When the creation of man was first mooted and when, even at that stage, the Enemy freely confessed that he foresaw a certain episode about a cross, Our Father very naturally sought an interview and asked for an explanation. The Enemy gave no reply except to produce the cock-and-bull story about disinterested love which He has been circulating ever since. This Our Father naturally could not accept. He implored the Enemy to lay His cards on the table, and gave Him every opportunity. He admitted that he felt a real anxiety to know the secret; the Enemy replied “I wish with all my heart that you did”.
Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis
Christ died for me. The death of Christ on Calvary has immense theological significance: the salvation of all mankind, the redemption from sin and the opening of the gates of Heaven. I understand all of that on an intellectual level. However, on Good Friday the fact that the Creator of All died for me, one of His creations, always hits me like an emotional freight train. All of my life I have been fascinated by courage, especially sacrificial courage where men die to protect others. We are such a flawed species, but capable of the heights of nobility when love and courage combine. Then we put aside the great fear of death, and truly understand why we are here: to love. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
C.S. Lewis →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Stanley Fish, probably the most noted American literary theorist of our time, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times on March 12, 2012 called Two Cheers for Double Standards in which he demonstrated how deeply wed he and other members of the Left in this country are to the Orwell axiom from Animal Farm that some animals are more equal than others:
If we think about the Rush Limbaugh dust-up from the non-liberal — that is, non-formal — perspective, the similarity between what he did and what Schultz and Maher did disappears. Schultz and Maher are the good guys; they are on the side of truth and justice. Limbaugh is the bad guy; he is on the side of every nefarious force that threatens our democracy. Why should he get an even break?
There is no answer to that question once you step outside of the liberal calculus in which all persons, no matter what their moral status as you see it, are weighed in an equal balance. Rather than relaxing or soft-pedaling your convictions about what is right and wrong, stay with them, and treat people you see as morally different differently. Condemn Limbaugh and say that Schultz and Maher may have gone a bit too far but that they’re basically O.K. If you do that you will not be displaying a double standard; you will be affirming a single standard, and moreover it will be a moral one because you will be going with what you think is good rather than what you think is fair. “Fair” is a weak virtue; it is not even a virtue at all because it insists on a withdrawal from moral judgment.
I know the objections to what I have said here. It amounts to an apology for identity politics. It elevates tribal obligations over the universal obligations we owe to each other as citizens. It licenses differential and discriminatory treatment on the basis of contested points of view. It substitutes for the rule “don’t do it to them if you don’t want it done to you” the rule “be sure to do it to them first and more effectively.” It implies finally that might makes right. I can live with that. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Part 13 of my ongoing survey of the follies of many modern day Jesuits. Georgetown University, founded in 1789, is the oldest Jesuit college in the United States. Last week it found itself at the center of the debate over the HHS Mandate. How the powers that be at Georgetown reacted to all of this is instructive.
On February 16, 2012 Representative Darrell Issa (R. CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on the ramifications of the HHS Mandate in regard to religious freedom. Democrats had the opportunity to present witnesses. Initially they were going to have Barry Lynn, a Methodist minister and Leftist political activist, and head of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, but for some reason that fell through for the Democrats. They then proposed Sandra Fluke, identified as a third year law student at Georgetown. Issa refused to allow her to testify on the grounds that she wasn’t testifying about the religious liberty issue but rather about a perceived need for contraception. The Democrats, who realized that they were in trouble on the religious liberty issue, used this as an argument against the hearings, arguing that women were banned from the hearings as speakers. This was a lie, as there were two panels which testified in opposition to the Mandate at the hearing. The second panel included Dr. Allison Garrett and Dr. Laura Champion who testified as to the dangers that the HHS Mandate poses to religious liberty.
On February 23, 2012, Nancy Pelosi (D.CA), minority leader, organized a Democrats only “hearing” at which Sandra Fluke gave her testimony. Go here to read that testimony. Among other statements she said that in three years contraceptives could cost a law student three grand.
The idea that someone at Georgetown Law School, an elite school that costs over 50k a year to attend, was crying poverty over the alleged cost of $1,000.00 a year, a sum about $800-$900 too high in relationship to the actual cost, to make illicit whoopee has its comedic possibilities, and this was seized upon by Rush Limbaugh on Wednesday February 29:
What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps. (interruption) The johns? We would be the johns? No! We’re not the johns. (interruption) Yeah, that’s right. Pimp’s not the right word. Okay, so she’s not a slut. She’s “round heeled.” I take it back.
This caused an uproar and on Thursday March 1, John J. DeGioia, the first lay President of Georgetown, released this statement: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
His epitaph is Athanasius contra mundum, “Athanasius against the world.” We are proud that our own country has more than once stood against the world. Athanasius did the same. He stood for the Trinitarian doctrine, “whole and undefiled,” when it looked as if all the civilised world was slipping back from Christianity into the religion of Arius—into one of those “sensible” synthetic religions which are so strongly recommended today and which, then as now, included among their devotees many highly cultivated clergymen. It is his glory that he did not move with the times; it is his reward that he now remains when those times, as all times do, have moved away.
Something for the weekend. O Holy Night sung by Celtic Woman. I can think of nothing more appropriate for Christmas Eve than this passage from On the Incarnation by Saint Athanasius:
For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God entered our world. In one sense, indeed, He was not far from it before, for no part of creation had ever been without Him Who, while ever abiding in union with the Father, yet fills all things that are. But now He entered the world in a new way, stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us. He saw the reasonable race, the race of men that, like Himself, expressed the Father’s Mind, wasting out of existence, and death reigning over all in corruption. He saw that corruption held us all the closer, because it was the penalty for the Transgression; He saw, too, how unthinkable it would be for the law to be repealed before it was fulfilled. He saw how unseemly it was that the very things of which He Himself was the Artificer should be disappearing. He saw how the surpassing wickedness of men was mounting up against them; He saw also their universal liability to death. All this He saw and, pitying our race, moved with compassion for our limitation, unable to endure that death should have the mastery, rather than that His creatures should perish and the work of His Father for us men come to nought, He took to Himself a body, a human body even as our own. Nor did He will merely to become embodied or merely to appear; had that been so, He could have revealed His divine majesty in some other and better way. No, He took our body, and not only so, but He took it directly from a spotless, stainless virgin, without the agency of human father—a pure body, untainted by intercourse with man. He, the Mighty One, the Artificer of all, Himself prepared this body in the virgin as a temple for Himself, and took it for His very own, as the instrument through which He was known and in which He dwelt. Thus, taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were liable to the corruption of death, He surrendered His body to death instead of all, and offered it to the Father. This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished because, having fulfilled in His body that for which it was appointed, it was thereafter voided of its power for men. This He did that He might turn again to incorruption men who had turned back to corruption, and make them alive through death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of His resurrection. Thus He would make death to disappear from them as utterly as straw from fire.
I divide the causes of human laughter into Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy. You will see the first among friends and lovers reunited on the eve of a holiday. Among adults some pretext in the way of Jokes is usually provided, but the facility with which the smallest witticisms produce laughter at such a time shows that they are not the real cause. What that real cause is we do not know. Something like it is expressed in much of that detestable art which the humans call Music, and something like it occurs in Heaven—a meaningless acceleration in the rhythm of celestial experience, quite opaque to us. Laughter of this kind does us no good and should always be discouraged. Besides, the phenomenon is of itself disgusting and a direct insult to the realism, dignity, and austerity of Hell.
Fun is closely related to Joy—a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct. It is very little use to us. It can sometimes be used, of course, to divert humans from something else which the Enemy would like them to be feeling or doing: but in itself it has wholly undesirable tendencies; it promotes charity, courage, contentment, and many other evils.
CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
My family and I had a great time on our vacation. Gen Con was grand as it always is, and, as the picture at the top of the post indicates, I made a new friend! (I am the one who is not green.)
During vacations I attempt to studiously ignore the news, forget about the Law, and focus in on my family and fun. I find that a bit difficult to do, as I always take a great deal of interest in the noteworthy events of the day, and my legal practice tends to be fairly consuming of my time during non-vacation periods. Fortunately my family I also find fascinating, and after a day or two I am in full vacation mode and everything but my family fades into the distance for a time.
Alas, vacations always end. When I go back to my office on Monday, I know that I will have many messages to return, and a full schedule of appointments and court appearances to deal with. Back home with the internet, I will spend at least an hour each day getting up to speed with current events, and writing my blog posts, and my life proceeds in its familiar non-vacation manner.
It would be easy for me to think that the vacation was a temporary illusion and the way I normally spend my life the reality, but this is incorrect. God gives us this life as an entirety and it is not for us to divide it. Our different activities each year and each day are merely facets of the time on this planet we have as a free-will gift from our Creator. What we do with the time, good and bad, is up to us, but no portion is less our reality than any other portion. It is our task to enfuse everything we do with love of God and love of our neighbor.
At the risk of being all-books-all-the-time around here, (and really, if one is going to run risks, that’s not a bad one to run, is it?) I can’t this. I’ve been working through a lot of analysis at work lately, which involves long periods of sitting at my desk alone wrestling with Excel and Access, and to help stay on task I’ve been listening to John Cleese reading C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters. It’s probably been ten years since I read Screwtape, and I’d forgotten how quotable it is.
These two sections particularly struck me. The first about the tactic of getting the temptee to focus on loving those he doesn’t actually know, while disliking those he actually interacts with on a daily basis.
[from Screwtape Letter #6]
As regards his more general attitude to the war, you must not rely too much on those feelings of hatred which the humans are so fond of discussing in Christian or anti-Christian periodicals. In his anguish, the patient can of course be encourage to revenge himself by some vindictive feelings directed towards the German leaders, and that is good so far as it goes, but it is usually a sort of melodramatic or mythical hatred directed against imaginary scapegoats. He’s never met in real life. They are lay figures modeled on what he gets from the newspapers. The results of such fanciful hatred are often most disappointing. And of all humans, the English are, in this respect, the most deplorable milksops. They are creatures of that miserable sort who loudly proclaim that torture is too good for their enemies and then give tea and cigarettes to the first wounded German pilot who turns up at the back door. Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence as well as some malice in your patient’s soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbors whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remove circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real, and the benevolence large imaginary.
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One of my favorite actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood is Claude Rains. Throughout his career he brought vibrant intelligence and a world weary cynicism to his roles. From his screen personae, it might be assumed that Rains was an English aristocrat educated at elite English “public” schools. Actually he was London Cockney, and had a very pronounced Cockney accent and a speech impediment as he was growing up. He served gallantly in World War I in the Royal Army in the London Scottish Regiment, rising from private to captain, and being blinded in one eye as a result of a gas attack.
He quickly achieved post war success in England as an actor. He began acting in American films and became an American citizen in 1939. His first big hit was the title role in The Invisible Man in 1933. He went on to achieve stardom with unforgettable roles, such as Prince John in Robin Hood (1938), Senator Joseph Paine in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and, doubtless the role he is most known for, Captain Renault in Casablanca (1942):
In 1946 Rains appeared in probably the most unusual role in his career as Satan in Angel On My Shoulder. The plot involves Satan’s attempt to use a deceased gangster, Eddie Kagle, played by Paul Muni, to discredit a living judge the gangster resembles. The film is filled with bon mots by Rains, including him asking “What in my domain is that?” in reference to a ruckus caused by Eddie Kagle after he arrives in Hell. The film has a rather profound sequence where Satan, or “Nick” as he is referred to in the film, expresses his exasperation with God for taking such concern over mortals. He cannot understand why he loves them. I suspect that is the case with the real Devil, and that the love of God is a complete mystery to him. As CS Lewis noted in his The Screwtape Letters: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today. Inscription on the memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Division at Kohima.
We have made men proud of most vices, but not of cowardice. Whenever we have almost succeeded in doing so, God permits a war or an earthquake or some other calamity, and at once courage becomes so obviously lovely and important even in human eyes that all our work is undone, and there is still at least one vice of which they feel genuine shame. CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters
Sometimes simple questions can help illuminate great truths. Why do we honor veterans?
Today is Veterans Day. Ironically, many veterans will be working today as the “holiday” is mostly one solely for government workers, and most veterans in the private sector will be on the job today. Veterans Day was originally Armistice Day and was observed to recall the ending of that conflict on November 11, 1918 and to honor the American veterans who served in it. After World War II, veterans of World War I, many of whom had sons who served in World War II, spearheaded a move to change the name to Veterans Day to honor all Veterans. Legislation changing the name of the holiday was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Eisenhower on May 26, 1954. All well and good, but why do we set this day aside to honor those who have served in the military?
One veteran of World War I, CS Lewis, perhaps can help us understand why we honor veterans. Lewis served on the Western Front as a Second Lieutenant in 1917-1918 until he was wounded on April 15, 1918. Lewis, the future Oxford Don, was an unlikely soldier and he wrote about his experiences in the War with humorous self-deprecation. However, he had immense respect for those he served with, especially the enlisted men under his command, for their good humor and courage under the most appalling circumstances. His war experiences had a vast impact on Lewis, as can be seen in his Screwtape letters, where Lewis writes about war. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Last week marked the arrival of the trailer for the third “Chronicles Of Narnia” movie, The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, and as everybody knows, C.S. Lewis news always comes in twos. It appears that Lewis’ religious allegory The Great Divorce is the latest of his work be slated for the big screen, according to Variety’s announcement that production studios Beloved Pictures and Mpower Pictures are joining forces to co-produce. Children’s author N.D. Wilson, known for the 100 Cupboards fantasy trilogy and his parodies of the Left Behind series, is attached to adapt the screenplay. With luck, the arrival of Mpower (The Stoning Of Soroya M.) will jump-start the project, and let it avoid the seemingly never-ending gestation plaguing the film adaptation of Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, which was announced back in 2006, scheduled for a 2008 release, and delayed until 2010. It’s seen little discernable progress since.
As my wife and I are expecting in November, we’ve started to consider where we’re going to baptize the baby. Most churches that we’ve seen want you to be a parishioner before they baptize you. This has brought up the question of what parish we really belong to. We’ve found that that’s not an easy question.
Over the weekend, Tito had a post that inquired about the existence of good parishes in Las Vegas for his family. Some of the things he looks for are an orthodox priest faithful to the Magisterium, a beautiful Church, and a liturgy that aspires to beauty and lacks some of the folksy elements of post-Vatican II as well as the more scandalous aspects of the “spirit of Vatican II” like liturgical dancers.
None of those desires are unreasonable. In fact, those things are the rights of the faithful.
Perusing the local used bookstore last weekend, I came across a copy of the Third Volume of the Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis. On the whole (or, rather, through the first hundred pages or so), they make an enjoyable light read, at least for Lewis fans. He is always readable and often insightful. Moreover, the letters offer an interesting window into life in mid-twentieth century England. It’s rather striking that six years after the end of the Second World War, common items like envelopes and certain foods were still either rationed or unavailable (many of the letters are expressions of thanks to sympathetic American friends who have sent Lewis one package or another). Here, in no particular order, are a few passages I found either amusing or interesting:
Writing to a U.S. Friend About the Korean War
“Seriously, though, we all sympathize with you in the position into which you have been forced; it’s all very well to call it a UNO war, but so far as I can gather, it is a USA war. Have you noticed the French contribution? One gunboat!”
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose….
When I was growing up in the late Sixties and early Seventies the number one sex symbol going away was the actress Raquel Welch. What little I had heard of her opinions seemed to be those of a conventional Hollywood liberal. Therefore I was shocked by this column she wrote for CNN on the anniversary of the invention of the birth control pill:
Margaret Sanger opened the first American family-planning clinic in 1916, and nothing would be the same again. Since then the growing proliferation of birth control methods has had an awesome effect on both sexes and led to a sea change in moral values.
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The cowards at Comedy Central who censored South Park after receiving death threats from Jihadists, as I detailed here and here, now show their “courage” by announcing a new show mocking Christ. My friend Jay Anderson at Pro Ecclesia gives us the details:
“Fresh off of heavily editing a depiction of Mohammad in “South Park” following threats from practitioners of the “Religion of Peace”, the “edgy” comedy network, Comedy Central, shows its artistic “courage” in announcing a new series blaspheming Jesus Christ:
Comedy Central might censor every image of the Prophet Muhammad on “South Park,” yet the network is developing a whole animated series around Jesus Christ.
In the face of an ever-emerging “culture of death,” the ancient truth that death is a mystery and not a “problem” is needed more than ever. To designate death as a problem implicitly suggests a need for a remedy, which underlines the modern assumption of possession of the resources necessary to exercise technical mastery over the “problem”—in this case, death. The predominance of the technical solution over the respectful awe rightly due in the face of something greater than us puts mankind in quite a predicament.
The Church, as Pope John Paul II attentively reminded us in Redemptor Hominis, is the guardian of transcendence. This image of the Church is particular fitting in dealing with complex ethical questions of life and death. In recent times, the very mystery of death—real death—has been debated extensively as it relates to the theory of “brain death,” which is effectively interrelated to ethical questions regarding organ donation.
Catholics see death in the light of divine revelation. Death, the fruit of original sin, now exists as the means by which we participate in the Passover of Our Lord, passing from death into new life. Death is not the end of our human existence; to say otherwise would be an embrace of the fallacious pagan trap of modern philosophical thought overflowing with agnostic existential anxiety over this very unsettling question.
Hattip to Patterico’s Pontifications. Worse Than Murder, Inc, aka Planned Parenthood, has written a guide entitled Healthy, Happy and Hot. It is subtitled a Young Persons Guide to Their Rights, Sexuality and Living With HIV.
This pamphlet is truly based upon irony in that if there is one organization more dedicated to promoting sexual promiscuity other than Worse Than Murder, Inc, I am unaware of it. From passing out contraceptives to kids without parental consent, to promoting the idea that sex is the be all and end all of life, to killing the inevitable offspring that result from sexual activity between men and women, Planned Parenthood has done everything possible to promote a cultural atmosphere in which sexually transmitted diseases can run rampant.
So a teenager who has followed the advice of Worse Than Murder Inc and has HIV now is supposed to look to them for guidance? I honestly sometimes think that Satan has a deep streak of the dark comedian about him.
Well, what sort of advice does Planned Parenthood dispense to their victims who have a fatal illness? On page one the pamphlet stresses that people with HIV have a right to express and enjoy their sexuality. But of course! For Worse Than Murder, Inc, life boils down to: “I fornicate therefore I am.”
In regard to disclosing the fact that a person has HIV to someone they are having sex with, the pamphlet states:
Some countries have laws that say people
living with HIV must tell their sexual
partner(s) about their status before having
sex, even if they use condoms or only
engage in sexual activity with a low risk
of giving HIV to someone else. These laws
violate the rights of people living with HIV
by forcing them to disclose or face the
possibility of criminal charges.
What about the well-being of those people who might be infected by you or have been infected by you? Page 3 indicates that those people really have to take second place behind number one:
You know best if and when it is safe
for you to disclose your status.
There are many reasons that people
do not share their HIV status. They
may not want people to know they
are living with HIV because of
stigma and discrimination within
their community. They may worry
that people will find out something
else they have kept secret, like they
are using injecting drugs, having
sex outside of a marriage or having
sex with people of the same gender.
People in long-term relationships
who find out they are living with HIV
sometimes fear that their partner
will react violently or end the
Sharing your HIV status is called
disclosure. Your decision about whether to
disclose may change with different people
and situations. You have the right to
decide if, when, and how to disclose your