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Saturday, September 11
THE PARISH LIBRARY
Friday, September 10
FROM THE INBOX 10 SEPTEMBER 2004 (ADDENDUM):
The enemies of dullness are the enemies of civilisation. "Boring" is the bovine moan of the barbarian confronted with the highest achievements of Western culture. Bach only bores people who have never put in the effort to listen.This quote misleads, actually, because his argument is not about art but about technology and politics and similar enterprises. He points out that we depend upon supposedly dull people for things like airplanes that don’t crash and houses you can enjoy living in, and government agencies that actually do something for you. Those who think that work dull do not understand it — how could the physics of an airplane wing and the challenges of making it work not be fascinating, if you understood it? — and are not grateful for it.
— Also from the DT, Cosmetic Surgery Live? Maybe the mullahs have a point after all by Tom Utley. After describing this ghastly show, with its typical moronic smuttiness, he concludes,
Cosmetic Surgery Live is one of those programmes that make you understand what people mean when they speak of the decadence and corruption of Western culture - a culture that sees humanity as so many lumps of meat, put here on earth for no higher purpose than to copulate with members of the same or the opposite sex. No wonder Islamic mullahs despise us. It is impossible to watch this programme without feeling cheapened and debased by it.I think he is right, but wonder if he ignores a crucial difference between older societies and ours: that what he calls “high culture” — by which in context he seems to mean “serious culture” rather than “difficult culture” — was generally recognized as such and held by the middle classes as an ideal. Now it isn’t. It’s just a taste.
You are now more likely to find an interest in “high culture” and a dislike of "low culture" in a fundamentalist home schooling group than in a group of the educated upper-middle-class. The latter, speaking generally, are far more likely to work at their jobs and otherwise pursue diversions.
— A third article from the DT, reporting on a worrisome trend in English education: Ten-hour school day will go nationwide. Primary schools
will offer "wrap around" child care from early morning to evening to help working parents. Families will pay a contribution to the child care element of the package which will include breakfast, after school clubs and learning support.In other words, the state is going to use its money and power to encourage parents to give their children to it for even more hours in the day. “Head Teachers” (principals) are reportedly quite happy with this, as expected: no one objects to more power and a reason to get more staff and more funding.
— And finally, also from the DT, a warning for parents: Sleeping with the light on 'raises child leukaemia'. It reports:
Children should not be allowed to sleep with the light on because it inhibits the production of a hormone that protects them from cancer, a scientist said yesterday.— Nathaniel Brooks sends the link to Belgium considers euthanasia for children. It begins:
Belgian lawmakers belonging to Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt's ruling Flemish Liberal party have introduced a bill seeking to expand the country's controversial euthanasia legislation to include minors.Belgium decriminalized euthanasia in 2002.
— From this week’s The Tablet, a cheering article on the growth of Christianity in India. It reports:
According to the census some 24m. Christians now account for 2.34 per cent of India’s population of over one billion. The Christian growth rate has risen from just over 21 per cent to nearly 23 per cent since the last census was taken in 1991.Readers of Rodney Stark's book The Rise of Christianity will not be surprised to read that
There are more Indian Christian women than men in India – something of an accolade in a country where many perceive the birth of a girl as a liability. For every 1,000 men, there are 1,009 women among Christians while the national average is 933 women for 1,000 men, due to the gender bias rooted in social prejudice and dowry demands.Hindu nationalists are worried about the growth of Christianity and Islam, which means Christians and Muslims are in danger.
— Also from The Tablet, for you architecture buffs: Simplicity of the cloister. It reports on a new Cistercian monastery in the Czech Republic designed by a famous minimalist architect:
It seems, in hindsight, logical that the Cistercians should have commissioned the British architect and designer John Pawson to design the monastery, although five years ago the pairing of minimalism’s celebrated high-priest and the publicity-shy Cistercians was anything but obvious. Pawson’s work is characterised by a firm but gentle discipline, one in which results are achieved through a reductive design process that sheds the extraneous, the decorative, the intrusive to arrive at something so simple that the architectural involvement seems almost indecently casual. This absence of presence, of course, is what has endeared Pawson to a legion of well-groomed, well-moneyed clients around the world, a smart set too knowing to indulge in showy architecture, for whom discretion in design is as vital as their subtlety in collecting art, arranging their wardrobe and managing their tax liabilities.It closes with something cheering:
Pawson narrowly escaped death in a car accident two years ago and the monks, he says, “helped me through that”. The project, he says, “has given me the chance to realise a type of building I hadn’t done before. More importantly, it’s taught me something about how they face death. They’re not afraid of it. Their infirmary faces the cemetery and they all have their plots selected. It’s this serenity I find so extraordinary.”
FROM THE INBOX 10 SEPTEMBER 2004:
NATO and the UN have been responsible for the well being of the people of Kosovo, both Muslim Albanians and Christian Serbs since June of 1999. While the UN and NATO have been in control, more than 200,000 Serbs have been forced from their homes and thousands of Serbian civilians killed. Thousands of Christian Serbian homes have been looted and destroyed and 150 churches, monasteries and seminaries have been destroyed. Some of the churches which have been defiled looted and burned have existed since the 1300's and survived even the 500-year long Ottoman occupation. In March of this year an organized effort was made by Kosovo Albanians through mob violence to force out the last remaining Christian Serbs from Kosovo.An Albanian women told them that her Serbian husband
could not leave their home unless accompanied by her, for fear of attack. It is virtually impossible for a Serbian Christian to obtain emergency services in Kosovo. Serbs die mysteriously when they are taken to any of the Albanian run hospitals. Christians have no freedom of movement and therefore no freedom to practice their faith.This is one of those issues very hard to understand with any confidence from the various, and competing, reports. I’d be grateful if readers who do know something or can recommend other sites dealing with it would write me. (Just click on the button at the top of the column to the left.)
— A friend sends an old article from The New Republic, available online only to subscribers. The article is Michael Straight’s “Germany Executes Her 'Unfit’,” which appeared in the issue of May 5, 1941. Straight reports on the discovery, by Catholic priests, that in 1940 the Nazi government was killing old people in the hospital.
From the pulpits in Germany Catholic priests began to unveil this appalling story. They delivered sermons protesting against euthanasia and sterilization, and they were strengthened in their stand on December 16 by the decree of the Vatican which has been quoted and which warned that euthanasia was contrary to the laws of the Church.Straight then went on to describe the persecution of Catholics and concluded:
Unlike the Jews, however, Catholics are seldom permitted to leave Germany. The church dignitary who gave me this information charges that the majority of the 800,000 prisoners in German concentration camps are Catholics.As my friend tartly remarked, “I guess the New Republic's attitude towards the Church has changed a wee bit in the past 63 years.”
— The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press have just released a study of Americans’ attitude to Islam. According to the press release:
Roughly four-in-ten Americans (39%) say they have a favorable impression of Islam, while about as many (37%) say they have an unfavorable view. The balance of opinion has not changed substantially in the past year (39% favorable in July 2003). But there are significant differences of opinion among religious groups, with white Evangelical Protestants having a much more negative view of Islam than white Catholics, Mainline Protestants or secular Americans.— Two readers kindly sent the link to the column by Paul Kengor I quoted yesterday: Talking About God: Rev. Clinton vs. Rev. Bush. For some reason, somewhere along the chain by which it arrived in my inbox, someone changed the title but in such a way that the new title looked like the old one.
— I frequently give links to articles by Mark Steyn, one of my favorite journalists. He is, according to Steyn FAQs, attending a small Baptist church. Readers who enjoy his writing will enjoy this interview with him from something called the IdeasFactory. It includes an important point about what media people value:
On Bush and his lack of articulacy — you say it's not a problem because actions speak louder than words? Until they start doing stuff, politicians and their words are all we have to go on. Expand . . .This is a temptation to which every writer, and every verbally-oriented person, is subject. It’s one reason even conservative Christians tend to put down “fundamentalists.”
— And finally, Sandro Magister’s latest column, Beyond the Myth of Ostpolitik: A Lesson for the Challenge of Islamism. In it he reports on the Vatican’s policy of the 1960s of “ostpolitik” toward the Communist governments, which has lessons for its (and every other churches’) relation to Islam today.
Thursday, September 9
FROM THE INBOX 9 SEPTEMBER 2004:
Bush is no more outwardly religious than the vast majority of this nation's presidents, including his most recent predecessor. I researched the Presidential Documents (the official collection of every public presidential statement); an examination of the mentions of Jesus Christ by George W. Bush and Bill Clinton showed that through 2003, Bush cited Jesus, or Jesus Christ, or Christ in 14 separate statements, compared to 41 by Clinton. On average, Clinton mentioned Christ in 5.1 statements per year, which exceeded Bush's 4.7.He goes on to argue that “No politician in modern times mixed politics and religion with complete impunity to the extent Bill Clinton did.”
— PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) sends a press release beginning
More than 28 billion animals are killed for food every year in the United States. All of them — whether pigs, cows, fish, or chickens — are unique individuals who feel love, happiness, loneliness, and fear, just as dogs, cats, and human beings do. Jesus’ message was one of love and compassion, but there is nothing loving or compassionate about factory farms and slaughterhouses.It’s rather a jump to call the instinctive reactions of fish and chickens, and dogs, cats, and cows for that matter, “feelings” in the human sense, but factory farms and slaughterhouses do seem to be needlessly cruel. We dealt with this subject in Christopher Killheffer’s Our Food From God.
I am sure the average member of PETA is pro-choice.
— One of our contributing editors sends this link: Garrison Keillor's Irony, about Mr. Keillor’s strikingly crude attack on political conservatives.
Keillor lampoons the right as the home of “hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we’re deaf, dumb and dangerous.”The writer, Winfield Myers, goes on to address the limits of Mr. Keillor’s learning.
In a letter released to the US Bishops on Friday, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office of Government Liaison announced they have withdrawn the Presidential Questionnaire which had been delivered weeks ago to the Bush and Kerry campaigns. At this moment the press office of the USCCB has no statement prepared but we are told by diocesan sources that at least one of the campaigns did not return the questionnaire by deadline. "We have been critical of the Presidential Questionnaire because it improperly equates doctrinal issues like abortion with judgment calls like the minimum wage," said Austin Ruse, President of the Culture of Life Foundation. "We also welcome the fact that candidate Kerry will not be able to use the questionnaire to claim he is a faithful Catholic when we know he actively opposes Church teaching on fundamental issues."Austin Ruse raises the same point that, I suppose, I will be making in many conversations over the next weeks about the lack of prioritization in many “guidelines” being offered by Christian organizations such as the NCC. Minimum wage policy is not on the same par as abortion. I would think that increasing minimum life expectancy would be a little more important than increasing minimum wage, as much as I might support the latter.
Wednesday, September 8
PUBLIC AFFAIRS AT EPPC
FROM THE INBOX 8 SEPTEMBER 2004:
The ultimate conflict between the Church and Gnosticism, both at the beginning of Christianity and now, is . . . a conflict about method. Put succinctly, Gnosticism-both ancient and contemporary—is unable to escape the poverty of our wounded religious sense, and thus reduces the Christian proposal to a purely religious experience. But religious experience is not the "method" through which we reach our true destiny.— Something I found while looking for something else: the great Anglican theologian Eric Mascall’s Women Priests?. He thought the innovation a bad idea, as you will have guessed.
— On the same site can be found a good popular introduction to gospel history through the Apostle John’s letters home to his parents,. They are written by Francis Gardom, an Anglican priest and leader of the Forward in Faith movement in the Church of England, who wrote a reflection on evangelism, "The Passing of Richard Roe," for the March issue (not available online) and Aground Off Laodicea a couple of years ago.
— A reader sends news that Seventeen magazine, the girls' fashion bible, gets religion. Of a sort, the article makes clear. The article says that the editor, Atoosa Rubenstein, was raised Muslim and still prays, but does not say what religion she actually follows now. She thought religion important to include in her magazine:
"I feel, and had sensed that my readers felt, that there was an entire magazine that wasn't speaking to a part of them," Rubenstein said. "I just noticed more and more our readers were talking about their faith." Experts on religion and youth trends agree. They theorize that teens are rebelling against the broad, undefined spirituality of their baby-boomer parents, and are seeking out environments — like those in church — with clearer rules that help them cope with day-to-day problems. In a recent study by Teenage Research Unlimited, a market research firm in Northbrook, Ill., 58 percent. . . .— Another reader sends the text but not the link to a Reuters story from today titled “Study links TV to teen sexual activity.” It reports that teenagers who watch television with a lot of sexual content are twice as likely to have intercourse and more likely to initiate other sexual acts than the teenagers who watched the least. And, importantly, it noted that the shows had the same effect whether they just talked about sex or showed it. “"Both affect adolescents' perceptions of what is normal sexual behavior and propels their own sexual behavior," said Rebecca Collins, the psychologist at the RAND corporation who directed the study.
— A reader sends the link to Siege prompts horror among Arabs, which gets less reassuring the farther you read. You may want to read with it Mark Steyn’s Being Sad Isn’t Enough and Zev Chafets’ The jihadists' dream is a return to empire.
— Phillip Johnson forwards a message from William Dembski to “Check out the following fascinating article.” He offers some quotes “to whet your appetite,” including:
“Experts tend to cut to the chase. In their zeal to get to an answer, they make many little mistakes. (A recent study of work published in Nature and British Medical Journal, for example, found that 11 percent of papers had serious statistical errors.) Experts unknowingly fudge logic to square data with their hypotheses. Or they develop blind spots after years of working in isolation. They lose their ability to take a broader view. If all this is true, he says, think of how much big science is based on flawed intuition. . . .Dr. Dembski, who teaches at Baylor University, wrote “Winning By Design: How ID Advocates Can Effectively Respond to the Growing Backlash” (not available online) in the July/August issue.
— I’ve mentioned Steven Rhodes’ new book Taking Sex Differences Seriously from time to time. Here is an interview with Rhodes by Donna Ricks from her First Voice website. He makes several interesting and provocative statements, including this one, which was completely new to me:
Donna: One of the interesting details in this book that I haven't heard before is about an unusual side effect of the pill.Among the other interviews from the site that look interesting is Has America outsourced the kids?, an interview with Brian C. Robertson, author of Day Care Deception: What the Child Care Establishment Isn't Telling Us.
— Workers of the World, Relax by the French philosopher Alain de Botton. He argues that
All societies throughout history have had work right at their center; but ours - particularly America's — is the first to suggest that it could be something other than a punishment or penance. Ours is the first to imply that a sane human being would want to work even if he wasn't under financial pressure to do so. We are unique, too, in allowing our choice of work to define who we are, so that the central question we ask of new acquaintances is not where they come from or who their parents are but, rather, what it is they do — as though only this could effectively reveal what gives a human life its distinctive timbre. . . .I commend the rest of the article for his recounting of the pessimistic voices of the pre-modern period.
— In Beslan, the September 11 of the Christian Children. But the Church Doesn't See, Sandro Magister offers an astute analysis of the Vatican and the Italian bishops’ failure to deal realistically with the Muslim leadership.
As for the official organs of the Holy See, in their reaction there was an unusual obfuscation of the enemy - Islamist terrorism - and a disarming silence about the religious faith of those killed.He goes to offer the evidence of articles in the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano and the Italian bishops’ newspaper Avvenire, and from various Vatican dialogues with Muslim leaders who were anything but “moderate.”
I think his analysis astute, as I said, but I disagree with Magister on one point, his criticism of the pope for not condemning the Beslan massacre right away. Did anyone in the world doubt that John Paul IIcondemned it? What point would a boilerplate condemnation make? What use would it serve?
Between the press releases and news services the magazine gets, I get a flood of official statements after every major outrage, all saying almost exactly the same thing and all perfectly pointless and useless. There is something slightly ridiculous about safe, well-paid, well-fed, well-cared for church officials declaring the flamingly obvious, as if anyone cared. This urge to speak when you have no reason and no standing is a symptom of a sickness, I suspect, which would bear more analysis.
Magister, I think, believes too much in symbolic gestures, judging from the end of his article where he praises a manifesto and a candlelit march through Rome. They’re very nice, I suppose, but what good do they do, besides making the signers and marchers feel good? What do they think the Western governments ought to do and how are they encouraging them to do it?
The Independent (London) September 8, 2004, WednesdayI do wonder what "creationism" really means here; whether it was the reporter's attempt to denigrate an avoidance of evolution by making it sound as if they would be teaching a religious doctrine about how the world came to be, rather than simply teaching other theories such as intelligent design and the problems of Darwinism.
I have wondered about the fate of former Communist countries, about the impact of atheism and secular materialist views. I know a man from Soviet Russia who told me that he and his friends do not even think about God simply because that's the way they were raised in the Soviet schools. I was also recently told by a student from Russia that in her home city of some 750,000 people there are currently no more than 30 churches. While citizens may be glad to be rid of Marx, and in the case of Serbia, Darwin, are they willing to welcome Christ?
TV SEX & TEENS
Rebecca Collins, PhD, of RAND Corporation, and colleagues did phone interviews with nearly 1,800 young people aged 12 to 17 about their sexual activity and TV viewing habits. They responded to measures of more than a dozen factors known to be associated with teen sexual initiation.What I would like to see—and I am serious, if perhaps also unrealistic—is a correlation shown between sexual activity of teens and 1) sexually transmitted diseases (and the long-term health problems associated with them) 2) depression, including cases in which drugs are used to treat the depression 3) other mental health problems 4) suicide 5) long-term effects on future marriages, divorces and the effects on the children of those divorces.
Well, perhaps the last item would be hard to quantify, but certainly the first several items would be within the realm of study. And given a correlation between these things, I would like to see someone begin to do what the courts did to the tobacco industry: sue the producers and broadcasters of these shows for promoting (and boy, do they promote it) sexual promiscuity to the young and impressionable (think of the trouble big tobacco got into for marketing to kids), a promiscuity that is flat out bad for human beings. That is to say, it is unhealthy for the body and the mind and destructive of healthy marriages. Which is to say that it is, gasp, “wrong.”
Even secondhand smoke is considered deadly, and some states are banning smoking in all public places without exception. What about “secondhand sex”?
Of course, parents need to turn off the TV. Or throw it out.
Tuesday, September 7
THE HANDMAIDEN — A FOLLOW UP
This whole discussion has been a very interesting demonstration of very real gender differences, as you've pointed out with all your humorous comparisons between The Handmaiden and Touchstone.
With reference to the two Handmaiden articles to which we objected, she comments:
Certainly one of the writers should have never appeared in the journal simply because she hadn't really begun to think through the contradictions between her faith and her politics. A liberal should have been found that had digested all the implications of her faith (assuming that's possible).
This same nun then offers some interesting observations about the differences between the sexes with respect to controversy.
One difference between the genders is that women don't generally argue for fun. They want to know what you think, but they tend to set up a non-threatening atmosphere to beguile the unwary soul into revealing more than he intends to. In a Christian environment, of course, no harm is meant--it is part of the process of "sharing" and "bonding," etc. In an office job in the world, watch out.
She then goes on to a further reflection, which she calls a tangent. We don't think it is a tangent. To us it looks like a highway going in the right direction:
On another tangent, I've been reflecting on how much we have lost in our culture because of the feminist and homosexual agendas. Neither men or women are quite free to be who they are anymore.
Our monastic correspondent goes on to suggest that this new confusion is a problem for men as well as women:
And men have similar problems. I know a young man who got out of college without any exposure to the liberal arts. He has a teaching degree in science & math but you can't get him to look at anything potentially corrupting to his masculinity--like, for instance, a Dickens novel. He needs a few Dickens novels because he's a complete stranger to his own inner world. I wouldn't dare recommend the Odyssey to him. That's poetry. It turns out, he's an orphan raised by his mother. Here, the absence of a healthy masculine role model seems to have produced an aberration. But there have always been orphans who've come out better than this. Today's culture is just a lot less likely to produce a healthy expression of either gender. Even normal people are robbed by all the deliberate confusion.
Even if our complaints about The Handmaiden produce no further fruit, these resultant reflections appear to us to justify them.
Democrats: the party of the little guy. Republicans: the party of the wealthy. Those images of America's two major political wings have been frozen for generations.Where some of the passion for squalling comes from is the result, I believe, of those in power (by which I mean dominating the media) realizing that, despite incessant propaganda for years, many regular folks just aren't buying their party line.
The drifting in both directions, too, also meant the realignment of many of American churches into socially liberal and conservative camp--within their own pews. Mainline leaders do not generally represent the rank and file in their views.
What you will hear during the campaign may well be an attempt to replay the old stereotypes, workers vs. business, two Americas, rich and poor, little guys vs. big rich guys. Those who marry stereotypes are often reluctant to divorce them, especially when they have given them so many votes.
FROM THE INBOX 6 SEPTEMBER 2004:
"There are various ways of being happy, and every man has the capacity to make his life what it needs to be for him to have a reasonable amount of peace in it. Why then do we persecute ourselves with illusory demands, never content until we feel we have conformed to some standard of happiness that is not good for us only, but for everyone? Why can we not be content with the secret gift of the happiness that God offers us, without consulting the rest of the world? Why do we insist, rather, on a happiness that is approved by the magazines and TV? Perhaps because we do not believe in a happiness that is given to us for nothing. We do not think we can be happy with a happiness that has no price tag on it."— Political Victory: From Here to Maternity by Phillip Longman, writing in last Thursday’s The Washington Post. Longman is the author of The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity and What to Do About It.
Fertility correlates strongly with religious conviction. In the United States, fully 47 percent of people who attend church weekly say that their ideal family size is three or more children. By contrast, only 27 percent of those who seldom attend church want that many kids.The article includes several other interesting bits of data you might want to have.
The story provides yet another example of what happens when the churches are not bold in proclaiming the truth they’ve been given. The Catholic bishops insist on the necessity of defending the life of the unborn and of the aged and sick, and only one candidate in this year’s presidential election agrees with them, though he does not agree with other of their proposals on what they admit are prudential matters.
Their principles should lead them to prefer George Bush to John Kerry, though of course they cannot say so. Had as a body they insisted on the Catholic teaching on the necessity of married couples to be open to life, spoken about it themselves, made their priests preach on it, and punished the dissenters who in effect lied to the faithful — had they, in other words, made this a matter of Catholic identity for American Catholics — they would have nurtured more Catholic families with more children, which is to say, more voters who would vote in defense of the life of the unborn and of the aged and sick.
The story reminds me of a book I recommend: P. D. James’ The Children of Men, set in a world thirty or forty years after every male on earth suddenly and mysteriously become sterile. It is a haunting book, I thought.
— You can find a review of Longman’s book the West’s suicidal depopulating of itself in Downsizing Civilization by Christopher DeSales. I sent the link to our senior editor Leon Podles, who wrote about this problem a long time ago in , and he remarked
Eastern Germany has 1,000,000 vacant apartments, many just renovated. Leipzig is closing about 50 schools this year alone. Vast stretches of rural Italy are being abandoned. And the population hasn't even began its serious decline yet.As someone, I think Allan Carlson, said, “The future belongs to the fertile.”
— A New York reader asks me to announce a lecture you might want to know about: “Socrates in the City” on Sept. 22nd at the University Club (54th & 5th
Ave.) with Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, the editor of First Things speaking on “Can an Atheist Be a Good Citizen?” The announcement our reader sent said to please rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a space.
— A second lecture in New York City you may want to know about: the 35th anniversary program of the New York C. S. Lewis Society. It will be held at 2 pm on October 16th at Fordham/Lincoln Center (113 West 60th Street, 12th floor lounge) with special lecturer Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., speaking on “C.S. Lewis and the Case for Apologetics.” The lecture is being held in conjunction with Fordham University's Institute of Irish Studies and made possible in part by a grant from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
— From Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, an article on the students at BIOLA University in Los Angeles, All God's Children. (The site requires registration, and I think only keeps its articles available for five days.)
— Dawn Eden exposes what Planned Parenthood thinksWhat Teens Should Know About Sex—And When They Should Know It . It may sicken you. I will give you one example of what she found. In discussing children under five, under the heading “Children need to know that” Planned Parenthood includes “touching their sex organs for pleasure is normal.” Under the heading “Children need to be able to,” Planned Parenthood includes “seek privacy when they want to touch their sex organs for pleasure.”
An even worse expose of PP’s teachings — which I won’t summarize and will warn you about — appears a little further down.
— In No theology, please, we're British, George Weigel relays his experience with a profoundly a-theological Anglican bishop (the default mode for that group) and two rather, well, silly comments from former archbishop George Carey’s autobiography. In one of them,
Carey argues that, as John Paul II has experienced more physical difficulties, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has taken the Catholic Church in a new direction, undercutting the Pope's heroic personal witness. The evidence for this? The 2000 Vatican document Dominus Iesus, which reaffirms the unique salvific mission of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church's ancient understanding of itself as the most rightly ordered expression in history of the One Church of Christ. Why has Ratzinger done this? Because, Carey writes, Ratzinger is "exceedingly conservative," a man who shows "little of the flexibility that characterized the approach of the Second Vatican Council."I don’t want to be defensive about one of my intellectual heroes, but the cardinal has a vastly more learned and sophisticated — and properly flexible — mind than Carey’s. This kind of thing is very trying.
Click here for the text of Dominus Iesus.
— A reader who has been involved in some e-mail debates over the Orthodox teaching on contraception sends the link to The Stephanos Project. The site offers a lot of original material and a lot of links to other sites, including the Catholic philosopher Elizabeth (G. E. M.) Anscombe’s “Contraception and Chastity,” which I recommend.
LABOR DAYS GONE BY
THE EVOLUTIONISTS' DANCE:
THE EVOLUTION DANCE
MR. KUSHINER THE PROPHET:
values are anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, concentration of wealth and power. But as I said, Jesus didn’t have much to say about what they say are the values of Christians today. And yet, these people really do believe they are in possession of the absolute truth.” . . .Well, yes, we have all sinned etc., but what does all this actually mean? What has Clinton said that will help Christians fulfill their political responsibilities? What content has he given the metaphor?
Answering the first two questions: Nothing. Answering the third: none. Just take that last sentence.
All right, yes, true, we see through a glass darkly. However, as I and about a million other writers have noted, we see through a glass darkly, but we do see through a glass darkly. St. Paul wasn’t throwing up his hands in despair at our blindness, but encouraging us in the Christian life (with all its clearly seen moral teaching) by pointing to the partial vision of glory we have been given. He would not have accepted “Well, you know, Paul, like you said, we see through a glass darkly!” from a Roman Christian who gave it as a reason for blowing off the first part of Paul’s letter to the Romans and hopping into bed with his boyfriend.
But let us ignore Clinton’s abuse of the verse and ask only what use to anyone is Clinton’s use of it. What do we see, and how well do we see it? We must see something, else we couldn’t speak of Christianity at all. Don’t we see anything clearly? And aren’t the things we’ve seen clearly absolutely true, that being what seeing clearly means? What does Bill Clinton think we see? And how does what he sees lead him to the political positions he takes?
He offers no answer to these questions, and as far as I know never has, but without them we have no reason to take him seriously as the Christian thinker he has presented himself to be. Without them, all he has done is taken a verse from the Bible and used it for this own ends, twisting it to attack his opponents.
Now that I think of it, this is rather like twisting a wet towel to snap the other kids in the locker room after their showers at the end of gym class: a kid can do it with a towel, and some of his peers will enjoy the spectacle, but snapping other kids is not what the towel is for, and after being soaked it won't do what it was given to him to do. He may have inflicted pain, and enjoyed it, but he’s still all wet.
Anyway, Clinton's twisting of St. Paul's words thrilled the crowd, but it told them nothing useful.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, made much the same point:
”Speaking personally, the glass I see through is a lot less dark than Bill Clinton’s, evidently.”And then added:
Land said he was puzzled that Clinton felt the iVoteValues.com initiative was targeting Democrats.On a related matter, a reader sends the link to Soujourner’s magazine’s political petition. He comments “Here's the way Soujourners thinks about Republicans. I'm not surprised. (C'mon, now, it *is* rather funny!) And yet, pretending like they are just as against Democrats as Republicans is a farce.”
And related distantly, Dawn Eden recounts an evening with the comics against Bush.
For previous blogs, click here.