Black Shards Press – Electronic Gumbo is Our Specialty

The Virtue of Minding One’s Own Business

08.03.2009 (12:24 am) – Filed under: Abortion,Gay Rights,Privacy,Religion ::

Catholic Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho’s excommunication of the mother of a 9-year-old girl who had an abortion after being raped by her step-father has infuriated many people in Brazil and elsewhere.  This is a case when being right in principle results in being wrong in fact.

Sobrinho:

Abortion is much more serious than killing an adult. An adult may or may not be an innocent, but an unborn child is most definitely innocent. Taking that life cannot be ignored.

The Catholic Church may not want her or her mother in their membership, but there are plenty of other Christian denominations that would be far less judgmental.

I dare say that the little girl was innocent as well.  The Archbishop should know that two wrongs do not make a right.  Forcing the girl to carry to term would have been a hideous crime in its own right.  This was a no-win situation, in other words, that Sobrinho would have done well to have looked away from.

Courts in this country would be wise to do the same in regard to acts of conscience by people whose professions can put them in situations in which they would have to violate their own personal, religious, or ethical beliefs in order to render service.

The Obama administration has already announced that it will restrict the rights of health care workers to be governed by their consciences by overturning the Bush administration’s “Conscience Rule” that protected  health workers who refuse to take part in abortions or provide other procedures or medicine that goes against their personal beliefs.

Now Catholic florists in Connecticut are worried that the state’s new law allowing gay marriage will force them to provide services for homosexual couples in violation of their personal religious beliefs.

Yes, the Bush Conscience Rule may have been too broad and Connecticut florists might be overly paranoid about future customers’ sexual foibles.  But the bottom line is that the right of people to make their own decisions about what is right and what is wrong is at the heart of what it means to be free.  The government has no business forcing people to undertake actions that they find objectionable.  Rather, the state should simply stay out of matters of conscience and stop attempting to bully everyone into toeing the politically correct line.

I’m sure that gay-friendly florists support that principle for reasons of their own, one of which is their economic prosperity.  Virtue is its own reward, after all.

Convergence of Ideological Opposites

28.02.2009 (6:15 am) – Filed under: Politics,Religion,Society ::

My father’s definition of the range of ideology is this:

I believe personality definitions are spherical in nature and can be defined by spherical equations (and a sinusoid).  The far fringes meet and touch on the other side of reality.  Once you get past + (conservative) & – (liberal) 90 degrees (reality) you slowly progress into non-reality until at 180 degrees the right and left non-realities meet and in essence are the same in actions and deeds.

As far as I can recall we’ve never discussed this subject but I’ve held the same belief for several years.  It’s easy to see that as radical groups get farther and farther from the center they begin to embrace the tactics and values of their arch-enemies.

Nowhere is this more easily seen and understood than with ultra-liberal progressives whose highest values ought to be logic, freedom for the individual, and above all free speech and inquiry. 

Yet on what American conservatives casually call the far left progressives have embraced the thinking of both the fascists and the communists in their strident, unrelenting efforts to confine individuals personal, speech, and inquiry rights to their own narrow range of beliefs.

Conversely this phenomenon can also be seen in ultra-conservative religious groups in which individual is expected to have both an intimate personal relationship with God and give his/her all to the group in order to create a perfectly selfless society.  All too often these groups end up taking on the characteristics of godless anarchists, as in the case of Jim Jones and today’s radical Muslims.

The ring theory of ideology isn’t a perfect analogy; groups all over the continuum plagiarize and bastardize both their own and others’ belief systems as they age more or less well.  But it is more useful to think of politicized groups as aligning around a circle rather than on a linear spectrum.  While the far ends of left and right disagree on the specifics of their grievances, the means they use to advance their agendas are remarkably similar.

Love in the Time of Melancholy

13.02.2009 (10:29 pm) – Filed under: Religion,Society ::

Anyone who’s been struck by Cupid’s arrow knows the result is messy.  Love is made of high emotions: great affection, sexual chemistry, bitter arguments, petty annoyances, and, if it’s to last, painful compromises and endless sacrifice.  Do we truly love in this day and age of disposable partners and rich, empty lives?

What is love in our age of melancholy?  One way to define love is by what it is not, just as light can be partially described as the absence of darkness.  To that, then, though it won’t be easy for either writer or reader.

Love is not the power trip on which misogynistic Saudi men fly, as if on a magic carpet in days of yore, their brutal legalism untamed by human decency.  Such cases are often covered up at the source, even by the victims themselves – when they survive.

This happens in America, too.  Love is not in the heart of a father who murders his daughter because she refuses to wear a hijab, nor in one who immolates his daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter because the young man isn’t of the proper caste, nor in still another who allowed his brother and a rejected suitor to rape and torture his daughter for 2 hours before she was strangled to death.

There is neither love nor honor in the hearts of such animals – despicable, mindless beasts whose slavish adherence to a primitive, brutal code that should have been discarded ten centuries ago drives them to murder their daughters, the only things that give their lives meaning.

Of course, theirs is by no means the only culture in which the defects of male dominance make themselves felt in unpleasant ways.  Five centuries ago, Shakespeare documented them well.  In Hamlet, Ophelia said:

To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn’d his clothes,
And dupp’d the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.

Disposable women have been the hallmark of all history, it seems, in all times and cultures. 

Small wonder that radical feminism has reared its jaded, ugly head in our culture, the richest, freest, and most equal that has ever existed.  But rejection of men does not spark love in the hearts of feminists.  Marriage and children are death for a woman in their eyes.  Only independence and lock-step militancy on gender issues like abortion define a modern woman properly.  Those who disagree are branded pariahs, as was Sarah Palin.

I won’t repeat the names I’ve been called for writing that abortion should be legally restricted to the first trimester (in itself a tragic moral compromise of the worst order on my part, an ungodly compromise with those who neither ask nor give quarter on the issue) and that a woman should be forbidden to abort the child of a man desiring to compensate her for the inconvenience of carrying his baby to term and to raise it without any obligation on her part.  Woman-hating bastard is the least of them, I assure you.

Sad, that, because it’s so far from the truth.  But neither love nor logic seems able to cross issue or ideological boundaries in this day and age.  Men like me are haters in the eyes of those on the other side of the line, the enemy. 

The irony is, of course, that the vast majority of the women I care for wouldn’t bat an eyelash before saying I’m too liberal on the abortion issue.

There is no method of civil disagreement left to us in this sad period.  As individuals we are too used to indulging our opinions as if they actually mattered. 

Love is not, after all, present in any of the ~1.5 million abortions that take place every year in the United States.

I told you this would not be easy reading.  Love, like the absence of it, also be dark.  W.H. Auden’s famous poem, Funeral Blues, paints the starkest possible picture of the end of love itself:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Love is, so far as any can know with certainty, for the living.  Faith alone instructs us that it lives on after we pass through death. 

In either realm, love is both a noun and a verb, entity and action, and it must be nurtured and protected in our hearts.  1 Corinthians, chapter 13:4-7 offers an excellent working definition of love as a noun:

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Shape your love for your parents, husband/wife, and children in this way and love the verb will act for the good in your life.  In the words of dc Talk:

Hey, tell me haven’t you heard?
Love is a serious word.
Hey, I think it’s time you learned:
I don’t care what you say,
I don’t care what you heard,
the word love – love is a verb

Meaning that while, we receive love the noun, we give love as a verb, by taking loving actions.  John 3:16, perhaps the most well-known verse in the Bible, reads:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The Christian story is at its core an act of love that no mere man could perform on his own, for our love is not so pure as that, even for those we truly love as best we can.  Again, there is the noun and the verb, intertwined, almost indistinguishable unless you seek out the difference.

Each of us has the free will to do as we please.  Our choices to love patiently, kindly, humbly, to protect and trust those we love, to hope and persevere define our lives, as do the times when we do the opposite.

Today, choose to act as 1 Corinthians advises.  Buy the obligatory flowers and candy on Valentine’s Day if you wish, but don’t stop there.  Let’s make our actions toward our husbands and wives and children exactly what they should be today, just for this one day, and see where that takes us.  Too hard?

Back in the day there was a man
who stepped outta heaven and he walked the land.
He delivered to the people an eternal choice
with a heart full of love and the truth in his voice.
Gave up his life so that we may live
how much more love could the son of God give?
Here is the example that we oughtta be matchin’
’cause love is a word that requires some action.

Then, tomorrow, let’s do it again. 

In God We Trust (not in Government)

13.02.2009 (9:41 am) – Filed under: Politics,Religion ::

Even readers of MSNBC know that much.

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Pope Changes His Mind: Williamson Must Acknowledge Holocaust

04.02.2009 (9:15 pm) – Filed under: Holocaust,Religion,World ::

Who says that two wrongs can’t make a right?  Pope Benedict XVI has had a change of heart about undoing British Bishop and holocaust denier Richard Williamson’s excommunication.  To resume his position, Williamson will not have to recant his anti-Semitic rantings, one of which included the phrase “there was not one Jew killed by the gas chambers”. 

“Bishop Williamson, in order to be admitted to episcopal functions within the church, will have to take his distance, in an absolutely unequivocal and public fashion, from his position on the Shoah, which the Holy Father was not aware of when the excommunication was lifted,” the statement said. Shoah is the Hebrew word for the Holocaust.

The Vatican is now going with the “Benedict didn’t know what Williamson is” defense.  That’s a double-edged sword, of course, the duller half being that neither the pope nor his aides knew anything about the subject of Benedict’s merciful decree. 

Sloppy work on the Vatican’s part, obviously, barely plausible, and perhaps just enough so that the issue may die down.

Williamson was shown on Swedish state television just days before the lifting of his excommunication was announced on Jan. 24, acknowledging his view that “there was not one Jew killed by the gas chambers” during World War II.

He said historical evidence “is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler.”

Williamson subsequently apologized to the pope for having stirred controversy, but he did not repudiate his comments, in which he also said only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews were killed by the Nazis and none were gassed.

“Germany has paid out billions and billions of deutschmarks and now euros because the Germans have a guilt complex about their having gassed 6 million Jews. Well, I don’t think 6 million Jews were gassed,” he said.

In a sense, Williamson is probably right in that some of Germany’s Jewish victims where shot and others starved to death.  But somehow that just technicality doesn’t quite cut it.

Culture War’s End in Sight? Not Likely.

30.01.2009 (8:00 pm) – Filed under: Abortion,Conservatism,Liberalism,Politics,Religion ::

Damon Linker writes at The New Republic that it’s not beyond the pale to think that Barack Obama may be able to lead liberals to a victory in the decades-old culture war.  How?  By subtle, gradual conversion away from conservative positions on 3 traditional value issues: Church/State Separation, Homosexual Rights/Gay Marriage, and Abortion.

Not bloody likely, in my estimation.  Then again, ordinary Americans undoubtedly felt safe in their majority at the beginning of the left’s radicalization, certain that both right and numbers were on their side.  Conservatives should beware now, as they should have half a century ago.

It should be remembered that it was the left that declared the culture war in the first place.  After all, America was in one state in 1961 and an entirely different one in 1965.  It wasn’t the right and center of American society that were in the streets burning down the country, it was the left.  Now the radicals want an end to the fighting. 

On what terms?  I ask.  And Damon answers.

Church/State Separation

Mr. Linker lands with both feet squarely on former President Bush, saying “the president was telling them [non-believers] that their failure to conform to traditionalist Catholic-Christian moral teaching made them bad citizens.”

This is nonsense but it serves to springboard Damon to his real point, which is that he thinks Obama can lure conservatives away from their position – namely that some Christian morality and expressions thereof are good for the nation’s soul and belong in schools, courtrooms, and legislatures – by simply not discussing the issue.

That idea is a non-starter because, though the far left makes a practice of demeaning the intelligence of conservative Christians, the fact that monuments to the 10 Commandments are being removed from county courthouses, high school football games can no longer start with a much-needed prayer, and the ACLU is still witch-hunting after teachers who dare to bring a Bible to school will not escape them.

Christianity has always been a central feature of American life.  In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote:

In the United States the sovereign authority is religious,… there is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility and of its conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.

If only that were still so.

What middle America – I’m speaking both geographically and politically here – didn’t know in the 1960s was the degree of ferocity the radical liberals of the Baby Boom would use to further their agenda.  The Silent Majority could not stand against them but that does not mean the America that existed before the Summer of Love has been forgotten.

Although the generations that were brought up in an American still based on Christian morality are fading fast, enough of the historical record documenting the relative peace and prosperity that existed prior to the radicalization of liberalism still exists to inform current conservative leaders.

Unfortunately, history is a thin thread compared to the left’s extreme liberalization of the political, judicial, and educational systems.  Perhaps Linker is correct then, for history can be obfuscated and/or revised and is often forgotten by the very people who ought to heed its lessons.

Homosexual Rights/Gay Marriage

Damon says that the right has already lost the battle over gay marriage.  He’s overly optimistic as the passage of Prop. 8 in California, by far the most liberal state in the nation, demonstrates.  It is not often that the citizenry rebukes a state supreme court in such public fashion. 

Logical consideration shows that homosexual rights and gay marriage are distinct issues.  Our legal and medical systems do unfairly discriminate against homosexuals by denying them the same rights as heteros.  The right to will property to and utilize the medical benefits of a gay partner should be affirmed as elemental to citizenship.

Gay marriage is another issue altogether and one on which I trust I’ve previously made my position clear.  Suffice to say that a majority of Americans believe as I do, that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman.  Moreover, American Christians will not accept any other definition of the institution.  Period.  Nor should they.  The entire history of mankind supports this line of thinking and conservatives are correct to believe that America has gone quite far enough in accommodating so-called alternative lifestyles.

Abortion

The way forward on abortion, Damon says, is through compromise up to and including the narrowing or reversing of Roe v. Wade.  The far left is utterly unable to accept such an outcome peacefully; however, it is the only way that this issue can ever be resolved to the satisfaction of a sizable majority. 

Linker’s most excellent argument:

this is the core of the problem. Roe “settled” the question of abortion by saying that the pro-choice side wins 100 percent of the time, now and forever: America is a pro-choice nation and those who don’t like it can (respectfully) go to hell. No wonder we’ll still fighting these battles 36 years later. (This is also why it’s so unfortunate that Tim [Fernholz] is content to tell abortion opponents, in effect, to go fuck themselves: if abortion rights make “the religious right angry, that’s what happens in a liberal democracy.” No, what normally happens in a liberal democracy is that two sides in a rancorous public debate seek to reach a compromise

Indeed, the problem is the same on all 3 issues under discussion but none more so than abortion.

To imagine, as radical feminists groups purport to do, that Christians will ever accept the status quo of Roe is to live in a fantasy world.  For an excellent discussion of why this is, read Gary Graham’s essay at Big Hollywood.  There’s little more to add than what Gary has written here. 

An important snippet:

I’m telling you, once you draw that line and say this is the moment it’s a human being…you’ve lost the argument. Because it’s arbitrary. On this date it’s a baby, but yesterday it was just a bunch of cells…this blob of a nothing and you can do anything you want with it, it’s okay. Babies have been born premature in the second trimester and lived. Happens all the time. So please, somebody tell me how is taking a baby and delivering all but the head, then plunging a tube into its skull and sucking the brains out…how is that not murder? This is what happens in partial-birth abortions, and unfortunately, this happens all the time, too.

And we as a nation…as a people…are all right with this?

I understand the hate that is leveled at someone like me who reminds people of this. To contemplate the reality is daunting. The act is horrendous and made more tragic when you consider the numbers of babies that are being disposed of every day.

Our willingness to tolerate such a holocaust says volumes of how our entire culture has been coarsened.

Still, I do think that a significant number of Christians would agree to lay down arms on this issue if abortion were restricted to the first trimester, for example.  Not all, not by any stretch of the imagination.  But enough that a solid center could be formed on this issue, if the left could reciprocate.

The question of whether the left can compromise on abortion is similar to that posed of moderate Muslims in the Middle East.  Will the moderates who are in the vast majority be able to reign in the destructive tendencies of the radicals?

Given the lessons that can be drawn from the initial phase of the war the left declared on America in the 1960s, the answer is a clear “No”.  Radicals fight with the single-minded purpose and strength of cornered animals, whether it makes sense to fight or not and whether their cause is right or not.

The cause of abortion is not right, make no mistake.  But they will fight on anyway, to the literal death, at least of the children.

Warren Derangement Syndrome, Take 2

24.12.2008 (4:09 pm) – Filed under: Politics,Religion ::

Many on the far left are beside themselves because Barack Obama selected well-known pastor Rick Warren to give his inaugural invocation.  But they’re not the only ones howling at the moon – Southern Baptist Pastor Wiley Drake took a swipe at Warren this week, saying that God is going to punish the author of The Purpose Driven Life, among other books, for speaking at President-elect Obama’s inauguration.

Sigh.  It’s kooks like this Wiley character that give Christianity – and Christians – a bad name.  Judge not, Mr. Drake…

From the Orange County Register:

Southern Baptist Pastor Wiley Drake bashed Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren this week, saying “God will punish” Warren for agreeing to give the invocation at President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration next month.

“I pray He is kind to you in this punishment that is coming,” Drake wrote in a widely-released e-mail. In it, the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park pastor criticizes Warren’s “recent plan to invoke the presence of almighty God on this evil illegal alien,” a reference to Obama.

This is wrong on so many levels it’s difficult to pick one to start with.  Well, when in doubt, just start typing.

One, presuming to know the will of God is a dangerous business.  Not a good idea, particularly when slandering another man of the cloth who is well-known for advancing the cause of Christianity.

Two, embarrassing the Christian faith by sending back-biting emails about another pastor and filing ridiculous lawsuits is not a recommended way of making converts or ministering to the lost.  All it does is make the job that much harder for others.

Three, even if Barack Obama’s papers were found not to be in order, do you seriously believe that the Supreme Court would even consider nullifying his election?  It’s unthinkable, yet Drake is still pursuing the idea as if it had either merit or a desirable outcome.

Four, Barack Obama is no more evil than I am.  This is not the best possible endorsement, I realize; however, it will have to do.  Nothing good can possibly come from Drake’s childish name-calling.  It’s a humiliation on him, certainly, but also casts a shadow over the beliefs and intentions of Christians everywhere as regards Mr. Obama.  He is our president now and it’s time to get on board with that inescapable fact.  Certainly he’s more worthy of that office than Mr. Drake, to name but one.

I have no fear that Barack Obama’s presidency will be held back even for an instant by the likes of Wiley Drake or his mirror images on the far left.  Nor should it be.  Fools should not be suffered, whether gladly or otherwise, and Obama should continue to push ahead with his centrist policies in spite of them.

Obama’s Choice of Rick Warren is Inspired

18.12.2008 (2:44 pm) – Filed under: Liberalism,Politics,Religion ::

Barack Obama’s choice of pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his presidential inauguration is a good one.  Warren, whose book The Purpose Driven Life has inspired millions of Americans, represents American values – and American citizens – far better than the far-left zealots who are frothing at the mouth over Obama’s decision.  Is Warren-gate a plot to make middle America fall under Obama’s spell?  A final rejection of the mob-rule progressive agenda?  An act that finally tells us who and what Barack Obama really values?

One thing is certain: the uber-liberals in the progressive left hate the idea more than I could have possibly imagined a couple of days ago.

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Palin Church Arson a Hate Crime?

15.12.2008 (7:09 pm) – Filed under: Crime,Politics,Religion ::

The church of Alaska’s Governor Sarah Palin, former Republican vice-presidential nominee, was torched Friday night and over $1M worth of damage was done to the structure and its contents.  Happily, none of those inside the church were injured.  This is obviously a hateful act.  Should the arson be treated as a hate crime?

That depends on whether hate crimes are a valid legal construct.  Perhaps those with legal credentials could weigh in on that question.  Justice demands that crimes be punishable based on the act committed, not the emotions behind it.  From this perspective, and even though it’s likely that the arsonist’s actions were politically or religiously motivated, I have to say that I don’t think that he or she, if caught, should be charged under hate crime laws.

Incidents such as those at Palin’s church do provide an interesting scenario to test the validity of hate crime laws from a fairness perspective.  If Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s church were to be burned, for instance, there would be a fair amount of pressure applied to have the act treated as a hate crime.

On one hand, if the same standard is applied to Sarah Palin’s church, the determination of hatred, which can never be proven, is thrust upon the jury to make.  Considering a large number of such cases, such necessarily arbitrary decisions will not be made consistently.

On the other hand, if the Palin incident is not treated as a hate crime, then where is the fairness?  Applying hate crime laws to crimes committed against minority groups, whether primarily or exclusively, inherently prejudices the legal process and effectively condones acts of violence against the majority.

In my opinion, hate crimes represent a slippery slope of legal preference – laws that provide special rights to certain categories of victims and whose application requires prosecutors and jurists to attempt to divine motive in order to justify increased punishments.  This is not a good idea given that justice is supposed to be fair and impartial. 

That’s why the idea of hate crime laws, while they sound and feel good at a superficial level, are bad legal remedies.

Great Britain, a Lost Country

12.12.2008 (3:29 pm) – Filed under: England,Free Speech,Religion ::

Students singing in the choir at Arthur Bugler Primary School in Great Britain spent weeks practicing Christmas music only to be told that the songs weren’t appropriate for the Corringham "Winter Festival", an event undoubtedly once known as a Christmas Festival.  The reason?  The songs were "too religious".  The decision was called ridiculous by parents who said, "It’s ridiculous that you can’t sing religious songs. It’s Christmas – when can you sing them?" and "I can’t see how the Christmas carols they were going to sing would have been offensive to anyone."  If only the latter statement were true.   

Hold my gifts, everyone.  All I want for Christmas this year is for people to call it by its proper name.

To do that, people first have to recognize that it is in fact acceptable to not care if others are offended by their beliefs.  That sounds uncaring, I know, but like so many things in life the real effect of that statement is the exact opposite of how it appears at first blush. 

Tolerance is a broad brush.  Ergo, it’s perfectly alright for you to hold views – and take actions – that offend me, so long as they’re within the confines of the law.  The mechanisms of restraint have always been two-fold:  the rigidity of the law and the flexible lines of common sense.  Today’s third mechanism, political correctness, recognizes neither historically applied standard.  The freedom to do as we please, regardless of race, religion, creed, or color, is the fundamental building block of democracy.  Sacrificing it to placate groups of people who choose to take offense to traditional cultural mores is too high a price to pay to accommodate them.

In a country in which domestic and international policies can be turned on their ears by 2% of swing voters and a majority of 60% is an unassailable position of power, the right of children to sing Christmas carols during the Christmas holiday should be guaranteed in Thurrock, where self-described Christians number about 75% of the population.

That this was not the outcome for the Bugler students is a strong indication that Great Britain has lost her way and, perhaps, her soul.