Archive for the ‘Notes to a Friend’ Category.

Decadence

Anyone who has a large family—and I say this as someone who only has three kids, so I’m not holding myself up as an example—is in a certain way working against decadence. Anyone who takes up a religious vocation is working against decadence.

Then in the secular realm, I think you can imagine out of the currents of right-wing populism in the West a more communitarian conservative politics that might get us out of the “Reagan versus McGovern” trap we’re stuck in. I’m pretty pessimistic about that coming to fruition, but it’s certainly not impossible. And the fact that people are willing to vote for Trump suggests that they are willing to consider very strange alternatives to the status quo. You have to find at least slivers of optimism in that.

Then on the technological front, my basic view is if Silicon Valley succeeds in extending our lifespans by twenty years and we spend those lifespans wearing a VR headset, then Silicon Valley is plunging us deeper into decadence. But if Elon Musk actually succeeds in kickstarting a transportation revolution or putting human beings on Mars, then Silicon Valley will have been the place that started us on the path out of decadence.

The Fare Forward Interview with Ross Douthat

The doctor paused. She checked for a heartbeat. The injection hadn’t worked. He should have died, but instead his heart raced. A twitch of the leg confirmed that life still ran through his veins—innocent blood. He hadn’t tortured or raped Alicia Elmore. He hadn’t killed Delores Wells. He was innocent. But the law didn’t care. He received all the due process the law required. He must die.

First a leg. He recoiled from the doctor’s sterile grasp. But like Benefiel’s victims, he had no escape. The forceps closed. Pulled. Twisted. Relaxed. Next, an arm. Another arm. The torso stuck. Pop. The neck had snapped. Death came with one of the passes. The unborn boy, 21 weeks old, bled to death.

Every year approximately 10,000 unborn babies in the United States die this way, innocent blood spilled in the name of reproductive freedom. Of these victims, the press remains silent. Instead, on New Year’s Eve, The New York Times editorial board condemned capital punishment, calling for its abolition.

The editorial board supported its case with prose more fitting a Wallace Stegner novel, describing the impending death of a more sympathetic murderer, Alva Campbell, as “pathetic,” “vile,” “macabre,” “savage,” “racially biased,” and “pointless punishment.” Of Campbell’s victim, we learn only that Campbell killed the teenager named Charles Dials during a carjacking—because to The New York Times, Campbell is the true victim.

It’s Campbell who needs comforting. Campbell, a 69-year-old, who struggles to breathe. Campbell, who suffered for 80 minutes while doctors attempted to find a vein in which to administer the lethal injection. This portrait serves The New York Times’ goal of demonstrating “[c]apital punishment deserves a quick death.” While Campbell would have only been the 24th person executed last year, “The number should be zero,” according to the editorial board.

. . .

Now for the innocent victims of abortion. According to both pro-life and pro-choice organizations, only seven nations allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, about the time children can survive outside the womb. These countries that still allow abortion after that time include: Canada, China, Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam.

Also, while the number of executions in the United States consistently remain below 100 per year, statistics from 2016 from the Guttmacher Institute indicate doctors killed more than 10,000 unborn babies who were 21 weeks old or older. Dismemberment abortions are the physicians’ preferred method.

If international norms should tell, the United States should join the rest of the developed world and agree to reject this cruel and pointless practice. But no. Not long ago, The New York Times editorial board condemned the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy, writing: “Of course, the bill is not really about scientific findings of any sort. It is simply another attempt by conservative Republicans to undercut women’s constitutionally protected reproductive rights.”

The New York Times’ Selective Outrage About Murder Victims Will Sicken You

They should hand out awards for hypocrisy, preening, and lack of self-awareness.

On Golden Globes night, Hollywood preened in front of its black mirror as usual, but the degree to which it was blind to what was obvious to all observers was stranger than ever. It was like that time the pear-shaped Homer Simpson looked at his reflection and saw a torso rippling with musculature.

. . .

In short, when caught up in its most disturbing scandal since (at least) the Communist era, Hollywood’s rebuttal is exactly what Weinstein’s was: But we’re liberal! It may not be the case that liberalism and sexual abuse are linked — though nearly all of the men caught up in the pervnado in the last 90 days are strongly identified with the Left. But it is certainly the case that impeccable liberal and Democratic-party credentials did nothing to save Hollywood from a decades-long regime of sexual tyranny. What’s wrong with the entertainment industry won’t be cured by the quack remedies of Oprah Winfrey.

About That Golden Globes Fiasco

Abortion is a Holocaust

Ozymandias

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Catholicism and Secularism and Nostaligia


Jim Caviezel Inspiring Testimony | new | Chicago SLS18 surprise

Is a Christian cakemaker required to make a custom cake for a same-sex wedding, in violation of his religious beliefs? That is the issue in a case currently before the US Supreme Court. The case looks like yet another major clash between the forces of secular progressive liberalism and their Christian targets. And yet some Christians are so optimistic as to hope for a truce. For instance, the New York Times’ Ross Douthat has appealed to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who as so often will almost certainly cast the deciding vote. Despite Kennedy’s record – he composed the 2015 Obergefell decision which divined a right of same-sex marriage in the Constitution – Douthat hopes that the judge will vote to protect the baker, and so bring about some peace, of uncertain duration, between liberalism and Christianity.

In so doing, Douthat illustrates a pervasive tendency among Catholic intellectuals today: the temptation of nostalgia. He casts a wistful glance backwards, to a time in which secular progressive liberalism and what he calls “religious conservatism” peacefully coexisted. When exactly? One candidate is the period just before the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision, but it seems likely that by 2014 it was already too late to disband the competing forces. A better candidate is 1950-70, which Douthat believes future historians will identify as the glorious peak of the American polity. Douthat is slightly coy about whether he thinks these future historians will be correct, but it is clear that he thinks something went very wrong in American life in the 1970s, and that Hugh Hefner played an important role. One can see why 1950-1970 would appeal to a certain strain of traditional Catholic. The immediate postwar period was a time in which Catholics peacefully coexisted with the liberal Imperium, and indeed became increasingly integrated into it, helping to elect a quasi-Catholic President. Anthony Kennedy is no John F Kennedy, as it were, but in Douthat’s view “you appeal to the emperor you have.”

. . .

Why are self-described “trad” Catholics prone to nostalgia? The typical mistake is to conflate the traditions of the Church with the traditions of the broader society. These are very different things; the Church is an ark afloat on a dangerous sea, which preserves its own internal traditions in part with walls that prevent it from being deluged by secular practices and mores. 1 Peter thus connects Catholic rootlessness and homelessness with a rejection of human political traditions, enjoining Catholics to “live out the time of your exile here in reverent awe, for you know that the price of your ransom from the futile way of life handed down from your ancestors was paid, not in anything perishable like silver or gold, but in precious blood …” Catholicism is not Burkeanism. Because Catholics are exiled in the world, they can ultimately have no attachment to man’s places and traditions, including political traditions. They can have no final affection for the misty English landscape that always stands just behind Scruton’s prose, for Reno’s polite distinction of liberal tradition and liberal creed, for the bipartisan fedora-hatted governance of Douthat’s postwar golden age, or even for Ahmari’s era of the triumph (albeit short-lived) of liberal democratic freedom after 1989.

As secular liberalism attacks the Church, Catholics can’t afford to be nostalgic

I am going to risk a prediction: 2018 will be the year we see an end to the fighting over Amoris Laetitia.

This might seem rather presumptuous, given that just this week five bishops have underscored the Church’s traditional teaching on the reception of Communion by the divorced and remarried. The bishops’ statement is a positive delight to read for its clarity of thought and expression – especially after some of the tortured sophistries we have had to endure of late.

The document unflinchingly reminds us that some things are just wrong, and no amount of personal reflection or mitigating circumstances can change that.

Seeming to address directly the various interpretations of that single contentious footnote in Amoris Laetitia (the one Pope Francis cannot remember), the five bishops quote St John Paul II: “The confusion created in the conscience of many faithful by the differences of opinions and teachings … about serious and delicate questions of Christian morals, ends up by diminishing the true sense of sin almost to the point of eliminating it.” This describes all too well the results, and I would say the intentions, of many of the opaque and tendentious “pastoral” guidelines which have followed Amoris Laetitia.

The doctrinal errors in interpreting Amoris Laetitia are part of a serious movement afoot in the Church to undermine her clarity of thought and expression on the moral order, especially regarding marriage, sexuality and personal conscience. What drives this movement? Let’s be clear: it has nothing to do with helping divorced and remarried Catholics. Those of us who work in marriage tribunals, where canonists and priests have more contact with such couples on a daily basis than most working in bishops’ conferences have in a year, can tell you that the divorced and remarried are, in the vast majority of cases, desperately seeking clarity from the Church, not to be told to “do whatever they think is right.”

. . .

At the time of the cultural and sexual revolution, the Church spoke powerfully and prophetically against the inevitable consequences of what was happening. In the last half-century, Paul VI’s encyclical has proven ever more prescient and relevant. It is a bitterly comical irony that, just as wider society is beginning to wake up to the consequences of a sexual ethic based solely on consent and the pursuit of personal fulfilment, the Church is having to defend herself against those within who deny not just the Church’s teaching, but the last 50 years of history which have so convincingly vindicated it.

There’s a movement to undermine Catholic morality – Communion is just the start

Growing in wisdom involves growing in the discernment of who is wise, and who only parodies wisdom. While there are many ways to parody wisdom, two stand out in the age of the internet. At first glance they might seem to be opposites, but (on closer inspection) they reveal themselves to be alter-egos of one another. Tragically, each of these tendencies has plenty of public representation. Let us label their distinctive brands as “Prophetic Performers,” and “Authenticity Acts.”

. . .

“Prophetic Performers” prey upon the humans’ natural (and good) instinct to respond to certain modes of rhetoric and prophetic inflexibility. Since humans are sometimes liable (some more than others) to say “whatever” too often, to be morally lazy, or to fail in their capacity to protect sheep from wolves, it is important that we can nevertheless be psychologically accessed by a strong rebuke, by a reminder that some things are hard, that some bits of reality are unsavory and rough-edged, sometimes you have to confront your own will and sentiments, etc.

. . .

More popular in our era is the “Authenticity Act.” Sometimes, but not always, this person started out in the first camp and ends in the second. One will frequently hear this sort waxing eloquent about how “messy” and “complicated” life is. Rather than reducing the complexity of life, they will tend to reduce the complexity of God’s law (not to mention His character) to some vague platitudes about infinite empathy. These persons are frequently hurting and broken, and use the public platform they have to tell their personal narrative, process their lives, and garner empathy for their spiritual destination, or the turns their “journey” has taken.

. . .

What do these two characters have in common? Fundamentally, they have a narcissistic relationship to reality. Even when they are correct (as they sometimes accidentally are), their relationship to the reality that they presumably elucidate is inflected through their final goals of self justification – whether it be of the deeply fearful valiant badass for Jesus in the case of the former, or the deeply broken demander of infinite affirmation in the case of the latter.

In both cases, what is required is getting out of one’s own head and into the world. Wise men do not safely wax about a reality which functions as their shield, but speak of it with fear and trembling. Wise men are humble before God. Wise men often admit that life is complicated. Wise men sometimes do not know the answer. Wise men are also willing to receive an answer that they find unsavory. And most importantly, wise men will ask divine help to bend their will to savor reality over their distorted sentiments.

Prophetic Performers, Authenticity Acts, and the Need for Wisdom


The Butterfly Circus

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Strong Towns

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Honest Work

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Anti-Christian

Your President (I’m Canadian, I get to say “your”) has a Twitter account that sometimes comes to my attention. And this, although I try to ignore all the world’s tweeted expostulations. But they make news, sometimes; in Mr. Trump’s case, as a matter of course. And as I have confessed before, I’m still reading news.

I understand why he does it. Which is to say, I understand that Mr. Trump wouldn’t be president today if he had not availed himself of every opportunity to end-run the media gatekeepers. Contrary to the received view, I think he is very good at it; often brilliant. I’m not commenting yet on the morality of the operation, only on its efficacy. He knows how to “troll,” and to the audience of his supporters, trolls deliciously.

He has a vulgar but adept satirical sense, and can expose the hypocrisy of his opponents in ways that will “make their heads explode.” And since many of his enemies also happen to be mine, I have often giggled – in a mean-spirited, “gotcha” kind of way.

. . .

We are told free speech doesn’t extend to gratuitously yelling “Fire!” in a cinema, or uttering plausible physical threats. But in a self-described “free society” it is assumed that, short of such acts of criminal mischief, those who disagree must cope. Extreme sensibilities will have to be abraded.

I have been coping myself, for as long as I can remember. It comes with the territory Christians have occupied these two thousand years; and those with any sort of opinions, since time out of mind. One learns to ignore the goad, or deflect it. Why let another decide whether I should forfeit my good humor? Better to reply with something droll.

Alas, this doesn’t work as it used to. Rather than matching wits, or just laughing, one’s opponent may burst into hysteria. (Never be droll with a feminist, I advise.)

“Never complain, never explain,” is the counsel of the seasoned professionals. But this hardly works anymore, either. Your opponents then mount smear upon smear. As Mr. Trump learned – partly, I suspect, from the experience of Mr. Bush Junior – the refusal to “dignify that with an answer” requires a milieu from which gentlemen haven’t been extracted.

In our rat-pack world of social media, suavity is impossible, let alone gentlemanly behavior. Alas, Mr. Trump understands this. Our Lord was accused of consorting with sinners, but He did not “accompany” them into sin. Will the returning Christ have a Twitter account? I seriously doubt this.

Nor do I think He would be carrying a gun, though I would not make this ground for banning firearms. He never proposed to disarm soldiers. He accepted the claim of Rome to be Rome. He gave no political advice at all, even on marginal rates of taxation.

On the other hand, He said things most provoking. Even the Beatitudes were an (obviously intended) surprise for the comfortable. Each was the reverse of long-received opinion. At no point in the Gospels do we find Our Lord “going along to get along” with the gatekeepers of those days.

A rule to prohibit provocation would, as a consequence probably quite intended, prohibit Christianity in every day and age. It would also prohibit the telling of truth, with or without religious connotations. It would finally achieve a deathly silence; for anything said is potentially controversial. There is no statement so soft that someone could not take offense at it, if only for being too soft.

Therefore let us affirm some things, starting plainly with our Faith in Christ. Let us follow this up with every Christian teaching, as those ancestors did who converted the heathen.

We know at least the Devil will be offended, though he may be clever enough to conceal it and work with the persisting vanities of those who now believe.

Provocations

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The future isn’t over yet

There is a large and growing defection, worldwide, of Muslims to the Christian religion. This we know from many sources; I’ve been aware of the phenomenon for more than twenty years. It does not make the news because it is not “newsworthy.” That is to say, it does not fit with anyone’s agenda in the West, and is anyway a dangerous story to cover, for subjects and journalists alike. Oddly enough, it gets most play in Islamic media, where “we are losing the battle of conversions” has become almost an obsession. By “worldwide” I mean in Europe and the Americas, in Asia and in Africa, and also throughout the Dar al-Islam. It is of great historical significance, for it has been practically a truism that Muslims don’t convert.

. . .

The future of Christianity is not European. We have perhaps forgotten that Christ did not rise in the West, but in the East; or for geographical punctilio, at the interchange of the three vast continents of the Old World. Arabs, as all Africans and Asians, are capable of noticing this.

Moreover, the future of Christianity, within “The West,” is also not European.

It will prove too “traditional” for that. For the appeal of a lukewarm, compromised, corrupted, “progressive” and “secularized” Christianity — to sincere Christian converts — is zero.

The future isn’t over yet

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Family in the High Tech and Affluent West

Social psychologist Jonathon Haidt writes in his book The Righteous Mind about “WEIRD” people — the people who live in Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich Democracies who are very different from most of the world, and yet we are used by most psychological research studies to stand for all of humanity.

Haidt compared “weird” people to typical people elsewhere. “When asked to write 20 statements beginning with the words ‘I am,'” he said, “Americans are likely to list their own internal psychological characteristics (happy, outgoing, interested in jazz), whereas East Asians are more likely to list their roles and relationships (a son, a husband, an employee of Fujitsu).”

Maybe in our history Americans were more connected to others. We aren’t now.

“Weird” Americans: Black Friday vs. Thanksgiving

Ozymandias

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Teach a man to fish….

Handouts don’t work. By now, we have decades of data to show they don’t. The War on Poverty has created generational poverty on a level that wouldn’t likely exist without it. The family unit has been destroyed in impoverished communities, as policies tend to favor women with absentee co-parents. We know that handing even more money over doesn’t work.

So how did the Republican mayor of Albuquerque [Mayor Richard Berry] deal with the lowest of the low in his city? Simple. He found a way to give them their dignity back.

    Throughout his administration, as part of a push to connect the homeless population to services, Berry had taken to driving through the city to talk to panhandlers about their lives. His city’s poorest residents told him they didn’t want to be on the streets begging for money, but they didn’t know where else to go.

    Seeing that sign gave Berry an idea. Instead of asking them, many of whom feel dispirited, to go out looking for work, the city could bring the work to them.

    Next month will be the first anniversary of Albuquerque’s There’s a Better Way program, which hires panhandlers for day jobs beautifying the city.

    In partnership with a local nonprofit that serves the homeless population, a van is dispatched around the city to pick up panhandlers who are interested in working. The job pays $9 an hour, which is above minimum wage, and provides a lunch. At the end of the shift, the participants are offered overnight shelter as needed.

    In less than a year since its start, the program has given out 932 jobs clearing 69,601 pounds of litter and weeds from 196 city blocks. And more than 100 people have been connected to permanent employment.

. . .

There’s a beneficial exchange taking place. The city of Albuquerque gets litter picked up and some landscaping while those who are doing the work are given a wage.

In the process, it gives these people their dignity back.

Mayor Comes Up with Simple Way to Combat Homelessness, Panhandling in His City

Incentives matter.

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Hugh Hefner’s Legacy of Despair

Hugh Hefner didn’t invent pornography, and it would no doubt be thriving today even if he hadn’t founded Playboy magazine those many years ago. After all, man is fallen, and somebody would have filled that depraved niche in American life. Hefner, however, played his part, and the part he played was immensely destructive to our nation’s cultural, moral, and spiritual fabric. Hefner mainstreamed porn, he put it in millions of homes, and he even glamorized it — recasting one of America’s most pathetic industries as the playground of the sophisticated rich. He then grew to a ripe old age, consorting with women young enough to be his granddaughters. He was America’s most famous dirty old man.

And now he’s dead. May God have mercy on his soul.

. . .

To see men become addicted to porn is to watch character formation in reverse. Their integrity and fidelity unwind before your eyes. They lie habitually to cover the extent of their habit, even when their wives are allegedly “open” and sexually liberated. After all, if she knew how much he watched or exactly what he looked at, even she would be shocked. The screen alone is never enough, the wife is never enough, and the addict so often seeks mistresses, prostitutes, or both.

Another family breaks. More lives fall into despair.

To see a man become addicted to porn is to watch character formation in reverse. All this is known. Everyone has seen it happen in their churches, in their neighborhoods, and in their families.

Hugh Hefner’s Legacy of Despair

Porn is part of the culture of death.

Hugh Hefner, America’s famous porn magnate, has died at the age of 91 at the Playboy Mansion. Throughout his life, he championed unfettered hedonism in every form: Abortion, the legalization of marijuana, the liberation of sex from love, and pornography were all causes he fought — with much success — to bring into the mainstream. Hefner himself was not single-handedly responsible for the massive social changes that rocked the Western world from the Sexual Revolution onwards, but he was easily the single most recognizable symbol of them all.

. . .

[T]he catastrophe of Hefner’s Sexual Revolution will be felt for generations: Fifty million pre-born children aborted, marriages smashed or abandoned, millions of children growing up in broken homes, rates of porn addiction that have crippled a generation of men, and a hypersexualized society that uses the bodies of girls and women to sell nearly every product on the market. The destruction and the carnage are nearly unfathomable.

Hugh Hefner has died, and we do not rejoice in his death. But as the old man breathed his last in the decaying Playboy Mansion where he lived his life of selfishness and greed, we can only mourn for the millions of broken lives and countless victims he leaves in his wake.

Hugh Hefner led many souls down the road to destruction

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Equifax and Your Credit Reports

Freeze your credit reports, register for your own account on Social Security, and keep an eye on your bank and credit card statements. And if your identity is stolen, file a report with your local police department, the FTC at IdentityTheft.gov, and the IRS so your tax refund can’t be stolen.

And think about using Two Factor Authorization (2FA). See Two Factor Auth (2FA).

For more, see:

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