Britain To Put CCTV Cameras Inside Private Homes

It's amazing what govt. stoops to once the culture has generally rejected its commitment to religious norms, specifically Christian ones.

"U.S. Nuns Facing Vatican Scrutiny"

That's the headline from the NY Times.

And some are drumming up the word “inquisition.” Gasp! Of course, then you find out that they’re being looked into because some of them are pushing for and teaching things very much out of line with Catholic theology. If you want to reform the Catholic Church then do your part. Be a St. Francis. But if you want to rip out its foundations, lead the flock astray, and fundamentally change its theology, you’ll find very little sympathy from me.

"Flow of stimulus funds still only a trickle"

From an MSNBC story claiming that only "about $53 billion of $479 billion in this year's available stimulus has been disbursed by federal agencies. Probably because it takes a bit of time to print it.

Inflation comments aside, this helps illustrate how much people attribute random govt. interventions to the health of the economy. What evidence is there to support Bush's original "stimulus" with bringing things around? None. Yet so many (Republicans, especially, and me included at the time I'm sorry to say) claimed it worked simply because the economy eventually did turn around. More recently the economy seemed to be picking up, so Obama's plan was hailed as working. But now the latest numbers seem to indicate that it's not doing quite so well. So ... what's going on?

The thing is, these things tend to self-correct pretty quickly on their own, or at least with a few minor adjustments here and there, that is assuming there hasn't already been a whole lot of meddling in the first place (Which there has. It's been building up over many decades but especially over the past ten years). In all the history of governments' attempts to fix economies there isn't much to be positive about. Many claim that FDR brought us out of the Depression. But compared with several past economic depressions that had similar beginnings, the Depression had tons more govt. intervention and endced up lasting 5 times longer. What was better about that? There were many economic downturns in the past but recovery came pretty quick. It wasn't until we had massive govt. intervention in the 30s that we had a Great Depression.

It's also weird that so many of those who decry the apparent greed-increasing-so-called-free-market of today got so upset because of, well, a lack of economic prosperity. Come again? The free-market is encourages greed so what we need is a stable flow of money in the economy that encourages laziness and greed? I was a bit taken aback by a talk I first heard given by Jeffrey Tucker (who, it turns out, is a fantastic teacher) in which he said that a stable economy makes him nervous, whereas he's much more happy about downturns. I'd have to go back to what he said specifically, but apparently it has something to do with the fact that people are much more likely to act irresponsibly and not learn anything with the former but with the latter the economy tends to correct or discard its wayward parts. Fascinating. But no one has this attitude today. If the economy is bad, if people have to start cutting corners and, gasp, perhaps not be able to afford 200+ channels of HDTV, then something's gone horribly wrong! Don't misunderstand me. I realize there are many people who suffer from a bad economy, but with the usual natural turnaround of economies is tends not to be for very long. Trying to make sure no one suffers is a surefire way to make sure everyone does in the end.

Does the govt. have a role in the economy? Of course. At the very basic level we need rule of law. Individuals need enough confidence to take the risks that are needed for things to turn around. But just as with a lack of stable law, so also with improper govt. meddling (as much as it has been for years, long before Obama), no one takes risks, no one takes initiative. People sit back and wait for the govt. to fix everything, to keep things in such a state that we can continue to afford all our entertainment indulgences we've grown to depend on. Have you noticed how many people, departments, companies, investors are waiting and see what the govt. does? What kind of economy is that? It's part of my job to wade through the news every morning and summarize the most imp. articles as a part of a daily brief for the office and if I had a quarter for all the "so-and-so waiting on stimulus funds for such-and-such" articles I'd be a rich man.

It all reminds me of my wife's story about when she was in Africa and traveled into the bush. One of the tribes there had marked out an area for a school they wanted to start, but nothing had been done about it for years. My wife asked them why they hadn't tried to do anything about it for so long. "Oh, we're waiting for a Westerner to come along and give us the money for it." That attitude, rooted in the hearts and minds of an entire culture, is a straight-up economy killer. Now the West seems hell-bent on turning itself into dependency culture too.

(HT Jonah Goldberg and Brian Doherty)

Acton U - Day 2

Today was, by my experience, the better of the two days we've had so far at Acton University. It's always a little difficult to jump right into things on the first day after travelling the entire previous day and while you're still trying to get used to schedules and where classes are.

Out of today's lectures Dr. Morse's were the best I attended. I won't bother recapping things here since you should really give her lectures a listen to (assuming of course they show up on Acton's site later on). I will say, though, that the homosexual marriage debate really emphasizes, first of all, how libertarian the views of Americans have come. We've always been a pragmatic leaning culture, but pragmatism sans any robust religious norms makes for morally dry public debate. As I've said elsewhere, sometimes the most effective arguments we have for discussions of behavior in this country is "eeewwwww!" Secondly, it shows how much we've already given up in the marriage realm. Beginning in '68 with no-fault divorce becoming the norm, marriage was already being redefined by the state. In just a few years it became an overtly private matter. The only reason any one particular marriage is good is because the particular members of the marriage made it so, not because of any understanding of what marriage is.


More later on Tucker's lecture which was excellent.

Little Scott Hahn Repeaters

Twice now, I have gone to events—one was a session of inquiry into Catholic theology, and the other was a study of the various mysteries associated with praying the rosary. The latter was more interesting than I thought it would be since it provided a reasonably comprehensive looks at the relevant events and those specific details that should come right to your mind when you meditate on, say, the annunciation.

That being said, the reason I bring this up is because at each of these events I left feeling like I was stuck at the kid's table. And not just me, but everyone was sort of browbeaten into sitting there. The presenters knew all, and we knew nothing. Questions were answered in a "this is how it is" manner without room for anything but Scott Hahn typology. Apparently Scott Hahn has answered all questions a protestant might have about the Catholic Church. And lo, it came to pass that all hope of having an interesting theological discussion was squashed under the enormous weight of the presenter's vast knowledge of Scott Hahn CDs.

This isn't necessarily a dig at Hahn. He's done a lot for Catholic teaching and instruction. But I do find the focus on his approach (which I doubt very much he would limit himself to) coming from very many lay-Catholic circles a bit stifling.

I'm not entirely sure if this complaint is valid since I'm sitting here trying to describe a feeling I had upon leaving both these sessions, but I think the problem comes down to treating typology like systematic theology. Suddenly the passage in Revelation where St. John sees the Ark of the Covenant and then sees the woman in the pains of childbirth is a kind of "proof text" for Mary being the new ark. And if you don't see it then you're apparently not reading what's clearly there? But the thing is, it's not all that clear. If you think that's a proof text for Mary being the new ark then it seems to me that you don't even understand what typology is ... and you're the instructor for goodness sake!

So while Hahn does a great job of drawing a fuller meaning out of scripture and helping Protestants see the fuller meaning inherent in the text, the incessant focus on typology seems to miss the point a bit. Or perhaps communicate to RCIA instructors that typology is the be-all and end-all of Catholic theology.

Perhaps once I have thought about this some more I'll have some clearer thoughts. I'm just getting a little tired of getting plowed over with pat answers from a Scott Hahn CD every time I have a legitimate theological question. I know there's more to it then what's being said.

"In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Nine"

Those are the words that grace the beginning of the new NH legislation legalizing same-sex marriage. Surreal, no? And it came to pass that in the 5th year of the incumbent D, marriage was naught, for Lynch took it.

Marriage is, I guess, something that governments like to establish for any two people who have the hots for each other. Well, not quite everyone. That would be silly. The law includes a helpful (and weirdly extensive) list of all those who explicitly aren’t allowed to marry:

"457:2 Marriages Prohibited. No person shall marry his or her father, mother, father's brother, father's sister, mother's brother, mother's sister, son, daughter, brother's sister, son's son, son's daughter, daughter's son, daughter's daughter, brother's son, brother's daughter, sister's son, sister's daughter, father's brother's son, father's brother's daughter, mother's brother’s son, mother's brother's daughter, father's sister's son, father's sister's daughter, mother's sister's son, or mother's sister's daughter. No person shall be allowed to be married to more than one person at any given time."
What the hell is this? If we can guarantee no offspring from these sorts of couples (I'd be so grossed out by those birth-defects) why not let 'em have their fun too?

Notice the polygamy bit at the end. Now that is telling. When the first gay marriage laws were enacted it was argued (very pragmatically, I might add) that it would lead to polygamy. That's ridiculous. But then it did lead to polygamy and these later laws suddenly and miraculously include "no polygamy" stipulations. The mere fact that legislators felt the need to include specific prohibitions against marrying your grandkids means there wasn't enough confidence that the culture wouldn't try it.

Logically speaking, of course, there are no good reasons left not to allow it---excepting of course, the new bedrock of American ethics: "eeeeewwww!"

Since the law didn't include language denying the right to marry aliens, pets and other non-humans, it's a safe bet they're still fairly confident that some aspects of this western culture thing will stay safely principled.

My hope from all this is that conservatives (and Christians) will wake up to the reality of all that they've given up over the years. When liberal bloggers at the Huffington Post made snarky comments about how legalizing gay marriage obviously wouldn’t ruin anyone's particular marriage, I thought they were feigning ignorance. But the fact is, by passing no-fault divorce legislation those many years ago, marriage was suddenly not something recognized by the state, but something established by it. The legal difference between marriage before then an after couldn't be more extreme. Suddenly the only reason any individual marriage is anything at all is simply because the individuals within the marriage made it so. There is no "marriage" only "my marriage," and "your marriage," and "their marriage," which of course is a terrible way to define something. In the immortal words of Mitch Hedberg: "**** you, real estate lady. This bedroom has an oven in it! This bedroom has a lot of people sitting around watching TV. This bedroom's over in that guy's house."

At some point conservatives began to argue practically because that's "what works." It seemed to make sense until we started defending our Christian faith on the same grounds. But oddly people thought that made sense too. How did we not see this coming? Oh wait, just answered that. The problem is that arguing in terms of practicality is necessarily subject to the culture in which the argument takes place. If it's a good culture then practical common sense is fine, but if it's an aberrant culture then it's suddenly very reasonable and clear-headed to eat the residents of the next town over.

I’m also mystified about the "religious conscience" language. Obviously no one who voted in favor of the new law thinks Christianity is correct here, or anywhere, really. To them it's a moral matter (as moralistic as secular society gets) to allow gay-marriage. It's a fundamental right born out of a person's fundamental right to, uh ... do ... things (That's the Homer Simpson philosophy of human rights). And it doesn't even apply to everyone since only a minister has the right to refuse to officiate a gay marriage. If a Christian photographer refused his services to a gay couple it would suddenly be the photographer's right as a free businessman against the couple's right to patronize his business. Only it's not even that since apparently the law won't let the photographer refuse. At some point basing everything on individual rights leads to an absurdity. But there's nothing more fundamental than rights! Rights! Rights! Rights!

Why exactly are (some) people allowed their consciences on this one? The NH law says so much more than what is specifically stated: At best Christians, those who believe their faith, are only against gay-marriage because of a misguided commitment to a wrong-headed belief system. But we all need our opiates so we'll allow it, provided that bushel's kept securely on top.

Janeane Garofalo, in her verbal ralphing a couple months ago, said something interesting. Actually, she said several interesting things, one of them being that all those attending the tea parties was racist. That's a very interesting claim. But what I mean to say is that she made an interesting point: there have been no conservatives since Berry Goldwater. Overstated perhaps, but she's got something there since most conservatives I know end up arguing like libertarians. Libertarians with a conscience. Most conservatives feel like there are some kind of moral standards out there, they feel so very strongly, many even feel the Bible does a decent job of outlining many of them, but since they aren't quite sure the meaning behind all that and obviously "freedom" is a trump-all, they seem content with fighting for the right of liberals to piss all over them.

Let's argue on our terms why don't we? And while we're at it, be the principled permanent-things-committed people required for our ideas to make any sense at all.

Religious Schools and Abortion

Apparently a new study finds that private religious school students are more likely to have an abortion than are public school students. Fascinating and very sad. I haven't looked too closely at the validity of the study, but regardless, the fact that it's even close should wake us up to a few things.

It's a good example of how Christians have become soaked with contemporary values, and the fact that the little concessions we make impact our overall ideals and outlooks in a big way.

Far too many people---parents, that is---will be adamantly pro-life, but when push comes to shove in the form of a pregnant daughter they will justify the supposed difficult choice of taking her to the next town over in order to keep her supposed future bright. This happens much more often than most of us think, and it becomes pretty commonplace and entrenched after a generation has grown up with it.

If only Hardy had known ... and Voltaire, and Wells, etc., etc..

Having just picked up a copy of Jude the Obscure I did the nerdy thing and read the introduction. Hardy wrote it some years after the book came out and spends most of his time defending his writing of Jude and the dark themes contained in it. Without having read the entire book yet I'll keep my comments few, but his self-righteous attitude is fascinating given how much we know what happens when marriage law is drastically changed.

Being a progressive of sorts, Hardy complains about the negative reactions to his book and, in accordance with that now tired artistic line, claimed that no one understood what he was trying to do. Only one person, who thought the book wonderful of course, was thought to have actually grasped all the depth contained therein. Everyone else had of course given quite bad reviews of the book, and supposedly there was a bishop somewhere who burned a copy of it. Those silly medieval holdovers.

On the other hand, while complaining about the reactions of those who "didn't understand Jude" he then goes on to admit outright that part of his intention in writing the book was to ruffle a few feathers, arguing for looser marriage laws---no fault divorce, essentially. In other words, those who misunderstood his book actually understood it very well, they just happened to disagree with Hardy's artistic project (indeed, this falls in line very well with the assertion I came across recently that many of the first seeds of artistic moral superiority were sprouting in the late 19th century). And Hardy's view is that in order to understand his writing you'd be of the same mind as he.

It makes one wonder how it’d go if you were given the opportunity to travel back in time and explain to hardy the consequences of his views on divorce.

It finally hits me

Forgive the thickness of my head. I was born with a thick head, not an entirely big one, the latter feature being common with the smart people of the world like, um, G. K. Chesterton. (I have more examples, really, I just don’t feel like making the case for why I put them in that category. Incidentally, did Jesus have a big head? Was he a “smart” guy, as it were?)

The SCOTUS news is what I’m talking about though. When Bush was pushing Alito and Roberts through there was plenty of talk about compassionate and empathetic judges then, too. “They’re not supposed to be compassionate, they’re supposed to be impartial!” says one side; “they’re supposed to understand the plight of the poor, the dispossessed!” says the other, and a great flailing argument ensues.

I remember my brother, during the Roberts/Alito bit, had several conversations with a lawyer friend of his who insisted that the empathy argument had some legs---some pretty decent legs---since we all bring this or that from our experiences, etc., etc.. It’s actually not a bad argument when it’s all fleshed out since, well, cultural issues, identity issues, and so on definitely contribute to the way we think. So the full fledged lefties and those leaning that way are right to include this sympathy bit.

But this is exactly where the debate gets all skewed. What the left means by sympathy is sympathy of a very specific kind.

I do want a sympathetic and empathetic judge. I want someone who sympathizes with the one who has been treated unjustly under the law, no? After all, a person with no feelings is quite illogical. But that’s not what most people mean when they want a sympathetic judge. What they mean is they want someone who is sympathetic to their own understanding of what sympathy is; someone who shares their political and sociological opinions about what makes for the best kind of society. They want someone who has no problem with the notion of legislating those beliefs from the bench (ding!), who agrees with their positions (ding!) and also makes them look pretty sympathetic themselves for picking that particular person (ding again!).

The other problem is the credentials involved. Clearly in the case of Sotomayor it is her empathy; her childhood experience trumps intelligence. You can hate Roberts and Alito, but you can’t deny that they are intellectual powerhouses. Sotomayor, however, is kinda lacking there. So not only is it the liberal nature of her apparent sympathy (or empathy) that’s highly problematic, but it’s also the point at which that empathy starts to kick in as the sole deciding force in making decisions. I daresay that point comes to her long before it would with someone like Roberts, if it ever did.

E's and C's Together Doing ... ?

My brother brought up the matter of evangelicals and Catholics together over on his site. A number of experiences lately had me thinking through the frustrating issue once again.

I've had conversations with a few protestants who liked to talk about "Catholics who were saved." It sounds like a step in the right direction, and it might be, but there's a tone of condescention to it. They are the ones who have bent over backward, gracefully allowing that you really can be Catholic and be saved. In other words, had the Catholics more understanding they'd be protestant.

It's hard to find fault with a Catholic taking offense at this. It's like your brother breaking all ties with the family only to have his grandkids decide years later that they'd found room in their hearts to allow all the other relatives in to their family.

A couple weeks ago a couple guys from St. Brigid invited me to a talk given at another local parish. It was relatively interesting. The oddest thing though was afterward when I bumped into a guy from my church. I was distracted at the time and didn't think much of it until I saw him after church the next Sunday. Turns out he's pretty anti-Catholic and went to that meeting at the behest of some friends of his who had the usual lack-luster passive Catholic upbringing. Naturally they'd rejected that which hardly anyone bothered to explain to them and even fewer probably acted out and only as they got older did they start to think maybe they'd better start taking this Jesus stuff seriously. So they started going back to church at their local parish and this guy was privy to their journy and was attempting to witness to them.

We had a bit of a conversation about the whole thing, and of course certain facts about my family (my brother's catholic) came out and suddenly I had this bizarre upper-hand. Because I had a personal stake in Catholicism being "ok" I could see this guy get very awkward about the whole thing; perhaps concerned that he'd offended me. He suddenly stopped saying things like "they just completely misinterpret such and such" and resorted to finding the one thing he thought Catholics were ok at (they're pious).

I actually like the guy a lot. The fact that he had such strong opinions about Catholicism actually made me appreciate him more than if he'd been all hunky-dory about it. It's one thing to disagree with Catholicism and get all worked up about it. It's a whole other thing to disagree with Catholicism and think it matters not a whit because, well, it does matter. If Catholicism is wrong on some important points then it's pretty serious (it goes the other way too). But the cool thing is that one could have a conversation with this guy and, as you boxed a round or two, actually get somewhere with it because in his mind he was fighting to the death, as it were. The latter type will often, upon finding themselves smacked upside the head with a trenchent point, shrug his shoulders in response, muttering blandly about the mysteries of Christ.

Even if his apparently traditionalistic mindset was thoroughly modern in its theological assumptions, his heart seemed to be in a better place in some way. At least he was choosing a more difficutl path. It's 20 times easier in the modern West to be "the liberal." I could sense it when I was talking with him. I had the upper hand simply because my perspective was the "broader" one. My heart went out to him. I want to ask him to coffee so we can chat.

A month or two before that April and I went to a Catholic event that was advertisd as having something to do with protestants and Catholics together, understanding the differences, all that sort of thing. There were only Catholics at the event and the video that was shown was really something that should have been shown to protestants since it was a protestant minister interviewing a Catholic preist about what Catholicism taught. The priest was a real interesting guy abd came across way cooler than the prot. That's fine and all but I'm not sure anyone in the room really learned anything. Some of the questions at the end made me realize a little more clearly the strange way Catholics will put things sometimes. If E's and C's are going to have a prayer in conversing with each other then the vocab has got to change. One lady kept saying things that would have sent any good protestant running for the hills, and I'm not sure I would have blamed him.

Those experiences make me want to find some way yo do a kind of inter-faith (for lack of a better term) discussion group where E's and C's could interact a bit more and start to work through some things on a reasonable level. How to do that is a problem though.

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