Zach

A resident of New Hampshire

The Most Present of All

I needed to share this with you all:

“God? God? If I could see him or hear him now! Where is this God of yours?”

That is the question that every sinner asks, at one time or another.  And here is the secret revealed by God to Israel in shadows and intimations, and to all the world in the life and death and resurrection of Christ.  God is not some despotic force, like Zeus sitting upon his throne, grasping his thunderbolt.  He is almighty, true, and as almighty he is more than greatest and farthest of all.  He is also the smallest and the nearest and most present of all, the very Being of beings.  He was not in the whirlwind or the earthquake or the fire, as Elijah found, but in the still small voice.  In all the centuries before Solomon, his presence does not dwell in some hulking temple meant to boggle man into insignificance, but in a small Ark, in a tent.  He writes his laws not upon pillars, but upon the hearts of those who hear his word. And his word was made flesh and dwelt among us, a babe in a manger.  This is the Jesus who came as a light into a dark world; yet the world knew him not.  A bruised reed he would not break, said the prophet, and so Jesus moved among men both known and unknown, a king and yet a slave, the glorious only-begotten Son of God, and yet meek and humble of heart.  To hear Jesus, then, is to look perhaps first to the small and near, and to listen.

– Anthony Esolen in the Magnificat for May 2011.

 

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.

President Obama’s Draconian Budget Cuts

Among the cuts to the budget:

* Milk purchases (-$60 m)
* DELAP (dairy) (-$290 m)
* Agricultural Research (-$71 m)
* USDA Single Family Housing Guarantees (-$173 m)
* USDA Farm Loans (-$26 m)
* Watershed Programs (-$50 m)
* Public Telecommunications and Facilities Program (-$20 m)
* EPA Homeland Security Activities (-$36 m)
* Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (-$125 m)
* Wildland Fire Suppression Program (-$250 m)
* HUD University Community Fund (-$25 m)
* EPA State Revolving Funds (-$950 m)
* EPA State and Tribal Grants – Watershed, Airshed, and Climate Change (-$187 m)
* Biomass Crop Assistance Program (-$100 m)
* National Park Service, excluding LWCF (-$105 m)
* Career Pathways (-$125 m)
* SCSEP (-275 m)
* FEMA State and Local Grants (-$425 m)
* FBI Construction (-$133 m)
* Rural Development S&E (-$20 m)
* HUD Energy Innovation Fund (-$50 m)
* Treasury Asset Forfeiture Funds (-$333)
* Animal and Plant Health Programs (APHIS) (-$27 m)
* HHS Community Economic Development (-$16 m)
* HHS Mentoring Children of Prisoners (-$24 m)
* Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (-$276 m)

Think about the jobs lost ! The tragedy ! How can the president be so ruthless and cruel! Does he not care about the well being of American citizens – those left in the shadows by wall-street neocon capitalists? Where is the outrage?!

The Canard that the Pro-Life Movement “Isn’t Really Pro-Life”

The charge that the pro-life movement isn’t really pro-life, frequently leveled by proponents of unlimited government, can be frustrating. Ryan Anderson and company call it a lazy slander. I prefer canard, but both terms apply equally well. The facts about the pro-life movement’s support for life at all stages – from conception to natural death – speak for themselves. Mr. Anderson and friends recount a few of these facts HERE at The Public Discourse. After detailing some of the great work pro-life advocates regularly do, they ask the obvious question: why are pro-life advocates accused of being indifferent to life after birth? As they say, it’s probably the overwhelming conviction

“that “caring for the born” translates first and always into advocacy for government programs and funds. In other words, abortion advocates appear to conflate charitable works and civil society with government action. The pro-life movement does not. Rather, it takes up the work of assisting women and children and families, one fundraiser and hotline and billboard at a time. Still, the pro-life movement is not unsophisticated about the relationship between abortion rates and government policies in areas such as education, marriage, employment, housing, and taxation. The Catholic Church, for example, works with particular vigor to ensure that its social justice agenda integrates advocacy for various born, vulnerable groups, with incentives to choose life over abortion.

Yes – and there’s a simple reason the pro-life movement is not a movement for more government. If the pro-life movement would incorporate into its platform a decidedly pro-government stance, it would narrow itself. It would have mixed motives and would end up excluding more people. These are people who would support laws illegalizing abortion, but would not necessarily support the other policies of the movement. In other words, the pro-life movement leaves other political issues out of its explicit purpose to maintain focus and to be maximally inclusive. And as Ryan Anderson et al note, it couples this with real charity work done without any legislation or taxpayer dollars. AND IN FAIRNESS all of this is not to say that one cannot be a part of the movement and support policies that make the government omnipotent. But those policies cannot become a part of the larger pro-life movement itself.

A Question for Our Readers

This may seem somewhat ridiculous, but I’ll ask it anyway because I’m curious what people think. What is a reasonable amount of money to spend on a couch? At what point does the expense of the couch become an excess? How does the quality of the couch and the time that you will be able to use the couch affect the legitimate magnitude of the expense? Is it absurd to buy an all-leather sectional?

I ask because I want to know what Christian discipleship looks like in all things in life. And because honestly, I’m not sure. Sometimes, it’s easy to know what Christian discipleship looks like. For example, I know that willingness to die for the faith is very Christ-like. I know that prayer is an essential part of Christian discipleship. And I know that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is our highest good as human beings. But these are high and holy actions for our faith life; what about things not as obviously related to our faith life, like putting furniture in a house or apartment?

I look forward to hearing what you may think, or not think if the question totally bores you. So please let me know – am I the only one who asks these types of questions? Should I just chill out? Or what? In the meantime I think I will try to ask God in prayer.

Healthcare Plan Likely to Include Free Contraception

Another pertinent reason for Catholics to oppose the Democrats and their health care bill at the polls tomorrow:

WASHINGTON (AP) – Fifty years after the pill, another birth control revolution may be on the horizon: free contraception for women in the U.S., thanks to the new health care law.

That could start a shift toward more reliable – and expensive – forms of birth control that are gaining acceptance in other developed countries.

As Nancy Pelosi said,

“Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children’s health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those – one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.”

It’s a cost cutting measure. It’s also a grave sin! But if you’re Nancy Pelosi, or most of the rest of the American Catholic population, you say, “Who cares! We need to have this!”

Ovide 2010

Next week, New Hampshire Republicans, and probably some irritating Democrats, will decide who the Republican Nominee is for the Republican New Hampshire Senate Candidacy. It appears to the best of my knowledge that Ovide Lamontange is the only consistent pro-life and limited government candidate on the ticket. I urge anyone you know who lives in New Hampshire to vote for Ovide. No, he’s not a genius, but he’s principled, more than the others. Primaries should be about principles. Playing Machiavelli can wait until November. We have to choose the right people to put up for office, and the right people are principled people who think that government is more than simply another way to stimulate the economy. We have a debased and corrupt form of politics that only recognizes the material dimension of our lives. We need candidates who understand that material life is not the only good, and that material well-being is in some way really dependent on our spiritual well-being. Our spiritual well-being is in a real way determined by our laws, and our politicians create our laws, not just “our jobs” (which is ridiculous, politicians don’t create jobs). We need to look for politicians who have but an inkling of an understanding of this countercultural idea. Our laws are not just about money; they are about truth and justice and goodness and even beauty.

Republicans are upset about not being in power. Republicans are not in power because they have failed to live up to their principles, and everyone knows it. Republican principles are good principles, and we should not concede them because we have hopes of winning an election. Republicans have won elections, and they have acted frivolously and ignorantly with their power because they were not principled. We need to elect politicians who will behave responsibly with their power, and not just win the election. Elections don’t matter; justice and truth do.

Forgiving God

“I think everyone has a secret resentment against God, against our very creation, against the fact of our being what we are. Freud called this the death wish, resentment against being born into this pain-full world.”

Peter Kreeft says something surprising in Back to Virtue:  that we need to learn to forgive God. He is quite clear that this is not for any evil or debt he owes us, but for His goodness. As Kreeft says in his book, God loves us more than we would like, and we need to forgive him for interfering with our foolish will again and again”. We need to “forgive him for his blessed but painful surgery on our spirits.”

At first, I thought Kreeft was wrong. Forgive God? Why would we lowly creatures need to forgive God, who is infinite goodness? How absurd! Then, giving the great Peter Kreeft the benefit of the doubt, I thought it over and had a realization of sorts. We need to forgive God lest we hold a grudge against Him. God calls us out of ourselves. He asks us to give up ourselves and our particular desires, and this can be very difficult, even aggravating. Our broken nature rebels against God’s will. We must say with Jesus, “not my will Father, but yours be done,” but we do not want to. We often say, leave me alone to what I want! Christians say this even when they know this is foolishness. We are broken and part of our brokenness is a wrong-relationship with God: we blame him when he is not at fault. Our hearts must be at peace with God. And our hearts, misshapen as they are, cannot be at peace with God unless we forgive him. How ridiculous we are!

Happy Independence Day!

America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

As we celebrate our Independence from the British Empire, let us remember our total dependence on God.

The Television Ethic

It seems to me that the shows on TV have gotten worse, much worse than they have ever been. Shows like “Cougar Town,” “Super Nanny,” “One Tree Hill” or “The Bachelorette” – basically any show on any of the major networks. These shows are either a shameless “sitcom” with bad and awkward sexual humor, a boring reality show that smug Americans watch so they can make themselves feel like they’re better than the narcissistic dweebs who end up on those shows, or an overwrought “drama” that lacks any sense of humanity instead substituting gratuitous sexual content.

I suppose what’s most striking is the total absence of anything sacred. If you watch TV, it’s clear there’s nothing special about human affairs and human relationships. Television teaches us that we’re all really only out for ourselves. Other people are a means to increase our “happiness” and to the extent they do that they are valuable. Traditional human virtues like love, gratitude, forbearance, patience, loyalty, faithfulness, and peace are mocked on television. No one on television takes any of these things seriously. In fact nothing on television takes anything seriously (maybe a few rare exceptions e.g. LOST). After all, persons who take things seriously are really just fooling themselves that who they are matters or what they do matters. It’s not who you are, it’s what you have, or who you have. Television teaches an ethic of exploitation for personal gain and I think it’s terrible.

But maybe it’s always been this way and I haven’t paid close enough attention.

The Boston Globe Has a Great Article About Religion?

It’s true! They let someone onto the pages of the Boston Globe who knows a little bit about religion. Professor Stephen Prothero of Boston University (?) writes about how all religions are actually different, and that these differences matter. We cannot and should not pretend that all religions lead to the same God, because believers do not believe so. To think otherwise is to disrespect believers of all kinds, and it is the opposite of “celebrating diversity” – it ignores diversity and replaces it with a lie. The Professor clearly sees the motivation of advocates of this “all roads lead to the same God” idea in a particularly perceptive passage in the middle of the article:

I understand what these people are doing. They are not describing the world but reimagining it. They are hoping that their hope will call up in us feelings of brotherhood and sisterhood. In the face of religious bigotry and bloodshed, past and present, we cannot help but be drawn to such hope, and such vision. Yet we must not mistake either for clear-eyed analysis.

Those who preach one world religion and who ignore genuine religious differences are reimagining the world, as Professor Prothero aptly puts it. I believe this tendency – the tendency to reimagine the world – is omnipresent in our world today. I get this idea from a philosophy professor of mine from way back when who was fond of saying that the single unifying characteristic of modern philosophy is that tries to project itself onto the world. Modern minds want to project their vision of reality onto the world. This stands in stark contrast to the ancient thinkers, who understood the purpose of philosophy and indeed of reason itself to know the world as it is, and to conform one’s actions to this reality. In ignoring religious differences, modern thinkers indulge in a fantasy that renders them ineffective and unpersuasive. Pretending differences do not exist does not eliminate the differences. In fact, it may aggravate things by obscuring what is truly held in common, these commonalities being the prerequisite of a true conversation. Not to mention, pretending all religions are the same is simply rude. Professor Prothero’s article is a great antidote to the modern way of thinking and I hope read more from him in the future.

The State's Incentives

State funded health care necessarily incentivizes the state to increase the number of abortions, the practice of euthanasia, and the availability of contraceptives.  The state is also perhaps paradoxically incentivized to regulate with great precision the habits of its citizens with specific regard to food, alcohol, tobacco, and exercise. This brief commentary will explain why this is the case and some of the first order ramifications for our culture.

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Consequences of the Love of Equality

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Volume Two, Part Four, Chapter Six: What Kind of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear:

I see an innumerable crowd of like and equal men who revolve on themselves without repose, procuring the small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. Each of them, withdrawn and apart, is like a stranger to the destiny of all the others: his children and his particular friends form the whole human species for him; as for dwelling with his fellow citizens, he is beside them, but he does not see them; he touches them and does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone, and if a family still remains for him, one can at least say that he no longer has a native country.

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Some Hypotheticals

If you saw someone who was going to jump off a cliff… would you stop them? Assume that you would prevent them from physical death. I think you would probably try to stop them.

Now assume you are an Archbishop, and you know of Catholics who are advocating very publicly for grave sin, and that this itself is a grave sin. Unrepented grave sin, as you know as an Archbishop, brings spiritual death. You know in your heart that spiritual death is eternal, and is God’s most hated thing. You also know that this spiritual death is very real, and very dangerous: infinitely more dangerous than mere physical death. Would you not, as an Archbishop, care enough about your fellow Brother or Sister in Christ to do everything in your power to prevent further spiritual death?

And you would also know, as an Archbishop, that someone who is manifestly and publicly in a state of grave sin ought to refrain from receiving Communion, for their own sake, since receiving Communion unworthily is yet another grave sin that further wounds their soul.

And it would probably strike you, as an Archbishop, that this particular sin is a sin with a pedagogical dimension (public advocacy of sin teaches sin). Would your counsel to this person not also have a public dimension, to correct those who may have been misinformed by this person’s very public advocacy (perhaps even encouragement) of sin?

Would you not see three very important things which demand your prophetic teaching voice? Is not the most pastoral thing to do preventing such a person from further grave sin? Can your message not be delivered in a spirit of charity and sincere concern and love?

The Appeal of True Greatness

Christianity has a twofold challenge: to present the Good News of salvation to explain why the Good News should concern everyone. The second challenge is uniquely modern. After all, the Good News is salvation from sin, and sin is an idea foreign to most modern people. Explaining to someone that they are a sinner in need of a savior is never easy. It’s easy to come off as rude, insulting, or worse: a holy roller.

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Intellectuals

Thomas Sowell has a new book about intellectuals that looks very interesting. The National Review has a review:

Sowell writes that it “was part of a long-standing assumption among many intellectuals . . . that it is the role of third parties to bring meaning into the lives of the masses.” Many people were shocked when in early 2008 Michelle Obama proclaimed, “Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. . . . That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.” Sowell probably just shook his head in knowing disgust.

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Mass at Midnight on Christmas Morning

This Christmas my local parish was something to behold. Midnight Mass began with light only from decorations on the Evergreen trees, the Priest, escorted by the Deacon and members of the local Knights of Columbus, processed through the Pews with an icon of the baby Jesus to be laid in the Manger. The entire Church was silent and it was beautiful.

As is typical of Christmas and to a lesser extent Easter Masses, the Church was full. This is an unusual circumstance for my parish, as on any typical Sunday the Church is probably half empty. In New England, people who don’t usually come to Church come to Church on Christmas. This is a disheartening aspect of Catholic life in America. Is there anything that can or should be done about it?

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