What’s Wrong with the World

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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

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.

E. g., it is beyond all possible cavil that liberals in America have exhibited more sustained outrage at a presidential candidate who recommends a temporary cessation Islamic immigration, than they have at bloody Islamic treachery.

There is something truly mindboggling about this discongruity. We are invited to believe that to speak ill of a religion, even inferentially, is worse than murdering in the name of it.

Meanwhile, The New York Daily News ran a disgraceful article which walked right up to the edge of declaiming that one of the slaughtered victims in San Bernardino deserved what he got, since he wrote some harsh arguments about Islam on social media.

So the particular lesson is this: Should the misfortune of being murdered by jihadists befall you, and it transpires that you have on occasion spoken ill of Muslims, some liberals, hopped up on the sanctimony that so often drives them, will pronounce that you had it coming.

Social media criticism of Islam, according to liberals, is worse than the Islamic motivated assassination of random innocents.

There is another grim fact here that reflects extremely poorly on the preoccupations of liberalism. Press reports tell us that neighbors of these San Bernardino jihadists observed some suspicious conduct from them over a period of time, and on account of an aversion to “racial profiling,” declined to report it. So political correctness, in a very direct manner, cost fourteen lives, and many more maimed and shellshocked.

I should like to ask patriotic liberals how they account for these perversities. I should like to ask what rationality there is in the proposition that excluding Islamic immigrants, even temporarily, is worse than extinguishing innocent life out of obedience to Islamic principles. For that is the only conclusion we can draw from the spasm of liberal denunciation that has consumed a couple news cycles.

What will happen in the coming weeks none can tell. In France an extraordinary thing has happened: the Jihad has knocked the Socialists out of contention in wide swaths of the country. A far-right party preaching French patriotism and French identity (for such things count as “far-right” today) leads in popularity, and may only be thwarted by the connivance of center-left and center-right milquetoasts. In point of fact many Republicans here would not scruple to throw in with Clinton, should Trump gain the GOP nomination, thus commencing a trans-Atlantic betrayal of patriotism and national identity.

Now France has for her most prominent patriotic leaders les duex belles femmes blondes and an scraggly novelist, while we have a bombastic real estate magnate turned reality TV star. Alas for us. None of these celebrity politicians may attain high office, but they have already blazed a trail of unpredictable patriotic and popular public theater, if the reader will excuse the alliteration and well as my French.

But even the most subtle Big Data quant, armed with the most powerful processing speeds for his analytics, could not have augured, even a year ago, that we would enter 2016 with a Le Pen leading French and a Trump leading American polls.

In conclusion, while we should hesitate at prognostication, we should not hesitate to set down first principles.

Islam is a permanent problem, arising out of an ancient religion that is brimming with self-confidence and evangelical fervor. It is absolutely incumbent upon all of us to talk truth and not falsehood about Islam.

Our last two Presidents and most Western leaders have lied to us. Islam is not a religion of peace, but of war and conquest and subjugation. Where Islam is, terror will be there as well.

A first responsibility of American policy is to minimize the expansion and influence of Islam on our shores.

[Updated 12/14 to fix some grammar mistakes --Ed.]

Comments (74)

Regarding the gun issues you raise, in the recent days (week or so), French police have been conducting raid after raid, after raid, on Islamic targets and finding caches left and right. This is under a Socialist regime. There is no telling what will happen if the FNF gains enough of a holding to really direct that policy, and make no mistake, they will probably widen the scope tremendously.

Liberals seem to be quite good at dithering, but that has lead France and Belgium to a point where many of their values on privacy will have to be suspended, if not irreparably destroyed for years to come, just to ensure the basic continuity of civil peace. They refused to see evil, the Muslims stockpiled weapons for the purpose of armed conflict and now the authorities must necessarily "overreact" in order to correct for that malfeasance by the various past authorities.

Over here, such a thing would lead to civil war because the gun grabbers would not hesitate to use it as a creative crisis to seize millions of lawful guns. During Katrina, the National Guard assisted in disarming law-abiding residents. Today, I think you would see police and soldiers shot by the tens of thousands if they tried to do that, to say nothing of the number of police and soldiers who would turn their own weapons on their commanders for having the indecency to even utter such orders in their general direction.

The ruling class is pathologically incapable of admitting that the rules have changed. History sputtered after the fall of the Soviet Union, but history has regained its momentum. They don't realize that if they play these games and disenfranchise FNF voters, kick Trump and Cruz to the curb and other such things, the men who will follow will be truly terrible people willing to do terrible things to protect their country.

Ironically, Krugman of all people in the MSM, wrote a pretty good article explaining to his side why trying to destroy Trump is a terrible idea. He basically said that there is a concerted effort on both sides of the Atlantic to forcefully suppress right wing nationalism; to simply drive it out of the political system entirely. That he, pointed out, will not end well. This is not a tiny, insignificant fringe, but a movement with a lot of existing supporters and potentially many more on the fence.

If the "solution" is driven outside of the system, then the system will necessarily suffer because that means that the system itself will be sacrificed in order to bring in the solution.

Are libertarians to be included within liberals or within the conservative camp?
They are for immigration for all, indeed Open Borders defines them.

Libertarians are definitely to be included in the liberal camp. While "open borders" is not a core principle of libertarianism, (that would be more like "no government except as to prevent A from intruding on B's rights") that is completely consistent with such principle. And completely opposed to retaining and maintaining any polity that ever existed as an ongoing affair.

One time, I was commenting on the blogger of a Cato staffer about immigration and I asked them what they would do if China decided to use us a dumping ground for their undesirables and surplus men. They said it would never happen. I couldn't even get them to engage it as an intellectual exercise. They were convinced that no country would using our open borders as a dumping ground or try colonize us by moving millions of people here with no intent to integrate. That was one of the first things that made me start to realize libertarianism is largely a crock of you know what.

Paul makes an interesting point when he says that, if leftists were willing to do their "push the envelope" stunt on issues like free speech and the right to bear arms against those who constitute a real threat, their willingness to be less-than-freedom-loving on these issues might have some usefulness we could applaud. So, for example, since they are so happy to discriminate religiously, it would be useful if they did it against Muslims _instead of_Christians (in immigration, for example). Since they are nowadays so happy to throw out free speech absolutism, they should turn that yen for controlling speech to a jihad sedition law, which would at least have some constitutional legitimacy.

But of course they won't, and the insanity Paul chronicles is really the religion of leftism in and of itself. They are willing to die for their beliefs, and willing for others to die as well. As near as I understand it, a committed leftist (and some conservatives too, I'm sorry to say) views "religious profiling" or "ethnic profiling" in immigration policy in the same way that I view deliberately shooting a baby: It's absolutely wrong, and you should be willing for the whole world to blow up rather than redden your hands by doing it.

What we have here is a group of people who have suddenly discovered their inner moral objectivist. Only they are applying to what are _self-evidently_ prudential issues the fervor that rightly belongs to moral absolutes. Gun control and non-discrimination against mascot groups (discrimination against non-mascot groups is fine) are their moral absolutes. While ironically, meanwhile, they excuse the _actual_ commitment of heinous, absolutely wrong acts--abortions--as rights.

So leftism is a religion, and it's a religion that is like Calvin and Hobbes's "opposite day" in the cartoon. Things that are bad policy and that in any event involve prudential judgement are now absolutely morally required, while actual moral absolutes are violated as a kind of sacrament.

This is, as Paul hints, why the political state between such leftists and all sane people must be that of utter political opposition.

In general, I find that what people consider to be unthinkable and just wrong, period, tends to divide things up pretty quickly in politics.

So, for example, someone who really believes that it is just wrong, period, for employers to pay less than x per hour, will literally blow off (I've seen it myself) arguments that raising the minimum wage causes businesses to fold and people who need jobs to lose jobs. Their approach is, let there be justice, though the heavens fall! Even to _discuss_ minimum wage questions in terms of prudence and probable consequences (including consequences for the very people they are attempting to benefit!) is in their view the wrong approach, because we are talking here about a matter of right and wrong.

Similarly, I recently had a discussion with someone who was arguing that it could be legitimate for a fireman deliberately to refuse to save a baby from the flames if the fireman knew that this was the only way that he could prevent that baby from growing up and killing a lot of people as an adult. I argued that this would be absolutely wrong for the fireman to do, even if it would mean that fewer people, total, would die.

And so forth. We are discovering here the absolutism of the left on the issues Paul highlights.

And interestingly, moral absolutism in areas to which this is inappropriate, turned into policy, is of the essence of totalitarianism.

Paul,

Great post -- I don't have much to add, especially after Lydia's comments, but I did come across this column today from Matt Barber and I thought it went well with your piece:

12/14/2015 12:01:00 AM - Matt Barber

“Hillary is a liar.”

This was Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr.’s response to Sean Hannity when asked about Hillary Clinton’s disgusting, and completely out-of-context, charge that he committed treason by encouraging LU students to defend themselves should Muslim terrorists, like the “San Bernardino Two,” ever attack Liberty University. Clinton, a woman intimately familiar with the elements of treason, made her defamatory accusation on ABC’s“ This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

While addressing nearly 13,000 students, faculty and staff at Liberty’s convocation late last week, Falwell encouraged those 21 and older to avail themselves of LU’s groundbreaking, perfectly legal and clearly much-needed concealed-carry policy.

“I always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walk in and kill,” Falwell said to wild applause, referring specifically to Islamic terrorists who might attempt mass murder on campus. “So I just want to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course. And let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here,” he added.


Falwell made these remarks right after publicly offering full-ride scholarships to the children of heroic first responder Lt. Mike Madden, as well as to the kids of all victims in the San Bernardino attack.

Right on cue the left-wing gun-grabbers, Stockholm Syndrome-suffering Islamist sympathizers and well-meaning, though woefully misguided, “nicer-than-Jesus” Christians lost their collective noodle. Chief among them, and dog-paddling neck-deep in crocodile tears, was Hillary Clinton: “This is the kind of deplorable, not only hateful response to a legitimate security issue, but it is giving aid and comfort to ISIS and other radical jihadists,” barked the Benghazi Moonbat.

In truth, President Falwell’s comments are 100 percent accurate from both a moral and a legal standpoint. The uninfringeable constitutional right to arm and defend yourself, your family, friends, colleagues and even perfect strangers is not just as “American as apple pie”; it’s as biblical as a shepherd boy’s slingshot.

In response to the explosive global threat of Islamic terrorism, Wayne Lapierre, president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), recently observed, “When evil knocks on our doors, Americans have a power no other people on the planet share: the full-throated right to defend our families and ourselves with our Second Amendment.”

But it’s not just a Second Amendment right.

It’s a God-given right.

Or so says Jesus.

He told His disciples, for instance, “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe” (Luke11:21).

Additionally, as he was preparing to selflessly surrender Himself for imminent crucifixion, He likewise encouraged His followers to arm themselves for imminent self-defense, saying, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (Luke22:36).

Contrary to “progressive” wishful thinking, that sword wasn’t for opening letters.

And the modern equivalent of the sword is the gun.

But what, you ask, of the verses that say, “Turn the other cheek” (see Matthew5:39), “Live by the sword, die by the sword,” (see Matthew 26:51) and “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (see Romans12:19)?

Those who exploit these and other scriptures to suggest that Christ forbade self-defense, up to and including the use of justifiable deadly force, are taking these passages out of context. Christ’s “turn the other cheek” comment referred specifically to forgoing revenge and to being persecuted for His name’s sake by those who hate Christianity. It does not suggest that we parents must passively hand over our children to demonic Islamists so they can rape and behead them in our presence.

On the contrary, 1 Timothy 5:8 admonishes, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Psalm 82:4 adds, “Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

Moreover, Christ’s “Live by the sword, die by the sword” reproach of Peter, when taken in context, clearly refers, explicitly, to instances, or a lifestyle, wherein one affirmatively acts from an offensive rather than a defensive posture. When God says that vengeance is His, he means that we “shall not murder” or otherwise take revenge for some perceived wrong. Vengeance falls within God’s purview alone.

So, again, it’s biblically unfounded to suggest that, when the shooting starts, and if there is no escape, Christians must line up like sheep to the slaughter.

Christ already did that for us.

No, the Bible is clear. Christians may – indeed we should – arm and defend ourselves against evildoers. “Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked” (Proverbs 25:26).

Is applying deadly force in defense of self and others a last resort? Of course. As the Apostle Paul cautioned, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans12:18). To be sure, we are to love our Islamist enemies. In fact, it is our greatest hope and prayer that they may come to the saving knowledge, acceptance and grace of Christ Jesus, who, alone, is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

Still, and in the meantime, Jesus did say, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

So I’ll be keeping my Peacemaker within reach.

Just in case.

Jeffrey, do you have a link to that article?

Beth,

Yes, no problem.

I first saw it on Townhall.com:

http://townhall.com/columnists/mattbarber/2015/12/14/jesus-joins-the-nra-n2092928

They have a very diverse and interesting group of columnists!

Thanks so much! They do have a good set of writers.

What amazed me about that Liberty speech was the number of people, including some who say they are Christians, who were trying to convince themselves that Falwell meant to recommend going out and hunting down Muslims who were not attacking anyone. Presumably this arose from his referring to "ending them before they walk in and kill," as thought the implication were that one should go out with a gun and murder random Muslims on sight just in case.

Even the barest modicum of sensible charity in interpretation should have made it clear that that wasn't what he meant and that he was referring to self-defense at the beginning of an attack.

In fact, just such self-defense was carried out by a security guard (female as it happens) at a Colorado church several years ago.

http://edition.cnn.com/2007/US/12/10/colorado.shootings/index.html

In that case the gunman had already killed two people out in the parking lot, but the armed security guard (as far as I know) didn't know that and (as I read the story) shot him because he came into the church firing, before he killed anybody else.

It’s a God-given right.

I am very much pro-gun as a practical matter. However, saying gun ownership is a God-given right is a rhetorical* ploy that attempts to wield the authority of God as if it were one's own. I would recommend against proliferating such blasphemous bombast. Neither you, Jeffery S., nor Mr. Barber are bearers of God’s authority.

Such rhetoric can be used by anyone for anything. Observe:
http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/abortion-god-given-right-liberal-leader-declares

*I am obviously using "rhetorical" in its common usage, not in a technical sense, so please don't quote me Cicero.

However, saying gun ownership is a God-given right is a rhetorical* ploy that attempts to wield the authority of God as if it were one's own.

I think there is a natural law argument that human authorities do not possess a divine grant of authority to take away the things reasonably necessary for our survival. Since people lacking formal combat training or a lot of experience fighting tend to do very poorly when subjected to violence, a reasonable case can be made that by nature most people need a weapon to effectively defend themselves.

Mike T, I wouldn't discourage you making an argument in natural law, though it sounds like you think it is much more simple than it is. That being said, such an argument doesn't come close to claiming the authority of God like any "God-given" statement does.

If a physicist made an argument about God's creation that the Copenhagen theory of Quantum Mechanics is true, while the Bohm one was false, he would be within reasonable boundaries of discourse (though, as I understand it, on dubious ground). If, on the other hand, he said "the Copenhagen theory is our God-given truth," he would be a complete wacko, and he would be blasphemously claiming God's authority on the matter.

Silly, I don't think your suggestion is consistent with the time-honored usage of "God given" in general.

First, let me point out the difference between "the natural law" and "laws of nature". The natural law is a body of moral binding prescriptions on man (not on any other part of nature) due to man's nature. The laws of nature are, usually, "laws" (scare quotes needed) describing behavior of entities in nature, including animals, plants, and minerals. They are "laws" rather than laws because they are not PREscriptive at all, they are descriptive. Thus they are laws in a different sense than moral laws (since moral laws often DON'T describe behavior that actually occurs).

Within the tradition of Western Civilization, it has generally been understood and accepted that man's nature derives from God's creative act. It is for this reason that the Declaration of Independence can say, of rights that arise by reason of man's human nature, that men are endowed them by our Creator. Yes, they are natural. Yes, they are also from God's hand, since our nature is God-given. Since they are from God's hand, they are "God given". Since they are natural rights, one can use natural law to argue them.

This also makes more sense within the tradition that allows for the body of knowledge called "natural theology", which is (roughly) those things that can be shown of whether there is a God, and what sort he can be said to be, solely on the evidence of the natural world (including man), not on the testimony of revelation. A claim made by natural law, following upon natural theology, about a right placed in man by his nature, would then automatically become a claim of a human right as "God given". That expression would characterize the RIGHT, not the claim.

If, on the other hand, he said "the Copenhagen theory is our God-given truth," he would be a complete wacko, and he would be blasphemously claiming God's authority on the matter.

The ambiguity of "God-given truth" is the sticking point. On the one hand, all creation come from God, and thus all truth ABOUT creation rests on God. But God does not through special revelation tell us all those truths, so the "truth" you mention is not God-given in the sense of God revealing it by more direct operation like miraculous intervention. And a scientist who claimed a fact as science to be "God-given" in the sense of a revealed truth would indeed be wacko, for the "science" and the "revealed" aspects are contradictory.

But Mike was not claiming that the truth ABOUT the right to defend ourselves is a God-revealed truth (Jeff's quotation from Matt Barber does that just fine), he was claiming that the right resides in man as a God-given right, grounding that CLAIM in natural law and natural theology.

A few points, Tony. Working backwards, as it were.

Traditional morality, scripture, natural law, etc. don't give us insight into "rights." They may tell us defense is just or proper (depending on what you mean by "defense"), though it is rarely as straight-forward as fundamentalist-style interpreters try to make it. Calling it a "right" attempts to force natural law into some kind of constitutional frame, which is a false frame for both natural law and Traditional knowledge. It also filters the conversation through the parlance of liberalism, which I reject outright.

The problem with the "God-given" ambiguity is that it isn't ambiguous at all. It attempts to pass over the responsibility to even have a discussion about natural law or "natural theology" and begs the question that the specific matter is not only already settled, but is settled with the deliverer's dominion over the authority of God. It is routinely bandied about with rhetorical flourish to obfuscate the true context and intimidate anyone who would care to debate it.

It is also true that God did not tell us that any particular "right" or "freedom" is a God-given one, so I don't see what your point is about that.

You are equivocating between the author of natural law and the interpreter of natural law. Yes, natural law comes from God. But every claim we ever make about natural law does not come from God. Therefore, we have to be prudent, thoughtful, responsible, and humble about how we discern natural law and convey it. Saying "I have dominion on God's authority to say that THIS is true about natural law" is none of those things--and it's blasphemous.

If you'll forgive me, I really got a chuckle out of your third paragraph. Your squishy concatenation of ideas to go from God's authorship of creation to rights being "God-given" demonstrated a very revealing effort at trying to gloss over a complete lack of any definitive connection between the two. It wouldn't pass the pre-test for Logic 101.

As for the pedantic breakdown of the analogy with physics--you apparently missed the point. The differences you discuss do not track with the comparison I was making.

In short--the "time-honored usage" of "God-given" is question-begging blasphemy, and it's time that honorable and intelligent discourse threw it on the ash heap for good. Getting rid of it will elevate the discussion, and it will stop possibly well-meaning individuals from blaspheming. As long as this hobby horse keeps rocking in, I will keep riding it.

Silly,

Whatever else it may be, using the phrase "God-given" does not qualify for blasphemy:

I. The Name of the Lord is Holy

2142 The second commandment prescribes respect for the Lord's name. Like the first commandment, it belongs to the virtue of religion and more particularly it governs our use of speech in sacred matters.

2143 Among all the words of Revelation, there is one which is unique: the revealed name of God. God confides his name to those who believe in him; he reveals himself to them in his personal mystery. the gift of a name belongs to the order of trust and intimacy. "The Lord's name is holy." For this reason man must not abuse it. He must keep it in mind in silent, loving adoration. He will not introduce it into his own speech except to bless, praise, and glorify it.74

2144 Respect for his name is an expression of the respect owed to the mystery of God himself and to the whole sacred reality it evokes. the sense of the sacred is part of the virtue of religion:

Are these feelings of fear and awe Christian feelings or not? . . . I say this, then, which I think no one can reasonably dispute. They are the class of feelings we should have - yes, have to an intense degree - if we literally had the sight of Almighty God; therefore they are the class of feelings which we shall have, if we realize His presence. In proportion as we believe that He is present, we shall have them; and not to have them, is not to realize, not to believe that He is present.75

2145 The faithful should bear witness to the Lord's name by confessing the faith without giving way to fear.76 Preaching and catechizing should be permeated with adoration and respect for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2146 The second commandment forbids the abuse of God's name, i.e., every improper use of the names of God, Jesus Christ, but also of the Virgin Mary and all the saints.

2147 Promises made to others in God's name engage the divine honor, fidelity, truthfulness, and authority. They must be respected in justice. To be unfaithful to them is to misuse God's name and in some way to make God out to be a liar.77

2148 Blasphemy is directly opposed to the second commandment. It consists in uttering against God - inwardly or outwardly - words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward him in one's speech; in misusing God's name. St. James condemns those "who blaspheme that honorable name [of Jesus] by which you are called."78 The prohibition of blasphemy extends to language against Christ's Church, the saints, and sacred things. It is also blasphemous to make use of God's name to cover up criminal practices, to reduce peoples to servitude, to torture persons or put them to death. the misuse of God's name to commit a crime can provoke others to repudiate religion.
Blasphemy is contrary to the respect due God and his holy name. It is in itself a grave sin.79

2149 Oaths which misuse God's name, though without the intention of blasphemy, show lack of respect for the Lord. the second commandment also forbids magical use of the divine name.

[God's] name is great when spoken with respect for the greatness of his majesty. God's name is holy when said with veneration and fear of offending him.80

Holy cow. Did you read any of what you just pasted in?

"2142 The second commandment prescribes respect for the Lord's name." --Bandying about his name to support your pet rights is clearly disrespectful.

"He must keep it in mind in silent, loving adoration. He will not introduce it into his own speech except to bless, praise, and glorify it." --Does using his name to beg the question and intimidate your opponents do any of these things?

"2146 The second commandment forbids the abuse of God's name, i.e., every improper use of the names of God, Jesus Christ, but also of the Virgin Mary and all the saints." --Is using his name to beg the question and intimidate opponents a proper use?

"2148 Blasphemy is directly opposed to the second commandment. It consists in uttering against God - inwardly or outwardly - words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward him in one's speech; in misusing God's name."

I don't know what you were trying to accomplish here, but you clearly failed horrendously and brought support to everything I've said.

Claiming possession of God's authority--which the phrase "God-given right" clearly does--puts your judgement over God's. It is self-idolization and blasphemous. Refusing to see that is just refusing to see.

I don't know if Paul wants this discussion to continue in the thread, but would there by as much of an objection to "God-given right to self-defense," without specifying the means of self-defense?

Silly,

You say, "Refusing to see that [using the phrase "God-given right" is "self-idolization and blasphemous"] is just refusing to see."

I guess I refuse to see -- nothing you wrote makes a lick of sense. The assumption you make throughout your argument is that when someone using that phrase as a qualifier, they do so in a vacuum, without any notion that what follows may in fact make any sense in the context of a particular argument. To you the speaker is simply supporting their "pet rights" or trying to "intimidate" their opponents.

They can't instead be trying to bring glory and honor to God by using His name in context with respect to an idea that is good -- there are no words from anyone when they say "God-given right" that are "words of hatred, reproach, or defiance" or words that are "speaking ill of God."

Only in your mind, because this is some sort of hobby horse of yours, do you interpret the words in a negative light. You are the one failing to use charity and good judgment here -- not those who use the phrase "God-given rights."

Yes, Lydia. It does not avoid the problem.

Self-defense may be morally justifiable in most cases, but it's not a "God-given right." And, again, saying "God-given" right attempts to gloss over the complexities of morality and self-defense. Even if you tried to use it with reverence and respect, it isn't conducive to that kind of usage. Quite seriously, if you really had reverence for God in mind, do you think you would choose the words "God-given right to self-defense?" How does that even begin to be reverent? It's not--the emphasis is on asserting the point, not on God. God is being *used* for personal impact.

I think we can safely state facts to give God credit for things, such as our "God-given life," or "God-given blessings," but as soon as we step into justification or foolishly into "rights," using the term is grabbing dominion away from him. Plus it's simple-minded and obfuscating rhetoric.

I guess I refuse to see -- nothing you wrote makes a lick of sense.

Well, hopefully I've stirred up just enough doubt in you that that will change. I know if someone pointed out something I said that they thought was blasphemous, I'd give it some pretty serious consideration. After all, if he's right, he's doing me a kindness.

One thing though--your attempt to carve away the entire Catechism you first pasted and only focus on what you do in your third paragraph exhibits deliberate avoidance and evasion.

Silly,

You say, "One thing though--your attempt to carve away the entire Catechism you first pasted and only focus on what you do in your third paragraph exhibits deliberate avoidance and evasion."

No, I quoted that section because it specifically addressed how blasphemy can be expressed. The other sections require us to think carefully about the way in which we are using God's name (i.e. respectfully or not.) You continue to insist, against all evidence presented, that the phrase "God-given right" is disrespectful. That's fine, you've made your point and I certainly appreciate a new commenter dropping by from time to time to offer a fresh perspective. I just happen to disagree with you on this issue.

but as soon as we step into justification or foolishly into "rights," using the term is grabbing dominion away from him. Plus it's simple-minded and obfuscating rhetoric.

On that view, it would seem that the sentence, "An abortion violates the unborn child's God-given right to life" is almost as objectionable as, "I have a God-given right to own a gun," which seems a little over-the-top. At a minimum the latter is more flippant and is _itself_ more over-the-top than the former--by a long way. But if the objection is to _ever_ using the term "God-given" in juxtaposition with the term "right," then they are wrong for approximately the same reason. Which seems like an incorrect analysis.

Jeffery,

That section may have explained how blasphemy can be expressed, but the passages you pasted obviously show more ways and don't limit blasphemy to precisely that way of expression, and it was obviously not any part that I quoted in response, so it only served to distract from the parts that give you trouble.

And saying my point is that the phrase is merely "disrespectful" is clearly an understatement of what I've been saying. That's a rhetorical ploy to attempt to diminish my objections. I hope that is a sign that you have, indeed, found just a mote of discomfort and doubt.

By the way, I'm a very old commenter. I believe I was commenting before you arrived. Certainly before you became a contributing author. I'm just very infrequent.

By the way, Jeffery, the words very well may be words of reproach and defiance, especially reproach as they are claiming God's authority to reproach an opposing view. And they can be hateful the way they are bandied about. In a discussion at another site that made me sensitive to this hobby horse in the first place, there was a blogger using it with contempt. I just didn't focus on those.

Lydia,

Liberalism has reduced the sacred value of life to this idea of a "right," but it only confuses the issue. A right is never an absolute thing. A right can be granted or revoked, and it can be arbitrarily doctored in any you want to accomplish whatever ends you want. You writes your constitution, and you writes what rights you wants in there. Nothing written in a constitution is authored by God. But the actual value and sanctity of the life itself is what is at issue here. It is an abhorrent idea that someone must be granted a "right" to life.

Life is sacred and it is intrinsically evil to take innocent life. You cannot justify taking it, no matter what "rights" are given or taken. Muddling it up with this talk of "rights" is part of what gave us abortion in the first place. But I suppose that's a very long conversation.

At best, "An abortion violates the unborn child's God-given right to life" is a mangled up way of saying that abortion kills a God-given life, while saying it in a blasphemous form that claims God's authority for a constitutional-style decision and ratifies the liberal approach toward granting rights. None of us have a "right" to life. Life just is, and thou shalt not kill.

Silly,

You say,

"...but the passages you pasted obviously show more ways and don't limit blasphemy to precisely that way of expression, and it was obviously not any part that I quoted in response, so it only served to distract from the parts that give you trouble."

You are wrong -- those "parts" don't give me trouble -- they give you trouble. For example, you claim the following:

2142 The second commandment prescribes respect for the Lord's name." --Bandying about his name to support your pet rights is clearly disrespectful.

In response, I told you I thought this was a bad argument -- not every use of the phrase "God-given rights" (as Lydia suggests in her 3:11 PM comment) is equivalent. I would suggest you have to look at the phrase in context -- yes, it could be abused and even used for blasphemous purposes if the "pet rights" were ones that didn't comport with Christian morality. But that's not what we are talking about here. The same is true of all your other arguments (at least that's how I see it.)

If that's the case, Jeffery--why does the paragraph make a point to refute aspects of blasphemy that I didn't mention, but didn't refute any that I had? Whatever.

Actually the concept of a God-given right to life predates the Constitution and, arguably, is prior to it conceptually as well as temporally. The whole point of saying that the right is God-given is that it is _not_ to be mangled up or confused with rights that are conferred by mere men or by a document such as the Constitution. It also means that the right doesn't have to be granted, that it is something we have from the beginning of our existence, so in that sense to state that the unborn child has a God-given right to life _denies_ the "liberal idea of granting rights."

It seems to me that stating that all uses of the phrase "God-given right" are blasphemous is _way_ over-the-top. In fact, such a position takes the person's own position on the badness of the term "rights" and turns _that_ into a matter of offending against God. Arguably, this is objectionable for approximately the same reason that it is objectionable to say that owning a gun is a "God-given right:" That is, both of these claims take one's rather narrow pet peeve on a social, political, and prudential issue (gun-control laws or the use of the term "right") and try to claim that other people are "against God" if they take a different position from the speaker concerning this issue.

Self-defense may be morally justifiable in most cases, but it's not a "God-given right." And, again, saying "God-given" right attempts to gloss over the complexities of morality and self-defense.

As a blanket, unqualified term, I would agree that it is not a God-given right. Self-defense can be literally, though illegitimately, claimed by an armed robber who is shooting back at their victim. In fact, there is actually a case in the Midwest right now where that is happening.

Insofar as self-defense is qualified to be applicable only in cases of unjust violence, I would disagree because there is no moral duty to suffer evil. Self-defense may not be intrinsically the first resort. A case can be made that in some cases, retreating is necessary. However, I think if, say, you are backed against the wall by a murderer you have in that moment an absolute right to use whatever force is necessary to eliminate the threat of being murdered.

Actually the concept of a God-given right to life predates the Constitution...
I didn't intend to say that it didn't (also note the lower case 'c'), but could you clarify what you are referring to and its relevance? Like, do you have a quoted example that we can analyze?

Where in Christian revelation did God grant a "right?"

I don't think that it is over the top for the reasons given in my previous entry, but opinions will vary.

Arguably, this is objectionable for approximately the same reason...
Well, you could argue that, but it would look pretty silly considering I'm the only person I know making the case, and I have not injected any pet peeve at all. I focused singularly on the ill-advised usage of the words in the argumentation. In fact, I didn't make a single objection to the particular peeves that were involved. So you might want to rethink that. It comes off as an ill-thought, reflexive "you, too" as it is.

Not that it's relevant, but I am pro-life and pro-gun, so I sympathize in some ways with the policies in question. (I generally don't agree with most rationalizations behind the policies, but I am pretty extreme on both counts as far as policy and implementation is concerned.) That said, I never let that stop me from criticizing arguments for things with which I'm sympathetic. I would hope that's true for the rest of you.

Mike T, I don't see anything objectionable in your justifications, but nothing you wrote seems to require that it be deemed a "God-given right." I think you are conflating justification with authority. If you properly separate them, you may be more at ease with letting go of the desire to command God's authority.

I would hope that's true for the rest of you.

I'm sorry. On a reread of that, it sounds patronizing to me, which I didn't intend. I just think that sometimes we (including me) have a hard time letting go of rhetorical weapons in our arsenal when they seem effective, even though they are wrong. And when they seem effective but are actually wrong, I'm betting they aren't nearly as effective as we think.

but it would look pretty silly considering I'm the only person I know making the case, and I have not injected any pet peeve at all.

Even if it's only one person making the argument, the problem still remains--it's way over-the-top to say that it's _blasphemous_ to say, "Abortion violates the unborn child's God-given right to life." I think the pet peeve in question is with the word "rights." That, at least, is what I get from your comments in this thread--that you have a major problem with rights talk and consider it blasphemous when juxtaposed with the term "God-given." To my ear, that has all the sound of a pet peeve, exaggerated to a divinely ordained principle.

Where in Christian revelation did God grant a "right?"

The language of rights antedates the canon of Scripture historically, but that gets a big shrug from me. The explicit principle that it's wrong to beat the stuffing out of your kids also antedates the canon of Scripture. I don't subscribe to a narrow biblicism, and I'll bet you don't either, so the absence of some statement in Scripture is not a dispositive argument against the truth of such a statement, in my view. All the less so when there are biblical principles that seem positively relevant to the truth of the statement as intended.

To my ear, that has all the sound of a pet peeve, exaggerated to a divinely ordained principle.

Wow. I'm having a very difficult time taking that one seriously. Maybe later.

You're right about my attitude toward biblicism. But if we have no reasonable pedigree to Christian Tradition for the claim that God has granted us rights, any assertion to say he did is just bluster.

We may have some difficulty if you find something outside of Orthodoxy, since I'm Catholic. Some Protestant innovation isn't going to sit well with me, and I personally view Protestantism as some of the prime movers in the progress of Liberalism. Just letting you know so you don't get surprised if you bring something like that up.

Bringing the subject matter back to the topic of the OP, I came across this news item

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3352454/Devout-Christian-great-grandmother-sent-letter-headmistress-Islamic-girls-school-claiming-Muslims-worship-Satan-ordered-community-service.html

about what's going on across the pond and it highlights Paul's warning that

"Islam is a permanent problem, arising out of an ancient religion that is brimming with self-confidence and evangelical fervor. It is absolutely incumbent upon all of us to talk truth and not falsehood about Islam."

Thank God (or is that blasphemous?!) for our First Amendment right of free speech in this country to call out the evils of Islam and peacefully preach Christ's gospel to our Muslim neighbors without getting fined or ordered to perform community service!

Thank God (or is that blasphemous?!)

It might be if you make hay about it and *reproach* someone with it.

Where in Christian revelation did God grant a "right?"

Rerum Novarum begins with a subtitle:

Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor

Eventually it states

25 But, if Christian precepts prevail, the respective classes will not only be united in the bonds of friendship, but also in those of brotherly love. For they will understand and feel that all men are children of the same common Father, who is God; that all have alike the same last end, which is God Himself, who alone can make either men or angels absolutely and perfectly happy; that each and all are redeemed and made sons of God, by Jesus Christ, "the first-born among many brethren"; that the blessings of nature and the gifts of grace belong to the whole human race in common, and that from none except the unworthy is withheld the inheritance of the kingdom of Heaven. "If sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God, and co-heirs with Christ."(22) Such is the scheme of duties and of rights which is shown forth to the world by the Gospel.

Calling it a "right" attempts to force natural law into some kind of constitutional frame, which is a false frame for both natural law and Traditional knowledge. It also filters the conversation through the parlance of liberalism, which I reject outright.

13 That right to property, therefore, which has been proved to belong naturally to individual persons, must in like wise belong to a man in his capacity of head of a family;…

15
Hence, it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal.

37
Rights must be religiously respected wherever they exist, and it is the duty of the public authority to prevent and to punish injury, and to protect every one in the possession of his own. Still, when there is question of defending the rights of individuals, the poor and badly off have a claim to especial consideration.

51
Private societies, then, although they exist within the body politic, and are severally part of the commonwealth, cannot nevertheless be absolutely, and as such, prohibited by public authority. For, to enter into a "society" of this kind is the natural right of man; and the State has for its office to protect natural rights, not to destroy them; and, if it forbid its citizens to form associations, it contradicts the very principle of its own existence, for both they and it exist in virtue of the like principle, namely, the natural tendency of man to dwell in society.

Lest Leo get all the blame:

Evengelium Vitae:

49 The Prophets point an accusing finger at those who show contempt for life and violate people's rights:

60
"The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life"

71
The real purpose of civil law is to guarantee an ordered social coexistence in true justice, so that all may "lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way" (1 Tim 2:2). Precisely for this reason, civil law must ensure that all members of society enjoy respect for certain fundamental rights which innately belong to the person, rights which every positive law must recognize and guarantee. First and fundamental among these is the inviolable right to life of every innocent human being.

In the Encyclical Pacem in Terris, John XXIII pointed out that "it is generally accepted today that the common good is best safeguarded when personal rights and duties are guaranteed. The chief concern of civil authorities must therefore be to ensure that these rights are recognized, respected, co-ordinated, defended and promoted, and that each individual is enabled to perform his duties more easily. For ?to safeguard the inviolable rights of the human person, and to facilitate the performance of his duties, is the principal duty of every public authority'. Thus any government which refused to recognize human rights or acted in violation of them, would not only fail in its duty; its decrees would be wholly lacking in binding force".

101
The Gospel of life is for the whole of human society. To be actively pro-life is to contribute to the renewal of society through the promotion of the common good. It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop.

Letter to bishops, 1991:

Just as a century ago it was the working classes which were oppressed in their fundamental rights, and the Church very courageously came to their defence by proclaiming the sacrosanct rights of the worker as a person, so now, when another category of persons is being oppressed in the fundamental right to life, the Church feels in duty bound to speak out with the same courage on behalf of those who have no voice. Hers is always the evangelical cry in defence of the world's poor, those who are threatened and despised and whose human rights are violated"

Centessimus Annus

7. In close connection with the right to private property, Pope Leo XIII's Encyclical also affirms other rights as inalienable and proper to the human person.
11 From this point forward it will be necessary to keep in mind that the main thread and, in a certain sense, the guiding principle of Pope Leo's Encyclical, and of all of the Church's social doctrine, is a correct view of the human person and of his unique value, inasmuch as "man ... is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself".38 God has imprinted his own image and likeness on man (cf. Gen 1:26), conferring upon him an incomparable dignity, as the Encyclical frequently insists. In effect, beyond the rights which man acquires by his own work, there exist rights which do not correspond to any work he performs, but which flow from his essential dignity as a person.

17
This very error had extreme consequences in the tragic series of wars which ravaged Europe and the world between 1914 and 1945. Some of these resulted from militarism and exaggerated nationalism, and from related forms of totalitarianism; some derived from the class struggle; still others were civil wars or wars of an ideological nature. Without the terrible burden of hatred and resentment which had built up as a result of so many injustices both on the international level and within individual States, such cruel wars would not have been possible, in which great nations invested their energies and in which there was no hesitation to violate the most sacred human rights,

22
An important, even decisive, contribution was made by the Church's commitment to defend and promote human rights. In situations strongly influenced by ideology, in which polarization obscured the awareness of a human dignity common to all, the Church affirmed clearly and forcefully that every individual — whatever his or her personal convictions — bears the image of God and therefore deserves respect.

44
Thus, the root of modern totalitarianism is to be found in the denial of the transcendent dignity of the human person who, as the visible image of the invisible God, is therefore by his very nature the subject of rights which no one may violate — no individual, group, class, nation or State. Not even the majority of a social body may violate these rights, by going against the minority, by isolating, oppressing, or exploiting it, or by attempting to annihilate it.

It is always exciting when the great Popes of the past drop by!!!

Meanwhile, I thought I'd pile on with a quote from that crazed Catholic blasphemer Anthony Esolen:

And here we touch upon the great error of the modern State, which Leo sees quite clearly. It is that "governments have been organized without God and the order established by Him being taken at all into account," something even the pagans never did. The Church has been forced to withdraw from "the scheme of studies at universities, colleges, and high schools, as well as from all the practical working of public life" (QAM, 24). That severs our public life from the life to come and removes at a stroke the profound and personal obligations, ***God-given along with our rights***, which the rich and poor owe to one another. [from Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching, 2014]

My emphasis of course :-) As you can see, all sorts of Catholic thinkers agree with Silly that rights talk and the phrase "God-given" is just plain blasphemous.

"Silly" is indeed a right handle.

I would recommend against proliferating such blasphemous bombast. Neither you, Jeffery S., nor Mr. Barber are bearers of God’s authority.
he would be a complete wacko, and he would be blasphemously claiming God's authority on the matter.
Bandying about his name to support your pet rights is clearly disrespectful.
Claiming possession of God's authority--which the phrase "God-given right" clearly does--puts your judgement over God's. It is self-idolization and blasphemous.

Silly, you are being completely silly and wrong-headed about this. You don't like the use of the word "right" in the context above, so you decided to attack it as an offense against God's name. This silly, footless nonsense is nothing more than a flawed CIRCULAR argument that is really about the concept "rights". Rights don't exist, so a claim they are from God defames God, so they were being blasphemous, which shows you that the said rights aren't really from God.

Blasphemy is directly opposed to the second commandment. It consists in uttering against God - inwardly or outwardly - words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward him in one's speech; in misusing God's name.

There are 2 basic ways of being blasphemous. The first is to use God's name contemptuously: with hatred, reproach, or defiance. ABSOLUTELY NONE of the comments about "God-given rights" even remotely approaches doing this.

The second way is to use God's name carelessly, without the due reserve and attention to WHOM is being called on in that name. It is, indeed, possible to use the expression "God-given rights" in such a way. But there is no necessity of it.

For instance, if a man were to be honestly and reasonably convinced that he had - LITERALLY - some specific God-given right (say: Abraham and a claim to land), he could use the expression while giving total and proper attention to Whom he is calling on: "As for me and my house, we will give thanks day and night for the God=given right to inhabit this land." That can't be blasphemous as the failure to attend to the due respect and honor of the Person called on.

If a person were to read Leo XIII above and conclude that the Gospel announces and reveals to us a God-given right to inherit, with Christ, the Kingdom, saying so would not fail to be properly cautious with Christian teaching through the Bible and the Church, nor properly attentive to He whom the phrase refers.

It is patently absurd to assert that using the expression "God-given" for things which you _conclude_ are God-given on the basis of the Bible and natural law is "blasphemous." A person might err about whether the derivation is valid, but claiming THAT some good is from God (which is all the phrase means) is hardly "claiming God's authority" on the matter. It's patent nonsense. Next you will be saying that "claiming the Bible is God's word is 'claiming God's authority on the matter', because God never says in the Bible "The Bible is God's word." Your logic provides its own reductio.

I know if someone pointed out something I said that they thought was blasphemous, I'd give it some pretty serious consideration. After all, if he's right, he's doing me a kindness.

Well, I tell you here and now that I think your assertions above either are, or verge closely upon, uncharity to others by presumptuous interpretations of their words. Perhaps you will give that serious consideration.

And it's time to put paid to this silly side show. Blasphemy has been dealt with, we shall not go on beating a dead horse even deader. It's done. Returning to the main attraction:

I loved this, Paul

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.

How long can we survive if (at least) one of the two main factions perceive it as a fundamental raison d'etre that they oppose the other guy's objectives? If that persists, there cannot remain a single Union, it will perforce dissolve.

Okay, there are a few wrong-headed things going on here.

First off, telling me what I think is irresponsible and just plain wrong. Telling me that "rights" is my real target and not the blasphemous use of "God-given" is pure crap, and out of line. So unless you are prepared to challenge my honor and call me a liar, you can stop that right now. I may have gotten a little carried away here (more on that in a moment), but I have had plenty of discussions about what reasonable rights would and would not be regarding many issues and not made that big of a deal about rights. What *specifically* brought me into this discussion was my assessment of the blasphemous nature of talking about "God-given rights" (or "God-given Liberties," as it was in the other discussion.) So if you can't accept that--eat sand. You have no business visiting my intentions that way, and I don't need you. You know who you are.

When Lydia pointed out there may be a problem with the "pet peeve" sneaking in, I thought it was stretching it to ridiculous lengths, but she didn't tell me what my real intention was. That shows me reasonable respect.

So far, the toughest challenge presented has been Lydia's example with the "right to Life," and, honestly, I'm not completely satisfied with my response to it, but I'm trying to work through it. It was off of that response that "rights" -- whether fortunately or unfortunately, I'm not sure which -- became a major tangential issue. I probably came on a little stronger than was necessary, but I was trying to work through it and I'm still trying to work through it, so forgive me if I stir things up a little during the inquiry. I don't think I was unfair, but I'm going to follow this thing through as long as Mr. Cella allows.

The second toughest challenge is the pasted papal text snippets, but I don't think they do for you what you think they do. To be clear, my question about God granting rights was not a rhetorical one. I was hoping that the answers might be informative. Perhaps--putting aside the deceptive language inherent to "rights"--there is room for some true attributions where God-given would at least not be blasphemous*. So far all examples I've come across--with the exception of Lydia's, have been demonstrably false (such as Barber's "God-given right" to own a guns), and, therefore, blasphemous.

But none of the papal texts you provided connect the dots to show any specific rights at all that were ever granted by God. Additionally, there is a whole context that is missing in church texts that discuss the modern language and how it differs from the church's social doctrines. Furthermore, the snippets refer to the rights several times as natural rights, which clearly indicates they are not revealed doctrinal ones, and just as I said above about natural law, the interpretations of natural rights are always going to be debatable, so saying they were granted by God is just dead wrong and has all of the previously indicated problems of claiming his authority.

And, Tony, you are trying to do what I thought Jeffery was doing--you are circumscribing the aspects of blasphemy to suit your argument, while ignoring the other ones that favor my view that are clearly included in the Catechism snippets that Jeffery presented us above. That's not the way to seek truth--that's the way to obfuscate it.

When I can find time, which might actually be a while now, I will attempt to follow up with you, Lydia, regarding the right to life, which has the best chance of putting a dent in my assessment. I'm admittedly wrestling with that part of it. (I am completely convinced that the vast majority of the time people say "I have a God given right to _____" that it is blasphemous bluster, but you've put a chink in the axiom's armor.")

I'll also attempt to get back soon to quote-text the statements I made above about the papal snippets, but they are easily verifiable by checking above.

*So in the process of writing this and gabbing with a sibling, I think I may have come up with a statement that could be said of a right (again in spite of the deceptiveness of the language) that is demonstrably granted by God. I'll follow up with that sooner rather than later after I've had a chance to think some on it.

Silly, you just don't seem to get it. You already pushed the discussion beyond beating a dead horse, enough already. There comes a time when it's no longer worth it to continue a discussion, and that point has been reached.

But none of the papal texts you provided

Just for future reference, it is inappropriate to ascribe to ME (Or Lydia, or Jeff, or anyone else) something that was posted by "Pope Leo XIII" or "Pope St. John Paul II". Obviously, someone posting under one of those screen names could be ANYONE. Could be those popes, or new commmenters, or whatever. "Pope John Paul II" is a name we have seen here before, and it wasn't me using it. (Of course, that was before he was declared a saint.) So we'll just stick to the names given out of courtesy.

Leo and John Paul, I apologize for the lack of courtesy to your efforts. I hope we will see more from you guys.

Tony, there were some obvious loose ends, and I wasn't talking to you on most of the follow up issues. If everyone wants me to cease, they can let me know, but if Lydia, for example, wants some follow up, I'll keep going.

Regarding the papal texts, I said nothing inconsiderate to them, so I don't appreciate you characterizing me as discourteous, and you--who were extremely discourteous to me by implying my dishonesty--don't need to be apologizing for me.

By the way--where did I ascribe anything to you that was posted by the popes?

The Esolen quote explicitly says that some rights are God-given. I realize that Tony Esolen is not the pope and is entirely fallible. :-) But he's not a Protestant, either, and in the context clearly considers himself to be parsing Catholic tradition and papal statements. That also seems reasonable on Esolen's part, given the papal statements.

In any event, and in all seriousness, I'm very happy for this sub-thread to end.

The second toughest challenge is the pasted papal text snippets, but I don't think they do for you what you think they do.
But none of the papal texts you provided

None of my comments had papal texts. They were in Leo's and JPII's.

By the way, I thought it was tactically and rhetorically foolish to claim there is a "God-given right" to own guns - not something I would ever have done.

By the way, I thought it was tactically and rhetorically foolish to claim there is a "God-given right" to own guns - not something I would ever have done.

I agree with Tony, with Lydia's self-defense gloss. No hint of divine-ordained rights talk, no talk of rights at all (save one brief mention of "an American right to bear arms") appeared in my post.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

I'm not saying that one has to believe in our specific system of government, but one of the things that the founders got right is this: True rights (if there are such things) come from God.

They can't be taken away -- you will always have the right to life -- but they can be violated.

I read this argument feeling somewhat bemused. "God-given right", far from being blasphemous, is redundant. One can be wrong about what things are God-given rights and what things are not, but if you have a right, it's not given by anyone else.

My two cents. You know, because things had settled down, and that's terrifying.

betrayal of patriotism and national identity.

But the liberal, progressive or libertarian, would impose HIS version of the national identity on the religious dissenters such as the national army fighting aboard for gay rights and reproductive choice. Isn't that a more pressing betrayal of the national identity?

Thing is, when one self-identifies with the State to the extent of calling Total War on nations, then one makes himself responsible for the sins of that State. This is a very uncomfortable position for a religious dissenter to take, on one hand worrying whether his children would not be seized by the State, on other hand calling upon this State to lead global crusades.

Those were not directed at you, Tony.

So... I was keeping silent out of respect for the authors' wishes, but if we are going to continue I'll try to pull back a little and take a little more time between answers. For the record, I wasn't trying to be a jerk, nor was I implying that anyone was being intentionally blasphemous--including Mr. Barber. Maybe the perception that I was got commenters' backs up a little. And while I'm at it, none of my words were intended to criticize anything you wrote, Mr. Cella. I started in on Mr. Barber's words.

Mr. Freivald, I disagree with you. "Constitutional rights" are discussed all the time, and they are obviously derived by man, not handed to us by God, regardless of what the Founders claimed. Cripes, with the current status of our law, we have a constitutional right to abortion. That ain't from God. So I guess I'm just a little bemused by your bemusement. :-P

I would go so far as to say that natural rights--inasmuch as they exist--come from God, but it should be evident from what I wrote above that I already conceded that. I haven't objected to anyone saying that natural rights are God-given.

What I objected to were declarations of specific, man-defined "rights" as "God-given" that are not demonstrably from God. Admittedly, I wasn't at my best articulately or polemically, but that much at least should have been clear. (It also renders the general remark about rights from Mr. Esolen--whom I only know from recent google and can't for the life of me understand why he is somehow authoritative--irrelevant to what I was saying, by the way.)

But again (picture monkey banging his drum), I think the term "rights" is deceptive and confuses the issue. The extreme equivocation between natural and secular rights only being one example of it.

Mr. Freivald, I disagree with you.

I'm not surprised. :D

"Constitutional rights" are discussed all the time, and they are obviously derived by man, not handed to us by God, regardless of what the Founders claimed. Cripes, with the current status of our law, we have a constitutional right to abortion. That ain't from God.

Our Constitution is a specific declaration of powers of a specific government, and our SCOTUS rulings are specific interpretations of those declarations. If I am correct that "One can be wrong about what things are God-given rights and what things are not," then SCOTUS is wrong about the so-called right to abortion -- but that doesn't mean that true rights aren't God-given.

I don't think additional posts will get us much farther in this discussion, and they will continue to take us farther from Paul's intent, so I will bow out at this point.

Gee, thanks, Jake.

[Written before Jake's most recent post, and then posted after.]

In deference to Jake the Stirrer, and in recognition of the fact that Silly has gone to extraordinary lengths to pull back from excessive polemics and harsh rhetoric, I am tentatively willing to give it one more attempt.

Traditional morality, scripture, natural law, etc. don't give us insight into "rights." They may tell us defense is just or proper (depending on what you mean by "defense"), though it is rarely as straight-forward as fundamentalist-style interpreters try to make it. Calling it a "right" attempts to force natural law into some kind of constitutional frame, which is a false frame for both natural law and Traditional knowledge. It also filters the conversation through the parlance of liberalism, which I reject outright. [my emphasis]
Perhaps--putting aside the deceptive language inherent to "rights"
But again (picture monkey banging his drum), I think the term "rights" is deceptive and confuses the issue. The extreme equivocation between natural and secular rights only being one example of it.

Without trying to PRECISELY define “rights” with a perfect and complete definition, I accept that there are indeed equivocations on the word running around. Leading to inappropriate usage.

A secular humanist might hold “rights” to mean nothing other than “something granted by the state”, or at least something that exists only by reference to a human body of law. To a person like this, the term “God-given rights” would be an oxymoron. And if it came from HIS mouth, intending thereby that the hearer THINK that the rights come from God, (thinking to borrow divine authority for the claim of right even though there is no such basis) that would be a blasphemous lie.

You might theoretically have a state which proclaims an officially secular humanist creed against God, and a universal agreement on same among the people, in which the term “rights” is universally understood to mean only “something granted by the state”. In this case, throwing about the phrase “God-given right” without immediate clarification would be confusing because it would seem to be in defiance of the standard meaning in common parlance. The secular humanists wish that we should have such a society, and oft times pretend that we do, but we do not - yet.

You might have a society divided between secular humanists and theists, in which secular humanists generally think the expression “rights” ought to mean only “something granted by the state”, but the theists frequently dispute this, and as a result there is widespread grasp of the usage as at least _capable_ of broader application than “granted by society”. In that situation, a person using the expression “a God-given right” might be blasphemous or not, depending on what he intends. We have just such a society – as will be made clear.

If in this last–supposed society the user intends by the expression only “By asserting it has a divine origin, I mean to intimidate you into not contesting the ‘right’ here asserted, even though I _care_not_ whether it has a divine origin”,

then that would be a blasphemous rhetorical ploy. Clearly, in such a society, such a usage in the hands of a secular humanist - who doesn’t actually think ANY rights come from God – would be blasphemous. And a lie to boot, just as in the first case above.

In this society “God-given right” theoretically might be used intending or at least hoping to convey “it is indisputable he has this right”, but it doesn’t have to be used that way. For theists readily suppose that the granting of rights is not indisputable, even when God has done it. In SOME sense God gave to Abraham the land He brought Abraham to, but it was not so indisputably.

14 When Abram had parted from Lot, the Lord said to him, Look about thee, turn thy eyes from where thou art to north and south, to east and west. 15 All the land thou seest I make over to thee, and to thy posterity for ever. 16 And to that posterity I will grant increase, till it lies like dust on the ground, past all counting. 17 Up, then, and journey through the land at thy ease, the length and breadth of it; to thee I will give it. 18 So Abram moved his tent, and went to live by the valley of Mambre,[2] at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord. (Gen 13)

One can hardly suppose that all men automatically realized that they were bound to credit and respect this grant by God. Since some grants by God are historically contingent, people may or may not KNOW of the contingent events or the evidence of those divine actions, and they may legitimately dispute the grant without blasphemy to God. WE can say of this gift "it is Abraham's God-given land" without trying to imply that the men of the time had no basis on which to dispute the claim.

“God-given right” theoretically might be used intending to convey “an absolute right, one that cannot be taken away or given up or constrained in any way”, but it doesn’t have to be used that way. Nor do theists presumptively use it that way. God gave to Saul and his line the kingship of Israel, but after Saul sinned God decided to give the monarchy to David and his line instead. A man who commits pre-meditated murder gives up his (God-given: "I chose you before I gave you life, and before you were born I selected you to be a prophet to the nations." Jer 1:5) right to life, which we know by God’s own attestation (Genesis 9:6). Catholics believe that God’s grant of supernatural grace in baptism is permanent (It is a habit, as St. Thomas shows) in its own character, but that the man so raised up by grace can defy God and lose the gift so made. As Adam and Eve did. As theists use the expression “God-given”, there is no definitive and universally valid way to get from “God gave this” to “it is an absolute and unqualified grant.”

Thus in our society the expression “God-given right” does not inherently bear denotations of either indisputability or of an unqualified absoluteness of right. Even if the expression bears connotations of those senses to a degree, it does not carry those connotations so emphatically as to be universally used so. Using the expression in order to attempt to convey either an indisputability or an absoluteness, simply to deny having to bear any argumentative burden to establish the same because of the modifier “God-given”, would be to use “God-given” as mere (empty) rhetorical trick. And one should not use “God-X” language as empty rhetoric in any context.

But in our society, in general we widely continue to dispute both the application of the claims and the extent of the claims implied in the phrase “God-given”, and people do not always use the expression trying to avoid the burden of proof. Even though secular humanists are grievously wrong about “rights”, even though they are wrong about the grounding of rights and about the true context - in which “rights and obligations” are correlative terms as the popes showed us – these remain disputed matters in our national conversation, indeed, in the world at large. Evangelium Vitae:

11. Here though we shall concentrate particular attention on another category of attacks, affecting life in its earliest and in its final stages, attacks which present new characteristics with respect to the past and which raise questions of extraordinary seriousness. It is not only that in generalized opinion these attacks tend no longer to be considered as "crimes"; paradoxically they assume the nature of "rights", to the point that the State is called upon to give them legal recognition and to make them available through the free services of health-care personnel.…How did such a situation come about? Many different factors have to be taken into account. In the background there is the profound crisis of culture, which generates scepticism in relation to the very foundations of knowledge and ethics, and which makes it increasingly difficult to grasp clearly the meaning of what man is, the meaning of his rights and his duties.
18…In this way, and with tragic consequences, a long historical process is reaching a turning-point. The process which once led to discovering the idea of "human rights"-rights inherent in every person and prior to any Constitution and State legislation-is today marked by a surprising contradiction. Precisely in an age when the inviolable rights of the person are solemnly proclaimed and the value of life is publicly affirmed, the very right to life is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death. [my emphasis]

On the one hand, the various declarations of human rights and the many initiatives inspired by these declarations show that at the global level there is a growing moral sensitivity, more alert to acknowledging the value and dignity of every individual as a human being, without any distinction of race, nationality, religion, political opinion or social class.

On the other hand, these noble proclamations are unfortunately contradicted by a tragic repudiation of them in practice. This denial is still more distressing, indeed more scandalous, precisely because it is occurring in a society which makes the affirmation and protection of human rights its primary objective and its boast. How can these repeated affirmations of principle be reconciled with the continual increase and widespread justification of attacks on human life? How can we reconcile these declarations with the refusal to accept those who are weak and needy, or elderly, or those who have just been conceived? These attacks go directly against respect for life and they represent a direct threat to the entire culture of human rights…

19. What are the roots of this remarkable contradiction? We can find them in an overall assessment of a cultural and moral nature, beginning with the mentality which carries the concept of subjectivity to an extreme and even distorts it, and recognizes as a subject of rights only the person who enjoys full or at least incipient autonomy and who emerges from a state of total dependence on others. But how can we reconcile this approach with the exaltation of man as a being who is "not to be used"? The theory of human rights is based precisely on the affirmation that the human person, unlike animals and things, cannot be subjected to domination by others... At another level, the roots of the contradiction between the solemn affirmation of human rights and their tragic denial in practice lies in a notion of freedom which exalts the isolated individual in an absolute way, and gives no place to solidarity, to openness to others and service of them… There is an even more profound aspect which needs to be emphasized: freedom negates and destroys itself, and becomes a factor leading to the destruction of others, when it no longer recognizes and respects its essential link with the truth…
20. This view of freedom leads to a serious distortion of life in society. If the promotion of the self is understood in terms of absolute autonomy, people inevitably reach the point of rejecting one another. Everyone else is considered an enemy from whom one has to defend oneself… This is what is happening also at the level of politics and government: the original and inalienable right to life is questioned or denied on the basis of a parliamentary vote or the will of one part of the people-even if it is the majority. This is the sinister result of a relativism which reigns unopposed: the "right" ceases to be such, because it is no longer firmly founded on the inviolable dignity of the person, but is made subject to the will of the stronger part.

John Paul II, and other popes, DO contest against this distortion of the meanings of freedom and rights. They DO insist on correcting these errors. And in so doing, they deny that “rights” and “freedom” are chimera, rather they demonstrate clearly the truth about human rights as rooted in man’s social nature, always related to man’s duties to each other and God, and freedom as a relationship with God and Truth.

And it is also in view of this entrusting that God gives everyone freedom, a freedom which possesses an inherently relational dimension. This is a great gift of the Creator, placed as it is at the service of the person and of his fulfilment through the gift of self and openness to others; but when freedom is made absolute in an individualistic way, it is emptied of its original content, and its very meaning and dignity are contradicted. [also in 19]
34… The biblical author sees as part of this image not only man's dominion over the world but also those spiritual faculties which are distinctively human, such as reason, discernment between good and evil, and free will: "He filled them with knowledge and understanding, and showed them good and evil" (Sir 17:7). The ability to attain truth and freedom are human prerogatives inasmuch as man is created in the image of his Creator, God who is true and just (cf. Dt 32:4). Man alone, among all visible creatures, is "capable of knowing and loving his Creator".

Thus JPII leads us to the right meaning of freedom, and expresses that it is from God through man’s nature as rational and “in His image” that freedom and rights (“prerogatives”) obtain, and that this is revealed to us in God’s Word. We who, with the Church, contest the distortion of words and concepts borrowed by secular humanists and abused by them, do by no means cede the playing field to their abuse.

Therefore: if by the expression “God-given rights” a man intends to assert that the right comes from God, in pursuit of the general theist stance that “rights” doesn’t merely mean “granted by society”, and if he thinks he can show – and is willing to show - that right as granted by God in Scripture, and heintends that the hearer think “he believes he can show that right as granted by God in Scripture”, then that clearly is NOT blasphemously empty rhetoric. The “God-“ part of the expression is actually intended to refer to God, with appropriate deference to God’s own authority both to grant a gift and to attest to the gift.

This is so even if he is inadvertently wrong about being able to show from Scripture that right is granted by God

, for the sin of blasphemy as an act either of commission or omission requires either defiance toward the holiness of God’s name or sinful lack of caution and deference regarding God’s name, and he has neither. What he has is merely error about what his evidence shows. It is not, in this case, mere empty rhetoric. It is not blasphemous to think God has granted X just because the reason you think that God gave it is insufficient to prove the point. And it is not blasphemous to SAY it is from God if you are not employing _empty_ rhetoric_ but intentional reference to Him as supported by a reason - even if the reason is inadequate on its own.

It’s a God-given right.

Or so says Jesus...

Barber was not using the expression as an empty rhetorical ploy, he ACTUALLY CARRIED OUT the effort to show that God granted the right. His argument is not without some gaps and chinks, but in no way did he employ the expression in order to avoid the burden of proof. And he intended by the expression not solely the fainter derived sense of “given as through the natural law” but the more proximate “given as attested by God in the Person of Jesus, in Scripture”. Nor did he clearly employ the secularist distortion of “right” in his argument, neither the false origin nor the false super-individualism of the seculars. He did not attempt to use “God-given” in order to apply the right in an absolute manner, he allowed that it has qualifications and limits, and not by reason of human law but as related to man’s obligations to each other.

Claiming possession of God's authority--which the phrase "God-given right" clearly does--puts your judgement over God's. It is self-idolization and blasphemous. Refusing to see that is just refusing to see.

Claiming a right (or anything else) is “God-given” is not you “claiming possession of God’s authority” nor “puts you in judgement over God’s”. That’s not how the logic of the expression “God-given” pans out, not INHERENTLY. If you were to say “God-given power to prophecy” to describe Isaiah, you would not be expressing a claim that YOU possess God’s authority, or that you sit in judgment of God’s gift of prophecy to Isaiah. If you were to say Abraham’s descendants were his “God-given posterity”, you would not sit in judgment over God. These would be Bible-led descriptions of God’s actions in granting his gifts. Using the Bible to guide your description of biblically indicated truths, like events involving God’s gifts, cannot be “claiming God’s authority.” Otherwise we would have to be silent and just HAND someone the Bible any time he had a question about it. The same applies to “God-given rights”, when “rights” are used in the manner Leo and John Paul use them.

If secular humanists misuse “rights” in the way JPII describes, then they will also misuse a phrase like “God-given rights” to mean some horrible distortion of reality. They may mean secretly “The State is God, and these rights come from the State, so for this purpose they are ‘God-given’.” Making such a claim of God’s authority for the state _explicitly_ would be blasphemous. But (a) it is not even true that all secularists would for a moment accept “the State is God”, (e.g. libertarian atheists who are anarchists or quasi-anarchists and hate the state). And (b) we don’t normally call behavior which implies denying God’s authority blasphemy, without something overt about that denial – otherwise ALL deliberate sins would be sins of blasphemy, and we don’t generally say that. Plus of course (c) not everyone using the phrase “God-given right” is using it buying into the secular meaning of right much less a secular divinization of the state. Assuredly Leo and JPII don’t buy into those distortions. Asserting that someone is using it so, without clear evidence, might be a bit over-hasty.

I would go so far as to say that natural rights--inasmuch as they exist--come from God, but it should be evident from what I wrote above that I already conceded that. I haven't objected to anyone saying that natural rights are God-given.

What I objected to were declarations of specific, man-defined "rights" as "God-given" that are not demonstrably from God. Admittedly, I wasn't at my best articulately or polemically, but that much at least should have been clear.

No, that was not evident nor clear. Very much to the contrary, I should say. I did write out a much longer comment containing quotes, but I decided that might be more inflammatory than just saying that no such thing was clear.

It also renders the general remark about rights from Mr. Esolen--whom I only know from recent google and can't for the life of me understand why he is somehow authoritative--irrelevant to what I was saying, by the way.

Well, you specifically asked if anywhere, ever, in Christian revelation, God is said to have given _any_ right.

Where in Christian revelation did God grant a "right?"

I responded that the word isn't used in Scripture but that this doesn't matter unless one is a narrow biblicist. You then replied by asking whether rights are ever said to be conferred by God in non-Protestant tradition, making quite a big deal about emphasizing that Protestant quotes wouldn't count.

But if we have no reasonable pedigree to Christian Tradition for the claim that God has granted us rights, any assertion to say he did is just bluster.

We may have some difficulty if you find something outside of Orthodoxy, since I'm Catholic. Some Protestant innovation isn't going to sit well with me, and I personally view Protestantism as some of the prime movers in the progress of Liberalism.

There then followed a bunch of quotes from Popes (!) stating that various human rights are sacred and what-not. They happened not to use the term "God-given," but Esolen (a very conservative Catholic academic) clearly interpreted Catholic tradition to support the conclusion that some rights are indeed God-given.

So in other words, yes, you did _definitely_ imply that God hasn't granted any rights at all, that there is no pedigree in Christian tradition to say that he has, and implied that it would be difficult (if not impossible) to find anything other than a "Protestant innovation" to the contrary.

All of this was refuted.

I'm glad that your position has softened, but from all of that to "natural rights come from God" is definitely a sea change.

Where in Christian revelation did God grant a "right?"

Strictly speaking, rights language is problematic here, but if changed to a matter of authority under the natural law many rights are not that incoherent. Technically yes, there is no right to live because a right is not discretionary and a right to live is a right that is unqualified by its own language to such an extent it would literally exclude valid executions and self-defense. However, most of the content that falls under that right is actually true as a statement about who has authority to do what and to whom.

I don't know if we have a good way to address this as a language issue, but from a philosophical perspective, it is not that problematic. God did grant most of the content of a right to live in the creation of a moral obligation to not murder. Even if our language sucks in describing it, what we are grasping to describe is there in revelation and nature.

-- but that doesn't mean that true rights aren't God-given.

Mr. Freivald, when you can ignore a vast body of usage to write something like that in all seriousness, is it any wonder people don’t take me seriously when I disparage the ability for the word “right” to be used coherently? It is common among multiple religions to say that the Law comes from God, but no one that I’m aware of attempts to formulate an argument to dispute that secular laws forbidding boots to be worn in bed or tissues to be kept in your car are from God. They are a different kind of law than the natural law that comes from God.

The sentence you quote can just as coherently say “One can be wrong about what rights are God-given and what rights are not…” without disturbing the common usage of the word except, perhaps, in the more recondite corners of blogdom. Though I suppose in this postmodern age, “right” can mean just about whatever the hell you want it to.

It is true that an immoral requirement renders a law illegitimate, but when such occurs, it does not mean it isn’t a law of that land. The jack-booted thugs will demonstrate otherwise. It is an abuse of that authority, but it is a law—and obviously not from God. The same can be understood regarding rights.

Tony, thanks for injecting this great improvement of tone into the discussion.

It is interesting to me that you bring up a scriptural narrative with a pronouncement from God, because it struck me from the beginning just how similar the handling of “God-given rights” is to that of sola scriptura. Apologists of this ilk are wont to interpret the text (or the right) as they are inclined, and evoke God (the Holy Spirit) to give their interpretation absolute authority. And, yes, I believe such fundamentalist exercises are improper claims of dominion over the will of the Holy Spirit. (I say that to demonstrate consistency, not stir up trouble.)

So this interpretation of Genesis is problematic when trying to extrapolate back to God the disputable or indisputable nature of his ordinances. Rather I would suggest that we are talking about disputable and indisputable interpretations, potentially at both the prescriptive and exegetical levels. That doesn’t mean your point is wrong, it just means you need to work a little harder to find an apt example.

There are a number of things that have been repeated in the quotes you provided, but the most difficult for me is when JP II says “This is the sinister result of a relativism which reigns unopposed: the "right" ceases to be such, because it is no longer firmly founded on the inviolable dignity of the person, but is made subject to the will of the stronger part.” However, also quoted therein is something which proves that it isn’t nearly as convincing as you might think. In fact, it’s pretty much a smoking gun.

Take note of the words in this EV sentence: “The theory of human rights is based precisely on the affirmation that the human person, unlike animals and things, cannot be subjected to domination by others…”
Ladies and gentlemen—a theory is clearly not doctrine. And when you relegate this papal discussion to its proper context, ultimately we are talking about *theoretical* ideas about rights and nothing that can be claimed definitively.

Therefore when we read that “The ‘right’ ceases to be such…” we know for a fact that the pope is trying to make sense of the theoretical context and align it as best he can with moral doctrine. What he is not doing is defining away the actual meaning of “right” in other contexts.

John Paul II, and other popes, DO contest against this distortion of the meanings of freedom and rights.
Though your wording is a bit confusing, at best they DO contest against a theoretical distortion—and I would argue that claiming specific “God-given rights” is part of the distortion they contest against. Just like “God-given freedoms” and “God-given sexual orientation” and “God-given growth of our skinhead membership” and are.
We who, with the Church, contest the distortion of words and concepts borrowed by secular humanists and abused by them, do by no means cede the playing field to their abuse.
It is quite the opposite. The Church is attempting to borrow secular words and concepts and integrate their theoretical framework into doctrine—but theory is clearly not doctrine, and if any concession is being made, it is by allowing Catholic morality to be described with the language of secular ideology. Although I obviously cannot claim the omniscience to predict the pastoral effects of such practices, I have severe doubts that it can be good, especially considering the problems it causes for understanding objective truth.

So this puts the JP II discussion in a theoretical context that imposes certain restraints on the theory in order for it to coincide with Catholic morality. But it doesn’t really say anything about an authoritative definition of “rights.” (Greater minds than mine are also wont to discuss JP II’s general phenomenological rather than objective approach, but I would probably injure myself with that workout.) At best, it relegates it to a battle about which rights can be legitimately aligned with Catholic morality and which cannot. It’s a lot like the Catholic discussions about legitimate freedom. Sure, we can discuss what can be a reasonable and legitimate freedom under Catholic morality, but the objective meaning of freedom covers all “illegitimate” choices of behavior as well as the “legitimate” ones.

Therefore: if … a man intends, … and heintends … then that clearly is NOT blasphemously empty rhetoric.
Yay! My turn to quote a pope!
72. […] Hence human activity cannot be judged as morally good merely because it is a means for attaining one or another of its goals, or simply because the subject's intention is good.122 Activity is morally good when it attests to and expresses the voluntary ordering of the person to his ultimate end and the conformity of a concrete action with the human good as it is acknowledged in its truth by reason. If the object of the concrete action is not in harmony with the true good of the person, the choice of that action makes our will and ourselves morally evil, thus putting us in conflict with our ultimate end, the supreme good, God himself. —Veritatus Splendor
In other words, what the encyclical in other sections calls the “object” of the act, the actual behavior, determines the objective morality of that act, not the intentions. Not the little stories we tell ourselves to justify our acts.

In previous posts, I conceded that if a specific right could be directly and indisputably attributed to God, then it would not be blasphemous in the way that I say it would be otherwise. However, if the object of an act is to attribute something to God for one’s personal polemic (as any specific right not attributable to him would have to be), I can’t see how it wouldn’t be grossly improper and blasphemous. That isn’t to say that intention makes no difference at all, but it certainly cannot be used the way you did here to make claims about morality.

I can think of no serious (non-ironic) statement when someone uses the term “God-given x,” where ‘x’ is a specific right, that it is not asserting that the right comes from God’s authority, and by doing so—unless there exists an indisputable source of that judgment that he knows of—presenting his own claims as God’s authority, effectively claiming dominion over it. Even if you don’t except that he is claiming dominion, it’s clearly abuse. That includes when he is supposedly “inadvertently” wrong about it. (“Inadvertently” claiming knowledge you don’t have is what we call a lie.)

Tony writes:

for the sin of blasphemy as an act either of commission or omission requires either defiance toward the holiness of God’s name or sinful lack of caution and deference regarding God’s name, and he has neither.

Catechism quoted by Jeffery above (emphasis mine):
2146 The second commandment forbids the abuse of God's name, i.e., every improper use of the names of God, Jesus Christ, but also of the Virgin Mary and all the saints.

And:
2148 Blasphemy is directly opposed to the second commandment. It consists in uttering against God - inwardly or outwardly - words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward him in one's speech; in misusing God's name.

If using God's name to arrogate his authority is not misuse, I don't know what is. It is manifestly misuse to the point that it amazes me you keep trying to define it away.

Regarding Barber, his intentions are not at issue. The question is whether the object of his act was blasphemous. By making the argument the way he did—by not presenting anything close to indisputable knowledge of God’s authority—it was an admission that it was an arguable point and that he did not possess that kind of direct knowledge. His argument obviously intended that the right to own guns was a God-given right, and guns didn’t even exist at the time his quoted scripture was written.

Tony writes:

If you were to say “God-given power to prophecy” to describe Isaiah, you would not be expressing a claim that YOU possess God’s authority, … Abraham’s descendants were his “God-given posterity”, you would not sit in judgment over God. … The same applies to “God-given rights”, when “rights” are used in the manner Leo and John Paul use them.
There are three glaring errors in that paragraph. First, I already said previously that there are categories of things that are clearly given by God, whether it be nature, or our minds, or life, or family, or even prophecy when it is known to exist. Secondly, these make general assertions, they don’t make any assertions of specificity, which I have said many times is where “God-given” gets abused. Third, although interpretations of Isaiah’s prophecies may be disputable, the fact that he received the gift of prophecy from God approaches that level of indisputable that I have been calling for—orders of magnitude closer than any “right” has ever come, for certain. (Again—Lydia’s “right to life” example and the one I have in my hip pocket could change that, but I’m still working through that part of it.)

Whooo! You dumped a lot on me there, Tony, but I think I’ve shoveled through the juicy bits.

Mrs. McGrew, you seem to want to argue against things I have explicitly said I did not mean.

Mrs. McGrew wrote:

I did write out a much longer comment containing quotes, but I decided…
Allow me. I wrote:
It attempts to pass over the responsibility to even have a discussion about natural law or "natural theology" and begs the question that the specific matter is not only already settled, but is settled with the deliverer's dominion over the authority of God.[Not only do I acknowledge natural law, but I show that my concern is over specific assertions about any given issue.]
It is also true that God did not tell us that any particular "right" or "freedom” is a God-given one
You are equivocating between the author of natural law and the interpreter of natural law. Yes, natural law comes from God. But every claim [Note: such a claim would have to be of a specific nature] we ever make about natural law does not come from God.
…saying "God-given" right attempts to gloss over the complexities of morality and self-defense. [clearly, the complexities I’m referring to are specifics of some kind.]
There’s plenty more evidence in my writing, but these were in my comments before you had written your second sentence. I’ll accept that I wasn’t articulate enough for you to realize it, but the intention was clearly there.

Well, you specifically asked if anywhere, ever, in Christian revelation, God is said to have given _any_ right.
I thought it was clear as written that I meant it to be any specific right, not just general “rights.” Apparently it wasn’t as clear as I thought, but I have since made it crystal clear.
You then replied by asking whether rights are ever said to be conferred by God in non-Protestant tradition,…
Well, there was good reason for that—the lack of any way to trace it back to any competent authority being one of them, and the complete inability to resolve disputes of interpretation being another. That kind of evidence only leads to endless squabble with no resolution.
There then followed a bunch of quotes from Popes…
Handled above. (See long comment to Tony.)
…but Esolen (a very conservative Catholic academic)
I’m sorry, putting aside the fact that he, like the popes, doesn’t mention specific rights, I fail to understand why I’m expected to take one Literature professor’s word on this. Aside from the fact that I don’t know him and that his credentials mean very little to me, it still requires due diligence to establish his claims as true (and relevant to what I’m saying). Heck, even the writings of saints are considered questionable and disputable. If this secular man’s cursory statement were used against your position, would you accept it without elaboration? I don’t believe you would in a million years. Please don’t expect less of me.
So in other words, yes, you did _definitely_ imply that God hasn't granted any rights at all, …
Any specific rights, yes. But even if you didn’t know I meant specific rights before, you knew it when you wrote this sentence, because right above it you tell me you didn’t realize (until now) that’s what I meant.
that there is no pedigree in Christian tradition to say that he has,
Remember—specific rights. I also explained afterward that I was open to being informed with specific examples. I still am.
implied that it would be difficult (if not impossible) to find anything other than a "Protestant innovation" to the contrary.
Well, I’ve dealt with the attempts, so that still stands.
All of this was refuted.
It should be abundantly clear to you now that it wasn't.

If we have good reason to believe that there are such things as some God-given rights or other, then you're making way too big of a deal about the alleged wrongness of coming down to _something_ more specific. Eschewing the question of whether you have denied that God has ever granted any rights, you are _now_ seeming to say that you _acknowledge_ that natural rights do come from God.

Yet it appears, if I'm not misunderstanding you, that you still think it's a really really really bad idea, with a huge danger of committing blasphemy, for anyone to try to get _any less vague_ than that and make a statement about _what_ specific thing constitutes such a natural right.

This seems to me, to put it mildly, enormously counterintuitive. If someone told me, "Mr. Jones has given you wonderful gifts" it would be odd indeed to follow this up with, "But you ought to make no attempt to state that any _particular_ gift actually comes from Mr. Jones, because you will be committing a grave sin if you get it wrong."

If nothing else, your current approach apparently involves the judgement that it is a worse sin accidentally to get wrong which rights come from God than to be so chary of making any such claim that one omits to praise and thank God for the natural rights that actually do come from him! If we are to speak of things for which one does not have indubitable authority, that meta-judgement as to which is the worse danger is surely one of them. The Apostle Paul, for example, seems to think in Romans 1 that not being thankful is a really grave thing, and in this case, you are urging us _deliberately_ to refrain from such attributions, not just to overlook them.

There is something pretty seriously questionable about this meta-judgement. I myself make the contrary judgement: I think that, as long as the attribution of a right as coming from God is made on plausible grounds available to the person and is made with due respect to God, not flippantly, that it does not constitute blasphemy in God's eyes even if in fact there is some inaccuracy or other. Moreover, I'm not entirely clear about what it even would mean to say that it's flat wrong that, e.g., there is a God-given right to self defense. That it might turn out that God wants us all to be pacifists and doesn't want us to defend ourselves? I don't think you're holding up that possibility to make us all fear blasphemy. That God thinks that that statement is insufficiently nuanced (hardly a matter of blasphemy)? That God thinks that it's just fine for the state to prevent the innocent from defending themselves?

While I suppose it is *possible* that some of these or other (or something else I haven't thought of) are God's intentions on the matter, I think it overwhelmingly unlikely, and therefore it seems to me that even a right to self-defense is a _plausible_ candidate for a God-given right. As to a right to life, which has given even you some pause, why should that not be a knock-down case once one acknowledges God-given rights at all? For myself, I want to thank God both for my life and for my God-given right to life, and I'm not going to sit around tying myself up in knots about some abstract and implausible "danger of blasphemy" in so thanking him! Or in wanting the government to do its duty to protect that God-given right in myself and others, especially the innocent unborn.

The fact of the matter is that your ban on all specific statements that God has given a right is simply not sustainable once we acknowledge that there are some such things as natural rights that are God-given. At that point it should be quite obvious that the reverent attempt to articulate such rights in more specific terms is as much a legitimate use of our God-given faculties as any area of theological reasoning. After all, in any endeavor of theology we open up, with our finite understanding, the possibility that we will accidentally make false statements about God's intentions or desires. If the mere possibility of doing so meant that we had to fear committing blasphemy at every step and that we therefore _should not_ make any such statements at all, human theological reasoning would become wrong to engage in. Which is absurd.

As to a right to life, which has given even you some pause, why should that not be a knock-down case once one acknowledges God-given rights at all?

I think the problem with rights-talk is that to do the actual right justice, you have to turn it from a catch phrase into a small paragraph of description. For instance, at face value, there is no "right to live." As worded, that is a plenary right, and there are easily demonstrated cases where the right to live does not exist. It does not exist on a battlefield or in an execution chamber in the person of a factually guilty capital murderer.

This is one of the reasons why our constitutional law is so FUBAR. Our founders quite intelligently chose to phrase rights in the wording of restrictions on state power, not even addressing individual freedom. They chose some of the wording poorly to the extent that it obfuscates their purpose to some people and in others causes real problems for the federal government (ex. if we took the 1st amendment literally in all cases, the federal government could not compel anyone to honor classified data).

In general, the right to life can be satisfied by an appeal to the fact that the highest authority has imposed a prohibition on murder of all varieties.

Mrs. McGrew, I say in all seriousness and without condescension that I think you are better than this. I think your frustration with me has caused some carelessness on your part. Believe me, I’ve been there. But this last comment of yours exhibits more obfuscation than perspicacity.

If we have good reason to believe that there are such things as some God-given rights or other, then you're making way too big of a deal about the alleged wrongness of coming down to _something_ more specific.
You are downplaying the difference between acknowledging God as the author of creation and claiming his authority for making particular judgments about his creation. Of course that’s a big deal.

The obvious difference between Mr. Jones’s gifts and the specific rights that one wants to attribute as from God is that you have direct knowledge of Mr. Jones’s gifts and you have none regarding specific rights from God.

It is also glaringly obvious that one is not being ungrateful to God by not committing his wisdom and authority as your own, and a "thanks" to God for arrogating his authority is profoundly hypocritical. It would be like stealing rice from a bloated Ethiopian child and "thanking" him for it.

You seem to be deliberately glossing over these things as if they weren’t critical to the discussion, and the approach comes across as specious to me.

Your “right to self-defense,” inasmuch as it is meaningful is far too vague to judge what you even mean, and it is also tied into the “right to life,” which I have already conceded gives me a difficult challenge. If we would not distract the discussion with the maladroit objections, perhaps we could get a deeper dive into your formidable “right to life” objection and see if it reduces the need for a comprehensive “ban” on statements that God has given a specific right* to an understanding that some specific rights are safely attributable to him without worry of blasphemy.

The fact of the matter is that your ban on all specific statements that God has given a right is simply not sustainable once we acknowledge that there are some such things as natural rights that are God-given.
Seriously, Mrs. McGrew. You more than most should know better than to use question-begging tactics.

*Is it worth noting the difference in how we word this? Are you intentionally rewording it to make my argument seem less clear?

Mike T, I think you are on the right track, but I think there's something missing. Unfortunately, I haven't had time to think about it much.

You are downplaying the difference between acknowledging God as the author of creation and claiming his authority for making particular judgments about his creation. Of course that’s a big deal.

Not such that we have to be terrified of getting specific for fear of committing blasphemy and sacrilege.

Look, maybe if you did a lot of philosophy of religion, theology, etc., you would see the argument here.

I and lots of other philosophers, theologians, and something-in-betweens, in putting our minds at God's service, spend literally _years_ sitting around making arguments about questions like, "Does God require such-and-such a group to believe explicitly in Jesus Christ in order to go to heaven?" "Is God in time?" "Does God have passions aside from the Incarnation?" "Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?" "How does divine omniscience apply to counterfactual propositions concerning the actions of free agents?" "Are there real Sacraments?" and on ad infinitum.

And we have various _strong opinions_ on these matters. Some of them involve very serious issues, such as "What must I do to be saved?"

At any given moment, being fallible beings, it's entirely possible that one of us will give a wrong answer to one of those questions.

Heck, my most prestigious publication, which I sometimes almost cringe to recall, was a three-way co-written article _attacking_ the fine-tuning argument for theism! Because we didn't think that that particular argument works. It's bothered me for over a decade. And all the more so as I've begun to suspect that _Mind_ has a bias in favor of publishing technical articles that attack theistic arguments. And what if I was wrong? I still think we were right, but we're not infallible. Maybe there's something we missed. Oh, great. So in that case I published something false about the existence of God and have been touting it on my vitae ever since. I'm not _absolutely certain_ this isn't the case.

I'm not happy at that thought, but at least I don't beat myself over the head with the idea that maybe I committed blasphemy!

The fact of the matter is that philosophy of religion and theology would be _paralyzed_ if we considered ourselves to be constantly in danger of blasphemy if we happened to mess something up. And as far as I can tell, saying, "There is a God-given right to life" in good faith or, yes, even "There is a God-given right to self-defense" in good faith, upon consideration, could _at most_ fall into that category of doing your best to serve God with your mind and getting some bit of philosophy of religion wrong. In this case it happens to be a bit of philosophy of religion that also has a foot in the "political philosophy" camp, but that doesn't change the matter fundamentally.

And that just isn't blasphemy.

I appreciate what you are saying, Mrs. McGrew. I really do. But there is an enormous difference between philosophizing about the nature of God through human argumentation and directly asserting God's authority on any given point.

No matter what academic practices we may or may not have, they are always subject to scrutiny regarding such things. And they should be. That doesn't mean I'm asking you to agonize over past arguments. I am only discussing a very specific kind of specious argument.

Can we stop the concern trollish stuff, Interloper?

If a man, finding his home assailed by Jihadists, musters the courage and dispatch to arm himself and, deploying firearms effectively, defend the innocent; if this man should then be greeted by state bureaucrats who intend to confiscate, by trivia of regulation, the weapons by which he defended himself and the innocent; and finally if this man should then bark at the confiscators, "I have exercised my God-given American right to self-defense and defense of the innocent and you will not take my weapons away," would S.I. require he immediately ask for forgiveness from the Lord for his blasphemy?

That seems far too drastic a view.

Yet there is no doubt that we should, even when our endeavors are manifestly just, ask God for guidance and discipline, that we might maintenance justice in the course of carrying a just cause to the enemy.

So maybe the confession of blasphemy for claiming Divine justice is our cause, is well-advised; but maybe after the just cause (defense of the innocent) is vindicated.

Mr. Cella,

You write:

Can we stop the concern trollish stuff, Interloper?
I don't know what you mean by that.

Your jihadist-assailed man is asserting God's authority against the state to hold on to specific weapons, which--though refusing to give them up may or may not be prudent--is still arrogating God's authority. (I say this in spite of my abject disdain for such bureaucrats and despite that I am otherwise very sympathetic to your man's position.) There may be mitigating factors to his culpability, but, yes, I think repentance would be due. There's nothing drastic about repentance to the Lord, no matter how extreme or harrowing our circumstances were when we abused his name.

Just to be clear--there is a huge difference between seeking God's guidance to act justly and asserting God's authority to declare your acts are just. There is also a huge difference between humbly saying you believe you acted in accordance with God's will and asserting that your acts have been fully justified by God's authority. The latter in both cases requires repentance.

Stating that X is a God-given right is not asserting that _I_ have God's authority, as though I am God's vicar on earth. Compare: Suppose that I say that the members of ISIS are headed for hell and will end up there if they don't repent and accept Jesus. That's a really clear statement about what God is going to do with the members of ISIS, and some people would say it's hubristic or over-the-top or what-not. But it isn't asserting that *I* have God's authority. I'm not saying that *I'm* going to send them to hell. I'm telling you where I think God stands on the matter.

Similarly, stating that God gave the right to life or to self defense, or even for that matter something else that I would actually be wrong about (I dunno, a right to own a particular piece of land or something) isn't saying that I am God's regent on earth or anything like that. It's rather giving my opinion as to how I believe God used _his_ authority--to give that right to life or to that piece of land. I might be _wrong_ about that. In fact, I don't think God ever gave me a right to a particular piece of land. A given such assertion might be unjustified. And respect for God means that, as in all such matters, I should be careful not to make such assertions about God frivolously or lightly or without good reason, but I am not _usurping_ God's authority even if I'm _wrong_ about what is God-given.

"You're better than that, McGrew" is concern-trolling, or very close to it.

there is a huge difference between seeking God's guidance to act justly and asserting God's authority to declare your acts are just

I don't believe the ancient Christian tradition leaves in doubt the question of whether God's authority is behind the principle of defense of the innocent. To assert that defending the innocent comes under the authority of God is not to blaspheme.

What we have to decide is how best to defend the innocent in any given circumstance, there being innocents exposed to evil and violence at all times.

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