What’s Wrong with the World

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July 2008 Archives

July 1, 2008

Obama Supports Same-Sex Marriage, and If You Disagree You're a Bigot

Peter Wehner writes in his Commentary Magazine blog:

Senator Barack Obama has announced his opposition to a California ballot measure that would ban same-sex marriages–a decision that was forced on the citizens of California by the state’s Supreme Court. In a letter expressing his support for extending “fully equal rights and benefits to same-sex couples under both state and federal law,” Obama wrote that he opposes “the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states.”

Continue reading "Obama Supports Same-Sex Marriage, and If You Disagree You're a Bigot" »

July 4, 2008

God bless America

A joyful Independence Day (July 4) to my fellow Americans and friends of America and W4. If someone wants to suggest a cool image for this post and tell me, in easy instructions for the techno-challenged, how to imbed it, I'll be grateful.

Only positive comments allowed. No gloom.

By the way, it's a lovely day in my part of the world. I can't remember having such a beautiful July 4 before in the entire thirteen years I've lived here. It's sunny but not hot. (That's what a Yankee thinks of as a lovely July 4.)

Abortion, Torture, and Ferocity of Opposition

The argument has often been made that we should basically shut up about torture as long as abortion is legal, since the legalization/normalization of abortion on a large scale is more grave than the legalization/normalization of torture on a small scale. Both are evil, and both ought to be opposed in principle, but we should basically shut up about torture until we can say 'mission accomplished' on abortion.

Needless to say, I find this argument unconvincing. We can't say everything all at once, and we have an obligation to oppose the legalization/normalization of both torture and abortion ferociously, in general.

There is an underlying truth though, a truth which is being misused in this argument, which is not so easily dismissed. That underlying truth is that the legalization/normalization of abortion on a large scale is in fact more grave than the legalization/normalization of torture on a small scale.

What follows from this should no doubt make progressives and those with progressive sympathies uncomfortable. Progressives tend to be rather squishy on the compelling need to treat abortion legally as a form of murder, and to ferociously advocate for such treatment. Indeed "ferocity", if it applies at all, usually applies to their efforts to undermine the point and reverse the objective priorities. As a result they have a credibility problem when it comes to torture, precisely because of the obviously upside-down priorities. And that credibility problem does a great deal of damage to making the case against torture.

When it comes to opposing torture in the company of those who are soft on making abortion illegal, the old adage 'with friends like these' comes to mind.


July 5, 2008

Prayers to Allah come to UK Public Schools

As you've probably seen elsewhere on the blogosphere, two boys in a public school in the UK were punished with detention for refusing to kneel down on prayer mats and pray to Allah as part of a "religious education" lesson.

But although you've no doubt seen it elsewhere, you haven't heard my two cents, so I might as well give you those two pennies, unasked, just because you were kind enough to drop by W4.

Continue reading "Prayers to Allah come to UK Public Schools" »

July 8, 2008

The feminine mind and the culture of assessment

C. S. Lewis said that women are fidgets and men are lazy.

I find that there is a fair bit of truth in this, though both can be either. (I'm frightfully lazy myself, and a fidget, which explains why I blog.)

But it occurred to me that Lewis's evaluation of male and female traits might have some relevance to a recent fad from which some of you may have suffered--the assessment craze.

Continue reading "The feminine mind and the culture of assessment" »

July 9, 2008

Arkes on Kmiec and Obama-Supporting Catholics

On a wonderful new blog, The Catholic Thing, my dear friend, Hadley Arkes, offers, in his own elegant way, an assessment of the reasoning of Doug Kmiec and other like-minded Catholics who have come out in support of Senator Barack Obama. Here are some excerpts from Hadley's entry:

Continue reading "Arkes on Kmiec and Obama-Supporting Catholics" »

Las Vegas Catholic Church Stained Glass Window

This can be found in the Guardian Angel Cathedral off the Las Vegas Strip, where I served as an altar boy in elementary school. I found it in the photobucket page of someone named Mansfield Fox. I had been looking for a photo of this unique stained glass since having completed the manuscript for my forthcoming book, Return to Rome: Confessions of An Evangelical Catholic (Brazos Press, 2009), which will be released in November of this year. I've created a website for the book, ReturntoRome.com, which you can find here.

Return to Rome Cover is Out

While putting together my previous post, I discovered that Brazos Press has now created a page for my forthcoming book, Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic. Here's the cover:


That's me in the bottom right corner in 1968 at my First Holy Communion.

July 10, 2008

Minnesota Prof Pledges to Descecrate Eucharist

Just saw this on the Catholic League's website:

Paul Zachary Myers, a professor at the University of Minnesota Morris, has pledged to desecrate the Eucharist. He is responding to what happened recently at the University of Central Florida when a student walked out of Mass with the Host, holding it hostage for several days. Myers was angry at the Catholic League for criticizing the student. His post can be accessed from his faculty page on the university’s website.

Here is an excerpt of his July 8 post, “It’s a Frackin’ Cracker!”:

“Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers?” Myers continued by saying, “if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web.”

Catholic League president Bill Donohue responded as follows:

“The Myers blog can be accessed from the university’s website. The university has a policy statement on this issue which says that the ‘Contents of all electronic pages must be consistent with University of Minnesota policies, local, state and federal laws.’ One of the school’s policies, ‘Code of Conduct,’ says that ‘When dealing with others,’ faculty et al. must be ‘respectful, fair and civil.’ Accordingly, we are contacting the President and the Board of Regents to see what they are going to do about this matter. Because the university is a state institution, we are also contacting the Minnesota legislature.

“It is hard to think of anything more vile than to intentionally desecrate the Body of Christ. We look to those who have oversight responsibility to act quickly and decisively.”

Here's Professor Myers' contact info, and his reply to the Catholic League.


July 11, 2008

Richard Dawkins Rallies Support for Minnesota Prof

The University of Minnesota, Morris professor, P. Z. Myers, who has pledged to desecrate the Eucharist,
has secured the support of Richard Dawkins. Writes Dawkins:


Readers of yesterday's thread "It's a Goddamned Cracker" will be aware of somebody called Bill Donohue, whose grasp of reality is so poor that he can't tell the difference between a wafer and Jesus. The shrieking hysteria of Donohue and other Roman Catholics over the temporary removal of a communion wafer from a church service epitomises all that is ridiculous in the religious mind.

Today's development is that Donohue is now inciting a witch-hunt against PZ, and is trying to whip up Roman Catholics to write to the President of the University of Minnesota, urging him to sack PZ. We need a massive counter flood of letters in support of PZ Myers. Please write, bearing in mind PZ's two requests:-

1. Please use your own name, not a pseudonym
2. Please take care to write in a good, literate, adult style, in order to increase the contrast between the letters of support and the incoherent, juvenile flaming that will doubtless characterise the letters from the Catholics.

For details of the address to write to, see Pharyngula, here (or PZ's post below)

Please rally round and show support for PZ, in the face of this hysterical latter-day Grand Inquisitor.

Thank you

Richard [emphasis added by FJB]

Apparently, Dawkins' instructions for a "literate, adult style" are not being followed by supportive commentators on Myers' blog. (Unless Dawkins meant by "adult style" what "adult" means in "adult bookstore.") Take a look for yourself here, here, and here. But make sure that you are over 18 and no children are looking over your shoulder.

UPDATE: Apparently, Professor Myers' website, Pharyngula, on which his pledge to desecrate the Eucharist is published, was accessible via his department's faculty page for several years, until it was taken down within the past 48 hours. Fortunately, it had been cached on July 6, 2008 by Google here. If one consults the Wayback Machine, it looks like the taxpayers of Minnesota have supported UMM's biology department's portal to Professor Myers' anti-religious screeds since at least November 9, 2006. (You can find all the archived pages here). Professor Morris has also had Pharyngula mirrored on the University of Minnesota Morris' server, here.

"They're Planting Stories in the Press" - WWWtW Hits the National Media....

....In the July 12, 2008 Washington Times and on the Catholic News Agency (11 July 2008).

They both concern the Professor-Myers-Eucharist-desecration postings.

However, let us not forget that Christ's body was broken for us, and thus we should not think it unseemly that we find ourselves on occasion broken for him. This means that in this present case we should remember that Professor Myers, though indeed a troubled soul, is one for whom Christ died. Let us lift him up in prayer on this Feast of St. Benedict, which happens to be my 21st wedding anniversary. (How providential that my wife and I married on the Feast of St. Benedict only to be received together into the Catholic Church 20 years later under the papacy of Pope Benedict. God, indeed, has a sense of humor).

Professor Myers, Academic Freedom, and Intellectual Virtue in a Civil Society

I just submitted this to the combox on a blog entry on HigherEd.com (My comments will not appear on the blog until they are vetted by the editor):

Continue reading "Professor Myers, Academic Freedom, and Intellectual Virtue in a Civil Society" »

July 13, 2008

Excerpts from Return to Rome on Website

Update: I've taken the excerpts down until the final galleys are done.

In the combox in the post about my forthcoming book, Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic, Aristocles suggested I post some excerpts from the book. I have done so at the website returntorome.com. I have also included a detailed table of contents on the site. Just click "Excerpts" or "Table of Contents" at the top of page.

July 14, 2008

Professor Myers and the Danish Cartoons

(HT: Lex Communis).

Contrast Professor Myers' public treatment of Catholics and their beliefs with his public posture when, over two year ago, Muslims were upset about Danish cartoons published that depicted Muhammed in unflattering ways. He writes:

Continue reading "Professor Myers and the Danish Cartoons" »

Writing and voting for abortion laws with exceptions

If and when, God willing, that blot on the moral and legal landscape Roe v. Wade is fully overturned and the states are free once more to protect unborn babies, what sort of legislation may pro-lifers write or vote for?

There has been an interesting discussion of this question on our own Zippy's blog through several threads, here, here, and here. I added a bit of my own here, besides many long bits in the comments threads at Zippy's place.

As a preview, I will just say that the main disagreements turned on whether a) it would be morally wrong or morally legitimate to write/propose abortion legislation including exceptions, where one does not actually think that those victims should be unprotected in law, but where the legislation would pass only with these exceptions and would protect more children in law than had been protected before, and b) whether there is a crucial difference in such a situation between the legislator who proposes the legislation and one who votes for it.

The one rather sad thing is that I'm just getting around to mentioning this to our W4 readers as Zippy, who has been central to the whole discussion, is by his own statement going "AWOL for a couple of weeks." We shall miss him, and meanwhile, I will be interested to see what W4 readers have to say. Feel free to refer to threads on varying sites in threads on other sites. (That isn't confusingly worded, is it?)

July 15, 2008

P.Z. Myers Thinks Like a Bronze-Age Pagan

Via Tom Piatak, writing at Taki's, it would appear that Myers has befouled a comment thread over at Rod Dreher's blog, averring that

The point of desecrating the host isn’t to make people angry--it’s to demystify and desanctify nonsense. It’s how we wake people up--by showing that their beliefs are powerless.

That's quite right. In this enlightened age, we do not settle religious and philosophical questions of inestimable importance by reasoning, examining the historical evidences, or any such recondite activity, but by subjecting the participants, or symbols dear to them, to the ordeal, to the end that Fate, the womb of possibility, the numinous power of whatever, might speak and deliver its verdict. We may as well bind the participants and cast them into a river, declaring the one, if any, who survives, the victor. Or, perhaps, we could emulate the Muslims, and associate the claimed veracity of the message with the world-conquering potency of its armies: it is true if it conquers. In fact, why don't we have a grand civilizational throwdown between the remnants of Christian reaction and the avatars of enlightened, secularist atheism - it's not as though we've not already had one of those, you'll recall, with the Evil Empire, the Poles, the Pope....

Yes, but such an appeal to history, even recent history, by way of demonstrating the incompatibility of militant atheism with human dignity, would lie beyond Myers comprehension, presumably, as he would prefer to have the 'truth' established by means of his contrivance: let a singular communion wafer represent the entirety of the Christian claim, and let his sacrilege represent the claims of enlightenment, and if no bolt of lightning or pillar of fire descends from the heavens to smite him, Christianity stands exploded as rank superstition. Let us be forthright about what such presumption is: it is not merely indicative of a mental imbalance, an obsession or mania, but expressive of mental primitivism. Truth is established, not by reasoned discourse upon evidences and arguments, but by what amount to tests of strength, defiance, and pride. Might makes right, by the infernal glow of impudence. And mankind undergoes a spiritual and intellectual regression of some score of millenia.

Margaret Sanger and Barack Obama

Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger (via Dawn Eden's blog), from a 1957 interview with Mike Wallace:

Continue reading "Margaret Sanger and Barack Obama" »

July 16, 2008

The Strategy of Openness, Revisited

Via Glenn Greenwald, Tom Friedman ruminates on the strategic rationale for the Great Mesopotamian Quagmire Near Eastern War of Democratic Liberation:

Friedman's astonishingly puerile and uncouth exposition features a choice piece of verbal legerdemain, which begins with a mention of the Open Society and our willingness to defend it, and concludes with a vulgar peroration, which has American servicemen (and women, of course, for one mark of our civilizational superiority is that we send our women to bleed and die in our wars) going door to door between "Basra and Baghdad", telling anyone who might oppose the Open Society to "Suck on this." I mentioned a piece of legerdemain, by which I mean an unthinking attempt at esotericism. Friedman, of course, commences by discussing the Open Society, and then avers that no border controls, no clever INS officials - in summation, no declensions from the (utopian) conceit of the Open Society - could possibly suffice to protect us from further terrorist assaults, leaving as the inevitable conclusion the imperative of converting the recalcitrant of the world to our visions of global order. But, of course, this standard line is a farrago of nonsense. The firm proscription of certain Islamic doctrines, the cessation of Muslim immigration, beginning with the abolition of the Visa Express programme and student visas for nationals of countries which contribute disproportionately to the jihad, and rising to the encouragement of Muslim emigration from the West, would, over time, mitigate the threat of jihad, and all without the perceived imperative of wars of (democratic capitalist) imperial conquest. What, therefore, Friedman really means is that we cannot maintain simultaneously the Open Society and measures inhibiting the social and economic intercourse of the Western and Muslim worlds; we can undertake either, but not both, and, inasmuch as the latter is simply unthinkable - a form of apostasy, in reality - we must opt for the former by means of war. The exoteric rationale is that we cannot defeat "terror" save by waging wars of "liberation"; the esoteric reality is that our elites cannot preserve the politico-economic articulation of their class interests save by waging wars of "liberation".

Glenn Greenwald takes Friedman's utter self-delusion, his incomprehension at negative global perceptions of the U.S., and nails it to the wall:

Continue reading "The Strategy of Openness, Revisited" »

Lincolnian ambivalence.

Allen Guelzo of Gettysburg College is emphatically not of two minds about the Abraham Lincoln. Writing in The Claremont Review of Books, he laments Conservative ambivalence about, and castigates Conservative antipathy for, this same Lincoln who bulks so big in our history. While I share Guelzo’s impatience with Lincoln-hatred, it just won’t do to conflate ambivalence and antipathy. He cites, for instance, Willmoore Kendall’s judgment (argued most extensively in Basic Symbols of the American Tradition) that Lincoln “derailed” the American political tradition by replacing the Constitution (i.e., self-government) with the Declaration of Independence (i.e., equality) — and, what’s more, with a single passage from the latter document, at the expense of the rest of it. This would seem to locate Kendall among the Lincoln-haters, a strange place to locate a man who also named Lincoln as standing among Shakespeare, Milton and Burke — the great masters of the English language and rhetoric.

In short, there is hatred of Lincoln, which Guelzo rightly censures; and there is ambivalence about him. The two are not the same; and the project to establish a rigid orthodoxy of unqualified approbation is one unworthy of Prof. Guelzo. In my admittedly amateur judgment, Lincoln, like many a great man, is too much of an enigma to merit unqualified anything. One writer (could it have been our own Zippy, some years ago?) once referred to Honest Abe as a “Calvinist agnostic.” The phrase alone, which only appears facile, is a virtual treatise on the mystery of the statesman and the man.

I’ll conclude this mere sketch of an argument with a little anecdote. Some years ago I called my wife over to read through an essay I had just completed, which included a long quotation from Lincoln’s Lyceum Address. I believe the topic was the rule of law — in the context of judiciary usurpation or immigration or something like that. She read it carefully, paused, and said, “pretty good, Paul, but I like Lincoln’s part best.”

So do I. So do I.

July 17, 2008

Gun Control and the Holocaust of the Particular

Unfortunately for those of us who would prefer to leave behind the moral preening caterwauling that followed upon the Supreme Court's decision in Heller, there are those who cannot let it go, and insist upon drawing our attention to the infantile tantrums of Europeans who know next to nothing about American history, law, and government. And who, apparently, pen, with apparent ingenuousness, such luminous analyses as this:

The Second Amendment states that the armed forces ought to be armed.

Allow your mind to absorb the penetrating critical interpretation of the Constitution: the Army should be... The Army! The implication must be, of course, that Eighteenth-Century Americans were so stupid - or positivist - that unless they stipulated in their Constitution that armies should be armies, some of them might assume that armies exist for those who like to wear snappy uniforms. Who knew that tautology was the veritable apex of textual interpretation?

While I do not wish to dwell upon this subject at any great length, it is worth noting, in connection with a recent display of grotesquely bestial conduct, which was precipitated by the refusal of a father to permit his adolescent daughter to suffer molestation at the hands of one of the glowering men depicted in the Star Tribune article, that not even the abolition of firearms can obviate the necessity, and imperative, of defense, whether of others or of self. By what principle of ethics should a lone man, attempting to defend his womenfolk, be left deprived of potential strategic leverage against their depravities? It will be said that security personnel and police exist for this purpose, but the success of such assaults proves only the obvious: that these public servants are neither omnipotent nor omnipresent.

It is worth observing, further, that none of the assailants was armed; their limbs were their weapons of choice - well, their limbs and the earth itself. So, it is not merely a matter of wishing for some candyland from which firearms have been banished - and prudent minds will shudder at the thought of what manner of government in the U.S. would be necessary to disarm the populace - but a question of what relation ought to obtain between the ordinary citizen and the predators among them. Once more, the notion that a relation of formal equality ought to obtain, such that ordinary people, not accustomed to aggressive action, should be compelled to confront barbarians long accustomed to such acts, upon an imaginary level field, is positively perverse.

Continue reading "Gun Control and the Holocaust of the Particular" »

July 19, 2008

Episcopal Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Appeals to Tradition; Hell Freezes Over, If There Really Is One.

For five years my wife and were members of St. James Episcopal Church in Newport Beach, California (1997-2002). Our rector at the time was the Rt. Rev. David C. Anderson, president and CEO of the American Anglican Council, the ecclesiastical Green Zone for the U.S. Anglican traditionalists trying to secure orthodox dioceses and parishes from hostile assimilation into the Borg of Anglican liberalism. For this reason, as well for another reason, I've had more than a passing interest in what is going in the World Anglican Communion.

In the midst of catching up on the recent goings on in the Anglican world, I just saw this entry (authored by Margaret Cabaniss) on the Inside Catholic Blog

Continue reading "Episcopal Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Appeals to Tradition; Hell Freezes Over, If There Really Is One." »

July 20, 2008

What is Evangelical Catholicism?

Begin here.

July 21, 2008

Chorus Mysticus

I have committed another YouTube Video:

Continue reading "Chorus Mysticus" »

Conservatism In Exile

Rod Dreher poses the question, by way of commenting on a NYT article on conservative reconsiderations and Andrew Stuttaford's dismissal of the hypothetical benefits of a stint in the political wilderness:

Do you find it more depressing to think that we might be in the political wilderness post-November, or that we might not be? Explain your reasoning.

I must offer my apologies in advance of my response, inasmuch as I am unwell, and exceptionally enervated, and thus exceedingly irascible, but what I find most depressing, above all else politically, is that only the prospect of the Republican party being thrown out of power is sufficient to prompt some conservatives to contemplate the political state of being-in-the-world that is exile. I don't intend this as criticism of Dreher; far from it - I've defended Dreher's approach to conservatism since the publication of his book. No, my complaint is that mainstream conservatives have so closely identified conservatism with the electoral fortunes of the GOP, that only the possibility of an electoral apocalypse can stimulate the thought that conservatism might not be represented in the corridors of power. The Republican party has strangled the small-government policy program in its crib, replacing it with a tawdry emphasis upon a select blend of upper-bracket tax reductions, coupling this program with a world-historical deficit-spending bender; identified economic conservatism with a regressive and debilitating package of corporatist and neoliberal economic policies that threaten to render trade imbalances and deficits permanent and structural; papered over the instabilities with a profligate monetary policy, which itself reinforced the other insalubrious trends; established as a principle of American governance that any profits accruing to financiers in consequence of these policies would be valorized as the triumph of the American way, while any losses would be socialized, so that avarice need never receive its recompense; embarked upon a foreign policy that even Woodrow Wilson might find audacious and hubristic, in the process ordaining unjust war and torture as central precepts in the right-wing catechism; sought to legitimize an unprecedented demographic and economic experiment upon the American body politic, all at the behest of the narrow coterie of corporate interests who cut the campaign finance checks; cynically deployed "social issues" as instruments of voter mobilization, then snickered behind the backs of the salt-of-the-earth folks who voted for them on the basis of those issues (revealing that they really do think as they were portrayed by Thomas Frank), dropping those initiatives in favour of grand schemes of policy reform that hadn't a snowball's chance of seeing enactment; formed ranks behind a President poised to violate campaign pledges regarding judicial nominations, when he wished to nominate his incompetent cronies and lickspittles to the Supreme Court - need I continue? Has the culture become one infinitesimal measure less mephitic, to lay aside nakedly political considerations?

In truth, conservatism has been in exile throughout the Bush administration, and, I would argue, for many years preceding the inauguration of this unfortunate presidency. Conservatism will be in a barren and waste place in the event of a McCain triumph, because it is already in that place. More's the pity that so few comprehend this, imagining that either a McCain victory, or a bit of tinkering at the margins of policy, might deliver conservatives, and conservatism, from its season in the abyss.

July 22, 2008

Barack Obama: Self-Refuting Man

images.jpeg"It’s always a bad practice to say 'always' or 'never."

Are we 40% radicio?

Wesley J. Smith executes a karate chop on the genetic reductionists. He quotes an article that says,

Consider the fact that chimpanzees share about 98 percent of our genetic makeup....Of course, the reverse is also true: We are 98 percent chimpanzee.

Responds Smith:

Nonsense. This is reductionism writ large. We are no more "98% chimp" then we are 40% lettuce because we share about that percentage of genes with radicio.

For me to add anything would be gilding lilies.

July 23, 2008

What, no change?

From Peter Wehner at the Commentary Magazine blog, Contentions:

In an interview yesterday with Senator Obama, ABC’s Terry Moran listed just a few of the by now seemingly endless data points demonstrating that the so-called surge, which Obama opposed at the time it was announced, is a success. Moran then asked this (excellent) question: Knowing what you know now, would you support the surge?”

Obama’s answer was, “No.”

This must surely rank as among the most misinformed, ideological, and reckless statements by a presidential candidate in modern times. The McCain campaign should do everything they can to make Obama pay a high price for it. That one word answer, “No,” should be advertised in bright neon lights. It should become Exhibit A that Obama not only doesn’t have the “judgment to lead;” he has now supplied us with evidence that few people possess judgment as flawed as his.

Read the rest here.

I wonder what the citizens of America's 57 states will think of this. Perhaps they will reflect on how the U.S reacted to the bomb that fell on Pearl Harbor.

July 24, 2008

Scaremongering and Muslims as ciphers.

Over at Vox Nova, everyone’s favorite ultramontane Liberal singles out this website for its “scaremongering” and “stupid jihadism rhetoric.” The very strong implication of the post is that we have little to fear from Islam, and that “humanitarian relief,” “more visas to study and work in the US, and better trade links,” along with a cessation of “anti-Islamic bombast,” and “domestic xenophobia,” will mitigate whatever minor troubles we do face.

The peculiar thing here is that Morning’s Minion shares with his Neoconservative opponents an assumption which we fundamentally reject: namely, that the character of Islamic doctrine and practice depends upon the actions of the West. It is our view that this is only true on the margins. America led by an Obama administration could pursue each of the goals Morning’s Minion has laid out — an end to reckless wars and rhetoric, more humanitarian relief, more of those precious student visas — and still the doctrines of Jihad, Sharia and Dhimma would remain. In short, Minion joins with those he professes to oppose in regarding Muslims as mere ciphers for Western policy disputes, mere automata responding solely to external stimuli.

The force of this assumption prevents a true appreciation of the antiquity and endurance of these doctrines, and thus the persistence of their influence on the world. The Jihad has taken many forms; it has assumed the guises of every age, reflected the character of the peoples it inspired and impelled to war; it has adapted and adjusted to times and place: But in its essentials it has remained unchanged. As Chesterton so wisely put it:

A void is made in the heart of Islam which has to be filled up again and again by a mere repetition of the revolution that founded it. There are no sacraments; the only thing that can happen is a sort of apocalypse, as unique as the end of the world; so the apocalypse can only be repeated and the world end again and again. There are no priests; and yet this equality can only breed a multitude of lawless prophets almost as numerous as priests. The very dogma that there is only one Mahomet produces an endless procession of Mahomets.

It will not do to understand Islam and its doctrines of Holy War and Holy Subjugation exclusively through the lens of Western politics. Nor will it do to conflate warnings about the peril of these doctrines with support for the democratic imperialism that has characterized much of our post-9/11 foreign policy.

Baylor University President Fired

From Christianity Today's blog:

Baylor University's board of regents has fired president John Lilley, whose presidency began and ended with disputes over tenure.

In 2006, associate professor of church-state studies Francis Beckwith was denied tenure. His appeal became a cause celebre in some evangelical academic circles, and he eventually prevailed. Lilley, however, continued to be viewed with suspicion by some Christian observers.

But it was April's decision to deny tenure to 12 candidates that really set the drumbeats going. Most years, about 10 percent of faculty up for tenure are denied. This year, the 40 percent rejection rate sparked accusations of a "purge" and capricious standards. Seven of the ten faculty who appealed ended up receiving tenure.

A press release from Baylor says board member Harold Cunningham will be acting president until an interim president is named.

Updates to follow. The Waco Tribune-Herald will no doubt have coverage throughout the day.

They Get You Coming...

And they get you going.

Therefore they get you.

Case in point:

In 2007, the EEOC sued the Salvation Army when it tried to enforce its "English-only" rule - i.e., its rule requiring employees to speak only English while on the job - in its Thrift Store in Framingham, Massachussetts.

So why not, you may ask? Isn't that just being nasty? If you have employees who are more comfortable communicating with one another in Spanish, then why not let them? Who does it hurt?

Continue reading "They Get You Coming..." »

July 25, 2008

How Planned Parenthood Empowers Women

Via Dawn Eden, a sampling of PP's posters.

This one gets my vote for the worst.

You don't have to be a heavy thinker to get the message: "We know that your boyfriend is merely using you sexually and will certainly not take responsibility if you get pregnant. Be sure you don't lose him by telling him that you're pregnant. We can help you to hold on to such a boyfriend by making sure you never get pregnant or are made swiftly un-pregnant if necessary."

How many inner-city women will say, "No thanks" to that sort of empowerment? And how is it possible to fight that message?

America and the walls of particularity.

My old friend (and proprietor of the precursor to this website) Josh Trevino hits the nail on the head. Reflecting on Senator Obama’s extravagant public appearance in Berlin yesterday, he writes that the speech “was very much in the rhetorical tradition of one George W. Bush. In listening to it, the recollection was not of the oft-cited JFK or Ronald Reagan, but of the current President’s Second Inaugural Address.” That would be the “end of tyranny in our world” and “The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands” speech.

“The central themes,” Josh continues, “are quite nearly the same: a wholesale reversal of John Quincy Adams’s formulation of American foreign policy, which stated that America ‘goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.’”

Continue reading "America and the walls of particularity." »

Identity Theft on the Brazos?

From Rod Dreher at the Dallas Morning News blog:

Dear "Francis Cunningham:"

You may wonder why the post of yours commenting about me, and Catholic priests as child molesters, was taken down.

I took it down for taste reasons, but also because you pretended to be a well-known Baylor professor in the e-mail address you left with this post. But I knew this couldn't be that particular professor, for various reasons. So I checked your IP address against records on my Beliefnet blog, on the off chance that you'd posted there before, and what do you know, I've found out your name, that you are a Baylor alum, and the name of the McKinney Ave. law firm where you work.

You are welcome to post on this blog, guy, and we won't even ask your real name. But you have no right to assume the identity of someone else (in this case, a Baylor professor whose views you have openly opposed). You might want to think about that before coming around here again.

And, regarding your views on Catholic priests, you are mistaken that a) I am still a Catholic, and b) that all Catholic priests are child molesters. But that's okay. Judging by your picture on your firm's website, I imagine people misjudge you as a stand-up guy.

I've been iJacked!

Vacation Photo

I'm still mostly AWOL from the online world, at least relatively speaking. But I thought I would share a vacation photo, taken earlier today at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Enjoy.

July 26, 2008

Science, Philosophy and Belief

Just saw this on the EPS (Evangelical Philosophical Society) blog, posted by Joe Gorra. These are quality thinkers who are worth a listen:

Calvin College just recently completed a four-week faculty development seminar for Chinese professors and postgraduate students, which featured lectures by Alvin Plantinga (Notre Dame, Philosophy), Owen Gingerich (Harvard, Astronomy), Richard Swinburne (Oxford, Philosophy), and John Polkinghorne (Cambridge, Physics).

Mp3 downloads of each talk are available here.

The seminar was directed by Del Ratzsch of Calvin College and Michael Murray of Franklin & Marshall College.

Should P. Z. Myers be fired?

Update: Apparently, Myers' blog is one of over 70 "scienceblogs" that are owed by a company called seedmediagroup.com. These links will lead you to its leadership including its CEO, Adam Bly. In fact, here's a Seed Media promo video in which Myers appears with Bly.

Jimmy Akin thinks so. He writes:

Continue reading "Should P. Z. Myers be fired?" »

July 27, 2008

Stupid Credit Card Thief

Some idiot named "John" ordered flower arrangements that he sent to two women on the same day, at the same time, from the same vendor with my credit card, while my wife and I were in the air flying home from Las Vegas to Texas. Here's what the moron wrote to the woman named, "Marie B*******":

I am sending this to show you how much you mean to me. I really cant [sic] wait to meet you in person. John.

Here's what the moron wrote to the woman named, "Laurie W********":

I am sending this to show you how much you mean to me. I really cant [sic] wait to meet you in person. John.

We requested the bill from Amex, which included not only the above sentiments, but the addresses and names to which and to whom these floral arrangements were supposed to be delivered. (They happen to both be in Arizona).

Because Amex has refused to remove the nearly $200 worth of charges after "their investigation," it's time for Frank Beckwith, internet sleuth, to kick into high gear.

I will not only remedy this financial wrong, I may save two damsels from a first class jerk. Wish me luck!

: It only took me about 61 minutes--with the help of google, online county property and business records (in Maricopa and Yavapai) as well as the Mac white pages widget--to find Marie's real address and phone number as well as Laurie's email address, real address, and place of employment. Neither one apparently lives alone. It looks like Marie lives with her husband and Laurie with a man that does not share her last name. Why couldn't the Amex "investigators" do this? I already emailed Laurie. I plan on calling Marie tomorrow.

My sister's forthcoming book: How to Raise the Perfect Child Through Guilt and Manipulation

My baby sister, Elizabeth, has a book coming out next year with HarperCollins. Here's the blurb for it from Publishers Lunch Weekly:

Actress and comedienne Elizabeth Beckwith's HOW TO RAISE THE PERFECT CHILD THROUGH GUILT AND MANIPULATION, a humorous and irreverent spoof on a parenting guide that bridges the gap between funny childhood memoirs and edgy self-help manuals, in a very nice deal, to Mary Ellen O'Neillat Collins, by Frank Weimann of The Literary Group.

I've read portions of the manuscript. It is VERY funny.

Here's a video my sister made with her husband 6 years ago. It's called "Child Bride (aka `Chads Disease')":

July 28, 2008

Alex Pruss on Faith, Works, and Pelagianism

My friend and Baylor colleague, Alexander Pruss, has a nice entry on his blog about faith, works, and Pelagianism, which you can find here.

(Cross-posted on Return to Rome blog)

Obamessiah Makes False Prophecy

Peter Wehner has the details on the Commentary website here.

July 29, 2008

To Bearly Go?: Baylor physicists propose way to travel faster than light

Nathan Wade blogs on the Waco Tribune-Herald web site:

Baylor University physicists Gerald Cleaver and Richard Obousy have submitted a paper to ArXiv.org explaining how an engine could bend the rules of physics to travel faster than the speed of light without violating Einstein’s theory of relativity.

According to Discovery News, the proposal “involves expanding the fabric of space behind a ship into a bubble and shrinking space-time in front of the ship. The ship would rest in between the expanding and shrinking space-time, essentially surfing down the side of the bubble.

“The tricky part is that the ship wouldn’t actually move; space itself would move underneath the stationary spacecraft. A beam of light next to the ship would still zoom away, same as it always does, but a beam of light far from the ship would be left behind.

“That means that the ship would arrive at its destination faster than a beam of light traveling the same distance.”

Scientists who understand what this means and want to know more, click here.

Does Senator Obama support reparations? And if so, should he be a recipient?

To answer the first question, It seems so from what Senator Obama isquoted as saying in this article:

"There's no doubt that when it comes to our treatment of Native Americans as well as other persons of color in this country, we've got some very sad and difficult things to account for."

"I personally would want to see our tragic history, or the tragic elements of our history, acknowledged,"

"I consistently believe that when it comes to whether it's Native Americans or African-American issues or reparations, the most important thing for the U.S. government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds."

Continue reading "Does Senator Obama support reparations? And if so, should he be a recipient?" »

July 30, 2008

Piling On

Clark Stooksbury went on a political dumpster-diving expedition, and returned with a fulsome Limbaugh rant, in which the world-historical shill truth-detector comedian delivered himself of the opinion that economic growth being of such paramount importance, and growth depending upon the use of energy, the government should undertake everything in its power to reduce the costs of using more and more of it, perhaps even to the point of subsidizing gasoline:

Folks, I don't know what the price of gasoline is in China and I don't know to what extent, if any, it is subsidized -- okay, it is subsidized. See, the ChiComs need their economy growing. They need people driving around, moving around. They need people to be able to afford fuel, so they're subsidizing fuel. They're not bailing people out of stupid home mortgage messes. They're buying their gasoline for them, because they need an economy. Know what energy means to this, the whole subject of economic growth. So meanwhile, the ChiComs, a country certainly growing, certainly on the rise, but it ain't the United States of America. How does it make you feel that Zhang Linsen has a big Hummer with nine speakers blaring as he pulls out into a four-lane road with so much smog he basically can't see the car in front of him, and you are trading in all of your cars and trying to go out and find basically a lawn mower.

Daniel Larison and Rod Dreher have contributed to the most condign rhetorical flagellation of Limbaugh. Conservatism, on such an implicit conception, no longer - if ever it did, which increasingly seems arguable - entails, well, the relationship between the right ordering of the soul and the right ordering of the polity, but entails the liberation of appetites from the bridles that a just man will place upon them, and the reconstitution of the polity as the mirror of limitless desire. In fact, reality itself is to be reduced under servitude to this fathomless abyss of passions, as government has an apparently solemn obligation to facilitate such consumption - and consumption is the appropriate metaphor for the sociology of the passions, which, being intrinsically ephemeral, disappear - are consumed - as they attain their transitory objects. This, Limbaugh considers the most desirable societal state, because it facilitates growth, which, in turn, facilitates more crapulence, ad nauseum: a closed circle of negational nothingness, a social imaging of hell, everyone turned in upon his own inner void.

Am I piling on? Possibly. But there is a lesson here, beyond the precis of the liberal ontology of the passions, and that is that, well, contemporary pop-conservatism is manifestly nothing more than a modulation of liberalism itself. Classical liberalism valorized a certain set of freedoms because they enabled men to fulfill a certain set of desires. As the democratic revolution proceeded apace, and the franchise was expanded, political economy was modified to enable a greater percentage of the population to fulfill these same desires - desires for material abundance. This is the transition from classical to modern liberalism, and Limbaugh is fully within this tradition; the only distinction to be drawn is between the sets of desires Limbaugh wishes to liberate, and the sets his ostensible adversaries wish to liberate. But if one accepts the ontology, the debate is utterly pointless: desire is, and is protean.

Popular conservatism just announced its bankruptcy.

"From Gitmo to Miranda, With Love," or The Constitution is a Suicide Pact After All

Captive Miranda, Lord knows I have not given a thought to the paperwork you sent me.

Let me tell you, Captive, that our release is not in the hands of the lawyers or the hands of America. Our release is in the hands of He who created us.

The poem, "To My Captive Lawyer, Miranda," was written by Abdullah Saleh Al-Ajmi while he was a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. No doubt, it would have given the former detainee, who was released in 2005, immense satisfaction to know that his last earthly deed was referenced in Justice Antonin Scalia's dissenting opinion in Boumediene v. Bush. That's the recent Supreme Court decision that gave Guantanamo detainees the constitutional right to challenge, in habeas corpus proceedings, whether they were properly classified by the military as enemy combatants. Abdullah Saleh Al-Ajmi, on the left [above], in a martyrdom video posted on an al Qaeda Web site. Al-Ajmi, a 29-year-old Kuwaiti, blew himself up in one of several coordinated suicide attacks on Iraqi security forces in Mosul this year.

That's how Debra Burlingame's op-ed piece in today's Wall Street Journal begins. Read the whole thing here.


Planned Parenthood's "Theology of the Body," courtesy of your tax dollars

When Planned Parenthood offers with public dollars its own "theology of the body," if you will (warning: this is some vulgar stuff), any alternative distribution of government money suggested by religious citizens is called a violation of the separation of church and state.

So, it seems safe to say that if the federal government were paying for a wide distribution of John Paul II's Theology of the Body to America's teenagers, the strong church-state separationists would be calling it a clear violation of the First Amendment. Thus, according to the "enlightened" understanding of our present legal regime, when the federal government underwrites PP's lessons, which answer precisely the same questions about human sexuality answered by John Paul II, then church and state are playing their appropriate roles, and theology remains, as it should always remain, in the back of the secular bus.

But that does not seem right. For if Planned Parenthood can be given public money to proselytize for its philosophical anthropology to the nation's children, then why should not religious citizens be allowed to do the same? After all, if each group is offering contrary answers to the precisely the same questions--questions whose answers depend on one's philosophical understanding of the nature of man--why is one "non-religious" and the other "religious"?

The "establishment clause," sadly, has become a means by which militant secularists may disenfranchise certain citizens based on a metaphysical litmus test that is applied capriciously.

"I have become a symbol..."

Hilarious: President Obama Continues Hectic Victory Tour.

No, it's not The Onion. It's Dana Milbank, writing in the Washington Post:

Continue reading ""I have become a symbol..."" »

July 31, 2008

Bob Dylan's 8th Bootleg Series Album, "Tell Tale Signs," to be released in October

You can read about it in Rolling Stone Magazine online here. (cross-posted)

Update: USA Today includes a video of one of the album's live numbers, "Ring Them Bells." You can see the video on this page (click "Play Video" on the right). Here are the lyrics:

Continue reading "Bob Dylan's 8th Bootleg Series Album, "Tell Tale Signs," to be released in October" »

Simplicity and Becoming.

It is clear enough that one of the pressing issues of the day is the explosive and beguiling one of the American identity. Who are we, we Americans? What is our character and destiny as a people? The emotion and bafflement surrounding this question are evidence of its importance.

The acute observer will perceive two large camps or categories of people, out there in the Republic, who are prepared to expound a thoughtful answer to the question. We must leave aside the thoughtless; as our subtle pollsters demonstrate, like diviners or magicians, hardly anyone is reluctant to give an opinion. But thoughtful opinions, informed by experience and reflection, are rarer jewels.

Continue reading "Simplicity and Becoming." »

Is "Jesus rose from the dead" a self-committing proposition?

In his massive and intensively researched book The Resurrection of the Son of God (pp. 714-717) N.T. Wright states that the proposition that Jesus rose from the dead is a self-involving proposition. If it's true, he says, it matters.*

While I agree heartily with Wright that if this proposition is true, it matters, I'm concerned about a confusion that could arise from calling it "self-involving," much less (as he does on p. 717) "self-committing." And I think it is a confusion to which we at the beginning of the 21st century are particularly prone.

The confused reasoning runs approximately like this:

If Jesus rose from the dead, then the Christian God exists. If the Christian God exists, we have to love and obey him. Therefore, to believe that Jesus rose from the dead is to believe that we have to love and obey God. Therefore, to believe that Jesus rose from the dead is to be something very much like a Christian. So belief in the proposition that Jesus rose from the dead already involves being committed to God. So how is it possible to be led to believe that Jesus rose from the dead by anything like neutral evidence? The conclusion is itself not "neutral" but rather self-committing, so one can come to believe it only through self-commitment, not through an objective evaluation of evidence.

In this way, the idea that this proposition is "self-involving" or "self-committing" comes to seem like a challenge to an evidentialist approach to Christian belief.

Continue reading "Is "Jesus rose from the dead" a self-committing proposition?" »

Words Fail Me

Words fail me, but it certainly appears as though there is endorsed in this thread over at Vox Nova, concerning the departure of an estimated 1.3 million illegal immigrants since the (glorious) failure of Comprehensive National Dispossession Immigration Reform, something tantamount to vigilantism: private citizens undertaking to subvert the immigration laws of the United States, regarding their distinctions between American citizens and foreigners invidious and unjust, thereby substituting their judgments for those duly rendered by the people's representatives. An unjust law is no law at all, to be certain; but natural facts about the world, such as differences between peoples and cultures, for which reasons (in part) mankind is politically divided into nations, are not unjust.

Ironically, mass immigration is, economically speaking, one of the most regressive policies in the arsenal of the neoliberal/neoconservative/globalist establishment, one that not only adversely impacts the native-born poor and lower-middle classes, but instantiates that hoary principle of liberal political economy, namely, primitive accumulation - or, as we know it presently, the privatization of profits and the socialization of costs. The wealthy pay less for labour, and the rest of us pay for the aggregate burdens upon various social services, and often at higher effective rates than many members of the rentier class, who can avail themselves of the ultra-low marginal rates applied to capital gains. The top and the foreign-born-bottom wage war against the native born poor and middle.

Obligations radiate outward, in concentric circles, beginning with family and community and moving outward, attenuating as they go. And while what I am about to say is mere rhetoric, mere hyperbole, as I wish no ill upon anyone, the world would be a more just place were the last universalist to be strangled with the entrails of the last globalist.

On 'Illegal Combatants' and Target Practice at our Shoes

It occurred to me while reading this thread that if this person had been treated as a POW, rather than as a carefully non-categorized non-person, he would still be - perfectly legitimately - in custody, rather than wherever he is after having successfully perpetrated a suicide attack in Iraq. The nice thing about POW status (at least in my layman's understanding) is that you don't have to prove that the detainee committed a crime in order to continue to detain him until the hostilities in which he was involved cease. We can't torture him, of course, which is a bummer to some; but we can keep him in custody until hostilities are definitively over.

If it turns out that he is a criminal, at least as I understand it he can be turned over to the proper authorities when that comes to light. And his treatment as a POW, unlike extra-legal treatment as an 'illegal combatant', will not interfere with prosecution or lead to premature release.

It further occurred to me that that - his status as an indefinitely yet legally and morally imprisoned POW, had it been the case - would probably represent an intolerable outrage to both the anti-war Left and the pro-war Right.