Analysis by Oswald Sobrino, J.D., M.A., who has published in New Blackfriars (U.K.), Homiletic & Pastoral Review, The Catholic Answer, New Oxford Review, CatholicExchange.com, and the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly. He is a lay graduate student at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit. © 2002-06 Oswald Sobrino.
"There is much in Christianity which can be subjected to exact analysis. But the ultimate things are shrouded in the silent mysteries of God." --Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988)
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Unemployment Rate Falls to 4.7%
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Saturday, February 04, 2006Unemployment Rate Falls to 4.7%
Yes, the unemployment rate is now below 5%. And, yes, Bush is still president and has been president since Jan. 20, 2001. This is the lowest unemployment rate since July 2001 (see N.Y. Times link). Imagine if the unemployment rate had, instead, risen to 6 or 7 %. I can hear now the hue and cry from the left about the cruelty of the Hoover Republicans. But, now, all you can expect is to hear silence on the unemployment rate. Fanatical left-wing minds will just not recognize and process this great piece of economic news. It just does not fit in nicely and neatly into their worldview of doom and gloom.
I recall a columnist noting recently that there is no where near as much poverty in the United States as the left likes to tout. It's just not there in the dimensions that liberals describe in their rhetoric. The columnist speculated that maybe that's why more people have been comfortable voting Republican. He also noted that for many Americans cultural issues are just as important and even identical to economic issues. If you live in a neighborhood that is being invaded by drug dealers, then that's both a social/cultural issue and a big economic issue because our homes are the biggest single financial investment most Americans ever make. If teens are immersed in drugs and promiscuity, that's a big economic issue: the futures of your sons and daughters will be derailed permanently if they become entangled in those quagmires. If the sexual revolution means that more people feel, for a variety of different reasons, less emotionally invested in their marriages, that's an economic issue because marital stability is synonymous with economic stability. And the conservatives are the ones that the public trusts more to address those cultural-economic issues.
We have seen a political evolution from the tired old stereotype of the conservative who cared for the rich only. The best of today's conservatism is genuinely compassionate and opportunity driven, seeking to draw everyone into upward mobility. And, yes, President Bush is one of those compassionate conservatives. So is, very much so, my favorite for 2008: Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, a Catholic convert. Recently, a new Wal Mart opened near where I live after the usual griping from liberal-leaning individuals alleging mistreatment of employees. Well, the data shows that when a Wal Mart opens, the ones who benefit the most are poorer people in rural areas. Why? When prices goes down, everyone becomes wealthier overnight. Where I live, everyone--and I mean everyone--became financially "richer" when the doors of Wal Mart opened.
But I am keeping the best for last. I asked one cashier at WalMart--who happened to be African-American--how business was doing at the new store. She said it was booming. She also volunteered that Wal Mart's stock price was rising, and that she was glad to have bought Wal Mart stock! I responded, "Good for you." Good for her, good for me, good for all: the ownership and opportunity society brought to you by the new conservatism.
Friday, February 03, 2006Jesuit Superior General to Step Down
This story comes from Zenit.com. I certainly do not know the "inside story." But I am happy to see this change is coming given the recent devastating article by Fr. Neuhaus of First Things on the rampant pro-gay sentiment in the Jesuit order. The technical step being taken is the calling of the 35th General Congregation to elect a new leader. The date for the process to begin is Jan. 5, 2008. The language used to call the congregation is very appropriate to the current disastrous situation in the order. Quoting the words of St. Ignatius Loyola, the current Jesuit leader, Hans Kolvenbach (who has presided over the burgeoning disastser since 1983), notes that the situation involves "very difficult things touching upon the whole body of the Society." He terms it a "situation that requires a General Congregation." I have no idea what Kolvenbach was thinking as he issued this statement. But this is what I and many others are thinking: the situation for the order as a whole body is indeed desperate and dire. Its very Christian identity is at stake. The stakes get no higher than that. Maybe we are seeing a parting of the Red Sea in these events. Let us ask for no less than that.
Thursday, February 02, 2006Christian Realism Is Optimistic
One of the challenges of life is combining realism and optimism. We have all probably known persons who become so cynical and embittered that they can find nothing to praise or admire anywhere. We have also likely known others who live in a fantasy world of denial. They will describe an event, and we wonder if we witnessed the same event. We lie to ourselves a lot. We call it by the clinical term "denial," but in the end they are lies we tell ourselves.
Certainly, as Christians, our personalities are not immune to these extremes or variations thereof. On the one hand, we can adopt a posture of fear and loathing given all the, well, fearful and loathesome things we see around us. On the other hand, we can live in a bubble where religion becomes an escape into illusion. What does Christianity offer to this human tug-of-war between excessive pessimism and excessive rosiness?
I think we can capture some of what the Christian answer is with this quote from an old Christian devotional: "We shall 'laugh at impossibilities,' we shall watch with delight to see how God is going to open up a path through the Red Sea when there is no human way out of our difficulty" (Life of Praise, quoted in Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, Streams in the Desert , Feb. 17th entry). At first, this quote would seem to a cynic to be a prime example of the person in denial. But let's look more closely at the words.
First, we have the undeniable reality of the Red Sea. It's not just a trickling little stream that we can skip through with the help of a little wind or a few strategically placed stones. The Red Sea means we are trapped, we are blocked, there is, as the quote says, "no human way out of our difficulty." That is Christian realism: we see the Red Seas around us. We know that without Christ we can do nothing, not even something, but nothing. So the Christian will always see the Red Sea. Christianity is not an escape like secular escapes, such as materialism or substance abuse or lust. Christians know that there is something radically wounded in our natures. That evil is real. That Satan is real. That we should indeed be on our guard against parts of ourselves and against others. There are many Red Seas within us and without us.
But the Christian can "laugh" at these very real traps. Christian joy is based on the conviction that God is in control and that God will act to bring good out of every situation. The Christian can laugh because he or she can pray. We can in any situation speak to the power that created and governs and controls everthing. We entrust and abandon ourselves to that power--a power proven in the crossing of the real Red Sea in the first Exodus, a power proven in the New Exodus when Jesus rose from the waters of death. As baptized people, we have already crossed the Red Sea.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006The Gay Jesuit Agenda
The above title is not one that I like. But, after reading, Fr. Neuhaus' article "The Truce of 2005?" from First Things (see link), I feel that I have no choice but to be forthright. I know personally and through secondhand knowledge of many good, orthodox, faithful Jesuits who reject the gay agenda. But the order as a whole is in big, big trouble. In the long run, it is really not important that individuals like me are shocked and shaken by the gay advocacy in the Jesuit order. What is really important is the contradiction of divine revelation. That contradiction is undeniable, even by someone like me who graduated from a Jesuit high school, college, and law school. My personal nostalgia and affection for my educational experiences and for many individual Jesuits are just not enough to make me engage in denial about the dire state of the order, just as I think Notre Dame alumni should not be in denial about the dire state of their beloved institution. Read Neuhaus' analysis and be prepared to be shocked. Here is the link.
Radio Interview: State of the Union & Papal Encyclical
I again had the privilege of being interviewed by radio host Paul Clemens out of Louisville, Kentucky, for his radio show to air later this afternoon. Paul is a former student of Dr. Janet Smith who currently teaches at Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary. We discussed the State of the Union speech last night and the Pope's new encyclical on love.
As to the State of the Union speech, these are the impressions I came to in listening to the speech and in my radio discussion:
1. Bush, according to those who saw the speech on TV, was at his visual best: confident and relaxed. In my view, that demeanor comes from a life of personal prayer. In the stress of our daily lives, we know that prayer keeps us going and even enables us to do things we could not do otherwise. How much more true must that be for someone in the presidency whose first order of daily business is to hear intelligence briefings outlining the latest terrorist threats on our country.
2. I will go on the record now in the midst of the great tidal waves of Bush hatred that lap back and forth in the mainstream media and in liberal circles, including liberal Catholic circles, and say that I bet Bush ends up as one of our great presidents. Why? Character, character, character. Like Churchill, Bush has the confidence and steely determination to win against our enemies. We are very lucky he was elected in 2000.
3. On a related theme, I have to say that it is conclusive and definitive, at least for me but I think for many others also, that the Democratic Party is the party of defeatism, if not treason. We see a party so full of hatred for Bush that it roots for disaster at home and abroad. When voters walk into the voting booth, how can they pull the lever for a Democratic Party that just cannot be trusted to be realistic and hard-nosed enough to take the enemy seriously? The best ally our enemies have today is the Democratic Party. There is no way I will ever entrust my future to a Democratic president. Today's Democratic Party is the party of defeat and defensiveness. Bush, in contrast, believes in staying on offense to keep our enemies off-balance. I think the inner circles of our enemies would agree with my assessment. And, by the way, I say all of this as a former Democrat who grew up with heroes such as FDR and Harry Truman. I am now happy to call the party of Lincoln my political home.
4. Check out the Powerlineblog.com for John Hinderaker's astute assessment of the State of the Union speech. If you have time, compare what John says with the distorted coverage of the mouthpiece of defeatism and Bush hatred: the New York Times.
5. As to the Pope's encyclical, no commentary can do it full justice. The Pope opens up inexhaustible vistas for thought and prayer. God is both Eros and Agape. Eros is not using the body as a commodity alienated from our minds, souls, and spirits. The human being is a unity of both body and soul, a person. Eros is an essential part of that unity that points us to God who is both eros and agape. Eros does not point us to perversion or exploitation or the ennui of immorality. Eros points us to the ecstasy of God, the perfection of the true, the good, and the beautiful. Combine the Pope's encyclical with the Theology of the Body of John Paul the Great and you get the Catholic and Christian nuclear explosion that is the real sexual revolution. What passes for the secular sexual revolution is merely sound and fury signifying nothing and ending in nothing but lassitude, malaise, disillusionment, boredom, and compulsiveness.
Those are my thoughts today after this morning's radio interview at WLCR AM 1040 from Louisville, Kentucky. Here is the link to learn more about this Catholic station. The interview should air later in the afternoon from 5 to 6 p.m. for those in the Louisville area.
Tuesday, January 31, 2006It's a Beautiful Day! Alito Confirmed
As I write, Fox News is showing Sam Alito confirmed as Justice of the Supreme Court by 58 to 42 votes. In my opinion, Alito is the strongest pro-life nominee we have had in a very long time. May he be on the Court for decades and decades! Let's pray, in God's wisdom and mercy, for another vacancy for Bush to fill. See Reuters story.
Update: The Associated Press has details on the final confirmation vote at this link. Here is my analysis of the numbers. One out of 55 Republicans voted against Alito. 40 out of 44 Democrats voted against Alito. My hunch is that the votes against Alito were motivated primarily by the desire to protect Roe v. Wade. So, in my opinion, here we have very concrete evidence of which party is the pro-life party--if anyone still needed anymore such evidence. Numerically stated, about 98% of Republican Senators voted for Alito. About 99% of Democratic Senators voted against Alito. More evidence that demands a verdict.
Monday, January 30, 2006Patristics Study for Free in N.Y. Area
St. John the Evangelist Church, a historic Catholic parish in Stamford, Connecticut, is operating the St. Monica Insitute for Patristic Studies with study groups open to all interested persons, free of charge (except for required texts). No prior knowledge of patristics--which is the study of the Church Fathers--required. I received impressive brochures from the parish today announcing a symposium with Avery Cardinal Dulles. New York Cardinal Egan is also involved with the symposium. If you live in the New York City area, this may be a place you should investigate. Here is the contact information: Tel. 203-324-1553, ext. 21; e-mail: email@example.com. You can access their website, http://www.stmonicainstitute.org, at this link. There is also a lecture series plus resources for scholarly researchers.
Studying the Church Fathers has brought many converts to the Church, with Cardinal Newman probably being the most famous. They wrote at the time of the original springtime of the Church. There is something fresh and dynamic in this great legacy. The opportunity to study these works is worth investigating if you are in the area.
Where the West Is
If you want a graphic signature moment that tells you where the West is, consider this story recently found in the N.Y. Times Arts section for Jan. 25, 2006. A French court ordered a 77-year-old man to pay a $262,000 fine for chipping a copy of the "famous urinal" of the artist Marcel Duchamp in the Pompidou Center during a Dada exhibition. The old man was also given a three month suspended sentence. But, wait, it gets better.
The old man had the perfectly charming audacity to challenge the court's reasoning by pointing out that his "attack" on the copy of the famous urinal was itself a work of art. The man stated that he did it all "in the name of art" and even pointed out that he in effect signed his work of art by having written the word "Dada" on the broken urinal. Here is what the old man said: "I am not the cheap vandal that some would have me to be . . . . A vandal does not sign his work." The judge chastised him for lack of respect for private property. The old man retorted: "But the Dada Spirit is lack of respect." The old man also claimed that his damaging the urinal, which was merely a copy of the famous original, in fact made the damaged urinal an original.
So the man who chipped the urinal claims to be creating an original work of art. And, before him, Duchamp claimed to have produced a urinal as a work of art. This is the place where the West is. A judge wrestling with whether breaking a urinal is a work of art, all the time presuming that the unbroken urinal was itself a work of art. Now, given the assumption that the urinal was a work of art to begin with, the old man is right and the judge is wrong. According to one reference source, "Dada works are nihilistic gestures and provocations" [Dictionary of Art and Artists (London: Thames & Hudson, 1994), p. 101]. So what the old man did was clearly in intent and deed an expression of the Dada spirit just as much, if not more so, than the work of Duchamp. What the old man did was a nihilistic gesture and provocation completely in the Dada spirit. The old man was merely continuing the artistic inspiration that first burst forth from Duchamp.
Yes, the Dada movement began in the West, specifically in Zurich in 1916 (Ibid.). Nihilism pushes the ugly in our faces and calls us to gaze in admiration. Nihilism has done the same thing with sexuality by treating pornography as something artistic to admire. Just consider the pornographic career of the sacrilegiously named pop singer Madonna. But the worst expression of Nihilism came about twenty years after Dada began in Zurich. In neighboring Germany, an entire nation went mad with nihilism under Hitler. Yet, the Dada spirit of nihilism is still alive and well. In a culture where a judge thinks that a urinal is a work of art, you can no longer tell artists from vandals. Just as in a culture that views pornography as harmless and artistic, you can no longer distinguish love from exploitation. When you wonder about Western decadence, just recall this little anecdote about the old man breaking the urinal in Paris. And you wonder why Islamist radicals think they can win?