Sunday, October 31, 2004

Yeah baby!!

Bills win: a thorough spanking of the Arizona Cardinals today. Now what to make of this? The season is shot and we have all accepted that, but we knew that coming into the season, as evinced by my lack of Bills' posting this season.

In the Bills glory years and, with good teams in general, you win the games that you are supposed to win, i.e., against basement teams. Buffalo was 2-5 coming into this game and Arizona was 2-4. But the way the Bills handled the Cardinals showed that they were a notch above a basement team. The fact is that the Bills lost two games on last minute fluke-like plays and could be sporting a close .500 record. The team is not great, but it is good, or at least, not as bad as its record indicates.

The defense is a top 10 defense. Special teams is holding its own. The offense is the problem. We have one of the top receivers in the league in Eric Moulds. We have two star running backs in McGahee and Travis Henry and we have decent people in other slots. The x-factors have been the O-line and Drew Bledsoe. Bledsoe is simply average. However, given time to throw, he can still produce. The O-line has been horrendous, but it seems that they are starting to gel.

Weeks into training camp, we still did not have a starting five, which is pathetic. As a result, instead of the O-line geling in the four weeks or so of training camp, that process has been taking place during the season and we have paid the proce.

If the Bills can string together a few more solid performances, then we could be looking at a winning season. The playoffs are out of reach unless the Jets and New England collapse (it probably would be a frosty nite in Hell or Bush wins the election).

Anyway, the Bills win was a pleasant surprise and starts my week of good. Now, we all just need to come through for John Kerry and we'll be in good shape.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Chamiqua Holdsclaw, WNBA superstar and Washington Mystic finally explains her unexplained absence and desertion of her team during the season.


I'm certainly glad that she finally came out and spoke up about her absence because it left a bad taste in the mouth of many local folks. Now that everyone knows that it was depression, we all sympathize with her.

The issue of depression is a difficult one in the Black community. If I had money, I would start a non-profit dealing with the issue of depression and mental illness in the Black communities. There is a stigma attached to depression that is more intense than that in the regular population. It may be seen as a sign of weakness or what have you . . . I don't know. I just feel that there are immense cultural barriers obstructing mental health issues and solutions in the Black community.

I was talking with an acquaintance years ago and she told how she went through an incident that spiraled her into depression. She had a horrible time getting up in the morning, the house was falling apart and she couldn't do anything. Finally, when she went to see a doctor, he told it was depression. Her response was, "I'm a child of God and children of God do not get depressed." It illustrated one of the cultural barriers, that as Christians, who should be filled with the "joy of the Lord," depression may signal a weakness of faith.

While the Black community may tolerate a lot of things, lack of faith is not one that people tolerate. We sing, "We've come this far by faith," "I don't feel no ways tired, I've come too far from where I've started from . . .," "We shall overcome" and more. The story of blackness has been precisely facing interminable odds and defeating them by faith, no less. So to lack faith cuts at the heart of Black identity.

But if we can get the notion out that mental illness is like any other physiological ailment and is not at all indicative of weakness or lack of faith, then we can begin to make progress.

Kendall Gill, an NBA player was one of the first athletes to come out and openly admit his problems with depression. He frequently makes the point that it is a curable disease. Now with Holdsclaw out, we are inching towards shattering negative stereotypes of mental illness in the Black community.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

I studied Karl Marx only for one semester and read quite a bit of his works. At the time I found them interesting, but nothing more. A few years ago, someone asked me who the most influential man of the 20th century was. I answered, Jesus Christ? Pope? . . . on and on, and he said. I then asked, who? His answer, Karl Marx.

I had to agree. No one shaped the contours of the 20th century more than Karl Marx. As a result, whenever I would teach a class to undergraduates, I always started out with this question. The point was that Marx spent all his time in libraries and seeking professorships and writing and he was unheralded in his time. The point is, ideas have consequences. He absolutely no idea how impactful his ideas would be at the time.

I'm not an expert on Marx, but i do intend to go back do some serious reading of his stuff. But I think we can fairly say that Marxism should not be equated with its descendants manifested in Lenin, Stalin, Mao etc. I don't know that the Soviet Union and China are authentic expressions of Marxism.

Even the Catholic Church appreciates Marxism, with the caveat that it rejects his stark materialism--fair enough. Marxism has been at the heart of the liberation theologies of Latin America, much to the chargrin of many conservatives.

I was thinking about women's issues today and it struck me that my proposed solution to many social problems lies in socio-economics. How Marxist. But even Maslow's hierarchy of needs shows this. People only reach for the high culture of human existence only after they eat, have a place to sleep and have taken care of present necessities.

One other point is that Marx was right to point out that religion is a negative factor in human progress. He was downright hostile to religion. As one who is inherently religious, I accept what he says as true, but can't leave it at that. I think that if religion does not evolve with the progressing culture, then it becomes a hinderance. He worried that religion took away the present hope of people and kept them from striving to attain justice in this world. That is true. The trick here is balance. Religion is a problem to be solved and embraced, he punted on that issue.

Via First Draft

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Over at Jcecil3's, he's stirred up a hornet's nest of sorts with a post on society protecting the institution of marriage. Interesting stuff, but what caught my eye that I wanted to post about was the following comment:

There is a misconception that our legal system somehow creates morality in society i.e. "there ought to be a law." Our legal system creates social order and nothing more. Social change has never and will never come from a law being created. In theory does a legal code say something about a society's morality? Of course. But does it regulate said morality? No. We know there are several laws which protect a person's civil rights, but it is sad to say racism is still part of our country's moral fiber. And btw there are still several states with adultery laws on the books. I think it is much more about changing hearts than laws.

I have been reformulating my thoughts on human law. Up until a few months ago, I took the standard Catholic line which is that human laws are particular determinations of natural law, and that natural is based on eternal law. But earlier this year, I discarded the notion of human law as natural law applied to particulars. I also discarded the idea of human law overlapping with morality.

I know what I feel about law, but it is taking me time to atriculate it and flesh it out. However, a quote in the above comment triggered a recognition in me. "Our legal system creates social order and nothing more." I think I agree with that, perhaps not the "nothing more." I probably for now would say "Our legal system's primary purpose is to create social order."

The other tact I am taking is approaching law in terms of human virtue. In the sense that human virtue is inherently unconnected to theological virtues, so that law that reflects human virtues has nothing to do with theological virtues. So you can speak of goals of the law and not get mired in Christian morality talk. Ultimately, this lead us back to natural law, but in a different way. I reject the Church's hijacking of natural law and would rather see it is as something authentically human, natural and historical.

Anyway, in this idea of law, we can speak of virtuous ends of the law, that is, avoid any radical de-ontologizing of law, yet free it from the shackles of religious intrusiveness. So there you have it, this is another post to come.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

David Horsey in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Friday, October 22, 2004

George W. Bush v Reagan, Cold War Victory and Stuff

I'm not a historian nor am I a political scientist, but I have been struck, I suppose just as everyone else has been, by Bush's desire to imitate Reagan and wear his mantle. Ron Reagan, the late President's son, always remarks that why does this adminstration want to copy his father's, why don't they just be themselves?

I got to thinking about this Bush/Reagan thing after hearing an NPR report on Poland and that Bush is more popular there. The conservative analyst noted that because of its history, the Poles understand why Bush is doing what he is doing in Iraq. He noted that the Poles remember another US President that was derided by the liberal Europeans, but yet won the Cold War, Ronald Reagan. Here again, Bush is walking the same path Reagan did in the eyes of his supporters.

I don't see the similarities between both and I wonder if it is just me. Reagan had spent decades in serious politics, Bush pretty much wasted his life with drugs and drinking until relatively late in life.

Reagan, even in Hollywood, had assumed a relatively serious interest in politics and had been seriously politically engaged for many years. He had served as a two term governor of a very complicated state, unlike the weak and almost part time governorship of Texas. Reagan competed for the presidency in 1976 and had a whole campaign to hash out ideas and issues and had the "benefit" of losing, which always provides an opportunity for introspection. Furthermore, the "failure" of the Carter Presidency narrowed the options for what could be acceptable and succesful in regard to foreign policy with the USSR in Reagan's administration, four years later. Carter's four years would have provided Reagan more time to hone and clarify a proscribed course of action when he assumed the presidency.

Also, Reagan, like most men of his generation, saw the rise and growth of the post war communism. Reagan had spent as much as four decades analyzing the Soviet Union and had the benefit of seeing over ten administrations deal with the Soviets. So my point is that Reagan did not simply stroll in and spew out a doctrine out of the air or right out of a conservative think tank briefing. His ideas, though simple, yet not simplisitic, had been honed from decades of political experience and political observations.

Reagan was clearly in the twilight of his abilities when he assumed the presidency and was not the sharpest pencil in the box, but at that point it didn't much matter. Reagan, we now know, had spent decades honing his political ideology. His letters and journals/writings show that many of his ideas were hashed out very early and for many years in his early days in politics. Thus, he had a clear idea of what he wanted to accomplish in regard to the Soviet Union. If he was firm, if he had conviction, it was because he was standing on decades of reflection and thought, unlike the current president, whose certitude is arbitrary and who misunderstands conviction. Reagan ultimately was a pragmatist.

Bush differs on just about every point. He has no original thoughts of his own. He is not in control of his presidency, everyone knows that. He is a pure ideologue and nothing of a pragmatist. Coming into office, he had no mandate and no original ideas. All he had planned to do was NCLB, $1.3 Trillion dollars in tax cuts, mostly to the wealty and a few other things. The first few months of his presidency were spent virtually on vacation.

With the whole war on terror, which Bush supporters now compare with the Cold war, Bush was previously uninterested and secondly, did not have and is not capable of having, anywhere near the original reflection and thought processes of Reagan in regard to the Soviet Union. I saw an article today which noted that Bush studies the baseball box scores as closely as anything else, perhaps, even more so. The comparisons with Reagan are not apt, but lacking. What we have is a copycat administration that has shown itself out of touch because it is trying to re-fight Reagan's war, a war for Reagan's times.

One point though about Reagan winning the Cold War. I'm not a believer in that necessarily--I don't see how the metric for measuring victory works. We see what Russia and its Republics are today. Since the breaking up of the Soviet kingdom, the separate Republics have gotten worse, we all know about Chechneya, we see what Putin's doing to destroy democracy, Russia does not appear to be advancing, they are breeding terrorists with the Chechen situation, the loose nukes are a huge problem for everyone, Russian pride is destroyed to the point that Stalin is fondly remembered. In over ten years of Cold War victory, has Russia progressed? Is this real victory?

I point to China as another approach. China is as close to a antagonistic super-rival as we will find in the world today. We understand that rather than fight the communists in an antagonistic way, we should rather feed the natural longings of people for freedom. We have opened the world to China, opened up markets, opened up technologies, introduced capitalism, introduced some western values, etc. China has a long way to go, but there is a sense that we can "turn" China from communist to a more capitalistic and freedom loving society without it experiencing the trauma that Russia is experiencing.

I say this to note that the simplistic ascribing of a Cold War victory to Reagan, I don't think, uses a good metric in valuing success. The simple abolition of communism without change is useless. We are working to destroy China's communism yet feeding it a progressive subsitute. It is almost like the Iraq success metric, "Is the world better off with Saddam behind bars?" What a stupid question. Saddam deserves to be behind bars, but with the Iraq quagmire we're in today, we've jumped from frying pan to fire.

Anyway, Bush is not Reagan; the jury is still out on Russia as a Cold War victory and perhaps China will prove to be a better metric of Cold War success.

Just thoughts, after all, that is the name of the blog.

I just finished a second run through of my newest sci fi novel, Children of Clay. It is now up to 60,000 words. For the sake of reference, about the length of my previous novel, Table of the Lord. 50,000 is standard length for a novel.

I've mentioned this before, but this one is about time travel and Mars colonization. I am quite happy I was able to handle the time travel bit. I hate time travel because it is all "so done." It is almost impossible to think of new situations or new story ideas for time travel. I think in this story, though, the time travel bit works out well. For me, the secret is the story itself and less the sci fi. In other words, build the sci fi around the story.

Of course, there is the whole deliberation about who to publish with. I could go back to Publish America, who did a decent job with Table of the Lord (I really liked the cover), or I could find a similar publisher, either small press or non-full service. However, this time around, I am hoping for a full service publisher, but that's more of a pain. Most of them require agents and to begin the agent search, I'll need to spend money and time.

Most authors dream of their work in film. I certainly think Table of the Lord would make an interesting motion picture. However, Children of Clay will not. It is very introspective and the action is intra-personal. At best, it would be one of those weird movies that few have patience for. This work definitely works better as a written work.

I am now officially drained for ideas. I honestly do not know if I have even one more sci-fi story in me. I just can't conceive of anything new. Maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Yahoo Search: "Happy Birthday poem for a female co-worker."

Dude, since you stopped by for advice, I got some for you . . . don't do it.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

ABC News: Whales Have no Standing to Sue

SAN FRANCISCO Oct 20, 2004 — A federal appeals court decided Wednesday that marine mammals have no standing to sue to stop the U.S. Navy from using sonar.

In upholding a lower court decision, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the world's cetaceans whales, porpoises and dolphins have no standing under the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act or the National Environmental Policy Act.

If lawmakers "intended to take the extraordinary step of authorizing animals as well as people and legal entities to sue, they could, and should, have said so plainly," said Judge William A. Fletcher, writing for the panel.

The Navy uses a type of sonar that helps detect quiet submarines at long range. Low frequency transmitters emit sonar pulses or "pings" that can travel hundreds of miles through the water.

"The negative effects of underwater noise on marine life are well recognized," the court said. Even the Navy acknowledged any "human-made noise that is strong enough to be heard has the potential to reduce (mask) the ability of marine mammals to hear natural sounds," according to the court.

In arguing for the cetaceans, Hilo, Hawaii-based lawyer Lanny Sinkin asked for an injunction banning long-range sonar until President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld consult with the National Marine Fisheries Services and prepare an environmental impact statement.

Sinkin did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Via Mydd

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The Lesser of Two Weevils blog had a post on the Kerry excommunication snafu and I noted a comment made which is a pet peeve of mine (BTW-I agree with the thrust of the comment, this is just theological nitpicking.)

The first: my beloved, Himself, pointed this out to me. The Vatican is not going to excommunicate Kerry, or make any statement about him personally. If they do, America (and perhaps other nations?) will never elect another catholic leader.

Second point. I've heard this desire to excommunicate Kerry referred to as defending or protecting the Eucharist. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the Eucharist God? I mean, we're not talking a symbol of God, or the image of God, or a container for God. We are talking God in substance. So how can mere mortals protect God?

Emphasis mine.

Again, I'm in agreement with the post. I just have this pet peeve about how the Eucharist should be understood. Sacraments are symbols, instrumental symbols, channels of grace, etc. The Eucharist is the sacrament of Christ, more specifically, it is the sacrament of his body. The Eucharist is NOT Christ. It is a sacrament of him. The trend since the Reformation (if I make speak in generalities) has been to exalt the status of the Eucharist and the "true presence" to make a dogmatic point. It has now reached the point that conservative Catholics freely use Eucharist and Christ interchangeably. This is wrong. The Eucharist is not Christ.

A sacrament has two poles to it, sign and grace. If you have all sign/symbol and no grace, then you have no sacrament. If you have all grace, no sign, then there is no sacrament. The conservative trend has been to devalue the sign value and focus on the grace aspect, i.e., "real presence." The point is that if a sacrament loses its sign value then it is no longer a sacrament. The Eucharist is a sign and instrument (of grace).

One analogy I like to use to describe sacraments is that of a stop sign. A stop sign is a sign of the authority of the government telling you to stop your vehicle momentarily. Now think of it this way, what if the stop sign not only told you to stop, but actually had the power to stop your vehicle? then it would be a "sacrament." It would not only be a sign but an instrument of the state. In the same vein, the sacraments signify something and then make that "signified thing" actually happen. However, if there is no signifying, then the whole sense of sacrament falls apart.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Posts to come sometime in the [near?] future:

--Christianity and the Kingdom of God: implications for one's understanding of human dignity, i.e, political implications

--Commentary on Dei Verbum the most neglected of the Vatican II works. Could it be because of its radical sixth chapter?

--False choice: "are you called to the married life or to the priesthood?" (short post)

--The Church's fundamental misunderstanding in the current abortion debate (iffy post-I know what I want to say but may require too much research to document point, so we'll see.)

--Human law v Natural law (Not sure how much I have to say on this. . .)

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Finally! Bills win a game!

No dumb superbowl predictions from me. However, if the Bills do comeback and win the Superbowl, you heard it hear first.

I've been following the Darfur crises on the periphery and recently there was a report that 70,000 had died in the refugee camps. That is truly staggering. It is a terrible feeling to feel helpless and unable to make a difference. On the other hand, my frustration does not even register on the scale of frustrations experienced by the people themselves.

Friday, October 15, 2004

I just received another review for my book, Table of the Lord . Okay, I confess, it was a word of mouth review by a relative. However, when word got to me, this relative made it clear that he is a sci fi junkie and has read tons of sci fi and really enjoyed my book.

You should order it, it is a good read. I know, I've read it at least 10 times and am really excited about reading it again next month. People think I'm weird because I enjoy reading my own novel. I have tried to come up with numerous reasons why I enjoy reading it.

I've argued that because it is a creation of mine that has gained its independence there is a strange unity and difference at play. It is almost like a child: it has a piece of you but is different from you. There's also the issue of how writing reflects something about you and that carries a strange attraction for me. I always find introspection interesting and perhaps, reading my novel allows me to do that in a different way.

There is also something Marxist about my approach to the novel and I think I now understand, more than ever, what Marx was talking about in regard to human work. Marx, if I recall correctly, objectified work as human output. The products of human effort were simply not just thing, but an objectification of the human work. For instance, a table was not just wood put together, but was the embodiment of the work of a human being. For this reason, Marx felt that the workers were being shafted because, even though the products of their labor were theirs and pretty much their offspring, the capitalists whisked these products away for their profit. Going back to the novel, there is this strange sense that the novel is objectified work. I feel like I left part of myself in it, just by virtue of all the hours of writing and thinking that went into it. I also feel, I suppose the way Marx felt people should feel about their output, a connection between worker and work.

Anyway, for all the great analysis, it is also is simply a great story.

My wife has made it clear that all the reason given above, and more, do not explain why I have read the novel as often as I have. I have to agree. I've finally discarded all the reasons and just chocked it up to first book infatuation.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Via Jcecil3

You are water. You're not really organic; you're
neither acidic nor basic, yet you're an acid
and a base at the same time. You're strong
willed and opinionated, but relaxed and ready
to flow. So while you often seem worthless,
without you, everything would just not work.
People should definitely drink more of you
every day.

Which Biological Molecule Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

This is a Soft-Shelled Crab Sandwich also called Soft Crab Sandwich. It is a delicacy in Maryland, especially Southern Maryland.

Yep, you got it! It is a crab, whole and breaded on a bun.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Catholic morality in my view has been bedeviled by a static world view. It's very much a check box affair, i.e., do we have a moral object? do have circumstances? do we have intent? what has the Church said? There is objective intrinsic evil, etc, etc. To be fair, I think it primarily has to do with the sacrament of confession: people need to know that they have sinned, if they have sinned, when and how and confess everything, including frequency.

The problem with this is that it assumes that there is an objective checklist of good and one for evil; and that each action or at least, certain actions, can be cataloged as either good or evil and the point is to have a good checklist all the time. This is reflective of an even larger problem, which is that Catholic morality is divorced from a more comprehensive view of the reality, so it doesn't operate in view of progression of the world and humankind (human progression moves us towards the Kingdom of God, but it is a messy journey a la Hegel's thesis/antithesis/synthesis movement). Regarding my initial statement in this paragraph, that is not to say there isn't real good or real evil, but only that for human beings good and evil are not presented to us in such stark terms. We see evil in wars, in death, in enmity, etc, we see good in love, in friends, spouse, actions, etc. For humans good and evil are never unmediated and thus never an absolute expression of good or evil in our existence (let's leave out XT and BVM for now).

Good and evil and morality must be firmly ensconced in the framework of Augustine's famous prayer, you have made us for yourself and we are restless until we rest in you." So we come from God and return to God. (I know that theologians, Aquinas, Rahner, etc, have always contextualized moral theology in this way, but the issue is the lived conceptions of the pure moral theologians, the hierarchy, and the faithful).

The journey to the Kingdom of God, in the liberal and pressumably unorthodox, model is that we humans are going to have to transform our world into the Kingdom of God. We are not waiting for KofG to crash in on our world at some point in the future. So if we want peace, justice, etc, we need to roll up our sleeves otherwise, it is not going to happen. To further complicate the issue, there is no room to remain static. If you are not going forwarded, you are falling back; if you are not building, you are crumbling. So the journey to the Kingdom of God is an essential mission in human existence and history. (Marx recognized this and felt that religion was a negative force in this regard).

Morality then falls in this context. There is always the overarching goal of the march towards the Kingdom of God. Also such a view of human progress requires that the historical context of an action can never be divorced from that action because history is essential in understanding the truth of any action. For instance it does no good to proclaim slavery is wrong, rather, we know that there was something especially pernicious about the Trans Atlantic slavery (and presumable, that is the model we tend to have in our minds when we speak of slavery). But even though we all agree that slavery is wrong everywhere and everytime, a generalized statement doesn't capture the qualitative difference that only history can capture between slavery in another era and place in which slaves had a much better life and hope of manumission by the age of 30 and the trans-atlantic experience. Thus these generalized, abstract propositions indicate truth but do not capture it.

Another example could come from a more recent proclamation by Abp Burke who sees same sex marriage as a moral priority over war, why? Because same sex marriage is "intrinsically evil" but war is not "intrinsically evil." Again, we have battling concepts that do not speak to reality. The question rather is, John and Steve's marriage or union in Massachussets a moral priority over President Bush's war in Iraq?

Further still, there is the messiness of human history. For instance, we wage a bloody war to save Europe from nazism. There is no way to rationalize the devastation and horror of the war, even if its goal is good and noble, war is hell and evil. Be we accept the blood on our hands because we see a pathway in this darkness to the light of human progress; the option of inaction is still blood on our hands, but no human progress. And so a moral reckoning will acknowledge the evil in what we do but understand that there are seeds of light in this darkness.

The abortion issue in the US is another example of this messiness. Anti-abortion proponents criticize legalize abortion in the starkest of terms and want it criminalized. The mindset seems to be that at point x in time, a group of sinister men and women gathered together and conspired to make abortion legal. Their true aim and that of all those who support abortion rights? To gather on Friday nights, light a bonfire, and sacrifice unborn children to the lord of darkness. The view of abortion rights in operation is one that sees legalized abortion as the desire and intent to kill babies. Here we see the problem in the static view of morality. It has taken an historical development and ripped it from its context and changed its intent.

The truth was that there were thousands of abortions pre-Roe and thousands of mothers died from these "back alley" abortions. Abortion has always and is always a part of any current society and criminalization of the proceedure does nothing to stop it. At some point, after too many women and their unborn children had died, people said "enough is enough!" The turning point were the famous pictures of the lady who died in a motel room of a botched abortion. The pre-Roe days were dark days. Many pregnant women would get their Friday paychecks and then head out to get their abortions. Things, predictably, would go wrong, bleeding starts on Saturday, and on Sunday evening, after a day of bleeding, they would trickle into the hospitals for treatment, many infected and many near death.

The point then of legalized abortions was to stop these women from these harmful proceedures that killed them and their babies. The point of the law was women's dignity and to save lives, not to kill them. Did it work? Yes, deaths from abortions decreased dramatically. But it still left us with a problem, the death of the unborns. The darkness of women's indignity and deaths had lifted, but we are aflicted with that of the death of the unborn.

In the context of human progress, multiple-pronged problems are not solved in one fell swoop, there has to be a vision for moving towards the Kingdom of God. You solve a problem with a sense that it gives you a step to solving the next problem. Legalizing abortion, stopped the death and/or irreperable harm being caused to thousands of women. Now, the question is how to stop the abortions.

Because we are so far from the historical context of Roe vWade, we forget that it has a noble intent and focus on it in an abstract static view. If we overturn Roe, then women and unborns die. If we keep Roe legal, women live, but the unborns die. However, keeping abortion legal, gives us a floor to move to the next step, which is keeping unborns from dying.

There is still the issue of one's acceptibility in God's eyes: is it acceptable in the eyes of God to tolerate the killing of children for the sake of saving women's lives? But even here, the question betrays its limitations, we are still playing a lateral zero-sum game with life: babies or their mothers--pick one to die. However, a progressive view solves this problem. For instance, if we ask, can you save the babies without saving their mothers? The answer is no. In fact, it is clear that the only way to protect the unborn is through their mothers. Now it is no longer a zero-sum game, it is no longer baby or mother, choose one; it is now save the mother, because that is the step to saving the babies. So yes, there is the messiness and the blood on our hands, but there is the understanding that there are seeds of light in this darkness.

To move then to towards the Kingdom of God, we need to "solve" the problem of abortion. The anti-abortion crowd is not interested in solving the problem, their goal is two-fold, to make society recognize abortion as sinful and then to criminalize abortions. These goals tend to be consistent with the conservative worldview.

A look at the criminal justice system is reflective of the difference between solving and punishing. When we put criminals in jail, they are there to be punished, simple. Such actions are justified in any society, but this is a different issue that solving the problem of young men embracing such lifestyles. The criminal justice system punishes these young men for their actions, but it does not and cannot solve the problem. To solve the problem of crime, one needs to find out why people are committing crimes. (A quick note, if you incarcerated every single criminal in the world right now, you would not eliminate crime because another group of people who rise and replace them).

To solve the problem of crime, you have took look into factors that trigger such behaviour, is it mental illness that could have been addressed by treatment, is it socio-economic factors? etc There is always a percentage of criminals who would not have been helped by intervention, but there are thousands who would have; meaning that there would be thousands less victims. So we see solving and punitive measures are two different things.

In the abortion issue, punitive measures will not solve the problem. Throwing mothers in jail and as well as doctors does nothing to solve the problem, one still has to ask why are these women doing something that is unnatural to them. Whatever the reasons for abortions and the respective solutions, it is clear that keeping abortion legal and understanding the ordinance in its historical context, with an eye towards the march forward, is a good thing to do.

In closing, Jesus offers the following parable in Lk 18:9-14 (read "tax collector"= "pro-choice supporters" and "Pharisee"="pro-lifers")

9 He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.
10 "Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
11 The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, 'O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity--greedy, dishonest, adulterous--or even like this tax collector.
12 I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.'
13 But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.'
14 I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

In a dynamic view of morality, there are times that the path forward is messy and we incur sin. In that case we know that we are the "tax collectors" standing in God's presence with no pretensions to righteousness. But we also know that God sees the heart and understands the conscience of everyone.

Interesting email from the mailbag:

I saw your blog today and wanted to offer some thoughts on this. Lutheran minister Barbara Rossing has written an excellent book on the rapture theology beloved of some evangelical Christians called The Rapture Exposed. She points out that this theology is only about 180 years old, and that it flies in the face of traditional Christian teaching about the end times. Rev. Rossing correctly points out that this type of thinking has scary implications for peace in the Middle East and in the world. Why bother solving problems about environmental pollution, excessive use of natural resources or overdependence on oil if you believe that you won't be around to pick up the pieces. It also creates a callousness toward those who don't believe as you do.

I certainly agree. The Rapture is one doctrine that has sure caused a lot of havoc in 20th century Christianity and it is a doctrine that I do not know what to do with. A professor of mine who is as good a Pauiline scholar out there as anyone, concluded that Paul was mistaken in 1 Thess 4 when he says that we who are alive will be "caught up." For me, that is just too easy to say Paul was mistaken.

I think there is something riddle-like in Scripture and things predicted do happen but never how or when people expect it to happen. There is also a sense in which the story is still being written and so the expectations created by Paul I think are for a purpose. What that purpose is, who knows.

In my Protestant days we were literally waiting for the Rapture in the sense that I just knew we weren't got to be around more than 5 years (we had pretty much checked all the boxes on the signs of the times list). But what bothered me is that it creates a passive and narcissistic Christianity. All then that matters is your salvation and waiting. There is also a sense of human temporal irresponsibility that creeps in, i.e, why plan responsibly for the future? why get an IRA or a 30 yr mortgage? why save? etc I saw Paul Crouch once refuse an offer for a free burial plot on TV, he stated that he honestly believed the Rapture would happen in his lifetime.

Again, the Rapture theology has the hallmarks of the conservative eschatology that undermines human dignity. Those selected for the Rapture are those who are born again, no one else. It doesn't matter if you've devoted your life to the poor or needy, if you've told only one lie in your life, if you've been kind, patient, etc a model of Christian love, it doesn't matter, all that counts is that you are born again. The Catholic correlate of this is if you accept what the Church teaches as true, do you believe the Eucharist is the true body and blood of Christ, are you pro-life (politically speaking), do you believe the Pope is infallible, etc. Again, you works do not count. However, the Catholic Right is not a proponent of the Rapture, so there are differences there.

I have jumped the gun on the post I wanted to do on the Kingdom of God and how one's view of how it comes affects one's view of human dignity and responsibility in the present, but it is along these lines. More and more, I'm seeing that the primary problem in Catholic morality is its static analysis as opposed to a moral view that has dynamic progressive context.(See next post for more of this)

Monday, October 11, 2004

Orcinus blog has a great series going on the rise of pseudo-facism--the current Republican party. Today's installment is on the desire of the Republicans to create a one party state. Chilling stuff.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Recently, I've been hashing out in more explicit detail how eschatology or one's views of the "last things," end of the world, etc affects one's ideology in the present. These are scattered thoughts.

The idea of Hell is a very destructive notion to human dignity. I do believe in Hell, but for Satan and demons. I can't say that I believe any human will go to hell. There may be a few, but internally i simply don't believe it. Hell is something I have given a lot of though to and I don't accept that Hell is an acceptable punishment for human beings. No human deserves to go to Hell.

I believe that the notion of Hell has stripped conservative Christianity/Catholicism of its heart and compassion and damages human dignity. Think about it. Hell is the ultimate eternal dung heap. To throw something in Hell is to term it worthless and without any redeeming qualities. Further, to cast someone into hell for position take in honesty and sincerity, is to say that there is no innate human dignity outside of one's positive stance towards Christianity. This is the mindset that allows things like slavery and other debasements of humans that we've seen Christians guilty of. If simply, because one is a heretic, or not of your profession, they are worthy of Hell, then hell-worthiness becomes an instrinsic characteristic of the hell-bound classes in the eyes of the Christian.

The idea of Hell is one that needs revamping in popular Catholicism and Christianity. I think people want to highlight desreved punishments for human beings, which makes sense. But who deserves eternal punishment? Intermediate stage eschatologies, such as is seen in Catholicism, solve the issue. So that there can be deserve punishments for humans without going into the absurdity of eternal flames because one decided not to get baptized or born again. The notion of universal salvation enhances innate human dignity.

Catholic theologians have offered ideas of universal salvation, but these are ivory tower deliberations. The problem is that slavery takes place out there with regular folk. The Blacks don't have souls or, they are slaves and that's just the way it is. Still, in the eyes of Joe Regular Christian if someone deserves to go to Hell because they are not Christian or Catholic, then they have no innate worth.

There is also the issue of religion to consider. I am more and more buying into the Marxist critique of religion as a deterrent to human progress. Unlike Marx, I think religion is not an innate problem; religion has to evolve by shattering and then re-constituting to adjust to human evolution and progress. But that's a discussion for another day.

Then there is the ultimate issue of the Kingdom of God on earth. This is the fuzzy idea of a society of peace and justice that we all ascribe to. How we get there determines if one is conservative or liberal. The liberals believe that we gradually work and transform our world into that Kingdom of God. For the Christian/Catholic conservatives, the Kingdon of God is not going to emerge out of our world or through anything we do, but it will come from God immediately and crash into our time, imposing a new world on ours. I argue then that if the KofG is coming without help from us and not from our world, then human dignity, social justice, environmental concerns lose out as primary concerns. On the other hand, if the Kingdom of God is in our hands, then you work like "hell" for that just society. Again, discussion for another post.

Friday, October 08, 2004

"I'll have four meatballs and cucumber salad, please!"

Via Atrios

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Via Political Wire

From the Hill

Bush gets red states’ black coffee vote

The Bush campaign will be pleased to know that real men take their coffee black — and vote Republican. Among all coffee drinkers, President Bush and Sen. John Kerry are tied at 44 percent. But among black-coffee drinkers, Bush leads 48 percent to 42 percent. Kerry takes the cream-and-sugar crowd by a margin of 50 percent to 36 percent.

How do we know this? Someone actually researched it, believe it or not, at 7-Eleven, which sells a lot of coffee.

The research, conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland, was released to coincide with the convenience store chain’s second quadrennial Presidential Coffee Cup Poll, which lets customers cast their “votes” by buying their coffee in 20-ounce cups bearing the name of either Bush or Kerry. Plain cups are available for undecided voters, third-party candidate supporters or those who want to keep their preference to themselves.

In a season of silly, product-driven “polls” by American companies, at least 7-Eleven can claim one of the largest sample sizes. In 2000, the “poll” drew some 6 million “votes” and was remarkably accurate, with Bush edging out Al Gore by one percentage point. The current contest continues through Nov. 1.

I drink coffee black with 3 sugars. I fit the mold of the typical Kerry voter, tough, but sweet. All I can say about Black coffee is that it is nasty.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Now I will say here frankly, that this sort of charge is a matter which I cannot properly meet, because I cannot duly realize it. I have never had any suspicion of my own honesty; and, when men say that I was dishonest, I cannot grasp the accusation as a distinct conception, such as it is possible to encounter.

John Henry Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua Chapter IV

Saturday, October 02, 2004

by Walt Handelsman of Newsday