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Friday, November 5

FROM THE INBOX 5 NOVEMBER 2004:

Several items for today. I should note, as some of you kindly write in from time to time to note some typo or other mistake, that I often write these on the fly, and that the fingers do not always type what the brain tells them to type. And then, during the quick proofreading, the trusting brain, assuming that the fingers obeyed its instructions, reads what it ordered and not what the fingers provided.

But as Chesterton famously said, and quite rightly, if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly. So ignore the typos and take what you find useful.

— Something cheering from New Scientist: Cells from babies help heal their mothers. It announces that

It has been known for about a decade that cells from a human fetus can remain in its mother’s blood and bone marrow for many years. But what do they do?

Diana Bianchi at the Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston and her colleagues recently showed that these fetal cells can transform themselves into specialised cells in the thyroid, intestine, cervix and gall bladder. Now her team has shown that, in mice at least, these fetal cells also help heal skin wounds in the mother, both during and after pregnancy.
The same issue also includes a story announcing a Mothers' genetic skew linked to gay sons, which will be taken up by the “God made me this way” crowd. The Christian believes that in a fallen world, genetic dispositions do not equal moral approval, but certainly even people who are not Christians should be honest enough to accept this, since people seem genetically disposed to all sorts of behaviors no one approves.

— Those interested in English politics may enjoy Charles Moore’s Daily Telegraph article Can the Tories figure out how Bush won again?.

— Those interested in the Muslim government of Sudan and its crusade against Christians and others may find of interest another article from the DT, Sudan belatedly tries to sharpen its act. They are worried about being the next Iraq, and therefore trying to behave better, but the author seems to imply that this is still somehow to be blamed on the Americans.

— And a third article from the DT, this one announcing that in north London a School [has been] told to drop its ‘offensive’ saint’s name. It offends people of other faiths, etc., which usually means that it offends people of no faith who use those of other faiths as an excuse. Not to be cynical.

Amusingly, the school is named after St. Mary Magdalene and some numbskull suggested renaming it “Magdalene Academy” — apparently unaware that “Magdalene” was in the past sometimes used to mean “immoral woman.” Now, a modern school may well be a Magdalene Academy, but you wouldn't think they'd admit it.

— From the Italian journalist Sandra Magister, a interview with the Greek Orthodox archbishop on his canceled trip to Rome: From Athens to Rome: The Scuttled Voyage of His Beatitude Christodoulos, with a shorter interview with a Catholic official. The church’s synod had voted 45 to 15 to delay his trip.

— From the (Southern) Baptist Press, a good summary of the baneful effect of Arlen Specter, In Senate, judicial picks –- and Specter -– hold key for pro-lifers. As most of you know,
“When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v. Wade, I think that is unlikely,” Specter said in reference to the 1973 high court ruling that legalized abortion, the Associated Press reported. “The president is well aware of what happened, when a bunch of his nominees were sent up, with the filibuster.... And I would expect the president to be mindful of the considerations which I am mentioning.”
But according to the story,
Or maybe Specter’s bark will be worse than his bite, NRLC [National Right to Life Committee] Legislative Director Douglas Johnson seemed to say at the same news conference.

“Sen. Specter does have a strongly pro-abortion record, so it is a concern to have somebody with that position taking over the chair of that important committee,” Johnson said. “Sen. Specter has supported every one of President Bush’s nominees, including some that clearly had different thinking on Roe v. Wade than he did. He has opposed every one of the Democratic filibusters, so we certainly would hope as chairman he would continue to address those in the same way.”
I myself am prone to pessimism in the matter of “moderate” Republicans. “Moderate” is a word that usually means “pro-choice,” and is one way the major media biases the debate — notice that the same media do not call pro-life Democrats “moderate Democrats.”

— And in the BP’s Cultural Digest, interesting stories on teenagers and plastic surgery, new practices for Ramadan, etc.

— From yesterday’s Zenit.org, the first part of an interview with the Catholic Medical Association’s Dale Leary on homosexual couples adopting children. Interestingly, she does not refer to “married couples” but “securely married couples,” which makes perfect sense when talking about adoption, but also suggests the need to make yet another distinction when talking about marriage. Anyway, she stresses that she has only anecdotal evidence but:
do not have any research showing this, but the anecdotal evidence suggests a dramatic increase in such adoptions.

Recently, I spoke with a woman who has adopted a number of special needs children and is extremely active in the adoption movement. She said that she has observed a dramatic increase in adoptions by same-sex couples.

She believes that the social workers in the adoption field are disproportionately homosexual themselves or are extremely sympathetic to homosexual adoptions and are directing children to same-sex couples, when there are married heterosexual couples available. She is extremely concerned about this trend.

I asked how could so many same-sex couples qualify, given the evidence that persons with same-sex attractions are far more likely to suffer from psychological and other problems than married heterosexual couples. She replied that it appeared to her that many of the same-sex couples who adopted had psychological and other problems that would have disqualified a married man and woman from adoption.
— For those interested in such things, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod sent out a press release that said:
Although statistics that Synod congregations reported for the end of 2003 show a rise in contributions and "weekday religion-class" attendance, "the real story is that membership is still declining," according Dr. John O'Hara, research analyst for the Synod.

Baptized membership for the year, based on reports from 74 percent of LCMS congregations, stood at 2,488,936, or 23,778 fewer than for 2002.

That reflects a slight slowdown from the 27,331 decline in the baptized membership from 2001 to 2002.

The number of confirmed members reported for 2003 stood at 1,894,822, or 13,101 fewer than reported for 2002, which posted a decline of 13,026 from 2001.

O'Hara noted that the membership declines "continue a trend of the past 30 years."

Contributions that members gave their congregations in 2003 totaled $1,256,382,217 -- a record amount, and up more than $53 million than reported the year before. That follows declines of $13.8 million reported in 2002 and $12.1 million in 2001.

Last year, congregations kept more than $1.1 billion for their
own use, up $44.9 million from the year before.

They sent $125.2 million on to "outside causes," including the 35 LCMS districts, which then send funds to the national Synod. In 2002, they sent $117.1 million to outside causes.
— Our friends at the MacLaurin Institute send the link to It's the Culture, Friends by Robert Osburn. Among other points he makes:
The greatest fear of most who read this is that our pluralistic society cannot tolerate the ascendancy of a Christian cultural vision. For so many trained in the academy, the solution that is proposed looks and sounds like theocracy. The fear is that only religious voices will control our politics. In the face of this almost laughable notion, it will be essential for conservatives aiming at cultural authority to make clear what political scientists have always known, and that is that the risk of a theocracy is only present when one source of political authority is excluded from decision-making in the polis. The secular left belongs as much in the political process as those on the religious right, but the reality is that the left has been very comfortable for the past 40 years basically dictating to the rest of us their vision for our politics. For Christians and Jews especially, deeply ingrained notions of human sinfulness are enough to caution against any exclusive takeover of American politics, whether from the left or the right.
— Those of you living in California (north, south, or middle, I don’t know) may want to know about a conference asking the question Is Harry Potter Christian? starring John Granger, who wrote an article on the HP stories for us. The conference includes a debate between Granger and Richard Abanes, one of the most famous of the anti-potterites.

— Today’s dose of Mark Steyn: A catastrophic night for the Democrats from The Spectator.

— Also from The Spectator: The dead language of politicians by Rod Liddle, who also wrote Is Derrida really dead?; Charles Moore gives The Spectator’s Notes; and Christopher Howse asks Do little people go to heaven?. The last is not the sort of article you can imagine appearing in a similar American magazine, yet we’re a much more religious country than England. Odd.


10:04 AM


STREET SMART VOTERS

James Taranto wrote in yesterday's on-line posting from the Wall Street Journal about the thoughts and feelings of Kerry voters, particularly in New York City and Massachusetts. He quotes at length from an article by a professor at Grove City College, who writes about pro-life Democrats in Pennsylvania in today's New York Times and reveals the depression, surprise, but, more significantly, the attitude of some toward the “Heartland” voters. A New Yorker, Dr. Joseph, said:

"I'm saddened by what I feel is the obtuseness and shortsightedness of a good part of the country - the heartland. This kind of redneck, shoot-from-the-hip mentality and a very concrete interpretation of religion is prevalent in Bush country - in the heartland."

"New Yorkers are more sophisticated and at a level of consciousness where we realize we have to think of globalization, of one mankind, that what's going to injure masses of people is not good for us," he said.

His friend, Ms. Cohn, a native of Wisconsin who deals in art, contended that New Yorkers were not as fooled by Mr. Bush's statements as other Americans might be. "New Yorkers are savvy," she said. "We have street smarts. Whereas people in the Midwest are more influenced by what their friends say."

"To paraphrase our current president, I'm in shock and awe," said Keithe Sales, a 58-year-old former publishing administrator walking a dog near Central Park. He said he and friends shared a feeling of "disempowerment" as a result of the country's choice of President Bush. "There is a feeling of 'What do I have to do to get this man out of office?'''

Ms. Camhe, the film producer, explained the habits and beliefs of those dwelling in the heartland like an anthropologist.

"What's different about New York City is it tends to bring people together and so we can't ignore each others' dreams and values and it creates a much more inclusive consciousness," she said. "When you're in a more isolated environment, you're more susceptible to some ideology that's imposed on you."

"We live in this marvelous diversity where we actually have gay neighbors," she said. "They're not some vilified unknown. They're our neighbors."

But she said that a dichotomy of outlooks was bad for the country.

"If the heartland feels so alienated from us, then it behooves us to wrap our arms around the heartland," she said. "We need to bring our way of life, which is honoring diversity and having compassion for people with different lifestyles, on a trip around the country."
Between the religious stereotyping, the condescension, and the raw stupidity of some of these remarks, I can only scratch my head. There really isn't much political diversity, now, is there, in a Manhattan that voted 16.7 percent for Bush.

If you want diversity, go to Ohio, which nearly split 50-50 between Bush and Kerry. I haven't heard of a civil war breaking out in Ohio yet, and they truly seem to be tolerant of each other there as far I am can tell.

If Ohioans are more influenced by what their neighbors think, and have had some ideology “imposed” on them (by whom, may I ask?), somebody forgot to tell them which side to go with so that they could, like Manhattan, rack up 84 percent of their votes for that candidate.

As to religion, I hope a concrete interpretation of religion will prevail, when it comes to justice, families, marriage, the sanctity of human life, crime, compassion for the poor and for the prisoner and for the increasing number of fatherless children. (Read Isaiah 10:1-2.)

Religion and morality (sorry, Peter Jennings, these are not "'so-called' moral issues”) should inform public discourse and a nation's laws.

As to "street smarts," the reason you need them in New York (and Chicago) is because these cities are dangerous places. Where would you rather have your teenage daughter have her car break down at midnight? On any street, selected at random, in New York City (or Chicago), or in Omaha (that's in Nebraska)?


9:50 AM


Thursday, November 4

MORE THOUGHTS ABOUT APOLOGIZING TO PLANNED PARENTHOOD

I come late to the controversy about Jemila Monroe's article in Christianity Today, about which others have weighed in very powerfully and persuasively. But I wanted to put in a couple of more cents. In particular, I wanted to articulate what I found most disturbing about the article: its moral exhibitionism. I don't know whether or not Ms. Monroe means to do so or not, but she comes across to me as the sort of Christian who is very proud of her own modesty, and very generous in advertising her own generosity.

It is not a coincidence that such an article appeared in that venue. The true master of this kind of writing is CT's prolific editor Philip Yancey, whose prose builds a smarmy sentimentalizing of the Christian faith around a relentless preoccupation with the first-person-singular pronoun, who is always confessing to his own minor sins as a way of proclaiming his moral superiority to those who don't (and whose sins are presumably greater than his). He is also a man who believes in nobly expressing his Christian sympathy for those who are the characteristic objects of evangelical hatred (such as abortionists, liberals, etc). We are supposed to admire this. The message, of course, is that he's really a better Christian than these hate-filled culture warriors. Which is what makes him a moral exhibitionist and a poseur. His books stink of spiritual pride.

I have always contended that the real scandal of the evangelical mind is the obsession that so many evangelical intellectuals take in bashing their own kind, a form of "intellectual honesty" that often is merely a veil for their social ambitions and their hatred of their fundamentalist forebears. They are deeply ashamed of their fundy fathers and mothers and spend too much of their adult lives trying to prove their difference, an attitude that is as unproductive as it is wrong. In that larger sense, Ms. Monroe's article is very much in this tradition. Perhaps I would have more sympathy if I had grown up in a fundamentalist household. But that is merely another way of saying that this kind of article is best understood as self-help literature for a particular demographic, rather than literature that speaks in a wise way to the depths of the human condition. (There are Roman Catholic equivalents of this phenomenon, I know, but that is a subject for another author and another occasion.)

This apologizing reminds me so much of the moral atmosphere surrounding the presidency of Bill Clinton. (A man of vaguely evangelical sensibility with whom Philip Yancey was pleased to advertise his friendship---a daily double for Yancey, since it allowed him to bask in the aura of the powerful and famous while flipping the bird to his "narrow-minded evangelical" constituency, who so deeply loathed Clinton. ) Clinton, like Ms. Monroe, was pleased to apologize on behalf of the American people and American history for things (slavery, for example) that he had not himself done---a form of moral exhibitionism that allowed him to appropriate the exoneration that comes with apology without taking aboard any of the staining guilt that would necessitate apology in the first place. Talk about cheap grace! (Especially when he has always been notably unwilling to acknowledge and repent of the egregious and damaging sins that he did commit.) By apologizing for the moral zealotry of anti-abortionists, while making it clear that she shares neither their sins nor those of the abortionists, Ms. Monroe participates in this tradition. She's written an article that is designed, above all, to call attention to herself.


7:36 PM


A SPECTER HANGING OVER BUSH'S WIN?

It seems Timothy Carney of National Review Online was right to worry about the reelection of Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. The Republican Specter, in line to replace Orrin Hatch as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee early next year, wasted no time yesterday putting President Bush on notice:

”When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v. Wade, I think that is unlikely… The president is well aware of what happened, when a number of his nominees were sent up, with the filibuster… And I would expect the president to be mindful of the considerations which I am mentioning.”


2:50 PM


SPEAKING OF DIVISION, LOOK WHO'S PREACHING

Perhaps something that I will have to do penance for is not resisting the urge to comment on the statements of the Rt. Rev. Frank Griswold, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (U.S.A.). Perhaps he touches a nerve because for years he was a presence here in Chicago and I am still tuned to his frequency. This, issued yesterday, just begs for comment:

A Statement from the Presiding Bishop

“Having come through one of the most vitriolic and divisive election campaigns any of us has ever experienced, we now look ahead to the next four years and the continuing leadership of President Bush. For many of our fellow citizens this is a cause for rejoicing. For others it is an occasion for despair. Given the polarizing rhetoric that has been employed throughout the campaign, it may be very difficult to find our way forward. Therefore, what is needed now on all sides is a genuine effort to move beyond entrenched positions and to seek common ground. What is needed now is a unifying vision, clearly articulated, of our great nation as a servant of all the world's peoples in their yearning after justice and peace.” [from Episcopal News Service 110304-1]
There's more, even this is too much. A call for unity and effort to move beyond entrenched positions? Coming from the leader of a church that has no idea of a way forward through the entrenched positions of the “gay rights” lobby in his church and traditionalists? He can't seem to pull this off for his own church, and he is telling the rest of the country they need to do what he can't do for his own church? Something comes to mind along the lines of, “Physician heal thyself.”

Certain things, such as “gay marriage,” or approving or prohibiting “gay” clergy have no common ground. If anyone doubts that, just watch what happens in the very near future as the “marriage amendment” issue moves forward in the U.S.. Eleven states approved what are effectively bans on “gay marriage.” And more are on the way. You can't embrace both sides of that issue, no matter how much dialogue and smoke you generate.

Marriage as a man-woman institution is itself a common ground, something ecumenically respected and affirmed, around the world. Just because a very vocal minority wants something, and they are refused it, doesn't mean those who refuse it are being “divisive” and intolerant. Can we, in the name of inclusion, include the agenda of anarchists, for example?

We simply can't embrace all positions on all issues. Can the United States be both Communist and capitalist? Can it be Libertarian and Socialist? Can it be both slave and free? And it can't be both “gay marriage” and traditional marriage at the same time. Those who argue for inclusion on such things are arguing for those whom they oppose to capitulate. And sometimes you just have to say no. The Presiding Bishop wants, it seems to me, to say yes to everybody, everywhere, and at all times.


10:53 AM


Wednesday, November 3

ELECTION NIGHT AT THE MOVIES

It was apparent to me last night in Chicago that lots of people were staying home to watch the election results: traffic was unusually light. I was one of the few exceptions.

After dinner with my wife and son, I said, “Let's go see a movie.” I had no interest in watching election returns until much later in the evening, so I didn't see anything on the presidential race (and I kept the car radio off) until 10 PM (11 PM EST).

We went to see “Ladder 49” with Joaquin Phoenix and John Travolta. I saw “Backdraft” some years ago, and “49” was several notches above that mediocre film. In fact, I would say it's a very good film and very much worth seeing. (Ebert and Roeper, if it matters, both gave it a big thumbs up.)

Apparently no one else thought the film worth seeing on election night. But it was nice, for a change, to not have to battle traffic in the first place, and second, find easy parking. No lines, no waiting. There were maybe a dozen people watching “49.”

It's a film about family, life, courage, sacrifice, and the character of men “who run into a burning building when everyone else is running out.” It is also, to a lesser extent, about the character of the wives who support such men. Watching it, of course, you couldn't not think of the firemen of 9/11 in New York City. (“49” is set in Baltimore.) I don't say the film scores 100 percent in all categories,

My wife mentioned a phone call she received on 9/11. She had just seen one of the World Trade Center Towers fall, when my son, Mark, called. He is a Chicago policeman, so he saw the tower falling from another angle: he told his mother, “Mom, there were many firemen and probably policemen in that building went it collapsed.” Now he didn't know that because he heard someone in the media say it. He knew it because he knows the business. He had himself, as a policeman, gone into a building on fire, to help evacuate elderly residents. Whenever a building is on fire, you know that firemen, sometimes policemen, are inside trying to “deal with the situation.” So when Mark saw the tower fall, he immediately saw the death of not only workers and residents who were going down the stairs, but of the many, many firemen who were going up the stairs to aid others.

Mark also said that morning that he would be going downtown Chicago to help with the evacuation that had been ordered by the mayor, since it was not known at that time whether more planes still in the air might hit other targets. The Sears Tower was the most obvious target, and he was heading downtown as a policeman in case something happened. It was at that moment that the realization hit my wife that he might end up putting his life on the line. (Of course, as a policeman, he puts his life on the line often, working in a very dangerous neighborhood rife with armed gangs and drug dealers.)

So the movie hit close to home. After the show, we drove home through very little traffic. The best thing I saw all evening was this tribute to those who sacrifice their lives for others. Once home, I lit the candles in front of our icons and prayed Compline, while water in a tea kettle heated up for tea. I dressed for bed, took my tea downstairs to the living room, and only then, around 10 PM, checked the TV to see what was happening in our national elections. After all, first things first.


2:29 PM


HOW TO MAKE OUR CASE:

For an A-1 example of how to frame an apologetic argument in 60 seconds or less, see this ad produced by the Messengers of Hope and featuring Mel Gibson. It is a clear, fact-based message that exposes the lie of embryo-destructive stem cell research and exemplifies an effective way of reaching the unconvinced on a range of moral questions.


1:50 PM


FROM THE INBOX 3 NOVEMBER 2004:

A few items for today, most compiled as I sat up in the early hours waiting to see if anything would turn. I had watched the returns at the home of an old colleague, now retired, and come home to listen to the radio. The tv reports were better than the radio’s, because the radio seemed to get the second stringers, including some people who I, who read a great deal, have never even heard of. Nevertheless, even on tv the need just to keep talking, to entertain, made the experience of watching for hours very wearing, and that despite the natural drama the election provided.

One thing I found particularly interested in watching the television reporters — and my host was one of those people who keep switching between stations — is how often they described the Kerry or Bush “strategy” or “tactic” when they meant “interpretation.” They were asking what the campaigns thought was happening and would happen, about which they could do nothing, yet the reporters kept speaking as if these campaigns were actually doing something. I have no idea if these means anything, but I thought it interesting.

— In the leftist English newspaper The Guardian, Tom Wolfe declares 'The liberal elite hasn't got a clue' in a story about his new novel I Am Charlotte Simmons. (Warning: rude words in the article.)

My thanks to Jeremy Lott’s weblog Jeremiads for the link.

— In the conservative English newspaper The Daily Telegraph, Janet Daly asks what is Bush’s “Crime”? Being a patriot.

— On his own weblog, Paul Cella laments the conservative response to Europe’s suicide. Cellasreview is a site I enjoy and find myself sometimes challenged by.

— From the very interesting journal The New Atlantis comes a reflection on The Big Change: The End of Menopause and Its Meaning. It includes the amusing paragraph:

There has even been interest in exploring the emotional implications of male menopause, as made clear by Jed Diamond’s 1998 book, Male Menopause, and its sequels, Surviving Male Menopause and The Whole Man Program. Although medical evidence reveals no condition in men akin to female menopause (men do not cease producing sperm, as women do eggs, in mid-life), some men nevertheless feel the need to medicalize their mid-life anxieties.

As Sally Satel wrote a few years ago in The Women’s Quarterly, “most men, one would hope, will continue to endure aging without having to turn to bogus diagnoses for emotional support on their ‘journey.’ Iron John was bad enough. Change-of-life John is just too embarrassing.”
Commenting on new technologies that promise to let women past the age of child-bearing bear children, it notes that
In this case, as in others, our increased control over the life cycle leaves us less in charge rather than more, as we come unhinged from the only obvious source of guidance for what each stage of our lives should entail. To fully command our biological selves means to lose sight of our identities as men and women, young and old, child-bearing and post-child-bearing.

We stand victorious over nature, wondering what in the world we should do now. We end up wanting to do what nature had in earlier ages driven us to do—have children, start families, seek significance and meaning. But having transformed our desires into choices, we have jumbled and confused them, and so women in their 60s seek ways to become pregnant, and men insist that they, too, can go through menopause.
— An important article, I think: The new ideology in health care . . . and how to survive it by Rabbi Mordecai Biser. After describing this new ideology — which we can summarize as “Your life may not be worth living, even if you want to live, saith the doctors” — he notes
The too-little-pondered recognition is that the true value of men and women lies elsewhere entirely, in men's and women's potential to do good things — to prepare, in fact, for an existence beyond the one we know. When that idea — self-evident to some, challenging to others — is internalized, a very different sensibility emerges. And among the perceptions it affords is that there is immeasurable value in human life itself — even in its minutes and seconds, and even when it is fettered by infirmity, immobility or depression. Basketball or dancing may no longer be options in the confines of a hospital bed, and even tending to one's most basic physical needs may be impossible without help.

But are acts there of sheer will — like forgiveness, repentance, acceptance, commitment, love, or prayer — any harder to accomplish, or any less meaningful? Are they compromised in any way by tangles of tubes and monitors? Not even lack of consciousness, at least as medically defined, need hinder what humanly matters most. We choose to take electronic brain activity as evidence of being meaningfully conscious, of the ability to think and choose, and then proceed to conclude that in the absence of such evidence, those abilities must no longer exist — without a thought (at least a conscious one) of the immense tautology we have embraced.
— Here is a site I didn’t know about until a friend sent me the link: Lark News, a sort of Onion for Evangelicals. I thought some of the imagined news story quite funny, like this one on Church creates section for huggy, touchy couples. Or this one, which begins:
Rise of “testimony crimes” worries police

PIERRE — Police in several Midwest cities are reporting a rise in what they call "testimony crimes" committed by evangelical young people seeking to spice up their conversion stories.

“These are good kids doing bad things to give their past more punch,” says police captain James Smultz.
The authors seem to have mastered writing the story that is just plausible enough to be funny.


1:38 PM


Tuesday, November 2

A WALK WITH TERROR

This morning, after voting in my local Chicago precinct, I walked the rest of the way to the Touchstone office, two miles. It was raining just enough so that I couldn't take out my book and read while walking (something I have learned to do quite effectively). But I thought about it and a movie I saw last night during the walk.

I mentioned last week I am reading the Monks of Tibhrine, about the seven Trappists killed by radical Muslims in Algeria in 1996. While at the video store this weekend, The Battle of Algiers caught my eye, so I rented it. I hadn't seen it in years, but I thought, why not? It's a 1967 award-winning film that depicts some of the history in the book that is related as background. It focuses particularly on the French military suppression of the FLN, a radical Algerian organization that used terrorist tactics, assassinations, etc. to destabilize French rule and press for independence, which was finally achieved in 1962.

In one scene, three veiled Muslim women unveil themselves, don Western-style dresses, cut their hair, put on make-up, go out into the street, pass unchallenged through military check points, carrying their shopping bags, which are then fitted out with time-bombs. The bags are left under the counter at a bar/café, a dance-club/restaurant, and an airline terminal. The women walk away and the bombs go off killing dozens of civilians.

The “bags with bombs” became such a standard procedure that I can't remember when airports didn't warn you about leaving unattended bags. The scariest bag I ever saw myself at an airport was the one several of us travelers saw while standing in line to get through customs at Toronto's Pearson airport on Sept. 17, 2001. Of course this was right after international flights to the U. S. had been resumed after 9/11 and people in the airports were nervous. While winding through the long zig zag rope line getting through customs, after I had returned from Scotland, I noticed a large bag sitting unattended about halfway through the line. Others started pointing at it and called out for security personnel. One came quickly over, but by that time a woman who had been snaking around the line like everyone else, caught up with the bag and claimed it--she had left it under the rope because it was heavy and was going to just slide it over when she came back around the other side. Like I said, everyone was nervous.

But unattended bag bombs don't seem to be common. Tactics have changed since the days depicted in the film. While hijackings were done even then, and became more frequent in the decades following, what stands out to me are the suicide bombings. In the film, several of the leaders of the FLN, rather than give themselves up, allow the military to blow up the building they are hiding in. In one case, a young boy is in a hiding place with a leader and the leader offers to let him go out and surrender, but neither of them are willing, nor the woman with them. In a sense, the three commit suicide by refusing the offer of the military to come out without harm. The building is blown up.

But such a suicide could be more effective if they would kill some of the enemy in the process. Radical Islam has gone on to embrace suicide murder as a something pleasing to Allah. In the wake of the French withdrawal from Algeria, even after independence, it seems that people have to be killed until the most radical form of Islam triumphs.

So another war began in 1993, called "La Sale guerre" (the Dirty War). The Trappists killed in 1996 were early victims in what turned into more than a decade of war in Algeria. Around 150,000 people have been massacred in Algeria since 1993.

The cause? In early 1992, a hard-line Islamic party, the FIS, won a major victory in the first round of elections, and elections were then suspended by the government, backed by the army. The FIS, even with its leaders jailed, have waged guerilla war since then.

It is interesting to note some threads weaving through many of the accounts. You read about terrorists who fought in Algeria in the 1950s later going to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets and train with the Taliban. And return to Algeria. The network of terror is larger and more tightly connected, I suspect, than many Americans think. Most have been led to believe that Al-Qaeda is somewhere in Afghanistan's mountains and Pakistan, and that they are the only ones to worry about. Wrong, on both counts.

An interview this summer in the Daily Star, (a paper from the Middle East) begins with this explanatory note:

The Algerian extremist Islamic organization Salafi Group for Call and Combat (SGCC) posted a statement on its website last weekend declaring a holy war against "every infidel foreigner" in Algeria. The statement was signed by Abu Ibrahim Mustafa, the leader of the SGCC. Mustafa said that by killing foreigners in Algeria, the SGCC is fulfilling a religious duty to uphold Islam against Jews, Crusaders and infidels.
The interview with George al-Rassi, a retired Sorbonne professor and an expert in North African affairs, begins:
Q. Do you think there is correlation between this group and Al-Qaeda, and what is going on in Saudi Arabia?

al-Rassi: Certainly. This group announced its close ties with Al-Qaeda in a statement three months ago. At this point, under the shadow of what is going on in the kingdom, there might be some coordination. However, we should keep in mind that the SGCC Jihadists are not popular in Algeria and they are isolated, but mostly active in the eastern part of the country and other remote areas, particularly in the mountains of Jijell and around the town of Midia, where the SGCC recently killed 12 Algerian soldiers.
While the militants, the terrorists, are probably not quite really popular with the majority (most people prefer peace to war) when they have to live with them, they have become a serious thorn in the side of Islam. And Islam, its leaders, its people, will have to decide what Islam stands for in the 21st Century.

When I met with President Bush and a small group of editors in May, someone brought up the fact that he had said that Muslims worship that same God as the Christians. We know that this isn't true. President Bush has also called Islam a religion of peace. This, understandably, upsets some, who know their history.

But given world politics, and the terrorists in the midst of Islam, who kill--in addition to Jews, Christians, atheists and others--Muslims, I suspect that if I were a politician, I might think about the millions of peaceful Muslims, including the many who live in this country, and decide to call it a religion of peace, too, almost as a challenge, in the interests of encouraging Muslims around the world to prove it. Their terrorists have no use for Muslims who think like that. Such peaceful Muslims, like the Trappists at Tibhirine in Algeria, often risk their necks by not supporting terror.

One terrorist group in Algeria tried to get an imam to sanction their killings by issuing a fatwah, but he refused, and was later found with his throat cut. They have succeeded in finding (or producing?) radical clergy (a problem in the West too, among Christians, no?) who will now sanction suicide killings, as well as the non-suicide kind.

Americans are sometimes accused of not paying attention to what's really going on in the rest of the world, and slow to catch up. It seems that Terror post 9/11 is the Topic now. It is, but it also was around, even in it present form, well before 9/11 and it wasn't going to go away. And it's not just the U.S. and Americans.

The latest news today on this front is that a controversial Dutch film-maker and newspaper columnist Theo van Gogh, who made a film about violence against women in Islamic societies, has been murdered in Amsterdam. He was stabbed and shot. He made the film with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali refugee and former Muslim. She has been under police protection after receiving death threats following the airing of the film on television.

Well, I've got to stop walking to work. I never know where I'll end up.


4:40 PM


SOMETHING ELSE TO THINK ABOUT (OTHER THAN THE ELECTION):

Godspy, an intelligent and hip Catholic webzine, interviews Jospeh Pearce about E. F. Schumacher, the mid-70s "small is beautiful" guru. Pearce explains that Schumacher's philosophy was influenced in great measure by his conversion to the Roman Catholic faith. Chesterton, Belloc, the Green Party, Libertarians and Leo the XIII's encyclical letter, Rerum Novarum, factor in the conversation. Godspy also excerpts a chapter from Pearce's book Literary Converts on Schumacher's conversion.

So long as we're questioning the assumptions of materialism (of the right or the left), see also this brief meditation by P. David Hornik of the American Spectator on why our creaturely limitations ought to inform our treatment of the animals we use for science and food (I'm not a vegetarian!). Also, this from Wesley J. Smith of National Review Online about signs that transplant medicine could be driving a redefinition of brain death.

On the lighter side, Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News has fun writing about the new implantable ID chip (VeriChip), playing on the anxieties induced by his dispensationalist past, and wondering if the Left Behind crowd aren't right on this one.


4:26 PM


REPLY IN DEFENSE OF ROBERT HART

From a reader in Vienna, Austria:

I was astonished to read your Canadian reader's comments. What does he know about Robert Hart other than what's been published in Touchstone?

How does he come to this conclusion about Fr. Hart's "lack of Christ-likeness"? Isn't this a rather precipitous judgement of someone based on rather far-reaching extrapolations?

Because Fr. Hart does not want someone else apologizing on his behalf for behavior of which the "apologists" know nothing, he is "un-Christ-like"? What does this reader know of Fr. Hart to speak of him as a "rigid religious Pharisee"? Has he read the article in January's Touchstone, linked to at the bottom of Fr Hart's comments?

And it absolutely boggles the mind (as my wife would say) to think of Jesus using abortionists in any positive way in his parables, and equating those who want to save innocent human lives with the Pharisees.

I for one found Fr. Hart's comments very gentle and restrained, and from what I have read from his pen he certainly seems more Christ-like than many other prominent Christians I know.


11:12 AM


RESPONSE TO A CRITIC

A Mere Comments reader sent us this criticism:

This is partly in response to S. M.Hutchens' "The Democrat, visceral and cerebral." I say partly because I think this blog reveals a larger trend at such publications like Touchstone - which represents the conservative Republican spectrum - and the Nation - which represents the liberal
Democrat spectrum. Basically, publications like Touchstone, the Nation - and I'll throw in the Weekly Standard for good measure - believe that anyone who doesn't think the way they do is just plain stupid. Not only this, but they think such people are immoral.

So what does Touchstone think of liberals? Hutchens' blog provides a glimpse:

It takes careful planning and execution to make an intelligent person believe the best way to maintain a prosperous society is by expanding bureaucracy, placing heavy taxes on its most productive members, and encouraging its most troublesome and least productive with welfare incentives. Similar feats of education are required to make him think that every right-thinking person should be in favor of partial-birth abortions, or the best way to approach aggressive fanatics is to appeal to their reason and good will. No, it takes training, and lots of it, at the hands of the people of considerable intelligence and skill, to twist a normal person into a liberal, whereas one can be “conservative?with hardly any education at all, as long as he uses common sense and allows no moral nerves to be severed.

Basically, liberals are savage monsters who want to eat your children, enable the dirty immoral people of society to just keep doing what they always have been doing, and they favor the pursuit of narcissistic desires over community (I'm not making this up, folks). To a liberal, the more abortions, the better. Heck, they don't like children anyhow. As to gay marriage, the big scary liberal monster wants to destroy marriage as we know it by forcing straight people to marry individuals of the same gender. After all, liberals just hate families. The whole father, mother, sister and brother thing is just so passe. The new law of the land for liberals is do what thou wilt, and to hell with the consequences.

And what about the Touchstone view of conservatives? Conservatives wear a big "S" on their shirts, and run around the country fighting such disgusting, loathesome "creatures" as liberals. Of course, liberal publications like the Nation have a different comic book story, where
conservatives fight for the poor and the oppressed by relieving the wealthiest in our society of their responsibility to uphold the common good with their tax dollars. They also do this by supporting war efforts where the soldiers often come from poor, working class backgrounds, and
where the U.S. treasury is looted...oops, I"m sorry, just a rhetorical slip....I mean appropriated towards wealthy corporations owned by their friends. They also uphold decency and the common good by deregulating the market, and then calling such markets "free." Of course, they don't say who those markets are free for, but it doesn't matter, because rich people always have the public's best interest in mind. That's why they pollute the environment, overstate their profits to their investors, and move their base of operations to third world countries that have even less labor and environmental regulations. Hey, at least the workers they are oppressing in these countries are not Americans, and at least they're not polluting the environment where I live.

When will we as Christians and as Americans give up our us vs. them Chicken Little comic book stories? When will Conservative Christians in particular realize that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, including themselves? When will conservatives realize that liberals
are not grotesque monsters who hate children, promote irresponsibility and glory in Narcissism? When will they realize that liberals also want to uphold community, albeit falling short in some areas (like abortion)? When will conservatives realize that maybe the wealthiest and most powerful in our society don't always have our best interests in mind? When will liberals realize that rich people are not always the monsters they make them out to be (this also applies to conservative Christians)? Basically, when will conservatives and liberals see themselves and each other not as comic book monsters, but as sinful human beings of incredible worth in
need of God's grace?

______________

My reply:

Touchstone editors do not write from conservative ivory towers, and we have made it plain that while we oppose the Democratic Party, as it has become in the last generation, on religious grounds, not all that is considered “conservative” or “Republican,” is beyond criticism from us. Most of us live our daily lives in institutions dominated by liberals. We know a great many of them as likable people. Nearly all of them are strongly moral and argue their positions on moral grounds. We must care for the poor-we agree-but then comes the twisting, the distortion, the exaggeration: they want to do it ways that kill ambition and encourage illegitimacy. They believe that America is a place where there is and should be unparalleled freedom of choice-we agree-but, once again, the twisting, the distortion, the caricature of that idea: Women should be able to choose to kill their unborn children. Always the desire for good, the desire that makes them moral and likeable people, often religious as well, the kind of people that would help you and show you kindness, just as you would them. But they are actively involved in deep, horrible, ruinous evil, its essential inhumanity shown most clearly in their support of “abortion rights,” a form of nihilism that illuminates their less harmful ventures in unreality as part of a much larger and genocidal whole. We would not describe this simply as a “falling short,” and here is where we would differ most from this correspondent.

I have compared modern American liberalism, and its political expression in the Democratic Party, to Nazism, and think the analogy holds for a good distance. The Nazis also had the good of human life (as long as it was life-worthy) in view. They also loved children and made rich provision for their training. The children, that is, that they didn’t see fit to kill. They professed themselves friendly to Christianity, and had a large number of bishops and pastors to show for it. They controlled, through a popularly elected government, the university faculties and other public institutions in Germany. (Of course, there was a great deal of voter fraud, but that’s politics, after all.) And most of them were also nice, perfectly decent people. Why shouldn’t they be, for they were good Christians, pressing forward toward the humane goal of a pure and properly organized society, with the Enlightened finally in charge. To be sure, there was an ugly side to this. Jews and other kinds of people were disappearing in large numbers. But that was, regrettably perhaps, part of the cost, and in any event, could be left up to those who were willing to do that sort of thing.

The judgment of history, and we think of God, on those who opposed the Nazis, is not that they were opposing comic-book villains, but real and terrible evil, expressed in and through the political and social life of a largely Christian nation, often in ways that were so commonplace as to be banal. If one wishes to oppose the point of view held by the Touchstone editors, then he must begin by defending the fundamental mark of the liberal, enshrined in the platform of the Democratic party-belief in the right to abort the unborn. When this is seen as something a bit more than a “falling short,” and perhaps also as a sign and symptom of a Godless and myth-inspired approach to reality that comprehends faults in smaller things, then one will begin to understand our reasons for saying the things we do.

This correspondent wishes to be open to a liberalism one feature of which is the, er, problem, of abortion rights, and at the same time be a Christian--and not only this, but a Christian who has, because of this openness, the leverage in charity and reason to lecture us on our faults in these areas. To this end he, like so many others we have heard and opposed editorially lately, must downplay abortion, moving a horrible, bloody-handed sin that screams to heaven for retribution, into the category of a "falling short." It sounds so very intelligent, so very reasonable, so much unlike the self-righteous, unbalanced, and uncharitable slaverings of the Touchstone editors. Alas, that it is also impossible.


10:25 AM


Monday, November 1

FINAL LAST WORDS ON NOV. 2? (A series?)

I pass along one reader's comments on “the issues” (Robert Hart's latest post) A Canadian writes:

I thank God for CT magazine and the Christian response of seeking to make amends for wrongs done. I am always amused when people like Bob Hart invoke Jesus' harsh words as justification for their lack of Christ-likeness. The irony of it is that the harsh words that Jesus used was almost always directed at people like Bob Hart, rigid religious pharisess who thought they had a lock on morality. If Jesus was telling his parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector today he might call it the Anti-abortionist and the Planned Parenthood worker. Remember he told the story for those who thought they were righteous and had the right to judge and look down on others.
I for one certainly feel no righteousness over voting pro-life. But I shudder to think at Jesus telling such a parable. He was speaking about those who practice their religious piety for show, versus those who are on the outside. Being pro-life is not a matter of religious piety to me but of simply human decency that atheists and agnostics might extend.

And finally, this from contributing editor Gillis J. Harp, who teaches at Grove City College.

He quotes some (rambling) comments I wrote in an e-mail, then makes a helpful point:
JMK: I *think* I understand why some Christians have a gut reaction against voting for George W. Bush. My question to them would be: don't you have at least have *some* revulsion at pulling the lever for John F. Kerry, a man who will do nothing to stop, and effectively promote, embryonic stem-cell research, partial birth abortion, the whole nine yards of things that you supposedly oppose and think are really, really bad? The anti-Bush revulsion on the part of some of these folks should at least be matched by a revulsion at the abortion holocaust. Comparing revulsion against revulsion, for the life of me I cannot understand why one can pull the lever against human life at its most vulnerable and (supposedly) for the sake of things like tax cuts, environment, even medical care and welfare all that (and these are debatable; the candidates differ in approaches and perhaps degrees) in the name of compassion, leaving the traffickers in human embryos, the partial birth abortionists, and increasingly the euthanizers and assisters of suicide an open field upon which to do their work advancing the culture of death.

Gillis Harp: I think this is the best way to argue the question. I am no fan of many of Bush's policies (I think Iraq has been a disaster and the ballooning deficit a serious worry) but the abortion holocaust clearly prevents me from voting for Kerry. I am disappointed that I don't hear strong denunciations of Kerry's abortion record from many Left-leaning Christians.


6:28 PM


A BRIEF WEB ROUNDUP:

— Kudos to Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee, who, in his Sunday morning homily, according to Tom Curry of MSNBC

urged members of his congregation to “not check [their] moral principles at the door” when they vote on Tuesday. There are some 730,000 Catholics in Dolan's archdiocese, which spread across 10 counties…
The archbishop instructed the faithful that the protection of life “from conception to natural death” is the “paramount civil rights issue of our time.” Again, quoting Tom Curry of MSNBC:
He said the protection of life is not only part of Catholic doctrine, but at the heart of the Declaration of Independence itself when it speaks of life as one of the “unalienable rights” given by God.

Dolan noted that St. Francis of Assisi genuflected before a pregnant woman to show his reverence for the life within her. The church exalted “a culture of life.”
Touchstone senior editor Robert P. George joins David L. Tibbs in an article for National Review Online about the future of marriage and the injudicious consequences of a Kerry vote. George and Tibbs admit that many who support referenda in 11 states defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman are considering a vote for Kerry, but...
...if Kerry is elected, the marriage referenda will have been a waste of time, because a Kerry presidency will give us same-sex “marriage” in all 50 states.

Senator Kerry would deny this. Although in 1996 he likened opposition to same-sex marriage to different kinds of bigotry, in his campaign he has been careful to say that he opposes same-sex marriage. Because of the public's overwhelming opposition, Kerry's position is politically prudent - and his liberal supporters understand that. They are confident - rightly so - that he will do nothing to stop the judicial imposition of same-sex marriage, whether by state supreme courts or the Supreme Court of the United States.

If elected, Kerry will almost certainly have the opportunity to make multiple Supreme Court nominations, and Kerry nominees will do what is needed to compel the legal recognition of same-sex unions as marriages. Indeed, Kerry's liberal base is quietly counting on it. And they are right to count on it. Throughout the campaign, Kerry has not identified a single action he would take or endorse to prevent the redefinition of marriage by state or federal courts.

The "smoking gun" that proves Kerry's disingenuousness is his vote in 1996 against the federal Defense of Marriage Act. This law, which passed the Senate with only 14 votes against it, protects states from being forced to recognize same-sex "marriages" from other states. (Of course, those who oppose this law are now challenging it in the courts.) Moreover, Kerry has denounced President Bush's proposal to protect marriage by enshrining the traditional definition in the Constitution.
— Also, Mel Gibson, interviewed about California's Proposition 71 by Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online, proves an articulate defender of the smallest people and a savvy political opponent of the measure.


3:52 PM


LAST WORDS ON NOV. 2?

Caleb Stegall, editor of the on-line The New Pantegruel, has written on topics we have covered of late, single-issue voting, and the apologizing to Planned Parenthood. Here are the links on PP & CT and on single-issue voting.

I am looking forward to November 3. In the great scheme of things, we have a lot of work to do no matter who wins the election. I don't place a lot of stock in votes and politicians, but still, given stewardship of even the worldly vote, which pales in the face of our faith (“You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above”), I am under an obligation to use it well, just as I am under obligation to use mammon well. Since the kingdom belongs to “the least of these,” and those who cause suffering (through inaction or directly) to these least fare pretty badly (millstones are appointed), I know what I need to do in the defense of the most defenseless of all.


2:36 PM


THE DEMOCRAT, VISCERAL AND CEREBRAL

In Wisconsin, where I live, a state that customarily votes for the Democratic presidential candidate, the 2004 presidential vote is expected to go to President Bush. The same electors are expected to return, by an even more comfortable margin, Russ Feingold to the Senate. Mr. Bush’s conservatism is well known, but one could hardly find more of an opposite in Feingold, who probably has the most consistently liberal voting record in the U.S. Senate.

How does one explain this? Rather simply, I think. In Wisconsin, and no doubt elsewhere, the outcome of closely-contested elections is determined by people who do not vote on the issues, but simply on the basis of the personal attractiveness of the candidate. The ABC poll, which is measuring this factor, found that in Wisconsin, while on issues of political substance the voters are very close on Bush and Kerry, on the index of personal attractiveness Bush far outscores his opponent. Clearly many Wisconsinites are irritated by the wealthy Eastern elitist whose Common Man Suit is put on and taken off at will. Bush’s combination of strong leadership and weak grammar, not to put too fine a point on it, are expected to win him Wisconsin.

I suspect Mr. Feingold will defeat his Republican opponent, Tim Michels, on much the same basis. Feingold is a handsome, well-spoken, Harvard-trained liberal who makes no bones about what he believes, which corresponds very well to the traditional Wisconsin patterns of labor and social liberalism, drawn from an old European root. He gives the impression, and doubtless an accurate one, of being a straightforward man who is not afraid to vote his conscience (he cast the only Senate vote against the Patriot Act), and is out to get the best deal he can in Washington for his fellow Wisconsinites. Michels has been a thoroughly unimpressive opponent.

Now I am going to go what will seem to be far afield to make some observations, but the reader will please bear with me. A number of years ago when my oldest daughter, now in graduate school, was in eighth grade, she took the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude) exam. Her scores on this test identified her, with several score other Wisconsin eighth-graders, as one of the most academically gifted children of her year. She was offered the opportunity to enter a program in which she would be drawn into the University of Wisconsin community for advanced training in her fields of interest. I became convinced, after hearing the presentations at the initial meeting of the program, that this was an indirect but intentional attempt to be sure that the smartest little Wisconsinites would, year after year, be initiated into mysteries that would make them Wisconsin Uebermenschen of the typical liberal variety. They would, in fact, be encouraged to become very much like Russ Feingold.

We opted out, and Martha returned to the public schools, very much in the business of turning out masses of visceral Untermenschen who cannot handle issues at all, either as liberals or conservatives, vote for whoever turns them on, and hence decide the outcomes of closely contested political races. In a directionless but relatively prosperous society this is the more attractive man, thus the victories of Clinton, Feingold, and if it is to be, Bush. In an economically troubled and directionless society, this is the bread and circuses candidate. In either case the liberal is usually favored, in the first because the Democrats seem to know this while the Republicans do not, and in the second because the former will promise as much redistribution of wealth as they need to win elections.

In order to do what it needs to do, modern liberalism must have two sorts of voter, the Wisconsin varieties of which I have identified above--one dull and badly educated, the other intelligent and well-trained. The necessity of having large numbers in the first-mentioned pool gives it an interest in keeping students in public schools as long as possible and allowing those schools to remain as poor as they can be. This is neatly done, with the full and enthusiastic cooperation of the teachers’ unions, by infusing large amounts of money, unsupported by the requirement of any meaningful educational reform.

On the other hand, able leadership from the ideologically competent is required. No one joins this class, no one can become a complex liberal of the modern variety, without being educated into it, for it takes much training to alienate the common sense and natural sensibilities that might otherwise make a conservative. It takes careful planning and execution to make an intelligent person believe the best way to maintain a prosperous society is by expanding bureaucracy, placing heavy taxes on its most productive members, and encouraging its most troublesome and least productive with welfare incentives. Similar feats of education are required to make him think that every right-thinking person should be in favor of partial-birth abortions, or the best way to approach aggressive fanatics is to appeal to their reason and good will. No, it takes training, and lots of it, at the hands of the people of considerable intelligence and skill, to twist a normal person into a liberal, whereas one can be “conservative” with hardly any education at all, as long as he uses common sense and allows no moral nerves to be severed.


2:33 PM


DON'T APOLOGIZE FOR ME

From contributing editor Robert Hart, regarding the article in Christianity Today on apologizing to Planned Parenthood, mentioned over the weekend:

I read this article in CT. This line deserves comment: "'We can tell them that we're pro-life and ask their forgiveness on behalf of all Christians who've been judgmental or unkind to them,' I responded.”

If I were to ask anything of these two people, it would be that they withdraw any apology they may have made on my behalf. The presumption intrinsic to such an apology, unauthorized by any Church body I know of, is all too typical of the self anointed and self appointed. Did the prophets of ancient Israel need people apologizing on their behalf to the unjust kings? Or did Christ need someone to apologize when He spoke hard words to the hypocrites? If they felt that their own words or actions had been in some way a misrepresentation of Christ's saving mission, then they ought to have apologized strictly for themselves.

If I were to walk into a PP facility, I would expect their furniture to be nice, and their staff to be presentable. I would expect adoption information to be displayed in states where the law requires it. I would expect that the murders are being committed in the back rooms, far away from the smiles of the presentable staff members. I would also know that their literature endorses fornication, that is, that it is meant to create demand for their assassination business. I would know too that even Adolf Eichmann could come across with a warm human side and a nice smile. He tried it on the Israelis at one point.

In other words, I read it, and I was not impressed.
--Bob Hart +
Rev. Hart is not writing in a vacuum. If you want to read about a real problem pregnancy that he and his wife faced, read his very moving account, “Her Mother's Glory: On the Hardest of Abortion Cases,” from our January issue of this year.


11:28 AM


FROM THE INBOX 1 NOVEMBER 2004:

A lot of items gathered over several days, some, despite the day of which today is the eve, not dealing with politics.

— Though the first does: Archbishop Chaput on the obligations of Catholics, and of Christians in general, in public and private life. Chaput is the archbishop of Denver.

— An Australian reader sends the link to Archbishop Peter Jensen’s Synod address, which he calls “outstanding: most encouraging and challenging.” Abp Jensen is the Anglican archbishop of Sydney, Australia, and a very strong Evangelical, and a very good thing in general.

— A weblog I enjoy: Cella’s Review. See, for example, this interesting quote from Paul Elmer More and this one with the late Colombian philosopher Nicolás Gómez Dávila. His first three examples:

To think like our contemporaries is a recipe for prosperity and stupidity.

All literature is contemporary to the reader who knows how to read.

Violence is not necessary to destroy a civilization. Each civilization dies from indifference toward the unique values which created it.
provocative essay on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by William Luse.

— Our contributing editor Robert Hart recommends this article, How Not to Critique Legal Apologetics, which he found on the Pontifications weblog. He quotes this paragraph he particularly liked:
It wasn't the skeptics who first flew at Kitty Hawk, combined inert gases, split the atom and went to the Moon. Skepticism is its own belief system one that would leave us in the 18th century, stifling all sort of scientific and inductive investigation. Skepticism and Rationalism suffocate investigation and freethinking. The scientists have ignored Kantian metaphysics and they have prospered as a result. Scientific progress has been made where good philosophy prevails. In this 21st century an age of genetic research, exploration, and innovation, truly scientific methods of investigation will be the tool of progress. People will have to lay aside their rationalistic skepticism in order to move forward.
— Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Charles Moore notes that Blair has signed us up to the sharia of Euro-enthusiasts. The “us” is the British, and he is referring to Great Britain’s accepting the new European Constitution and the European Parliament’s rejection of Rocco Buttiglione as a commissioner for his Christian view of homosexuality.

He quotes Matthew Parris in The Times.
Parris is a brilliant writer and usually a thoughtful, humane man, but here he was beside himself. "Kick him out," he yelled, in reference to Mr Buttiglione, and, "I say: enough of tolerance." He said that Mr Buttiglione had "indeed been the victim of anti-Christian discrimination, and that such discrimination is now in order". Parris wanted people with "anti-modern beliefs" excluded from public positions unless they agreed not to act on such beliefs.
— A cheering story of a Lewis How, a Nova Scotian pastor with courage: Pastor defies same-sex marriage law. Revealing, especially in relation to Mr. Parris’ words quoted in the previous item, is this comment from the Director of Social Action for the Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches, who says
"The role of clergy in performing wedding ceremonies is more entangled. It would be naive to think that clergy will be able to refuse to perform same-sex weddings with impunity, if marriage is redefined.”
— A cheering example of courage, or actually examples of courage, from very different kinds of Christians: The Canadian Martyrs.

— Something the opposite of cheering: The sanitizing of polygamy, a story about the government of British Columbia’s belated investigation of polygamist Mormons, which he calls “a hollow victory”
[b]ecause since the early 1990s, successive B.C. governments have decided that if they went after the polygamists of Bountiful solely on the basis that in Canada polygamy is illegal, they would lose in court. The accused, they said, would challenge the law as an infringement on freedom of religion — and probably win.

Even in announcing this investigation, Plant was careful to point out that it was instigated solely as a result of the alleged abuses, which he said are “beyond the question of multiple marriages . . . If supported by the facts, these charges would have no constitutional challenge."

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association takes a similar stance. In a letter to Premier Gordon Campbell, it said that allowing the investigation to include the crime of polygamy would be “an unhelpful diversion from the other allegations at hand. The key underlying issue is not whether a man is co-habiting with more than one woman, but whether sexual or spousal abuse or exploitation is taking place."

So it is a hollow victory because the powers that be have seemingly determined that upholding the law against polygamy is not worth the effort.
— Some of you may enjoy Abraham: The Master of Personal Transformation from the Jewish World Review. It discusses the problem in understanding Abraham:
in Genesis, we have a disturbing precedent. In introducing Noah, the previous principle character in the narrative, the Torah states, "Noah found favor in G-d's eyes . . . Noah was a righteous man, perfect in his generation. Noah walked with G-d." Only after thus spelling out his spiritual credentials is G-d's revelation to Noah recounted. How surprising that the Torah would so laud Noah's spiritual status and never mention Abraham's!
— An article on a different subject from the JWR: International Arab media crusaded for Kerry and American Muslims are heeding their call.

— Today’s fix of Mark Steyn, this from The Spectator: If Bush Goes, I Go.

— In the English Catholic magazine The Tablet, Michael Novak that America is A Liberal Land, From Sea to Shining Sea. It begins:
YEAR by year, the American electorate becomes (in the European meaning of the term) more "liberal" - that is, voters are more committed to liberty, less willing to heed elite opinion, and a little more religious and "traditional" in their moral ideals. Put another way, they become less like France. Less social democratic, less bewitched by the Left.
— Something else from The Tablet, for you poetry readers: A Voice from the Bush about Les Murray, who
With his furiously outspoken enmity towards what he calls the "confining" ideologies that dominate intellectual and academic discourse, his apparent role as "spokesman" for the poor rural whites of his childhood and, most provocative and bewildering, his Catholicism, Murray is a thorn in the flesh of the urban cultural elite. But it has not prevented him being Australia's most popular poet, considered the poetic voice of the nation — and he is among the best-known poets in the world, in the ranks of Heaney and Walcott.
— Here is something not related to anything the magazine does, but useful: Dial M for mayhem about dealing with customer service. It appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, whose site requires registration.

— A second article from the SMH, this one Danger of inviting evil into your life by Sophie Masson, about Satanism. Britain’s royal navy now has its first practicing Satanist, she notes, named (irony of ironies) “Christopher Cranmer.”
The Church of Satan breezily informs us that though supposedly it venerates the "Dark Force", in fact, "we are our own gods". All traditional sins are henceforth virtues. Altruism is a myth; the Christian virtues are just hypocrisy; all restraints are simply attempts to force the really strong into a humiliating capitulation to the weak.
That this sub-Nietzschean, quasi-Nazi rubbish should be tolerated, much less encouraged, by the Royal Navy simply beggars belief.
She follows this with some astute comments about meaning and the devil as a metaphor a society should not elevate or celebrate.


7:04 AM


Sunday, October 31

THINKING ABOUT DANTE ON ALL HALLOWS EVE

In an All Hallow's Eve mediation on Dante's Inferno, Thomas Hibbs tells us why there's nothing scarier than hell.

"Like the medieval cathedrals that found a place for gargoyles alongside saints, Dante gives us what we seem to want in our popular celebrations of Halloween: masks, disguises, and the momentary thrill of being scared. But, through Virgil, he warns us against inordinate fascination with vice and the grotesque. Dante also gives us a sense of the significance of the liturgical celebrations of All Saints and All Souls, celebrations now ignored in the onslaught of Halloween activities."


6:46 PM


ECUMENICAL SAINTS

Someone who attended our conference on the family last week told us that during meals he sat with different conferees each time and ask them why they had come. A common thread in the responses, he found, was the desire to meet Christians from the different churches who nevertheless are of a common mind on the challenges we face in living as faithful Christians and upholding traditional Christian teachings, both dogmatic and moral.

We had Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians (both PCUSA and PCA), Lutherans (ELCA, and Missouri-synod), Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Anglican Mission in America folks, and many others. In one break out session, while we were waiting for the person to come to set up the mikes for taping, someone suggested, perhaps not entirely seriously, that we could sing while we waited. The breakout leader, a Roman Catholic, jumped in and led the group of over 40 in singing "It Is Well With My Soul," directing the parts, calling out the phrases in advance to those who didn't know the song. It seemed most people knew it and we made it through 2 verses before the mike man came. When we finished, the leader said we were all evangelicals.

The theme of our discussion was the liturgical home, and folks felt pretty comfortable sharing what they did in their homes, whether in some cases the expression of prayer and devotion might be Catholic, Evangelical, or Orthodox. The bottom line was to instill in our children (and ourselves) the daily worship of God.

One of the most ingenious ideas I heard for highlighting the seasons of the liturgical years was the practice of having a different set of dishes for several seasons: Advent/Christmas, Lent, the Easter dishes used for the rest of the year. It sounds hokey, but the colors chosen worked in his family and the children look forward to each season and taking out the new dishes for the season. These days, it wouldn't be too difficult for most people to afford the different colors. I don't know that our family will adopt this, but for some families it certainly would be an aid.

Another opportunity for celebrating the Christian Year in the Eve of All Saints. Later tody at my home parish, families will gather for this annual evening feast. Children will dress up as saints, from Bible character to saints of modern times, with riddles and rhymes in hand to read to stump the adults on Which Saint they are portraying.

We also include a pumpkin carving contest, emphazing Christian symbols and meanings. In the past I have seen pumpkins carved so that inside you could see the Three Young Men in the Fiery Furnace around the candle, many different types of crosses, angels, even icons. The most ingenious one I ever saw was the carving of C. S. Lewis's face on a pumpkin. It was exquisitely done and won first place.

Being a Chicago parish, we vote for saint of the year (early and often). Various nominated "saints" have included Monica, mother of Augustine, Patrick of Ireland, Moses the Black, Ephrem the Syrian, Susanna Wesley, and D. L. Moody. We are an ecumenical parish, in spirit. It is, after all, what the church is about, gathered around a great cloud of witnesses, from Abraham into the Book of Revelation, prophets, martyrs, past, present, and even future. If that cloud consists of witnesses, then the witnesses must be saying something, and they are: the way to blessedness is to take up the Cross and follow Christ. Anyone bearing that Cross is my brother, my sister in Christ. No doubt that cloud of witnesses knows the truth of the words of "It is Well with My Soul."


4:22 PM




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