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Friday, August 20

FROM THE INBOX 20 AUGUST 2004:

A few items for today. We had, by the way, some trouble posting the last couple of days. As it turns out, the server at our isp was full, in part because of the material we’d added for the new Touchstone Archive. The isp has “optimized” the server to give us some more room for a few days and will be “migrating” (I think that’s the jargon) our files to a new one.

— For those of you interested in such stories, We've lost our faith in doctors by Alice Thomson reports on one Englishwoman’s experience with the National Health Service’s pediatricians. She is not happy. We’ve always been quite happy with ours.

— And for those of you interested in debating the nature of Protestantism and ecclesial authority, the Episcopal minister Kendall Harmon posted on his website an article by the Anglican minister Robbie Low titled Divided We Fall, which started a long discussion. The article first appeared in the English Anglican magazine New Directions, which I think most Touchstone readers will enjoy browsing, even if you are not an Anglican. Robby Low has written for us The Truth About Men and Church and Death, Where Is Thy Dignity?.

— In the Christian Science Monitor, a “Democrat at heart” who has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in twelve years announces that Democrats can 'do better' on abortion. Kerry, argues Paul J. Contino, a professor at Pepperdine University, should support policies helping pregnant women keep their babies even while continuing to support abortion, because

leadership on this issue could go a long way toward sealing a Democratic victory in November. Providing options and support systems that could help limit the number of abortions would appeal to the majority who believe that abortion should be avoided whenever possible. It could galvanize many undecided anti-abortion voters who, like me, long to return to the Democratic Party. And in a time of discouraging polarization, such a stand could create common ground that most of us can agree upon: Abortions are a catastrophe in our culture, not just another lifestyle choice.
I had two quick reactions to the article: one, to ask what he thinks the government is doing now, and two, to note that in public policy as in everything else, you get what you pay for, and if you pay for pregnancy you will get more of it, which means more abortions.

I think the author also means, though he does not say outright, that if Kerry did as he suggested, he would vote for him. I am not sure how trying to make abortions a little less common erases the fundamental problem that the man thinks they should be had at will, and that to vote for him is to vote for a pro-abortion public policy. On the writer’s own grounds, I don’t see how he can draw the conclusion he seems to have drawn.

Leon Podles dealt with this question in his editorial “Voting as Christians”, which was the lead editorial for our ”Godless Party” issue. It is an issue with some relevance to the current news.

But that said, I also think he is right that Kerry could sway a lot of voters by talking in the way he suggests. As the sociologist Alan Wolfe keeps writing, Americans are instinctive moderates who like to split the difference between any two well-defined poles. They define the poles politically, so that in the abortion issue, when in the political debate we have the pro-life pole and the pro-choice pole, they want to take a position between them, a position that’s a little pro-life and a little pro-choice.

To talk a lot in the way Contino suggests may well appeal to the voter who wants to be a “moderate” and who wants, as most Americans seem to do, to feel generally pro-life but does not want, as most Americans seem not to do, restrictive, uncaring, simplistic, and the like in being flatly anti-abortion. The fact that such “moderation” is essentially pro-choice they will not see.

— A rant from an English writer about American immigration procedures, Why is the US doing its best to alienate all of its allies?. For all I know, he may be right about the incompetence of American practice, but I would want to remind him that we don’t have to let him in at all. He isn’t visiting as a tourist but applying for a visa to work in America and/or stay for awhile.

As you have to tell your children from time to time, you have to pay for your privileges. You can’t expect someone doing you a favor — letting you into his country, say — to do it as efficiently as you’d like.

I would take him more seriously if he didn’t object to being “summoned without apology or explanation to be fingerprinted like a common criminal.” He’s bound to have known that this was part of the process, and deserved no apology nor an explanation, nor can he reasonably think being fingerprinted treating him like a common criminal. And it is, after all, a reasonable and prudent thing to do, to fingerprint people who are going to be living in your country for some time. I certainly wouldn’t object to being fingerprinted at Gatwick or Heathrow, even if I were only visiting England for a week or two.

The article is, by the way, written to a form that is almost a cliché for English writers. Is a cliché, now that I think about it. The writer complains about America, then tells you that actually he’s quite pro-American, and then continues complaining, this second set of complaints including the lament that America makes it so hard for pro-American people like him to defend it. I’m sure it’s a cliché because it ministers to English self-regard, a foundation of which is their superiority to Americans.

Touchstone’s development officer Kenneth Tanner sends his thoughts on M. Night Shyamalan’s new movie The Village, after I posted some quotes from the director in Tuesday’s “From the Inbox”:
If I were to guess at what about "The Village" disturbs or amuses or embarrasses young contemporary viewers, I would say that the character's immediate availability to each other — their lack of pretense, the spell-binding beauty of the language they use to address one another, their depth of concern for each other, their emotional intelligence and emotional, um, articulateness — seems unreal or contrived (and, thus, humorous).

I was awed by the utter humanity of the portrayals. This is how persons who bear the image of God, and who understand that each other person bears the image of God, ought to address other persons and ought to behave toward other persons. (I noticed several younger members of our audience laughing at moments of intense emotional honesty and depth of communication.)

In this age of invasive technology, constant distraction, and (thus) ubiquitous triviality, real intimacy, depth of feeling, and simple (yet profound and eloquent) speech seems clumsy or hokey or, I suppose, false. It just doesn't ring true that human communion at the level portrayed in the film is possible or, if possible, it must (by today's way of thinking) be contrived or imposed (can't say more on that without speaking to aspects of the plot that might support a poststructuralist critique of it, though I'd debate such).

I think the film is simply brilliant as a compact parable of human existence. William Hurt's performance just knocked me out. I can see why accomplished actors are willing to take risks with this director. The words he gives them to speak and the characters he draws are so beautiful and strangely defying of contemporary expectations.

The film is quirky (I think all of his films are), but evokes a world at once alien and recognizable, and manages to make you care deeply for these odd yet beautiful people and the reality they inhabit. The dialogue is radiant in parts.

Just some rambling thoughts.
— Offering yet more empirical support for what everyone has known — which is jolly useful these days — is Ignoring Sex Differences Harms Society, Studies Show from the Culture and Cosmos newsletter published by the Culture of Life Foundation. It reports on a talk by Steven E. Rhoads, A professor of public policy at the University of Virginia and author of a new book, Taking Sex Difference Seriously. In his talk,
Rhoads argued that "masculinity and femininity are not constructed" and he stressed that much of the differences between the sexes have firm roots in biology. He said the amount of testosterone babies are exposed to in the womb "have a lot to do with how they turn out." Rhoads cited a study that reported that male infants are already more aggressive than females by the age of 16 months. That men are more aggressive, he said, is born out by the fact that there are 28 men in jail for killing another man for every woman incarcerated for killing another woman.


12:52 PM


TUESDAYS' INBOX BACK UP:

Someone helping with Mere Comments made a mistake and erased Tuesday’s “From the Inbox”. I've posted it again for those of you who missed it and wanted to see it. It included some quotes from the director of The Village, news of Harry Potter and European religious pilgrims, and a few other items.


12:46 PM


THE GREEK ARCHDIOCESE:

According to yesterday's report from the Daily News Service of Ecumenical News International (ENI), New York State Supreme Court Justice Ira Gammerman has ruled in favour of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America in a law suit brought against the Greek Orthodox Church by an organization known as Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL).

In that decision, given on August 6, Judge Gammerman, citing the amended United States Constitution, correctly foreswore any competence to interfere or intervene in the internal affairs of any organized religion.

The suit, filed earlier this year by OCL, attempted to invalidate a church charter that was issued last year by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. OCL, claiming to seek lay participation and decision-making within the Orthodox Church, charged that this more recent charter had effectively reduced such participation by invalidating decisions the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese had introduced in 2002.

The matters concerned in this dispute included clerical titles, the eligibility criteria for candidates for archbishop or bishop, and the oversight of monasteries.

While declining to intervene in this ecclesiastical dispute, Judge Gammerman did remark, "I do not think it can seriously be disputed that the Greek Orthodox Church is hierarchical."

Because this lawsuit was introduced by only 34 Greek Orthodox parishioners, it might seem an insignificant blimp on the ecclesiastical screen. Indeed, the Greek Archdiocese has not even bothered to comment on the court's decision.

However, those observant of Greek Orthodox affairs over the past few years may be disposed to regard the lawsuit as a part of larger and growing tensions within the Orthodox Church, tensions having to do with the behavior of the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself.

One requires no prophetic gift to suggest that in our own country these tensions will increase, as many Americans continue to grow weary of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's sustained interference in the affairs of the Orthodox Christians in this country. This interference is especially manifest in Constantinople's resistance to an autonomous, unified jurisdiction for the Orthodox Church in America.


9:55 AM


Israel's First Strike

One supposes that it was bound to happen sooner or later. There is now a universal resolution of censure against Israel in the Security Council of the United Nations. While the propriety of that resolution may be debated for years to come and will certainly be interpreted with great differences of emphasis in the history textbooks yet to be written, it seems useful, even at this early date, to set down clearly what particulars are known of Israel's peremptory strike against what it still insists was the arsenal of its enemies.

The affair began when the Philistines, with a view, they claimed, to improving their standing in the textile industry, received the delivery of an unusually large weaver's beam from the Edomites. Immediately suspicious of that mercantile transaction, Israel registered a complaint to Edom, alleging that the aforesaid weaver's beam, if provided with a sharp warhead of, say, six hundred shekels of iron, could easily be converted for military purposes. After all, Israel went on to claim, even smaller weaver's beams in the past had been armed with lethal warheads. This new Philistine interest in the textile industry began to look very suspect.

In spite of this remonstration by the government of Israel, the new weaver's beam was duly delivered to the Philistines. The entire incident might have received no further notice, except that Israel's intelligence and espionage sources reported that, about the same time, the Philistines also took delivery of a coat of mail from the Moabites, weighing five thousand shekels of brass. This allegation was vigorously denied by the Philistine high command.

The rest of the story is a bit conjectural. Philistia, an early signer of the Spear and Projectile Non-Proliferation Treaty, permitted periodic inspections of the new weaver's beam in order to guarantee that it was being used only for peaceful purposes. Israel, on the other hand, continued to avow that the weaver's beam in question had indeed been secretly armed with a warhead and was being wielded by a warrior named Goliath, whose height was six cubits and a span. Philistia dismissed these charges as imaginary.

Whatever version of the foregoing is true, there is no doubt about what happened next. An Israelite ace, named David, made a peremptory strike, much to Goliath's capital confusion. Immediately the Philistine government indicted Israel for international terrorism, pointing out that David, after all, was reputed to have killed his tens of thousands.

In defense of its hero, the government of Israel, in a statement released the next day, insisted that David had used only conventional weapons, namely, a sling and five smooth stones out of the brook — three stones fewer than are permitted by the International Slings Limitation Treaty.

The government of Israel went on to claim, moreover, that Goliath had explicitly insulted and provoked David just prior to the incident. Goliath is reported to have said, "Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air," or words to that effect.

That remark, Israel claimed, had been insensitive to David. His feelings were hurt for several days, and he has since been obliged to seek professional counseling to restore his positive self-image. "I never saw anybody so distraught," said David's friend Jonathan, "He may never recover from it."


3:53 AM


Thursday, August 19

PBS DEMOLITION?

A reader responds to my previous entry:

Just great. I now find that PBS is at the heart of the dissolution of American culture as we know it. I'll never subscribe to them again. Funny, I can remember them showing some of the best programs about religion on TV too. Maybe, we can have one of the religious networks take them over so we can have real public television.
Funny, I never said anything that extreme. Actually, PBS does have a pretty decent religious program, Religion and Ethics Weekly, worth watching. I would hate to see it go. Though I don't get to see it much in Chicago. It's been awhile, but the last time I checked, it was on that same PBS station at 6:30 AM on Sunday. (Maybe the programming director was at Disco Demolition? Just kidding.)

[Pause] I just checked again, and it's still in the same slot, but the City College-based PBS station, WYCC, airs it at 6:30 PM now. I'll be watching. (And thanks for the reminder.) What I have seen of the show has been pretty balanced in its reporting. That's an accomplishment.



8:33 PM


MOHLER CONTRA HARRIS:

In yesterday's column, The End of Faith--Secularism with the Gloves OffSouthern Baptist Theological Seminary's Albert Mohler writes on the new book by a Sam Harris, In The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. According to Harris,

"Religious faith represents so uncompromising a misuse of the power of our minds that it forms a kind of perverse, cultural singularity--a vanishing point beyond which rational discourse proves impossible," Harris asserts. "When foisted upon each generation anew, it renders us incapable of realizing just how much of our world has been unnecessarily ceded to a dark and barbarous past." . . .

Harris represents the hard left of militant secularism. He minces no words and writes with a "take no prisoners" aggressiveness. Take this passage for example: "Our world is fast succumbing to the activities of men and women who would stake the future of our species on beliefs that should not survive an elementary school education. That so many of us are still dying on account of ancient myths is as bewildering as it is horrible, and our own attachment to these myths, whether moderate or extreme, has kept us silent in the face of developments that could ultimately destroy us."
Mohler goes on to take him on rather ably.

If you are interested in more of Dr. Mohler's writing, or in serious and honest ecumenism, I would commend his address from our conference, Standing Together, Standing Apart, which is subtitled "Cultural Co-belligerence Without Theological Compromise." And I would also commend — I know how this sounds — my response to his paper, Standing With Christ.


7:25 PM


THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE:

The September issue of Touchstone is off to the printer. In addition to the usual departments, this issue will offer:

EDITORIAL

James Hitchcock, “Faith-based Restrictions”

James Kushiner, “War Up Close and Personal”

VIEWS & COLUMNS

Leon Podles, “”Literary Revelation” [his "The matter at hand" column]

Thosmas Buchanan, “Like a Virgin?” [his "Practical Christianity" column]

Patrick Henry Reardon, “The Newborn Moses” [his "As it is written" column]

Patrick Henry Reardon, “The Objections of Conscience, on civil disobedience”

Louis R. Tarsitano, “Decomposition 101, on indoctrination through 'sharing'”

Peter Leithart, “Godly Eros, on Christian love in marriage”

James V. Schall, ”Miraculous Daily Planet, on G. K. Chesterton’s Take on Newspapers and Truth”

FEATURES

Alan Jacobs, “The Inexpressible Apocalypse: Maybe St. John Did, After All, Write the Final Word”

Charles Bressler, “Choosing Our Own Destiny: George Macdonald and C. S. Lewis on Rights, Duties, Heaven and Hell”

David Mills, “Reorganizing Religion: Why the Church Bureaurcracies Have to Go”

REVIEWS

R. R.Reno, “Return to Beauty,” a review of D. B. Hart’s The Beauty of the Infinite.

Craig Allert, “Loose Canon,”a review of Keith A. Mathison’s The Shape of Sola Scriptura.

Book Notices (short reviews) of Henry T. Edmondson's Return to Good and Evil: Flanery O'Connor's Response to Nihilism, Charles Colson and Nighel M. de S. Cameron's Human Dignity in the Biotech Century, Peter Sprigg and Timothy Dailey's Getting It Straight: What the Research Shows About Homosexuality, Thomas Howard's The Secret of New York Revealed, Craig J. Slane's Bonhoeffer as Martyr, and G. K. Chesterton's Twelve Types.

REPORT

Mark Tooley, “Light From the Dark Continent: Africans’ Orthodoxy Steadies United Methodist Church”


7:09 PM


CULTURAL DEMOLITION & DISCO

I have commented in the last couple of weeks on the 60s (Woodstock and Civil Rights). I now come to the 70s, or at least I was reminded of the Polyester Decade earlier this week when I viewed a program on the local PBS station in Chicago during its fund-raising drive. The program (I forget the exact title) was a documentary on the July 12, 1979 “Disco Demolition” held at Comiskey Park between first and second games of a doubleheader between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers.

It seems that hardly anyone was coming to the ballpark those days and Sox owner Bill Veeck and his son Michael were desperately trying various promotions to fill the ballpark. Michael hit on the idea, in conjunction with a local radio station, of having a Disco Demolition night. New radio personality Steve Dahl was going to blow up a dumpster full of disco records in center field between games. All fans had to do was bring a disco record to be thus sacrificed, and pay 98 cents, and they were admitted to the park.

The Veecks had no idea what sort of turnout, if any, such a crazy stunt would bring. Four hours before game time, they got an idea. A trickle of “fans” started coming out of trains and buses; the trickle swelled quickly. By game time, an estimated 66,000 fans were in the park, which held 51,000. The last several thousand fans were turned away, but many thousands forced their way into the park by climbing in, forming human chains to scale the walls.

Ballplayers on the field during the first game had to duck flying disco records thrown by fans. Huge banners reading “Disco Sucks” were hung from the stands. Illegal drugs were on hand.

When Steve Dahl entered the field, wearing a helmet and military uniform, riding on the back of Jeep, beer and lit cherry bombs were tossed at him from the stands. After a few inane minutes at the microphone, Dahl gave the order and they blew up the disco records. Some of them shot up 250 feet and the crowd went wild.

When the grounds grew came out to clean up the mess, hundreds of “fans” streamed on to the field and started tearing up sod, removing home plate, dancing around a fire that apparently erupted from the smoldering records. Ballpark authorities, remembering the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, were afraid to call in the police. For a full 37 minutes it was chaos on the field. Additional fires were set. The batting cage was stomped on and destroyed.

Bill Veeck got on the PA system and asked people to return to their seats. (The vast majority of seats were still occupied, some of them by those who were waiting to see the second game.) A large electronic sign in center field made the same request, all to no avail.

So the police were called in. When police in riot gear came on to the field, the mob disappeared in three minutes flat. Most of those on the field had seen on TV what had transpired between police and rioters at the 1968 protest.

After inspecting the destruction to the field, the umpires cancelled the second game, and the White Sox had to forfeit. Bill Veeck had the pleasant task of informing those who had watched the meleé while waiting for game two that they had to go home, though they would get rain checks.

So ended Disco Demolition. Not surprisingly, most of the damage was done by teenage boys and twentysomethings. I am sure the beer and drugs didn’t help.

Now, Woodstock and the Vietnam student protests, including the 1968 Democratic National Convention—those were cultural events, and they were in a certain sense, the real thing. Disco Demolition? Hardly. A minor crime, committed mostly by those who watched some of their older siblings in the late 60s take on the world as they tuned in, turned on, dropped out.

When the younger set came of age to make their own statement, Vietnam was over, drugs were everywhere, Woodstock was a documentary, rock had turned heavy metal, politics were a drag (Gerald Ford followed by Jimmy Carter), so what could they rage against? Why, it was obvious: disco!

What was surprising to me was that the PBS station ran this 25th Anniversary (celebration? Yes, I think you could call it that) show as part of its fundraising. Steve Dahl, as gray-haired as I am, was on hand at the TV studio. You see, it was all sort of fun. They had, as premiums, a DVD of the documentary, signed photographs, and other memorabilia. You can see for yourself some scenes of Disco Demolition

The documentary includes interviews with participants and organizers of the events, and one of the ball players (Alan Trammell). One fortysomething who was there 25 years ago, when asked if he thought he should apologize for it, said, Yeah, sure, but only because that’s what people expect us to do. But not really: nobody got hurt. We didn’t hurt anybody.

He neglected to mention the wanton destruction of property, the families who were there to watch a game, the players who came to play, and the police who had to be called in for extra duty (with extra riot pay) to miss a night home with their families. (Well, that’s their job, isn’t it? True enough—police sometimes have to make sacrifices to do their job--which is to deal with criminals.)

I don’t think I can find a better statement than, “Well, nobody got hurt,” to illustrate what is wrong, and has been wrong with our culture since the glory days of the 60s. As long as nobody gets hurt, anything goes, right? Divorce doesn’t hurt children; premarital sex and cohabitation don’t have any negative effects on marital stability or society; the encouragement of teen sex has no effect on teen depression or high rates of STDs; occasional and recreational drug use doesn’t affect job performance, moral judgment and overall mental health; acceptance of homosexuality as normal and teaching this to impressionable children sows no confusion in them; the homosexual lifestyle is demonstrably a healthy one; and then there’s the ultimate “nobody-gets-hurt” dodge: abortion is the removal of “tissue.”

“As Long As Nobody Gets Hurts” is a first principle of the moral revolution that began in the 60s and it is still with us. In addition to being the lie behind abortion, it’s also behind the stem-cell debate: according to one side, harvesting cells by killing embryos doesn’t hurt anyone at all.

This is a culture of denial. And Public Television: for the public good? What is, after, the "public good"? Well, it's really anything that any group wants to do or see--well, almost: just as long as nobody gets hurt.


6:55 PM


IN PARADISUM PERDUCANT TE ANGELI

The editors and staff of Touchstone are saddened to learn of the death of Msgr. George Kelly last week. The following notice was released by Catholic News Services:

Msgr. George A. Kelly, one of the founders of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, and a longtime critic of dissent in the church, died Aug. 13 after a yearlong bout with cancer. He was 87. A funeral Mass for Msgr. Kelly was celebrated at St. John the Evangelist Church in New York Aug. 17. He was buried at Calvary Cemetery.

Msgr. Kelly, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, had been a pastor, diocesan administrator and university professor, and was the author or editor of three dozen books. As a professor at St. John's University in New York, he was among a group of philosophers, theologians and other scholars who met in 1977 to discuss their sense of intellectual alienation amid the contemporary changes in the church. From that meeting the group the next year established the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, with Msgr. Kelly as its executive secretary.

Msgr. Kelly was the first family life director for the New York Archdiocese, beginning in 1955, and the first director of its education department, beginning in 1966. His 1958 book, "The Catholic Marriage Manual," earned nearly $250,000 in royalties, which he donated to the New York Foundling Hospital. He also was on the faculty of The Catholic University of America in Washington and served for more than a decade as a consultant to the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy.


3:27 PM


Wednesday, August 18

MODERN HEROES REVISITED:

For those of you interested in the intellectual history touched on in Darwin's Last Stand?, here is a review by Anthony Daniels of a new biography of Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton, From fingerprints to cups of tea. An almost stereotypal Victorian scientist, he invented several useful things in several different fields — from the mathematical concept of correlation to techniques for surviving in arid climates — but also took science rather to far: He

estimated the efficacy of prayer by comparing the life expectancy of the Royal Family (whose preservation was often prayed for) with that of other members of the British aristocracy. Since the Royal Family did not live longer, he concluded that prayer was inefficacious.
Perhaps he stopped the study too soon, given how long Queen Victoria and more recently the Queen Mother lived, and how long the present queen is living. (Long enough, it may happen, to deny to her son ascension to the pointless position. What point is there in a king who has no actual power? Do the British really need to spend all that money to have someone read a speech to Parliament each year she didn’t even write, and to provide relatives to open public parks and supermarkets?)

Galton was also, as the reviewer makes clear, a great advocate of eugenics, as were many people now regarded (those who are remembered at all, that is) as intellectual heroes.
In the years after Galton’s death in 1911, scores of thousands of “unfit” people were sterilized in the United States. Clearly Galton’s eugenic ideas had resonance in Germany as well, and the Nazis resorted to both negative and positive methods.

It is often forgotten, though, that his staunchest disciple in Britain, Karl Pearson, the first Galton Professor of Eugenics at University College, London, was a dogmatic socialist; that Sidney and Beatrice Webb and Bernard Shaw were fierce proponents of eugenics; and that forced eugenic sterilizations were carried out in social-democratic Scandinavia until the 1970s.

In short, eugenics appeals to all those who believe that collective ideals are more important than individual ones, and who evince impatience with the current imperfections of mankind.
We should associate, as does the reviewer, the Nazis and the western left who both, whatever their differences, wanted to remake humanity and did not care greatly what the humanity to be remade felt about it. They both had visions of the new earth and new man they would create, and the visions were not actually that different, except for Hitler’s demonic hatred of the Jews.

Absent that and his German imperialism, the left would have seen him as one of their own, as they saw Stalin till he started killing other Communists. Western leftists only started doubting Stalin when with the famous "show trials" of the late 1930s he started eliminating his fellows among the original Communists and others who might oppose him — and not all of them did even then. The sufferings of the average man, the man they claimed to care for, did not move them — with some famous exceptions, like George Orwell and Malcolm Muggeridge — and they generally simply denied the reports. See, for example, the response to Muggeridge's attempts to report the news of Stalin's forced famine in Ukraine in the early 30s.

The sanitized intellectual history the major media and the average academic present leaves out the unsavory sides of the day’s intellectual heroes, like Darwin and Galton in the 19th century, and the socialist playwright George Bernard Shaw in the 20th. It is too often forgotten that, in addition to his eugenicism, Shaw was not just, like almost all the western left, an adulator of Stalin’s, but rather fond of Mussolini and even Hitler as well, mainly because they got things done without moral squeamishness.

As Shaw wrote (I think in the early 30s, but the book from which I got the quote, Paul Hollander’s Political Pilgrims, does not give the date): “Mussolini, Kemal [Attaturk], Pilsudski, Hitler and the rest can all depend on me to judge them by their ability to deliver the goods and not by Swinburne’s comfortable notions of freedom.” As Hollander put it, “Shaw displayed most nakedly a vicarious gratification in identifying with the ‘strong men’ who exercised power with gusto and few inhibitions.”

In 1921, according to Alistair Hamilton’s The Appeal of Fascism, Shaw
praised the “inspired precision” with which Mussolini “denounced liberty as a putrefying corpse.” . . . To condemn Mussolini for the assassination of Matteotti was absurd, according to Shaw, for many great statesmen were forced, at one time or another, to murder inconvenient opponents. “It is . . . irrelevant and silly to refuse to acknowledge the dictatorship of il Duce because it was not achieved with all the usual villainies . . . Some of the things Mussolini has done, and some that he is threatening to do go further in the direction of Socialism than the English Labour Party could yet venture if they were in power. They will bring him presently into serious conflict with Capitalism; and it is certainly not my business nor that of any Socialist to weaken him in view of such a conflict.”
I have many times seen Shaw invoked as an apostle of enlightenment, but I have never seen anyone who did so admit his limits in the role.

For a judicious short biography of Shaw, see Brooke Allen’s G.B.S.: The life of George Bernard Shaw from The New Criterion. I commend almost everything in the journal.

Hitler and Shaw were both vegetarians, for what it’s worth. I don’t have anything against vegetarianism, and eat little meat myself, but it does seem to go along with a lot of human crackpottery.


1:49 PM


BULGARIAN "WAR OF WEDDINGS"

From Ecumenical News International:

In Bulgaria, battle of the synods leads to war of weddings
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Sofia, 5 August (ENI)--The hottest days of summer are, in Bulgaria, a popular time to get married.

But now a heated battle between the Bulgarian Orthodox Church andthe dissident "Alternative Synod", which recently erupted into national controversy when police were called to evict dissident priests from churches used by the alternative group, has sparked a dilemma for some couples intending to wed.

A spokesperson for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church said all such services that had been arranged with Alternative Synod priests, in churches then occupied by the dissidents, would go ahead under the auspices of representatives of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. No extra fee would be charged, the spokesperson said.

However, the Alternative Synod said that it was prepared to conduct all the services to which its priests had committed themselves, including weddings, in the open air outside the
seized churches.

Some of the rebel priests evicted from the churches have set up in tents outside the buildings, which a recent law stated belonged to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, under its leader,
Patriarch Maxim.

The battle over couples wanting to tie the nuptial knot is the latest twist in a conflict between the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Alternative Synod, which split away in 1992. The rebels
charged that Maxim had been appointed head of the church in 1981 in collusion with the former communist regime.

"A bitter real estate struggle between branches of the Orthodox Church forces hundreds of clergy to preach outdoors," the Swiss-based International Relations and Security Network noted on
3 August.
Some of the fallout from years of Communist overlordship in Eastern Europe remains, in particular the split caused by the fact that church leaders under the Communists were suspected of being too pliable. It's a tragedy. All I can say is this is not exactly a good example to any of these couples getting married on how to resolve conflicts between people who belong to the same household.


1:30 PM


Tuesday, August 17

FROM THE INBOX 18 AUGUST 2004 [revised]:

A few items for today, all four having to do with the realities reality imposes upon us.

— Something amusing from the Daily Telegraph, German men told they can no longer stand and deliver. (The site requires registration.) It begins:

German men are being shamed into urinating while sitting down by a gadget which is saving millions of women from cleaning up in the bathroom after them.

The WC [water closet] ghost, a £6 voice-alarm, reprimands men for standing at the lavatory pan. It is triggered when the seat is lifted. The battery-operated devices are attached to the seats and deliver stern warnings to those who attempt to stand and urinate (known as “Stehpinkeln”).
The Germans have bought 1.8 million of the things and are about to start selling them in Britain. The last paragraph of the story suggests the reason for the ultimately limited appeal of the device:
In German, the phrase for someone who sits and urinates, a “Sitzpinkler”, is equivalent to “wimp”.
A few months ago I saw a story reporting on a movement in Sweden to force boys in schools to sit down as well, because someone thought their being able to stand unfair to girls. This is an example, though in a comical Swedish socialist feminist sort of way, of the same impulse that drove Galton, Shaw, and co. At least the Germans have a practical reason.

— Another article dealing with the limits reality imposes upon us, here is one from yesterday’s New York Times, Top Athletes May Be Running Into a Tall Hurdle: Themselves.He argues, though he goes on to qualify the claim, that
In some of the most basic ways imaginable — how fast people can run, how high they can jump, how far they can throw — the march of progress has stopped. . . .

In more than two-thirds of track and field events, in fact, the gold-medal performances in 1988 would have been good enough to win again in 2000. Just one result from 1976, by contrast, would have won in 1988, among the 32 events in which comparisons are possible, said Raymond Stefani, a professor of electrical engineering at California State University at Long Beach who studies the Olympics.
Though after years in which women athletes gained more of the resources and opportunities male athletes have had, the distance between their performances has shrunk, but
many researchers say the remaining gaps could exist forever in most sports. Men have a higher concentration of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, allowing them to breathe more efficiently than women can. Men also have less body fat on average, and thus more muscle per pound of weight, than women do.

“Most of the difference today is really due to biological differences,” said Phillip B. Sparling, a professor of applied physiology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He estimates that men’s performances will remain roughly 8 to 11 percent better in most events.

The gaps between the men’s and women’s record have actually increased somewhat in recent years in the races at 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1,500 meters. The difference in the marathon has shrunk, although it is still slightly more than eight percentage points.
When I was in England a few springs ago during the Wimbledone tournament, one of the newspapers ran an article comparing the men's and the women's performance (I think it was the year the Williams sisters dominated). A statistical chart appeared with the article comparing the two, and showing that the fastest women's serves were slower than the men's average serves — and if I remember rightly, the fastest women's first serves were slower than the average men's second serves.

Now, if speed and power are two of the main attractions for watching tennis played at that level, it seemed obvious to me that men's tennis would appeal to more people than would women's tennis, and that this was built into certain physiological differences which no amount of right thinking would eliminate. There wasn't much to be done about it, but people tut tutted anyway.

— Here is a third article on dealing with the limits of reality, this one with the horrors we cannot evade. Those interested in Alzheimer’s will find a useful summary of current research and a diverse group of ethical reflections on it at the Aging and End-of-life page at the President’s Council on Bioethics. Each of the six sessions offers the transcript of the Council’s discussion on the subject with a diverse group of experts. The first session, titled Bioethical Issues of Aging I: Dementia and Human Personhood, includes the Catholic ethicist William May and the Lutheran ethicist Gilbert Meilaender, for example.

— And from today’s New York Times, Bag It by James Bovard, which begins by discussing the problem of airport baggage screeners stealing from the baggage and moves to the observation that
Some Americans may believe that luggage thefts are a small price to pay for making air travel safe. But the safety is a mirage. Tests by the Government Accountability Office and other federal agencies have found that the airport safety net continues to be full of holes. Clark Kent Ervin, the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, told Congress in April that T.S.A. screeners performed poorly in response to covert tests. More recently, the 9/11 commission report warned that "major vulnerabilities still exist'' in aviation security.
We can obviously do better in guarding not only our baggage but our airports, but there is a limit to what we can do, as anyone who has either observed human behavior or read enough spy thrillers will know. We will always be vulnerable.

You can’t devise a system which will not quickly develop holes, not least because you cannot expect most people to remain at the level of attention any system demands. I have seen some one open a secure door with a card or a code and someone else slip in behind him while the door was closing, and the first man never noticing. I wasn’t going to go running to find a policeman because the second man was 99.999% likely to belong there and I might bring an entire airport to a halt because some guy was going to work. A system without holes is a system in which vigilance and efficiency become chaos.

As a Christian, I do think it obvious that in the midst of life we are in the prospect of death, and that we can do little about it. The Christian answer is to do what we can, but not to expect perfect safety, nor even to expect safety at all, and to be always prepared to die. We must be on our toes, not so much because a terrorist may strike at any moment, but because the Devil will.


12:57 PM


POTENTIAL BABIES VS. REAL BABIES

In searching for something else I came across this statement from Sen. Hilary Rodham Clinton, which she made in a 2000 interview when asked about a ban on partial birth abortion. She said she supported the ban, as long as it would make exceptions for life and health:

But if your life is at stake, if your health is at stake, if the potential for having any more children is at stake, this must be a woman’s choice.
Of course, we all know that the word "health" is used to cover the full range of human conditions from terminal illnesses to feeling very blue today.

But the one thing I hadn't thought about was "the potential for having more children." I have yet to have read a compelling argument as to why this would ever be the case--I am sure there must be some very rare exception where a child in the third trimester somehow threatens the health of the reproductive system, though I am not sure how partially delivering the baby and killing it would resolve that problem, but for the sake of argument let that be the case.

But here, the obvious question would be: OK, you want us to extract (and kill) this child, because you want to be certain you can have a child in the future? As tragic as the loss of reproductive functions would be, can it compare to killing the child you already have so that you can retain the potential for having children in the future?

I guess this is what pro-choice means in part: keeping as many options open as possible, keeping a full set of choices down the road. It's a pity more people don't see the problems with this. Of course, those who have experienced first hand the problem with this, i.e., victims of partial birth abortion, aren't around to protest.


12:50 PM


FROM THE INBOX 17 AUGUST 2004:

Note: This I posted on Tuesday, but someone helping with the blogsite removed it. So it will be familiar to some of you.

— From the Daily Telegraph, an interview with the movie director M. Night Shyamalan, Something of the Night . His first three movies made $1.3 billion, which is the sort of number that gets the studio’s attention and lets you make the kind of movies you want to make, which is a good thing if you enjoy his movies, as I do.

They are not, he says, scary movies.

“People categorise me as making scary movies, but that isn't the case at all," he says. "I don't think of my movies as horror movies; I make suspenseful movies. Someone said yesterday that people come to my movies because they're scary, but there's a very fine line between thriller and horror and when it becomes horror you lose your audience. All I care about is characters. I feel much more comfortable with a dinner-table scene than anything else.”
This comes out somewhat in his latest movie, The Village:
That, and much of the film's dialogue and plot, reflect Shyamalan's fondness for a more innocent time and the simple things of life. "I would love to live in a time where people said what they meant without sarcasm," he says, "and where it was OK to fall in love and ask permission to marry and where a guy can say, 'The world moves for love and kneels before it in awe'" – a line he wrote for the character played by William Hurt. "I want a world where you can say that. I believe the world can still work that way.”
We were in western Massachusetts when the movie appeared, and I saw two reviews that declared it an anti-Bush parable and another which declared it a reactionary glorification of a past the reviewer quite plainly thought well past.

— Our contributing editor Robert Hart sends the link to Vicar will launch naked calendar to raise money for women in Rwanda. The pastor of a parish in the Church of England (where else?) said, “"A lot of thought has gone into this and it is about empowering Rwandan women who have been so debased. It is about reasserting women's essential female selves.”

— Our eldest child sent me an AP story in which J. K. Rowling, the writer of the Harry Potter stories, says that Harry will live to the seventh and last book but refused to say whether he’d survive that one, and said that she’d never been asked two questions readers should have asked: 1) “not ‘why did Harry live’ but ‘why didn't Voldemort die?’ ” and 2) “Why didn't Dumbledore kill, or try to kill, Voldemort?”

For those of you who are interested in the Harry Potter stories, we’ve run three articles dealing with them or the controversies they’ve raised: John Granger’s The Alchemist’s Tale, Perry Glanzer’s The Surprising Trouble with Harry, and Steven Hutchens’ “Between Icon & Idol” which appeared in the January/February 2004 issue, but isn’t posted online. Though mainly on Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, Leonie Caldecott’s Paradise Denied talks about the Harry Potter stories.

— From Chiesa.com, what I thought a very interesting report on theNomads of God: The New Paths of Religion in Europe. The writer, Sandro Magister, writes of the growth in people making pilgrimages to traditional holy sites like Santiago de Compostella,
The preferred holy places are elsewhere; one goes there, and once there one picks and chooses. The figure of the parishioner is being supplanted by that of the pilgrim, who frequently has never set foot in his own parish. Countless studies indicate that many of the visitors to shrines are non-practicing, and many have always been far from the institutional Church.

In France, the staunchly secularist newspaper “Le Monde” has gotten wind of the news, and beginning this summer is providing every day the life of a saint for its readers. France itself is an interesting case for study. Its levels of parish participation are extremely low. But it has Lourdes, the most frequently visited Marian shrine in Europe, with six million visitors per year. It has other important shrines. It is a land of miracles and visions. It has St. Bernadette, it has St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. It has great sinners and great converts. Infant baptism is on the decline, but that of adults is on the rise: during the 1970’s, there were less than a thousand per year; during the ‘80’s, from two to three thousand; today there are between ten and twenty thousand. “The Pilgrim and the Convert” is how the most noted French sociologist of religion, Danièle Hervieu-Léger, entitled his latest book. The new religion is precisely like that. It is expanding even in agnostic France.
— From the Daily Telegraph, useful confirmation of what we knew already. In Keep out: TV, DVD and computers rule, Caroline Davies reports that a report from Mintel (not identified) shows that
Technology is destroying traditional family life. . . .

Seventy-seven per cent of children aged between 11 and 14 have a television in their bedroom, and 64 per cent have their own DVD player or video recorder, it found. One in four also has a computer in his or her room. . . .

This wealth of technology means that a significant number of children are not experiencing family life. Three out of five 11- to 14-year-olds say that everyone at home is free to get on with their lives and interests, and 53 per cent say that as long as they do well at school, they can do what they like. A similar proportion — 51 per cent — say they prefer spending time on their own.
The researchers found that children who had televisions in their bedrooms tended to get satellite, cable, or digital channels,
which suggested to researchers that parents who are themselves particularly keen on television are most prone to allowing their offspring to have their own sets, possibly to protect their own viewing preferences.
Here, I suspect, is a clue to the real reason for this atomization of these families. Technology is not destroying family life, it only provides part of the current set of temptations in the face of which family life must be lived. Many affluent families were just as atomized in the 1950s and certainly the 1960s, when no one thought of a family having more than one television, much less computers and cell phones, but when each member could find something to do by himself or with his friends rather than his family.

I know, as a father, how much the world is with us and how much Christian parents have to compete with it. Certain assumptions about the family, for example that teenagers have the right and indeed the duty to live as free of their family as they can, are assumed everywhere — not just in books and movies aimed at teenagers but by perfectly conservative Christian parents who have never practiced the necessary discernment.

And yet I suspect a great part of the reason for the atomization of many families is that those in authority — I mean the father and mother — fail to discipline their own use of the media and naturally, and probably inevitably, choose a way of using it that deforms their family’s life. Any parent knows from his own life that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children. In this case, one can easily see how a desire to watch that which one should not watch, and to watch it without the children knowing (many parents having some sense of shame, or at least the desire to avoid awkward childish questions), would lead parents to hand out televisions and dvd players to their children and thus, without quite meaning to, atomize their family.

— Something else from The Daily Telegraph, this one on la bande dessinee, strip cartoons like Tintin and Asterix, and the Japanese manga, comic books meant to be read at a sitting (e.g., by a commuter): Cartoons appeal to young and old alike.The latter are devoured in France.
Younger bande dessinee fans have been particularly hooked on the Japanese inspired manga mania. Manga is a BD in black and white, which you read from right to left.

A Japanese would take about twenty minutes to read the 320 pages of a manga - a time that corresponds to the average commute from work to home. These stories are published on recycled paper and once finished with are thrown into special waste bins. . . .

In Japan the production of the manga is vast and segmented. There are mangas for 4-6 year olds, for 6-8 year olds, for housewives, university students and bachelors. It is a powerful industry that employs hundreds of authors and publishes several millions of copies every week.
The writer claims that manga appeals (or appeal, I don’t know which) because
in the Japanese culture the distinction between good and bad is not as clear cut as in our own. The goodies are not all good and the baddies are not all bad and teenagers like this.

Thanks to their magic powers the characters might seem like Spiderman or Superman but they are not model heroes. They do not evolve in a rigid manner . . .
— And finally, from The Wasington Post, Frances Fitzgerald reviews the book How Textbooks from Around the World Portray U.S. History by Dana Lindaman and Kyle Ward. Though predictably insular and in need of correction, “In fact, U.S. history texts are not as insular as they once were; nor are they any more insular than most national histories of other countries.” Not surprisingly, “In few countries are the texts so consistently critical of the United States as they are in Canada.”


12:33 PM


Monday, August 16

WEIKART'S BOOK REVIEWED:

We don't usually post reviews from the Book Notices department for two months after the issue has appeared, but given the offer from the Discovery Institute mentioned in today's "From the Inbox" (below), I thought I ought to include the Notice I wrote for Richard Weikart's absorbing From Darwin to Hitler, which appeared in the July/August issue.

Here it is. I couldn't do justice to the book within the limitations of the Book Notice department, but the publisher sent me the review copy so late that I could only write a Notice and not a longer review, as I wanted the review to appear in the issue with the essay adapted from the book.

FROM DARWIN TO HITLER:
EVOLUTIONARY ETHICS, EUGENICS, AND RACISM IN GERMANY

By Richard Weikart
Palgrave Macmillan, 2004
(312 pages, $59.95, hardback)


Beginning with Darwin himself, Darwinism has never been a merely scientific theory, but a way of understanding the world that radically challenged the traditional Western mind — and in the hands of some very prominent scholars of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, challenged it in ways that appall even secular people today. From Darwin to Hitler traces perhaps the most notable example of this: the use of Darwinism as the basis for ethics in Germany from Darwin’s time to the first world war, and the resulting ethics’ effect in devaluing human life and justifying the elimination of the “inferior.”

As the title suggests, Weikart finds “significant historical connections between Darwinism and Hitler’s ideology,” though he carefully qualifies his development of this point and insists that it is wrong to call the German Darwinists “proto-Nazi, as though Nazism inevitably flowed from their views.” He notes, however, that even when they “were poles apart politically,” these Darwinists often held nearly the same views on ethics, the value of human life, and racial ideology, and his book carefully examines the inhuman views — which were perfectly logical developments from Darwin’s theories — held by men who were among Germany’s intellectual leaders.

The reason, Weikart shows, is that while many Darwinians thought “Darwinism delivered a death-blow to the prevailing Judeo-Christian ethics, as well as Kantian ethics and any other fixed moral code,” they would not accept “complete moral relativism.” They believed in “one fixed point of reference — the process of evolution itself. Since morality arose through evolution, they argued that the purpose of morality is to advance the evolutionary process.”

An assertion, readers will note, that Darwinism itself does not in fact justify and that authorized any action thought to bring evolutionary “progress.” It is this Weikart exposes in a carefully developed and heavily evidenced argument.

Besides being an important contribution to intellectual history, From Darwin to Hitler usefully upsets the sanitized version of Darwinism presented in the schools and the media, which are ever eager to use the sins of Christians as an argument against Christianity. The book reflects impressive research (the endnotes alone take up 44 pages of small print and the bibliography another 23) and includes many German works never before translated into English. Weikart, whose "Eugenocide" appears in this issue, is a professor of modern European history at the University of California, Stanislaus, and a fellow of the Discovery Institute.


5:24 PM


NOW YOU CAN FIND IT:

Let me announce, unfortunately without the aid of sound effects like trumpet fanfares, the opening on our new searchable Archive. You will see the button for it near the top of the column to the left. It was designed and built by our designer and computer nerd, sorry I mean whiz.

I think you will find it quite useful. We offer it as a way of extending the magazine's work and ministry. We will be posting articles from the entire archive up to two years before the current issue, as we have time. This takes some doing, both to format the articles for the new database and to find the authors of articles we ran before 1999 (I think) to ask their permission to use their articles in this new form. (After 1999, the author's contract gave us the rights to use the articles in such a form.)

We are offering only a selection of articles from the last two years because we want to encourage readers to subscribe. We can only provide the Archive at all because we sell copies of the magazine, and giving away everything for free would therefore mean closing down the magazine and therefore the Archive. In other words, we give away only part in order to afford to give away that part, if that's clear.

If you do not already subscribe, and would like to, please click here. Subscribing is a great help to us and a minimal cost to you, especially given the benefits of doing so.

By the way, you will still need to use the Google search on the home page to search Mere Comments.


5:11 PM


TARSITANO ON MANLY CLEANLINESS:

Which is, in the sense Fr. Tarsitano means it, next to godliness. This is his sermon for yesterday, the tenth Sunday of Trinity season in the old Church Kalendar. He has an article appearing in the View section of the September issue, on what his students’ essays reveal about their lives.

“And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves. And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him” (Luke 19:45-47).

St. Luke provides us this morning with an account of our Lord’s second cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem. St. John tells us that Christ first cleansed the Temple at the beginning of his ministry: “And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise” (John 2:15-16). Here, then, St. Luke tells us (as do St. Matthew and St. Mark in their Gospels) of an additional cleansing of the Temple at the end of Christ’s earthly ministry, in the final week of his mortal life.

There is much to ponder here. For example, we might notice that even though our Lord Jesus Christ could not have given those who bought and sold in the Temple a stronger warning, even whipping them out of his Father’s house, the fallenness of man is such that the buyers and sellers had returned to be driven out again. We know, too, from the information provided by St. Luke and other sources why the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders “sought to destroy” our Lord—they profited personally from the commerce in the Temple, and they were active participants in the corruption of God’s house. For them, the Temple was their business, and neither Christ’s nor his Father’s.

We should notice, as well, that in that last week before Good Friday, Jesus Christ “taught daily in the Temple.” He established his presence there, as the Son of God rightly should have done, and there is no hint that the buyers and sellers dared to show themselves while Christ personally, by his own effort and presence, held the Temple sacred for his Father and sacred for the faithful people of God as the “house of prayer for all people” promised by Isaiah in his Father’s Name (Isaiah 56:7). By claiming the Temple for his Father’s worship, Christ likewise was declaring as clearly as is possible that he is both the Messiah and the Son of God, the first-born Prince of his Father’s house, come to free mankind from sin and death.

Finally, at least for now, we must also see how radically Christ’s presence in the Temple changed the proper form and nature of the worship of his Father. Under the Old Law, the Temple was a place where endless animal sacrifices for sin were offered. But here was the Lamb of God himself, come to the Temple to present himself as the final and complete sacrifice for sin, to be offered once by his death on Calvary, his resurrection on Easter Day, and his Ascension into heaven to offer himself to his Father for our sins, a single, perfect, unrepeatable sacrifice for the redemption of the whole world.

In the New Testament in Jesus Christ’s blood, earthly temples and churches are all revealed as temporary images of that holy place not made with hands—the presence of the Father in heaven where our Lord pleads his own life’s blood on our behalf. It is into the Father’s presence, where Jesus Christ has already gone, that we are finally invited by the blood of the Son, and so worship becomes, not the repetition of earthly sacrifices, but the offering of perpetual praise and thanksgiving to God for a mercy already delivered on behalf of the Father, through the Son, and by the Holy Ghost to all the faithful, whoever and whatever they may be otherwise in merely earthly terms.

Our places of worship, therefore, almost two thousand years later, are still intended to be nothing more or less than the continued fulfillment of the ancient prophecy of Isaiah in our own time and place: “a house of prayer for all people.” It is in the congregation of the faithful Church that Jesus Christ presides as the Head of the Body, still teaching and cleansing by the power of his Gospel, heard and obeyed. It is in the faithful congregation that Jesus Christ enables us, by the indwelling Holy Ghost, to raise up praise and thanksgiving to the Father in heaven—to the Father who has adopted us into his own life and kingdom, through the blood of his Eternal Son and by the gifts of grace and faith.

But consider, again, our Lord’s own example. The mere announcement of the purpose of God’s house is not enough. Human fallenness will seek always, until the Last Day, to undermine the sacredness of God’s house of prayer and to pervert it into a place of merchandise and a den of thieves. The truth of God may be denied by those charged with protecting it, as the corrupt rulers of the Jerusalem Temple had done. Buying and selling does not have to be limited to doves and bullocks.

The pretence that eternal life may be bought and sold as a commodity, when God offers life freely as his gift in Jesus Christ, is unspeakably worse than selling sacrifices or changing money in the Temple. The buying and selling of mere human entertainment as a replacement for the humble worship of God is a crime. To use the Name of Jesus Christ to permit or to encourage what the Father in heaven has forbidden to his beloved children, filling the seats with poor, beguiled sinners who have been tricked into paying for an impossible license to sin, is a blasphemy. These evils call out for cleansing, just as much as the evils in the Temple two thousand years ago required the fierce, but healing, action of our Lord, even if in the process he made earthly enemies unto death.

And here we come round to ourselves, but especially, I think, to the duties of Christian men. All of us as Christians, whether male or female, are the adopted children of God—intended by grace to share with Jesus Christ, the First Born and Only-Begotten Son of God, in the responsibilities of our Father’s kingdom, not just in heaven, but here on earth. We are just as responsible today for the cleansing of our Father’s earthly household as our Lord was in those days in Jerusalem that led up to his crucifixion, as the same Father gives to each of us by his grace some ability in particular to do his will “on earth, as it is in heaven.”

But just as all Christians need to work with God’s help on being human as Jesus Christ is human in the perfection of his glorified human nature, Christian men must strive in particular to be sanctified men, male human beings, as Jesus Christ is a man set apart for the service of his Father—virile, tough-minded, faithful, just, merciful, and absolutely dedicated to the Father’s will. If the contemporary Church is something of a shambles and in need of serious cleansing, it is in such a state, in large part, because too few men have aspired to be men in Jesus Christ’s way.

Our Lord demonstrates in this morning’s Gospel that the work of Christian manhood is not done until the Father declares it complete. He had cleansed the Temple before, and he cleanses it again. He is prepared to pay the costs in controversy or in blood to do his Father’s will. He not only drives away the buyers and sellers, he stands his ground, occupying the Temple on his Father’s behalf and teaching the truth of the kingdom of God.

To occupy the house of God and to hold it for him as our Father is our job now—not in some poetic way, but just as literally and concretely as our Lord was nailed to the cross or rose from the dead. It is our appointed task to witness to the Gospel of life and to teach it with the authority of the adopted sons of God who have been called into their Father’s service, not once in a while, but daily as our Lord did. It is our duty to direct our talents, our means, and our opportunities to this great work in each of the estates of life that it has pleased our Father to call us.

Christian manhood is the greatest challenge there is. It is also the greatest life that a man can have because the model and example of this life is Jesus Christ himself. We can lead Jesus Christ’s life, by the grace of God, and we can have the Church on earth as a house of prayer for all people, clean, good, and held secure by faithful men, learning and teaching men, who continue steadfast in the work of Jesus Christ. Our Father asks, “Who will stand for me?” And the time has come for every Christian man to answer, “I will, with the help of thy grace.”


11:55 AM


FROM THE INBOX AUGUST 16TH 2004:

— Jim Forest of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship and one of our writers — see Pilgrims of the Cross and Albanian Resurrection — is planning a fall trip to the United States to lecture. Those of you interested in having him speak should click here.

— In the English Catholic magazine The Tablet, the associate editor of the Amerian Catholic (Jesuit) magazine America discusses the controversy over Tony Hendra’s bestselling Father Joe, in Beyond satire. He describes the book as one deserving “its place in the top tier of spiritual memoirs ever written.” Hendra’s daughter has accused him of abusing her as a child, and the New York Times gave the charge great publicity.

I’ve seen the book on the shelves but never looked at it. The glowing review that launched it into success was written by Andrew Sullivan, who is hardly a source one would trust for spiritual discernment, given his impassioned and even obsessive desire for the Catholic Church to approve his own way of living. The review appeared as the front page review in The New York Times Book Review, which is another reason for skepticism. In Andrew Sullivan and Father Joe, Mark Gauvreau Judge suggests why this book may have gotten the approval it did.

Father Joe is about a Dominican priest who became a mentor to Hendra. The trigger for their meeting was when Hendra was caught having an affair with a married woman. Hendra was then sent to the priest by the woman’s husband (a “hyperstrict Roman Catholic,” of course).

Father Joe taught Hendra many things, but the most notable thing to Sullivan – who is obsessed with sex while claiming to be a Catholic – is that sex is a sacrament and that his affair is not really a sin. To Father Joe, Hendra’s problem was no problem because the point of sex is to give pleasure as well as receive it, and as long as one does that, everything is cool. As Sullivan puts it:
Tony’s sin was not the groping or the lust as such but the subjection of a ‘hungry, trapped, unhappy woman’ to his own narcissistic pleasure and needs. Father Joe, in one swoop, both undermines the current hierarchy’s obsessive horror of sex itself and illuminates the real point of Catholic sexual ethics: the respect and love for another human being made in the image of God.

Later Fr. Joe elaborates, writing that sex is “almost like a sacrament.”

Hendra, shocked, asks if the priest is saying that sex is a sacrament. “Don’t tell the abbot!” Fr. Joe replies. Hendra presses on, demanding to know if Fr. Joe is claiming that sex is not a sin. Fr. Joe answers:

Sex is a sin less often than we’re led to believe. It’s all a question of context. If you have sex to hurt or exploit another, or to take pleasure only for me, me, me, and not return as much or more to your lover . . . then it becomes sinful . . . We must take the fear out of sex as well.
One of the interesting things about the controversy, which the writer mentions in passing, is how much other journalists (all liberal) agonized over the Times’ revealing the daughter’s charge and the terms in which they agonized. Such agony would have been equally justified over the media’s stories about Catholic priests charged with molesting young men, but none of these writers did so.

— For those of you who like this sort of thing, the New York Times forum features a debate on on who really wrote Shakespeare’s works.

— And for those of you who like this sort of thing, the English newspaper The Daily Telegraph features an article by Charles Moore explaining the Catholic doctrine of the Assumption of Mary, Take a day out to drink deep of the milk of human kindness.

— The Detroit area has a large Chaldean community — 120,000 — and the Detroit News has just published an article on the Christians in Iraq, Area Chaldeans fear for families in Iraq. The number of Chaldeans, who are eastern rite Catholics, has decreased from 1.4 million in 1987 to about 800,000 today and many of those would like to leave.
“In Iraq now, people are writing e-mails and fliers and sending them to Christians,” Jalou said. “They say things, ‘We are going to destroy your church. You are bad people. You are against God. You help the Americans. You are Americans. We are going to get your daughters. We are going to kidnap, because you have to leave. This is not yours.’ “ “These messages we used to hear from time to time from these people,” Jalou said, referring to the years before Saddam fell. “But it has never been this bad.”
— The Discovery Institute sent out a press release for Richard Weikart’s new book From Darwin to Hitler, an adaption from which appeared in the July/August Darwin’s Last Stand? issue. The release reads, in part:
. . . In this compelling and painstakingly researched work of intellectual history, Weikart convincingly makes the argument that Hitler built his view of ethics on Darwinian principles.

“Richard Weikart’s outstanding book shows in sober and convincing detail how Darwinist thinkers in Germany had developed an amoral attitude to human society,” says Dr. Richard Evans, Professor of Modern History, University of Cambridge, and author of The Coming of the Third Reich. “This provided Hitler and the Nazis with a scientific justification for the policies they pursued once they came to power.”

Weikart explains the revolutionary impact Darwinism had on ethics and morality. He demonstrates that many leading Darwinian biologists and social thinkers in Germany believed that Darwinism overturned traditional Judeo-Christian and Enlightenment ethics, especially those pertaining to the sacredness of human life. Many of these thinkers supported moral relativism, yet simultaneously exalted evolutionary “fitness” (especially in terms of intelligence and health) as the highest arbiter of morality. Weikart concludes that Darwinism played a key role not only in the rise of eugenics, but also in euthanasia, infanticide, abortion, and racial extermination, all ultimately embraced by the Nazis....

From Darwin to Hitler is regularly priced $59.95, but if you order through Discovery Institute before September 1, 2004 the price is just $34.95 plus shipping and handling. To order books call 1-800-643-4102.
— From the Jewish World Review, Joan of Arcadia: ‘Innocent’ teen drama makes mockery of religion. The writer describes in detail the show’s treatment of the two Jewish characters and notes that:
Both Friedman and Grace are brilliant students, but as human beings they are just not, shall we say, "evolved," to use the New Age term. To be evolved in this series one must have, well, grace. But it is not the Christian grace that goes with certain beliefs and doctrines. It is grace of the generic New Age kind: to "touch a truth that lets you see the world in a new way." It is a "gift that can be felt when you're open enough to accept it." Is writer Joshua Ravetch reducing Divine grace to what Oprah Winfrey calls a "light bulb moment"?


10:35 AM


MARRIAGE IN AUSTRALIA:

Our Australian reader sends a revised version of the message I posted late Saturday:

The words, “Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life" already appeared in the (Australian) Marriage Act 1961, as the legal understanding of marriage which marriage celebrants needed to convey to couples seeking marriage. What the Marriage Amendment Bill did was to include this legal understanding as the formal definition of marriage which, surprisingly, the Marriage Act 1961 had not done. In other words, turning what was a common law understanding into statute law.

The underlying purpose of the Marriage Amendment Bill was all about stopping revisionist Judges, especially in our Family Court, getting around this understanding of marriage derived from Common Law, and in particular, in relation to those homosexuals having been “married” overseas seeking to have such marriages ratified in the Australian Family Court.

The Marriage Amendment Bill had already been passed in the lower house and therefore is now Australian Statute Law.

The (opposition) Labor party supported the legislation as Mr Howard is about to take the nation to the polls. Labor, the preferred party of the special interest groups, has indicated that if returned to power it will legislate in favour of civil unions for homosexuals, in other words, marriage by another name.

Labor and the homosexual lobby were stung by a hugely positive response in support of traditional marriage when submissions were called for a Senate inquiry into the proposed legislation. Christians here are “over the moon” regarding the outcome whilst one of the leading homosexual activists has lamented “the growing influence of fundamentalist Christianity in mainstream national politics . . . . all these developments (such things as the National Marriage Forum held in the week before the vote was taken) show that Australian fundamentalism is moving out of the pews and into the ballot box”. Well that remains to be seen.

My wife went up to Canberra for the National Marriage Forum, a mild but determined Presbyterian, and now rejoices along with her fellow Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists and Pentecostals in the appellation, “far right fundamentalist” which our enemies love to thrown at us, all the while accusing us of all manner of things, starting with “homophobia”!


9:34 AM




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