Copyright © 2005
by the Fellowship of St. James.
All rights reserved.
MORE ON THE SHEPHERD STORY
Focus on the Family's CitizenLink reports that NBC refuses to apologize for Katie Curic's 1998 reporting of the Matthew Shepherd story in light of an ABC News feature exposing the killer's real motivation for their crime:
NBC News has refused to apologize to Christians maligned by "Today" show host Katie Couric's insinuation that biblical teachings on homosexuality in part prompted the 1998 murder of gay teenager Matthew Shepard.
In a Dec. 8 letter to Focus on the Family, a network executive rejected the ministry's call for an apology, made in light of a recent news report on ABC's "20/20" that debunked the longstanding notion that the attack on Shepard was a homophobic "hate crime."
That report, in which the men who killed Shepard said they singled him out because they needed drug money and thought he'd make an easy robbery victim, prompted Focus President Don Hodel to ask NBC to disavow Couric's anti-Christian comments in the days after the crime. On Oct. 12, 1998, she asked the then-governor of Wyoming, where the attack took place, whether "conservative political organizations like the Christian Coalition, the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family are contributing to this anti-homosexual atmosphere" by suggesting that gays can change their sexual orientation.
"That prompts people to say," Couric added in her question, " 'If I meet someone who is homosexual, I'm going to take action and try to convince them or try to harm them.' "
NBC News Executive Producer for Broadcast Standards David McCormick defended Couric's comments in denying Focus' request for an apology, noting that in the days after the critically injured Shepard was found tied to a fencepost, "there was a great deal of speculation that the crime may have been motivated by hate."
AL MOHLER WATCH
R. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Seminary, writes a daily column for Crosswalk.com (some might call it a daily e-book!). Today's entry deals with a newer book already mentioned in this space: The Post-Truth Era: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life by Ralph Keyes. Mohler interacts with the author and gives a thorough introduction to a book that seems a "must read."
Yesterday's column deals with this week's predictable Newsweek and Time cover stories on Christmas. Mohler gets straight to the most disturbing aspect of the Newsweek feature: its sustained attack on Mary's sexual purity and the virginal conception of Christ by the Holy Spirit.
Written by the managing editor of Newsweek, Jon Meacham, a graduate of Sewanee and an Episcopalian, the feature reads as if Meacham is dispensing his hard-earned intellectual skepticism as the fruition of mature faith, rather than its denial. Mohler, writing in the mode one expects from a defender of the faith, is having none of it:
It is one thing to confront the challenges, but it is another thing to condescendingly reject the truthfulness of the New Testament, while citing the supposed insights from liberal scholarship as adequate intellectual warrant to correct the Word of God and claim, all the while, to be doing so as a believing Christian. This "true without being accurate" nonsense is an insult to the very concept of truth. If the events claimed in the Bible didn't happen, or didn't happen as they were claimed to have happened, the biblical authors are lying.
In Meacham's view of the matter, Christians should simply grow up and get over a concern with whether or not there is a clear historical basis for Christmas, or for any other aspect of Christianity, for that matter. He clearly believes that something happened, and he does not question that Jesus Christ actually lived on earth, but he does subvert and deny the truthfulness of the Scriptures and suggests that the gospel narratives are largely fictional.
Compare Meacham's approach to this statement from the Apostle Peter: "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty." [2 Peter 1:16] If the biblical accounts are merely "cleverly devised myths," Christianity falls and the gospel is null and void.
A SLIPPERIER SLIPPERY SLOPE
David Mills was predicting this years ago and now it's arrived (the following excerpted from a story by Alyssa Ford in Utne Reader):
During the 1996 congressional debate on the Defense of Marriage Act, gay rights activist Andrew Sullivan was asked if legalized gay marriage wouldn't simply send society sliding down a "slippery slope," where the next thing on the agenda would be legalized polygamy. "To the best of my knowledge, there is no polygamists' rights organization poised to exploit same-sex marriage and return the republic to polygamous abandon," Sullivan retorted.
It wouldn't be the last time that a gay rights activist would publicly distance the movement from other sexual minorities. In 2003, Republican Senator Rick Santorum unloaded the same sort of argument on an Associated Press reporter: "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything." In response, David Smith, the communications director of the Human Rights Campaign, said that it was outrageous for Santorum to put being gay on the same legal and moral plane as a person who commits incest. "That is repugnant in our view and not right," he said.
There are a few important lessons to be gleaned here. First, social conservatives see the slippery slope as a poison arrow that can prevent all-out gay marriage, and they will use it again and again. Second, gay marriage advocates will say anything to distance gays and lesbians from other sexual minorities: the polygamous, the swingers, the S&M practitioners, and those rare couples that happen to be related.
This arms-length strategy is good PR. The reality, though, is that non-gay sexual minority groups are doing exactly what Sullivan said was improbable in 1996: they have formed political organizations to fight for their rights.
During my days in full-time pro-life activism, it wasn't unusual to be taunted by a melange of young lesbians, 70s feminists, ACT UP agitators, and old brown-bag variety American Socialists who'd show up to mock us as we prayed in front of abortion chambers. One of their favorite words for us, "breeders," often shouted with sneering condescension, made me chuckle inside.
Now, thanks to a helpful Touchstone subscriber, along comes this op-ed in the New York Times by David Brooks:
All across the industrialized world, birthrates are falling—in Western Europe, in Canada and in many regions of the United States. People are marrying later and having fewer kids. But spread around this country, and concentrated in certain areas, the natalists defy these trends.
They are having three, four or more kids. Their personal identity is defined by parenthood. They are more spiritually, emotionally and physically invested in their homes than in any other sphere of life, having concluded that parenthood is the most enriching and elevating thing they can do. Very often they have sacrificed pleasures like sophisticated movies, restaurant dining and foreign travel, let alone competitive careers and disposable income, for the sake of their parental calling.
In a world that often makes it hard to raise large families, many are willing to move to find places that are congenial to natalist values. The fastest-growing regions of the country tend to have the highest concentrations of children. Young families move away from what they perceive as disorder, vulgarity and danger and move to places like Douglas County in Colorado (which is the fastest-growing county in the country and has one of the highest concentrations of kids). Some people see these exurbs as sprawling, materialistic wastelands, but many natalists see them as clean, orderly and affordable places where they can nurture children. ...
Politicians will try to pander to this group. They should know this is a spiritual movement, not a political one. The people who are having big families are explicitly rejecting materialistic incentives and hyperindividualism. It costs a middle-class family upward of $200,000 to raise a child. These people are saying money and ambition will not be their gods.
Call me a natalist or breeder. Whichever you prefer.
on what might be called the "fertility gap" out at American Spectator
. And, we'd already drawn attention to an early story
in The New Republic.
INTERVIEW: FLEW'S FLIGHT TOWARD GOD
As a follow up to yesterday's item on atheist Antony Flew's recent embrace of theism, my daughter Mary sends me this link to an exclusive interview with Antony Flew on the Biola University's website. It was conducted by Gary Habermas, Christian apologist and author, who debated Flew a number of times beginning in 1985. Over the years they became friends. Flew also knew C. S. Lewis, and comments herein. A tidbit from the conversation:
HABERMAS: Then, would you comment on your “openness” to the notion of theistic revelation?
FLEW: Yes. I am open to it, but not enthusiastic about potential revelation from God. On the positive side, for example, I am very much impressed with physicist Gerald Schroeder's comments on Genesis 1. That this biblical account might be scientifically accurate raises the possibility that it is revelation.
The Bible may be right, after all, even in Genesis. Flew, like many of us, are officially open to revelation as a matter of principle, but when it comes down to it, not easily enthusiastic about having it: we might be told something we don't want to hear. Repentance is a grace to be clung to, fiercely. I hope and pray Flew makes it to the baptismal font.
SIGNS OF INTELLIGENCE
IN a story posted at ABC News and passed on to me by reader Steve Breitenbach, a leading British atheist and philosophy professor has changed his mind about God:
At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England.
Flew said he's best labeled a deist like Thomas Jefferson, whose God was not actively involved in people's lives.
"I'm thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins," he said. "It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose."
Any step like this that one takes is good. Though it is too bad he's got it wrong about the Christian God. The Islamic God dwells supremely alone, whereas the Christian Deity has revealed Himself fully in Christ as a Triune communion of Three Persons. God is love in this sense, wrote St. John. Dr. Flew needs to take a much closer look at the Christian God as He has revealed Himself in the flesh: Jesus Christ. Does Jesus of Nazareth really strike him as an oriental despot, or as a Suffering Servant?
is read widely these days, and we're grateful for its growth. A group of students, faculty and other interested folk at Dickinson College and Dickinson School of Law are reading through Creed & Culture: A Touchstone Reader
(ISI Books, 2003) this fall, meeting every other week. The group's leader, John Bombaro, writes: "A number of our readers have moved out of the realm of self-arbitration concerning matters of theology and into the realm of classic Christian orthodoxy." Music to our ears. Perhaps there are other groups of Touchstone
readers out there meeting. If so, we'd like to hear from you
Another group at Messiah College is reading through The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion, and Morality in Crisis
senior editor Robert George, a book we recommend
OUT IN AFRICA
Father Francis Wardega of the Charismatic Episcopal Church sends this photo of Archdeacon Alfio Kondi reading Touchstone
in the interior of Africa.
TRENDSPOTTING IN MIAMI
The Miami Herald tells its readers that:
In just one year, the number of girls 18 and younger getting breast implants jumped nearly threefold—from 3,872 in 2002 to 11,326 in 2003, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports.
With financing making plastic surgery more accessible than ever, it's not just teenage girls getting implants. The increase in young women undergoing procedures mirrors a larger trend in our Nip 'N Tuck nation. Among all age groups, cosmetic implants have skyrocketed in popularity, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Last year, the group reports, about 247,000 women got breast implants, compared with 32,000 in 1992.
By comparison, teens are still a small percentage of those receiving implants, points out Dr. Barry Schwartz, a Weston plastic surgeon. Schwartz says about 15 percent to 20 percent of his breast augmentation patients are under 21.
''Young women are more conscious of their bodies in this day and age, especially with South Florida fashions,'' Schwartz says. "The more you expose, the more you want to look good.''
Dr. Jose M. Soler-Baillo, a South Miami plastic surgeon who performed Gonzalez's augmentation, says getting implants has become a ''coming-of-age type of thing'' for many young women, "especially here in Miami.''
''I've definitely seen a steep increase in 18- and even 17-year-olds coming in,'' says Dr. Lenny Roudner, who is so popular among women seeking implants that his nickname is ''Dr. Boobner.'' The Miami doctor performs an average of five implant surgeries a day.
''These girls are really well-informed,'' says Roudner, who has worked on some young patients' mothers and grandmothers. 'When the mother has had it, she knows what it did for her, so these women are quite fine with their daughters doing it. It's a big boost to some girls' self-esteem. It's becoming quite the graduation gift: It's cheaper than a car and better than a fountain pen.''
You'll have to register with The Miami Herald
to read the rest (if you can stomach more). Thanks to Terry Mattingly of GetReligion
for alerting us.
REMEMBER MATTHEW SHEPARD?
You know, the young man savagely murdered by two young men in 1998? The homicide quickly turned into an international story about “gay” hatred.
A reader, responding to posts yesterday about angry young men at home alone, tipped me off to this: According to a feature story by ABC News, “new details” have emerged, many from a new interview with the killers.
Two things of interest here. First, the two killers, as well as Shepard, had very troubled backgrounds. Second, the motivation was not anti-gay.
Local residents Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, both 21 at the time, were charged with Shepard's murder. . . . Both men are serving double life sentences in prison.
While McKinney and Henderson admit to killing Shepard, both men - and the man who prosecuted the case - now say the real story is not what it seemed.
Many area residents were shocked that the crime was committed by two young men from their community. But both McKinney and Henderson came from classically troubled backgrounds.
Henderson was born to a teenage alcoholic and raised without a father. He says he saw his mother being beaten up by a series of boyfriends, some of whom also assaulted Henderson.
McKinney's childhood, too, was less than picture-perfect. His father, a long-haul trucker, was rarely home and eventually divorced McKinney's mother, a nurse who later died as a result of a botched surgery. McKinney received a malpractice settlement of nearly $100,000 after his mother's death. He says he spent most of that money on things like cars and drugs.
McKinney admits that by the time he was 18 he had a serious methamphetamine habit.
Despite his strong family life, Shepard had troubles of his own. His mother, Judy Shepard, says her son's problems had started three years earlier during a high school trip to Morocco, where he was beaten and raped.
Tom O'Connor, known as "Doc," who ran a limousine service and sometimes drove Shepard, said just days before Shepard's death, Matt told him he was HIV-positive and was considering suicide.
One of Shepard's college friends, Tina LaBrie, was concerned that Shepard's depression might be somehow connected to involvement with drugs. "He said 'Everywhere I move, it seems like I get sucked into the drug scene,'" LaBrie told Vargas.
…Former Laramie Police Detective Ben Fritzen, one of the lead investigators in the case, also believed robbery was the primary motive. "Matthew Shepard's sexual preference or sexual orientation certainly wasn't the motive in the homicide," he said.
"If it wasn't Shepard, they would have found another easy target. What it came down to really is drugs and money and two punks that were out looking for it," Fritzen said.
Asked directly whether he targeted and attacked Shepard because he was gay, McKinney told Vargas, "No. I did not. … I would say it wasn't a hate crime. All I wanted to do was beat him up and rob him."
It's interesting to read not only the new information from the killers, but also the views of those connected with the case from the beginning, and how the story quickly became a “gay hate crime” when student friends of Shepard fed that angle to the media and made a point of it.
It's hard to know exactly what was going through the head of McKinney when, high on drugs (all three men were drug users), he murdered Shepard, but does it really matter what he was thinking when he beat him? A crime should be the thing that is actually done, not thought.
Besides, according to the story, McKinney seems to have been bisexual himself and not a likely “gay-hater.” And the first thing he did was to steal Shepard's wallet.
I look at it this way: you have a context of drug and alcohol abuse, throw in sex outside of marriage—promiscuous, and therefore simply as a physical passion to be indulged in whenever one feels like, with whomever—in other words, unrestrained. Should we be surprised something went terribly wrong? It was a crime, but not what the media made it out to be.
MORE ON FATHER BOUYER
This comment from Kathleen Reeeves, on the death of Father Louis Bouyer, reported here yesterday:
I didn't know that Bouyer had died, more's the pity that nothing has been noted. I first read an article by him 20 years ago in a magazine for Religious, warning about the "Protestantation" of Religious Orders in the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, very few paid attention to what he was saying. But then, how much attention was paid when CS Lewis died? JFK was killed the same day and CSL was hardly noted.
ANOTHER BOOK BARGAIN
Ken Tanner's note about the fire sale on RSV Bibles reminds me to make Touchstone readers aware of another book deal, well worth their while. Anyone interested in understanding the prehistory of the current crisis in American Anglicanism needs to read our own contributing editor Gillis Harp's acclaimed study Brahmin Prophet: Philips Brooks and the Path of American Protestantism (Rowman & Littlefield). The Reverend Phillips Brooks, author of the beloved Christmas carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem," was also one of the most popular preachers of Gilded-Age America, a figure of enormous cultural influence. By placing Brooks's religious thought in its proper historical, cultural, and ecclesiastical contexts, Harp not only gives us a fuller, richer portrait of him, but shows him to be an emblematic figure, whose example illuminates a crucial period of American Protestant history, when the foundations of so many present-day problems were laid. Small wonder that Episcopal Bishop C. FitzSimons Allison, who reviewed the book in Touchstone, found it both a "profound" and "prophetic" book; see his admiring review here.
Mere Comments readers can obtain the paperback edition of this fine book, regularly priced at $32.95, at a 20% discount. To order please call R&L customer service department at 1-800-462-6420 or visit their website. Then, to obtain the discount, please order using this promo code: 4F4HARPG.
MORE ANGRY MUSIC
In reply to “Home Alone and Angry” today, a reader kindly tips us off to the full text of an article by Mary Eberstadt in Policy Review dealing with the music culture. It may be either a full reproduction or adaptation of the chapter in her book, Home-Alone America.
HOME ALONE & ANGRY
From Austin Ruse at the Culture of Life Foundation comes this very interesting article, including this excerpt, about the latest book by Mary Eberstadt, Home-Alone America: The Hidden Toll of Day Care, Behavioral Drugs, and Other Parent Substitutes
In one chapter called "Ozzie and Harriet, Come Back!': The Primal Scream of Teenage Music," Eberstadt takes a deep look at some of the hottest musicians on MTV and Top-40 radio and discovers that many of today's most successful songs are anthems of despair and anger fueled by resentment at fathers who were not present in the singers' lives.
Controversial rapper Eminem is Eberstadt's prime example. Since his first album, Eminem has made the rage he feels towards his absent father a central theme of many of his songs. At other times Eminem sings at length about his drug addict mother and her cohabiting boyfriends. Eberstadt does not excuse Eminem for his lyrics in which he fantasizes about killing his ex-wife or insults his mother. But she notes that they are "not the expression of random misogyny but, rather, of primal rage over alleged maternal abdication and abuse."
This book is going to make some people angry.
TOLERANT GODS & DIVERSITY
A regular reader tipped us off to this article by Dean Waldt, "The Myth of the Tolerant God." Our reader writes: “Waldt skewers the liberal idea of the tolerant God and demonstrates that it is an idol of modern man's own creation.” He does makes some fine points that need to be made, until the word “tolerance” is saved for its true meaning.
MEL AND THE MACCABEES
Beliefnet.com has this report by David Klinghoffer (citing only the first four paragraphs):
Anyone who took offense at Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ", with its depiction of Jewish leaders condemning Jesus, should get ready soon to be offended all over again. Gibson, it is reported, has his heart set on doing a movie version of the story commemorated by Hanukkah. His text will be the novel "My Glorious Brothers" by Howard Fast. Ironically, this book is a sentimental favorite with the older-generation Jewish audience that also tends to be the main financial supporter of Gibson’s primary antagonist, the Anti-Defamation League, which led the drive to condemn "The Passion" as anti-Semitic. The Fast novel tells the story of Jewish heroes, circa 167 B.C.E., who defeat Greek oppressors of the Jewish people, retake the Jerusalem Temple, and relight the great menorah.
So what’s so offensive? If this sounds, on the contrary, like a mollifying gesture to ADL national director Abraham Foxman, you might want to look a little more closely at what Hanukkah is actually about.
Many Jews grew up thinking of Hanukkah (which in 2004 falls on December 8-15) as an innocuous children’s festival. Actually the Maccabean revolt was deadly serious business, and it recalls one of the great tensions in our own modern American society: the conflict was between what today one might call religious fundamentalists and the secular elite.
Here’s what happened. Jewish Palestine had fallen into the clutches of the Greek kingdom of the Seleucids, with their tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes, headquartered in Syria. While the Greeks were not anti-Jewish per se, they had little patience with the perceived particularism and parochialism of Judaism. (I say "perceived" because Judaism’s vision, when properly understood, is in fact highly universal.) The Greek vision was one of mutual theological acceptance. They were relativists, in the sense we know today, believing that not only the God of Israel but all the gods should be worshipped at the Jerusalem Temple--and believing that dissenters from their “tolerance” deserved to be suppressed.
For readers who appreciate the Revised Standard Version, Christmas has come early. Oxford University Press is running a fire sale on its (normally $40) RSV with Apocrypha in Imitation Black Leather for a little over $15 (shipping included). While supplies last, you can order one here.
THE WEDNESDAY EDUDEMON
Eric Scheske, the former editor of Gilbert Magazine, has begun a new once-a-week web-based publication, The Wednesday Eudemon. Eric's description:
In the middle of the work week's dim mundanity, come spirit and light. Edited by Eric Scheske, TWE publishes a series of short features every Wednesday.
The first issue has quotes from Malcolm Muggeridge, George Orwell, and Aquinas, plus excerpts from Slate
and the Daily Telegraph.
JUDGES UNDER THE INFLUENCE?
This is just too weird. No, it's not really funny. That educated officials of the state, could rule that these actions of a San Diego policemansomehow constituted speech is something that should give citizens plenty of reasons to look carefully at judicial appointments in the next several years, or decades. Is it really this bad? The Wall Street Journal's best of the web summarizes:
…a San Diego police officer "made a video showing himself stripping off a police uniform and masturbating," according to the U.S. Supreme Court. "He sold the video on the adults-only section of eBay." When San Diego police officials found out, they fired him. Naturally, he sued.
In January, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the licentious lawman, identified in court documents only as "John Roe" (no relation to Norma McCorvey). In a decision by Judge Raymond Fisher, a three-judge panel ruled 2-1 that police self-abuse is constitutionally protected free speech.
Yesterday the Supreme Court (PDF) unanimously struck down this ridiculous ruling and held that the SDPD had acted within its rights when it discharged "Roe." Which leaves the question: Where did the Ninth Circuit come up with these two wacko judges? We checked, and it turns out that Judge Fisher was appointed by President Clinton and Judge Dorothy Wright, who concurred, got her job from President Carter. (Dissenter Kim Wardlaw is also a Clinton appointee.)
Remember this the next time someone says Republican judges are "outside the mainstream."
Seems like the main stream, if it is that, is polluted and needs some cleaning up.
CLENDENIN'S JOURNEY WITH JESUS
Earlier in this space, Wilfred McClay favorably mentioned an essay by Dan Clendenin. Some of our readers will know him as the author of Eastern Orthodox Christianity: A Western Perspective. Clendenin has launched a new website, Journey with Jesus where he posts meditations on the week's lectionary readings, books reviews, essays, and poems. Read his review of Steven Greenblatt's new study of Shakespeare, Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, a book favorably mentioned in J. Bottum's 2005 books survey (see below).
From the Clendenin review:
How can we explain the breadth and depth of obscurity that hides even the basics of Shakespeare's life? It might simply be the result of historical accident and chance. Four hundred years is a long time. Perhaps more practical considerations, like avoiding trouble with political and ecclesial authorities, caused him to keep a low profile; to the former playwrights were subversive and to the latter immoral. Still, Greenblatt suggests that in Shakespeare's life and writings there is a deliberate "act of erasure" (p. 255) that prevents us from knowing him.
JAILED CHINESE PASTORS MAKE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
ChristianWireService released this sobering story this afternoon:
Pastors of the Underground Church in China are not only called to be lights, they are many times imprisoned and forced to assemble lights under incredibly harsh conditions.
A special Christmas project—available to families all over the world—is reminding Christians of the circumstances faced by these pastors.
WorldServe Ministries' Lights of Christmas program promotes awareness about the conditions under which Christmas lights are constructed. Tom Henry, minister-at-large for WorldServe Ministries, says the project encourages prayerful support of the persecuted pastors in China.
"Their only crime is proclaiming and teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Henry said. "It's important that we pray for these pastors and the work they are doing."
Persecution of the underground church of China has been growing in recent years. This year, well over 600 pastors have been arrested and sent to prison because of their evangelistic activity. An estimated 80 million believers participate in secret, illegal church gatherings in China.
To bring awareness to the plight of the imprisoned pastors and their families in China, WorldServe Ministries created the Lights of Christmas initiative. The program does not call for a boycott of Christmas lights, but promotes an awareness of the conditions in China and serves as a reminder to support the Underground Church through prayer and financial support.
LOUIS BOUYER, REQUIESCANT IN PACE
Our friends at Second Spring note the passing of Louis Bouyer in their current edition:
The death took place on the 22 October 2004 of the theologian Louis Bouyer of the French Oratory at the age of 91. A friend of Balthasar, Ratzinger and J.R.R. Tolkien, and a co-founder of the international review Communio, Bouyer was a Lutheran who converted to Catholicism in 1939. He became a leading figure in the Catholic Biblical and Liturgical movements of the twentieth century, was an influence on the Second Vatican Council, and is best known by many for his excellent writings on the history of Christian spirituality. His passing seems to have gone relatively almost unnoticed so far, but he deserves a flood of major tributes. His books are highly recommended (for example, The Eternal Father, a history of religion published in English in 1999).
BOTTUM ON THE YEAR'S BOOKS
The Weekly Standard's Books & Arts editor, J. Bottum, surveys the year in books. If you're what Bottum calls a "book guy," check out this longish but entertaining and informative review of publishing in 2005.
NPR AND THE VOICE OF THE DEMONIC
Last Wednesday, National Public Radio interviewed the Dutch baby enthanizers (um, killers) as if they were so many ordinary medical workers going about their awe-inspiring business, George Neumayr reports for The American Spectator.
Eduard Verhagen, clinical director of the Pediatric Clinic of the University Hospital at Groningen, is quoted as saying, "we felt that in these children the most humane course of action would be to allow the child to die, and even actively assist them in their death."
OUR EDITORS ELSEWHERE
Contributing Editor Rod Dreher visits Holland and reports for National Review on the stew of libertarian politics, Islamic immigration, and crime, that, along with the growing discontent of the Calvinist working class, threatens to boil over in that formerly Christian country most radically altered by the Sixties.
Senior editor, S. M. Hutchens, reviews Joseph Pearce's C. S. Lewis and the Catholic Church for the journal Books & Culture.
Two worthwhile articles out at Chuck Colson's Breakpoint website: one by Gina R. Dalfonzo compares the imaginary worlds of C. S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia) and Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials) in an attempt to find whether or not these authors successfully convey their respective worldviews in their stories and why or why not, though it becomes essentially a critique of Pullman; the other by Alex Wainer comments on a controversy between left and right politicos involving the Disney/Pixar film, The Incredibles. Wainer counters several Incredibles critics for seeing Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy as the film's ground, and brings the history of the Superman comic character along for the ride (a fascinating background story involving Nietzsche, the Nazis, and two Jewish creators that this comic-deprived reader learned about for the first time).
ADVENT & SEASONAL DIVERSITY
Just before Thanksgiving I excerpted this from the World Congress of Families Update:
What many regard as the nation's first Thanksgiving took place in December 1621 as the religious separatist Pilgrims held a three-day feast to celebrate a bountiful harvest. The day did not become a national holiday until 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving. Later, President Franklin Roosevelt clarified that Thanksgiving should always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month, not on the occasional fifth, to encourage earlier holiday shopping.
Earlier holiday shopping or more
holiday shopping? In Chicago, the ads are telling me that some stores are opening up at 5 AM on Friday after Thanksgiving. (Target stores were offering customers wake-up calls to get them to the store before dawn to open their wallets.) It seems that December has turned from Advent to Ad Event.
I do not remember any of the gifts, seriously, I received from my gandmother on Christmas Eves, delivered to me when I sat on Santa's lap--he always visited us right in the home in person. But there he was, usually a dragooned uncle, behind a Santa Claus mask and the white beard and hair made from a material similar to the cotton balls on the shelf in our bathroom closet. But it was always the fun, and grandma's hearty laughter that was contagious enough to turn the annual event into a merry celebration of Christmas. It was family that mattered, and the hearty laughter of aunts, uncles, great aunts, buckets of cousins--first, second third cousins (yes, once we had to rent a hall it got so crowded) still echo in my ears when I think of some of the gags and gifts meant to poke fun. I wouldn't trade anything for such a gift as these memories have turned out to be.
Even so, it was a fairly secular affair with Santa (I didn't know he was a 4th century bishop!) and his bag of modest gifts. We also had the créche on the mantle, and the old lighted minature church with its snow-dusted spire--inside the church was a music-box that played O Holy Night. Still, we didn't go to Midnight Mass (we were low-church).
But the Santa and gift emphasis long ago swelled and swamped even the word "Christmas" out of most public acknowledgements of what got us here in the first place. So school Christmas concerts have changed into Holiday (get rid of that word, too!) Concerts, or better, Winter or "Jingle Elf" concerts or parades.
Jewish and atheist students, allegedly, were oppressed by "Christmas" music, and the Christian kids in earlier days were in on it. It was "our" music and we were foisting it on the minority.
Well, not exactly. There were a bunch of us Christian kids, too, for whom the music was not always along the lines of our beliefs. In fact, sometimes we opposed the very beliefs expressed in those songs, but we didn't complain about performing them, so why should any one else?
What I mean is that I was a Baptist, and singing Panis Angelicus was really a "Catholic Thing" and the Ave Maria sung every year was not exactly something Mom and Dad whistled in the car after the concert was over. Ave Maria was always sung by the best soprano in the school and some years that happened to be a Jewish girl, to make matters more interesting. But no one complained, parents didn't get upset, kids didn't cry, and we all got along pretty much.
When I see the rolling secular snowball that has grown into a bland, mall-bound, economy-boosting shopping season that can't be named by words suggesting anything more than the mere fact that Planet Earth has tipped away from the sun in the Northern Hemisphere and it might snow if you live up north--it makes me long for the days when we could actually live with the real differences we have, and even feel them more acutely by singing songs not always our own.