Tuesday, January 27, 2009
UPDATE: American Papist has been following up on this story. Apparently, the Democrats have backed down on the Planned Parenthood subsidies.
MORE: Another dose of rational thought for Nancy from First Things. And another from the Wall Street Journal.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Watching the inauguration yesterday, there was a strong sense of the fulfillment of the civil rights movement of the 1960's. Not that there are no battles left in the war on racism, but there is now clearly a new message about what America is. The message is this: insofar as you cling to racism, you are not American. Americans accept a man on the basis of his credentials and the integrity of his word, not on the basis of his color. That is the American attitude.
Now we turn to a harder war: the civil rights movement of the last three decades. The unborn are in need of that same protection by law and culture. I hope that I will see the day when the message is this: insofar as you disregard the small ones, you are not American. Americans accept a baby because it is human and they support the mother and father because they have been given the gift of life. That is the American attitude.
Here are some thoughts on the uphill battle.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
"The unconscious democracy of America is a very fine thing. It is a true and deep and instinctive assumption of the equality of citizens, which even voting and elections have not destroyed."
Sunday, January 18, 2009
I was surprised to read in the missal this morning that the week of prayer for Christian unity includes prayer for the persecuted Church. I've been following the India massacres a little, and came across this apropos poem from Oscar Wilde. It's rather dramatic, but I can sympathize with the human howl he raises--it seems to be a morally superior response to persecution than a yawn.
ON THE MASSACRE OF THE CHRISTIANS IN BULGARIA
Christ, dost Thou live indeed? or are Thy bones
Still straitened in their rock-hewn sepulchre?
And was Thy Rising only dreamed by her
Whose love of Thee for all her sin atones?
For here the air is horrid with men's groans,
The priests who call upon Thy name are slain,
Dost Thou not hear the bitter wail of pain
From those whose children lie upon the stones?
Come down, O Son of God! incestuous gloom
Curtains the land, and through the starless night
Over Thy Cross a Crescent moon I see!
If Thou in very truth didst burst the tomb
Come down, O Son of Man! and show Thy might
Lest Mahomet be crowned instead of Thee!
Thursday, January 15, 2009
The True satisfies our intellect or reason; the Good satisfies the will; and the Beautiful satisfies the senses or feeling or sensibilities or emotions or heart. To paraphrase Peter Kreeft: We need them. We need them absolutely. And we know we need them absolutely. We want, not some truth, but all truth and without limit. We want all goodness and all beauty, also without limit. They are the three things that satisfy us and with which we are never bored.
It was the understanding of the connection (or, rather, oneness) between Truth, Goodness, and Beauty that helped me to break through that "duty" mentality toward Church or divine law. If there is One who is these three things, then Truth is Beauty is Goodness. The most beautiful thing in the world will be true goodness. The laws of God (which I have come to believe are revealed through Christ) are not tiresome checklists to be fussed over; they show me what it is good to desire, what is beautiful to behold, what is true to contemplate. They satisfy me; they do not tire me. The laws of the One refresh and do not destroy.
John Paul II in the Splendor of Truth said that we must understand this link--the salvation of the world rests on it. We are only free when we can recognize and rejoice in the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.
So, on your next date night (yeah, I'm a dork) or when you're folding the laundry, give a listen to Kreeft. Or take a gander over to the pope's encyclical (hint: include it in your plans for Lent!). Take some time to seek what is truly good, and therefore beautiful beyond words. The demands of truth are simply the demands of our own hearts.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Thursday, January 8, 2009
May choirs of angels welcome him on the far side of the Jordan. He will be greatly missed this side.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Monday, January 5, 2009
Taylor basically summarizes the distinction between doing theology (or philosophy) in order to arrive at truth and simply doing a historical survey of when and where ideas appeared. This distinction is fascinating and is, in large part, why I left the Academy: so many careers and conversations are wholly devoted to the historical particulars that few people get around to asking, "But is it true?" Or they think that question is wholly facetious, a non-question. I wanted to do philosophy so that I could learn to die (ergo, learn to live) well.
That being said, I don't think the distinction finds a simple expression in real academicians. A teacher who longs to know "Is it true?" will also concern herself with the historical situation in which an idea arose--we are historical creatures, after all. And even the history buffs in the philosophy department sometimes make judgments about an idea's truth (in my grad program, most of them had no problem concluding that Thomism was untrue).
The Judeo-Christian tradition gave us the idea of progress in history, and that includes the history of ideas (although many philosophers then had a heyday with progress and made it into a god). So, once again, I'm falling on the "both-and" side of the debate. Because we are finite creatures, our forays into history--a biography of Thomas--can become, from our point of view, an infinitely inexhaustible project. A whole lifetime can be spent on tiny minutiae and historical trivia. We have to know when to stop and ask the bigger questions sometimes. Both-and.
We need historical research and the question "Is it true?" The important point is that our thirst for truth should guide our history; we should do history in order to learn truth. What we must not do is make history and contingency our only truth: all is changing, all is contingent, we can never know, on and on and on...
Sunday, January 4, 2009
The Wise Men
Step softly, under snow or rain,
To find the place where me can pray,
The way is all so very plain
The we may lose the way.
Oh, we have learnt to peer and pore,
On tortured puzzles from our youth,
We know all labrynthine lore,
We are the three Wise Men of yore,
And we know all things but the truth.
We have gone round and round the hill,
And lost the wood among the trees,
And learnt long names for every ill,
And served mad gods, naming still
The Furies and Eumenides.
The gods of violence take the veil
Of visions and philosophy,
The Serpent that brought all men bale,
He bites his own accursed tail,
And calls himself Eternity.
Go humbly... it has hailed and snowed...
With voices low and lanterns lit,
So very simple is the road,
That we may stray from it.
The world grows terrible and white,
And blinding white the breaking day;
We walk bewildered in the light,
For something is too large for sight,
And something much to plain to say.
THe Child that was ere worlds begun --
(... We need but walk a little way ...
We need but see a latch undone...)
The Child that played with moon and sun
Is playing with a little hay.
The house from which the heavens are fed,
The strange old house that is our own,
Where tricks of words are never said,
And Mercy is as plain as bread,
And Honour is as hard as stone.
Go humbly; humble are the skies,
And low and large and fierce the Star,
So very near the Manger lies
That we may travel far.
Hark! Laughter like a lion wakes
To roar to the resounding plain,
And the whole heaven shouts and shakes
For God himself is born again
And we are little children walking
Through the snow and rain.
Thanks to MAGNIFICAT.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
It's a good, level-headed reflection on the irony that it is now the pro-choice contingent that enjoys the status of status quo and its attendant intellectual atrophy and refusal to engage in "meaningful dialogue." Neuhaus knows what he's talking about: he himself was active in the civil rights movement of the 1960's; he can recognize the striking similarities (and some differences) between the struggle for racial equality and for the rights of the unborn.
I wonder especially about his analysis of the two cultures here at war:
"Well yes, the abortion battle is over abortion and whether the unborn child counts as a human person, but where one comes out on that question is, I believe, powerfully influenced by a host of other beliefs and attitudes aptly summarized in the pro-life language of a culture of death versus a culture of life. There are two cultures, one focused on rights and laws and the other on rights and wrongs; one focused on maximizing individual self-expression and the other on reinforcing community and responsibility."
When he puts it that way, I find myself re-calibrating just how we ought to be defending our own "rights"--the right to homeschool, cultivate our land, practice our faith, wear religious emblems, etc. Any battle against injustice cannot just be a matter of "get the government out of my business." That maxim is true ot a certain extent, but we need to cultivate a more nuanced understanding of "my" rights and "my" business; we can't fall on the side of the culture war that focuses on "rights and laws ... maximizing self-expression." The push in any fight, in other words, needs to be for an understanding that our freedom is for a certain purpose: the good of every human being with whom we live. Or else we end up on the wrong side of the culture war. We need a healthier libertarianism, or our light dims; just as so many proponents of civil rights--who fought for a great good--have fallen into an apathetic shrug over abortion rights. Day became night.
I love Neuhaus's final perspective: "[A]ll of us would do well to ponder the wisdom in the observation that there are no permanently lost causes because there are no permanently won causes." That is his conclusion, and what precedes it is worth a read.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Ecce completa sunt, quae praedicta sunt ab Angelo Virgini Mariae.
And I can't resist: Upturned Earth has a thought-provoking post on the role of naivete in moral/political reasoning. It's very appropriate for this time of year, when children are so much on our minds.