Monthly Archives: June 2011

Latest News on the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt

An Egyptian Coptic Christian boy shouts slogans while holding a crucifix during a protest outside the Egyptian state television building in Cairo on March 10, 2011. AFP photo

At the Catholic Herald today comes an important story offering an overview of the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities in Egypt and the plight of Christians who are now suffering greatly in the aftermath of the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

Further political success may come the Muslim Brotherhood’s way. The interim military government which followed Mubarak has announced parliamentary elections in September and presidential elections two months later. Reflecting on the potentially huge political changes to come, one bishop told us: “Under Mubarak the Muslim Brothers were under Gestapo control; they were underground. Now they are very visible. They may get up to half the seats in the next election. This is a great concern for us. There was a strong message awaiting us when we met Coptic Catholic Patriarch Cardinal Antonios Naguib in his office in Cairo. A gentle, self-effacing man, Patriarch Naguib wasted no time in saying: “Now is the moment to really participate in the evolution of society. What matters is to have confidence in our beliefs and to have the strength to express our message.”

Be sure to read the whole thing. Regular readers at my blog know that I’ve tried to keep abreast of the situation in Egypt even since long before the ousting of Mubarak. I consider the article to be an accurate accounting of what is happening there, from a Christian perspective. If you read only one article on Egypt, read the article at Catholic Herald.

Remember that President Obama and the mainstream media supported the ousting of Mubarak while conservatives in America (notably, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton) expressed serious concerns since Mubarak was successfully holding the Muslim Brotherhood at bay. In Five Revolutions Backed by George Soros, in February, I expressed misgivings about Soros funding of the revolution. Egyptian Christians have expressed some mild disdain for such criticisms, but as things become more and more bloody there, perhaps those critics have changed their minds.

For a Catholic perspective on what we are dealing with in regard to Islam, please watch the debate between Robert Spencer and Peter Kreeft: Good Muslim, Bad Muslim, at Thomas More College.

At FrontPageMag, for your consideration: The Muslim Brotherhood’s Penetration of the Obama Administration.

Below is the latest news about the Muslim Brotherhood from around the web. Be aware that opinions in these links are very diverse and may or may not be entirely accurate portrayals of what is occurring with the Muslim Brotherhood. Please use good judgment.

Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party to Hold Internal Elections.

Draft law governing Egypt elections sees backlash from wide spectrum of parties.

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood delegation in Gaza amid Israeli spy scandal.

Egypt’s economy slows to a crawl; revolt is tested.

Brotherhood: We will not run for presidency for Egypt’s sake.

Islamists co-ordinate with Wafd.

Citizens First, Christians After.

On Twitter, follow @Nefrette (Nefrette Halim) and @CopticNews for updates on the plight of Christians in Egypt. On Facebook, my friend David Nageh does a good job sharing updates from the perspective of a Christian in Egypt.

Many thanks to the Catholic Herald for their excellent reporting on Egypt’s Christians.

 

 

Borders are for Fascists

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I don’t know Klavan on the culture.  If only fascists support the Arizona law, there seems to be a lot of fascism going around since eight states are currently copying the Arizona law, even which that law is still enjoined by a Federal district judge.  Illegal immigration is down about eight percent in recent years however, due mainly to the truly lousy economy.  Obamanomics, it is good for something after all!

2012 TAC GOP Presidential Poll

The American Catholic will be running a periodic poll of the GOP presidential field. We have included candidates that have declared their candidacy as well as other speculative* candidates. As the primaries arrive the field of candidates should narrow down a bit.

* For example even though Chris Christie has denied he is interested in running, he still will be in Iowa for an inexplicable reason. Until then, he will be showing in the poll until we don’t see his name on the actual roll.

How Not to Appear Crazy on the Internet

Frank Fleming is my new hero.  He has written a very useful guide on how to avoid appearing crazy on the Internet.

Caps Lock Is Your Enemy

Look at your keyboard. On the left should be a button labeled “Caps Lock.” Now, there should be a light somewhere indicating whether the Caps Lock key is on. You want that light to be off. If you can’t find the indicator light, try typing on screen. Do you see lower case letters? If not, hit the Caps Lock key and try typing again. When you get your keyboard to the state where it normally types lower case letters, NEVER EVER TOUCH THE CAPS LOCK KEY EVER AGAIN! I can use it because I’m a professional, but you crazy people just need to leave that key alone. This tip by itself will make a lot of you look 100% less crazy.

There are basically two kinds of people who type entire comments with Caps Lock on: stupid people and crazy people. And no one wants to read what either has to say. Now, a stupid person just doesn’t notice or care that his Caps Lock key is on, and someone like that is probably not advanced enough to use the internet. Crazy people, on the other hand, intentionally put the Caps Lock on because they think the reason people haven’t been agreeing with their crazy is that they didn’t say it loud enough. This is crazy person logic, and it is wrong.

And there is another type of Caps Lock user who doesn’t capitalize whole sentences but INSTEAD capitalizes a few SPECIFIC words for EMPHASIS. Now read a sentence like that aloud, shouting every time you come to a capitalized word, and tell me you do not sound like an absolute freakin’ lunatic. This method can turn even basic known facts into crazy-sounding gibberish (“The SQUARE of the HYPOTENUSE of a RIGHT triangle equals the SUM of the squares of the OTHER two sides”).

Similarly, be frugal with your exclamation points! Not every single sentence should end in one! And never use more than one per sentence!!!!11!!eleventy11!1 If you have something useful to say, it should make just as much sense when said in a normal voice.

Bravo!  I would just add that people who do the opposite – meaning people who never capitalize – are even nuttier.  You see that button on the left-hand side of the computer?  The one right below the caps lock?  Yeah, try pressing that while typing out the first word of a sentence, or of a proper pronoun, and always when typing “I.”  Yeah, that’s not so hard now is it?

There’s more.

i can haz proper grammar?

Here’s another pretty basic one: no lolcats speak. Write actual English sentences using real words and proper grammar. Capitalize the first word of each sentence. Use punctuation. there is no reason ur comment 2 a blog or column shud look lik ur a n00b at texting. You’re not writing these things from a old cellphone with just a number pad that lacks auto-complete; there is a big keyboard in front of you.

You save like 0.1 seconds writing “u” instead of “you” at the cost of making yourself look like an absolute idiot. Is there any reason you’re trying to shave off this time? Are there wild dogs bearing down on you as you write why we need another look at Obama’s birth certificate? If so, run from the wild dogs and write your comment later. Your whole sentence shouldn’t scream, “I’m a useless idiot with nothing important to say.” You should never write like that unless you actually are a cat expressing your desire for a cheeseburger.

This drives me up the wall.  I don’t know if it’s the curse of Twitter, texting, or both, but is it really so hard to write in complete sentences with actual words spelled out?  You don’t have character limits on most blogs, and if you do and are actually somehow bumping up against the limit, then you are running afoul of violating this tip:

No Long Screeds

On the other end of the spectrum from the lolcats speak is the guy who apparently has hours to spare writing pages of response as the 200th comment to some blog post. There are people who have long things to say, and they do it by writing columns or writing in their own blogs. But if you can’t get your column published and no one reads your blog, maybe you’re thinking you’ll get exposure by putting the long screed in the comments section of something people actually will read.

Don’t.

Sane people know that the only people who have hours to spend writing pages of text in a comments section are crazy people. And that’s why no will read what they write except other crazy people with way too much time on their hands. So keep it short. Pick one point, and write no more than a couple of sentences. Keeping it short also helps you police your crazy. I’ve seen comments where I’ve read the first paragraph and thought maybe the person was just a little over-enthusiastic, and then I started the second paragraph and realized, “Oh, this is a super crazy person.” So keep it pithy, and avoid the crazy.

The comments on Fleming’s post are a hoot.  Either it’s a collection of the cleverest people on the planet, or a bunch of dunces who would no doubt look blankly at you if you said the word “irony.”

At any rate, there is more at the link.  I think I will now ask Tito to have this permalinked on the right-hand side.

Saint Augustine on Pentecost

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This is a solemn day for us, because of the Coming of the Holy Ghost on the fiftieth day from the Lord’s Resurrection.

What is the meaning of the Coming of the Holy Ghost?  What did it accomplish?  How did He tell us of His Presence; reveal It to us?  By the fact that all spoke in the tongues of every nation.  What then, did each one upon whom the Holy Spirit descended speak in one of the tongues of each of the nations: to this man one language, to this man another, dividing as it were among themselves the tongues of all the nations?  

No, it was not so: but each man, singly, spoke in the tongue of every nation. One and the same man spoke the tongue of every nation: the unity of the Church amid the tongues of all the nations.  See here how the unity of the Catholic Church spread throughout all nations is set before us.
Continue reading

O’, I’m a Good Old Rebel

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Something for the weekend.  O’, I’m a Good Old Rebel by Major James Randolph.  This rendition is sung by Bobby Horton, who has fought a one man crusade to bring Civil War music to modern audiences.  It is the most moving rendition I have heard of this song, with Horton conveying well the bitterness and despair felt by almost all Confederates after the conclusion of the War.  The author served on the staff of General J.E.B. Stuart.  The song has always been popular in the South and was a favorite of Queen Victoria’s son, the future Edward VII, who referred to it as “that fine American song with cuss words in it.” Continue reading

In the World

Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”

We know this line from John’s Gospel so well that the radicalism of its otherworldliness perhaps escapes us most of the time. We see Christ’s encounter with Pilate while knowing that Christ was about to fulfill the purpose of His incarnation by suffering and dying in reparation for our sins. When Christ says, “My kingdom is not of this world,” one can picture the glories of heaven and raise an eyebrow at Pilate’s belief that he truly stood in power as he “judged” his creator. We know that Christ only suffered at Pilate’s hands because He allowed himself to do so. Had He chosen to end it, in an instant He could have done so.

Yet as followers of Christ we are called to be like Him in being not of this world, but of His Kingdom, and if we think of Christ’s calmness and resignation in the fact of facing torture and death for a nonexistent crime in relation to ourselves, this idea of being of a kingdom not of this world becomes a whole lot scarier. It’s one thing to see Christ, secure in our belief in His divinity, responding to injustice and suffering with the statement that His kingdom is not of this world, but when we are faced with injustice and suffering our instinct is not to think of The Kingdom which is not of this world, but rather to fight back, to demand our rights, and if all else fails to complain and feel sorry for ourselves. Continue reading

June 10, 1861: First Battle of the War: Big Bethel

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The first battle of the Civil War, Big Bethel was a classic example of the hazards awaiting untrained troops attempting to take offensive action.  The first of many defeats of Union Major General Benjamin Butler in the War, Big Bethel started off the War in the East with a humiliating little defeat for the Union, an ominous portent of things to come over the next four years.

Placed in charge of Fortress Monroe on the southern tip of the Virginia peninsula on May 23, 1861, Butler began operations to extend Union control into areas near Monroe.  On the night of June 9-10, Butler ordered 3500 Union troops in two columns marching from Hampton and Newport News, to perform a night march,  and launch a surprise attack on Confederate positions at Little Bethel and Big Bethel.  Butler’s plan would have tasked the abilities of well-trained veteran troops, as a coordinated surprise attack by converging columns after a night march is the military equivalent of brain surgery.  Expecting the raw troops he commanded to carry this out was simply absurd and an invitation to disaster.

The disaster ensued.  A friendly fire incident between the two columns gave the Confederates ample warning of the attack.  The 1200 Confederates easily beat off the piecemeal Union attacks.  Union casualties were 18 killed and 51 wounded.  Confederate losses were 1 killed and 7 wounded.  The Confederate press made much of the victory, although it had little meaning other than as the first example of the gross military incompetence of Benjamin Butler that would hamper Union operations for almost the entire war.  Here is Butler’s self-serving report of this fiasco: Continue reading

The Beatitudes from the Gospel According to Luke, Secunda Pars

What follows is the second part of a three-part piece. The first part can be found here.

 

 

3. Patristic Background from the Catena Aurea

Latin for “The Golden Chain,” St. Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea is the Angelic Doctor’s compilation of commentaries by the early Church Fathers on each of the four Gospels. What follows is a gloss of the provided commentaries for Luke 6:20-23.

We begin with Ambrose. While I have not said much about the first part of verse 20 (“And he, lifting up his eyes on his disciples”), Ambrose asks, “What is lifting up the eyes, but to disclose a more hidden light?” Christ is calling his hearers to a deeper understanding of God and His plan for mankind. If I could, allow me to briefly return to the Greek for the word “Behold” (idou). An alternate translation of the imperative is “Look!” or even “See!” While Luke is using a common Greek word, this command to “See!” is reminiscent of Christ’s observation, “they have eyes but cannot see.” The Lord is not simply calling us to pay attention, but rather he is calling us to see with the eyes of faith. He is speaking directly to the heart of man. In a way, he is telling his listeners, “My friends, you have heard the Prophets, you have read the Scriptures, but you know not their fullness. I will, if you let me, show you the fullness of the heavenly mysteries. Everything you think you know is only the beginning. You have heard the ethic in the Ten Commandments, but I call you to the ethos of these Beatitudes.”

Ambrose next observes that Luke mentions only four blessings, while Matthew eight. Nonetheless, “those eight are contained in these four, and in these four those eight.” He ties each of the blessings in a specific way to a particular virtue. Poverty yields temperance because it “seeks not vain delights.” Hunger leads to righteousness in that he who is hungry suffers with the hungry, and this brings righteousness. In weeping, man learns to weep for those things eternal rather than those things of time, which requires the virtue of prudence to distinguish between the two realms. In “Blessed are you when men hate you,” one has fortitude, a fortitude which allows one to suffer persecution for faith. These virtues are then paired with Matthew’s Beatitudes in order to demonstrate continuity between the two Gospels: “temperance therefore brings with it a pure heart; righteousness, mercy; prudence, peace; fortitude, meekness. The virtues are so joined and linked to one another, that he who has one seems to have many.”

In both cases, each evangelist has placed the blessings of poverty first. For Ambrose, this is indicative that “it is the first in order, and the purest, as it were, of the virtues.” In other words, the subsequent blessings depend on the condition of being impoverished. If one is overcome by the desires of the world, he “has no power of escape from them.”

In a similar fashion, Eusebius observes, “But when the celestial kingdom is considered in the many gradations of its blessings, the first step in the scale belongs to those who by divine instinct embrace poverty. Such did He make those who first became His disciples; therefore He says in their person, ‘For yours is the kingdom of heaven.’”

Cyril agrees: “After having commanded them to embrace poverty, He then crowns with honor those things which follow from poverty.”

While Basil is consistent in placing the primacy of the blessings with that of poverty, he also warns that the blessing is not automatic but requires the correct disposition. “[N]ot everyone oppressed with poverty is blessed, but he who has preferred the commandment of Christ to worldly riches. For many are poor in their possessions, yet most covetous in their disposition; these poverty does not save, but their affections condemn. For nothing involuntary deserves a blessing, because all virtue is characterized by the freedom of the will. Blessed then is the poor man as being the disciple of Christ, Who endured poverty for us.” Perhaps this is why Cyril notes that in Matthew’s Gospel, the Lord says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  I have noted above the textual variants in this regard, but it should be recognized that the Fathers in no way see “poverty of spirit” as mere detachment that can exist even in the absence of actual material poverty. Instead, they see material poverty as a pre-requisite for poverty of spirit, a disposition that must be had to convert the pre-existing material poverty into a blessing.

Each of the Fathers then shows how poverty leads to the other blessings in Christ’s sermon. Cyril says, “It is the lot of those who embrace poverty to be in want of the necessities of life, and scarcely to be able to get food.” Continuing, “[P]overty is followed not only by a want of those things which bring delight, but also by a dejected look, because of sorrow. Hence it follows, ‘Blessed are you that weep.’” Finally, Theophilus indicates, “He then who on account of the riches of the inheritance of Christ, for the bread of eternal life, for the hope of heavenly joys, desires to suffer weeping, hunger, and poverty, is blessed. But much more blessed is he who does not shrink to maintain these virtues in adversity. Hence it follows, ‘Blessed are you when men shall hate you.’ For although men hate, with their wicked hearts they cannot injure the heart that is beloved by Christ.”

This gloss of the Catena Aurea is sufficient for examining the portion of the Beatitudes dealing with poverty. It is evident that each of the represented Fathers sees poverty as having a place of primacy among the beatitudes. This is indicated by both Gospel writers in their placement of the virtue first in their respective lists, lists that are renderings of the very words of Christ. However, we must not ignore the second part of the beatitude: “for theirs is the kingdom of God.” For patristic background on this, we depart from the Catena Aurea and take up Origen.

Origen referred to Jesus as the autobasileia, that is, the Kingdom in person. In other words, for Origen, the kingdom is not a geographical location; Jesus himself is the Kingdom, or rather the Kingdom is Jesus. Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth insists (in light of his reading of Origen) that the phrase “Kingdom of God” is a “veiled Christology.” The Holy Father states, “By the way in which he speaks of the Kingdom of God, Jesus leads men to realize the overwhelming fact that in him God himself is present among them, that he is God’s presence” (Benedict, 49). Delving deeper into the linguistic nuances of the word “kingdom,” Pope Benedict (quoting Stuhlmacher) says, “The underlying Hebrew word malkut is a nomen actionis [an action word] and means – as does the Greek word basileia [kingdom] – the regal function, the active lordship of the king. What is meant is not an imminent or yet to be established ‘kingdom,’ but God’s actual sovereignty over the world, which is becoming an event in history in a new way” (Benedict, 55).

It should be noted that the Holy Father is not actually speaking of the Sermon on the Mount when he makes these linguistic observations. Instead, he is engaged in exegesis of Matthew 1:14-15, when Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Nonetheless, the Greek word basileia that is used in Matthew 1 is the same Greek word found in Luke’s first beatitude. Therefore, not only are the linguistic observations still relevant for the current project, but establishing the connection (both spiritually and linguistically) between Christ’s Proclamation of the Kingdom and the Sermon on the Mount will be of prime importance in the final part. I will have more to say about Pope Benedict’s thoughts in this matter, but this mention of Origen and his interpretation of the phrase “kingdom of God” as the person of Jesus is sufficient for this section on patristic background.

Of Special People and Common Idiots

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Hattip to Christopher Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal. With one of my sons being autistic, it is little surprise that one of my favorite charities is Special Olympics.  It allows people who too often spend much of life on the sidelines  to compete as athletes and to be admired for what they can accomplish in overcoming the handicaps that life has dealt them.  The whole Special Olympics program is magnificent for special people and their parents, relatives and friends.  One would think that such an organization would be respected by all.  I guess not. Continue reading

Video Round-Up: GOP Candidates for President Speak Out on Marriage

The Holy Family

Would you like to know where Republican candidates for President stand on the issue of preserving traditional marriage? Here they are, in their own words, in alphabetical order. Only those candidates and potential candidates who could be found expressing their position on video are included. If you find video for others not included here, send me an email and I will add them as an update.

Suggested things to look for include:

1) Whether or not the candidate is expressing a position that is in keeping with Catholic teaching on this issue.

Suggested reading:

Pope Benedict’s defense of marriage, June 5, 2011, Apostolic Journey to Croatia.

USCCB Summary: Marriage and Same-Sex Unions

2) Whether or not you believe the candidate is comfortable defending his/her position.

3) Whether or not you believe the candidate has an eloquent and convincing message.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann:

Businessman Herman Cain:

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie:

Newt Gingrich:

Rudy Giuliani:

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman:

Congressman Ron Paul:

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty:

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney:

Former Senator Rick Santorum:

Martino Resigns from Notre Dame Board

For those of you who have been following the controversy of the appointment of Emily’s List booster Roxanne Martino to the Notre Dame Board  (background here and here), this is some welcome news.

Roxanne Martino has resigned from the University of Notre Dame Board of Trustees, effective immediately, in the wake of reports criticizing donations she has made to organizations that characterize themselves as pro-choice.

“In the best interests of the University, I regretfully have decided to step down from the Notre Dame Board of Trustees,” Martino said. “I dearly love my alma mater and remain fully committed to all aspects of Catholic teaching and to the mission of Notre Dame. I had looked forward to contributing in this new role, but the current controversy just doesn’t allow me to be effective.”

“Ms. Martino has served Notre Dame in many ways over the years and is highly regarded as someone who is absolutely dedicated in every way to the Catholic mission of this University,” said Richard C. Notebaert, chairman of the Board of Trustees. “She has lived her life and faith in an exemplary way, including the counsel and support she has provided to Notre Dame, many other Catholic institutions and Thresholds, an organization that provides programs for thousands of people with severe mental illness.”

Note the weasel words here.  She doesn’t apologize for donating to an overtly pro-abortion organization – oh no, she resigns because the controversy is too much.

Whatever.  At least she’s out.  But the fact that she was even appointed says all you need to know about the current state of this “Catholic” university.

Interview On the Radio Today at 5pm Eastern

I will be interviewed on the radio today at 5pm (Eastern) on the In His Sign Network radio station.  They are a lay Catholic radio apostolate located in Rosemont, PA.  They broadcast daily live from 5 to 6pm (Eastern) WTMR-800 AM and on the Internet at www.inhissign.com.

The interview will be about The American Catholic and the other Catholic websites that I operate as well as my work on the National Catholic Register.

This is my first interview and it is an already humbling experience.  Pray for me that I won’t make a fool of myself!

Recessional

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The fifth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling.   The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here and here.

Kipling is often denounced as a thoughtless imperialist.  That is a remarkable charge to make against the author of the poem Recessional.

More than once Kipling was offered honors from the British government, including the post of Poet Laureate of Great Britain, all of which he steadfastly refused.  On the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897 he composed one of his most powerful poems, Recessional, which perhaps helps explain why he never took up the post of Poet Laureate for the nation he so deeply loved.

God of our fathers, known of old—
Lord of our far-flung battle line—
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies—
The Captains and the Kings depart—
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far-called our navies melt away—
On dune and headland sinks the fire—
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe—
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard—
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard.
For frantic boast and foolish word,
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!
Amen.

The poem opens with no patriotic effusion or praise of the Queen, but with a stark prayer to the God of our Fathers that Britain not forget something.  What?

Continue reading

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