Monthly Archives: April 2011

2011 Masters Tournament Features Surprise Last Minute Entrant

For golf aficionados (of which I am one), the “official” start of the golf season commences today, with the first round of the Masters tournament at Augusta.  One of four Majors (the British Open, the US Open and the PGA Championship being the other three), this herald of Spring features the world’s best golfers at one of America’s premiere golf courses.  Phil Mickelson seeks to defend his title against a field laden with incredible talent and fierce competitors.

Along with an unexpected last-minute contender.

Teeing off at 8:18 AM, with Ben Crenshaw, Brent Snedecker and Kevin Na is none other than…

…President Barack Obama.

In what is undoubtedly the surprise sports story of the decade, President Obama worked out a deal with Chairman Billy Payne to participate in this year’s tourney, despite the fact he is not a professional golfer. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

The Crushing Burden of Having a Real Life

John Hawkins talks about a little kerfuffle that emerged over remarks made by Kay Hymowitz:

“Before [today], the fact is that primarily, a 20-year-old woman would have been a wife and a mother,” author Kay Hymowitz told the crowd of about 100 for the Manhattan Institute in New York City. Men would have been mowing lawns and changing the oil in their family sedans instead of playing video games and watching television. In previous decades, adults in their 20s and 30s were too busy with real life for such empty entertainment, Hymowitz says. “They didn’t live with roommates in Williamsburg in Brooklyn and Dupont Circle in D.C.

Hey, I didn’t have a roommate when I lived in Dupont Circle.  All 400 square feet of that place were entirely mine!   And I’ll have Kay know that I broke up my Madden playing and television watching with at least 20-30 minutes of work on my dissertation per day.  Hmmm, maybe that’s why it took me five years to finish it.

In all seriousness, this is a fairly innocuous statement, or at least it is for those of us who don’t have a secularist perspective on happiness.

Cue the angry liberals.

Amanda Marcotte, famed for a writing style that makes Maureen Dowd look like George Will, as well as for her way TMI-laden posts about her sex life, is none too pleased:

I think it’s important to remember that no matter how much huffing and puffing and rationalization goes on, a great deal of conservative ideology can be summed up as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy”. Or even just the fear that someone might just be having fun, at least without clearing it with the authorities first that they’re the right race and income level to feel pleasure.

…I often find myself wondering, and today more than most days, how things can get this bad. It seems to me that if wingnuts put a tenth of much effort as they do into resenting others into improving their own home and sex lives, they’d be too busy being happy and blissful to give a f*ck what anyone else is doing. It’s just basic logic, and I wonder why not just do the math and go for it.

As Hawkins rightly points out, the irony of this statement is that studies show that “married people are happier than single people, religious people are happier than non-religious people, and conservatives are happier than liberals.”  I would also point out married people have more sex than single people, so if anything conservatives are the ones pushing people to more fulfilling sex lives, an observation I heard Alan Keyes make when he was running for President in 1996 (before he lost his mind).  Evidently in Marcotte’s world the only good sex to be had is when you get good and loaded at some slimy bar in the downtown DC, take some random stranger to your bed, and never see the guy again.  Boy that really sounds joy-filled to me.

It also never ceases to amuse me when I hear religious conservatives derided as being uptight about sex, the implication being that we’re not getting laid enough.  Yet, at the same time, we’re mocked for having such large families.  Hey, geniuses – how do you think we got those large families?  Biology may not be your strong point, as evidenced by Andy Sullivan’s deranged rants about Sarah Palin and the maternity of Trig, but try to put two and two together.

As dumb as Marcotte’s rebuttal is, Matt Yglesias takes the cake:

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A True Cowgirl

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I expect great things from this fraulein.  Training a cow to jump with someone on her back is quite a feat.  Now all we need are cow races!  Hmmm, I think I have just thought of a major tourist attraction for Central Illinois!

MSNBC Talking Heads: Koran Holier Than the Bible, or Something

Warner Todd Huston reports on an exchange between MSNBC fill-in host Chuck Todd and Time Magazine’s World Editor Bobby Ghosh.

GHOSH: The thing to keep in mind that’s very important here is that the Koran to Muslims, it is not, it is not the same as the Bible to Christians.

The Bible is a book written by men. It is acknowledged by Christians that it is written by men. It’s the story of Jesus.

TODD: Yes.

GHOSH: But the Koran, if you are a believer, if you’re a Muslim, the Koran is directly the word of God, not written by man. It is transcribed, is directly the word of God.

That makes it sacred in a way that it’s hard to understand if you’re not Muslim. So the act of burning a Koran is much more, potentially much, much more inflammatory than…

TODD: Directly attacking… directly attacking God.

GHOSH:…than if you were to burn a, burn a Bible.

TODD: … Directly attacking God.

The stupid, it hurts.

This is a nonsensical distinction.  Jews and Christians may acknowledge that the Bible was physically written by men, but we also believe that it is the inerrant word of God.  No, the biblical authors did not act as mindless stenographers transcribing for the Almighty, but they were truly inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit.  This makes it no less sacred or less holy to us than the Koran is to Muslims.  After all, there must be some reason that we place our hands on the Bible when we make public oaths, right?  If it was just a bunch of words written by men, then why would we swear by it?

No, the different reactions to the desecration of our holy books has nothing to do with how we respectively view them.  What they tell us is not that Muslims revere the Koran more than we revere the Bible, but rather that a certain portion of the Muslim population will violently react to any mere insult, and that violent extremists within Islam are looking for any excuse to kill infidels.  But that’s a lot less politically correct of an explanation than the vapidness offered by these two goofs.

Viva Cristo Rey

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The must see movie of 2011:  Cristiada.  When this film comes out I will make it my personal mission to see that as many people view this movie as possible.  A movie retelling the heroic struggle of the Cristeros deserves all the support it can get, and I hope it is a box office smash. 

The story of the Cristeros is the tale of the attempt by the Mexican government to crush the Catholic Church.  Mexico had a long history of anti-clerical political movements prior to the revolution of 1910.  However, the Mexican Revolution brought to the fore radical elements that pushed through the Constitution of 1917 with its anti-clerical articles 3, 5, 27 and 130.  In his encyclical Iniquis Afflictisque, the first of three encyclicals he wrote condemning the persecution of the Church in Mexico, Pius XI decribed the war against the Church waged by the Mexican government:

In the first place, let us examine the law of 1917, known as the “Political Constitution” of the federated republic of Mexico. For our present purposes it is sufficient to point out that after declaring the separation of Church and State the Constitution refuses to recognize in the Church, as if she were an individual devoid of any civil status, all her existing rights and interdicts to her the ac quisition of any rights whatsoever in the future. The civil authority is given the right to interfere in matters of divine worship and in the external discipline of the Church. Priests are put on the level of professional men and of laborers but with this important difference, that they must be not only Mexicans by birth and cannot exceed a certain number specified by law, but are at the same time deprived of all civil and political rights. They are thus placed in the same class with criminals and the insane. Moreover, priests not only must inform the civil authorities but also a commission of ten citizens whenever they take possession of a church or are transferred to another mission. The vows of religious, religious orders, and religious congregations are outlawed in Mexico. Public divine worship is forbidden unless it take place within the confines of a church and is carried on under the watchful eye of the Government. All church buildings have been declared the property of the state. Episcopal residences, diocesan offices, seminaries, religious houses, hospitals, and all charitable institutions have been taken away from the Church and handed over to the state. As a matter of fact, the Church can no longer own property of any kind. Everything that it possessed at the period when this law was passed has now become the property of the state. Every citizen, moreover, has the right to denounce before the law any person whom he thinks is holding in his own name property for the Church. All that is required in order to make such action legal is a mere presumption of guilt. Priests are not allowed by law to inherit property of any kind except it be from persons closely related to them by blood. With reference to marriage, the power of the Church is not recognized. Every marriage between Catholics is considered valid if contracted validly according to the prescriptions of the civil code.

9. Education has been declared free, but with these important restrictions: both priests and religious are forbidden to open or to conduct elementary schools. It is not permitted to teach children their religion even in a private school. Diplomas or degrees conferred by private schools under control of the Church possess no legal value and are not recognized by the state. Certainly, Venerable Brothers, the men who originated, approved, and gave their sanction to such a law either are totally ignorant of what rights pertain jure divino to the Church as a perfect society, established as the ordinary means of salvation for mankind by Jesus Christ, Our Redeemer and King, to which He gave the full liberty of fulfilling her mission on earth (such ignorance seems incredible today after twenty centuries of Christianity and especially in a Catholic nation and among men who have been baptized, unless in their pride and foolishness they believe themselves able to undermine and destroy the “House of the Lord which has been solidly constructed and strongly built on the living rock”) or they have been motivated by an insane hatred to attempt anything within their power in order to harm the Church. How was it possible for the Archbishops and Bishops of Mexico to remain silent in the face of such odious laws? ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

On the Muslim response to Terry Jones’ Qu’ran Burning (a reply to Rick Sanchez @ Huffington Post)

[A reply to "Burning the Quran Is No Childish Game", by Rick Sanchez (Huffington Post April 1, 2011; republished at Defend The Prophet) ~ Christopher]

With respect to Terry Jones’ burning of the Qu’ran, my position (as a Catholic) is to echo the statement of the Vatican: it is “an outrageous and grave gesture against a book considered sacred by a religious community,” and an unnecessary provocation (if even to make a point). A peaceful dialogue between communities is not advanced by such a direct attack on the other. Likewise, with respect to caricatures of Mohammed by the Western press:

In addition, coexistence calls for a climate of mutual respect to favor peace among men and nations. Moreover, these forms of exasperated criticism or derision of others manifest a lack of human sensitivity and may constitute in some cases an inadmissible provocation. A reading of history shows that wounds that exist in the life of peoples are not cured this way.

I said as much last year (“Lars Vilks, Gay Muhammad and Freedom of Expression” (American Catholic May 16, 2010) — Lars Vilks may endorse his right to depict a gay Mohammed or a paedophile Jesus. We might countenance his First Amendment “right” to sacrilege as Americans, but I believe as Catholics we should protest such offenses, not only to ourselves but to our fellow Muslims.

However, what I think also merits comment is exactly that which is noted by Rich Sanchez in his column: when a Qur’an happens to be vandalized, such an action is “not only offensive, but also dangerous — especially to our troops.” In fact, Terry Jones’ sacrilege “can have dire consequences for all of us.”

But why would it — why should it — be considered dangerous, even lethal, to our troops?

Surely this fact is a travesty as well?

In the past several days, a Muslim mob protesting the actions of Terry Jones in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, culminated in an attack on the United Nations headquarters, the murder of six Nepalese guards and 3 foreign staff members, “hunted down and shot, some in the back, as they ran from a bunker where they had tried to hide. One person’s throat was also slit.” ["Koran Burning Prompts Third Day of Rage" Globe and Mail April 3, 2011.] Two US soldiers were shot dead by an Afghan border policeman in Maymana, northern Afghanistan (The Telegraph April 5, 2011).

By no means am I equating all Muslims with the mob in Afghanistan. We do not see this level of violent protest here in the United States by American Muslims. But surely those Muslims protesting the actions of Terry Jones, and Mr. Rick Sanchez as well, can agree that there is something seriously amiss when the vandalization of a religious icon — or cartoons published in a newspaper — result in a violent mob and the slaughter of innocents.

Christians, much to our dismay, suffer similar incidents of abuse and vandalization of that which we hold sacred here in America: the Holy Mother smeared with feces, the Crucifix dipped in urine, funded with taxpayer dollars and labled “art” to boot.

And yet, has the media ever reported mobs of Christians hunting down and killing the perpetrators of such sacrilege? — Speaking from personal experience, by and large when such incidents occur, the result is the congregation of Christians in prayer and silent, nonviolent protest.

What is it about Muslims in other nations that we see them react in this manner? Is this a religious thing? — Can it be so readily dismissed as a ethnic or cultural thing?

When critics of Islam depict it as a “violent religion”, why do so Muslim reactions have a tendency to lend credence to the very characterization they are protesting against?

I ask this with all respect, as a reader, as a Christian, and as a friend to the Muslim community.

Transforming Culture through Politics?

David Jones discusses the possibilities for the Republican Party in the next Presidential elections. What will happen if they embrace Libertarianism? Who will be the last one standing?

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The presidential election cycle has begun! Did it ever end? I follow politics much in the same way that many folks follow professional wrestling, Dancing with the Stars or the Jersey Shore reality show. I admit that I view it as a form of entertainment — the superficiality of main-stream politics and punditry leads me to this mentality often times. Look no farther than Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or Bill O’Reilly. In reality though it’s much more than just solely a form of entertainment. Elected officials send our sons and daughters off to war, some of whom return in caskets. As Catholics we need to approach politics in a serious way. Christ calls us to transform culture, not to be swallowed up by it… TO READ MORE CLICK BELOW.

Il Sussidiario or Catholic Online

Was the Victory of the Confederacy Inevitable?

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(I wrote this for April 1, 2011 for the blog Almost Chosen People, and I thought that the various Civil War mavens who read The American Catholic might find this interesting.)

As we mark the 150th anniversary of the War Between the States there are many historical questions to ponder.  However, one question rises to the fore as it always does when the War Between the States is discussed:  Was Confederate victory inevitable?

Because of the ten following factors, I’d say that it was:

1.  Abraham Lincoln- Few Presidents have ever been elected with no executive experience, but that was precisely the case with Lincoln.    Although he could deliver a magnificent speech and was clearly a master of the English language, Lincoln quickly demonstrated that he was an amateur in running the government.  His frequent sacking of generals led to instability in the Union Army command, the frequently hostile relations with Congress, including members of his own party, that hampered his policies, the corruption that marred the supply of the Army, these and many more features of his administration attested to the fact that Lincoln was an extremely talented man who simply was out of his depth.  Perhaps the task was too large for any man to preserve the Union by force of arms, but certainly it was too great for Mr. Lincoln.

2.  Supremacy of the Defence-General Robert E. Lee quickly realized that the old Napoleonic charges were impossible against fortified positions held by troops armed with rifled muskets.  Although his troops initially meant the title derisively, Lee, the King of Spades, repeatedly used field fortifications, beginning in 1862,  to nullify the Union manpower advantage on the battlefield.

3.  Size of the Confederacy- The sheer size of the Confederacy, three times the size of France, ensured that the attempted Union conquest would be a massive undertaking, too massive as it turned out for the Union.  If British seapower, beginning in 1862, see number 6 below, had not caused the lifting of the Union blockade, prevented the landing of Union troops along the coasts of the Confederacy and contested Union naval control of the Mississippi river, it is conceivable that the Union could have coped with the immensity of the Confederacy, but such was not the case.

4.  Lee-Jackson partnership-No command team in history proved more effective than the Lee-Jackson combination.  Beginning at Chancellorsville, Lee and Jackson dealt the Union body blows at Gettysburg in 1863, and the Wilderness in 1864, almost a replica of the Chancellorsville victory a year before.  No wonder that Lee was the second president of the Confederacy and Jackson the third.

5.  Enlistment of black soldiers-After the victory at Gettysburg, Lee put his immense prestige behind the cause of enlisting black soldiers under the Confederate battle flag with the promise of freedom for themselves and their families.  Resistance to this move was immense in the Confederacy, but with Lee behind it all resistance was overborne.  The 100,000 black troops who fought for the South in 1864 were essential to the Confederate victory, and paved the way for the passage of the Gradual Emancipation Act of 1870, which President Robert E. Lee, just before his death, claimed to be his greatest victory. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Von Galen on Martyrdom

 

In my first post on Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen, which may be read here, we examined the life of this remarkable German bishop who heroically stood up to the Third Reich.  Today we examine a sermon that he preached at the Cathedral of Saint Victor’s in Xanten, Germany on February 9, 1936, long before the three sermons that he preached in 1941 which made him famous around the globe.  Prior examinations of his 1941 sermons may be read  herehere and here.

I have just consecrated a new altar in your venerable and splendid cathedral,in a small space deep beneath the choir. But why? Your church is already so richly endowed with altars.

Beginning a sermon with a question is an approach that I wish more priests and bishops would use.  It engages the minds of the listeners from the outset.

You know the answer. The researches of the past few years have given proof that there below us lies a holy and particularly venerable place. Not only has the tradition been substantiated, according to which several previous churches were said to stand on the site of this present church, the oldest of them dating back to the time of the martyrs, to the fourth century A.D. We are also provided with fresh evidence that holy martyrs, who with their blood bore witness to Christ, were interred here, to await the resurrection. We believe in the resurrection of the body. Christ’s words have given us this promise: The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God. Whosoever does not
believe in the independent life of the individual soul, in its continued existence after the death of the body, in its reunification with the bodyand in life everlasting, this man is no true Christian. We hold these beliefs, because we believe in Christ, who is the truth. Because we hold fast to the beliefs of the Apostles and of our Christian forebears. The entire history of your city, speaking to you through the its towering churches, which are monuments in stone, proclaiming itself in the stones found lying beneath them, is evidence of our faith.

The martyrs have always been the human bedrock for Catholicism, from Saint Stephen, the first of the ever glorious martyrs, to our own day with the recent martyrdom of the brave Shahbaz Bhatti. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

A Friday in Lent

I am overwhelmed by this world more often than not. I look around, and all I see is conflict. I see depression, anxiety, fear, pain, confusion. Perhaps most notably, there is a palpable and deep lack of happiness. There is no peace here. It is clear that this life is not the life we were all meant to lead. This world is a world full of broken things that need love. Now I love the world, which is to say I love other people. Because of this, I am critical of things, “the way things are,” or “the status quo”. I am critical of myself, critical of politicians, critical of everything. I am too critical, too much. Maybe you’re something like this too. But criticism will not save the world. Only love can save the world. But what does that mean? Surely a part of love involves criticism? Jesus said “the TRUTH will set you free.” Truth is a proposition. Propositions need to be proposed. The truth needs to be spoken, and it needs to be defending. Lies need to be exposed. And so this must be where criticism is necessary. But it cannot be everything. There is a time and a place for criticism. In conversation with friends, maybe. Two persons, pursuing the truth together with words. In order for criticism to be effective, there must be a RELATIONSHIP, or an understanding between two persons. Clear away the confusion, and you might realize that we are all on the same side. In other words, we all need each other, even if we don’t know it. We have to work together in Christ to repair our brokenness. And in doing this, I think, we will find peace.

Agincourt

 

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Something for the weekend.  Agincourt by the ever talented folks at History for Music Lovers, to the tune of As Tears Go By, by Marianne Faithful.

October 25, 1415 was an amazing day for the English.  The English longbow had long proved in the Hundred Years War to be a devastating weapon in the hands of skilled archers, but rarely had the English faced such long odds as they did at Agincourt.  Approximately 6,000 English, exhausted and worn from their march, faced approximately 30,000 French.  About five out of six of the English were archers with the remainder men-at-arms, knights and nobility.  The French had about 10,000 men-at-arms, knights and nobility, and 20,000 archers, crossbowmen and miscellaneous infantry.

The English established their battle line between the woods of Agincourt and Tramecourt, which offered excellent protection to both of their flanks.  The English archers made up the front line with stakes set in the ground before them to impale charging horses.  Archers were also placed in the woods to provide flanking fire against advancing French.  The men at arms and knights and nobility, were divided into three forces behind the archers.  They fought on foot.

The terrain between the woods that the French would have to cross in their attack of the English consisted of newly ploughed, and very muddy, fields.  Having walked through muddy fields on several occasions in rural Illinois, I can attest that simply getting from point A to point B in such terrain can be exhausting, let alone fighting at the end of the tramp through the morass. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Montaigne and Machiavelli on Zombies

I thought I had read all of Montaigne’s essays!  Apparently not.  Withywindle at the blog Athens and Jerusalem reveals one I am unfamiliar with:

There are many sorts of zombies, and what means are efficacious against one are not against another. For some are fast and some are slow; some have the spark of life and others are revenant corpses; some savor brains while others will seize hold of what they can. Further, what we know generally of zombies is unreliable; for what Romeros says, Pliny contradicts; and Galen says first to do no harm, which does not appear to me to be of any use whatever. So the means to resist the undead are all uncertain.

I prefer to take no settled action. Some will flee zombies, others run toward them to decapitate them, but I will merely go about my daily round. If fortune dictates that I be bit by a zombie, or even eaten entire, I will attempt to compose myself in the interval before I begin to decompose; but there is no reason to be alarmed unduly before the event. Yet while I hold that philosophy should train us to be equable generally before the threat of the undead, yet may we scream as they approach, particularly if they are fast zombies, for it is not the job of philosophy to make us pretend a terror we feel not; and it is no weakness to be afraid of zombies at the moment. The weakness is only in the anticipation. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

National Atheist Day

(Hattip for the Atheist Barbie pic to its creator, Atheist Blogger Blag Hag.)  Another April 1 rolls around, and it is time again to observe National Atheist Day and salute those atheists who, as part of the herd of independent atheist thinkers, bravely assert that, yes, matter and energy did arise ex nihilo without God, and that belief in God is too silly for a person of intelligence.  (Sorry Saint Augustine and  Saint Thomas Aquinas!  Sir Isaac Newton you simply lacked the intellectual heft to embrace belief in non-theism.)

In honor of the day, I think Sir Francis Bacon’s essay Of Atheism from 1601 might be appropriate:  →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

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