Intelligent design came up in a classroom discussion the other day, and it occurred to me that I have never gotten around to reading much about it. My uneducated impression is that it is a sort of plug-in-God approach to explaining any current limitations in evolutionary theory. I find this unappealing at first glance, but I should probably remedy my ignorance before passing judgment.
When one reads 19th century British literature, one of the constant sources of tension is as to who is “a gentleman”. As used in this context, it was a term that applied not merely to manners and honor, but to economic status. A gentleman was not “in trade”. He did not have “a job”. He might own estates which he oversaw, though if he actively worked them his case became much weaker (“gentleman farmer” was more often a term of dismissal as approbation.) He might be a clergyman or a doctor (but not a surgeon — cutting flesh and sawing bone was not manual for a “gentleman.) He might be a military officer. But generally to be a “gentleman” one was expected to live off one’s investments and devote one’s time to either society or unpaid accomplishments. Many accomplishments in fields ranging from literature to philosophy to economics to science during the time period were the work of “gentlemen” who pursued these fields as “hobbies”.
I don’t think this was necessarily a good or healthy attitude towards work, but it’s interesting to me that in the modern US we have nearly diametrically opposed social/economic prejudices. The idle rich could not be more scorned, and it is the object of everyone to claim membership in the “middle class” and ideally to claim “working class roots” as well.
Start playing America the Beautiful as your closing song at a Thanksgiving day Mass at an American-centered parish in a foreign country. Even if it’s Italy, and even if it’s a beautiful Roman day outside. Halfway through the first verse, I looked around, and saw six people wiping their eyes….
It was Thanksgiving Day Mass at Santa Susanna, the American parish in Rome, run by the Paulists. I got there about halfway through, so I didn’t hear Cardinal Foley’s homily. But I did meet him as he juggled coffee and a muffin, and also had the great honor of meeting Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, who was there in attendance, and read President Bush’s Thanksgiving Day proclamation after Mass.
A temptation lurks here, however, that has recurred historically. If you don’t believe – and strongly at that – in a God Who transcends and needs to save the world, you will be strongly tempted to believe in some lesser god substitute. A nation is a perpetually plausible alternative because it participates in divine attributes. Authority over other men and, at times, power over life and death, are not just another set of practical arrangements within a commercial republic. The mysterious ways that a regime and its laws and lands, peoples and history, grow into a living human society, though by no means divine, reflect something at work in history beyond us. For that very reason, if Christianity does not remain faithful to itself, it can quickly be absorbed into a kind of divinized politics. This is true whether you believe in Americanism as a religion or in some anti-American liberation theology.
Among the things it is good for a Catholic to remember today, because they anchor us in a reality outside the quite proper human fellowship we will be celebrating, is the Eucharist, which means, literally in Greek, giving thanks. St. Paul says “give thanks (eucharisteite) always” (1 Thess 5:13) and reports that Jesus Himself even “on the night he was betrayed” gave thanks. (1 Corinthians 11:23). Catholics can bring to the American mix precisely this sense of a gratitude that extends beyond the good things of life as most people understand good, to something much greater, even in the midst of immediate evils, something that exists on an entirely different plane than the greatest regimes, however much we are grateful for them in our human way.
May all of our readers have a Happy Thanksgiving! As we thank God before eating mass quantities of turkey, cranberries, mashed potatoes, et al, perhaps one blessing we might praise the Almighty for is the skill and courage of a lot of men and women, many not too far out of their teens, who spend their Thanksgivings far from home and family so that we may live in peace and freedom.
M.Z. over at Vox Nova has a post up entitled “No you can’t wash your hands” about voting for flawed candidates. He makes a fair point insofar as both parties support policies that are in tension, if not contradiction, with Catholic Social Teaching. Voting is basically a binary choice in American politics, and in many cases voting for either candidate constitutes material cooperation with evil. However, his description of the choice facing Catholics this past election was very puzzling. Here it is:
As Republicans sort out the reasons for their defeat, they likely will overlook or dismiss the gorilla in the pulpit.
Three little letters, great big problem: G-O-D.
I’m bathing in holy water as I type.
To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn’t soon cometh.
Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth — as long as we’re setting ourselves free — is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.
After a moment of confusion, it suddenly dawned on me what this was about. And then I became rather angry. Yes, it was just one “whack-job”, but I was still angry. And then I thought of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’s partially-successful attempt to align Catholics with the emergent right-wing evangelical movement, and realized that it had come to this. Catholics, including Neuhaus, were lambasting an anti-poverty program because it simply did not fit with the the ideological talking points of the hour.
As Fr. Neuhaus points out, “Ten years ago, CCHD was exposed as using the Catholic Church as a milk cow to fund organizations that frequently were actively working against the Church’s mission, especially in their support of pro-abortion activities and politicians.”
Pointing to the CCHD’s stated principles, including that it “will not consider organizations which promote or support abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, or any other affront to human life and dignity,” Morning’s Minion dismisses Neuhaus’ concerns:
This is important as many of the critics (including Neuhaus) claim it is funding pro-abortion activities. (Yet again, the mis-use of the abortion agenda as a Trojan horse to further a distinctly less noble cause– will this ever end?)
Unfortunately, Neuhaus’ claim is true — CCHD has a disappointing history of, contrary to its stated principles, providing extensive funding for questionable political groups with agendas morally at odds with Catholic teaching.