Saturday, May 07, 2005

They Chose Culture War Over Common Sense

This is what I can imagine myself doing to folks who chose the culture wars over rational, ethical morality in this last election. Thanks to Biomes Blog for the photo.

Photo by Jude

Coffee shop window NYC
photo by Jude Nagurney Camwell

Pope Calls For Ousting Of Jesuit Editor

Pope Calls For Ousting Of Jesuit Editor
"Stephen Pope, a moral theologian at Boston College who wrote the article critical of the church's position on same-sex marriage, said of the dismissal: "If this is true, it's going to make Catholic theologians who want to ask critical questions not want to publish in Catholic journals. It can have a chilling effect."

- From a NY Times article by Laurie Goodstein

Rev. Thomas Reese, the 60 year-old editor of the Catholic publication America, who has covered some sensitive issues including gay priests, stem-cell research, whether Catholic politicians can be denied Communion if they support abortion rights, and same-sex unions, has been ousted at the behest of Pope Benedict XVI.

Tom Roberts, editor of the National Catholic Reporter, has commented that he believes this is "an absolute tragedy and an appalling affront to intelligent discourse."

It seems that the man who was Cardinal Ratzinger was waiting for the opportunity to oust Reese. As one of his first acts as Pope, this sends a clear message to Roman Catholics.

After seeing the new Ridley Scott film "The Kingdom of Heaven" last night, I am reminded how the force of organized religion can break down a society's view of the the value of virtue in men and women who hold faith and truth in their own hearts and minds. This is not to say that it is requisite to be irreligious in order to be virtuous, for the modern-day Society of Jesus can be held up as quite virtuous and obviously religious.

When you remove from the public forum your most intelligent, open-minded, and virtuous defenders of the faith, I believe that the faith becomes narrow and, ironically, increasingly vulnerable to corruption for power's sake.

Silencing post-Vatican II theologians is a clear cry for the denouncement of modernity. I am a person who struggles to find reasons to stay with the Roman Catholic faith. I was raised in the faith, educated in the faith, and it is not something I wish to abandon, because I place a high value on the personal virtues that I know I have developed, in large part, because of the education in that faith. However, I'm afraid, truly afraid, that as a result of denouncing modernity, the Roman Catholic Church in America will soon suffer the same fate as the Roman Catholic church in Europe. They are making the already-difficult struggle a near-impossible battle by narrowing the field back down to doctrinal tenets to which the modern man can barely relate. They ask us to stop looking ahead, and thus our hearts and spirits atrophy. It takes a leap of faith to trust modernity, and I only see this current move to silence modern men of faith as a direct way of losing the lambs that stray. When will they ever learn?

NY Times Story
Boston Globe Story
America Magazine

UPDATE: See Andrew Sullivan's take

If I were a Jesuit, I would take the hostility of this clerical tyrant as a badge of honor. Firing this moderate, quiet, modest man is really a call to arms for those of us who need to save our church from this disastrous choice for the papacy.

John McCandlish Phillips on Various Columnists

John McCandlish Phillips on Various Columnists

By the very title of John McCandlish Phillips' Washington Post column, "When Columnists Cry 'Jihad', I strongly sensed that he wished to rouse emotions of distrust and fear in the average conservative Christian. I am dismayed by this, because, for the sake of the strength of a democratic America, I hope to see reconciliation between the people who call themselves fundamentalists (or born-agains) and so many other Americans who do not share that particular belief. Look at how the 21st century began - with our nation being drawn into Islam’s civil war, which is a war between those who idolize a political and authoritarian religiously-based society and those who champion a traditional, civil, and peaceful Islam of many varied voices. Why do we not see that something similar could happen here in America when political leaders like Tom DeLay admit he believes God is training him in government by divine guidance and a Biblical worldview? That, my friends, is a theocrat who is the majority leader of the American ('small d' - and getting smaller) democratic House.

Mr. Phillips has used what seem to be carefully-selected words from various columnists, and has promoted the most negative version of the often-misunderstood term "jihad". Many Muslims (especially the Sufis) conceive of jihad as a personal rather than a political struggle and do not connect the term with violence against others at all. For example, withdrawal from the world to attend to mystical pursuits constitutes jihad. If monks are to retreat to a monastery to attend to all things mystical, does that mean they want to fly airplanes into buildings?

When Mr. Phillips said:
If [columnist Frank] Rich were to have the misfortune to live for one week in a genuine jihad, and the unlikely fortune to survive it, he would temper his categorization of the perceived President Bush-driven jihad by a minimum of 77 percent.
..his intellectual honesty, as far as I'm concerned, went flying out of the belfry. "Genuine" jihad? I know that Mr. Phillips is not an ignorant man. I understand the meaning of persuasive writing, yet I can't help but think this is a fear-based misleading, because I realize that the average American hears "Jihad" and automatically thinks of Mohammed Atta and Osama Bin Laden. I imagine John McCandlish Phillips knows that, too - very well. I wonder if Mr. Phillips, like so many conservative Christians today, are lashing out in pain, believing they are misunderstood?

This culture war continues to be waged by Conservative Far Right Religious Leaders against secular modernity, against the checks and balances protected by the U.S. Constitution, against the independent Judiciary, and against the American way. I know there are concerned and tolerant Americans who are becoming conscious of the futility of and the reasons for the ugly culture war, and they will look for real leaders who will not use or abuse their faith to manipulate them.

The narrow theological agenda that the theocratic right is imposing on our secular society will not stand. We won't stand for it. The movement values guns and the death penalty. It values the rich at the expense of the poor. It favors corporations at the expense of individuals. It seeks to eliminate virtually all regulations that protect the environment, worker safety, and public health. The political ramifications run against my own personal Christian faith.

I respect Mr. Phillips faith, but I surely cannot abide by his political stance.

Mr Phillips, still referring to columnist Frank Rich, raised the spectre of revolutionary visions of gay marriage. I can easily understand how, after reading Mr. Phillips' piece, that conservative Christian readers might believe the radical revolution is coming from gays (who have been with us from time immortal), rather than admitting that the real radicals are the conservative leaders of the Theocratic Far Right who have been, in truth, trying very hard - for a very long time - to perform a surgical reconstruction of the U.S. Constitution by their religious triumphalism, and worse, with the willing help of the GOP.

When Maureen Dowd wrote "Oh my God, we really are in a theocracy," most New York Times readers are savvy enough to know she was being wry. Mr. Phillips warned someone (just who's he warning, anyhow?) that Maureen shouldn't be taken "lightly". He's right, I think. Maureen has a good point, once you sort through her envelope-pushing satire. Mr. Phillips recognizes her heavy artillery and he is biting back - yet, his bark is worse than his bite if you read what he says about Maureen. It's toothless. He's gumming away at her reality-based snipe-fest, perhaps hoping for an angry or fearful reaction that could only come from red-meat Conservatives. (That answers my question about who he's "warning".)

Worst of all, Mr. Phillips has given the average American reader no credit at all for our belief in upholding the U.S. Constitution and supporting the Establishment Clause while still understanding and respecting all people of faith. I can hardly believe he felt he had to defend born-agains and Catholics in the way he chose (especially since I am a Catholic myself):
I have met hundreds of evangelicals and a good many practicing Catholics and have found them to be of reasonable temperament, often enough of impressive accomplishment, certainly not a menace to the republic, unless, of course, the very fact of faith seriously held is thought to make them just that.
I think to myself: How dare he presume that someone like myself would think any different about these people of faith? I am a Catholic American, many of my closest friends profess the born-again faith. How dare Mr. Phillips make them believe that someone like myself thinks my fellow Christians are raving lunatics? I certainly do not, and I am powerfully sorry for Mr. Phillips if he truly believes most Americans feel that way about people who call themselves conservative Christians.

Mr. Phillips ended his piece with a triumphal claim to theocracy-in-democratic-government by touting the national day of Thanksgiving as proof that God can mix with State and it's all hunky-dory. I recall the story of the first Thanksgiving which inspired the national day's declaration. The Native Americans were allegedly invited to celebrate with the Puritan immigrants after their first harvest in the New World. The Native Americans then had their land stolen and raped by 'Christians'. In 1779, ten years before the first Thanksgiving to God was proclaimed, Washington ordered Haudenosaunee villages burned to the ground in a post-Revolution punitive action. Later, Manifest Destiny made it perfectly acceptable to forget what was morally right or wrong. Expansion at all costs - and slavery - were acceptable to some men who claimed to live by 'Christian principles'. I'm not making any of this up. Read your American history books. The land was stolen. Thou shalt not steal.

What sins, today, will be acceptable to the Religious Far Right leaders in their electoral affinity with the Neocons and the GOP? This is something we need to carefully ask ourselves.

I wish Mr. Phillips, who I believe is a gifted writer, could have appealed less to fear and mistrust and could have, instead, simply written a piece with a tone similar to the one David Brooks wrote this week. I actually thought Brooks did a decent job on his piece titled Stuck In Lincoln's Land. All opinion columnists could do well in pushing the fear-and-division envelope less and giving us more fact-based opinion. Speak to and try to appeal to the "Middle faith", not the red meat; not the extremists. It's a huge turn-off, frankly.

"Most people of faith in the U.S. are not right wing or left wing. The U.S. is made up of the religious middle, decent people who do what their doctor tells them and what their president tells them.”

-Rev. Bob Edgar

Andrew Sullivan on UK Election and NRO

Andrew Sullivan on UK Election and NRO

Andrew Sullivan says, that while he agrees with almost all of a recent NRO article on the British election,
it is weird to read in NRO the following sentence:
[The Tories] have the leisure, the time, and the stability to rethink their distinctly timid economic strategy and to invest in building and selling a new one rooted in limited government.
So NRO now supports limited government? So why have they not blasted consistently at George W. Bush's complete abandonment of limited government and fiscal balance? As I have written before, Tony Blair's incremental increase in government spending is pure Thatcherism compared to Bush's big government explosion. Wouldn't it be great if NRO actually used the same principles it deploys against Blair and Howard against Bush? And don't give me the excuse of occasional pathetic worries about Bush's spending. If a Democrat had Bush's record, NRO's assault on him would be daily and relentless. Draw your own conclusions.
It isn't hard to figure out, Andrew. Thanks for pointing out the hyposcrisy.