschle to be honest, J. Bottum of The Weekly Standard reported that Senator Daschle had been rebuked by his bishop for calling himself a Catholic while supporting abortion. In a short follow-up article to his first article Bottum reported that neither the bishop nor the senator

denied the existence of the letter, but both refused to discuss the contents of what one Catholic official in Sioux Falls angrily described as "private correspondence" that was not intended to be made public at this time.

He reported that in a letter to the magazine Daschle declared that "I have been a Catholic all my life, and I will remain one." If you do not believe that the Church's teaching is binding upon you, I suppose it is easy to remain one, but don't expect the rest of us to cheer.


7:59 PM


A WORD FROM THE SPONSOR:

I've just realized, from correspondence with several readers who wrote kind notes about "Mere Comments," that we have a goodly number of regular, even daily, readers who do not subscribe to the magazine. The blogsite is part of the magazine's ministry, but it depends upon the magazine for support. No magazine, no blogsite.

I would encourage you to subscribe to the magazine, which you can do by clicking here. If you like what you read here, you will like what you read there. We post some articles on the home page, but not all, and some of the best we hold back, for obvious reasons. It does not cost much (the subscription price does not come near covering the costs) but you get a lot.


6:07 PM


MEN ARE TO PROTECT:

I have written a great deal about just war doctrine since 9/11, and I have a son who is an Army cadet at The Citadel, where they have had to pause now and then in the past month to honor alumni who have died in the Iraqi War. I am, thus, paying what feels like a hefty tuition on my budget so that my older boy can be formed as a soldier and can make a profession, God willing, of risking his life for our country. Because of these things, and as a father of both sons and a daughter, I want to support David's statement in the strongest possible way.

A just war doctrine depends absolutely on the whole of God's Word, just as much as any other Christian doctrine does. That Word lays out a different set of vocations for men and women, and a complementary rather than interchangeable set of obligations one to another.

Men are to protect women under God, and any effort to transfer this obligation from men to women in a systematic way is ungodly. Yes, there have been exceptional occasions when courageous women have assumed temporarily a defensive role, but these are examples of extraordinary charity in extremis, and not to be taken as models for society.

Furthermore, while I do believe that in times of national emergency the civil authority has the right to call able-bodied men to arms, I am dubious about a "draft," except perhaps as a means of organizing an emergency call up in an orderly way. Napoleon invented the modern conscript army as an economy measure, allowing him to send mass formations of cannon fodder against better trained troops in the hope of overwhelming them. Mass conscription has also been used as a means of avoiding the need to obtain something like the consent of the governed in the conduct of a war.

The recent calls for the extension of registration to women and for the institution of a draft for all young people have had nothing to do with the welfare of our nation, and everything to do with the welfare and the theories of politicians. They amount to a general tax of time and life exacted from the young to be imposed for the benefit of liberal programs.

We certainly want to maintain the civilian control of the military estate, but if service in that estate is truly a vocation (an important component of just war theory), we should in all but the most extreme circumstances allow young men to answer that call voluntarily and pay what it costs to support an adequate volunteer force decently and gratefully. Women should not be considered for this fighting force, and the policy of this nation ought to be that such women as serve in non-combat roles should be volunteers and protected from violence as much as is humanly possible. This whole debate is really another form of the "women's ordination" argument - a debate about God's will for men and women under his rule.

Related to this is a thought that often struck me when I was teaching Rangers ethics and literature at Fort Benning in the early '90s, and that strikes me now when I visit The Citadel. If we had even the equivalent of an organized battalion of priests who took their vocations as seriously as young Rangers do and a single seminary as dedicated as The Citadel, we could convert most of the world in a couple of generations.


4:14 PM


WOMEN IN COMBAT:

Our associate editor Addison Hart recommends "What Kind of Nation Sends Women into Combat?" by R. Cort Kirkwood, Jr. Kirkwood served on the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces. It is a subject pressed us by American policy in this war and particularly by the story of Jessica Lynch, which the usual subjects have turned into proof that women should fight in the American military.

It seems to me that there is but a small step from letting women near combat, as we have done in this war, to letting them into combat, and from there to requiring them to be in combat. The line between "You may fight" to "You must fight" is much thinner than most people realize, resting as it does upon an understanding of sexual difference and of femininity our elites have shed almost completely.

We have two daughters, 17 and 10. If, by the time the second is 17 or 18, the country has reinstituted the draft and included women, with the possibility they may be sent near or into combat, I will do everything I can to help her to evade it and help other young women as well. I am a patriotic Christian, but my patriotism has very strict limits, and the barbarian act of putting young women in harm's way goes well beyond them.


4:10 PM


"THE INTEGRITY OF THE CUBAN REVOLUTION":

In a recent story from the World Council of Church's Ecumenical News International, the general secretary of the WCC, Dr. Konrad Reiser, condemned the sentences given by the Cuban regime to 76 opponents as a "miscarriage of justice" and asked for their release. But also:

Raiser told the Cuban president that the WCC was "aware" that Cuba had felt increased "external pressures and interference in its sovereignty and independence, especially by the government of the United States of America" but that Cuban authorities should not allow such pressures "to jeopardise the integrity of the Cuban revolution".

I wonder what Dr. Kaiser would think about my own suggestion on this matter. That is, that the Marines stop over in Cuba for a few days, on their way back from Baghdad, and overthrow the Castro government as they did the Hussein government. Since the downfall of the Soviet Union, I think it has been morally reprehensible for the United States to continue tolerating the Castro government so close to our own borders.

The chief objection to war is that people get killed and hurt in war. As soon as there exists a situation of peace in which more people get killed and hurt than in war, then war is the appropriate moral choice. That is to say (and the Bible says it), "there is a time for peace, and there is a time for war." Confusing those times is morally wrong.

This is why I do not simply disagree with the folks who opposed our war in Iraq. I accuse them.


1:53 PM


Tuesday, April 22

MORE PARKER:

Several readers liked the short poem of Dorothy Parker's, "The Maid-servant at the Inn", I posted a few days ago. One, James Gladden, sent a similar poem, taken from her book Death and Taxes.

Prayer for a New Mother

The things she knew, let her forget again--
The voices in the sky, the fear, the cold,
The gaping shepherds, and the queer old men
Piling their clumsy gifts of foreign gold.

Let her have laughter with her little one;
Teach her the endless, tuneless songs to sing;
Grant her her right to whisper to her son
The foolish names one dare not call a king.

Keep from her dreams the rumble of a crowd,
The smell of rough-cut wood, the trail of red,
The thick and chilly whiteness of the shroud
That wraps the strange new body of the dead.

Ah, let her go, kind Lord, where mothers go
And boast his pretty words and ways, and plan
The proud and happy years that they shall know
Together, when her son is grown a man.


9:19 PM


EVIDENCE FOR JESUS:

From Peter Toon:

Here are some interesting web links for early archaeological evidence for the existence of Jesus and early Christians believers (e.g., ossuary inscriptions expressing belief in Him within 10 or so years of His crucifixion). Handy for rebutting those who claim there is no such evidence and that it was all fabricated 1-2 generations later:

- Faith in Evidence;

- Another Voice from the Tomb; and

- Tombs. (I don't have the exact title because our filtered software blocked it as a "free site".)


5:29 PM


YET MORE ON SEXUAL IDENTITY:

Another interesting response to yesterday's blog on "Sexual Identity", this one from a lawyer in New York city:

A disturbing piece. It is another example of that strange phenomenon of Americans assuming the Constitution protects them not just from acts of the government but from acts of other Americans. This seems a fixed and fundamental idea for many, and explains the automatic outrage they feel when a private citizen does something that to their thinking restricts freedom of speech, the press, or religion.

Thus the Bill of Rights becomes by degrees a restriction on an individual's exercise of free speech, religion and the press, at least to the degree those freedoms might be exercised to exclude, edit, or criticize, in favor of someone else's rights to exercise those freedoms "positively" (by having abortions, worshipping trees, "following one's conscience" ).


9:27 AM


PRESBYTERIANS REBUKE:

Today's National Briefing: Religion in The New York Times reports that a court of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (the mainline one)

convicted a Cincinnati minister of violating church law for marrying same-sex couples. In the church's first trial on the issue, the court rebuked the minister, the Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken but refrained from suspending him or removing him from the ministry.

Pr. Van Kuiken says that he will keep performing the "marriages" and ordaining homosexualists. When will the churches - the Catholic and the mainline churches, I mean - learn that you not simply rebuke people who say "to hell with the law," because that only holds up the law to ridicule and encourages others to disobey? A rebuke is the bureaucrat's typical answer: it disrupts the system as little as possible and lets everyone feel they won. It is, of course, neither hot nor cold.


9:23 AM


MORE ON SEXUAL IDENTITY:

An interesting response from a reader to "Sexual Identity", which I posted yesterday:

I was intrigued by the Pulp article you referred to so I looked it up on the web. The author appears to regard pregnancy as a catastrophe akin to getting hit by a car and having a limb severed - her outrage is the sort one would expect if a person in that situation were denied emergency medical care. She expects her culture to regard an unwanted baby as an absolute evil, which all resources must be mustered to remedy at once. Culture of death, anyone?

Another interesting point is the description of the cause of the pregnancy as an "accident." Without going into gory details, I think it is safe to say that while a condom may slip off accidentally, it is unlikely to do so without its wearer's knowledge. If I were driving on the freeway and discovered that my brakes were not working, and nevertheless decided to keep driving to my destination, and some minutes later I hit somebody, would the victim say, "it was an accident, somebody's brakes just failed?"

Finally, this situation is an excellent warning against easily accepting arguments based on "privacy." Not long ago, legal abortion was defended on the grounds that it was a "private" matter; as soon as it was accepted, access to easy safe cheap abortion became a "right." The same is happening with gay relationships and gay "marriage." It once sounded plausible enough that "what consenting adults do in private is nobody else's business," except that once said adults have done "it" in private more than a few times they realize that they really do want it to be everybody's business. The same applies if a private act results in transmission of a deadly disease, or (worse yet?!) the creation of a new life.

It has been one of the great shocks of growing up from a liberal youth to a fairly conservative middle age to discover that the fundamental premise of much of the politics I absorbed in my childhood/youth was based on such a terribly flawed premise as "privacy."


8:36 AM


MORAL IMBECILITY, PART 456,972

According to a story in a New Jersey newspaper, The Daily Record, titled Laci Peterson case tied to Roe debate, in which a husband in California is alleged to have murdered his pregnant wife:

The head of the National Organization for Women's Morris County [New Jersey] chapter is opposing a double-murder charge in the Laci Peterson case, saying it could provide ammunition to the pro-life lobby.

"If this is murder, well, then any time a late-term fetus is aborted, they could call it murder," Morris County NOW President Mavra Stark said on Saturday.

. . . "There's something about this that bothers me a little bit," Stark said. "Was it born, or was it unborn? If it was unborn, then I can't see charging (Peterson) with a double-murder."


The mother had already chosen a name - meaning he was a wanted baby and therefore a person, according to pro-choice logic - but

Stark said that added to the tragedy of the case, but shouldn't result in an additional murder charge.

"He was wanted and expected, and (Laci Peterson) had a name for him, but if he wasn't born, he wasn't born. It sets a kind of precedent," Stark said, adding that the issue was "just something I've been ruminating on."


What can you say about, or to, the sort of person who lives in such darkness? Surely there are ideologies that can only be cast out by prayer and fasting.

My thanks to OpinionJournal for the link.


8:26 AM


Monday, April 21

A LAMENT:

Those of you interested in the world of academia may enjoy - if that's quite the right word - Dr. Ian Hunter's Academia's road to ruin: Stifling free inquiry has tainted our universities. Hunter is a retired professor of law and the first biographer of Malcolm Muggeridge.

Dr. Hunter will have an article on Solzhenitsyn in the View section of the June issue, by the way.


5:57 PM


RIVERA'S WASTELAND:

I commend the latest "Note from the Wasteland" by Roberto Rivera, this one titled Levity and subtitled "Holy Week Reflections on Forgiveness and Grace." Roberto is a fellow of the Wilberforce Forum and a contributing editor to Touchstone.

In the column, he reflects on the necessity of religion "in any civilized society." I won't try to summarize it (that's why we provide the link), but here is one paragraph from early in the article that gives the tone and flavor of his writing:

None of this would matter if we didn't need to forgive and be forgiven. But we do. Pardon me for putting it this way, but guilt is a kind of existential constant. (We have a word for people who don't feel guilt: sociopath.) Most of us have the sense that we have sinned, even if we don't call it that. I'm not talking about the kind of guilt that is the staple of "Jewish mother" and "growing up Catholic" jokes.

I mean the knowledge that there's a great deal wrong with the world and that some of it is our doing - the kind of knowledge that intrudes upon us when we are honest with ourselves or too tired to engage in sophistry. (In other words, not every postmodern is a libertine. Many are depressed, guilt-ridden nihilists.)


I am a great fan of his. Other "Notes from the Wasteland" can be found here. He also writes a column for the "Boundless" webzine and articles for BeliefNet.

Another essay of his will be appearing in the View section of the June issue.


5:00 PM


SEXUAL IDENTITY:

From time to time, I read the two "alternative" weeklies in Pittsburgh, to keep up with the part of American society they represent. One is called Pulp and the other CP (for "City Paper") and you can get them for free at places like Borders and Starbucks, which should tell you something by itself.

They carry local news and feature stories on local personalities and controversies, the political ones almost always leftish and indignant, a lot of movie and play reviews, a calendar of local events, at least one sex column, and pages of "personals" covering every form of sexual desire. (Which are not, alas, nearly as funny as those I used to read in The New York Review of Books.) They both carry "News of the Weird," which I greatly enjoy.

The latest issue of Pulp includes an essay called "The Morning After" by a Jude Vachon, a contributing editor who is otherwise not identified. She begins the essay:

I'm 38 and I had my first contraception accident a few months ago. Specifically, the condom slipped off.

Her boyfriend was the one wearing the evasive condom. She feels "completely paralyzed" and for an hour alternates crying and

repeating the [sic] phrases like "I can't do this. I can't do either thing."

Interesting, that last sentence. The rest of the essay describes the trouble she had finding "emergency contraception" - a euphemism for a pill that seems to prevent the fertilized egg from implanting in the mother's womb, which is to say, a pill that causes an abortion. (Which means that she really did want to do one of the "things" she said that she could not do.)

Her ob/gyn isn't in till the afternoon, the pharmacy she uses doesn't carry it, the "women's health" center (yet another euphemism) isn't taking appointments that day, and so on. At the end of the day, she finds that she can get it at a local hospital's pharmacy and her boyfriend fetches it for her. she is "sick as a dog" the next day - this is, I assume, the natural result of seriously messing with your body's workings - but presumably not pregnant, or perhaps pregnant any longer.

It's the conclusion I thought so revealing:

Could it be that this culture wants women to have babies? Is it irrelevant that there are laws that are supposed to ensure certain reproductive rights? Why is that even if legislation exists, that businesses and health-care organizations and employees can act against it because they don't agree with it? That's completely undemocratic and could possibly be illegal. I'd like some answers.

Setting aside the curious idea that the "right" to contracept the natural fruits of sex and abort your child are "reproductive rights," you have here the voice of what might be called sexual fascism. (I am borrowing the left's use of the word.) The legal right to get such things if you want them becomes the requirement that others provide them for you, no matter what their own views. Your rights somehow trump theirs. It is "completely undemocratic" for people to do, within the bounds of the law, what they think best with the things they own. And possibly illegal, too.

I do not spend much time with people like this, but I lived among them in my youth, and I suspect such is the addiction and power of the sexualized life that Ms. Vachon represents a significant minority of people from about eighteen to fifty, or perhaps sixty. They must have sex, and they must have sex without consequences, and therefore other people must do what must be done to provide them with sex without consequences.

They assume that the sexualized life is the natural life, a part of "who I am as a person," as natural and necessary as breathing. For them sex is a thing like skin color or ethnic heritage, something over which one has no control, and therefore a thing the state must protect against bigotry and even encourage. Anyone who opposes it is marked as a bigot whose views have no value and whose choices must be over-ridden.

I bring this up because I think it explains the sexualized man's insisting that the government approve his life and force others to support it, as for example in the attempts in New York to force Catholic enterprises to provide contraception to their employees. There is a strange passion for this kind of thing among those who on other matters favor living and letting live.

They feel so passionately about this, if I am right, because it is not a matter of self-interest only, but of self-identity. Thus do sexual libertarians become sexual fascists.


3:33 PM


Sunday, April 20

THE MIRACLE OF EASTER:

A reflection on the meaning of Easter by Peter Toon. Peter is a contributing editor as well as a much published scholar, a parish priest in the Church of England, and a leader of the Prayer Book Societies in America and England.

Easter: Resurrection not Resuscitation

What happened to Jesus on Easter morning was not resuscitation. The human soul did not reunite with a revived body to create a resuscitated, revived Jesus. In no way whatsoever, could Resuscitation have ever been the proclamation by the Holy Trinity to those with ears to hear of the victory of the Incarnate Son over sin, evil, darkness, death and demonic power.

Resuscitation could never have been the statement that a new covenant between God and man was in place, that the old mosaic covenant was obsolete, and that there was atonement, redemption, salvation, reconciliation & forgiveness of sins available through the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And neither could modern views of resurrection as "the spirit of Jesus surviving death" (and his body lost) be the statement of God's victory over darkness, evil, sin, death and Satan.

What happened on Easter morning was a miracle that was more, much more, than the resuscitation of the dead body of Jesus and its reuniting with his soul. The Miracle of Easter is that Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, was raised from the dead into a new order of being and as a new form of humanity. His resurrection from the dead, while a continuance in personal identity, was at the same time a transformation of his human nature and body so that he became a resurrected, glorified, supernaturalized and immortalised Man (yet more than Man).

His humanity, wholly transformed by the Spirit of God, contained and displayed the new order of being that is the kingdom of God. The Person of the Son of God now had not only his eternal divine nature with a human soul (as from Good Friday through Holy Saturday) but also a totally perfected, glorified, supernaturalised and immortalised human nature.

Thus the cry, "Jesus is risen from the dead", is also the announcement that the new covenant between God and man is in place and is centered on the Mediator, Jesus. The new order and covenant reveals perfect human nature glorified through a perfect response to the Spirit of the Lord.

It shows us the goal for which human nature was created by God, and to which it will be raised when the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus sets men free from the law of sin and of death. It shows both the crown of the purpose of God in holy Scriptures and the crown of his purpose in the created world, wherein a new, dynamic, everlasting level & order of life succeed to old levels that pass away.

Jesus rose as the new Adam, the head and representative of a new humanity, the firstfruits of those who would follow him (see 1 Corinthians 15).

This explanation of the raising of Jesus as the Resurrected Lord of life and not as the resuscitated Rabbi makes it possible for us to see why Jesus did not appear to those who had handed him over to death (the Jewish Sanhedrin & the Roman Procurator and their helpers). By the laws of the new covenant and of the Kingdom of Heaven, the miracle of the Resurrection could only be made known to those who responded in penitence and faith to the new level of spiritual existence which it disclosed. It was not a portent that could be shown to anyone & everyone to press them or to scare them into belief! It was a miracle belonging to the realm of the kingdom of God and only those with eyes to see could see it.

The new Order of Being manifested and revealed in the risen Lord Jesus, the Messiah, needed a corresponding spiritual discernment to see its nature and reality, Thus Jesus appeared only to the disciples and to them on several occasions. In them he had sown the seed of faith and insight and they, as quickened by the Spirit of God, were able to begin to see him in his new identity, in his transformed and glorified manhood. That is they were able to receive the Revelation of his true identity as the Risen Lord and then worship him (as did Thomas) as "My Lord and my God".

To state all this is to agree with the Gospel records which make it absolutely clear that Jesus made no attempt whatsoever to appear to any others than his disciples.

However, to make this essential point about the revelation of a new order of being is not to discount historical evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus. There is historical testimony that points to the Resurrection of Jesus with overwhelming probability -- for example (a) the disciples did not really expect the Resurrection; (b) the existence of the Church despite the great setback of Good Friday; (c) the claims of the disciples that Jesus actually appeared to them; (d) the empty tomb and (e) the absolutely new appreciation and understanding of the Scriptures by the apostles and disciples.

Ultimately, we must say that, what it took on Easter Day and during the next 40 days first to
see and then to receive Jesus as the Resurrected Lord, with his new covenant and kingdom, is ultimately what it takes now - a penitent, believing heart that begins to see. "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved."

To read other articles by Peter and hear some of his sermons, go to his parish's website. It includes his recordings of classic Anglican sermons from The Books of Homilies, including the sermon written for Easter.


7:10 PM




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