Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Alternative Vocation

There are some who didn't care for this story from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee newspaper's vocation supplement about a priest who occasionally dresses up as a clown (not at mass, mind you, but at parish carnivals and such).

To make them feel better, I offer what I suspect is their dream vocational article:

Asked to describe his best memory as a priest, Fr. X recalled the time he assisted Abp. Wuerl at Mass at the National Shrine:

"It came time for communion, and was given a cup, and up strolls Nancy Pelosi. Abp. Wuerl, wuss that he is, gives her communion!!! I could not believe my eyes!"

"Then, she strolls over to my cup, expecting me to allow her to disgrace the sacrament once again."

"Well, not on my watch. Ms. Pelosi bowed her head quietly like the devout Catholic she pretends to be. I acted like I was going to give her the cup, and said 'The Blood of Christ.... will not touch your lips today!' and snatched the cup back. Man, you should have seen the look on her face!"

"To me, that's the best part of being a priest, putting fake Catholics like Nancy Pelosi in their place. "

Thursday, February 08, 2007

My letter to John Edwards

Dear Former Senator Edwards,

I am writing to you about your decision to retain Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, in spite of the recent comments from that have been brought to light.

In your statement on the matter, you write, "I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word."

Among the comments in questions are these from Ms. Marcotte:

Q: What if Mary had taken Plan B after the Lord filled her with his hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit?

A: You’d have to justify your misogyny with another ancient mythology.

As far as I can tell, there are three possible ways to reconcile your statement with the above quoted passage:

  1. Ms. Marcotte did not intend to malign my religion, but is a completely incompetent communicator. Nevertheless, you hired her as your campaign's blogger. You do not mind having incompetent people work on your campaign, and likely would not mind having incompetent people working for your administration. This is good information to have in determining whether to elect you.
  2. Ms. Marcotte did intend to malign my religion, but managed to convince you that she did not. Thus, you were duped. That you are easily duped is also good information to have in deciding whether to vote for you, especially in light of mistakes made by the current administration.
  3. Ms. Marcotte did intend to malign my religion, you recognize it, but you've all agreed to pretend that something obviously meant to offend was not in fact intended to offend. Ms. Marcotte is not being honest, and you're going along with it, because you would rather alienate people like me than appear "weak." Sounds a bit like our current president.

All three of these conclusions would lead me to not support your campaign for president; indeed they would lead me to most vociferously oppose it.

I understand that it is probably unreasonable for me to expect Democratic campaigns to embrace orthodox Catholic morals about secuality. But I do expect better than contempt. And when called on that contempt, I expect better than dishonesty.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Sullivan's One Tirick...Exposed

I've finally deciphered Andrew Sullivan's basic rhetorical technique. It goes like this:

1. Highlight and extremist view by someone who disagrees with Sullivan on an issue. Or, portray a view as extreme that really isn't that extreme.
2. Link that view to mainstream oppposition for the item of disagreement -- it helps if he can use an umbrella label for the other side -- e.g. "Chritianist," "theocons", "spineless left," etc.
3. Use this link to marginalize all those who disagree with Sullivan on the issue

So, for example, if Sullivan were arguing against having trains to run on time, he would mention that Nazis wanted trains to run on time, then list all of the atrocities committed by the Nazis, and then say this should give some insight into what motivates those who want trains to run on time.

It's a slightly tricky dance, because Sullivan has to portray a view as extreme and contemptible while at the same time assigning it to most of his opposition. But he has mastered it through years of practice.

Some examples from the curent front page:

  • In this post, Sullivan first writes

    "A National Journal poll shows that 84 percent of a selected group of influential Congressional Republicans deny that there's a human component to global warming "beyond a reasonable doubt". The international scientific community puts the likelihod at 90 percent. Whoever these Republicans are, they are not reasonable people, or even vaguely in touch with reality. "

    Whoah there -- I think denial or "skepticism" about global warming is pretty silly at this point, but Sullivan hasn't made the case he'd like you to think he has. He doesn't provide a link to the poll, but I found one, and the questions was, "Do you think it’s been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the Earth is warming because of man-made problems?" Answering "no" to that question is not the same thing as denying there's a human component to global warming.

    It may still be silly to answer "no" to that question, but the evidence Sullivan marshals doesn't prove it. 90% certain does not equal "beyond a reasonable doubt." I wouldn't want to send someone to jail if I was only 90% sure that he was guilty. We shouldn't have gone to Iraq if there was only a 90% likelhood that Saddam had WMD.

    Sullivan continues...

    from the Christianist wing of the party, we are asked to believe that Ted Haggard is now "completely heterosexual." (Yes, I know Haggard's team of reparative therapists are not Republican officials; but their tight connection with the Rove machine has been integral to previous electoral strategies.) Even the "ex-gay" people don't buy Haggard's story.

    So, Sullivan admits that nobody really buys this story, but still tries to say it's typical of the Republican party's "denial." Why? Because the therapists' "tight connection with the Rove machine has been integral to previous electoral strategies." Hmm, I must have missed the campaign ads saying that gays could be converted. Maybe I need to move to a redder state.

    So, to summarize, Republicans are out of touch because they do not consider a 90% likelihood to be "beyond a reasonable doubt," and because part of Rove's strategy is mobilizing the Christian base, and some extreme Christian made a ridiculous claim about Ted Haggard being "completely hereosexual." Got it.

  • In this post Sullivan finds it troubling that those who believe that unborn children are human persons would be less than enthusiastic about a presidential candidate (Rudy Giuliani) who would continue the legal regime that says killing them is a constitutional right.

    I couldn't disagree more. And that is the core divide in contemporary conservatism: between fundamentalism and freedom, between a politics based on divine revelation and Thomist law-making and a politics based on man-made law and individual liberty. Giuliani is running as a secular, modern conservative to run what has become a religious, theological party. His fate is going to be a fascinating insight into what American conservatism can now mean. And the Christianists are not going to put up with secular, inclusive, reality-based conservatism.

    Yikes -- we'd certainly want to be on the side of "freedom," "man-made law," "individual liberty," secularism, modernism, conservatism, secularism (again), inclusiveness, "reality-based" conservatism (again) rather than "fundamentalism," "divine revelation," "Thomist law-making," and a "religous, theological party."

    But is the choice so stark? I'm unconvinced.

    Earlier in the post, Sullivan pinpoints the point of contention with "Chrisitanists" belief in the supremacy of "natural law" over "individual liberty,"

    Surely, though, there is a point where natural law does indeed trump individual liberty. I doubt Sullivan would have a problem with child abuse laws, or laws against infanticide of day-old babies. The disagreement isn't between two completely irreconcilable visions of what the law should be, but a disagreement about the scope of natural law. Does the natural law say the the unborn have a right not to be killed? I say yes; Sullivan and Giuliani say no, or that they're not sure.

    But that won't do -- it is neccesary to portray his opponents as unreaonable extemists, and if the baby of natural law goes out with that bath water, so be it.

  • Here, Sullivan takes on those of the right who are trying to smear lawyers defending terror suspects (which I agree is despicable). But it concludes with this:

    Reading Steyn's and Levin's defenses of the indefensible is a good insight into exactly how uninformed and ignorant parts of the degenerate right have become.

    Thankfully, Sullivan limits the smear to "parts of," but the general smear is there nonetheless.

  • In this post, Sullivan quotes a study about "extreme fringes of American Catholicism." The pull quote:

    Few Americans defended Mel Gibson's drunken rant about the evils of the Jews. But radical traditionalist Catholics did. A three-year investigation of this subculture by the Intelligence Report has found that these Catholic extremists, including the Gibsons, may well represent the largest population of anti-Semites in the United States. Organized into a network of more than a dozen organizations, scores of websites and several extremist churches and monasteries, radical traditionalists in the U.S. are preaching anti-Semitism to as many as 100,000 followers. A few, such as the lawyer for Terri Schiavo's family, Christopher Ferrara, are even movers and shakers in important right-wing Republican circles.

    Now, I spend a fair amount of time reading Catholic bloggers, the kind that think that Pope Benedict is a liberal squish, criticize bishops if they walk by pro-choice Catholic politicians like Nancy Pelosi, etc. Suffice it to say that this represents the most conservative 5% of American Catholics. And I never saw these defenses of Mel Gibson's rant. So, this would have to be an extremist faction of an extermist faction. If this is indeed the largest popuation of anti-Semites in the United States, then this is a truly enlightened age.

    The final smear is a nice counter-weight to the above item, though. Whatever you think about the Schiavo case, it seems strange that lawyer who failed to keep Terry Schiavo's feeding tube on in a state with a Republican governor, and with a Republican presidient and Congress would qualify as a Republican "mover and shaker."

Of course, this biggest victims of this tactic were those who opposed the invasion of Iraq. They were subject to regular smears, and informed that a few extremist crazies exposed what really fueled the anti-war movement.

Hopefully, we're smart enough not to fall for it again.