Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Pope on Marriage

In an audience with members of an international Marian movement, Pope Francis warned that the sacrament of marriage has been reduced to a mere association, and urged participants to be witnesses in a secular world.
“The family is being hit, the family is being struck and the family is being bastardized,” the Pope told those in attendance at the Oct. 25 audience.
He warned against the common view in society that “you can call everything family, right?”
“What is being proposed is not marriage, it's an association. But it's not marriage! It's necessary to say these things very clearly and we have to say it!” Pope Francis stressed.
He lamented that there are so many “new forms” of unions which are “totally destructive and limiting the greatness of the love of marriage.”
Noting that there are many who cohabitate, or are separated or divorced, he explained that the “key” to helping is a pastoral care of “close combat” that assists and patiently accompanies the couple.
Pope Francis offered his words in a question-and-answer format during his audience with members of the Schoenstatt movement, held in celebration of the 100th anniversary of its founding in Germany. 
Roughly 7,500 members of the international Marian and apostolic organization, both lay and clerics from dozens of nations around the world, were present in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall for the audience.
In his answers to questions regarding marriage, Pope Francis explained that contemporary society has “devalued” the sacrament by turning it into a social rite, removing the most essential element, which is union with God.
Courtesy of EWTN.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Has the Pope begun to swerve?

I've mentioned that the Pope's moves at the synod seem a bit off. But this quote, noticed by Father Z, drives home the point (Z's emphasis added):

And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all. 
We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of  their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.
Couple that with the Pope including progressives in his criticisms, and something odd may be happening here - and I'm back to being hopeful.

Father Z's blog is great, by the by.

Yes, Cardinal Kasper's comment was racist

At first, I was on the fence about calling cardinal Kasper's remarks racist. Sure, he said the African bishops should be ignored. Yes, he strongly implied that their taboos are silly and easy to dismiss, whereas our pieties are too important to ignore. But, racist?

That seems to go too far.

The cardinal's remarks were deplorable, sure, but "racist"... it implies something a bit more, doesn't it? Some kind of racial superiority, or a claim of racial inferiority. A marked animus against a race, at least. Kasper's remarks were, at best, about a culture that happens to be drawn along racial lines by happenstance. A nuanced interpretation, but on examination, fair. And shouldn't we try to be fair to the cardinal, regardless of our disagreements?

Well, yes, we should. The problem is that fairness demands we admit - by progressive standards, his remarks were racist. And those are the rules that Kasper plays by, and so clearly wants to use as the yardstick to compare others against.

The problem is that the 'racist' card is thrown around with ease... by one side of the political divide. Remember when disliking Obama was considered racist in and of itself? Sure, sure, you could say that you disliked Obama's policies, but - the narrative went - all that was just a cover for the fact that you just couldn't stand that a black man was in the White House. This was a fairly popular line until right around the time where his popularity tanked - including among the left - to the point where, if disliking Obama meant you were racist, then quite a lot of people on the left side of the political divide must be racist.

And just like that, the standard for 'racism' changed.

If roles were switched around here - if it were cardinal Burke, not Kasper, who talked about ignoring the concerns of African bishops - we'd still be hearing cries about how the Church was no place for racists, and that Burke needed to be ousted altogether. How he was trying to marginalize Africans unfairly, and make a lily white conclave impose its views on poor, downtrodden blacks in Africa. And if ever someone on the right says something akin to what Kasper said, you can guarantee that the 'racist' charge will resurface once again.

It's easy to take what I'm saying here as a call for petty tit-for-tat game-playing - fighting fire with fire - but that's not really the point. The point is that there needs to be consistency with how these terms are used, and consistency demands that we flat out call Kasper's comment racist, and likewise Kasper himself. Just as it demands that we call leftists who dislike Obama, racist.

The alternative is to allow the word to be redefined whenever it's politically useful, deploying it against enemies and soft targets, but holstering it and rolling back to some far more thoughtful definition whenever it would wrap up a political progressive. Better to be consistent in its application - and if consistency means that reasonable or forgivable remarks can be racist, then so be it.

So, cardinal Kasper is a racist. Don't be afraid to say as much.

Wisdom from John C Wright

No matter how funny or odd, you do not laugh at another man's sacred things unless you mean to be his mortal enemy. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Synod's Aftermath

Mostly, I'm impressed that the conservatives in the church are as willing to take the gloves off as they clearly are. I honestly expected, at best, the most passive aggressive sniping on all sides, and I get the impression the more liberal bishops expected much the same. Along the lines of 'homilies where the people they dislike are generally referred to but only in a roundabout way for which there is plausible deniability'.

But no, Kasper in particular was singled out in a 'that guy is not to be trusted' way. Maybe Burke getting his supposed disciplinary transfer made him decide, well, there's nothing much more they can do to him - why play nice?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Did the progressive wing of the Church just shoot down a merciful outreach to gay Christians?

From the Associated Press, with emphasis added:
Rather than considering gays as individuals who had gifts to offer the church, the revised paragraph referred to homosexuality as one of the problems Catholic families have to confront. It said "people with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and delicacy," but repeated church teaching that marriage is only between man and woman. The paragraph failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass.
Two other paragraphs concerning the other hot-button issue at the synod of bishops - whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can receive Communion - also failed to pass. 
The outcome showed a deeply divided church on some of the most pressing issues facing Catholic families.
It appeared that the 118-62 vote on the gay section might have been a protest vote by progressive bishops who refused to back the watered-down wording. The original draft had said gays had gifts to offer the church and that their partnerships, while morally problematic, provided gay couples with "precious" support.
If this really was a "protest vote", then I want to repeat something I've said over and over.

Consider this line: "People with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and delicacy, but Church teaching is that marriage is only between man and women."

That is outreach. That is encouragement without surrender. That would be a much-needed conservative attempt to tell LGB people: look, you are human, we respect you, we want you to be part of our Church. Same-sex sexual acts are sinful, but you are still welcome.

And, it would seem, the progressives have decided that is not allowed. There is no room in their worldview for conservatives who reach out to LGB people without approving, in advance, of their sexual acts.

So my advice? My meager, momentary advice?

That is exactly the sort of conservative all of us should be. When progressives are afraid of even acknowledging your existence, you are doing something right.

One advantage of Mark Shea's perpetual shifting between passive and active aggression...

..Is that sometimes the people he riles are worth riling.

To give some context before you click: the Galations 3:28 Movement contacted Mark in an email. If you're not familiar, G 3:28 is a group of people trying faintly to pretend as if they have any interest in Christ, and manage to take a quote from Saint Paul and twist it into a 'You know what Saint Paul loves? Anal sex and gay marriage!' moment. So one of their representatives fires off this 'teach Christ's REAL message' schtick, and Shea shoots off his reply:
Jesus answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?(Matthew 19:4-5)
The response?
Nice way to twist scripture, bigot.  You know, our side will win. In 40 years Christians will look back on you as a bigoted relic.
From "Jesus loves everyone, help us spread Jesus' message!" to "YOU BIGOT, WE WILL BURY YOU!" in the space of one reply. Mark does know how to set people off.

But what's important here isn't 'Mark got them angry'. It's that momentary slipping of the mask, going from 'This is what Christ teaches, spread our message of peace and love, stop the bigotry!' to furious threatening and anger issues.

And that's one of the problem for Anne S and company. They'll never win, because there is no "winning" for them. Pass gay marriage in every nation in the world, force every Church that opposes it to close down, completely outnumber the opponents with proponents... and they will still be the same. Angry, hateful and furious. Fearful of the future, which is never guaranteed. And crucially, no God to trust in, because God terrifies. The best they have is an idol, and theirs is not an idol they can ever really believe in.

Either way, it's all minor stuff. "Mark Shea pisses off someone who deserves it, news at 11."

Verbose Stoic added to the cluttered blog links sidebar

I like to explain why I add each blog to my sidebar, so let me say a bit about why I check out Verbose Stoic.

For one, he's a thoughtful guy. Probably more "moderate" than yours truly, both in general inclination as well as tone. I have my moments of snarling and ranting - VS tends to always stay cool and calm. He's dialed into gaming issues, and he keeps tabs on the Cult of Gnu (primarily Myers and the Atheist+ sorts), complete with interesting commentary. Commentary that I typically find interesting and valuable, particularly when he talks about (imagine this) stoic outlooks, particularly Christian stoicism, though he tends to be more theologically quiet.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Prophecy of Pharisees

The great left-right war of each side accusing the other of being the REAL pharisees isn't even really underway yet, and already I'm sick of it.

And my patience for a passive-aggressive pope is minimal. I enjoyed seeing him shake off the material excess of the papacy - that sent a good message.

Shaking off the clarity of it? Less so. And I think, unfortunately, we are seeing what happens when a Pope used to praise for his delicate sensibility and mercy has people stand up and criticize him. I've a feeling the mercy for unrepentant atheists and sexually active homosexuals will be sliced to a tenth for 'people upholding orthodox teaching.'

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Jerry Coyne: Scientists lie about science, because they want money from you

You think I'm kidding?

Courtesy of Mike Gene, we have this quote from Jerry Coyne himself talking about how scientists communicate with the public, particularly with regards to science's incompatibility with religion:
This disharmony is a dirty little secret in scientific circles. It is in our personal and professional interest to proclaim that science and religion are perfectly harmonious. After all, we want our grants funded by the government, and our schoolchildren exposed to real science instead of creationism. Liberal religious people have been important allies in our struggle against creationism, and it is not pleasant to alienate them by declaring how we feel. This is why, as a tactical matter, groups such as the National Academy of Sciences claim that religion and science do not conflict.
And as Mike says...
My oh my. Did you catch that? Coyne publicly accused the National Center for Science Education, the National Academies, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science of being liars. According to Coyne, they really agree with him, but for “tactical” reasons, they say otherwise. That would be lying.
Indeed.

So, a simple question. And I ask this as a guy who accepts common descent, evolution, old earth - the whole shebang - and always have.

If someone believed what Coyne is saying here - namely, that numerous groups of scientists are knowingly and explicitly lying about science, 'tactically', because they want money, power and influence... exactly what does that do to the credibility of scientists, scientific organizations, and 'scientific consensus'?

Of course, Coyne could well be wrong about his conspiracy theory. But then, given that he's a very public representative of the Cult of Gnu, I would have expected scientists and scientific organizations to denounce him and his conspiracy talk as anti-science and dishonest.

But the NCSE, the NAS, and others... they've been strangely silent when it comes to criticizing Coyne.

Perhaps it's for tactical reasons, eh?

The Reliable Traditionalists

One worry I have when it comes to things like this synod is that there is this attitude among the liberal elite: that the traditionalists and orthodox can be counted on, at the end of the day, to meekly do whatever they're told. The progressives, they can - and in large part, already have - leave the church if they object to things. But conservatives and orthodox and traditionalists? They're a captive audience, and if the church elite decides to treat them like dirt and pamper defiant progressives, they'll just have to grin and bear it.

The conservatives, the traditionalists - they're supposed to be simple-minded rubes, afraid of upsetting the Holy Father with any sign of disagreement.

Which is why it's encouraging to see the conservatives stand up and show they can engage in a bit of revolt as well.

Would it not be the height of divine humor to see these synods called for the purpose of weakening and liberalizing church teaching, only for the actual result to be not only a re-affirmation of traditional moral teaching, but now armed with a superior - and appropriately merciful - means of communication?

Call it an outside possibility at best, at least insofar as anything is a possibility where God is concerned. But the prospect of progressive clergy subverted into the task of reaffirming the traditionalist mission? It's a nice thought, and I can afford myself a moment's optimism here and there.

Lost in Translation: The Sequel gets five thumbs down

Don't tell me that traditionalists and orthodox Catholics have gotten upset over nothing with the latest from the Synod.

I've defended what I thought and think is the Pope's approach to these issues. I've been behind a new way of communicating. I can accept some amount of gradualism, and certainly some criticism of how conservatives have communicated this.

But no, don't come to me after LGB activists are celebrating and cheering on the Pope, talking openly about how the Church is being co-opted to become more friendly towards gay marriage and same-sex sexual act - not the first time, might I add - and tell me that no, it's because of an ambiguous mistranslation in this part. And do not further suggest that it's the CONSERVATIVES who made this silly misunderstanding, when most of the world seems to have done exactly that.

More than that, if there was a mistranslation - then clarify. As Burke said, it's time for this pope to clearly and unambiguously - if only once - state the moral facts of these matters. There are more people to be concerned about than people who openly oppose natural law and Catholic moral teaching. It is not acceptable to leave them twisting in the wind and feeling betrayed for the sake of making Andrew fucking Sullivan cheerful. And if this Pope and this Synod can't manage that, then they'll be to the church what Pope Leo X was.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Houston mayor pushes a little too much, a little too fast

So much for the attempt to subpoena pastor's sermons, at least for the moment. In case you hadn't heard, the mayor of Houston - called the first openly lesbian mayor to hold office in Houston - had the idea to enforce the city's recent non-discrimination laws by demanding records of area pastors' homilies and sermons. You know, to make sure everything was on the up and up.

Of course, once backlash hits, then suddenly up come the cries of 'Oh goodness, this was never the intent. We would never think to encroach on religious freedom! Furthest thing from our minds.'

How unfortunate it was construed a certain way, says the mayor. Yeah, that was the problem. How it was construed. Not, you know - the content, the attitude behind it.

Progressive Ethics on Display with Prokop

Well, chalk up another attempt at trying to cause me RL harm for what arguments I get into online.

The first time I experienced  this was over at James McGrath's little hate-blog, where one of his regulars - with the silent approval of McGrath himself - started to awkwardly drop hints about what he was convinced my RL self was, saying how maybe 'my employers' would be interested in knowing about the views I share online, and how I'd best keep my mouth shut if I at all care about such things. McGrath, meanwhile, let that go on because I denied they had my RL details, and he 'thought that settled the matter.'

McGrath also, prior to this, started to opine how he wish people could get some RL ramifications for what they say online, as he think it'd do a fine job of people people civil.

Fast-forward to today, where I was continuing a conversation with Karl Grant over at Victor Reppert's blog. Not exactly a pleasant conversation - there was namecalling on Karl's side, and a heavy dose of animosity on mine. When suddenly Bob Prokop decides to speak up, announcing what he thought was my RL name to everyone.

No context. No prompting. Just suddenly the equivalent of, 'Crude's RL name is (x)!'

Surprise - Bob's not exactly smart, and he misread a comment on my blog, mistakenly thinking my RL name had been mentioned. Naturally, the first thing he does with this information is drop it in the middle of a conversation, and when someone corrects him, fumblingly mention how it was a mistake but, darnit, he thinks everyone would be so much more POLITE if their RL details were shared.

Without going further, let me clearly state: of all the shit I've had thrown my way, I consider this sort of thing the absolute lowest. That, ladies and gentlemen, is called doxing. It's nasty, reprehensible shit, something I do not engage in with even Cultists of Gnu. The closest I came to it was outing Blue Devil Knight's sockpuppet fake-Christian alt, and even then, I only outed his known comment handle. Even with Cultists of Gnu I find reprehensible, I've never dabbled in that, because I find it tremendously foul.

It should come as no surprise that Bob Prokop is, of course, a progressive. A nice little 'Gosh I am just so happy to live in the bluest of the blue states because God and the DNC are basically operating hand in hand in my lunatic world' sort.

I write all this, to a degree, to communicate a lesson. If I seem uniquely animated when I talk about progressives, just as I tend to be when talking about the Cult of Gnu, it isn't because of their mere opinions. I have little ire for someone on account of their believing God does not exist, their lack of belief in God, their belief that the world would be better with this safety net for people, and so on. It's their attitude, their behavior, their general irrationality, and in particular the shit they'll pull when dealing with someone they disagree with.

The funny thing is? The last time I had a conversation with Bob - where I was stone-facedly arguing against him, pointing out inconsistencies in his position - he announced that he no longer wanted to discuss politics. My response? I said, 'Alright' and dropped it on the spot. I was willing to bury the whole thing, without so much as a last word given on my part, out of civility, and yes, some amount of mercy. I largely considered Bob to be a sad specimen, a loyal political party lifer who had grown disillusioned as the progressive movement rose around him, no longer permitting his sort to be anything but an open pro-abortion, pro-gay-marriage traitor to his Church. I had sympathy for him.

His response is to try and dox me at the first opportunity.

If ever you wonder, 'Gee Crude, why is it you'll talk with atheists, mormons, hindus, pagans, scientologists, muslims, jews, anarchists and more with default civility, but the moment you catch wind that someone is a progressive or they're big fans of Dawkins, your respect for them goes in the toilet?', consider this a small piece of additional evidence for the pile I've accumulated over the years.

In very extreme cases, I believe in what amounts to political profiling - you can tell you're dealing with a rat-virtued person by the political movements they align themselves with.

Edit: Bob Prokop is saying that he had no intention of trying to out me. I find the timing, and the context, pretty suspicious. But I also have a hunch that I went too fast on this one - so I'm backing off and withdrawing the accusation. I'm also keeping the post up as a reminder to remain civil when I deal with bullshit like this.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sympathy for a Racist

I think the very idea of being kind and forgiving towards a racist - particularly a, for lack of a better term, 'still practicing' racist - is hard to swallow, precisely because "racist" is at this point universally condemned throughout our culture, or at least close to it. If you're a 'proud racist', chances are you are way, way out on the fringes of society.

Now, here's what's interesting to me. I can find Christians who approve of treating abortionists and abortion procurers (male and female alike) with love and respect, welcoming them, and certainly not condemning them for their sins in any overt way. Adulterers? Same deal. Polygamist? Yep. Atheists? Sure. Wiccans? You bet. The list goes on.

But a racist? I've never encountered someone saying, 'Even if you're a racist, we love you and respect you and want you to be part of our parish.'

So, here's the Biblical thought for the night.

Everyone knows the parable of the good samaritan. Less appreciated is the fact that - pardon my bluntness - samaritans were assholes. According to the wikipedia, we're talking full-blown 'desecrating a jewish altar', mutual hatred level interactions. It's not like the Samaritans were tender hearted people from an ethnic minority that was overwhelmingly nice but, gosh darnit, people just irrationally disliked them. These were ideological opponents - people who had beliefs others found repugnant.

So, to get right to the point: it makes perfect sense to cast a racist in the Good Samaritan role. Other examples abound, but the racist would work.

At the same time, I think this would make most people's heads explode.

So, without further ado...

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A liberal happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a conservative, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a racist, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two hundred dollars[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
[c] Denarii changed to two hundred dollars, because no one knows what denarii are.

Banned by Mark Shea

It will come as absolutely no surprise that I made the Mark Shea shitlist. Not sure when, but it happened.

I see Mark is continuing to do what he does best: namely mocking absolutely everyone who disagrees with him, perpetually freaking out, and when someone criticizes him harshly, he whips out a 'God bless you'.

Because nothing says 'faithful Christian' quite like using 'God bless you' as a stand in for 'Fuck you.'

Is there a place in the Christian community for racists?

There's an approach to responding to questions of Christian tolerance towards LGB people that, on the surface, works great to gauge how serious a given proponent is. I'm talking here about the proponent who says that yes, same-sex sexual acts are a sin, yes gay marriages are wrong, but we have to be a bit gradualist and meet sinful people halfway and we shouldn't criticize them even if they're in a same-sex relationship, or unmarried men and women living together in sexual relationships, etc.

Straightforwardly, it's this: any tolerance extended towards such people must be equivalent to the tolerance extended towards a racist. And I don't mean 'doesn't think they're racist but says things a crazier progressive would interpret through a racism-creating lens', but full-blown 'thinks one race is superior to all the others, or one race is inferior to the others' racism. Awkward racism.

If a person thinks there is no place in the church, or no place in the community, for the racist - but they think that there must be a place for the currently active adulterer or person engaging in same-sex sexual acts, then they're easily written off as inconsistent and insincere. This can be extended to other sins, from out and out misogyny to economic greed to otherwise.

It may sound like I'm laying out a reductio here, a 'this is why we can't be tolerate of these and those people' attempt, but the fact is that's not true. I actually would be entirely on-board with this sort of thing, and I think being consistent about it across the board - being tolerant not just of the currently popular sins, but also the unpopular ones - is the best way to encourage a proper attitude towards all sinners, myself included.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Family Synod and LGB Outreach

Pardon me if I continue to take a 'wait and see' approach with the developments of the Church synod.

I feel no need to defend everything coming out of it - and I'm already on record as regarding Cardinal Kasper to be a pretty obvious quisling who I trust about as far as I can throw. I am not so naive as to lack awareness that progressives are absolutely enamored with being "subversive", and that they dive for double-talk to advance their agendas whenever possible. They manipulated and abused Vatican II, and they're hoping for another go at that kind of damage-doing.

At the same time, I am not going to panic at every suggestion that there should be a new way of communicating church teaching to a casually sinful public. I think social conservatives have largely done a bad job on this front (with some high points, admittedly), and a need for a new approach - not a new teaching, but new approach - is in order. Moves like this come with risks, but refusing to move has risks associated with it as well. So it's not like I'm in the camp where people are insisting that the only thing the Church should do is repeat what we all know, in the exact same way we've said it before, and act like that's all we can do.

So when I see the document talking about valuing the contributions homosexuals can make to the Church, I just shrug - sure they can make contributions. Sex ain't one of those contributions, but that's also (contra the LGB jackboots) not necessarily a central part of a gay person's existence anyway. Can something 'good' be found in a same-sex relationship? Yeah, I suppose, in the same way that something good can come from the relationship a guy has with the girlfriend he beats on a regular basis. He may well be supportive of her, nice and a genuinely good guy the 75% of the time where he's not drinking or knocking her around. It's not letting him off the hook the 25% of the time, but good is good.

I'm probably not wording things the way Kasper would prefer, but I really do not care.

The point is that, while I'm obviously waiting for the other shoe to drop, I'm actually willing to go along with a certain amount of olive-branch-extending. In fact, that's not me making a concession - I believe this anyway. There is - there truly is - good to be found in bad, even perverse relationships at times, and I don't need to ignore or forgive the bad to recognize as much. On the flipside, there's also BAD to be found in such relationships, and no amount of good can change that. Sin is sin, and you can't barter your way out of that.

I also admit, I realize that nothing short of a total capitulation is going to please the progressives anyway, so in a way some of this is moot. Try telling a progressive that as a Catholic you think there can be some positive aspects to a same-sex relationship, except all the sex is sinful and of course the whole thing can never rise to the level of sanctity that a traditional marriage can. Let me know how happy they are, except you won't be able to because you'll be too busy dealing with them trying to get you fired for your hate speech.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Between a rock and a hard place

On the one hand, I'm in agreement - and I said this before the Pope's election - with the idea that the communication of orthodox teaching on various sins, particularly sexual ones, could be done better than it currently is. I think the orthodox response, in terms of rhetoric, has been pretty abysmal for a long time.

On the other hand, I realize that 'we have to change our tone' is a pretty common progressive trojan horse. Whereas I think it means treating people more civilly, more reasonably, other people try to rework it into 'Make active unrepentant homosexuals feel welcome at your church! Hug them and apologize to them on behalf of all Christianity for what are largely imaginary sins! Say that the REAL crime of abortion is that the middle class 27 year old who's gotten one three times to cover adulterous affairs isn't treated with enough respect!' Those are rotten people, and yes, they really do exist.

So it's a great Catch-22. Adjust your tone, and embolden dishonest, progressive shits. Refuse to adjust your tone, and continue to communicate poorly. Charting the proper course between these two extremes isn't easy, but if it's necessary, what else can you do but try?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Secular Values Do Not Exist

The rallying cry that only secular laws should govern men, and that only secular reasons should be behind those laws, is complicated by there being no secular reasons to begin with.

Or rather, if there are secular reasons - if ultimately a secular reason is just any reason that is not rooted in the commands of a deity or of a "religion" (whatever that is anymore) - then the rule is useless, because it's trivial to take any given reason that is normally rooted in God's existence, God's commands, or the commands of a religion, lop off the parts that are invalid, and simply substitute 'that's just what I like' or 'that's what I value' in its place. All of your religious views about what is right and wrong can become 'secular' in a heartbeat - and without sacrificing an iota of your religious beliefs, no less.

This is short, simple, and straightforward - and also, I'm convinced, inescapable. But I think it's an idea that has yet to sink into the awareness of the religious populace at large, at least in the West. At least part of this is probably rooted in the old idea of Athens versus Jerusalem - that there is faith over here, and reason over there, and while they may run parallel at times, they are not the same thing, and at least in some fundamental sense they are at war with each other. If you have 'faith', whatever that is, then you are in Jerusalem - not Athens.

I've never been on board with that idea, but recently I've come to reject it entirely. It's a false contrast.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Quick Synod Criticism

Courtesy of Catholic Culture we get this snip from Cardinal Baldisseri:
We are all aware that in freedom fraternal communion grows, discussion is enriched and the most appropriate pastoral choices regarding the family are singled out,” he continued. In fact, it is important for a person to express himself without fear or suspicion. Feeling free to express what is believed or what it is doubtful shows what distinguishes a human being from other creatures and makes him a responsible person before God and men.
 Some fast comments.

1: No, we're not all aware. This sounds like a nice ideal to hold, but it's not like this is known, especially with something as vague as 'freedom'. What's he talking about?

2: Ah, right. 'Freedom for a person to express himself without fear or suspicion.' Well, no. Not always. Once again, ideally, but frankly some people deserve to be feared or be regarded with suspicion. Maybe the Cardinal means freedom for someone loyal to the Church and its teachings, but in that case, he needs to say that. Freedom for complete bullshitters to talk with no one pointing out that they are, in fact, bullshitters is a bad move.

3: 'Distinguishes a human being from other creatures'? Again - what is the Cardinal talking about? Was this just mistranslated? I'm pretty sure what distinguishes humans from dogs isn't the fact that dogs don't 'feel free' to 'express their beliefs'.

There's nothing of major depth here, I just saw this and - in my unusual irritation today - wanted to point out the obvious. It's like being told that what makes Sarah Lee brand cupcakes taste good is the fact that they're made in a country that recognizes all men have the right to bear arms. I favor 2nd amendments rights too, but come on, what the hell? Enough of this.

Exorcising Kasper

When Cardinal Kasper's response to criticism of his suggested policies is to run in front of the cameras and say 'they're trying to attack the pope through me!', he has laid his cards on the table: his concern is not truth, not doctrine and not mercy.

It's politics.  He's trying to please a crowd, a constituency. He hopes that by making it sound as if his critics are really aiming for the pope, that he can shield his ideas from criticism. And that is the moment I decide that he is simply the latest poor example of a cardinal, of which the church historically has many, many examples.

Pardon my bluntness, but to hell with Kasper. The Church needs to show mercy to repentant sinners, of which I am one. But Kasper is not the man for the job, nor are his ideas suited to the task.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

It's largely progressive priests, not the laity, who want moral rules relaxed in the Church

While there's no shortage of progressive Christians who would love for the Catholic Church to change its teachings on all things sexual - they would see it as their successively forcing the capitulation of an old enemy - I don't think it's the laity who are clamoring for such change.

The laity who think the rules are wrong already do whatever they damn well please, and will continue to do so regardless of Church teaching. It's the progressive priests, I suspect, who really want things changed. They do not want to be associated with politically and socially unpopular positions, but being openly defiant in the Church is a good way to get defrocked and immediately lose authority, few would do even on principle. So, they hope for the next best thing: muddy the teachings so at the very least they don't have to talk about these or those sins, and can more robustly hint that they themselves reject them.

I suspect Cardinal Kasper doesn't want mercy for divorced and remarried Catholics. He wants mercy for himself. He doesn't have it in him to talk frankly about these issues, and explain why a given sin is a sin, but at the same time he wants to retain the authority he has in the church.

I doubt he is alone in that.

God and happiness

If there's happiness to be found in Christianity, at least in this life, it's largely because we make an effort to be pleased by what God commands of us, what our final ends are as rational creatures. It's not because God is under some obligation to make us happy, and the fact that God got up on a cross and allowed Himself to be crucified does as good a job as anything can in showing how much priority "happiness" has.

On the flipside, Christianity is not a miserable religion. You are encouraged to be happy, very happy. Happiness is -good-. But here's the trick: *happiness* is a state. The state is fine, even commendable, in Christianity. *Doing some thing that makes you happy* is an act. Acts vary, and not every act is commendable. The difference is important.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

On What Christians and Theists Need

More and more I'm convinced of this: what Christians and Theists need first and foremost in the modern world is pride and confidence. Good arguments, persuasive rhetoric, philosophical and metaphysical knowledge, scientific understanding - these are all well and good, but they come second. If you do not have some pride in confidence in yourself as a thinker - if you do not think you have a natural and inviolable right to come to conclusions and provisionally hold opinions based on your understanding (or even lack of understanding) of the evidence and arguments you've evaluated -you're dead in the water. All the arguments and clear thinking in the world won't help anyone if you're too nervous, shy, or irrationally ashamed to hold to them when it's time to do so.

On empirically demonstrating sin

A semi-recent schtick with the whole same-sex marriage/sex debate is that the Bible is not inerrant, and thus any and all teaching about the sinfulness of same-sex marriage/sexual behavior must go out the window. Instead, whether or not these things are a sin must be determined by "empirical research" - namely, either these things are shown to be harmful, or it's not a sin. Note that this claim is coming from proclaimed Christian quarters, typically "progressive", along with the insistence that God would never give arbitrary commands, etc.

There's a lot wrong with this. The very claim that the Bible is not inerrant, or even so errant that we can't trust the moral teachings. The idea that God would never give a command that we disagree with or don't understand. The idea that God only commands things that make us happy or benefit us empirically. Perhaps worst of all, the reliance on sociological and psychological studies as 'empirical evidence'.

For now, I just want to point out something I've noted in the past: notice that the 'The Bible's not inerrant, therefore we have to throw out this teaching!' never gets much play for the commandments, or even the mere inferences, people actually *like*. Admonishments to give to the poor, to turn the other cheek, to be forgiving, to do this or that - the very act of questioning the validity of these commandments 'because we don't believe the Bible is inerrant' doesn't seem to register. No, of COURSE God would command us to do this or that, and the Bible's being inerrant doesn't matter because... well, we can just feel this is what God would do.

Now, I find the idea of determining the sinfulness of general actions by looking at statistical data from the softest of the soft science to be insane. I think metaphysics, philosophy and other areas are king here. But, I do have a simple challenge for anyone who plays the 'empirical study determines sinfulness' card.

It's simply this: tell me that if I or others think that the empirical data determines same-sex marriage - or same-sex sexual acts - to be sinful, that it provides justification (if only for those who agree) to treat such things as sins.

If I look at the open marriage rates of same-sex couples, if I look at the suicide rates, the psychological profiles... if I use what I regard as reasonable 'empirical' metrics for these things and it looks like it turns out to be 'sin' after all, then I and others who agree with me have shored up, in some way and to some degree, the view that these things are sinful.

I ask this, because I have a suspicion: this possibility, like the possibility that the errant Bible does NOT teach Christians to be generous, or kind, or turn the other cheek, or this or that, is not accepted. It isn't a "live option". The demand for empirical evidence is purely a formality, because what the empirical evidence shows or can show has in advance been decided upon. But intellectual honesty and consistency demands the possibility of being wrong on the empirical front - and disagreeing about what the empirical evidence shows is damn common.

To bite this bullet would be to open up the possibility of these things being 'non-sinful' by that metric, only at the cost of likewise opening up yet another route for people who think such things are sinful to defend their view through.

But to try and argue that the empirical evidence only points one decisive way in the flimsiest quasi-scientific fields would be an obvious joke, and yet more evidence of insincerity. The critics of same-sex marriage and same-sex sexual behavior can deal with disagreement on this front far better than their opponents.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Desecrating the Altar of Nice

I am not a particularly nice person.

Not exactly a surprise to most people who've seen me discuss things, I'm sure. If someone gets on my bad side in an argument, "aggressive" is about the most gentle tone I'm likely to deploy.

I've told people to fuck off before. I've questioned their intelligence, I've mocked them for their mistakes, and I'll cut off conversation if someone comes across to me as dishonest, if they seem unworthy of a civilized discussion. Usually I do these things with people who have their own asshole traits on display, some of which may even exceed my own - Cultists of Gnu are able to manage this reliably, to the shock of no one, but it would be dishonest to say I snarl only at the Cogs. I've told off classical theists, conservatives, "progressives" and more.

What I don't do, however, is bullshit.

If I tell someone off and call them dishonest, and therefore I don't find them worth an extended interaction with - I'm not digging around looking for the magic words to say that will rile them up the most, or make them look bad. I'm simply dropping formalities and being direct. Likewise if I call someone stupid - that's not a mere barb, that's me deciding that there's no point holding out hope anymore that I'm dealing with an intelligent individual, and this plain evaluation of their capabilities usually is directed at people who mistakenly believe themselves to be very smart indeed. On the flipside, I don't tell people who I think are dishonest that I also think they're stupid unless I really believe that about them - and more often than not, the worst I can say about dishonest people is they aren't quite as good at bullshitting as they believe.

Important to realize here is that even when I flip someone off, I generally am not acting hastily and out of anger. It usually means I've evaluated the situation, I've reached a limit for this, that or the other thing, and now the tone of correspondence is about to change because the previous way simply was not sustainable or worthwhile. This goes in both directions, by the by - I've snarled at people who turned out to be quite decent, and I adjusted myself accordingly. Others shaped up. Others were civil and even friendly to me, and then did something which set me off, and I changed tone decisively as a result.

Being "not nice" doesn't mean "being unfair" or "not being friendly at times, even often".

Part of this is because I'm not interested in the modern kabuki theatre where I think someone is deceitful, but I'm worried that people will think lesser of me if I come out and SAY that, so I hold my tongue and try to trip them up in circuitous ways all while feigning civility and friendliness like some kind of wannabe aristocrat. I don't care what people think of me in the main.

I think this kind of 'let's be nice' attitude too often leads to rewarding the most obviously full-of-shit among us - people who spin words, twist knives, and generally behave irritatingly, but in that technically 'polite' way that serves as a shield for their being called out. Conversations with these people devolve into concern trolling, and generally 'being a prick but in an indirect way in the hopes of provoking'. I prefer to skip the formalities and tell someone what I think of them bluntly when it's warranted.

Worse, I think 'being nice' is all too often related to 'being politically correct', which I consider a kind of cultural poison. It's not 'nice' to talk about various cultural realities, even in a conversation broadly covering those exact topics. If we're discussing LGB rights and culture, it's not 'nice' to talk about sexual habits bluntly, moral failings, and for God's sake certainly not disease outbreaks. If we're "having a conversation about race", then everything from crime rates to negative views of culture to (again, for God's sake) standardized test results is also not "nice". This is a shifting battlefield many times, with various sides trying to out-nice and out-accuse-others of not being nice, presumably because some people out there will punish the person who is collectively judged to be The Least Nice.

Not a game I wish to play, ladies and gentlemen. Nor is it one I can recommend. I don't endorse just plain being an asshole unprovoked, but I likewise do not endorse maintaining a civil conversation with people you sincerely think don't merit one, or letting someone you're quite sure is full of shit continuing to talk as if they were, in fact, utterly sincere and not yanking your chain, pushing your buttons, or the like. I suspect that if everyone were a little less "nice", we'd actually make headway on a host of problems.

At least after the fistfights stopped.