According to Three Fingers of Politics, you have to have been “living under a rock” not to know who Mila Kunis is. I had actually never heard of her until I read an article at Pajamas Media about her by my friend and former editor, Dave Swindle. The fact that Kunis is a very well-known movie actress who makes this claim about promiscuity and communism — in one breath, no less — is enough to get this Catholic’s attention:
GQ: Your new movie is called Friends with Benefits. Ever been in one of those relationships?
Mila Kunis: Oy. I haven’t, but I can give you my stance on it: It’s like communism—good in theory, in execution it fails. Friends of mine have done it, and it never ends well. Why do people put themselves through that torture?
It’s certainly refreshing to hear someone of notable fame expressing good judgment in regard to what we Catholics (and many others alongside us) recognize as two great evils: communism and promiscuity.
Swindle, who is himself a member of Generation Y, writes:
Don’t expect the trend of a rebellious youth culture to continue indefinitely.
That is certainly good news, if he is right. Still, he makes the argument from a perspective that is based on reason alone. I don’t think Swindle holds exclusively to the “reason only” philosophy, but since he uses reason only in his argument, I’d like to address that.
Swindle makes the point that it’s not conducive to self-preservation for one to be “sticking one’s privates in a blender“. Is this what Kunis was referring to when she said “torture”? I’m not sure. Maybe she was talking about the torture of hell. Would it be too presumptuous of me to suggest that? I have to ask because I don’t know anything else about her. Whatever her intention may be, those who base arguments on reason alone do have an easier time convincing people of their arguments than we Catholics do, I suppose, as we have to argue for “moral reasoning”, not just “reasoning”. Making the argument against promiscuity based on health consequences, or perhaps even sociological arguments regarding the practical benefits of bonding, is something we Catholics are charged with, too, but we are charged with the further burden of explaining the moral dimension that is bound to reason. Unfortunately, that part scares some people away…and always has.
Consider this history lesson from Fides et Ratio:
With the rise of the first universities, theology came more directly into contact with other forms of learning and scientific research. Although they insisted upon the organic link between theology and philosophy, Saint Albert the Great and Saint Thomas were the first to recognize the autonomy which philosophy and the sciences needed if they were to perform well in their respective fields of research. From the late Medieval period onwards, however, the legitimate distinction between the two forms of learning became more and more a fateful separation. As a result of the exaggerated rationalism of certain thinkers, positions grew more radical and there emerged eventually a philosophy which was separate from and absolutely independent of the contents of faith. Another of the many consequences of this separation was an ever deeper mistrust with regard to reason itself. In a spirit both sceptical and agnostic, some began to voice a general mistrust, which led some to focus more on faith and others to deny its rationality altogether.
In short, what for Patristic and Medieval thought was in both theory and practice a profound unity, producing knowledge capable of reaching the highest forms of speculation, was destroyed by systems which espoused the cause of rational knowledge sundered from faith and meant to take the place of faith.
Man’s own propensity toward self-interest (e.g., avoiding promiscuous behavior to preserve bodily integrity) works against him, in the end, because mistrust of religion becomes inherent in the way he observes facts. Reason inevitably becomes less important to him than self-interest. An example of this is Planned Parenthood’s rejection of science to promote an abortion agenda, something they would themselves have characterized as unthinkable a few decades ago.
I happen to know that Swindle believes, as we Catholics do, that man has a fallen nature, but I’m not sure he defines “fallen nature” the way we Catholics do.
Human nature since the fall of Adam. It is a nature that lacks the right balance it had originally. It is a wounded but not perverted nature. Since the fall, man has a built-in bias away from what is morally good and toward what is wrong. He is weakened in his ability to know the truth and to want the truly good. With the help of grace, however, he can overcome these natural tendencies and become sanctified in the process.
Let’s take a look at the particular subject: bad health consequences due to promiscuity. Certainly, even animals which possess perishable souls and no moral reasoning will avoid things that they believe are dangerous to their health and safety. Often, too, animals have long-term mates with whom they form a bond. But animals do, overall, engage in rampant “promiscuity” while not suffering from disease as a result. Imagine that. God has, by and large, reserved these consequences (“tortures”) first and foremost for humanity. Faith tells us “why”. Science may only tell us “how”.
Back to the “living under a rock” point. Personally and subjectively, I tend to think that “living under a rock” would be an appropriate term for those who actually know who people like Mila Kunis are…but then, I’m with the Catholic Church on the dignity of the human person…not Hollywood. Perhaps it’s understandable that Hollywood seems like a place “under a rock” to me. A dark and lifeless place. “Glitter” is not “life“. I take no offense at the suggestion, however, that I live “under a rock” because I didn’t know of this woman until she said something notably moral.
Fortunately, I know that Swindle knows that I love him, respect him and appreciate him. We are friends, so he won’t take our difference of perspective on “why Kunis’ comments are good” as a personal slam. In fact, we both agree they’re good for the same reason…but mine has a moral dimension, too. An important point, though, is that we both know and understand her remarks to be a good thing. I find comfort in knowing that Swindle and I (and perhaps Kunis?) will almost certainly vote for the same person in the general presidential election because we are both disgusted by the socialist philosophy, as well as any government policies that would directly promote promiscuity, not to mention any number of other ills in government that we both believe to be pulling our country into an abyss, economically and otherwise.
Isn’t that comforting? It is comforting to me.
On second thought, there is one troubling point he makes about Generation Y, on page 2:
And yes, after multiple generations that exploded the divorce rate in this country, you’ve got plenty of young people who are taking the institution of marriage a bit more seriously. (But don’t expect this to necessarily translate to being against gay marriage.)
Maybe Generation Y should look to the animal world for guidance on that one?
At least, here’s hoping that all of us who are generally opposed to the pro-promiscuity Left, socialism, etc., will eventually vote for the same person. I think we will…but then, there’s always a write-in option if the Republican supports gay marriage.
Today is the anniversary of what might be John Paul II’s most important encyclical, Fides et ratio. Although I have not the time to give it a full treatment, if you have not read it I strongly urge you to do so as soon as possible. Catholicism’s eager embrace of reason & philosophy not only sets it apart from most other religions but also positions it to best respond to the philosophical failures that are hurting the modern world. If the modern world is to find some redemption, it will be because these words are heeded:
Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves
One of my favorite living historians is Victor Davis Hanson. I have read every book he has written and most of his articles. Trained as a classicist and historian of antiquity, he has written on a broad range of topics, from the hoplites of ancient Greece, ancient Greek agriculture, a searching examination of the Peloponnesian War, the farming crisis of the 80’s, the history of warfare and culture, the teaching of the classics and the debacle of our non-policy on immigration, and I have been astonished at how skillfully this man writes and with what intelligence, and very dry humor, he cuts to the essence of whatever subject he addresses. He moonlights as a pundit on current events and in that capacity I have found a recent column of his intriguing on the question of just why the Obama administration is hellbent on compiling such huge annual deficits. Here is a portion of the column:
We are going to pile up another $3 trillion in national debt in just the first two years of the Obama administration. If the annual deficit should sink below $1.5 trillion, it will be called fiscal sobriety.
Why, when we owe $12 trillion, would the Obama administration set out budgets that will ensure our collective debt climbs to $20 trillion? Why are we borrowing more money, when Medicare, Social Security, the Postal Service, Amtrak, etc. are all insolvent as it is?
What is the logic behind something so clearly unhinged?
I present seven alternative reasons — some overlapping — why the present government is hell-bent on doubling the national debt in eight years. Either one, or all, or some, or none, of the below explain Obama’s peculiar frenzied spending.
1) Absolutely moral and necessary?
The country is in need of massive more entitlements for our destitute and near to poor. Government is not big, but indeed too small to meet its moral obligations. Deficits are merely record-keeping. Throwing trillions into the economy will also help us all recover, by getting us moving again and inflating the currency. And we can pay the interest easily over the next 50 years. Just think another World War II era — all the time.
So big spending and borrowing are genuine efforts of true believers to make us safe, secure, and happy.
2) “Gorge the beast”
The spending per se is not so important, as the idea of deficits in general will ensure higher taxes. Nationalized health care, cap and trade, new initiatives in education, more stimulus — all that and more is less important than the fact that huge defects will require huge new taxes, primarily from the upper-classes. I see no reason why the total bite from state income, federal income, payroll, and health care taxes cannot soon in theory climb to 70% of some incomes (e.g., 10% state, 15.3% FICA, 40% federal, 3-5% health care). In other words, “redistributive change” is the primary goal. This aim is premised on the notion that income is a construct, if not unfairly calibrated, then at least capriciously determined — requiring the more intelligent in the technocracy to even out things and ensure an equality of result. After all, why should the leisured hedge-funder make all that more after taxes than the more noble waitress?
So big spending and borrowing mean big deficits, and that means taxing the greedy and giving their ill-gotten gains to the needy.
3) Big Brother?
Or does rampant borrowing for government spending reflect our despair over the inability of millions to know what is best for themselves? For democracy to work, all of us must fully participate. But because of endemic racism, sexism, class bias, and historical prejudices, millions of Americans do not have access to adequate education and enlightenment. Therefore, a particular technocratic class, with requisite skill and singular humanity, has taken it upon themselves to ensure everyone gets a fair shake — if only government at last has the adequate resources to fix things. If it proves problematic for one to register and vote, then there will be a program to make 100% participation possible. If some of us are too heavy and too chair-bound, we can be taught what and how to eat. If some of us do not study, we can adjust academic standards accordingly. In one does something unwise, like buying a plasma TV rather than a catastrophic health care plan, then we still can ensure he is covered. In other words, an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-moral guardian class requires resources to finish the promise of participatory America. After all, why would we allow the concrete contractor to “keep” 70% of his income only to blow it on worthless things like jet skis or a Hummer in his garage or a fountain in his yard — when a far wiser, more ethical someone like Van Jones could far more logically put that now wasted capital to use for the betterment of the far more needy?
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Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco addressed on January 13, 2010 a free will defense of abortion by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House:
In a recent interview with Eleanor Clift in Newsweek magazine (Dec. 21, 2009), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked about her disagreements with the United States Catholic bishops concerning Church teaching. Speaker Pelosi replied, in part: “I practically mourn this difference of opinion because I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that we are all endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And that women should have the opportunity to exercise their free will.”
Embodied in that statement are some fundamental misconceptions about Catholic teaching on human freedom. These misconceptions are widespread both within the Catholic community and beyond. For this reason I believe it is important for me as Archbishop of San Francisco to make clear what the Catholic Church teaches about free will, conscience, and moral choice.
Catholic teaching on free will recognizes that God has given men and women the capacity to choose good or evil in their lives. The bishops at the Second Vatican Council declared that the human person, endowed with freedom, is “an outstanding manifestation of the divine image.” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 17) As the parable of the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov, makes so beautifully clear, God did not want humanity to be mere automatons, but to have the dignity of freedom, even recognizing that with that freedom comes the cost of many evil choices.
Since 2002 Ken Masugi, a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute and lecturer in Government at Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC, has conducted Advent interviews with James V. Schall, S.J., author of over thirty books on political theory and theology. Fr. Schall teaches in the Government Department of Georgetown University.
The interviews themselves are a delight to read and span a variety of topics from current events to the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI to issues in philosophy, theology and ethics — and sometimes, in addition, what books Fr. Schall himself is reading at that particular moment in time.
Michael McConnell, a Law Professor at Stanford, offers this in a First Things review of Philip Hamburger’s new book titled Law and Judicial Duty:
Hamburger traces the development of modern conceptions of the law to the realization, in Europe and especially Britain, that human reason rarely provided clear answers to moral questions and therefore that an attempt to ground law in divine will, or a search for abstract reason and justice, would inevitably lead to discord. As a result, “Europeans increasingly located the obligation of law in the authority of the lawmaker rather than the reason or justice of his laws.” The task of judges, then, was not to seek after elusive notions of justice and right reason but to enforce the law of the land. Natural law shifted in emphasis from moral content to legitimacy and authority, and increasingly to an understanding of authority based on the will of the people.
This seems to me a profound explanation of how and why we understand law today the way we do. It simultaneously shows you what is wrong with the modern conception of the law and what is right.
The Pandora’s box that President Obama has opened with the release of the torture memo’s has caused quite a stir in the Catholic blogosphere. Nonetheless the stealth Catholic, comedian Stephen Colbert, has geniusely made a humorous rendition of the logic floating around Washington on the torture controversy. Biretta tip to Mark Shea.
I’ve noticed some of the com-boxers talking about morality and obligation recently, and I think it deserves a closer look.
There are many atheists, agnostics, deists, pantheists, etc. who reject the idea of a God that creates moral standards, and then judges us according to those standards because to them the idea is simply reprehensible, incompatible with the moral wisdom humanity has supposedly attained since the Enlightenment.
Christopher Hitchens and others have compared God to Stalin and Hitler, a mad and petty dictator who demands complete and unconditional obedience and worship on pain of eternal suffering. Such a monstrous tyranny is incompatible with any sensible notion of good. Even if God did exist, one gets the idea that these folks would consider it the highest moral duty to follow in Satan’s footsteps and declare, “I shall not serve”.