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Former BUFF driver; self-styled military historian; paid (a lot) to write about beating plowshares into swords; NOT Foamy the Squirrel, contrary to all appearances. Wesleyan Jihadi Name: Sibling Railgun of Reasoned Discourse

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Relativism, Leadership, and Pope John Paul


This post was intended to recapitulate arguments I made in earlier posts (here, here, here, and here, for instance) that I thought were lost forever in the Great Purge. I am reposting this because it contains new material and a handy summary of this continuing conversation so far.


Correspondent Izmud said last month that the late Pope John Paul earned only middling grades--"yeah, you helped kill communism," he seemed to say, "but what have you done for me lately?"

Pope John Paul II may have been notable and respected for many of his achievements in his lifetime, most particularly in the international relations realm. However, IMO he also bungled the handling of the priest sex scandal cases, and his hard-line stance on modern social issues has led to a Church-admitted net loss of the faithful averaging 10-15,000 per month worldwide! While conservatives may agree with his stance on these issues, or admire his doggedness in refusing to bend to modern convention and liberalism, the bottom line is that his effectiveness as a leader of a group of people comes into question if his numbers are dropping rather than rising. So, a mixed report card overall for the late Pope.

Surely, Izmud, he earned at least a "B?"*

I agree that PJP II was “notable and respected for his achievements in international relations”--I would take that praise a step farther and say the he was one of the central figures of the last half of the twentieth century. He, along with Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, and others of similar ilk, helped kill history’s bloodiest form of tyranny and one of Christianity’s most dangerous adversaries—the most verminous outgrowth (so far) of relativism as a philosophy.

All of that aside, however, I believe he deserves great praise for his handling of the doctrinal crisis that has beset Catholicism in the last fifty years and for his uncompromising stand against the “spirit of the age,” if you will: the latest incarnation(s) of moral relativism.

Gracia Grindal at A Lutheran Hymnal for Church and Home, put it quite well several weeks ago:

The reason for his success is not simply his brilliance, which was extraordinary, nor his genius at using the media to get out his message, which was astonishing, but most of all, his ability to lead by stating clearly and unwaveringly what it means to be Catholic today. Despite calls for him to adjust his message to the contemporary world, he stood firm. In contrast, we see the mainline Protestant churches in America tripping over themselves to be relevant and modern.

The evidence is in: it hasn’t worked…. When a church attempts to change its identity to fit with the times, it will lose.

This captures the soul of the matter, I think. In the wake of secular humanism’s seeming philosophical triumph, all of Christianity rushed to prove itself “relevant” to modern man—if its theology appeared to be irrelevant, it could still render useful social services or market a fuzzy-warm "product" that would make people feel good about themselves--enhance "self esteem," in the language of our age.

So from the New Frontier on, Christianity met the developed world with Presbyterian hootenannies, Vatican II, Methodism’s “you are loved” acceptance of everything, and the rise of “God on the gymnasium floor” congregation-pandering in the EvangiBaptist MegaChurches: “Do whatever steps you want if You have cleared them with the Pontiff …”

Bishops, Elders, and Deacons across Europe and North America, whether they wore lucre-encrusted vestments and tent-sized hats or sky-blue polycarbon suits and Brylcreemed DAs, thought that “Christianity must be “where it’s at” They must offer the “consumer” “choices”—-McChurch, if you will.

The churches that grew believers during this period were those that taught the right (as God gave them to see the right) and accepted the Holy Spirit’s inspiration and guidance. They may (or may not) have expressed the message in modern forms, but—bottom line—they did not compromise it (as the Catholic Church seems to have with many of the outcomes of Vatican II). They may have repelled some people who were more “of” the world than just “in” it, but such winnowing is not necessarily a bad thing.

And this brings us to the next issue: Izmud claims that it is a measure of the late Pope’s failure as a leader that the church lost “10-15,000 per month worldwide." First of all, this number is disputable, even if it did come from the Vatican. There is at least circumstantial evidence that it doesn't capture the whole picture. PJP II's part of the visible church may have lost absolute numbers, at least in the developed world, but he held fast to the essence of what it is to be a Catholic. I will be optimistic for a moment and assume that some of those 10-15,000 sought out a purer relationship with Christ and became Protestants. This was probably the case in the US. In Europe, sadly, those that fell away were probably lost altogether. But again, this is not all bad: the church has been tested by the spirit of the age like a military unit is tested in combat. Some fell in the battle. Many more deserted, but they were the weakest soldiers anyway. Those that remained were tested and proven--the Old Guard; the Grognards.

There’s a further issue here: is popularity (and the concomitant rise in supporters and poll numbers) really the best measure of leadership? If so, then this guy was the greatest leader of modern times:

Despite his many and manifest transgressions, he could milk a poll or a constituency for all they were worth. Conversely, this guy

Was defeated in popular election by a moral and intellectual homunculus who Churchill rightly summed up as, “a modest man, who has much to be modest about.”**

Likewise, this guy

Was popularly elected (in fact, this is a campaign poster--creepy, no?), while this guy,

though also popularly elected, was so by a much smaller proportion of his nation's population than Hitler was in '33, and was widely reviled even by portions of the press that supported "his" war.

No, the real test of greatness in my mind is moral leadership: Is the leader willing to follow the right course, and guide those who will follow, regardless of what this does to his poll numbers? Note here that I say "moral" leadership--this presupposes that there is a "right course," according to some objective, absolute standard. There is no thought of ethical relativistic equivalency here--Hitler, after all, believed in his own carpet-chewing way that he was following the right path. John Paul II was following where God led him and was leading those who would follow down that path. This meant some would fall away, loving the world more than the Word--sad, but inevitable; one of the prices those who lead in God's paths must pay. The Grognards stayed with him, and eventually he began to attract others who bacame serious about growing in their faith.

And this brings us to the most important issue at hand: John Paul II was among the 20th Century's staunchest opponents of moral relativism--the prevailing mind and spirit of this age and several past (depending on how you reckon an "age"). Man has always lived with this tension: "is the universe centered on God, or on me?" Eve and Adam gave the latter answer, and sin entered the world. It's always been an option, but it was the particular genius of the Enlightenment and later eras to systematize this relativism as a philosophy and put the entire engine of modern science behind realizing it in various forms: "God is toppled from His throne--let's see who or what we can put in His place!"

At best, this philosophy has led people into rootless nihilistic anomie. More often, it has led into tyranny and dark savagery. Humanist relativism may seem pretty harmless in modern American, feel-good garb:

We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity... Humanists strive toward a world of mutual care and concern [and] ... are concerned for the well being of all.

Which is all very good, but why? Why believe each person has "inherent worth and dignity?" Where does it inhere from? More to the point, what do I get out of that? If humanity is no longer tied to the transcendent and the infinite, then we are free to define ourselves however we want. Screw “worth and dignity”—that’s for sissies! I’m gonna see what I can get outta life for me ‘n mine! We no longer have to make our wishes conform to objective reality; we can now mold reality to conform to our wishes. And that means aligning the world as conveniently as possible to me and mine, however I may define those things, and, inevitably to some degree, as inconveniently as possible for not-me and not-mine.

The result has been unprecedented disaster. Every time man has dethroned God and seized the crown for himself, as it were, he has created untold misery and mischief, regardless of how noble or utopian the words used to describe the “cause:”

Is man born free, but found everywhere in chains? Well then, let’s free him! Of course, a few recalcitrants may have to be “encouraged” to accept their liberte, egalite, & fraternite. Oh, and we’ll need a big, modern army to overthrow the oppressors in the rest of the still-benighted world. [The Terror, 12-17,000 killed without trial; wars of the Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, 1,000,000 – 1,750,000 killed.]

Is our national destiny the hope of the world? Why, it must be—just look at the glories of our culture, at all we have achieved! Of course, these glories prove that we are evolutionarily superior to all the verminous, rat-like peoples around us. We must “educate” them about our superiority! [15 – 16,000,000 killed in all social-Darwinist wars of national aggrandizement, from the Austro-Prussian War to World War I.]

Has mankind lost touch with a vital part of his soul? Lost an essential link to the dark looming forests or the ancient polis in the process of building civilization--a piece of deep Kultur from the dawn of time? Well then, let’s give him his soul back, suitably dressed up with all the trappings that modern media make possible. Oh, and all those “people” who can’t appreciate this ancient yearning—they’re no better than animals at best, fit only to be slaves to those who can. Never mind the damn Jews! [30 – 55,000,000 killed in the wars of fascism, esp. World War II.]

Is mankind oppressed by a wealthy exploiter class? Arise ye prisoners of starvation! Arise ye wretched of the earth! For justice thunders condemnation--A better world’s in birth! Oh, and those that don’t realize this yet—that stand in the way of the inevitable march of history—they’ll have to be “re-educated.” And who can really trust a kulak, or anyone over thirty, or someone who can read, anyway? [We don’t yet know how many died to institute “scientific socialism” in its various forms from the revolutions of the mid-19th Century until the fall of communism. Let’s see: around 1,000,000 dead in the 19th C.; about 9,000,000 dead in the Russian Civil War; 19,000,000 or so in Stalin’s purges and terror famine (14,000,000 in the Ukraine alone); post-WW II European “resettlement” and national “relocations,” about 2,100,000; the Chinese Revolution, about 2,500,000; in Mao’s purges, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution, between 41 – 46,000,000 (never mind aborted babies and girls left to die as part of national contraceptive policies); in Vietnam (all wars), about 2,500,000; in Democratic Kampuchea, around 2,000,000; in assorted communist-inspired “wars of national liberation” around the Third World, from 3 – 6,000,000; so over 80 million conservatively—and still counting— Cuba and North Korea (or even all the Chinese dead) have not been reckoned yet.]

The latter death toll alone is enough to make PJP II a hero (and an “A student”) by any reasonable standard due to his role in killing that beast. But he was also among the loudest and most articulate enemies of the root disease in all its forms. Today, it infects mostly the American and European Left—John Kerry is not so very different in outlook than Trotsky or Che. The “liberal” state government of California is not so very different than a post-WW II East European communist suzerainty like Poland or East Germany. The city government of San Francisco resembles Paris under the Commune. The average Hollywood entertainer is more extreme in ideology than the average late-communist dictator. The entire Visible Body of Christ in the US, Catholics included, can and should do more to fight the latest incarnation of this disease.

So, ultimately, Izmud is right about one aspect of PJP II’s ministry, but for the wrong reason, I think. The late Pope can be faulted for not coming to terms with the sex scandal in the US episcopate, but not because he rendered the church too stodgy and hidebound. I think, rather, that he didn’t go far enough—that the Catholic Church is not yet conservative enough, not sure enough of itself again as a unique institution, not free enough yet of the taint of modern relativism to take the steps necessary to prevent a recurrence of this type of scandal. When John Paul toook office, the Catholic Church was mired in Vatican II-inspired, Mackerel Plaza leftism. PJP II started a revolution. He replaced many leftist bishops and cardinals around the world, populating much of the upper echelons of the episcopate with men who thought like he did. He did not complete the revolution, however, and several of the most entrenched bastions of Catholic leftist relativism survive. One of those is the US episcopate, from the seminaries to the Council of Bishops. It is no coincidence that one of the most “liberal” bodies of priests in the world was also heavily infested with predatory pederasts. The former produced the latter, just like dung produces stink. When he was first made aware of the mess, the late Pope should have called CNN-I and broken the news himself, helped law enforcement prosecute those that betrayed their vocations to the uttermost extent of the law, and swept the US episcopate clean of leftist buggerers and the other “filth” that new Pope Benedict XVI referred to in his speech before the Papal Conclave several weeks ago. For his failure to carry the revolution far enough in his many years in service, PJP II is culpable—I agree.

The good news is that the new Pope was John Paul’s closest intellectual mentor back when he was a mere mortal. He understands what the church must do. I congratulate new Pope Benedict and hope he gets speedily to work, for the sake of all in the largest single slice of the Visible Body present on the earth.

* I know, Izmud: “No he didn’t and don’t call me Shirley!”

** It is a testimony to Britain’s decline as a great nation that Clement Atlee was
recently rated the UK’s third greatest Prime Minister of the 20th C—two places ahead of the Iron Lady, but thankfully two behind Churchill. I guess all the pub rats and soccer hooligans know where their bread was originally buttered—Atlee gave them the modern British Nanny State.

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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Christian Carnival

Christian Carnival, a collection of posts on Christian topics from all around the web, is up at The Wittenberg Gate this week.

Check it out!


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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Finally, A MAN's UAV!

Thanks to all those who sent me items to post. Our conversations will be back up shortly. I must first rebuild some of my portions.

But now for something completely different: I don't do much mil blogging around here, but as a former BUFF driver, I found this irresistible:


Yup: a fully-flyable radio-controlled B-52G.

Here is a movie of its maiden voyage. I must, with jaundiced professional eye and a weary cynicism born of many years in SAC, make a few comments:

-- I like the horde of modelers surrounding the plane before and after the flight. Nice touch. They only needed little tiny blue breadtrucks to complete the effect.

-- The takeoff looked like several MITOs I've been in.

-- The craft flies way too nose-up. Get it going faster, close to the ground--I need to see that nose-down flying freight train effect.

-- Nice landing! Probably the first BUFF pilot ever not to get a nosegear on his first try at landing the plane!

-- I like the markings--this particular tail number, 57-6483, was at 2 Bomb Wing, Barksdale AFB, LA for many years in later versions; the livery depicted would have been worn when G-models first arrived at Barksdale in 1965, which would have meant this was a 62nd Bomb Squadron bird when it arrived--my first squadron.

-- Sadly, this BUFF found its own version of Bud Holland, who got the thing into knife-edge flight and crashed it. Stoopid sumbiatch. Word up: BUFFs don't fly very well on their sides.

-- Okay ... now for the really frightening thing: I've flown the actual tail number this model was based on. In fact, I flew it in combat during DESERT STORM, if memory serves (must check logbook). It was a Barksdale bird again when it was retired in Sep '91. Man, I feel old.

Update: I did not fly 6483 during DESERT STORM. The aircraft was used by the schoolhouse at Castle from the time I went through as a copilot (where I flew it once) until July 1990, when my crew and I brought it back to Barksdale. I used the off-station training mission as an excuse to see my fiance--the Veep; we were planning our wedding in October. This aircraft wan't used in DS, but I flew it several times after in '91, before it was retired. I had it confused with "Old Crow Express"--57-6490, which I did fly in DS. 6483 is either still at AMARC or was scrapped prior to 1997.


* Yes, folks--photos! Bwhahaha! I can now photoblog--and so can you: just email me a copy of the pix you would like posted. Nothing too large, please. Oh ... and no more photos of Hans and Izmud together, naked except for galoshes and cassocks .... please! I still wake up screaming ....

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

New! Improved! Lighter! Leaner!

This is now OBE*, as they say, but I preserve it here as mute testimony to one dark night of my soul--the Night I Lost the Blog (now a major motion picture--coming soon to a theater near you!)

Yes, folks ... your humble bloghost has fallen victim to one of the most preventable online disasters imaginable. Poor security practices on my part allowed my blog to disappear, leaving only such posts as I had saved in order to transfer from one machine to another, along with my correspondents' comments.

(Have I ever told my audience that I first learned DOS back in the mid-80’s after accidentally killing the main hard drive that stored all the standardization and evaluation records for the 62d and 596th Bomb Squadrons at Barksdale AFB? I thought not. The Chief of Stan/Eval, Major Meador—who could be quite intimidating when he wanted to be, which is why he held that job—was amusedly patient, but made it emphatically clear that my future in Stan/Eval, and perhaps even my upgrade to Aircraft Commander, rode on whether I could “get it back.” I did. Eventually. And I learned DOS. What happened last week was kinda the same thing……I now know some HTML! Some. One must break eggs to make an omelet. And a little knowledge is a dangerous thing…..)

Thank God I still have the comments--most of our conversations can be recreated from them. I think this time around, however, I will respond to your learned and reasonable commentary (and Izmud's, too) either in phrases from the dreaded Necronomicon of the mad Arab poet Abdul Alhazred, or from the infamous Hungarian Phrasebook. Here are some examples:

Chefjef: BTW, UCLA is not a liberal campus. I spent a few years there, and can tell you that in particular, the graduate School of Public Policy and Political Science - where I have several friends, to include a doctoral candidate who was a schoolmate of mine- are filled with conservatives and Republicans.

Monk: Ph'nglui mglw'nafh UCLA m'wah Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl Repflabrikan fhtagn fhtagn!!
[Google translation: Great Cthulhu in dead city R'lyeh sleeping will consume UCLA in large Republican gyro spiced with cumin!]


Izmud: Pope John Paul II may have been notable and respected for many of his achievements in his lifetime, most particularly in the international relations realm. However, IMO he also bungled the handling of the priest sex scandal cases, and his hard-line stance on modern social issues has led to a Church-admitted net loss of the faithful averaging 10-15,000 per month worldwide!

Monk: Ya, you great poof! Mine hovercraft is full of eels, but I am no longer infected! Drop your panties, Sir Winston ... I cannot wait 'til lunchtime--my nipples explode with delight!
Until I begin posting again, I will paraphrase the immortal words of Wensleydale and Customer:

Reader: It's ... um ... it's not really much of a blog then, is it?

Monk: Finest in the district, squire!

Reader (annoyed): Explain the logic underlying that conclusion, please.

Monk: Well, it's so clean, sir!

Reader: Yes, it's certainly uncontaminated by blogging...


* Overcome by events

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Thursday, April 21, 2005

BXVI -- "Left" Behind?

A new voice wieghs into the Great Pope Debate:

I have a slight problem with this post. I agree with Monk's truncated dissertation on moral Relativism, on the idea that Relativism is a form of religion - a growing one at that - and that as such it is dangerous. In fact, not only do I agree, I have mulled over the idea for many months and have continuing concerns about it.

My problem is Monk linking it to the "Left." There are moral relativists everywhere among us. There are people at my church who call themselves Christian - and republican - but who practice moral relativism. The fact that they don't recognize it and/or admit, and hence blog about, doesn't make them any less dangerous as an agent of the destructive practice than a leftist democrat or atheist who openly discusses and/or promotes the practice. In fact, they're probably more dangerous (I prefer a hood wearing Klan member to a suit wearing "nice guy" with swastikas tattoed on his chest, underneath his suit, anyday of the week).

And as for Pope Benedict the XVI, it is not just Lefties who don't like him. He was a controversial choice even before the voting began; controversial among Catholics of all political and factional persuasion, not just left-leaning folks. And as to the "prediction" that there would be "whining" - oh please, there is always a group of whiners that quickly emerge in any change in circumstances in political and religious events of such magnitude. Heck, if you institute a change in pastoral standing at my church, within hours there will be a group of whining dissenters. Does that make them Leftie pinko-commie bastards? Of course not. (Well, maybe in a couple of cases......)

Anyway, the bottom line is that in a time where Monk's message on Relativism - what it is and the concerns we should have about it -is important and should be given due attention, encasing it in language that suggests it is a "Left" phenomena - besides being less than fully accurate - is entirely unhelpful.

Chefjef, I concede your point ... to a degree. There are certainly moral relativists of all political stripes. Izmud provides a succint description of his own modernist brand of secular humanism in correspondence that I will post shortly, and he's pretty conservative politically. (The words "Atilla the Hun" come to mind...)

If we had started this debate in, say, 1890 or 1935, I would have said that the threat from reltivism stemmed mainly from the right--from social darwinists, Nietzcheans, eugenicists, and those alike in 1890; from a world full of fascists in 1935. I would still feel bound to warn of socialists-bolsheviki-spartacists-communists in both periods, but the main threat came from the right.

Today, however, the vast majority of a$$-hattery of the type I excerpted in my last post comes from the left. This doesn't likely represent an absolute majority in numbers. There are probably as many neo-nazis, skinheads, etc., in this country today as there are leftie-pinko-commies, but the former are marginalized in public life. This is a very Good Thing. The morally-relativistic equivalent of neo-fascism is the kind of stuff we see all over the left of the blogosphere and elsewhere in the public domain every day, due to left-leaning dominance of the media (18 to 2, after all) and academe--the chattering classes. Stuff that is as far to the left as Westboro Baptist "Church" is to the right (and no, I won't link to them again--why encourage blasphemy and hate?) gets considerable public visibility today. This is a Bad Thing. And this is central to my concern that even the moderate left has become unhinged of late.

Whinging? It knows no bounds--is not owned by right or left, as you say. And our church is a prime example, as you point out. Most of our whiners are "old church" and hence "conservative" (regardless of politics)--those who found our congregation to be a comfortable social club and who resist anything that will change that status. The Lord, however, is always radical and that most often means change--He "came to bring a sword," to pronounce woe unto the Pharisees and overturn the tables of the moneychangers. Mike Yakonelli put it well:

What characterized Jesus and His disciples was unpredictability. Jesus was always surprising the disciples by eating at the wrong houses (those of sinners), hanging around the wrong people (tax collectors, adulterers, prostitutes, lepers), and healing people on the wrong day (the Sabbath).
I agree--also to a degree--that those who are secret adherents can be more dangerous than those who openly profess evil. But all of us have this in our hearts to some extent. Relativism is just another variation on a theme we all play--"I am the center of the universe and thus get to make the rules!" This is at the core of all sin and is what made both angels and man fall. A compassionate, Christian approach to people should recognize and allow for this. All we can judge is behavior, not the condition of hearts. But it is not unreasonable to infer greater internal disorder from unhinged outward behavior. This makes intuitive sense, doesn't it? I mean, it's not unreasonable for me to assume greater danger, as well as less mental balance, from a Ward Churhill or a "Reverend" Fred W. Phelps (of Westboro "God hates fags" fame) shouting obscenities at me at the top of their lungs than from a fellow who just looks at me funny, is it?

I know that what you say is true--there are relativists within our own congregation. Of course their are. In fact, I have reason to suspect that every one of our fellow congregants is a .... [check right; check left] a SINNER!! Shhhhh ..... [Don't tell anybody!] For instance, I must constantly be on guard against my own "inner German." After all, my favorite piece of furniture is Thomasville's wonderful (but hideously expensive) Fascist Bed. I love this thing, even if I can't afford it. I recently made a pilgrimage to Birmingham to see one in person. It was like turtle soup and venison served on gold utensils! Like Barbarella in the Excessive Machine (where she belongs, dammit!) As good as riding to hounds and laughingly brushing peasants off the road as I go! Look at the fascines! It appeals to everything darkly right-wing in my soul. I imagine sleeping on it and dreaming of a boot smashing a human face--forever. But ... I am a Christian! Must ... not ... succumb to such temptation! Must .... not ..... think..... about ......... BED!

....There. That's better. Surely you awake some nights in a sweat, having dreamt of flowing red banners and bright-eyed proles looking hopefully into the Bright New Dawn of socialism, no?*

As to the Pope--among believing Catholics I think he was probably the least controversial choice. He was JPII's closest intellectual ally and frequently his insipration. B16 is only controversial to that peculiarly modern, peculiarly developed-world, and--yes--usually left-wing "Catholic" who believes that the denomination should be remade in his or her own image or should conform itself to the world's current fancy. For my part, if I were Catholic, I would want someone rock-like (or at least little-rock-like), not like shifting sand or a banner blown by the wind, as the base of my denomination. As a reformed Protestant, I can respect that sentiment, even if, to me, he is just another Bishop--leader of a (doctrinally deviant but still Christian) flock.

Finally, I am The Monkster--the collosus standing adamantine astride all leftism and yelling "STOP!"** It is your job (and I address all my readers (both of you!), not just Chefjef) to provide balance. Find me examples of similarly unhinged right-wing reactions to the Pope and I will post them. I will take silence as mute, if anecdotal, evidence that there ain't none. Which will prove my point...


* I know, I know--"no I haven't and stop calling me Shirley!"

** That's right--I'M really the center of the universe! And all this time you thought you were! Lord, I apologize fer that ... and be with them starvin' pygmies down in New Guinea...amen.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend

Predictably, the left's honeymoon with the new Pope was short. Wizbang sums things up well:

As soon as I saw the white smoke--and well before the new pope was announced--I predicted it would take some moron 2 hours to whine about the choice of pope. I apologize to the Wizbang readers for underestimating the stupidity of some on the left.

"So how BAD is Ratiznger? I dont know much or anything about him BUT that he
was a Nazi or a member of the Nazi party. How does he stand on issues and how far back will he turn the church. "

From there the bashing continues. For the record it took about 120 seconds. I'll still take 2 hours for the first organized group whine.

BTW Look out for words like "lost opportunity." As in, "The Catholic church had a great opportunity to open itself up to a broader base. They could have supported premarital sex, adultery and abortion on demand but they lost that opportunity when they selected someone who actually believed in the teachings of their own religion."

Update From your friends at Kos:

"It's a great day to be a Nazi! The best thing we can hope for is that this will be the "worse" in "it's gotta get worse before it gets better." If we're lucky, Pope Ratf**ker will be even more reactionary, orthodox, and fascist than he has been in the past."

And then they wonder why people say Democrats are hostile to people of faith.
For my part, I don't wonder. I don't have a good name (yet) for Christianity's most dangerous rival religion--call it modern relativism, perhaps--but I do know that its adherents and Christ's visible church are natural enemies, even more so than the church and islam are. Relativism is more dangerous by far, having the full engine of secular modernity behind it: fascism and communism directly killed more people in less than a century than islam had adherents in its first five centuries--the period of its greatest glory.

And yes, relativism is a religion. It fills the God hole in people's souls, giving them reasons to live, die ... and kill. Fascism, communism, Bonapartist romanticism, 19th century social darwinism, 20th century existentialism, progressivist "liberalism," and today's nihilistic hedonism are some of its denominations. The first two are essentially no further apart than are Catholicism and Protestantism, or than Sunni and Shia. These are all merely the conscious expressions of the inchoate, unexpressed root philosophy, which holds as its central tenet that nothing is absolute--even "god," if she exists, is maleable and/or "evolving." And the second tenet is like unto this: love thyself as The Self, for thou art the center of the universe.

I've written more on this philosophy here. "Papa Ratzi" has thought through it further and written extensively and eloquently on it here, for instance.

Before we go on, let's have some more fun with the leftist reaction, shall we?

Oh great. Pope Wingnut the First.

"To have a clear faith according to the church's creed is today often labeled fundamentalism," he said, "while relativism, letting ourselves be carried away by any wind of doctrine, appears as the only appropriate attitude for the today's times. A dictatorship of relativism is established that recognizes nothing definite and leaves only one's own ego and one's own desires as the final measure."

Keep your Church out of my state.

UPDATE: This man is going to be a huge pain in the ass. The quote above looks like it was written around the corner from me, at the American Enterprise Institute. It's part of the rightist moral conceit we've been getting for years from sinners like Bill Bennett and Newt Gingrich.

There is also this (via Kevin): "He wrote a letter of advice to U.S. bishops on denying
communion to politicians who support abortion rights, which some observers viewed as a slam at Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry. He publicly cautioned Europe against admitting Turkey to the European Union and wrote a letter to bishops around the world justifying that stand on the grounds that the
continent is essentially Christian in nature. In another letter to bishops
worldwide, he decried a sort of feminism that makes women "adversaries" of men."

The Post headline is "Guardian of Orthodoxy." The Turkish/'Christian in nature' bit is not orthodoxy. It's bigotry. There is no other appropriate word. If it is orthodoxy, the Church is in more trouble than anyone can guess.
Here's more:

They elected another Pope. It’s Ratzinger - the Goebbels of the Vatican. Un-f.......g-believable, even for an organization as self-destructively oblivious as this one.

Well, for Catholics and the dwindling number of Westerners who still take Catholicism seriously, it’s time to kiss the Dark Ages hello again. For the rest of us, we can only hunker down and await an onslaught of rabidly reactionary politicking from an extremely rich, tax-exempt organization that claims mandatory authority over its members, including public office-holders. The medieval wing of an organization that just barely got over Galileo has now claimed the right to declare itself “infallible” (the irony of which they never seem to get). If you thought John Paul II was bad, wait till you get a load of Pope Torquemada Jr.

And here's Planet Raspeberry's bet-settlers at the NYT, using a "man in the street" quote to voice their own editorial position, as they typically do:

But many in the crowd were openly and greatly distressed by the choice of the new pope - widely regarded as an extreme conservative on a wide variety of social issues. This included many Catholics who said he would take the church in the wrong direction.

"I am very, very upset because I was hoping for a more open pope, one who was more open to the problems of the world," said Paolo Tasselli, a retired bank worker and a practicing Catholic, who said he had hoped the church would give more rights to women and be more involved in social issues.

Of course, the Euroweenie press has its collective frilly pink panties in a wad over the PanzerPope:

There were indeed some negative editorial negative headlines Wednesday, particularly in Europe, including references to "God's Rottweiler, and the "Panzer Cardinal," according to a survey by the Reuters news agency.

"A Warrior To Challenge Modernity," concluded La Repubblica in Italy, the papal backyard. "Intransigence" ran the editorial headline in France's left-wing Liberation. From his native Bavaria, though, the liberal Sueddeutsche Zeitung said he was no "monster" and the new pope might be surprisingly flexible.

"From Hitler Youth to Holy See," splashed Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad on its front page. Catholic Austria's Die Presse newspaper wrote in an editorial: "For European and North American Catholics in particular, the new pope is a symbol of dogmatic rigidity."

"People of faith" (rapidly becoming an epithet among lefties) should welcome such a "warrior" of "dogmatic rigidity." Even if he may prove a pest to fertile Protestant mission work in Latin America (as seems likely), one must admit he has all the right foes and, as the Arabs say, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."


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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Habemus Papem

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the most conservative papal candidate, who gave a brilliant homily* at the start of the papal conclave, is the new Bishop of Rome--Pope Benedict XVI.

This will not make Izmud happy. Ratzinger is zealously orthodox.

It makes me happy, though, regardless of any differences with Catholic doctrine. Ratzinger is the most intellectually rigorous of the candidates and I love his bold, unabashed condemnation of moral relativism. I also appreciate his opposition to the "subjectivization" of religious experience--it mirrors Francis Schaeffer's thinking on the subject (as well as my own). Ratzinger rightly points out how this leads to "easy believism" (although John MacArthur calls it that, not Ratzinger) and compromises Christian work in the world.

He also has this going for him: he really ticks off lefty Euroweenies.

So ... congratulations to the new Pope. Now, get busy sweeping the American Council of Bishops clean!


* Favorite excerpt: "How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking… The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves – thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14). Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and 'swept along by every wind of teaching', looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires."

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Planet Raspberry

The WaPo's Bill Raspberry, who I have always thought a fairly moderate liberal, froths at the mouth over the "threat" posed by eeeeeeeevviiill Fox News in his column yesterday:

The in-your-face right-wing partisanship that marks Fox News Channel's news broadcasts is having two dangerous effects.

The first is that the popularity of the approach -- Fox is clobbering its direct competition (CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, etc.) -- leads other cable broadcasters to mimic it, which in turn debases the quality of the news available to that segment of the TV audience.

The second, far more dangerous, effect is that it threatens to destroy public confidence in all news.

The latter, I admit, is more fear than prediction, but let me tell you what produces that fear. Fox News Channel -- though the people who run the operation are at great pains to insist otherwise -- is deliberately partisan. It is as though right-wing talk radio has metastasized into cable and assumed a new virulence.

So why would I consider Fox such a generalized threat? Because I think the plan is not so much to convince the public that its particular view is correct but rather to sell the notion that what FNC presents is just another set of biases, no worse (and for some, a good deal better) than the biases that routinely drive the presentation of the news on ABC, CBS or NBC -- and, by extension, the major newspapers.
I usually ignore Lefty frothings unless I find them particularly amusing (like this guy's), but Raspberry's has me a bit worried. It appears to demonstrate two things: 1) the extremism overtaking even formerly moderate corners of leftydom, and 2) the left's more general retreat from reality.

"In-your-face," "right-wing partisanship," "dangerous," "debases," "dangerous," "destroys," "fear," "partisan," metastasized," "virulence," "generalized threat," "the plan." And that's just the beginning. This sounds more like something from Izvestya at the height of the Cold War or People's Daily during the Great Cultural Revolution. At very least, it rivals the more extreme right's frothings during the height of Clinton hatred.

This from the man who won my respect, along with a Pulitzer, for his forthright condemnation of the Nation of Islam's violent rhetoric and misogynistic rap lyrics. He rates a relatively low 28 on Lying in Ponds' total partisanship index, even counting his last year's worth of increasingly immoderate columns. Compare him with other well-known leftist columnists, like Maureen Dowd (52), Paul Krugman (71), and Molly Ivins (76), and to the right's most partisan MSM columnist (you guessed it) Ann Coulter (68). He has generally been a voice for sanity on the left. And now he's jumped into the fever swamp head first.

And all this is over Fox News, too! I mean, Coulter? I could see that. Rush? Yeah, sure. Even LGF or PowerLine. But Fox? Obviously Mr Raspberry hasn't seen or doesn't believe this, an objective assessment of major media political bias from UCLA, hardly a hotbed of right-wing fanatacism. It uses sophisticated, empirical statistical techniques to correlate Americans for Democratic Action ratings to media positions. Fox is the "furthest right" of the MSM broadcast outlets, but it is fifth closest to the rating of the average US voter (after PBS Newshour, CNN, ABC Good Morning America, and the Drudge Report (!)). Fox is one of only two media outlets that is to the right of the average US voter (the other is the Washington Times). Everything else is further to the left than Fox is to the right. Fox scores 39.7, roughly equating it to Olympia Snow (R-WA) or Charles Stenholm (D-TX). By contrast, Bill Frist scores a 10 and Tom Delay a 5. Teddy Kennedy scores a hefty 89.5. CBS News and the NYT each scored 73.7. Raspberry's WaPo scored 66.6 (appropriately enough)--in other words, significantly further to the left than Fox is to the right. The average of the 18 MSM outlets to the left of the average voter was 62.3--further to the left than fox is to the right.

Got that? Eighteen outlets to the left of the average voter by a margin of 12 points. Two (count 'em) outlets to the right, Fox being 10 points to the right--roughly equivalent to a moderate Democrat congressman. For my liberal friends: hold up two fingers. Good. Now hold up eighteen. That right! You don't have 18. Take off your shoes and socks. I'll wait. Good. Now, which number is bigger?

So ... where's the "dangerous" "right-wing partisanship" that "threatens," "debases" and "destroys" public confidence with "metastasized" "virulence?" Is Fox really a firebrand bastion of right-wing sentiment, or has Bill just gone so far to the left himself lately that he imagines the MSM's ingrained left-wing bias represents the middle way? You check the links and decide. I think the evidence supports the view that even moderate liberals are being driven out into the fever swamps today by the increasingly virulent rhetoric of the left and the resultant polarization of American politics. This will further marginalize the left in our national discourse. As someone to the right of the average voter, I suppose I should welcome this, but I don't. Even more than any "conservative" principles (whatever those may be), I believe in checks and balances. It is healthy to have intelligent voices on the left (like our own esteemed Chefjef's) pull national discourse back toward the middle. So when folks like Bill Raspberry appear to be coming unhinged, it concerns me.

Ahh, you say, but Raspberry maintains that the "threat" derives from Fox's "verbal ruffians'" sinister "plan" to undermine confidence in our Holy Imperial Self-Appointed Masters of Information. He bemoans the death of the age "when if you saw it in the New York Times, that settled the bar bet and the other guy paid up." When was that, Bill? 1951? What planet have you been living on since?

"What worries [him] is that journalism could become a battlefield of warring biases." Wake up and smell the newsprint, Rip van Raspberry. When has the press ever been anything but a battlefield of warring biases in this country? (Was it our noble press that published this, this, this, this, and this? And that's just about one guy.) That's what a free press does, Bill--it provides a convenient public forum for the debate of ideas. Sometimes that debate gets a bit heated.

If anything, the "right-wing" perspective is grossly underrepresented in the MSM. Even liberals who honor a truly free press should welcome venues like Fox News as part of a healthy national discourse. There may have been a brief period born of liberal fantasy--let's call it the Media's Camelot--when we all pretended that there was some Grand, Noble, Stratospherically Aloof Fourth Estate, keeping Holy Information in Sacred Trust For the Benefit of All the People, but most of our history has been broadsheets and yellow journalists--and we did just fine, Bill. In fact, since the Media's Camelot ran from the mid-50s until the early 80s, the era during which we tore down the family, tore down the church, spat on our veterans returning from the only war we lost, built the vast Nanny State, surrendered the keys to our government to a pack of activist judges, and invented sansabelt slacks, maybe it wasn't such a Good Thing after all. Could there have been a partial correlation between Camelot and cultural crap? Not saying there was, but...

The very notion that the MSM ever represented some kind of objective fourth estate proves that Raspberry, like many of his colleagues on the left, has become a stranger to reason. There never was a happy-happy-peyote-bud-tellitubby-sweet-flower-power magic Leftotpia where all journalists were Good and Noble Servants of All Mankind, nor is there a threat today from an EEEeeeevil goat-horned, maniacally-cackling Darth Bush and his sycophantic, blood-drinking minion Karl Rove, manipulating a dark "Foxidation" conspiracy to suborn the public's trust.

Come back to us, Bill. Come back from Planet Raspberry.


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Welfare Culture

Chefjef weighs in on a side note to this post:

Excellent exchange between Monk and Izmud. But I did want to comment on that welfare culture the "Left" has "tried" to establish. First, there is no "try" about it; the United States is, partially but unequivocally, a welfare culture. Second, it was not achieved byt he Left. Both parties have been completely complicit in establishing this culture. The the Left was at the forefront of establishing individual welfare while the Right was at the forefront of corporate and institutional welfare. In both cases, the opposing party offered token resistance - but not real resistance. And when one party has been in power in Congress, it has done very little to try and eliminate the type of welfare established by the other party when it was in power. Thus, complicity all around.


I agree--good points, all. Further, much of the "entitlement" culture benefits individuals in the middle class, not the poor or businesses, and the Republicans are just as guilty as the Democrats of creating and encouraging the sense of "being owed."

If we should ever create a "third way" party in this country, a couple of its platform planks should be 1) that anything but a flat tax for everybody above a certain livable income, for all businesses, with no deductions for anyone, is immoral; and 2) "welfare" should be only be for the truly indigent and helpless.


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Monday, April 18, 2005

Gobbling the Whole; Sharpening the Flashing Iron

This is fascinating:

In a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infra-red technology to open up the hoard, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed.

In the past four days alone, Oxford's classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia. They even believe they are likely to find lost Christian gospels, the originals of which were written around the time of the earliest books of the New Testament.

There is good reason to think there are Christian documents in the hoard found in a trash heap nearly a century ago, but until now unreadable: We already have translations of tiny parts of both canonical and non-canonical Gospels from fragments of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri.

Let’s just hope those owning the papyri don’t give them to a group like the translators of the Dead Sea Scrolls!

The papyri are from the late third to early fifth centuries, so they don't take us back to the origins of the canonical Gospels in the second century, but they are from the period in which the church was deciding on a canonical New Testament and purging the church of apocrypha. The Oxyrhynchus find seems to contain the earliest examples of gnostic Gospels like Thomas’ and Mary Magdalene’s. I doubt this will significantly challenge what we already know, but it may shed light on the growth of the church in the critical period when it became Rome’s official religion and first solidified its doctrine.

Also vital, there are thousands of papyri that could increase our store of Greek and Roman literature by 20%. In one find. Wow. Included in the hoard is an unknown play by Sophocles that contains these lines:

Speaker A: . . . gobbling the whole, sharpening the flashing iron.
Speaker B:
And the helmets are shaking their purple-dyed crests, and for the wearers of breast-plates the weavers are striking up the wise shuttle's songs, that wakes up those who are asleep.
Speaker A:
And he is gluing together the chariot's rail.

…Which may help explain why these items were found in a trash heap. If this sample is typical, the hoard may also help examine the effects of smoking hemp in the early Middle East.


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Friday, April 15, 2005

Beating Dead Popes

Izmud elaborates, responding to my comments in this post:

A mixed report card is what I decided. I do not advocate that PJPII should not be firm in his convictions, I admire him for that--right or wrong. Actually that applies to our President from my perspective, as well, but that's another blog. However, as the temporal leader of the faithful, PJPII has the onus of recruiting and maintaining the flock as well as leading. Christ tasked the priesthood (apostles) to go forth and spread the word, which I interpret not as a passive role where you place the information on a website and let those who are interested read it and choose it if they like it. Rather you have to go out into the world's hovels and palaces and make your religion relevant to the people--how else will they have the opportunity for salvation? And to be relevant means you have to craft the practice of the religion (not the Christian doctrine--that's different) to the needs of the people. IMO, Catholicism is losing adherents (and that 10-15,000/mo. was stated by a Vatican talking head on one of the news channels during the papal funeral ceremonies) because the conservative, orthodox upper hierarchy of the Catholic Church are mired in the "traditions" that they set forth several hundred years ago, that ARE NOT founded on Christ's teachings, but on politics and their culture AT THAT TIME. Today's culture embraces not just all faiths, but all sexes. Catholicism desperately needs a Vatican III to bring the Church into the 21st century regarding female priests, marriage of priests, birth control, and other issues. These are not doctrinal tenet questions (like Christ is the son of God, rose from the dead to free humans from sin, or the 10 Commandments). These are POLICY questions that need to be considered, the tactics, techniques, and procedures by which the Catholic Church manages its flock. And I think it's high time from some new thinking, and PJPII, despite his successes in other areas, was not the man for that task.
I'm down witchu now, dog. You have succinctly described many of the reasons why I am not a Catholic (although I certainly believe in "one holy catholic [note small "c"] and apostolic church”) and will never be one. There is one catholic and visible Body of Christ in the world, united in Him, not in a human institution headquartered in Rome or anywhere else on earth.

I certainly agree with you Catholicism is corrupted by centuries of “traditions” that are not founded in Scripture—are at best extra-Biblical if harmless, at worst potentially blasphemous, or, as you point out, harmful to the flock. I also agree that many of the Catholic Church’s social policies nominally based on these “traditions” are harmful. Marriage of priests is a prime example. In the canon, Paul clearly speaks of bishops, elders, and deacons being “husbands of one wife,” to discourage forms of sexual immorality that existed in certain congregations. Priestly celibacy became a tradition, something often done and encouraged, but not made mandatory (vide Adrian II) until the Roman episcopate, facing its own set of sex scandals, made it policy in 1139 (Innocent II, if I recall). Well intentioned, certainly, but hardly healthy in the long run, so that we are faced, in our own age of Babylonish decadence, with an American Catholic priesthood that has become a haven for buggering predators.

And this shows the danger of not basing doctrine on sola sciptura—on the canonical scriptures alone. The differences between Protestants and Catholics on what the Bible consists of are doctrinally insignificant. And all of this is part—if only part—of why I cannot accept Catholicism. Izmud puts his rhetorical finger on it: it’s all the stuff that’s “NOT founded on Christ’s teachings.” I believe, with all the fervor that one brought up Presbyterian is capable of,* that Jesus Christ Himself, along with Paul, John, and the other apostles of scripture, left enough guidance on how the visible church should be set up, what it should teach, and how its members should behave for anyone’s satisfaction—without the need for the institutionally-, temporally-, and politically-motivated, corrupting encrustations of barbarians, Borgias, and buggerers.

Which leads me to this point: Izmud, why aren’t you Protestant? It isn’t 1400. There are options. And you sound like many of my ex-Catholic friends and acquaintances. If your walk has taken you beyond the denomination of your childhood, then perhaps it’s time to at least ask yourself if this isn’t the right move. Is cultural legacy really a good reason to remain Catholic (or anything else for that matter)? After all, this is the word of God we're talking about here--as revolutionary today as it was two millennia ago. My earlier comments on PJP II’s spiritual leadership largely apply to those who still find solace in the uniquely Catholic aspects of doctrine—and there are substantive doctrinal differences between Protestant and Catholic that extend beyond policies of church administration (like priestly marriage) to matters that are fundamental to the status of Christ as God—the whole Marian … thing … in particular. You should ask yourself if you still believe the Catholic Church’s more fundamental non-Biblical teachings. If you don’t, you’re probably in the wrong place. I pray that God will guide you to where you’re supposed to be.

And, since we’re on the subject, might I recommend Methodism? We have many transferees from Catholicism in my church. Of course, some ex-Catholics prefer to ease into the warm bath of Episcopalianism, rather than jump into the cold shower of reformed doctrine. Methodism is a good compromise—a warm shower, if you will: essentially reformed doctrine with Anglican trappings. ; >

BTW, I think I see the crux (so to speak) of the “growing or declining” debate: both are true. The Catholic Church is experiencing net growth, due mainly to population growth within Catholic parts of the Third World, but is voluntarily losing 10-15K a month, mostly in the developed world. Some of that loss is accounted for by people like you, who have become disillusioned with the church’s teaching on various issues. Many become Protestants, which I think is excellent. Many others, especially in Europe and the BlueStates, fall away from religion altogether, which is very sad.

PS: Do I take the “passive role where you place information on a website and let those who are interested read it” as a dig against blogging? Hmmmm… I see blogging as an invitation to publicly open conversation (like the one we’re having). Others may see things differently, of course. It can be used to incite as well as converse, just as any other published media can—only the barriers to entry are much lower, which is a healthy thing. Still, blogging is neither more nor less “passive” than Luther nailing his theses to the Wittenberg door—depends on the content and the audience, really—who steps up to read it and what their “take” is.

Don’t get me wrong. I would agree with you about blogging to some extent if that were all a Christian did (unless it was all he/she was able to do). I agree entirely that a Christian’s ministry should be active—directly meeting people’s needs in many hands-on ways. This is one of my beefs with Catholicism: that it helps create a mindset where “ministry” is only for “ministers”—kind of a religious analog to the welfare culture that the Left has tried to create in the US (and has succeeded in creating in Europe): charity is the government’s concern; let me pay my taxes and get on with my life—let some bureaucrat deal with the poor and needy. This attitude in all its manifestations has been fundamentally subversive of Christian duty and harmful to souls. It has led to corruptions worthy of Medieval Catholicism, like a church I attended long ago for a short time spending two million dollars of its wealthy parishioners’ money for a Christmas pageant each year while homeless walked the streets almost at their doors. Just one year’s pageant money would have set up a heck of a soup kitchen! (It was a heavily evangelical Southern Baptist congregation, unsurprisingly). Charity is at least as much for the giver as for the recipient. Active ministry (including charity for the poor and needy) is a duty for all Christians.


* That is: not much. Oh, and I’ll have that martini very dry and shaken, not stirred. It is after two pm, right?

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

PJP II -- Not All A's & B's?

Correspondent Izmud weighs in with a comment on these posts concerning the late Pope:

Pope John Paul II may have been notable and respected for many of his achievements in his lifetime, most particularly in the international relations realm. However, IMO he also bungled the handling of the priest sex scandal cases, and his hard-line stance on modern social issues has led to a Church-admitted net loss of the faithful averaging 10-15,000 per month worldwide! While conservatives may agree with his stance on these issues, or admire his doggedness in refusing to bend to modern convention and liberalism, the bottom line is that his effectiveness as a leader of a group of people comes into question if his numbers are dropping rather than rising. So, a mixed report card overall for the late Pope.
So ... let me make sure I understand your point, Izmud: his effectiveness as a leader is measured by how popular he was ... how his poll numbers ran, as it were ... and how well liked his ideas seemed to be to a largely modern audience, at least in the developed world.

By this reckoning, Bill Clinton was among the greatest leaders of modern times (Chefjef: this is meant ironically, even though you may agree with it...). Martin Luther King was just a drop in the bucket, at least during his lifetime--segregation was still very popular in the South in 1968, after all. Abe Lincoln? That monkey-faced tool of Northern trusts? Forget it! Forgive me for playing the "H" card, but Ole Uncle Adolph was very popular with the teeming German masses, at least until German cities started disappearing from the map. Hitler's nemesis Churchill was defeated in popular election immediately after he'd played the biggest role of any single living person in defeating Fascism. Hirohito was still worshiped by the Japanese, even as they were being vaporised or turned into smoking meat hunks in mute testimony against the disastrous policies he let his nation be led into. Und so weiter...

The point being: to whom is a great leader accountable? If vox populi, vox dei, as you imply, then your grading is warranted. If, however, a great leader (vice a common one, like Bill Clinton) is accountable to a higher authority (like, say, God) then he must sometimes put opinion polls aside and lead where higher authority dictates, "with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right" (to quote one long-shanked fool who was never elected to office by even a simple majority of voters).

I have it on fairly good authority that PJP II thought himself accountable to God, not man. He led where he himself was led to go, "as God gave him to see the right," understanding that not all would follow. I'm sure the latter made him sad, but I'm equally sure that he understood that was a price leaders sometimes have to pay. The shepherd is paid to know what's best for his flock; he's not paid to care what his flock thinks about him.

Incidentally, I'm not so sure that the "loss of 10-15,000 per month worldwide" is accurate. I can't seem to google reliable sources on short notice (readers please help if you have sources, regardless of which "side" they support), but the sense of what I read is that Catholicism seems to be growing throughout the "Third World," Latin America (of course) and Africa in particular, but it also seems to be giving a revived islam a run for its money in the Philippines. There is at least anecdotal evidence to support widespread growth. I imagine that the "10-15,000" number is probably accurate for Europe alone (where all religion is sucumbing to decadent ennui), but even the US Catholic population seems to have grown by about 4 million between 1990 and 2001, due mostly to immigration (legal and otherwise) from Latin America.

Catholicism is growing a lot faster than my own Methodism (which lost 25K in the same period--but the remainder are really committed Methodists/Brethren!). And I think this Lutheran is right about the reason why:
The reason for [PJP II's] success is not simply his brilliance, which was extraordinary, nor his genius at using the media to get out his message, which was astonishing, but most of all, his ability to lead by stating clearly and unwaveringly what it means to be Catholic today. Despite calls for him to adjust his message to the contemporary world, he stood firm. In contrast, we see the mainline Protestant churches in America tripping over themselves to be relevant and modern. The evidence is in: it hasn’t worked.
I think it's also interesting that many of the younger Catholics I know of are more ardent than their parents, than the Catholics I know of my own generation. Today's young Catholics don't seem to regard their faith as a just a cultural legacy inherited from their parents, as most Boomer Catholics that I know seem to. It is personal--a commitment--as it should be. I find this also in my own denomination. That's why Methodism's static numbers don't bother me: I know the Holy Spirit is present in my church, and that people are being fed there and led to lives on God's path. If "numbers happen" too, that's great, but it's not the most important thing. (BTW, numbers are "happening," bigtime.)

I must also say, finally, that I agree with Izmud on several issues. The sex scandal is one of the worst things any Christian denomination has been involved in through the entire history of the Visible Church (we just give it short shrift today because the modern world has inured us to its "not that there's anything wrong with that" decadence). Perhaps it's better that this did happen today--if it had happened even a century ago, it probably would have ripped the Catholic church completely apart. The jadedness of modern US Catholics is probably helping them get past this, ironically enough. Still, Paul would have torn what little hair he had out over such a thing. I imagine there are quite a few big millstones being fitted out on the loading dock of God's House right now...

PJP II bears considersable personal responsibility for the scandal--for allowing it to fester without taking appropriate action and for compassing its attempted cover-up. This is not just because much of this happened on his watch, but because of his own policy of "centralized control and centralized execution"--the aggregating of church power and responsibility in Rome. He did this for good reasons. Ironically, the main one was to gain control over an episcopate run doctrinally rampant--to stamp out things like "liberation theology," for instance. It's ironic because the sex scandal reflects a failure to gain control of the US council of bishops. Their ultimately anti-Christian Leftism ran (and still runs) hand-in-hand with their buggery, their pederasty, their predation of innocents, and a host of other corruptions. I do not want to be around when these animals meet Christ face-to-face. PJP should have scoured the US bishopric as thoroughly as Christ cleaned the Temple of the money changers. I only pray that Catholics get a true conservative now--one who has the courage to do what PJP failed to do.

I must also say that, as a Protestant coming from Reformed tradition, I find much Catholic doctrine absurd and some of it idolatrous (to put it as kindly as I can). Still, if one is to be a Catholic, be a Catholic, not some warmed-over EuroWeenie-like excuse for one. God wants your soul, which is at least as much heart as head--I don't think He's much of a stickler for doctrine, since we all see "through a glass darkly;" He knows who truly loves Him and who does not and I suspect these lists ultimately have little to do with the denominations of their members.


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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

"Republican Party is Out of Control"


This is a post of Chefjef's that got lost in the Great Purge. I will fisk it later. For now, suffice to say that the sentiment the title expresses seems to me to be something from Bizarro World -- Monk


It has long been established that the "Rockefeller Republican" has gone the way of the spotted owl in terms of its influence within the GOP.

There remains token representation from a band of northeast "liberal" Republicans, who represent states carried by John Kerry in the last election. The title of a recent book by former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, adequately describes the existing tension: "It's My Party Too."

But the latest version of Republican conservatism has also displaced notable right-wing luminaries such as Jack Kemp, William F. Buckley, George Will and Barry Goldwater.

The hallowed name of Ronald Reagan is used within contemporary Republican circles the way many fundamentalist Christians invoke the name of Jesus, something suitable for framing but bears little resemblance to the original orthodoxy.

I used to believe – back when I was a Young Republican in undergraduate school - that Republican conservatism was a philosophy that emphasized the individual, the free market and less government. That was the platform of Goldwater, the 1964 presidential nominee and author of "The Conscience of a Conservative." Such beliefs inspired a generation of conservative activists, including President Reagan.

Didn't conservatives believe that the U.S. Constitution set up a government of strictly limited powers? Wasn't the government supposed to protect us from foreign threats and deliver the mail, leaving other matters to the states or to the private sector?

Personally, I have found the Goldwateresque conservatism lacking when it came to moral questions. It allowed for Jim Crow segregation to fall through the cracks between justice and equality. It was indeed such thinking that led to Goldwater voting against the civil rights legislation of the 1960s; but through the process of evolution and self-reflection, Goldwater himself eventually understood the shortcomings of such positions.

This nouveau brand of conservatism, however, is less philosophical and more dogmatic. By advocating a one-size-fits-all private morality, it seeks not to replicate the shortcomings of the Goldwater variety. It embraces a more myopic approach that unabashedly believes that "right" is their sole possession.

However, the arrogance recently demonstrated during the emotional Terri Schiavo case raises serious questions about whether the brand of conservatism currently practiced on Capitol Hill and supported by the president is in line with mainstream America. Even Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio noted that every credible national survey found that 60 to 80 percent of Americans opposed Congress' Palm Sunday intervention in the Schiavo matter.

In writing about the Schiavo case, how could a leading conservative such as Bill Bennett suggest that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush break the law and willfully go to jail and risk impeachment to protect Schiavo's rights? Bennett considered such actions in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr.'s civil disobedience, which he states "answered to a higher law than a judge's opinion. In so doing, King showed respect for the man-made law by willingly going to jail." Oh PALEEZE.

Such actions prompted former GOP Sen. John C. Danforth to write in a New York Times op-ed article, "Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians." The private face of nouveau conservatism is egregiously beholden to big business -- as the passing of the credit card industry-supported bankruptcy legislation restricting the ability of individuals to file bankruptcy, while easing the ability of corporations to claim bankruptcy, as well as Congress recently making it illegal for Automobile manufacturers to forcibly place arbitration clauses into adhesion contracts with auto dealers while at the same time maintaining the absolute right of auto dealers to forcibly place arbitration clauses in their adhesion contracts with consumers, while also denying a minimum wage increase, will attest. (see more on this issue in the next article).

Whether it is the ethical violations of House Majority Leader Tom Delay or the words of Texas Sen. John Cronyn, who rationalizes violence against judges, or members of Congress who suggest the ruling of activist judges killed Schiavo, the Republican Party is a political party that is completely out of control.


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"All I Asked For Was A Freakin' Fruit Fly With A Freakin' Laser Beam For A Head, Okay?!"

Okay ... so I lied. I'm blogging. A little. So sue me.

No sooner had I posted my last whine, than these little gems came my way. They are as disturbing as they are funny.
Scientists Create Remote-Controlled Flies

Yale University researchers say their study that used lasers to create remote-controlled fruit flies could lead to a better understanding of overeating and violence in humans.

Using the lasers to stimulate specific brain cells, researchers say they were able to make the flies jump, walk, flap their wings and fly.

"Ultimately, that could be important to understanding human psychiatric disorders," Miesenbock said. "That's really futuristic stuff."

Remote control of the brainless? Karl Rove, call your office! We've just discovered the means to get BlueStaters to vote Republican!

And then there's this--somewhat more disturbing:

Replacement Arm, Good As New

Scientists have had a string of remarkable successes lately, taking signals from the brains of monkeys and men, and using them to move mechanical arms.

So, basically, what Luke Skywalker gets in Empire Strikes Back, after Darth chops off his hand. Except, researchers won't have a long, long time to get this limb ready. Darpa wants the robo-arm stat -- in four years or less.
Arms now. This next? And I hear DARPA's working on this thing called SkyNet....


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Guest Blogging

My family and I are transferring cassocks, galoshes, and other assorted hermetic wear to a new cave, hence blogging on my part has been and will continue to be light for the next week or so.

In the meantime, Chefjef has been gracious enough to guest blog. I have several thoughtful articles in the qeue and will release them on an unsuspecting world one or two a day until I run out or receive more. I will post my own comments on them later.

In the meantime, enjoy--thanks again, Chefjef!


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Thursday, April 07, 2005

Lessons from John Paul II for Protestants

I knew I liked this new blog! Here's a great little article on why the last Pope's ministry was important to mainline Protestants:

The reason for his success is not simply his brilliance, which was extraordinary, nor his genius at using the media to get out his message, which was astonishing, but most of all, his ability to lead by stating clearly and unwaveringly what it means to be Catholic today. Despite calls for him to adjust his message to the contemporary world, he stood firm.

In contrast, we see the mainline Protestant churches in America tripping over themselves to be relevant and modern. The evidence is in: it hasn’t worked.

I expressed similar thoughts here, just not as well. Having been part of churches that were failing for precisely the reasons she sets forth, and now having belonged to two in succession that were growing because they refused to compromise their testimony for the world's sake, I can attest that she's dead spot on.

Read the whole thing.


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Wednesday, April 06, 2005


I must now retract a congratulatory statement I made last month, welcoming Hanoi Jane Fonda "into the flock," as it were--congratulating her on becoming a Christian, which some had attested to, but which Myz Fonda herself has not acknowledged publicly in the six years since the first stories came out.

Why? This morning I heard an extended interview of her by Susan Stamberg on NPR. Unsurprisingly, NPR was hawking Jane's new autobiography ("your purchase helps support NPR") and this was part of their media blitz. (Okay, this was NPR ... more of a "media drizzle," really.) I have not seen, much less read, My Life So Far,* but can guess its themes from the substance of Jane's interview. Here's the most extensive book excerpt to date. Note that it makes no mention of a conversion. Neither did the NPR interview. Neither does this 60 Minutes interview from a couple days ago that focused on the book and her life.

The NPR interview leads Jane to explain how she's been "a victim of a misogynistic society" (or words to that effect) through all her exploitative marriages. Stamberg asked her to explain "misogyny" and got five minutes on our "patriarchal civilization" and how it "victimizes" wymyn (beliefs don't get much more "patriarchal" than Judaism and Christianity, Jane). Throughout the interview, we were treated to how she was victimized by her first husband Vadim, who pimped her; her second husband Hayden, who exploited her for political gain; her third husband Turner, who cheated extensively and for whom she was just a trophy and in-your-face emblem.

On aiding and abetting: she was "hardly even thinking about where I was sitting"--she was "still laughing and applauding" when she sat at the 57mm--just a bunch of party-hearty communists having a bit of fun, doubtless telling Nixon jokes--and that she "pleaded with the cameraman not to print the pictures" when she realized what she'd done--correction, this being Jane Fonda--what had been done to her. She reiterates in the book that it wasn't wrong to visit the POWs at the behest of the North Vietnamese, to broadcast anti-American propaganda on Radio Hanoi, or to call US POWs "liars and hypocrites." None of this sounds particularly penitent to me.

Jane's 'road from Hanoi to Damascus' story is old, too. I did not realize this when I initially saw the Beliefnet piece I linked to above, but the initial stories on it began appearing in 1999. So ... she's had six years to acknowledge her conversion or do something that evidenced a life-changing event. To date: Bupkis. The initial stories related that she was led to Christ by her chauffeur. Whaddya wanna bet that dude is no longer employed by Fonda Industries or Team Fonda or whatever--nor by Turner MaxiMegaloCorp for that matter.

I will be interested to see if her memoir contains even a passing mention of her Christianity. Howard Kurtz at the WaPo hints that it does, but it seems indeed to be a passing mention--just another thing she tried on the way to re-inventing herself again, though it did apparently help break up her marriage to noted Christian-hater Turner. Does it motivate her today? Who knows? She certainly isn't saying. When asked by Stamberg what fulfills her life most these days, Fonda said, "my grandchildren." An admirable sentiment, perhaps, but hardly evidence of her new-found "spirituality." The book, it seems, is just another long whine. A reviewer on Amazon put it memorably:

"Just another wealthy, over-privileged, middle-aged teenager on a self-guided tour of her lamentable and ludicrous past. We all remember Hanoi, Jane."
She is also devoting her life today to her pet charity in Atlanta, which seems largely harmless (at least it is not a front for the abortion lobby), but which does not have a single link to even one of the countless church efforts around Atlanta that seek to address the same problems. The G-CAPP site has plenty of links to politicians, Planned Parenthood (which is a front for abortionists, among other things), etc., though. You'd think a charity-minded Christian looking to work with poor youth would, y'know, want to hook up with the churches in poor neighborhoods that actually, y'know, work with these kids. No? Oh well. She founded this charity in 1995, long before her "parallel inner life" became important. This sounds like just another Pet Cause, the kind wealthy women all over the world create to make them feel better about themselves.

I cannot--and never will--presume to judge the heart of another or the sincerity of a confession of faith, but "by their fruits shall ye know them," "if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation," "they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds," and that kinda stuff still applies. I do not presume to judge her heart, just to hear and observe her words and public actions. If her conversion is genuine--and I sincerely hope it is--I would just expect to kinda-sorta hear and see something outward-looking that confirmed it--to hear less about Amerikkka's misogynistic patriarchal imperialism and more about Jesus Christ. What does she think she is, after all, an American Catholic Bishop?

When she finally renounces all the moral and intellectual baggage of her past and turns and runs to Jesus--that is, stops trying to re-invent herself and lets God do so--then it will be time to say, "welcome, sister."

In the meantime, she will remain Hanoi Jane, American Traitor Biatch.

Hang shoes are dusty...


"If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud."

* Incidentally, I probably will buy the book. I collect crackpot literature and will buy it when I inevitably find it in the B&N remaindered stacks for 50 cents in about a month. This book will probably be a model of its kind--the Solipsistic Soapography--and should amuse me for an hour or two. I won't pay more than a buck, however. That's my limit price for dreck.

Update: There's a wonderful review of MLSF over at Slate:

Those who think Jane Fonda's sole raison d'être is to annoy conservative opinion writers should note this passage from her new memoir, My Life So Far. The year is 1970. Fonda has just engaged in her very first acts of civil disobedience, on behalf of aggrieved Native American tribes. The protests, she writes, "morphed me from a noun to a verb. A verb is active and less ego-oriented. Being a verb means being defined by action, not by title." So there. Jane Fonda aspired to something greater than liberal do-gooding; she wanted to become a part of speech. Fonda (v.): to plead for harmony and social justice until humanity can't take it anymore.

Still no mention of her "Christianity." I am definietly getting this book, however--it sounds like the apotheosis of the Searing-Peanut-Me-and-My-Hemorrhoids-Lemon-Session-Polymorphous-Perversity-It's-All-About-Me-Me!-ME!-ME!!! school of literary onanism. I will get a good laugh or six, consider it 50 cents well-spent, and take equal pleasure it the fire I use it to start in my fire pit on some cool evening.


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Monday, April 04, 2005

A Hero Passes

Even though I am not Roman Catholic, I deeply mourn the passing of a great Christian hero, Karol Wojtyla--John Paul II. He has been a hero of mine as long as I've been an adult, since not long after I realized I was a Christian.

Like LaShawn Barber, I initially hesititated to comment. It's hard--I am very much a doctrinally ye olde-fashionede Reformed Protestant who doesn't cotton much to Catholic interpretation of God's Word, but I remember Paul's admonition, "each one of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way." If Catholic friends wish to debate doctrine, I will gladly do so--I have studied Catholic doctrine and find much of it fascinating--but not now... not for a time. So, if I have differences with some of what he taught, I will not bring them up in this venue, nor will I engage in the kind of snarky criticism much of the MSM and a few within evangelical Christiandom have.

You do not have to be a Catholic to have loved this man and what he accomplished, as Charles Krauthammer, a Jew, proves:

It was Stalin who gave us the most famous formulation of that cynical (and today quite fashionable) philosophy known as "realism'' -- the idea that all that ultimately matters in the relations among nations is power: "The pope? How many divisions does he have?''

Stalin could only have said that because he never met John Paul II. We have just lost the man whose life was the ultimate refutation of "realism.'' Within 10 years of his elevation to the papacy, John Paul II had given his answer to Stalin and to the ages: More than you have. More than you can imagine.

John Paul II's first great mission was to reclaim his native Eastern Europe for civilization. It began with his visit to Poland in 1979, symbolizing and embodying a spiritual humanism that was the antithesis of the soulless materialism and decay of late Marxist-Leninism. As millions gathered to hear him and worship with him, they began to feel their own power and to find the institutional structure -- the vibrant Polish church -- around which to mobilize.
I am old enough to remember several of his predecessors. If you had told me in the late 70s--as a newly-avowed Protestant Christian, that I would care whether a Pope lived or died, I would have laughed at you. The "Blessed" John XXIII was the best of the pre-Polonia Popes in my lifetime and he's known mostly for turning the ancient Mass into the stuff of hootenanies. Paul VI? Don't even go there! Liberation theology... implementing Vatican II in all its modernist, Mackerel Plaza excess... yuk. But this Pope's passing is truly sad for me.

One of the great accomplishments of John Paul II was that he succeeded in making his papacy a ministry of reconciliation without comproming first things. He refused to continue the dilution of Catholicism into a slightly more traditional version of Episcopalianism, begun by John XXIII, that was the darling cause of the developed world's Catholics. He especially rejected the radicalization of the church pushed by the Latin American episcopate--making Catholicism a fellow-travelling adjunct to radical evil through liberation theology's attachment to communism. He spent decades rooting this apostacy out of the chruch and apointing Bishops who saw their calling the way he did--all without creating schism in the church. I just wish he'd been able to complete the sweep and clean out the horribly corrupt, Leftist episcopates in the US and Western Europe. He was one of the principle archtects of the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, of course. He revitalized Catholicism throughout the "Third World" by doing nothing more than going to the people and preaching unadulterated, unapologetic Catholicism. He also won the respect of Jews and Protestant Christians, even many who were formerly disdainful of Catholicism.

Now we can begin the fun of sorting the papabili, the potential Popes, and all the pomp and circumstance that surrounds this. Here's a good rundown of what must be done to choose the next Bishop of Rome and here's a list of the most likely papabili. My vote's on the African Cardinal, Francis Arinze, because his accession will really tick off the muslims in Africa, who he has attempted dialog with, and because he's an arch-conservative who's taken tough stances on things like homosexuality. Not that I get a vote. Bettors are giving best odds to Cardinal Tettamanzi of Italy, who's also pretty conservative. A lot of hoopla will attend the next Pope's election, but I fail to see what's wrong with this method:
So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.


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