Saturday, December 31, 2011

Chilling blasts from the past

In the last week, two cyber-brushes with my churchly past left me feeling anxious and claustrophobic.

One was in a comment exchange with a Catholic guy who participates in the Courage program, a 12-step model for keeping Catholic homosexuals celibate. As XCath readers know, I am pretty clear that the RC teaching on sex, once you accept its assumptions, is pretty clear and pretty consistent. I can sorta understand gays who continue in the Church and just quietly ignore their dissonance with this issue; after all being Catholic --as my continued interest shows-- often feels genetic. But the idea of choosing to sit in a room with other homos and accepting the judgment that our capacity for full-on connection with other men is disordered and then trying pathetically to refrain...it makes me feel as if all the air has suddenly gone out of the room. I know there a few high profile "same-sex attracted" Catholic bloggers who seem energetic and ok with themselves, but they would not be me. Thinking of the whole Courage thing really makes me feel as if someone turned out all the lights and is trying to strangle my soul to death.

The second moment was coming upon a newsletter about my old Dominican priory. Though I loved the Order in a lot of ways, I can't say that I always enjoyed living with all the other friars. Some of them, even then, I found hardly tolerable. (And they returned the favor, by the way). Hearing about their current carryings-on, and especially a very laudatory piece about one of the very strangest of them...again, that claustrophobic feeling.

Like some people, some things are best appreciated from a discrete distance.



Alas

it is January 31st and no one has yet wished me a Happy Kwanzaa.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Is it just because I'm a guy?

Scene in a movie where a girl is taking off on her boyfriend, yelling, calling him contemptuous names, gesticulating up close, shouting, taking everything he says in his defense and turning it into an insult, all the while following him around the room as he attempts to move away from her...and when she corners him and he finally explodes and pushes her, she acts as if some incomprehensible evil has appeared out of nowhere and he is An Abuser of Women.

What the hell did she expect?


Glass houses

A friend of mine loves to say, "People in glass houses gather no moss."

Don Cheadle --no favorite actor of mine-- will start in a TV drama, House of Lies, described thusly:
A subversive, scathing look at a self-loathing management consultant from a top-tier firm. Marty, a highly successful, cutthroat consultant is never above using any means (or anyone) necessary to get his clients the information they want.
Funny how people swallow the conceit of TV or movies showing "subversive" or "muckraking" ethical take-downs of amorality and greed. Last I heard, neither the TV corporations or the huge Hollywood corporations were paragons of Quaker righteousness. Nor are these noble actors working for peanuts. To say nothing of the media conglomerates who supposedly brave the risks of speaking truth to power. Capitalist corporations all, based on the pursuit of profit.

Nothing wrong with that. But the pretense. Gathers no moss.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas' bloody aftermath

Going by the Western liturgical calendar, after Christmas day we have a bunch of martyrs: Dec 26, St Stephen who died by stoning, Dec 28 The Holy Innocents killed by Herod's men, Dec 29 Thomas a Becket, killed by Henry II's men (a strange foreshadowing of Thomas More killed by Henry VIII's men). And in the old calendar, the Octave Day, January 1st, marked Jesus' own "first-blood", his circumcision.

Good will toward men indeed.

Am I a supremacist?

My first shrink pointed out that I have a somewhat counterphobic personality. I only wish it were moreso; I'd be a lot more accomplished and happy. But it partly manifests itself in my attraction to things that are forbidden. So there's a transgressive vibe to it, as well. Although I give the impression of solidity and stability, there is a quirky restlessness in me that has proved to be a commanding theme in my biography. I would not have signed on for it. It has caused me a lot of trouble. But there it is.

I first noticed it when I was a young monk and was trained to meditate in the Jesuit style of imaginative narrative, considering Biblical images or stories and retelling them to myself, imagining myself in them, then making affirmations, etc. Dreadful stuff. I found that with my perfectionist streak --and bubbling terror over my eventually triumphant homo-sexuality-- being in the mental company of the twice-born kept me in a rather permanent state of anxiety and vulnerable to social control cues from my religious environment.

Then, at Columbia University, I read Jung's evangelical pseudo-biography (written by his adoring secretary Aniela Jaffe), Memories, Dreams, Reflections and discovered The Shadow. I consciously embarked on a subversive strategy (very post-Moderne) of listening for my "bloody-minded" thoughts instead: anger, fear, desire, grief, etc. The good stuff. I eventually became less anxiously aware of my own dark side, but without moral judgment being compulsive. "When Brother So and So opens his mouth and gives his stupid opinions, I'd like to strangle him and pee on his corpse" kinda stuff. Rather than being horrified at my sinfulness, I tried to remain curious. "Hmm. Interesting. How...human." Such a stance has helped to make me a decent therapist. My patients are almost always more terrified of their savage selves than I am. There are few outrages I cannot or have not imagined myself performing.

Most people don't think as much as react, in complexes. I certainly am driven by my own, both the known and the unknown, but I try to carve out a little bit of consciousness now and again. Although I sometimes wonder if what I think is consciousness is just a smarter complex that has duped me into believing I have gained some distance from it.

Anyhoo. So when someone, repeating the command of Jehovah not to eat of that one tree over there --and we know how that first attempt at crowd control turned out--, tells me I cannot think about or consider a point of view, I immediately become curious about it.

White supremacy. Well, what can be worse than that? The old reductio ad Hitlerum or, in a US context, ad Bull Connor and the Klan. For most people it is literally un-thinkable.

Some of my closest relationships are with "people of color". Black and Asian. Maybe one sorta Hispanic. Wonderful people whom I love or like. Jews, even! But this is not about individuals.

The truth is, I don't want to live in a world run by or dominated by their ethnic groups. I am perfectly content to live in a society with people of more than one race, ethnicity, religion, etc. That's all I've ever known. But I want my group to be in charge. If I had to choose, or could, I'd like to make sure that straight* White men of generally Christian backgrounds dominated the world I live in. Doesn't mean other folks --including homos-- could not live and be happy there. (Apparently, given our immigration patterns, they agree with me.) Just that they would not be in charge.

(I don't even want to live in a world without liberals! I just don't want them in charge.)

With few exceptions, for example, places dominated by Blacks are not places anyone else wants to be. Including a lot of Blacks. Hispanic countries, again with a few exceptions, seem to be in constant states of unrest and conflict. Asian countries can be very good at creating prosperity and stability, but not so great for liberty. The impact of voting women has, over the long term, only helped the Nanny state become even more of a suffocating Mommy, including culturally: would our current Western obsession with health and safety, and its accompanying stifle of regulation, be likely without the support of women? I remain of the opinion that places created and dominated by straight White men --for all their faults and exceptions-- are by comparison with the rest of the world, the best places for prosperity AND stability AND freedom ---all three-- for people of all kinds**.

Is that a "bloody-minded" thought? Does that make me a "white supremacist?"

*Straight I am not, of course, so I am not looking for absolute mirroring. And the performance of homos in groups is not, over the long haul, inspiring.

**Within limits, obviously. Every state has the right to regulate immigration based on its own best interests. It is not a "human right" live to wherever you want.

Two thoughts with coffee

First. In the liberal mind, poverty is always the result of injustice. Those who have less have less only because those who have more --usually only non-Democrats-- have more. It is an astonishing idea. But it always makes "poverty" an issue of class struggle. And it pathologizes success (for non-Democrats).

In a "just world", a utopian fantasy which liberals refer to shockingly often --and I include anocranial Catholic "social justice*" doctrine-- there would be no poverty. On another planet and among another species. Angels, maybe?

But then, as anyone knows who cares to investigate, "poverty" is an utterly elastic word, far more useful as a rhetorical device than as a description of condition.

Second, one of the most overweening and symbolically tyrannical acts of the American government is the Americans With Disabilities Act.For a tiny minority of the population, the Federal government has required massive spending by private concerns and on private property. It was preceded by the Civil Rights Act and all the subsequent anti-discrimination laws, the jaw-dropping overreach of Kelo, and its progeny continues with Obamacare Individual Mandate.

*I like smart-mouthed Kathy Shaidle's definition of social justice as "the stubborn application of unworkable solutions to imaginary problems."


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Light and structure

Beautifully simple and dignified, no? Classical New England.


First Congregational Church, Bennington, Vermont

Ironically, this reminds me of my old liturgy professor, the leonine Orthodox priest Alexander Schmemann. Sometimes, he said, he longed for the simplicity of Protestantism, with its sheer white imageless walls and clear glass, its stark and powerful central pulpit, preacher in black gown, and orderly clean congregations listening to The Word of John Calvin's God.  But then, he would say, he knew that before long, he would grow "homesick for the flesh-pots* of Orthodoxy, the extravagance, the scheming, the feuds, the obsessions."

*Exodus 16.3

PS. I later came across this reconstruction of that paragon of Orthodox churches, Haghia Sophia in Constantinople and found this image of its central pulpit. Remove the pillars and circular architrave and it is strikingly like Bennington's.




I have nothing to add

except to note that the Mr. McCree of the story has a page on my blog and it is by far the most popular.

PS. I lied. I do have something to add. Whatever happened to LGBT solidarity? The transgendered contingent is supposed to be supported with unwavering solidarity, but some homo guy also likes a woman and he's a traitor? LGBT, the sexual Yugoslavia, and just as stable.

Elementary Watson


Never was a fan of Jude Law. When he was young, there was something dissolute and Dorian Grayish about him. He did nothing for me. But in the two Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes films, I quite like him. Interesting vibe between Sherlock and Watson in these films, a homosocial passion and friendship. A lot of the energy of the plots comes from Sherlock's jealousy about Watson's fiance. And they are fare more equal, this classic pairing of hero and sidekick. As with Leonardo di Caprio, Law is older and grown up and projects some gravitas. The 'stache, stubble and sideburns don't hurt, either. Plus, I do have a thing for the way men dressed in late Victorian and Edwardian times: the coat, vest and cap thing...Anyway, this Dr. Watson is pretty good.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

One of the things I like

about my friend Bill --he's the guy with the male wolfdog named Molly, not "B"-- is that he is so full of contradictions that he makes mine seem congruent.

He's the "Christian nihilist" who is both tenderhearted, passionately (overly so IMHO) concerned about the suffering of innocents, but convinced that the world is without meaning. He weeps over "O Holy Night" and lavishes care on his friends --me included--, but thinks God is guilty of moral monstrosity and that the human race is worth less than a dog. He is a big fan of Jesus --well, of a Jeffersonian cut-out version of Jesus the moralist-- but has no use for Jesus' Father...who, of course, was Jesus' great obsessive love.

By comparison, my few odd combinations of, shall we say, paradox appear like sweet reasonableness.

If "consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds", then his and mine are large minds indeed.


Speaking of B, we've had some very convivial times over these holidays. A most likeable fella. Life is passing strange.

One of many

left-loving hypocrites. This one in a collar. (But CofE, so who's surprised?)

And this one in a dress. Maybe she and the oft-vacationing Michelle Antoinette can meet for drinks and a healthy lunch.

Dear God






Ancient images

Christmas, especially as I grow older, is made inevitably of memories.


Although this shot is from 1910 or so, when my family moved to this parish, St Boniface, Elmont, after the War, it looked exactly the same: convent, church, rectory.



And this image of the sanctuary, also from early last century, is very much as I remember it. The carved Gothic altar and reredos rising up like some divine castle. All the painted statues: the Sacred Heart, the Virgin Mother, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, St. Marie Cabrini, the Infant of Prague, St Joseph, St Anthony of Padua...and later, a large smooth Pieta right by the communion rail. Increasing wealth, by my time, had paid for a ceiling mural: bishop St Boniface, with an ax in his hand, standing on the felled sacred oak of the Norse god Thor. Like so many things from childhood, it seemed far larger and more grand than it now appears to have been.

I was an altar boy here and learned the old Latin Mass, choreography, music and responses. I was in the fourth grade, probably 8 or 9. Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus tuis...and the complex case ending changes in the Confiteor: ...beatae Marie semper Virgini, beato Michaeli archangelo, beato Ioanni Baptistae, sanctis Apostolis Petro et Paulo, then with a change of verb, beatam Mariam semper Virginem, beatum Michaelem archangelum, beatum Ioannem Baptistam, sanctos Apostolos Petrum et Paulum...I remember the smell of the sweet red wine and the incense and the beeswax of the candles, the creak of the priest's shoes on the altar steps, the muttered sacred words, the complex gestures of hand and head...Masses read low and sung solemn high, funerals, weddings, Benediction.

In the old Mass, the priest usually consecrated just one host, the large one that he would consume. For the communion of the faithful, he would open the tabernacle. That was something, if you were up close. It was covered with an embroidered silk veil, like the Holy of  Holies in the Jerusalem Temple, and with carved bronze double doors with a key, and when it opened, there was a second veil, all white, and the insides were bright burnished bronze. There were kept the ciboria, the "vessels for food", plated with gold and holding the impossibly light and white communion wafers, already consecrated. When I was a kid, I used to think that they were created ex nihilo by God inside the tabernacle like manna and that the priest would reach in to retrieve them for us. It was a magical world. And it was absolutely real to me.

It was in that church one muggy Sunday that, because of an overflow crowd, I had to sit upstairs in the choir loft and found myself in the midst of them singing Mozart's Ave Verum.  I thought my heart would leap out of my body. I never forgot that feeling.




PS.  The old church was torn down and replaced with round brick structure that looks like a space ship. My old neighborhood is mostly Black now, and the parish is dominated by Latinos and Haitians. And a half mile down the street, alas, a mosque.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Duh

The local parish church in the Castro, Most Holy Redeemer, is for grays and gays, lots of homosexuals and the remaining local old folks* celebrating "God's inclusive love". A rave review on Yelp enthused:
 Finally! After a year and a half of (admittedly half-hearted) combing through the city to find catholic services that touch my soul, I found it at Most Holy Redeemer Church this past Sunday.

The music inspired me, with two notable solos, one by a heavily tattooed man who sang Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah**." The whole congregation joins the choir  with gusto, and the result is uplifting.

 

Amazingly, a succession of local bishops (including one who is now cardinal and Papa Ratzinger's successor as head of the Holy Office) have mostly let the place be. But once in a while the boyz overstep the line and get smacked. And then whine, as if shocked and surprised. But it seems to have the quality of a well-practiced dance.

They used to have the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a thoroughly and offensively anti-Christian group of cross-dressing adolescent drama queens, run a bingo game in their basement. One of them even got the surprised bishop to give him/her communion. Then that was over. And they recently invited three prominent Protestant gay clergy to speak at their Advent Vespers series. The bishop said no. Big surprise. One of them felt "disrespected."

I suppose that it is really a judgment of prudence, but one that seems stunningly obvious to me, that the Catholic Church cannot and therefore will not say OK to same-sexuality. As I have said before, if you make that kind of exception to the Natural Law Sexual Axiom, then the whole edifice of its sexual ethics comes tumbling down. How likely is that? Especially given the repercussions in relations with the Eastern Christian world --which Western liberals don't even think about but which Rome thinks about a lot-- and its effect in the Third World, where those patriarchal cultures have no sympathy for fagginess, and on mission work in competition with Muslims, who could then proclaim that the Catholics are in favor of ass-fucking. Both on the level of theological theory and ecclesiastical survival, "Gay is OK" is a non-starter.



The Catholics are also not gonna ordain females to the priesthood. Or have the Pope elected by lay people. Or open up the Latin rite priesthood to married guys. The groovy days of "the spirit of the Council" are gone. At least in the real world.

Aside from their, to me, pointless posturing about this dead-end issue, they do a lot of good things, practical things. And the ringing of the bells is a nice traditional sound. I have not been inside the place for many years, although when I was waiting for my liturgist friend B from Canada after services several weeks ago, you could hear the music on the street and it sounded very good. They are that Catholic rarity, a congregation who actually sings. Maybe they think of the music of the Mass as a set of show tunes.

_______________

*I was tempted to make a crack about it being a congregation of old women of all ages and genders, but since this is Christmas, I paraleptically forbore.

**I received an Italian Christmas e-card with the chorus from this song as its background. As the culturally-alert sender noted, the lyrics seem otherwise distinctly unXmasish.

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It’s not a cry you can hear at night
It’s not somebody who has seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Good King Wenceslaus

looked down, on the feast of Stephen.

St. Stephen, that is, deacon and the first Christian martyr, whose feast is the day after Christmas. He died by stoning. St Paul --before his conversion and change of name from Saul-- watched the clothes of the stoners. The story here.




When someone threatens to burn a Quran, the world is in an uproar. But when Muslims in Pakistan --and elsewhere--burn Christians...not so much

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The old religion


A tableaux vivant of the Nativity in SF's Italian North Beach section last night. Artfully fuzzy foto credit to RCI.

Peregrinus expectavi

 ...pedes meos in cymbalis.

Blond extra-terrestrial Sally Solomon on 3rd Rock From The Sun (great comedy show) shares her disappointment at the darker side of experiencing Christmas* on Planet Earth:
Humans! How can they take something like shopping, something so pure and natural and good, and turn it into something so ugly?
In what seems to be turning into an annual event, our resident peasant underclass in action. Aside from being grossly overweight, our homegrown barbarians can afford $200 sneakers. America. Ya gotta love it.

* The series is from 1997 and so it was still acceptable to celebrate Christmas...

A Christmas miracle

A Catholic professor of "social doctrine" who, briefly, does not sound like an anocranial moron:


ZENIT: In your book you describe a certain antagonism between "multiculturalism" and "political correctness" that may seem counterintuitive. What is going on in these cultural trends?

Father Williams: Though the worldview underlying both multiculturalism and political correctness may be basically the same -- a postmodern form of secular humanism -- the trends themselves express an age-old problem regarding unity and diversity.

Multiculturalism, along with its sisters "pluralism" and the "celebration of diversity," is a centrifugal movement away from uniformity and toward the greatest possible diversity, often for its own sake. Cultural differences are valued just because they are different, and people are encouraged to accept and embrace these differences in an open and nonjudgmental way. One lifestyle is considered as good as any other, and to think otherwise is "intolerant."

On the other hand, we can also observe the contrary trend, that of political correctness, which exerts a centripetal pressure toward uniformity of speech and values, and seeks to limit the actions of those who think differently. Here certain standards are held to be universally binding, and those who step outside these bounds are held accountable.

An exaggerated emphasis on diversity easily falls into moral and cultural relativism, where right and wrong lose their meaning and any action or belief is considered equally good and valid. An exaggerated stress on unity yields the opposite problem: a cultural dictatorship where citizens are obliged to walk in lockstep with the reigning set of social mores, whether they embrace them or not.
In the end, for all of us the important question becomes: Where should we necessarily be united as a society and where should we allow for, and even encourage, diversity? This is particularly significant in organizing our modern western democracies, since at some point we must define what is non-negotiable for the survival and flourishing of our society, and what should be left to the free exercise and decision of individuals and groups.

He does point out the contradiction between the surface celebration of multicultural diversity and the underlying drive to uniformity of thought and speech. People of all races and colors thinking exactly the same programmed and approved thoughts. Cultural relativism winds up creating secular humanist dogmatism.

Friday, December 23, 2011

I saw Nunny kissing E--lvis.


HT to a Presley who is not Elvis  and not a nun for this story about Elvis and a nun.

I went to Mass there many years ago. They were going through a lot of strange fads then--driven, unsurprisingly (!), by their Jesuit chaplain--  but Rome eventually intervened and they seem to have calmed down and returned to being staid old Benedictine nuns, carrying on pretty much as the monasteries of St Benedict have for the last 1500 years. Except for kissing Elvis.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reading this almost ruined my afternoon

VDH continues to chronicle the demise of his California homeland at the hands of alien thugs and thieves, with the gelded government as an accomplice.
There is, of course, a vague code of silence about who is doing the stealing...In the vast majority of cases, rural central California is being vandalized by gangs of young Mexican nationals or Mexican-Americans — ... Everyone knows it; everyone keeps quiet about it...

Was it Toynbee who said that civilizations usually die by suicide?

Conviction

After reading one of the continuing melt-downs at PrayTell over the new English translation of the Mass, it dawned on me that the histrionic priest-commentor was someone who as much as admitted that, were it not for inertia, he'd be an Episcopalian. So the doctrinal differences between Rome and Canterbury, to say nothing of the dogmatic agnosticism of the US Episcopals, mean far less to him than the syntax of a prayer. As a local friend recently said, "inane content, but excellent style."

Multiculturalism explained


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Liberal ghosts

Thanks to Kathy Shaidle, whose ill humor makes me seem like Will Rodgers, I ran across an article about the problems facing Canadian educators in dealing with a new crop of immigrants: Gypsies. It is now PC to call them "the Roma people", but they're Gypsies. The article is written in excruciatingly PC style and content. And it is bullshit.

Are there any indications that the Gypsy/Roma are much different today than they were fifty or a hundred years ago? No sedentary civilization has been able to assimilate them and their neighbors uniformly loathe them. All the hand-wringing and PC hectoring comes down to two things: a blind belief on the part of liberals that everyone is, at heart, like them and yet, that (certain select) people who are not like them must be properly assessed and placed in the victim/oppressor paradigm, accommodated, and alternately celebrated and sympathized with.


This twinned paradox is at the heart of liberalism's moral disarmament in the face of anyone it considers "underprivileged" : a combination of narcissism and self-hatred. As Burnham pointed out, the liberal faith allows people who are in the process of deteriorating to believe that they are doing it out of higher ethical motives.

One of the things I hated most about liberalism was its requirement that I deny what was in front of my face when it suited the agenda. On the one hand I was required to believe that "our schools were failing our (sic) African-American youth" when in fact it is their own cultural decay which makes many of them uneducable. However, no such blinders were required when assessing the various social pathologies of Redneck Whites, and no such sympathetic effluvium was forthcoming. Much to the contrary. Eventually I began to see that the liberal worldview was riddled with such lies and in the end that it was founded on them.

In the meantime, the Gypsies, as they always have, will waste civilized people's time and use up civilized people's treasure, some of which they will destroy or steal.

A note on language. I have said this before, but it bears repeating. One of the very successful means by which the cultural Marxists have continued their Gramscian march is by regulating our language and thereby regulating our thinking and feeling. When we are told by our elites that all our words for "the oppressed and marginalized" must be replaced by new and correct words, the implied and powerful meta-message is that everything in the Old Dispensation was wrong, mistaken, self-serving, insensitive, and evil. In essence, prior to the last 50 years or even less, the Western world was one vast factory of error, bigotry and oppression. The result is to make educated Westerners ashamed of their own culture and ripe for the lies of multiculturalism, feminism, and all the other interlocking diseases of the liberal project.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Camp of the Saints

If you thinking the Vatican city-state (pop. 800) doesn't have a problem with illegal immigration, you're right.

So I'm thinking that the Pope should share the burden --for the sake of the "justice and peace and the dignity of the human person" we hear so much about-- and we should have a coupla thousand illegals move into the Vatican and set up tents and portopotties and campfires in the gardens. Lotsa room back there.


Africans... and a lot of Muslims. And then make sure there are "adequate means for the redistribution of wealth" that His Holiness called for the other day.

What a shining example it would be.

Delectatio morosa.

Equivalication

Is there anything so mind-numbingly narcoleptically, robotically, predictable and boring, a complete waste of a good education, as a liberal Jesuit stuck in the 60's? Oh, right, an American nun of any order stuck in the 60's.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tiz a puzzlement

A documentary on gay bars in small towns in the South. The surrounding Bible Belt culture is not friendly, of course, making homo life claustrophobic and sometimes dangerous.  But damn, the drag queens. All over the place. Inescapeable.

Aside from the obvious problem, you know what strikes me about drag queens? Utter lack of originality, like some freakish verbal-visual loop of histrionics and sadism played over and over and over. You meet one, you met 'em all. Boring as shit.

Aliens in high places

The despicable Eric Holder's wallet tells us what is already evident in his actions, that he is indeed the Black Attorney General. Wasn't Reconstruction supposed to be over?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Free(k) market

From the San Francisco Chronicle's selection of past stories for the day.

1911

Dec. 20: Police Sergeant O'Keefe has been called on to crack some pretty hard chestnuts but none like that he faced yesterday when a young woman walked into the police bureau at the Ferry Building and abruptly inquired: "Where can I buy a baby?" The enquirer was Mrs. H.A. James, who explained that she thought she could not present her hubby with a more appropriate Christmas gift than a bouncing baby boy and she further declared she wanted to buy, borrow or adopt a little one with blue eyes. Mrs. James was directed to the San Francisco Nursery for Homeless Children and she departed eagerly to look over the waifs and select one to bring her husband Christmas joy.

I'll bet she got a baby more easily than you can get a dog now.

HT to faithful Quranicle reader B.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Running


Marathon is a film about poet laureate William Meredith and his partner Richard Harteis, also a poet, but almost three decades his junior. After seventeen years together, Meredith suffered a devastating stroke. With help from some friends and family, and opposition and interference from others, Harteis dedicated himself to the long and exhausting task of Meredith's rehabilitation and care. They continued together for another sixteen years --Meredith wrote again, gaining even wider recognition--until he died at age 88.






Poems are hard to read
Pictures are hard to see
Music is hard to hear
And people are hard to love

But whether from brute need
Or divine energy
At last mind eye and ear
And the great sloth heart will move.

I often say that it's rare to find characters in gay movies who are either likeable or worthy of respect. Meredith is an introvert, upbeat but shy. Harteis --who still writes--  is no saint, but worthy of great, great respect. The acting is not notable, nor is the direction nor the script, nor the music especially. But the moving story is about love and honor and fidelity. Going the distance. One with the other. Both with each other.

The two oaks lean apart for light.
They aren't as strong as lone oaks
but in a wind they give each other lee.

Daily since I cleared them I can see
them, tempting to chain saw and ax—
two hardwoods, leaning like that for light.

...bandaged comrades, lending each other lee.
...yoked in this yoke:
two men, leaning apart for light,
but in a wind who give each other lee.






Separated at birth


Clint Eastwood & Hugh Jackman

Great nooz!

Federal Judge: Enough With the Stupid Names
March 2, 2008 · 234 Comments

By Bill Matthews

After Judge Cabrera’s historic ruling, little Clitoria Jackson will likely undergo a name change.

(DETROIT) In a decision that's expected to send shockwaves through the African-American community, and yet, give much relief to teachers everywhere - a federal judge ruled today that black women no longer have independent naming rights for their children. Too many black children and many adults bear names that border on not even being words, he said.

"I am simply tired of these ridiculous names black women are giving their children," said U.S. Federal Judge Ryan Cabrera before rendering his decision. "Someone had to put a stop to it."

The rule applies to all black women, but Cabrera singled out impoverished mothers.

"They are the worst perpetrators" he said. "They put in apostrophes where none are needed. They think a 'Q' is a must. There was a time when Shaniqua and Tawanda were names you dreaded. Now, if you're a black girl, you hope you get a name as sensible as one of those.

Few stepped forward to defend black women—and black women themselves seemed relieved.

“It’s so hard to keep coming up with something unique,” said Uneeqqi Jenkins, 22, an African-American mother of seven who survives on public assistance. Her children are named Daryl, Q’Antity, Uhlleejsha, Cray-Ig, Fellisittee, Tay’Sh’awn and Day’Shawndra.

Beginning in one week, at least three white people must agree with the name before a black mother can name her child.

“Hopefully we can see a lot more black children with sensible names like Jake and Connor,” Cabrera said.

His ruling stemmed from a lawsuit brought by a 13-year-old girl whose mother created her name using Incan hieroglyphics.

“She said it would make me stand out,” said the girl, whose name can’t be reproduced by The Peoples News’ technology. “But it’s really just stupid.”

The National Association of Elementary School Teachers celebrated Cabrera’s decision.

“Oh my God, the first day of school you’d be standing there sweating, looking at the list of names wondering ‘How do I pronounce Q’J’Q’Sha.’?” said Joyce Harmon, NAEST spokeswoman. “Is this even English?”

The practice of giving black children outlandish names began in the 1960s, when blacks were getting in touch with their African roots, said historian Corlione Vest. But even he admits it got out of hand.

“I have a niece who’s six. I’m embarrassed to say I can’t even pronounce her name,” said Vest, a professor at Princeton University. “Whenever I want to talk to her, I just wait until she looks at me and then I wave her over.”

ROTFLMAO. Read a story about some kid named Marcos going to a year's in juvie for using a box cutter to slash the throat of Tyquane Parker-Greene, who bullied him. I googled "fake black names" and this story came up. One of the commentors expressed her outrage at this racist story. (In fact, qite a few of them failed utterly to see the satire for what it was....Diagnostic?) The following commentor wrote to her, "Here's your crown, Queen Stupid." I'm still laughing.

Who could say no to him?

"You want some money and the keys to the car? Sure. Here ya go."


From the ghetto to the ashram

The evils of globalization and modern technology:

A snarky aside

If the Catholic Church has decided that it cannot provide special Masses, etc. for homosexuals, lest it condone their immoral behavior, why does it provide them for massive numbers of criminals who are in continuing violation of the law?

Friday, December 16, 2011

VDH on illegal immigration

Something the traitorous American Catholic bishops and the legions of bleeding-heart nuns should read, even if they miss ExCathedra's POV.

I lived for many years --and became a citizen of-- a bilingual country, Canada. What an incredible waste of time, energy, effort and money on the whole French/English game. Were it not for the fact that doing so would split the Maritime Provinces from the rest of the country, it would have been better for everyone to let Quebec go.

I have noticed a trend --anecdotal impressions only-- that when liberal Americans despair of the homeland, as during the Bush years, their impulse is to leave. I supposed part of that is the large number of Western places that are more decayed, uh, I mean liberalized, than we are: nearby Canada or EuroDisneyland. Conservatives, on the other hand, tend either to look for places within America where they can be more left alone --Wyoming or Idaho-- or they imagine the break up of the country so that people who are essentially in a cold civil war can part ways and leave each other in peace.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

NYT solves Biblical mystery!

The authorship of the New Testament's Epistle to the Hebrews has long been a mystery.  Beyond the obvious fact, from its content, that it was written by a Hebrew, it was hard to attribute securely. Now the NYT has solved it. Who said the Grey Lady was doomed?

Buried within a biobituary piece we discover that Hebrews' oft-quoted phrase (referencing Abraham's mysterious visitors in Genesis 18) in 13.2

Continue to offer hospitality to strangers,
for thereby some have entertained angels unawares


was actually written by William Butler Yeats! Who knew that Yeats was a Jew? To say nothing of, a time traveller.


HT to GetReligion, which follows the Fourth Estate's constant and invincible ignorance about religion.

Russian iconographer Andrei Rublev's 15th century version of the Hospitality of Abraham,
allegorized by Christians into a revelation of the Holy Trinity.
I have a copy of it in my entrance hallway.

 While I'm at it. Two liberal religious memes that irk me: that Christianity "stole" the Old Testament from the Jews and that it is "anti-Semitic" to read the Old Testaments --or even to call it that-- as prefiguring Christ. Christianity began as an utterly Jewish project. The New Testament was written by Jews (with the possible exception of St Luke) . Hebrews is a classic example of one of them re-reading his Scriptures as a prefigurement. And as for the "stealing" part, I quote to this earlier post.

And while I'm at it, let me once more smack the highminded and uninformed who accuse Christianity of "appropriating" the Hebrew scriptures. The first Christians were all Jews and the Jewish scriptures were imposed, if you want to be adolescent about it, on the first Gentile converts.  Saint Paul's battle was to liberate Gentile converts from the burdens of accepting the whole Mosaic Law in order to accept Christ. They were all "Jews for Jesus." The first Church Council was about precisely this. That Council continued, in a way, Jesus' own freedom in re-interpreting a holy text while leaving the words on the sacred page. (Rabbi's are not untalented about this either!)

The only serious challenge to the Old-plus-New Testament Bible came from a second-century bishop, Marcion, who found the Jewish writings and their complicated God incompatible with his view of Jesus as purely good and benevolent. He not only rejected the whole Old Testament but reduced the New to St Paul's letters and a single Gospel, a shorter St Luke. It didn't fly.

But if Christianity had, like Islam, asserted its own holy book uniquely and rejected its predecessor, the world would be a quite different place
, I think, and Christianity a very very different religion. Alternative history speculation to follow at some other time.




Shots in the dawn

Some reactions to the morning's cybernews and bloggery:

Over at PrayTell, the whining and foot-stamping continues. Part of the shock amongst the liturgistas is that most Catholics adjust to the new lingo without a tantrum. Rather than seeing this as an indication that the PT folks have overreacted, they judge the PiP (People in the Pews) to be listless sheep, or victims so beaten down by evil patriarchal clergy that they lack any hope in their own power. God, it's silly. Some of the priests are going to the barricades and using the old translation and two regular commentors in particular continue to devolve. One is a woman named Sandi, whose only comments have ever been in the Che Guevara style, the so-called "prophetic" stance: full of bile and contempt and utterly unveiled wishes for death on the Catholic powers that be. The other is a pathetic ball-less male named Sean, who whines over and over: "It was the only Mass I have ever known and they took it from me. They took my Mass away from me." The owner of the blog is a Benedictine monk who has a big problem with the process of the translation as well as the outcome. Unfortunately, by letting voices like these remain unblocked, he let the whole thing come off as proof positive that Chicago Cardinal George was right back in 1997(!) that "liberal Catholicism is an exhausted project."

An award-winning American journalist-rabbi posted an editorial which feared that if Tim Tebow wins the Superbowl, the next things you'd see is hordes of evangelical Christians torching mosques, bashing gays and beating up immigrants. Some days, despite my counterbalancing instincts, my anti-Jewish nerve gets really provoked, making me think that Kevin MacDonald has a valid point. And it is precisely Jews like this who do it.  It's people like Rabbi Hammerman who create the very anti-Jewish emotion that they fear and then wonder why people hate them. Usually it's secular Jews like Chomsky or Zinn or Alinsky. In this case the arrogant, offensive moron is religious. (Unless he's a Reform rabbi, in which case that's up for discussion.)

GK Chesterton said that "America is a nation with the soul of a church." (Sorry, Rabbi, if that bothers you.) The politicians sound like preachers and the preachers like politicians. I thought of it yesterday when passing on the street a member of a group I do not like. An ethnic group. It dawned on me that nowadays the religious function of exhorting people to benevolence has become the message of the government. It is now distinctly un-American, according to the hierarchy in cultural and legal power, to harbor suspicion or dislike of any ethnic or behavioral group...except, of course, white rednecks and Republican Christians or the 1% (outside Hollywood or the Democrat party elite). To mandate a default moral attitude of benevolence to strangers is not the role of the State. But in churchly America's liberal State religion, that has been the message of its bully pulpit. Extraordinary. Canuckistan PM Pierre Trudeau famously remarked that "the State has no place in the bedrooms of the nation." Even less, in our souls.

I don't like Rick Santorum. He's a prig. But in standing up to the traitorous American Catholic bishops about illegal immigration, he has my support.

None of the current crop of Republican contenders for 2012 is an unmixed bag, as you will learn both from the very busy Democrat-loving media and from intra-conservative debating.  True enough. But compared to the feckless affirmative action poseur currently and so offensively in that role, any of them will do.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

An un-first, it seems

Apparently conservative Christian Touchstone's blog did not reject my comments on samesex marriage. I went back and found another post on the subject, with a gay man commenting quite vigorously in opposition to the editor. I tried again and my comment showed up. Musta been technical.

OBTW 3

Inspector Lewis, of the Brit Masterpiece Mystery! series, always solves his crimes, of course, -it's in the script -but in every other way is a total asshole.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fox vs The Rest


CABLE NEWS RACE

VIEWERS NITE OF 12/12/11



FOXNEWS O'REILLY 3,271,000
FOXNEWS HANNITY 2,168,000
FOXNEWS BAIER 2,030,000
FOXNEWS GRETA 1,440,000
9 million

52%



CMDY DAILY SHOW 1,642,000
CMDY COLBERT 1,281,000
3 million

17%



MSNBC SCHULTZ 877,000
MSNBC SHARPTON 830,000
MSNBC HARDBALL 797,000
MSNBC MADDOW 722,000
3.25 million

19%



CNNHN GRACE 696,000
CNN COOPER 634,000
CNN PIERS MORGAN 604,000
2 million

12%

John Kekes on a roll

From a lecture to academics in 2004:


"I now ask you to consider the stifling of opinions on our campuses. When did you last hear of anyone defending fundamentalist Christianity or the superiority of Western civilization? Who has been allowed to express the opinion on our campuses that homosexuality is a perversion, that there exist racial differences in intelligence, that women’s place is in the home, that the Holocaust is a fiction, or that America is a force for the good in a corrupt world?

You may say that such opinions are justly stifled because their expression harms others. But if you thought that, you would be well-advised to think again. For if by harm you mean, narrowly, serious injury, such as murder, torture, or battery, then neither the opinions nor their expression harms others. And if by harm you mean, broadly, injury to the interest of the people affected, then you would have to be opposed to all laws and regulations which prohibit people from doing what they want or place burden on them that they do not wish to bear. You would, then, be committed to the absurdity of having to oppose laws about taxation, social security, immigration, and health care, since they injure the interests of those who are forced to pay for them. The truth of the matter is that the opinions stifled on our campuses run counter to a prevailing orthodoxy that abuses its power and prevents the expression of opinions it opposes.

This coercive stifling of opinion permeates daily life, not just our campuses. It is very hard to think of an area of life that is free of the exhortation of intrusive moralizing (bolding mine). We are told what food is right or wrong to eat; how we should treat our pets; what clothing to wear; how we should spend our after-tax income; how precisely we should phrase invitations for sex; what kind of bags we should carry our groceries in; when and where we are permitted to pray or smoke; what jokes we are allowed to tell; who should pick the fruit we buy at the supermarket; how we should invest our money; what chemicals we should use in our gardens; by what method of transportation we should go to work; how we should sort our garbage; what we ought to think about cross dressing, sex change operations, teenage sex, and pot smoking; we are forbidden to inquire after the age, marital status, drug use, or alcoholism of job applicants; we are liable to be accused of sexual abuse if we spank our children or hug our neighbor's; our 19 and 20-year olds are permitted to fight our wars, but they are not permitted to buy a beer; we are not supposed to say that people are crippled, stupid, mentally defective, fat, or ignorant; and we must not use words like "mankind," "statesman," or "He" when referring to God.

What makes this coercive moralizing even worse is the hypocritical double-talk by which it is presented. For the stifling of opinions is said to be required by toleration. Its defenders advocate toleration of discrimination in favor of minorities and women (but not against them); of obscenity that offends religious believers and patriots (but not African-Americans and Jews); of unions' spending large sums in support of political causes (but not corporations' doing the same); of pot smoking (but not cigarette smoking); of abortion (but not capital punishment); of the public lies of Clinton (but not of Nixon); of hate speech against fundamentalists (but not homosexuals); of sex education in elementary schools (but not prayer); of jobs open only to union members (but not private clubs open only to males); of lies about American imperialism (but not the Holocaust); of sacrilegious of language (but not of language that uses "he" to refer to all human beings); of scientific research into just about anything (except racial differences in intelligence); and so on and on.

We are awash in this ocean of hypocrisy, lies, and falsifications."

Puppies of the Lord

This piece of drivel from the new Master of the Dominican Order.
Agitations and reports of civil unrest have made the news in recent months and continue to do so in several countries of the world.  In one place, it is the determination to be freed from oppressive, authoritarian regimes. In another, there are groups who are questioning those systems, particularly economic systems, that seem to want to manage the world in spite of the inequality they establish between men and the serious anxieties they create, especially for the young. Here and there, often forgotten voices are making themselves heard, reminding us that the human being wants to be an actor in his own history, and aspires to freedom and justice.  They are opening new horizons of hope for a habitable and sustainable world for all.
Same old "justice and peace" rhetoric, a thin baptizing of the leftEuro statist worldview, one of the worst effects of the 1960's Vatican Council. In typical pontifical fashion, he names no names but we all know what he means. He takes the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movements to indicate some kind of abstract desire for agency, freedom and justice versus capitalism.  The Arab Spring brings totalitarian Islam to power in place of generic Arab tyrants, and as for OWS, what a pathetic mess. The final insult: "They are opening new horizons of hope for a habitable and sustainable world for all." Oh, yeah. OWS is all about habitability in their dirty, dangerous, parasitical groups of tent-hovels, and the Arab Islamic tide is all about sustainability.

One of Karl Barth's worst pieces of advice was to tell preachers to have the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.

Since I am an exOP, I can say, "Get your head out of your ass, Father Master."


Here it is in the original Frenchman's French, where, being in French, it sounds even more like the pompous BS it is:
Indignations et soulèvements populaires ont fait ces derniers mois et font encore l’actualité dans plusieurs pays du monde. Ici, c’est la détermination de s’affranchir de régimes autoritaires qui s’affirme. Là, ce sont des groupes qui mettent en cause certaines logiques, en particulier économiques, qui semblent vouloir gouverner le monde en dépit des écarts qu’elles creusent entre les hommes et des graves inquiétudes qu’elles engendrent, en particulier pour les plus jeunes. Ici et là, ce sont des voix trop souvent oubliées qui se font entendre, rappelant que l’être humain veut être acteur de sa propre histoire, et aspire à la liberté et à la justice. S’ouvrent ainsi de nouveaux horizons d’espérance pour un monde habitable et soutenable par tous.
Merde.

PS. This reminds me of an incident when I was in the Order. After enduring a couple of hours at a large conference of French-speaking friars arguing over the merits of different living arrangements, I suggested that we might try an experiment: set up a community on the lines discussed and then in three or four years, evaluate the experience. There was a kind of embarrassed silence and then the discussion continued. I wondered if my French were worse than I thought.

As the meeting finally adjourned --without a decision, btw-- one of the friars turned and said to me, "C'est charmant, le pragmatisme anglo-saxon."  "Anglo-Saxon pragmatism, how charming."

Anyone who thinks that Americans are culturally arrogant has never met a European. I learned that day that for Frenchmen whose Order's motto was Veritas (Truth), Veritas had little to do with Realitas. And as the Master's note indicates, as we say en francais, "Ca continue."

PPS. I expressed my unhappiness at the blog of an OP with a conservative politics. His response:

The Master is no doubt speaking out of his own "'68 Experience." He's very much part and parcel of his generation of justice/peace Euro-Catholics, though I think he's probably more sensible than most. I haven't read the piece but keep in mind that the euro-media paints the Tea Party/GOP as only barely more tolerable than Nazis. So, he's likely springing off what most euros believe to be accurate portrayals of the OWS movement. I've found that even the most sensible euro OP's can't get their heads around anything other than left of center social democracy. American-style republican democracy with a healthy does of capitalism is beyond them.

Anyway, most younger friars read the Order's justice/peace stuff and then promptly ignore it...most of the J/P types in the Order studiously avoid pro-life issues so we generally think that their rallying cries for bottled water and recycling are hollow.

Reductio ad Hitlerum


...hating Hitler is the only moral judgment not stigmatized by modern moral relativists. The only absolute moral standard we are allowed is the evil of Hitler, and all other evils are judged by their proximity to Hitler — which ultimately means that all white people are evil due to our kinship to Hitler.

Lotta truth in that.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Old flame still warming


It's getting close to forty year ago today when I first knew what it was like to make love. As always, I am grateful that my first experience was with someone I cared about and who cared about me. It was not only about physical passion but about friendship. That first experience was one of such rightness that it had the force of a transformative revelation. It has made a huge difference for me. I truly was never the same again.

But it came after years of inner confusion and then, when the homo-sexual shape of my eros became clear to me  --in Rome, ironically :) --, of panic and fear. Life in the closet: dark, lonely and confined. So I would not deny that, on a subconscious level, I have likely absorbed some of the condemnation of same-sexuality from my culture and religion. After I had that wonderful experience of what I was so afraid of, on a waking level such self-doubt is blessedly hard to find. I have excellent reasons to accuse myself of faults and failings and sins, but I cannot get myself to believe that loving other men is one of them.

Although this blog gives frequent voice to my dissatisfaction at what gay culture and its pre-packaged identity has turned out to be, I should say very clearly and thankfully that were it not for the defiant refusal of contemporary homosexuals to accept the ancient curse, to let me know that I was not the only one and that I was not profoundly damaged and wrong, I would very likely be carrying inside me still that life-distorting weight of corrosive fear and self-hatred.

If I have also had experiences of pain and grief, wrongness and regret in my connections with other men --and I have, as readers of this blog may remember-- they seem to be really no different from "the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to" when it comes to Eros, regardless of what sex your partner is. My sexual mistakes and sins come not because I am a male with males, but because I am a human with humans.

When I later read Michael Tolliver's letter to his family and he declared that recognizing and accepting himself "brought me into the family of man", I knew exactly what he meant.

Love...will keep us together

sang The Carpenters. They were wrong.

What keeps groups together through time?

A recent ad by the government of Israel, inviting American Jews to avoid assimilation by coming home, caused quite a ruckus. Which is an ancient Yiddish word for mischegas. But the facts are plain: Jews in America are disappearing because of the combination of low birth rate and huge levels of intermarriage with Gentiles, as well as indifference to or avoidance of the practice of Jewish religion. The one place on earth, prior to Israel in 1948, where Jews could be safe and free has become the place where they tend to evaporate. On their own.

That leads to wonder why Jews in the past did not dwindle much, despite the often challenging conditions in which they found themselves. My amateur sociologist's theory? It was precisely the challenging conditions --along with pre-emancipation Halakic law-- which kept them alive. With the exception of the Nazi extermination program, which had an unprecedented killing rate, the various strictures and sporadic outbreaks of violence, all expressions of their Gentile neighbors' dislike, created an ironic version of what the early rabbis called "building a fence around the Torah."  While Jewish law created obstacles against assimilation from within, Gentile suspicion made its own wall against it from without. Once tradition-free Judaism met a relatively fence-free America and the Pill...

The two places where the Jewish birthrate is high are among very traditional Halakha-observant Orthodox groups, wherever they live, and in Israel, surrounded by a sea of Arabs who loathe Jews.

Continuing on my sociological way, it leads me to ask what forces actually keep groups intact. Sometimes, maybe always, you don't know the answer to that question until the groups begin to fray or diminish. I don't know anything about the internal Jewish discussion when Reform Judaism decided to make life easier for recently emancipated 19th century German Jews by adapting to the surrounding culture. I am sure some sectors predicted disaster. (Conservatives always do.) But who could have thought that an updated and ethically-based American Judaism would prove so unable to resist the allure of an extraordinarily welcoming Gentile nation? A classic case of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Another aspect seems to be the creation of a publicly tolerated or respectable secular identity. After the French revolution, it became increasingly common and ok not to be associated with any religious group at all. So Jews could escape the burdens and isolation of history not by betraying their ancestors through conversion but by ignoring them through secular transcendence.

My friends the Anglicans come to mind. What held them together, such as they were, for most of 400 years was not only their State-sponsored status, ethnic/racial self-confidence, and clear episcopal governing structure, but their 1662 Book of Common Prayer. When they decided to allow a plethora of different local liturgies at the very same time that being White became a crime, their compulsive embrace of liberal modernity and post-modernity has proved to be their unravelling and perhaps their undoing. 

The sociology of religion contains a paradigm --I forget by whom-- that differentiates religious groups as cults, sects, denominations or churches based on the level of tension with and difference from the surrounding culture. Too much and you remain a tiny isolated cult, too little and you become so mainstream that there's no feeling of loss if you leave it behind. You don't seem to value what costs you nothing. And who has mirrored the values of liberal America --created them, actually-- more than Reform Jews and mainstream Protestants?

I think of America, of course. We have been a Union precisely because we have always been trying to hold together our divisions. You only call something United which needs to be united because its natural momentum is toward separation. So I don't overestimate American harmony at all. From the very start we have had regional, racial and class tensions. And then there was 1861 and its awful aftermath. It feels to me now that we are in a Civil Cold War where two sides of the country are no longer opponents but enemies. Am I wrong to think that a significant portion of the country hates its own Republican countrymen more than it really hates Al Qaeda? If my neighborhood and city is any indication, it does. The election of 1800, were it to be replicated now, would be considered not a triumph of our Constitution --which it was, even by the skin of its teeth-- but its utter delegitimation. So what forces held us together, fractiously of course, in the past --especially things we took for granted-- which seem to be evaporating now?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A first

For the first time that I can recall, a comment of mine was rejected (twice) at a conservative web site, obviously because I am gay. It was without explanation but also without the namecalling and death-wishing I sometimes have gotten from liberal gay sites.

So here's the deathless prose of which they deprived their readers.

Although a "gay" man, I am of pretty conservative political attitudes and a knowledegable appreciation for, but distinct distance from, Catholicism & Orthodoxy. I am also not a fan of gay marriage.

My reasons are three: first, since marriage is a bedrock institution and is already under severe stress (from, among other things, a combination of no-fault divorce and feminism), a natural conservative reaction is to avoid fiddling with it anymore. Intentions never control consequences.

Second, even if, on a logical plane, there may be no necessary connection between arguments for same-sex marriage and for polygamy, it seems to me that in our political and cultural world, once you make the gender of spouses irrelevant, how can you argue in principle against a number different from two? Same-sex marriage is a brand new idea; polygamy, like it or not, is an ancient human tradition. I can see the pictures one day of weeping Muslim women, asking why their culture and religion's different idea of love should be banned --making their children illegitimate--when the law allows two men to wear wedding rings? And anything that comforts Islam in the West, for a man such as myself, is very bad news.

Third, and here your readers will likely find it hard to take, I do not think that matrimony does justice to the kind of love and attachment that two men can have with each other. To put it bluntly, taking the very gender-specific connection that makes some men comrades-lovers-kin and trying to fit it into the marriage box is just putting on straight drag. Until the last five minutes, marriage has always assumed the male-female polarity and, at least in principle, the creation of a family, offspring. Consequently, it is not made to institutionalize (or dare I say it, sacramentalize) the union of two male souls and bodies and lives.

To me, the push for gay marriage is part of liberalism's compulsive egalitarianism, with marriage really being a marker of social standing and one more battle against society's "exclusions". The triumph of mere power over imagination.

A man cannot be a mother, nor a woman a father. And if marriage requires both one bride and one groom, one wife and one husband, --at least--then in a gay "marriage" someone is standing in a spot not meant for them. I know that you consider such a same-sex union immoral. But from my standpoint, I consider that gay marriage does not properly honor the specificity of such a union.

The closest natural or archetypal structure men have made for themselves when they wish to ritualize a unique bond is blood-brotherhood.

(http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Brotherhood-Other-Rites-Male-Alliance/dp/0578030705)

In some cultures, this bond was considered even more sacred than marriage. I am not at all asserting that most of these rites were covert marriages. Very unlikely. I merely wish to say that when men are left to their own natural devices to create institutions honoring their deep attachments to each other, something like this, almost totally unique to males, is what they do. Were gay men more self-aware and less fixed on playing the role of the righteous victim, something like this, indigenous to male souls, would be the starting point, not matrimony.
The site, Touchstone, included the Thomas Merton piece I recently posted on. And it had an article on closed Communion by a Baptist minister, explaining why his church limits access to Communion to those who are baptized by immersion; baptism by pouring or sprinkling he considers invalid. Funnily enough, he is a Southern Baptist, whose tee-totalling denomination replaces the wine of the Lord's Supper with...grape juice.

Provocative Perry

Maybe because I am a therapist I tend to listen twice and more closely to things that provoke people to instant reactivity. So I am of the opinion that while it may not help his candidacy, Rick Perry's provocative juxtaposition does point out a truth about the wider implications of the culture wars.

It is indeed strange when the government mandates the open service in the military of a tiny minority of people whose sexuality, until ten minutes ago, historically speaking, was almost universally condemned while at the very same time continues to marginalize or erase some of the most traditional symbols of American culture, especially when it comes to the Christian religion, the religion of the vast majority of Americans.

And it is generally the same groups of people who are behind both moves.

One of the moments in my conversion to conservatism was when I realized that liberalism is not about widening opportunity and freedom (as it advertises itself to be) but simply about replacing successful and therefore dominant majorities with dominance by grievance-based minorities.

That’s no way to run…anything,

On old flame flickering

I used to be a great fan of Thomas Merton, certainly the most famous monk of the 20th century in Catholic circles. Especially in times when community life in my religious order felt chaotic --and for many years after the Council it was-- I would calm my desire for order by reading Merton. In his later years, he paradoxically combined a move to a hermitage on the monastery grounds with an increased public presence. It eventually led to him travelling to a Christian-Buddhist monastic conference in Bangkok, where he stepped on a bad wire in his room and was electrocuted. That was 1968.

In my transmogriphying from being a liberal with classical sympathies to an outright conservative with personal paradoxes, I found a lot of his later writings, especially on race and war, tedious and moralizing. The other day I found a brief memoir by one of his former monk-students, now an Orthodox priest, who combined high praise for Merton with a recognition of his human flaws. He also noted that for a man of intense curiosity, when it came to social issues, he swallowed all the liberal assumptions, without ever seeming to question any of them.

Elsewhere, I found an atheist criticizing the Church of England for breaking from its traditional concern with faith and redemption, substituting another equally non-rational faith in  "collective social responsibility combined with sentimental humanism."

There's a lot of that going around.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Out of the mouths of bishops

New social justice loving Episcopal bishopette of Washington DC plans to grow and revitalize the dying denomination by focusing on....immigration reform.

She says, "We’re the most inclusive church in the world that’s the tiniest church in Christendom."


New Episcopal bishopess in drag*


How's that workin out for ya? Any possible cause and effect there, Your Grace?

Even I am not so thick as to believe that merely being liberal is a sufficient reason to explain a church's decline. But apparently it doesn't help.

*The vestments of the Catholic priesthood --which Anglicans rejected for 300 years before donning again-- are clothes for men, ever worn only by men. Just because they are flowing does not make them female clothes, even if females put them on. 

Mysteries unveiled

Do you recognize these two old guys?



The answer further down the page...




















Immaculate Conception

(For religion and psychology nerds only)

If you want to wander into the labyrinthine ways of Catholic dogma, today is your day. December 8th marks the solemnity (first class festival) of the Immaculate Conception. People commonly confuse this idea with the Virgin Birth of Jesus or his own conception by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin, celebrated on March 25th. But this day and dogma, to be concrete, is about the moment when the Virgin Mary's parents --Joachim and Anne, below-- conceived her.  Among other things, it is about the first act of sexual intercourse in history (below)  which did not produce a child stained and limited by Original Sin.

Joachim & Anna "embracing" at the Golden Gate
according to the Protoevangelium of James.

Following me so far?

This belief has a long and complex history, as you might imagine. St Thomas Aquinas, among others, did not favor it. Part of the sibling rivalry between Dominicans and Franciscans. The Franciscans eventually won the argument, as noted by Gerard Manley Hopkins in his praise of Friar Minor Duns Scotus, "who fired France for Mary without spot."

Thomas was afraid that understanding Mary as free from sin long before the Passion of Christ occurred would reduce the necessity and universality of his atonement. And the Gospels give some grounds for wondering if she was really on board with Jesus' mission (Mk 3.32ff and parallels). By the time that Rome declared it a dogma of the faith in 1854, the argument was long over. The Church eventually decided that her exceptional status was proleptic, that is, although the effect happened in time before the cause, it was nonetheless an effect of that cause. See what I mean by labyrinthine?

The Collect of the day:


Deus, qui per immaculatam Virginis Conceptionem
dignum Filio tuo habitaculum praeparasti,
quaesumus, ut, qui ex morte eiusdem Filii tui praevisa,
eam ab omni labe praeservasti,
nos quoque mundos, eius intercessione,
ad te pervenire concedas.


O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin
prepared a worthy dwelling for your Son,
grant, we pray,
that, as you preserved her from every stain
by virtue of the Death of your Son, which you foresaw,
so, through her intercession,
we, too, may be cleansed and admitted to your presence
.

Part of the psychological interest for me is that one of the themes driving this belief is that Jesus as the New Adam (a la St Paul) also had a companion New Eve...his mother*. Both of them re-instantiate the paradisiac state of unfallen humanity, principally by being created (in her case) and incarnated (in his) in a state of unbroken communion with God, never knowing a time without grace. From the point of view of what Jung called "the empirical man", man as we know him, these two, precisely because of their sinlessness, seem inhuman to us. But from the divine point of view of salvation-history, they are the first authentic humans since Adam and Eve. It's the rest of us who, because children of the Fall, are the inauthentic humanoids.








Goya's Virgin of the Immaculate Conception


As for the date, which conveniently falls in Advent, it was arrived at by counting back nine months from the much earlier feast (6th/7th centuries) of the Virgin's own birth, September 8th in both Western and Eastern churches. Which may have its origins in the Byzantine New Year or the rededication of a Jerusalem church in honor of St. Anne.

Why some people think I am a pointy-headed intellectual, I'll never know.
_______________________

*Unless I am mistaken --hardly possible here on Ex Cathedra :) -- while the incest taboo twixt mother and son is universal among humans, incest is not at all uncommon in the mythic worlds of the gods. Kinship libido drives both the mythic aspects of Christianity as a whole (Father and Son/Hero) and Catholicism in particular (Son/Lover and Mother).

Although Muhammad's Quran makes a mistake in describing the Trinity as Father, Mother and Son, since Muhammad's knowledge of Christianity came from the 7th century variety as popularly preached and practiced, it is an understandable error. One of the reasons the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, has long been overshadowed by the Virgin Mother, ironically**, in Catholicism, it is because in functional and devotional terms, she largely replaced Him. An actual human woman is, I suppose, more attractive than a metaphorical dove, fire and wind. Liberation theologian Leondardo Boff even suggested that she was the the Holy Spirit's incarnation.

**Luke 1.35
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