Archive for the ‘Notes to a Friend’ Category.

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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Sin and Sinners


Is It OK to Judge Someone?

We live in times in which there is a widespread notion that to correct sinners is to “judge” them. Never mind that it is sin that we judge, not the sinner. Never mind that in accusing us of judging, the worldly-minded are themselves doing the very judging they condemn. Never mind any of that; the point of the charge is to try to shame us into silence. Despite the fact that Scripture consistently directs us to correct the sinner, many Catholics have bought into the notion that correcting the sinner is “judging” him. In this, the devil, who orchestrates the “correcting is judging” campaign, rejoices; for if he can keep us from correcting one another, sin can and does flourish.

Today’s Gospel is an important reminder and explanation of our obligation, as well instruction on how we should correct the sinner and be open to correction ourselves. Let’s look at it in four steps.

. . .

Notice the brief but clear advice that when we see someone in sin, we ought to talk with him or her about it. Many, probably due to sloth, prefer to say that it’s none of their business what others do. Jesus clearly teaches otherwise.

In this teaching, Jesus is obviously speaking to the general situation; some distinctions are helpful and admissible in specific instances. For example, one generally has a greater obligation to correct people in grave matters than in less serious ones. One is more compelled to correct those who are younger than those who are older. One is more obligated to correct subordinates, less so, superiors. Parents are strongly duty-bound to correct their children, but children are seldom obligated to correct their parents. The general rule, however, remains: all other things being equal, there is an obligation to engage in Christian correction. Jesus says, “If your brother sins, go and tell him.”

. . .

Sadly, today it is evident that our unity and the power of our prayer as a Church is greatly diminished by the disunity among us and the way in which many continue for too long without being corrected by the Church. We are not a force for change because we are divided on the very truth that is supposed to unite us. Much of our division is further rooted in our failure to teach with clarity and correct the sinner.

The Obligation of Clear, Compassionate Correction of the Sinner

The Catechism [of the Catholic Church] similarly teaches us that sin – and the sorrow arising, ultimately, from it – is not “a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure.” (#387) It is, rather, part of the morally compromised human condition, in which all of us share.

The Bad News about the Good News

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“Missing Men” and the Ticking Biological Clock

In public policy debates, it’s often assumed that women freeze their eggs in order to put off childbearing during the prime time of their careers. According to new research, however, more and more educated and successful women are choosing to freeze their eggs because they cannot find a man they want to marry. Many men are “missing” from higher education, work, and church – and are just not marriageable.

As a single woman, I am interested in the causes of this “missing men” phenomenon. While I think the Church and society should focus on forming men to be more marriageable, I am also concerned for the Catholic women who are single and want to get married. What should Catholic women do in this situation?

It is easy to become disheartened – even to despair – about the apparent lack of marriageable men in our culture. I’ve met many beautiful and intelligent single women who are worried they will never get married or they will get married too late to have children. They are willing to leave their careers behind in order to be a wife and mother, yet they simply cannot find the right man.

This is something new to our generation. It never occurred to my mother and her friends that they would never find a spouse. Most of them were happily married by their mid-twenties.

I won’t argue here about why egg freezing is immoral (that’s for another article). I’ve pondered, however, what Catholic single women should do in this culture of “missing men.” Here are some alternatives that I have found to be helpful in my own singlehood.

“Missing Men” and the Ticking Biological Clock

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The Nazis leant heavily on occultism, paganism, New Age and Eastern religions

Even within Christianity, there can be an unhealthy, superstitious focus on searching for “signs.” On a train once from Edinburgh to London, I was cornered by a friendly lady who proceeded to ask me if I knew about the “blood moons” prophecy in the Bible. My heart sank; the journey from Edinburgh to London takes four hours and I could see I was in for a long harangue.

On another occasion, I was told in no uncertain terms that if I did not repeat a certain prayer to Our Lady at a certain time every day, I would be cursed. A magical ritual had replaced faith in Christ.

I mention this as I have been dipping into Hitler’s Monsters: a Supernatural History of the Third Reich by Eric Kurlander. It is extraordinary, though not surprising, that a western country as advanced in scientific understanding and progress as Germany was in the 20th century could also, between 1920-1945, have been so prey to irrational beliefs and intellectual lunacy.

A popular volume of parapsychology, Magic: History, Theory, Practice, by Ernst Schertel, was heavily underlined by Hitler himself. Significantly, his library at Berchtesgaden included almost no works on political theory or philosophy but numerous books on popular medicine, German mythology, magic symbols and the occult.

Belief in astrology was rife among the Nazis; Rudolf Hess consulted an astrologer before his ill-fated flight to Scotland in 1941 and towards the end of the war Himmler’s personal astrologer was by his side night and day.

Indeed, the Party, as Kurlander shows, leant heavily on occultism, pagan, New Age and Eastern religions. Pendulum dowsers, border science, “ariosophy” (the resurgence of a lost Aryan civilization), theosophy (begun by Helena Blavatsky), anthroposophy (started by Rudolf Steiner), World Ice Theory and a host of other pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo were the standard spiritual fare of the Nazi high command.

Kurlander quotes the German philosopher and sociologist, Theodor Adorno, who suggested that “the power of occultism was rooted, like fascism, in its appeal to ‘semi-erudite’ individuals driven by the narcissistic wish to prove superior to the plain people.”

It sounds like the ancient temptation to Gnosticism, i.e. superior and secret knowledge and also to the most fundamental temptation of all from which none of us is entirely immune: “You shall be as gods…”

If the Nazis had been a grubby little group of occultists, rather like the magician, Aleister Crowley, and his associates in the Golden Dawn, their evil influence would have been somewhat confined; but when one reads that Himmler, head of the Nazi SS and the second most important figure in the Third Reich, encouraged research regarding “Lucifer’s role as the harbinger of enlightenment and enemy of the Jewish God”, it is terrifying.

The Nazis leant heavily on occultism, paganism, New Age and Eastern religions

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