December 2015 Archives
December 2, 2015
Too clever by half
December 6, 2015
It's the ideology, stupid
Predictably, in the wake of a Muslim Bonnie and Clyde's jihad murder of the husband's kindly co-workers who had recently thrown them a baby shower, our chattering classes are getting grim-jawed in their determination to take guns away from the law-abiding. Enough is enough indeed. But the idea that "enough is enough" means "ban more guns" is as ludicrous as the idea that it means "ban more pipes." After all, the couple was also building pipe bombs in their home.
No, "enough is enough" should be, but won't be, an expression of enlightenment: It's the ideology, stupid.
One of the most disturbing points in this jihadist murder spree is that there may well have been no warning sign except Islam itself that Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook posed any threat. True, Tashfeen began making more "radical" posts to her Facebook page, but only after she had already received the necessary background clearance to get a "fiancee visa" and a conditional green card. Why should any law enforcement agency have been trying to look at her Facebook page after that any more than that of any other recent Muslim immigrant to the United States?
December 7, 2015
Popular Culture, Serious Moral Themes and the Baleful Effects of the Sexual Revolution
I confess dear readers that I am hopelessly in love with comic book characters. I collected comic books as an adolescent (I was a Marvel guy if you must know) and now as an adult father who does enjoy literature, opera, and other forms of serious high culture I still cannot resist going to the movies and watching my old childhood heroes like Spiderman and Captain America fight the bad guys and see good triumph over evil.
In addition to watching all of the special effects mayhem on the big screen, superhero movies and now TV shows have started to tackle more adult themes – two years ago Marvel’s Captain America was in a movie that took on the theme of the national security state seriously and asked some interesting questions about the trade-off between liberty and safety when fighting terrorism. Then last year, the superhero team The Avengers asked what it would be like to create a sentient being to fight evil on behalf of humanity, making superheroes unnecessary (and what the implications would be when that plan went horribly wrong.)
Now television is getting in on the act, with Marvel Studies teaming up with Netflix to produce a series of gritty, ‘more realistic’ shows that highlight some lesser Marvel superheroes who live in New York City and fight crime with super powers that aren’t quite as spectacular (or require as many special effects!) as those you’ll find in the movies. These shows, and there are two so far: Daredevil and Jessica Jones (with two more planned), have been critically praised as featuring good acting, good writing, and gritty, realistic plots that are compelling and that tackle weighty moral issues.
December 10, 2015
Does the evidentialist have to endorse apostasy?
It's been a long time since we've had an apologetics post. I have a whole list of bad news items that I have thought of writing about under the all-too-apt heading of What's Wrong With the World, but instead, I've decided to write today about issues that are perennial.
Long-time readers know that I call myself an evidentialist in Christian apologetics. (See also here and here.) This means that I think that Christian faith both should be and can be based solidly on available evidence. I'm eclectic in this regard. I think St. Thomas Aquinas was an evidentialist as well. While my own special area of interest and focus has been on historical arguments for Christianity (e.g., for the reliability of the Gospels and the occurrence of the resurrection), and while I am not convinced by all of the purely philosophical arguments for the existence of God that are sometimes proposed, I am by no means hostile or opposed to a priori, metaphysical arguments. To the extent that they work, they are evidence as well. The more the merrier.
December 13, 2015
Liberalism and the Jihad, again
So here we are again, some ten days out: The Islamic creed has inspired butchery, treason, and mayhem, this time in a California city; and the Liberal creed has induced cowardice, misdirected antipathy, and paralyzing intellectual confusion.
An immigrant woman passed two government background checks, despite falsifying her immigration documents and propounding Jihad online; she conspired with her husband, a traitor, to commit bloody slaughter, before meeting her demise with him at the hands of local police; and according to our liberals, we can rest assured that a third background check, part of some “common sense” gun control, would have prevented the massacre this Jihadist couple perpetrated.
We have seen as recently as Paris the impotence of gun control in the teeth of committed terror cells. Belgium, despite gun regulations far in excess of those venerated “common sense” laws, and closer to the ideal of such sages as The New York Times editorial board, has been exposed as a major market in the trafficking of illegal weapons. Now Belgium does not share a long frontier with a lawless land, as America does with northern Mexico. Belgium shares borders only with sophisticated social democracies characterized by strict gun control regimes. And yet Belgium remains a stronghold of illegal weapons dealers whose readiness to supply the Jihad cannot be controverted.
If our liberals could muster one tenth of the outrage they reserve for those who defend an American right to bear arms, and vouchsafe it instead to those to take up arms, as soldiers of Allah, against the defenseless and unarmed, we might discover some ground for civic compromise. For instance, we might find a compromise with liberals by immediately disarming all Muslims who have falsified documents to gain entry into this country, as a sensible prelude to deportation.
If our liberals could summon a small portion of that indignation for defiant critics of Islam, which they have on so many occasions exuberantly exhibited with McCarthyite vigor, and reserve it instead for the political arm of Islamic supremacy, the seditionists and apologists, who are forever warning darkly that criticism of Islam will have dire consequences, we might discern an avenue for patriotic accommodation. For instance, rather than mau-mauing opponents of Islam from the heights of the Justice Department, and threatening a curtailment of Free Speech on the subject of Islamic terror, liberals could join a general encouragement to repudiate the microaggressions that issue from Islamic pressure groups.
If our liberals could possibly relax, just for a moment or two, their rictus of anti-American suspicion, and reflect that perhaps the more emphatic suspicion ought to fall on the perfidious brutality that emanates from the earliest antiquity of the Islamic religion, down to its latest manifestation in ISIS, we might conceivably come to some efficacious accord between American political factions.
But as things stand we have a faction that is above all alarmed by the expanding power and influence of the Jihad, and another faction that is above all alarmed by the former’s alarm.
December 15, 2015
Suggest that your daughters sign a personal statement against women in the military right about...now
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, overriding both opposition in the Marines and any pretense of common sense, has recently unilaterally declared that women are to be integrated into combat units in all branches of the military. This ends a period of approximately three years from the original, similar announcement by the Obama administration. During those years the administration was supposedly gathering data and reactions from the various branches of the military, but now it emerges that they really had no intention of listening to anybody. The pause period was just for show. Of course, this recent statement of intent to put women in combat includes the disingenuous claim that only those "qualified" will be so used. And as this article points out, women already in the military will not be able to choose whether they want to be used in combat roles.
It also raises yet again the question of registration for the draft, which I addressed nearly three years ago here.
December 18, 2015
Yes, Virginia, there is a real war on Christmas
When reading a much more interesting article at the Touchstone site, my eye fell upon this annoying little gem. (It's an unfortunate fact of blogging that more annoying posts often are better blog fodder than more interesting ones, because the annoying ones make you want to go write a response.)
J. Douglas Johnson, following (he says) Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, is practicing putting eyerolls into type font in response to the question, "Is there a war on Christmas?" And he's looking for an opportunity to do the real eyerolls on someone.
December 22, 2015
Testing Hosanna Tabor
You knew it would happen sooner or later. Well, it's sooner. A Catholic school in Massachusetts has been charged with discrimination for refusing to hire a "married" homosexual man. The state court argues that the federal Hosanna Tabor decision does not apply, because he was being hired as a food service manager, and this is not a "ministerial" position.
I admit that I have not actually read the majority opinion in Hosanna Tabor, but my impression has always been that a major point of the victory there was that a religious school gets to decide who is and who is not ministerial staff.
However, it's possible that the Catholic school in this case didn't make an attempt to define the position in that way. That may have been the fatal mistake.
So far, I'm not seeing any word in the news about whether the school is appealing the state court's decision on constitutional grounds.
December 24, 2015
The Way of the Wandering Star.
[Editor's note: The following is a sermon preached by my maternal grandfather, Rev. Robert H. Stephens, on December 23rd, 1951. He spent a career as a beloved pastor at Presbyterian churches mostly in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He passed away in 1995, when I was still a teenager, but everyone in my family can still call to memory his rich and resonant preaching voice, and his gentle but firm manner. My aunt recently discovered the text to this sermon, and thought of me because its literary foundation is a G. K. Chesterton poem. We present it now with affectionate Christmas greetings for all our readers in this holy time.]
Christmas is incredible! It would seem easy to prove that it never happened, that it just could never be. Think of it — a man and his wife pause in their pilgrimage before a crowded Inn, find shelter for the night only among the cattle, and there her Baby is born. An angel appears to ordinary shepherds in the fields nearby, announces the birth of that Baby, declares great things about Him; then a host of angels sing an anthem of peace and good-will. The angels disappear and the shepherds go off in search of the Child and find Him even as it was told them.
Three kingly travelers appear before an unkingly king, bring strange tidings of a true King to be born under a strange star, then set off down the path of that wandering star to find the Babe even as they believed. They lay their gifts before Him, then mysteriously disappear. And a wondering mother ponders all these strange things in her heart, while a loyal but bewildered husband stands by. Could the birth of that Baby in such strange circumstances be the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan for the human race?
It is impossible; yet it happened. It is incredible! Yet it’s true! It’s unbelievable! Yet it is the heart of our highest faith. It just couldn’t happen, yet it did; and because it did history is split in two and the whole destiny of the human race is profoundly altered. It’s too wonderful for words, yet more words have been written, spoken, and sung about it than any other event in history.
In G. K. Chesterton’s poem “The House of Christmas,” are two lines which express what I mean:
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and are . . . !
Think, for example — it cannot be that God has come personally into this world — but He has!
December 28, 2015
Civil asset forfeiture and helping the little guy
For years I've thought of writing a post on the despicable use of civil asset forfeiture in the United States but have always found the topic too depressing.
In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, here (without a big burden of links--you can easily google the phrase) is the short version: Despite the Constitution's guarantee of due process of law before depriving any person of property, somehow it has been declared constitutional throughout the United States for both the state and the federal governments to take the property of perfectly innocent citizens when some government agency deems it plausible that that property has been associated with a crime or constitutes the proceeds from a crime. The case is brought against the property; no conviction needs to be obtained for any crime, not against anybody, and certainly not against the owner of the property. The standard of evidence is usually quite low (for example, "preponderance of the evidence" as opposed to the legal "beyond reasonable doubt" that would be required for criminal conviction), no jury is involved, and then the burden is upon the person whose property has been seized to hire a lawyer if he wants to get it back.
I have not read the Supreme Court opinion, in which I'm sorry to say my hero Justice Scalia joined, declaring this practice to be constitutional. I've read that the reasoning had something to do with the seizure of a pirate ship in the 1800s.