Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Insight Scoop | The Ignatius Press Blog --
Via Insight Scoop, The Ignatius Press Blog, I come across this Frank Furedi essay.

The liberal elite's obsession with the insidious threat posed by faith-based films is paralleled by its paranoia about the religious right. Anti-religious crusaders, in particular in the US, continually exaggerate the influence of Christianity in culture and politics. Every time I visit America, this fear seems to have worsened. Raising the alarm about Christian fundamentalists has become a taken-for-granted affectation among those who define themselves as liberal or left-wing, who are forever telling horror stories about the power of the religious right.


Honestly, I can think of worse people than Christian fundamentalists. Communists, for one. And I'm about as equally fond of libertarians as I am of Christian fundamentalists.

What has happened is that some of the left have decided that religion is horribly, horribly anti-rational and that there is no talking to "them." Read the comments of Daily Kos and you find that a significant segment of the left have the intellectual prowess of your average freepers.

The progressive movement suffers from hubris of elitism, the belief of overwhelming righteousness of cause and the feeling that people not recognizing "obvious" political truths are stupid, ignorant, deluded, or somehow tricked.
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Monday, January 30, 2006


A Primer on Hamas and the Palestinian Elections --
Jewish Voices for Peace has a Q and A about the recent Hamas victory.
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Sunday, January 29, 2006


Street Prophets: Reading Benedict: Deus Caritas Est Summary and Commentary, Pt 1 --
Cross-posted to Street Prophets

So, I am reading the new encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est by Pope Benedict XVI.  So far, he seems to be, as predicted by a few people in the know, neither a liberal nor a conservative hammer brought down on liberals.  As far as writing goes, he is more lucid and less mystical than his predecessor.


This is a planned series in summarizing the encyclical with a few comments on things that interest me.



Introduction


1) The First Letter of John is quoted: "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."  Benedict says the reason he writes is to counteract a world in which God is associated with vengeance, hatred, and violence.


PART I - The Unity of Love in Creation and in Salvation History


"A problem of language"


2)The term "love" has many different meanings in common usage, so we must first define love.


"Eros" and "Agape" - difference and unity


3)"Eros" is the "love between man and woman which is neither planned nor willed, but somehow imposes itself upon human beings."  The word was not at all used in early Greek editions of the New Testament, which favored agape, a less-common Greek word.



4) Christianity is not opposed to eros, only to an irrational, intoxicating, destructive, and dehumanizing form of it.


5) Human beings are created both body and soul.  To favor one of the other is to render the person incomplete.  Eros viewed purely as sex reduces humanity to a view of the body as commodity.


6) The change in usage of the word for love within Song of Songs gives a view of love as the result of maturation and growth, as a sacrificing love and not as a state of happiness.


7) Philosophers and theologians who strive to create a distinction and antithesis between eros and agape are wrong.


8) I'll just quote the entire paragraph:



We have thus come to an initial, albeit still somewhat generic response to the two questions raised earlier. Fundamentally, "love" is a single reality, but with different dimensions; at different times, one or other dimension may emerge more clearly. Yet when the two dimensions are totally cut off from one another, the result is a caricature or at least an impoverished form of love. And we have also seen, synthetically, that biblical faith does not set up a parallel universe, or one opposed to that primordial human phenomenon which is love, but rather accepts the whole man; it intervenes in his search for love in order to purify it and to reveal new dimensions of it. This newness of biblical faith is shown chiefly in two elements which deserve to be highlighted: the image of God and the image of man.


This seems like a natural break for discussion.


People in the know predicted that Benedict's papacy would be one of steadfast orthodoxy rigorously stated (as opposed to his predecessor, who was more of a mystic) without being the hammer pounding on liberals that conservatives hoped for.  


It is the nature of theologians to first define their concepts before discussing them.  This leads to a tendency to sometimes commit a straw man fallacy. (See for example, some attacks on feminism.  The feminism they define is one worthy of disdain, but also one not espoused by very many people who consider themselves feminists.)  So far, I find the definitions of agape and eros reasonable.


I do find his conception of eros interesting.  I've never been one to believe in the truncated movie version of love at first sight.  If I want to watch a romance, I much prefer two people gradually falling in love before the realization hits them over the head with a hammer; falling madly and instantly in love always seemed unrealistic to me, perhaps because my heart could never work that way.


I also find his perspective of the commoditizing nature of sex to be interesting.  I can't help but be reminded of the Marxist view of capitalism as a dehumanizing and alienating force by way of a commodity fetish that separates a worker from his labor.


As a progressive, I support sexual freedom.  As a Catholic, I understand that some people make poor choices with that freedom in the same way that some people use the freedom of the ballot box to vote Republican.  I've always been a critic of the moral underpinnings of libertarianism despite finding some convergence of goals.  I find a linkage between the hedonism of people who say "it's my body and I'll do what I want" with regards to sex and people who say "it's my money and I'll do what I want" if they buy gas-guzzling SUVs and other assorted sins of conspicuous consumption.


When people complain about the Democratic Party's failure to connect morally with the general populace, it's not a failure to mention Jesus in some effete, Kerry-esque namby-pamby speeches, but a failure to give a sense that there are some things are clearly wrong even if they should be tolerated according to the progressive value of tolerance, a failure to give a sense that something is clearly wrong unless a Republican is attached to its advocacy.


But I digress from my "hedonism is bad and we should say so" rant.


At this point, Benedict has said that there are many possible components to love, but none that totally sum up the nature and experience of love at its fullest.  Coming next is a sense of what Benedict considers to be a fully mature love.

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What a Horrible Candidate --
USA Today says, "Peace activist Cindy Sheehan plans new protest, Senate bid"

I'm fine with Sheehan being a peace activist and all, but she hasn't struck me as particularly intelligent or someone who I would ever want in a position of authority and certainly not someone who I want to be the face of the Democratic Party, since she is likely to get invites to a lot of talking head shows. Unless she is merely a figurehead being controlled by a Rove-like presence who vets all her speeches, I sense potential disaster.
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Business As Usual --
This USA Today article tells of corruption and incompetence in the U.S. occupation of Iraq. At least if it's spent on bribes, it's getting something in return. Of course, you have to wonder if some of the missing money went to fund projects by organizations such as the CIA.
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Thursday, January 26, 2006


The Uneasy Partnership of Religion in Music --
Cross-posted to Street ProphetsStreet Prophets

Pitchfork Media is an online publication focusing on indie music who, I believe, took their name from the silly belief that rock is the devil's music.  If you're an indie music diehard, it's a must-read.


Up currently is an interesting article on how secular musicians struggle with being labeled religious. (Warning: I've not heard, or even heard of, any of the acts mentioned.)

Few acts can get away with singing about religious themes, unless they they exude bitterness and anger that causes some jaded music critics to give a knee-jerk +1 to a star rating for "edginess."  U2 gets away with it.  I'm not sure who else does.


Chris Dahlen writes:



You can disagree with the church of your choice, but to dismiss religion altogether-- and to write off the best ideas, the best people and of course, the best indie rockers-- that come out of it, seems pointless. Why shoot the messenger just because you're scared he has a message?


One musician tells of a fan saying that the mere mention of "Jesus" caused feelings of detachment, and that's just sad.  Is it fear of proselytizing? Is it the snobbery of people saying, "If Christians like it, then I hate it?"  Is it simple disinterest like a white girl saying she could never date an African-American because black men just don't "turn her on?"

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Today in History --
People born on this day include:
Biologist Lazzaro Spallanzani
Catholic martyr Isaac Jogues
French marshal Michel Ney
American Revolutionary hero Ethan Allen
Outlaw Frank James
Mad monk Grigori Rasputin
Poet J. Robinson Jeffers
Historian Stephen Ambrose
Nobel laureate physicist Robert Wilson
Steely Dan member Donald Fagen
Jazz drummer Max Roach
Singers Rod Stewart, Jim Croce, Pat Benatar, Shawn Colvin, Brad Roberts of Crash Test Dummies
Quarterback Jake Delhomme
Baseball Hall of Famer Willie McCovey
Boxer George Foreman
Race car driver Bobby Rahal
Professional wrestler Marcus "Buff" Bagwell
Porn star Linda Lovelace
Actors Ray Bolger, Sal Mineo
Me
(9:09 PM) 0 comments Links to this post

Today in History --
People born on this day include:
Biologist Lazzaro Spallanzani
Catholic martyr Isaac Jogues
French marshal Michel Ney
American Revolutionary hero Ethan Allen
Outlaw Frank James
Mad monk Grigori Rasputin
Poet J. Robinson Jeffers
Historian Stephen Ambrose
Nobel laureate physicist Robert Wilson
Steely Dan member Donald Fagen
Jazz drummer Max Roach
Singers Rod Stewart, Jim Croce, Pat Benatar, Shawn Colvin, Brad Roberts of Crash Test Dummies
Quarterback Jake Delhomme
Baseball Hall of Famer Willie McCovey
Boxer George Foreman
Race car driver Bobby Rahal
Professional wrestler Marcus "Buff" Bagwell
Porn star Linda Lovelace
Actors Ray Bolger, Sal Mineo
Me
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Sunday, January 08, 2006


But, I Like "Walking on Sunshine" --
That was my first thought when I saw this headline in my news aggregator.
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Who Dey --
Via the Cincinnati Enquirer: Bengals starting quarterbacks since their last playoff berth.

13 (Boomer Esiason, 30 starts; Erik Wilhelm, 1; Donald Hollas, 2; David Klingler, 24; Jay Schroeder, 3; Jeff Blake, 66; Neil O'Donnell, 11; Paul Justin, 3; Akili Smith, 17; Scott Mitchell, 5; Jon Kitna, 46; Gus Frerotte, 3; Carson Palmer, 29)
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