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Showing posts with label Yammering Into The Void. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yammering Into The Void. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Just because I don't post Catholic commentary these days...

...doesn't mean I can't refer to other people's.

1. Steve Skojec ruminates on the apocalyptic. And offers some solid advice on prayerful responses. The latter seems especially fruitful, and worth pondering. God knows my own prayer life is best described as "undead" these days. Read both.

With respect to the former, I don't have much to offer. It strikes me as moderate, thoughtful and speculative, with Steve freely admitting the latter.

My only thought is it seems to be in the cultural air, so to speak--"it" being apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic thinking. From people spending hefty sums on the latest survivalist "cottage" to shows about "preppers" to hotcake-sales of young adult fiction (Hunger Games, Divergent, The 100), a discordant chord is chiming through our society right now. We sense that something is really wrong, even as we try to distract ourselves from facing it. Mostly successfully, if not entirely so.

I'm the least capable prognosticator you've ever run across, so I'm not going to begin to speculate, at least not in the religious realm (my exegetical skills being even less trustworthy at this point). To the extent I will venture out on a limb, I am reasonably certain we're past the point of no return, fiscally-speaking. We're an interest rate spike from being unable to service our debt. Not a new dark age, but more of a slow-mo tumbledown, with the related corrosive impacts on the social fabric. Zero-sum gaming begins once the money runs out. That, and the scapegoating. Our progeny will have ample reason to resent us, and wonder why we wasted so much time on bullshit and reality-avoidance.

2. Elliot serves up some weapons-grade snark at Catholic quietism, but there's a deadly serious argument wrapped up in it. Namely, in our post-conciliar age, with its mashup of collegiality and soft ultramontanism, Catholicism is no more than what the Pope and/or your bishop say it is.

Given the irresistible and undeniable power of the episcopacy to do whatever they want with the traditions, disciplines, and “style” of the Church at any time in history, why should I bother clinging to those features from any age in the Church’s life, as if such pesky particulars mattered? The Faith is the thing, the Creed is the thing, the Mass is the thing–not how it’s lived, expressed, or celebrated. What am I, more Catholic than the pope?

Admittedly, this quietist position does not help me resolve the tension created by seeking above all to “empower the laity” in the past half-century or more, but, again, I am a mere worm, and the Church certainly doesn’t need my input. The key to Catholic happiness, apparently, is more than “pay, pray, and obey.” The key to happiness in the Church in our day is not simply to submit, not simply to commit all things to the Lord, but, rather, actively to flout one’s sense of tradition and prudence in order to defend and valorize and “internalize” every aspect of the status quo. Resignation is not enough; celebration is the sign of a Serious Catholic. After all, didn’t Luther criticize the hierarchy and various abuses, and we know how that turned out? The key to happiness in the Church now is to breathe deeply and unflinchingly from the exhaust pipe of the New Evangelization as the hierarchy drives the Catholic Cadillac where God knows it must go. Woe to the man who would lay a finger on God’s anointed one. Just ask St. Athanasius. 

Which is, I think, a--if not the--root of my discontent.

By the way, I recognize the following sorta violates my no-commentary rule, but permit me to answer a question/charge posed to/thrown at me before. Namely, if I fall away, it won't be to sojourn to the weird, illogical faerie realm of sedevacantism, nor to the anomalous-status Society, whose position doesn't really compute, even where I sympathize with layfolk who have gone that route. That, and the repulsive Jew-hatred that permeates some sectors of trad-dom also finds fertile enough soil in both places.

Nor does Orthodoxy persuade--despite my incurable love of things Byzantine. I'll just be...gone, I guess. So much for my earlier bravado.

Such are the twists and turns of life. Your prayers continue to be welcome.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

All at sea.

I recognize that the blog has become painfully self-absorbed, and understand fully if you are sick and tired of it. I sympathize, really. I'd rather be posting about the Byzantine Empire myself. Or the latest Steve Stirling book.

Which I've finished, by the way, and is really well done. The flash-forward ending is a transitional classic, he says obliquely. Later, though.

Yeah, I'm sick and tired of me, and I have to imagine God is, too. Frankly, this has become my way of dealing with the worst case of spiritual chaos I've had since the revelations of the abuse crisis started hitting with wave-like repetition a few years back. Some days, I feel shoved halfway out the door. Today, it's three-quarters.

I think I have isolated the problem, and it involves certitudes. Not mine, obviously. I don't have much in the certainty department these days.

No, rather the problem is the certitude of those who genuinely love the Pope. That the Holy Spirit is clearly on the move. Deacon Greg Kandra posted this on his popular blog, without any framing commentary.

I guess this sort of thing is supposed to be good news now, in the sense of "there is no such thing as bad publicity." The Times is paying attention to us!

Note that the only person quoted is Seattle University's Jesuit president, happy that the more secularized locals think well of him now. Apparently, being one of the zeitgeist's collared batmen wasn't sufficient to win over the lefty locals. I guess his Stuart Smalley moment makes it all worthwhile.

No, I suppose the real reason the essay was posted was that it was, somehow, emblematic of the "Second Look at Catholicism" caused by the Pope.

Which would be fine if, in the essay, there was some evidence for it other than a Land O'Lakes apparatchik's self-esteem boost. Sadly, there is is not.

It is a remarkably nasty piece, so linking to it with silent approval left my jaw dropping. A bitter taste:

It’s long been known that most North American and European Catholics ignore church teachings on gays, contraception and abortion. These teachings range from absurd to unscientific to outright hateful. Without specifically changing the official line, Francis prompted millions of Catholics to give the church a second look when he criticized the hierarchy for being “obsessed” with those issues. Amen, said nearly 70 percent American Catholics who agreed with him in a Quinnipiac poll.

The anecdotal reaction is equally intriguing. “People come up to me all the time on the street or at a restaurant and say things like, ‘I just need to tell someone how much I like this pope of yours,’” said Father Stephen Sundborg, a Jesuit (like Francis) who is president of Seattle University, based in one of the most secular cities in the United States. “Suddenly, it seems O.K. to be a priest out there.”

All of this is by design. Francis is working two broad strategies. The first is aimed at lapsed Catholics, and those who are open to a spiritual life with an intellectual framework. Thus, he dismissed proselytizing as “solemn nonsense,” in a recent interview. “It makes no sense,” he said of the blunt harangues over whose God is better.

The Jesuits have always tried to get people to think for themselves, to arrive at belief through an arduous process. When bishops started telling parishioners that their gay and lesbian siblings were sinners, and that family planning was a grievous wrong, people stopped listening to them — for good reason.

This father of six thanks you for the gut punch. Which are my wife and I: absurd, unscientific or outright hateful? No, really--Get bent, you smug prick.

And, really--the Church had no intellectual framework in the bleak years Before Francis? Waiter, my essay has a Pseud in it--please take it back.

I'd point out the obvious, that Mr. Egan is obsessed with pelvic issues, but apparently this represents an Important Sign. And the home office has said ixnay on that strategy, so there you have it.

On one point, at least, the Era of Francis in America has one point of continuity with pre-Francis times: the desperate craving of American Catholics for validation from non-Catholics. Starting with Rev. Sundborg, but also, apparently, with more grounded members of the church, willing to post screeds like Egan's without a murmur of protest.

Proselytism may be solemn nonsense, but self-flagellation is in, baby.

If I am coming across as out of sorts, it is simply because I am. In the face of mounting personal stresses, the sense that I am one of the Pope’s redheaded stepsons is a burden I never imagined I’d encounter. Not having any money coming in assuredly plays into my mental state these days, but I've been out of kilter since the first faboo interview. Seeing Catholics cite sneering contempt as--I don't know, the Spirit in motion?-- is something I can't begin to process.

More encounters with the Spirit? Stay tuned!

I feel profoundly out of step with other Catholics, so much so that I haven’t taken communion in three weeks. Frankly, it would feel like a lie, even if I was otherwise disposed to receive. It's not getting better.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Being marginalized in the culture war.

This is not directed at the people of good faith who I have spoken with about firearms since Sandy Hook. Hopefully, you know who you are. But I do have to unburden myself, and unfortunately in a burdensomely-verbose manner.

It doesn't matter, but I didn't sleep for shit in the ten days after the Sandy Hook massacre. I was up until at least 1 am every night, trying to distract myself from the horror of the butchery committed by that evil garbage. It's not much, but my wife made sure to send a card to the Newtown priests facing the horror. When I started talking about the issue, I expressed my interest in solutions like smaller magazine capacity, biometric safes and trigger locks and the like. Productive, civil conversations. Or so it seemed.

As it turned out, none of that mattered. The tone changed from one of wanting to prevent another Sandy Hook into a two-months hate against gun ownership in general and NRA members in particular. Solutions fell by the wayside, and de-legitimization began in earnest.

You see, I'm an NRA member. As is my wife. We do not own a Bushmaster, nor any other semi-automatic weapon. However, we collectively own several firearms. Including--as will be set forth below--a completely-legal, bona-fide military weapon currently used by our military right now. Unlike what [damnatio memoriae] used at Newtown.

Nevertheless, because of our membership in Satan's Own Rifles, prominent people of culture hope we get shot. Hope really hard! [Which strikes me as an odd spin on the Hope™ being offered in 2008, but I digress for the first time.]

After all, we sponsored the slaughter--just in time for Christmas.

It didn't stop with mere award-winning novelists and actresses who remain unshunned by polite society. No, the Sons of Morrow nodded sagely, comparing the problem of gun ownership to slavery, Jim Crow and the KKK, and finally--ta-da!--Nazism. The inevitable fraudulent reporting for a good cause followed, and we can no doubt expect more in time.

Support for ethically-questionable carnival barkers with plummy accents also came from respectable soapboxes. Why? Because the barker doesn't show "cultural sensitivity" for the peons. He also doesn't show the good sense God gave cabbage, so I'm actually happy with Piers leading the charge. Forward! Oh, and by the way, Britain is not necessarily less violent than the U.S., despite tightening its gun laws over the past generation.

By the way, having a limey speak for your cause is effective unless you're talking about firearms. Then it conjures up Paul Revere, Redcoats, and buried Francophilia. I can say "Limey," by the way--some of my Dad's family came over from Kent in the late 1800s.

For my money, the Journal-News, a nasty little suburban newspaper in New York, won the prize. It decided to embark on a shame campaign, creating a searchable database of gun owners--legal permit holders, mind you--for all to see. Inaccurate as all hell, it also may have led to burglaries. As they always say, can't make a revolution without breaking a few kulaks.

Finally, President Dronestrike weighed in with an admittedly-decent statement from his speech-writing staff. Unfortunately for those who haven't mentally-suppressed his record, it was the irony equivalent of a heaping bowl of horseradish, bleu cheese and anchovy ice cream.

Far worse than the secular lefties doing what they do was Catholics joining the full court press. Leading with a correspondent of Mark's issuing what he no doubt thought to be a call to reason together. Alas, Mark's left-Catholic correspondent failed to note the juxtaposition of (1) condemning conservative, gun-owning Catholics for caricatures of their well-meaning opponents with (2) a bit of rhetoric two paragraphs later broad-brushing them for indulging in Red Dawn-inspired survivalist fantasies.

Your reality-based-community hard at work.

But that wasn't sufficient. In addition, Mark's Correspondent the went all CDF and questioned the Catholicism of the gun owners he patently dislikes--and apparently fears.

Somehow, it got even better. And by that, I mean much, much worse. In the comment thread, after announcing I was an NRA member and was (then) interested in some kind of solution (like biometric locks), one fellow piped up with Absolute Moral Authority and declared that he worked in the NRA's "dream world": some violent, unnamed inner city.

At that point, I drew back. In this environment, it is apparently necessary to state the obvious, so let me do so--such is not my "dream world." Far from it. I politely excused myself from the conversation, recognizing an unbridgeable gulf. Face slaps will do that.

A well-meaning Catholic I respect declared in a different forum that firearms were like the Ring of Sauron. Which means that firearms are not merely near occasions of sin, but are inherently evil. Thus, I am keeping the weapons equivalent of a stack of Hustlers in the house, which will eventually lead me to do something heinous unless Gollum shows up in time to bite my trigger fingers off.

With that, I realized that that I am up against an irrational response.

What we are dealing with instead is the necessary moral revulsion about massacre being channelled toward a scapegoat--one substituting for the unfortunately-dead trigger-pulling shit. Unfortunately, let's admit the following--not all such revulsion is free from impure motives.

It has been aided and abetted for political ends by the Left, and gladly directed toward a convenient, culture-war scapegoat despised by the same and easily-demonized. Bitter clingers, anyone?

That I can handle. As I said above, it's who the Left are and what they do. They hate guns. Contrary to soothing voices claiming otherwise, pols do want to confiscate firearms. Right, Governor Cuomo? Right, NY Dems? Right, Senator Feinstein? Right, Rep. Muhlbauer? Right, Chief Lansdowne?

What I cannot abide is brothers and sisters in the Faith donning the garb of the Holy Censor, playing the caricature game and leavening it with anathemas.

Like this charming bit of moral bullying in the combox: Gun owners are reluctant about untested technological fixes because their mindset is "I don’t care and I won’t help." Fantastic bit of soul-discernment there, Matty! That must be it.

Or could it be that gun owners are worried about things that might make their tools (because that's what guns are) inoperable when they need them to work? Especially after weeks of being shit on by people who can't conceal their contempt?

Nah. Easier to diagnose the hidden bad faith in the callous pricks you dislike. By the way--spiritual direction might not be your forte', MD.

Or, behold: this invocation of Tom Tomorrow's tired caricature of NRA members as an as-obvious-as-gravity moral trump card that only a fool or a knave could disagree with. I mean, really--my friend Zach Frey is one of the most reasonable people I've ever met. Way more reasonable than me. (Which is actually intended a compliment and not damning-with-faint-praise.) Yet asking the feverishly anti-NRA Ms. Clark to consider an alternative view is irrational, "self-parodying," "made-up crap." Well, I stand refuted. And she has her halo to admire, which, I imagine, is nice.

In the face of this avalanche of OUTRAGE! driven by Absolute Moral Authority™ I am left shaking my head with my arms folded. I have no response when people demand solutions of me: how am I supposed to respond to a rhetorical lynch mob?

It has gone beyond a search for solutions to Sandy Hook. It has become a firestorm of caricatures, marginalization and demonization. Even the children have to be warned away from the Evil I Represent. I decline to validate it, thank you.

If you really want to talk--with good will, and not to posture or advance an agenda, here is my plea: attempt to understand (1) firearms and (2) the Second Amendment.

[As an aside, government officials, please don't send your legislative fist careening toward my tonsils, call it "dialogue," and expect me to sit quietly. Just a thought.]

Let's try this: which beloved cultural icon told the Kansas City Star the following about living by herself?

 [S]he is not afraid to live alone, keeping pistol by screen door and shotgun in her bedroom. "I know how to use them both."

--Laura Ingalls Wilder, in 1955, age 88. Citation: Library of America Edition of The Little House Books (2012), Vol. 2, p. 824.

I don't think she was talking about hunting from the house when she mentioned the firearms.

In other words, there's a long tradition of gun ownership in this country, and you'll find it in the oddest places. Please include studying up on personal firearms--the variety, how they work, etc., as you start weighing in on the subject. So much of the rhetoric flying about is bogglingly ignorant, and almost proudly so. Let me try an analogy: a friend speaks with you about her desire to share the Gospel with Muslims, and says "Could you fact-check me on this? Here's what my studies have revealed about Muslim worship."

Muslims gather together every Wednesday in buildings called 'synagogues.' They bring baskets of flowers which they place before a statue of their god 'Koran,' and proceed to prostrate themselves repeatedly before the statue while a woman recites from 'Muhammad,' their holy book. Oh, and they're kinda nasty.

Where to begin? Besides begging her to study up on Jainism instead?

A lot of the rhetoric surrounding firearms is like that, badly distorted where it isn't laughably false or incomprehensible. So please, please read up. For example, Darwin offers a sound primer on "assault weapons" here.

A lot of what I have been reading suggests that the speaker regards weapons as evil in and of themselves, a death-totem to be avoided with superstitious horror. Hence the Ring analogy. But it's also seen as a "madness" to want to own one. Some of the questions about the need to own a Bushmaster come across a little like Carrie Nation asking why anyone needs to have any alcoholic beverage, much less a variety.

"Why don't you put down the demon rum and have a nice cup of tea instead, dear?"

Frankly, I don't want a Bushmaster. But I know people who own semi-automatic weapons, and they work just the same. Why do they have to have those features/look that way? Well, why don't we start mandating that all high-prestige, high-performance cars (e.g., Corvettes, Ferraris, Benzes, Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Porsches, etc.) sold in the U.S. are required to have Pollockesque hot pink/hunter orange paint jobs and giant unremovable Hello Kitty stickers on the hoods? Why? Well, what social purpose do such vehicles serve? They only guzzle fuel or drive up insurance rates, either through reckless driving or expensive repairs. Q.E.D. Plus, you know--class warfare bonus points.

Which brings me around, at long last, to my war firearm. It's a Mossberg Model 500 12-gauge pump-action shotgun. It looks a lot like the one pictured in the upper right-hand corner of the link. It is absolutely indistinguishable from the one used by our armed forces, with two exceptions: It carries one less shell, and has a different trigger guard. It fires the same projectiles. With one trigger pull, a double-aught buckshot load will discharge 9 projectiles, called pellets, in a cone-shaped dispersal pattern. The Bushmaster only fires one, in a straight line. You want to talk high-capacity magazine? My Mossberg has one, to the tune of 54 projectiles.

Sure, magazine reloads and the like, but the fact remains that my currently-legal shotgun--used by our armed forces--is capable of worse horrors than a Bushmaster. Which is why I--and other gun owners--get worried when other firearms are targeted. Horrific to contemplate, we worry about the reaction if someone misuses our firearm of choice. In my case, I doubt the feigned respect for shooting sports and hunting associated with shotguns would last long.

Finally, please study up on the Second Amendment. It truly isn't about hunting, though that was a presumed corollary. Self-protection, yes--but in a broader sense--protection from tyranny. It's neither fun to think about, nor lightly to be thought about. Nor should one be tossing about the idea that the government is tyrannical at the drop of a hat. Especially when one is unhappy about who happens to head that government.


The Founders were flawed men, but despite being over-represented by Deists, they seemed to have a grip on the idea of Original Sin. They built a system that was meant to restrain and channel the worst impulses, and a handy reminder that they rule only with the consent of the governed is embodied in that Amendment. Sure, that requires inculcation of certain virtues, but it's hardly impossible. More to the point, armed resistance to tyranny has a solid Catholic pedigree. It's not the first resort, I know. Far, far from it. But it's there.

And one last word--the recognition of the individual rights theory (the only credible reading)--turns five years old this year. It was a razor-thin vindication, and it hangs by the health of one justice. Until it gets ingrained, and some level of respect within the bar, gun owners are going to be twitchy. If you think things are unpleasant now, an overturn of Heller would be Roe Redux.

Anyway, this has gone on long enough. I'm exhausted.

In so many ways.

Monday, October 15, 2012

I am converting to Islam.

I am building a giant cybernetic war badger in my basement.

I love the music of Marty Haugen.

I am receiving locutions from Krishna.

I think Obama is the only permissible electoral choice for Catholics in 2012.

I don't think women should ever wear pants or breastfeed in public.

OK--they can do the latter if they're wearing only pants.

Janeway is way better than Kirk and Picard combined.

The Dallas Cowboys are going to win the next three Super Bowls.

Or the Washington Redskins--whichever you hate more.

Yes, that outfit makes your ass look fat.

The best Stooge was Shemp.

Only Anglican orders are valid.

--I mean, seriously--is this thing on? Traffic is allegedly going up, but I'm feeling like a performance artist here.