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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"Laid Back Town Needs an Attitude Adjustment"
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Friday, September 01, 2006"Laid Back Town Needs an Attitude Adjustment"
That's the title of an op-ed piece that appeared back in February in the New Orleans daily newspaper. It was written by the Rev. Anthony McGinn, S. J., president of the local Jesuit High School. I fondly remember serving as an altar boy at Fr. McGinn's ordination at the high school. He was and is a fine man--and even a bit (or more) of a prophet. He is a New Orleans native who minces no words (although I would have been somewhat harsher) in exposing what needs to change in New Orleans. Here are some excerpts with my own comments in brackets:
Much of the charm of the city is attributable to its laid-back demeanor, the sense of pride in our uniqueness, the good times we show our visitors and our fascination with our past. Our problem is that reliance on charm can get us only so far. The unfortunate downside of this quality is a spirit of lethargy that permeates New Orleans culture. All segments of New Orleans suffer from a lack of achievement and motivation and an exaggerated sense of entitlement.
. . . .
The current situation also challenges us in the area of self-indulgence. Many tourists come to New Orleans for our food and drink, but too much food and drink makes us lethargic and unmotivated. We need self-discipline to emerge from this devastation. The same addiction to comfort that makes us resist needed changes also keeps us uninvolved, passive, and content with mediocrity.
. . . .
Blaming others and refusing to take responsibility for our development led to our being surpassed, first by Dallas, Houston, and Atlanta, and then by Birmingham, Austin, and Memphis. How long will it take us to fall behind Gainseville, Pascagoula, and Macon? [In my opinion, that has already happened, especially because of the continuing high crime.]
. . . .
Before we condemn our elected leaders for their mistakes, let us look to ourselves, and change our thinking, our passivity, and our way of blaming.
Rev. Anthony McGinn, S.J., Times Picayune Op-Ed section, Monday, Feb. 20, 2006.
You can find the rest of the speech he originally gave to students on January 23, 2006, at this link. So forget about the Democratic talking points and spin about Katrina. We who were born and raised in New Orleans know where responsibility for disaster lies--and it's not in the White House occupied by a Texan.
Next Major Update: Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2006
Labor Day Messages
Labor Day messages from St. Josemaría Escrivá's book Furrow:
For those who think their work is too humble and not prestigious enough: "Before God, no occupation is in itself great or small. Everything gains the value of the Love with which it is done" (Furrow, 487).
For those working in the home:
"You are writing to me in the kitchen, by the stove. . . . By your side, your younger sister--the last one to discover the divine folly of living her Christian vocation to the full--is peeling potatoes. To all appearances--you think--her work is the same as before. And yet, what a difference there is! It is true: before she only peeled potatoes, now, she is sanctifying herself peeling potatoes" (498; original italics).
For those who need a push:
"Obstacles? Sometimes they may be present, but at times you just invent them out of cowardice or love of comfort. How cleverly the devil makes those excuses for not working look plausible! He knows full well that sloth is the mother of all vices" (505).
"You are put off by difficulties, and you shrink back. Do you know what characterizes your behavior? Nothing but comfort, comfort, and more comfort. You had said that you were ready to wear yourself out, unstintingly, yet you still seem to be at the level of an apprentice to heroism. It is time to act with more maturity" (521).
For those of us taking time off this weekend:
"Rest means recuperation: to gain strength, form ideals, and make plans. In other words it means a change of occupation, so that you can come back later with a new impetus to your daily job" (514, in part).
"It is easier to bustle about than to study, but it is also less effective" (524).
"If you know that study is apostolate, but limit yourself to studying just enough to get by, it is clear that your interior life is going badly" (525).
"One has to study--to gain the world and conquer it for God. Then we can raise the level of our efforts: we can try to turn the work we do into an encounter with the Lord and the foundation to support those who will follow our way in the future. In this way, study will become prayer" (526, in part).
You can obtain the book from Scepter Publishers.
Thursday, August 31, 2006Bush Speech on War Against Islamic Terrorists
Following is the text of the President's speech today on the War against Islamic Terrorism. I publish it because readers should see the primary text in order to make their own personal judgments instead of having someone in the media filter it. (As to my personal view, which I have a right and obligation to state as a free citizen, I fully support the President.) I have deleted some initial portions involving the greeting of various dignitaries and put parts I consider especially important in bold print. Here is the speech taken from www.whitehouse.gov, which has the full text that includes greetings to dignitaries:
President Bush Addresses American Legion National Convention Salt Palace Convention CenterSalt Lake City, Utah
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. Please be seated. Thanks for the warm welcome. Most particularly, I want to thank you all for giving me a chance to come and speak to you. [Various introductions of dignitaries omitted.] . . . . I particularly want to thank all the Gold Star families who have joined us today. May God bless you. May God bless you. (Applause.)
As veterans, all of you stepped forward when America needed you most. From North Africa to Normandy, Iwo Jima to Inchon, from Khe Sanh to Kuwait, your courage and service have made it possible for generations to live in liberty. And we owe you more than just thanks. We owe you the support of the federal government. And so, in my first four years as President, we increased funding for veterans more than the previous administration did in eight years. (Applause.) Since then, we've increased it even more. My budget for this year provides more than $80 billion for veterans -- that's a 75-percent increase since I took office. It's the highest level of support for veterans in American history. (Applause.)
For many veterans, health care is a top priority, and it's a top priority of my administration. When Congress passes my 2007 budget, we will have increased the VA health care budget by 69 percent since 2001. We've extended treatment to a million additional veterans, including more than 300,000 men and women returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. (Applause.) We're building new VA facilities in places where veterans are retiring, so that more veterans can get top-quality health care closer to their homes.
I appreciate the Legion's strong history of care and compassion for your fellow veterans. Earlier this week, I traveled to Mississippi and Louisiana to mark the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Veterans were hit hard by this storm, and American Legion posts all across the United States responded with vital relief. In an hour of suffering, you showed the good heart of our nation, and you showed the world that America can always count on Legionnaires. (Applause.)
I also appreciate the Legion's long history of supporting wise legislation in the Nation's Capital. Earlier this year, the Senate voted on a constitutional amendment to ban flag desecration -- we came within a single vote of passing it. The administration looks forward to continuing working with the American Legion to make sure we get this important protection in the Constitution of the United States of America. (Applause.)
Your organization supported another good piece of legislation called the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act. This bill ensures that families of fallen service members will not have to endure protests during military funerals. (Applause.)
My administration will also continue to work to locate the men and women in uniform whose fate is still undetermined -- our prisoners of war and personnel missing in action. We will not forget these brave Americans. We must not rest until we've accounted for every soldier, sailor, airman, Coast Guardsman, and Marine. And we will always honor their courage. (Applause.)
At this hour, a new generation of Americans in uniform is showing great courage in defending our freedom in the first war of the 21st century. I know that Legionnaires are following this war closely, especially those of you with family and friends who wear our uniform. The images that come back from the front lines are striking, and sometimes unsettling. When you see innocent civilians ripped apart by suicide bombs, or families buried inside their homes, the world can seem engulfed in purposeless violence. The truth is there is violence, but those who cause it have a clear purpose. When terrorists murder at the World Trade Center, or car bombers strike in Baghdad, or hijackers plot to blow up planes over the Atlantic, or terrorist militias shoot rockets at Israeli towns, they are all pursuing the same objective -- to turn back the advance of freedom, and impose a dark vision of tyranny and terror across the world.
The enemies of liberty come from different parts of the world, and they take inspiration from different sources. Some are radicalized followers of the Sunni tradition, who swear allegiance to terrorist organizations like al Qaeda. Others are radicalized followers of the Shia tradition, who join groups like Hezbollah and take guidance from state sponsors like Syria and Iran. Still others are "homegrown" terrorists -- fanatics who live quietly in free societies they dream to destroy. Despite their differences, these groups from -- form the outlines of a single movement, a worldwide network of radicals that use terror to kill those who stand in the way of their totalitarian ideology. And the unifying feature of this movement, the link that spans sectarian divisions and local grievances, is the rigid conviction that free societies are a threat to their twisted view of Islam.
The war we fight today is more than a military conflict; it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. (Applause.) On one side are those who believe in the values of freedom and moderation -- the right of all people to speak, and worship, and live in liberty. And on the other side are those driven by the values of tyranny and extremism -- the right of a self-appointed few to impose their fanatical views on all the rest. As veterans, you have seen this kind of enemy before. They're successors to Fascists, to Nazis, to Communists, and other totalitarians of the 20th century. And history shows what the outcome will be: This war will be difficult; this war will be long; and this war will end in the defeat of the terrorists and totalitarians, and a victory for the cause of freedom and liberty. (Applause.)
We're now approaching the fifth anniversary of the day this war reached our shores. As the horror of that morning grows more distant, there is a tendency to believe that the threat is receding and this war is coming to a close. That feeling is natural and comforting -- and wrong. As we recently saw, the enemy still wants to attack us. We're in a war we didn't ask for, but it's a war we must wage, and a war we will win. (Applause.)
In the coming days, I'll deliver a series of speeches describing the nature of our enemy in the war on terror, the insights we've gained about their aims and ambitions, the successes and setbacks we've experienced, and our strategy to prevail in this long war. Today, I'll discuss a critical aspect of this war: the struggle between freedom and terror in the Middle East, including the battle in Iraq, which is the central front in our fight against terrorism.
To understand the struggle unfolding in the Middle East, we need to look at the recent history of the region. For a half- century, America's primary goal in the Middle East was stability. This was understandable at the time; we were fighting the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and it was important to support Middle Eastern governments that rejected communism. Yet, over the decades, an undercurrent of danger was rising in the Middle East. Much of the region was mired in stagnation and despair. A generation of young people grew up with little hope to improve their lives, and many fell under the sway of radical extremism. The terrorist movement multiplied in strength, and resentment that had simmered for years boiled over into violence across the world.
Extremists in Iran seized American hostages. Hezbollah terrorists murdered American troops at the Marine barracks in Beirut and Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. Terrorists set off a truck bomb at the World Trade Center. Al Qaeda blew up two U.S. embassies in East Africa, and bombed the USS Cole. Then came the nightmare of September the 11, 2001, when 19 hijackers killed nearly 3,000 men, women, and children.
In the space of a single morning, it became clear that the calm we saw in the Middle East was only a mirage. We realized that years of pursuing stability to promote peace had left us with neither. Instead, the lack of freedom in the Middle East made the region an incubator for terrorist movements.
The status quo in the Middle East before September the 11th was dangerous and unacceptable, so we're pursuing a new strategy. First, we're using every element of national power to confront al Qaeda, those who take inspiration from them, and other terrorists who use similar tactics. We have ended the days of treating terrorism simply as a law enforcement matter. We will stay on the offense. We will fight the terrorists overseas so we do not have to face them here at home. (Applause.)
Second, we have made it clear to all nations, if you harbor terrorists, you are just as guilty as the terrorists; you're an enemy of the United States, and you will be held to account. (Applause.) And third, we've launched a bold new agenda to defeat the ideology of the enemy by supporting the forces of freedom in the Middle East and beyond.
The freedom agenda is based upon our deepest ideals and our vital interests. Americans believe that every person, of every religion, on every continent, has the right to determine his or her own destiny. We believe that freedom is a gift from an almighty God, beyond any power on Earth to take away. (Applause.) And we also know, by history and by logic, that promoting democracy is the surest way to build security. Democracies don't attack each other or threaten the peace. Governments accountable to the voters focus on building roads and schools -- not weapons of mass destruction. Young people who have a say in their future are less likely to search for meaning in extremism. Citizens who can join a peaceful political party are less likely to join a terrorist organization. Dissidents with the freedom to protest around the clock are less likely to blow themselves up during rush hour. And nations that commit to freedom for their people will not support terrorists -- they will join us in defeating them. (Applause.)
So America has committed its influence in the world to advancing freedom and democracy as the great alternatives to repression and radicalism. We will take the side of democratic leaders and reformers across the Middle East. We will support the voices of tolerance and moderation in the Muslim world. We stand with the mothers and fathers in every culture who want to see their children grow up in a caring and peaceful world. And by supporting the cause of freedom in a vital region, we'll make our children and our grandchildren more secure. (Applause.)
Over the past five years, we've begun to see the results of our actions -- and we have seen how our enemies respond to the advance of liberty. In Afghanistan, we saw a vicious tyranny that harbored the terrorists who planned the September the 11th attacks. Within weeks, American forces were in Afghanistan. Along with Afghan allies, we captured or killed hundreds of al Qaeda and Taliban fighters; we closed down their training camps, and we helped the people of Afghanistan replace the Taliban with a democratic government that answers to them. (Applause.)
Our enemies saw the transformation in Afghanistan, and they've responded by trying to roll back all the progress. Al Qaeda and the Taliban lost a coveted base in Afghanistan and they know they will never reclaim it when democracy succeeds. And so they're trying to return to power by attacking Afghanistan's free institutions. And they will fail. (Applause.) Forces from 40 nations, including every member of NATO, are now serving alongside American troops to support the new Afghan government. The days of the Taliban are over. The future of Afghanistan belongs to the people of Afghanistan. And the future of Afghanistan belongs to freedom. (Applause.)
In Lebanon, we saw a sovereign nation occupied by the Syrian dictatorship. We also saw the courageous people of Lebanon take to the streets to demand their independence. So we worked to enforce a United Nations resolution that required Syria to end its occupation of the country. The Syrians withdrew their armed forces, and the Lebanese people elected a democratic government that began to reclaim their country.
Our enemies saw the transformation in Lebanon and set out to destabilize the young democracy. Hezbollah launched an unprovoked attack on Israel that undermined the democrat government in Beirut. Yet their brazen action caused the world to unite in support for Lebanon's democracy. Secretary Rice worked with the Security Council to pass Resolution 1701, which will strengthen Lebanese forces as they take control of southern Lebanon -- and stop Hezbollah from acting as a state within a state.
I appreciate the troops pledged by France and Italy and other allies for this important international deployment. Together, we're going to make it clear to the world that foreign forces and terrorists have no place in a free and democratic Lebanon. (Applause.)
This summer's crisis in Lebanon has made it clearer than ever that the world now faces a grave threat from the radical regime in Iran. The Iranian regime arms, funds, and advises Hezbollah, which has killed more Americans than any terrorist network except al Qaeda. The Iranian regime interferes in Iraq by sponsoring terrorists and insurgents, empowering unlawful militias, and supplying components for improvised explosive devices. The Iranian regime denies basic human rights to millions of its people. And the Iranian regime is pursuing nuclear weapons in open defiance of its international obligations.
We know the death and suffering that Iran's sponsorship of terrorists has brought, and we can imagine how much worse it would be if Iran were allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. Many nations are working together to solve this problem. The United Nations passed a resolution demanding that Iran suspend its nuclear enrichment activities. Today is the deadline for Iran's leaders to reply to the reasonable proposal the international community has made. If Iran's leaders accept this offer and abandon their nuclear weapons ambitions, they can set their country on a better course. Yet, so far, the Iranian regime has responded with further defiance and delay. It is time for Iran to make a choice. We've made our choice: We will continue to work closely with our allies to find a diplomatic solution -- but there must be consequences for Iran's defiance, and we must not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. (Applause.)
In Iraq, we saw a dictator who harbored terrorists, fired at military planes, paid the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, invaded a neighbor, and pursued and used weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions demanding that Saddam Hussein fully and openly abandon his weapons of mass destruction. We gave him a last chance to comply -- and when he refused, we enforced the just demands of the world. And now Saddam Hussein is in prison and on trial. Soon he will have the justice he denied to so many for so long. (Applause.) And with this tyrant gone from power, the United States, Iraq, the Middle East, and the world are better off. (Applause.)
In the three years since Saddam's fall the Iraqi people have reclaimed sovereignty of their country. They cast their ballots in free elections. They drafted and approved a democratic constitution and elected a constitutional democracy at the heart of the Middle East. Over the same period, Iraq has seen a rise of terrorist and insurgent movements that use brutal and indiscriminate violence to frustrate the desire of the Iraqi people for freedom and peace. Al Qaeda terrorists, former elements of Saddam's regime, illegal militias and unlawful armed groups are all working to undermine Iraq's new democracy. These groups have different long-term ambitions, but the same immediate goals. They want to drive America and our coalition out of Iraq and the Middle East, so they can stop the advance of freedom and impose their dark vision on the people of the Middle East. (Applause.)
Our enemies in Iraq have employed ruthless tactics to achieve those goals. They've targeted American and coalition troops with ambushes and roadside bombs. They've taken hostage and beheaded civilians on camera. They've blown up Iraqi army posts and assassinated government leaders. We've adapted to the tactics -- and thanks to the skill and professionalism of Iraqi and American forces, many of these enemies have met their end. At every step along the way, our enemies have failed to break the courage of the Iraqi people; they have failed to stop the rise of Iraqi democracy -- and they will fail in breaking the will of the American people. (Applause.)
Now these enemies have launched a new effort. They have embarked on a bloody campaign of sectarian violence, which they hope will plunge Iraq into a civil war. The outbreak of sectarian violence was encouraged by the terrorist Zarqawi, al Qaeda's man in Iraq who called for an "all-out war" on Iraqi Shia. The Shia community resisted the impulse to seek revenge for a while. But after this February bombing of the Shia Golden Dome Mosque in Samarra, extremist groups mobilized and sectarian death squads formed on the streets of Baghdad and other areas. Our Ambassador reports that thousands of Iraqis were murdered in Baghdad last month, and large numbers of them were victims of sectarian violence.
This cruelty and carnage has led some to question whether Iraq has descended into civil war. Our commanders and our diplomats on the ground in Iraq believe that's not the case. They report that only a small number of Iraqis are engaged in sectarian violence, while the overwhelming majority want peace and a normal life in a unified country. Iraqi leaders from all backgrounds remember the elections that brought them to power, in which 12 million Iraqis defied the car bombers and killers to claim, "We want to be free." (Applause.)
Iraq's government is working tirelessly to hold the nation together and to heal Iraq's divisions, not to exploit them. The Iraqi people have come a long way. They are not going to let their country fall apart or relapse into tyranny. As Prime Minister Maliki told the United States Congress, "Iraqis have tasted freedom and we will defend it absolutely." (Applause.)
America has a clear strategy to help the Iraqi people protect their new freedom, and build a democracy that can govern itself, and sustain itself, and defend itself. On the political side, we're working closely with Prime Minister Maliki to strengthen Iraq's unity government and develop -- and to deliver better services to the Iraqi people. This is a crucial moment for the new Iraqi government; its leaders understand the challenge. They believe that now is the time to hammer out compromises on Iraq's most contentious issues.
I've been clear with each Iraqi leader I meet: America is a patient nation, and Iraq can count on our partnership, as long as the new government continues to make the hard decisions necessary to advance a unified, democratic and peaceful Iraq. Prime Minister Maliki has shown courage in laying out an agenda to do just that -- and he can count on an ally, the United States of America, to help him promote this agenda. (Applause.)
On the security side, we're refining our tactics to meet the threats on the ground. I've given our commanders in Iraq all the flexibility they need to make adjustments necessary to stay on the offense and defeat the enemies of freedom. We've deployed Special Operation forces to kill or capture terrorists operating in Iraq. Zarqawi found out what they can do. We continue to train Iraqi police forces to defend their own nation. We've handed over security responsibility for a southern province to Iraqi forces. Five of Iraq's 10 army divisions are now taking the lead in their areas of operation. The Iraqi security forces are determined; they're becoming more capable; and together, we will defeat the enemies of a free Iraq. (Applause.)
Recently, we also launched a major new campaign to end the security crisis in Baghdad. Side by side, Iraqi and American forces are conducting operations in the city's most violent areas to disrupt al Qaeda, to capture enemy fighters, crack down on IED makers, and break up the death squads. These forces are helping Iraq's national police force undergo retraining to better enforce law in Baghdad. And these forces are supporting the Iraqi government as it provides reconstruction assistance.
The Baghdad Security Plan is still in its early stages. We cannot expect immediate success. Yet, the initial results are encouraging. According to one military report, a Sunni man in a diverse Baghdad neighborhood said this about the Shia soldiers on patrol: "Their image has changed. Now you feel they're there to protect you." Over the coming weeks and months, the operation will expand throughout Baghdad. until Iraq's democratic government is in full control of its capital. The work is difficult and dangerous, but the Iraqi government and their forces are determined to reclaim their country. And the United States is determined to help them succeed. (Applause.)
Here at home we have a choice to make about Iraq. Some politicians look at our efforts in Iraq and see a diversion from the war on terror. That would come as news to Osama bin Laden, who proclaimed that the "third world war is raging" in Iraq. It would come as news to the number two man of al Qaeda, Zawahiri, who has called the struggle in Iraq, quote, "the place for the greatest battle." It would come as news to the terrorists from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and other countries, who have to come to Iraq to fight the rise of democracy.
It's hard to believe that these terrorists would make long journeys across dangerous borders, endure heavy fighting, or blow themselves up in the streets of Baghdad, for a so-called "diversion." Some Americans didn't support my decision to remove Saddam Hussein; many are frustrated with the level of violence. But we should all agree that the battle for Iraq is now central to the ideological struggle of the 21st century. We will not allow the terrorists to dictate the future of this century -- so we will defeat them in Iraq. (Applause.)
Still, there are some in our country who insist that the best option in Iraq is to pull out, regardless of the situation on the ground. Many of these folks are sincere and they're patriotic, but they could be -- they could not be more wrong. If America were to pull out before Iraq can defend itself, the consequences would be absolutely predictable -- and absolutely disastrous. We would be handing Iraq over to our worst enemies -- Saddam's former henchmen, armed groups with ties to Iran, and al Qaeda terrorists from all over the world who would suddenly have a base of operations far more valuable than Afghanistan under the Taliban. They would have a new sanctuary to recruit and train terrorists at the heart of the Middle East, with huge oil riches to fund their ambitions. And we know exactly where those ambitions lead. If we give up the fight in the streets of Baghdad, we will face the terrorists in the streets of our own cities.
We can decide to stop fighting the terrorists in Iraq and other parts of the world, but they will not decide to stop fighting us. General John Abizaid, our top commander in the Middle East region, recently put it this way: "If we leave, they will follow us." And he is right. The security of the civilized world depends on victory in the war on terror, and that depends on victory in Iraq. So the United States of America will not leave until victory is achieved. (Applause.)
Victory in Iraq will be difficult and it will require more sacrifice. The fighting there can be as fierce as it was at Omaha Beach or Guadalcanal. And victory is as important as it was in those earlier battles. Victory in Iraq will result in a democracy that is a friend of America and an ally in the war on terror. Victory in Iraq will be a crushing defeat for our enemies, who have staked so much on the battle there. Victory in Iraq will honor the sacrifice of the brave Americans who have given their lives. And victory in Iraq would be a powerful triumph in the ideological struggle of the 21st century. From Damascus to Tehran, people will look to a democratic Iraq as inspiration that freedom can succeed in the Middle East, and as evidence that the side of freedom is the winning side. This is a pivotal moment for the Middle East. The world is watching -- and in Iraq and beyond, the forces of freedom will prevail.
For all the debate, American policy in the Middle East comes down to a straightforward choice. We can allow the Middle East to continue on its course -- on the course it was headed before September the 11th, and a generation from now, our children will face a region dominated by terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons. Or we can stop that from happening, by rallying the world to confront the ideology of hate, and give the people of the Middle East a future of hope. And that is the choice America has made. (Applause.)
We see a day when people across the Middle East have governments that honor their dignity, unleash their creativity, and count their votes. We see a day when leaders across the Middle East reject terror and protect freedom. We see a day when the nations of the Middle East are allies in the cause of peace. The path to that day will be uphill and uneven, but we can be confident of the outcome, because we know that the direction of history leads toward freedom.
In the early years of our republic, Thomas Jefferson said that we cannot expect to move "from despotism to liberty in a featherbed." That's been true in every time and place. No one understands that like you, our veterans, understand that. With the distance of history, it can be easy to look back at the wars of the 20th century and see a straight path to victory. You know better than that. You waged the hard battles, you suffered the wounds, you lost friends and brothers. You were there for dark times and the moments of uncertainty. And you know that freedom is always worth the sacrifice.
You also know what it takes to win. For all that is new about this war, one thing has not changed: Victory still depends on the courage and the patience and the resolve of the American people. Above all, it depends on patriots who are willing to fight for freedom. (Applause.) Our nation is blessed to have these men and women in abundance. Our military forces make this nation strong; they make this nation safe; and they make this nation proud. (Applause.)
We thank them and their families for their sacrifice. We will remember all those who have given their lives in this struggle -- and I vow that we will give our men and women in uniform all the resources they need to accomplish their missions. (Applause.)
One brave American we remember is Marine Corporal Adam Galvez, from here in Salt Lake City. Yesterday Adam's mom and dad laid their son to rest. We're honored by their presence with us today. (Applause.) About a month ago, Adam was wounded by a suicide bomb in Iraq's Anbar Province. When he regained consciousness, he found he was buried alive, so he dug himself out of the rubble. And then ran through gunfire to get a shovel to dig out his fellow Marines. As soon as he recovered from his injuries, Adam volunteered to go back to the front lines. and 11 days ago, he was killed when a roadside bomb hit his convoy.
Here is what Adam's mom and dad said about the cause for which their son gave his life: "Though many are debating the justification of this war, Adam believed in his country -- Adam's belief in his country did not waver, even to the point of the ultimate sacrifice. It's our hope and our prayer that people share the same conviction and dedication to our troops and fellow Americans." (Applause.)
Our nation will always remember the selflessness and sacrifice of Americans like Adam Galvez. We will honor their lives by completing the good and noble work they have started. (Applause.) And we can be confident that one day, veterans of the war on terror will gather at American Legion halls across the country, and say the same things you say: We made our nation safer; we made a region more peaceful; and we left behind a better world for our children and our grandchildren. (Applause.)
Thanks for having me. May God bless our veterans. May God bless our troops. And may God continue to bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
"Do not be anxious about anything, but as often as you worship and pray let your troubles come before God with thanksgiving" [trans. by Karl Barth].
"Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" [RSV translation].
"Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance, and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God" [Amplified Bible, original italics].
In his brief commentary on Philippians, Karl Barth (1886-1968), has these words on the famous verse above from Phil. 4:6:
To begin by praising God for the fact that in this situation, as it is, he is so mightily God--such a beginning is the end of anxiety. To be anxious means that we ourselves suffer, ourselves groan, ourselves seek to see ahead. Thanksgiving means giving God the glory in everything, making room for him, casting our care on him, letting it be his care. The troubles that exercise us then cease to be hidden and bottled up. They are so to speak laid open towards God, spread out before him.
Barth, Epistle to the Philippians (Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), p. 122 (original italics).
Another way of saying what Barth points out--that we spread our troubles before God--is the way St. Josemaría Escrivá said it repeatedly in his exhortations: live in the presence of God at all times. The martyrs were certainly in the presence of God. They said to their persecutors in effect: cut me up into little pieces and throw me in the fire, I have no fear. The martyrs abandoned themselves to God.
But most of the time, we are not in martyr mode. We do not want to be in the presence of God. And so our anxieties and fears consume us. We stubbornly seek to do it our way and turn to God only when we have no way out, when our "solutions" and manipulations have fallen flat. How refreshing if we would begin facing our troubles and anxieties with God at the very start of our troubles, instead of just calling on him after we have made our troubles much worse.
We are still running away from God, like Adam and Eve after the Fall. Like our first parents, we think we can carry it off, we can make it work without God, that we don't have to bring him into the matter. Of course, in that situation, then the appropriate and rational command would be the opposite of that given in this verse: we should indeed be anxious, fret, and worry because we are attempting to do what we cannot do. We cannot solve our anxieties: only God can. Some deceive themselves into thinking that some sort of Eastern meditation in which we try to kill our desires will remove our anxieties. Well, to remove our desires is in effect to kill ourselves--to most Christians, a highly unsatisfactory solution to the problem, as if we decided to take care of a misbehaving pet by killing him instead of training him. The Christian way is not to kill our desires but to present them to God and have him shape them. The Christian option requires courage to drop our mania for control and let another control.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006Evangelization Lesson: Catholic Analysis 2006 E-Book Now at Mobipocket.com
For those who use a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) such as Palm Pilot or the Treo, the book Catholic Analysis 2006 is now available for downloading at Mobipocket.com, an e-book company owned by Amazon.com. (You can also use your personal computer to download using a free Mobipocket Reader.) Amazon will use Mobipocket in the near future to make its print books available as E-books. The E-books have at least two advantages: less expensive to buy because no printing costs and no shipping delay (hence also no shipping charge). So if you use these devices, the book is available at this link! My goal and the goal of all with a message is to use as many avenues available to reach people. And with the Catholic message we should leave no avenue unexplored.
In each of our lives, we must think and pray for God to reveal to our short-sighted natures, so enamored of the known, safe, and routine, what avenues for evangelization and transformation of our surroundings we may have ignored and left unexplored. And then we deliver the Message. The key is not to make the audience come to us and find us, but for us to take the message to a very diverse audience with different tastes and preferences--and with very different technological tastes. It's not an imperative just for people who have blogs or write books. It's for all of us in everday life. What opportunities have we ignored or been blind to in encouraging others to follow Jesus more? Based on my embarrassing personal experience, you will be amazed at how many avenues we fail to see. Sometimes it's as simple as not fearing to reveal our beliefs in a sensible, low-key, soft-spoken, natural, and appropriate way to those we speak to everyday.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006The Real New Orleans Endures
The real New Orleans before Katrina was a story of widespread poverty and violence with a jolly Potemkin Village front of drunkenness, pornographic display, and dissipation. It had been that way for years and years. Then Katrina came; and the media, for so many decades utterly indifferent to the social catastrophe that had always been New Orleans, began to use the natural disaster as part of its unceasing political campaign to defame the President. The editorial at the Wall Street Journal online captures what happened:
After the hurricane, newspapers around the world showed photos of New Orleans under headlines that shouted: "America's shame." In truth, New Orleans was America's shame long before Katrina. In large part the residents of the Big Easy were victims of the predatory behavior of their own politicians. Louisiana already ranked among the bottom five of all the states in crime, poverty, health care and school performance; the murder rate in New Orleans today is 10 times the national average.
Aug. 29, 2006, Wall Street Journal online editorial.
One week before Katrina I sat in New Orleans marvelling that the local media was reporting that violent crime was out of control. It was the same old story I remembered from years and years of living there. The story line never changed. Today, the violence is also out of control. And the mediocrity that has enveloped the city for decades, as tightly as the humidity, continues, a mediocrity that is not just a matter of poor, uneducated people living day-to-day but also of a mediocrity that envelops the so-called elites who in spite of all the pretense never had anything "elite" about them and who lived "drink-to-drink" (I could also substitute the names of other substances) and "carnival-to-carnival."
I recall the complaints years ago of an elderly Monsignor, pastor of an old city parish, who complained about the lines of cars driven by relatively affluent white people who jammed the streets of his parish searching for their weekend drug fix from the ghetto dealers. That was the sinister reality that lay underneath the charming tourist myth. Today, some yuppies are scratching their heads because the ghettoes that kept them so well supplied have been physically rearranged. But the good news is that not a few of those poor people trapped in those ghettoes are now living the American Dream in other cities. They are not living in the violent drug warehouse any more. For many, Armageddon was really Exodus.
Rumblings on Pope & Intelligent Design
The British press at this link is reporting that the Pope is taking a keen and unsurprising interest in the intelligent design vs. evolution controversies. Unfortunately, this entire debate is unnecessarily muddled and overcomplicated. Evolution certainly has its uses within scientific specializations, but evolution cannot under any logical basis erase the evidence of intelligent design that is both so obvious to the casual observer and so astonishing to acute scientific observers on both the macro and micro levels of research. Recently, I posted a link to a graphic which showed the amazing similarities in visual pattern between the neurons of a mouse brain and a scientifically produced image of galaxies (see my August 16, 2006, post "More Intelligent Design," at this link). It would be ludicrous to claim that evolution forces us to ignore this and other abundant evidence of intelligent design.
Such a claim for an imperial evolution is a claim for ideological evolution as a religion in its own right. The claim for what I call imperial evolution is not a scientific claim, but rather a metaphysical claim. And when it comes to metaphysical claims, intelligent design is more persuasive. That doesn't mean evolution does not have a circumscribed role in certain areas of science. But it does mean that no one is constrained to grant to evolution broader metaphysical status, regardless of the outlandish claims made by some evolutionists.
The mark of the true scientist is wonder, a trait abundant in the greatest of scientists, Albert Einstein. Yet, some evolutionists have lost the ability to wonder at the intelligent design all around us. By losing that ability to wonder, they have lost the kernel of great science. It may be that such imperial evolutionists have let secular despair and nihilism that may be both personal and cultural overly influence their vision of science. Nothing could be further from the spirit that makes science a grand human endeavor.
Monday, August 28, 2006The True Right to Privacy
Because of the great Orwellian deceptions of our society, we sometimes lose sight of the real meanings of words and terms--for example, the true meaning of "right to privacy." But, you may think, "Why is a right to privacy so important for a Christian?" Note well: if we do not know how to respect the privacy of others, we become the same Pharisees so vehemently rebuked by Jesus of Nazareth. Recall how the Pharisees were always questioning and suspecting: was the man healed by Jesus really born blind? why don't his followers fast? why are they picking ears of grain on the Sabbath? why is he healing on the Sabbath? why does he eat with sinners? what does he mean by questioning our piety? what new thing is he doing? Especially, we who are "religious" need to pay attention here. Here is where Satan can capture us who may not be seriously tempted to engage in any sort of crime or outrageous infamy. But we may be seriously tempted--we may even be beyond temptation and habitually and compulsively addicted to disrespecting the privacy of others to the point that it is done almost unconsciously. Yet, we are and will be held responsible either by our intent or by the real consequences and effects of even our unconscious actions.
In 1961, St. Josemaría Escrivá gave a homily entitled "Christian Respect for Persons and Their Freedom." The homily is part of a collection of his homilies entitled Christ is Passing By (Scepter Press, 1973). (The original Spanish title is Es Cristo Que Pasa, which is better translated "It is Christ Who Passes By.") Let me give you some choice excerpts. (Sometimes I think that the best benefit of this blog is merely pointing to the worthwhile things I have read that others may not have already come across or may not have the time to discover initially on their own.) Here are the excerpts (you can make the applications to your own life situation):
1. The problem: "We cannot be surprised that many persons, even those who think themselves Christians, . . . . [have as]
[t]heir first impulse . . . to think badly of someone or something. They don't need any proof; they take it for granted. And they don't keep it to themselves, they air their snap judgments to the winds" (p. 150; emphases added in these excerpts unless otherwise noted).
2. "For them, even the most noble and unselfish actions are only hypocritical contortions designed to appear good. 'When they clearly discover goodness,' writes St. Gregory the Great, 'they scrutinize it in the hope of finding hidden defects' " (p. 152).
3. "It would be no trouble at all to point out present-day cases of aggressive curiosity which pries morbidly into the private lives of others . . . It is clear that an unhealthy curiosity to perform autopsies on actions that are not illicit but positively good should be ranked under the heading of perversion" (p. 157). So perversion is not limited to the sins of impurity. But, then again, isn't it impurity to defame and slander others? Doesn't the compulsion to seek the worst in others make us impure? We should have a wider view of a pure mind and heart that certainly excludes the sins of lust but also takes issue with all our other impurities. A pagan who is refined enough to mind his own business is more pleasant to be around than a respectable Christian who does not mind his own business.
4. The solution: "Faced with traders in suspicion who prey on the intimacy of others, we must defend the dignity of every person, his right to peace. . . . the legitimate right to be oneself, to avoid ostentation, to keep within the family its joys, sorrows, and difficulties. We are defending, no less, the right to do good without publicity, to help the disadvantaged out of pure love, without feeling obliged to publicize one's efforts to serve others, much less to bare the intimacy of one's soul to the indiscreet and twisted gaze of persons who know nothing and want to know nothing of disinterested generosity, except to mock it mercilessly" (p. 158). Here is the worst result of not respecting the true right to privacy: discouraging the actual doing of good for others by making people fearful and anxious about perfectly innocent actions.
5. The defense of the right to privacy is especially apt given modern technology and modern assumptions of appropriate public discourse: "But how difficult it is to be free of this meddlesome sleuthing! The means invented to prevent man from being left alone have multiplied. I am referring not only to the technical means [e.g., the epidemic of intrusive cell phones], but also to accepted forms of argument, which are so cunning that one endangers his reputation if he but answers them" (p. 158). Escrivá points out how the tendency to make suspicion reign supreme unjustly and impudently invites others to attempt the impossible: to prove one's innocence. We see this offensive against privacy in the media all of the time: accusations are made that require the invasion of privacy to answer them. "A mistaken idea has arisen in certain environments that grants to the public or the media or whatever they wish to call it, the right to know and to judge the most intimate details of the lives of others" (p. 159). There is no such right.
6. And all the philanthropy and donations to good causes won't erase the evil of unjust intrusion. Even the rebuked Pharisees engaged in good works. "The charity of Christ is . . . not limited to a penchant for philanthropy" (p. 163). "Christian charity cannot be limited to giving things or money to the needy. It seeks, above all, to respect and understand each person for what he is, in his intrinsic dignity as a man and child of God" (p. 165).
If we bring charity into our talk about others, into our questions and conversations, into the way we view the lives and conduct of others, especially the conduct of fellow Christians, then we do ourselves a grand favor: we focus on the elevation of our own lives instead of on the degradation of the lives of others with morbid curiosity, suspicion, and slander. Charity must involve giving the benefit of the doubt, not imposing the worst interpretation possible of what someone does, says, or writes.
I have not finished this particular book, but what I have read thus far is enough to justify obtaining it.