Monthly Archives: November 2008

Lead Us Into Temptation: American Materialism

To speak of American “materialism” is…both an understatement and a misstatement. The material goods that historically have been the symbols which elsewhere separated men from one another have become, under American conditions, symbols which hold men together. From the moment of our rising in the morning, the breakfast food we eat, the coffee we drink, the automobile we drive to work–all these and nearly all the things we consume become thin, but not negligible, bonds with thousands of other Americans. — Daniel J. Boorstin

What’s wrong with American culture? This question has become prominent in Christian circles as the moral course of the United States becomes more and more frightening. The answer, in one respect, lies in the materialism of the American people. This is not materialism, in the philosophical sense, where all that exists is matter and one denies the existence of God — though that sort of materialism easily establishes this second sort. This materialism is the fruit of avarice and greed. It’s a common mentality — we’re all guilty of it — that we don’t really care about things per se; we know who we are without our possessions. Our sense of self is not bound to the material world. Of all the so-called “-isms” of our time, none has ever been more misunderstood, more criticized, and more relevant than materialism. Who but fools and the occasional nutty libertarian rise to its defense? It’s safe to say that while materialism may not be the most shallow of all the “-isms” plaguing the world, it certainly is among those that have triumphed.

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Andrew Sullivan's Rage

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Seems as if last weeks lecture by Cardinal Stafford at CUA where he referenced President-elect Obama’s presidential campaign as “apocalyptic” has gotten Church dissenter and gay activitist Andrew Sullivan all hot and bothered:

“The Vatican hierarchy has become radicalized under Benedict and John Paul II– so much so that they see the West since the 1960s as entirely a creature of resistance to Humanae Vitae, the papal declaration that all non-procreative sex is a moral evil.  But the notion that the recent election of Obama is a sign of the Apocalypse has, until now, been restricted to Protestant loonies. Until now…”

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The War on Joe the Plumber-Latest Developments

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The Ohio legislature is considering legislation to protect Ohioans from the type of government snooping unleashed on Joe Wurzelbacher.  To their credit, the American Civil Liberties Union has called upon Governor Strickland and other Ohio officials to enact regulations to protect the private information of citizens on state databases.

Rescue Packages & the Automobile Industry (II)

Last week, I questioned the wisdom of Congress making investments investors are unwilling to make in the automobile industry. Responding to similar arguments by smarter people, Jonathan Cohn suggested (citing a report showing productivity improvements in Big 3 factories) that the Big 3 are in the process of turning around, and that the bailout would help these companies complete the transition to profitability. Jim Manzi has posted a fairly devastating rebuttal to Cohn’s arguments. Here is an excerpt from Manzi’s response:

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How Do You Turn a Culture

It has been widely observed that the only real way to achieve change on various issues which straddle the moral-legal-cultural arenas is by “changing the culture”.  Drawing from the past: although segregation was theoretically made illegal fairly early on in the civil rights movement, it was not until the cultural consensus swung heavily against segregation that it really started to vanish in practice.  Similarly, if dueling were suddenly made legal in the modern US, I rather doubt it would suddenly become frequent in social sets that are not already known for shooting each other — we have reached a cultural consensus that swords or pistols at first light are not an acceptable means of settling arguments.

Yet how does one change the cultural consensus on an issue such as abortion, the nature of marriage, etc.?

Moral conservatives are often accused of “only caring about political means” when it comes to dealing with the great moral controversies of the day. And yet the advantage of advocating change within the political arena is that it’s clear how one does it. How does one work to change the culture as regards to the acceptability of abortion? Or the morality of gay marriage? Or any of the other pressing questions which provide fodder for the “culture wars”.

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Obama Worship

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A sure sign that the election is over:  a member of the press notices that the mainstream press has a crush on Obama that a teenage girl would find gag-worthy if it involved a friend of hers and a boy.

Palling Around With Terrorists-Take Two

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Well what do you know? Now that the election is over with unrepentant terrorist William Ayers admits to the New Yorker that his contacts with the “Obama circle”, his words, continued until, once again his words, his name became part of the “campaign maelstrom”. In a reissue this month of his memoirs Fugitive Days Ayers refers to Obama as a “family friend”. Too bad America in the last election had a media that seemed largely unable to do anything other than recycle Obama campaign releases. It will be very interesting to see the role that unrepentant terrorist Ayers plays behind the scenes in an Obama administration.

Open Letter to President-elect Barack Obama

President-elect Barack Obama,

As American Catholics, we, the undersigned, would like to reiterate the congratulations given to you by Pope Benedict XVI. We will be praying for you as you undertake the office of President of the United States.

Wishing you much good will, we hope we will be able to work with you, your administration, and our fellow citizens to move beyond the gridlock which has often harmed our great nation in recent years. Too often, partisan politics has hampered our response to disaster and misfortune. As a result of this, many Americans have become resentful, blaming others for what happens instead of realizing our own responsibilities. We face serious problems as a people, and if we hope to overcome the crises we face in today’s world, we should make a serious effort to set aside the bitterness in our hearts, to listen to one another, and to work with one another

One of the praiseworthy elements of your campaign has been the call to end such partisanship. You have stated a desire to engage others in dialogue. With you, we believe that real achievement comes not through the defamation of one’s opponents, nor by amassing power and using it merely as a tool for one’s own individual will. We also believe dialogue is essential. We too wish to appeal to the better nature of the nation. We want to encourage people to work together for the common good. Such action can and will engender trust. It may change the hearts of many, and it might alter the path of our nation, shifting to a road leading to a better America. We hope this theme of your campaign is realized in the years ahead.

One of the critical issues which currently divides our nation is abortion. As you have said, no one is for abortion, and you would agree to limit late-term abortions as long as any bill which comes your way allows for exceptions to those limits, such as when the health of the mother is in jeopardy. You have also said you would like to work on those social issues which cause women to feel as if they have a need for an abortion, so as to reduce the actual number of abortions being performed in the United States.

Indeed, you said in your third presidential debate, “But there surely is some common ground when both those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together and say, ‘We should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby.’”

As men and women who oppose abortion and embrace a pro-life ethic, we want to commend your willingness to engage us in dialogue, and we ask that you live up to your promise, and engage us on this issue.

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Cardinal: Obama "Aggressive … and Apocalyptic"

His Eminence the polite and soft-spoken James Francis Cardinal Stafford head of the Supreme Tribunal of james-francis-cardinal-staffordthe Apostolic Penitentiary gave a lecture on November 13 at the Keane Auditorium at Catholic University of America last week titled, “Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II: Being True in Body and Soul“.  In it Cardinal Stafford critiqued President-elect Obama as “aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic,“ and he further added that Obama ran an “extremist  anti-life platform”.

Here are some highlights of his lecture:

“Because man is a sacred element of secular life,” Stafford remarked, “man should not be held to a supreme power of state, and a person’s life cannot ultimately be controlled by government.”

“For the next few years, Gethsemane will not be marginal. We will know that garden,” Stafford said, comparing America’s future with Obama as president to Jesus’ agony in the garden. “On November 4, 2008, America suffered a cultural earthquake.”

Cardinal Stafford said Catholics must deal with the “hot, angry tears of betrayal” by beginning a new sentiment where one is “with Jesus, sick because of love.”

The lecture, hosted by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, pertained to Humanae Vitae, a papal encyclical written by Pope Paul VI in 1968 and celebrating its 40 anniversary this year.

Stafford also spoke about the decline of a respect for human life and the need for Catholics to return to the original values of marriage and human dignity.

“If 1968 was the year of America’s ‘suicide attempt,’ 2008 is the year of America’s exhaustion,” said Stafford, an American Cardinal and Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary for the Tribunal of the Holy See. “In the intervening 40 years since Humanae Vitae, the United States has been thrown upon ruins.”

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Latest Final Frontier

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The trailer to the Star Trek movie being released next year.  Probably this trailer is not authorized so doubtless it will be pulled soon from YouTube.  (Yes, I am a big enough Trek geek to be looking forward to the movie!)

[Updated 11-19-2008 AD by Tito, found the high quality non-bootleg version I think]

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