Friday, March 19, 2010

The Audacity of Hype . . .

It was once fashionably cute to say: "Don't mess with mother nature." Our trendy affinity for sundry features of a "green" ideology notwithstanding, we don't say that much anymore; perhaps because those once fond of the slogan are those who today have no scruples about messing with mother nature in the most egregious way: abortion on demand.

Be that as it may, there is a sequel to the old slogan which is certainly timely: Don't mess with the long-revered political documents upon which our society has always depended for its sense of common purpose, chief among them the Constitution.


Our society is today suffering from a very deep and very substantive moral and political divide. If, under the circumstances, we tamper recklessly with the political documents that have served to unite us for 230 years, we risk opening a chasm in our political life which could easily grow so wide and so contentious that we may not have enough of a shared sense of history and purpose to heal the breach and prevent social disintegration of the gravest kind.

With that in mind, here's a reminder from Jonah Goldberg, editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute:
The Constitution is not a coupon insert in your local paper, brimming with all sorts of giveaways and two-for-one deals. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights delineate what the government cannot do, not what it can. What was so fantastic and revolutionary about that is that for the first time in history, a nation was founded on the proposition that the government should mind its own business. Believing that doesn’t make you a fascist, it makes you a patriot. (my italic emphasis)

15 comments:

Mike said...

When you elect an activist to the office of the President who has said that what is needed are more judges who are sympathetic to the poor, you have empowered someone who either does not understand the American system of government, or understands it and wishes to circumvent it in order to force thru his own agenda. I for one, do not believe that he is ignorant. I think he knows exactly what he is doing, yet cannot fathom the consequences of the precedent that is being set.

Yet, many will not recognize the blatant threat to our system of government, they will only hear the voice of someone who is "concerned" for the poor. Of course, nothing ensures the stability of one's power like disabling the poor by promising to give them a fish everyday instead of actually teaching them to fish for themselves.

Doughlas Remy said...

When you elect an activist to the office of the President who has said that what is needed are more judges who are sympathetic to the poor, you have empowered someone who either does not understand the American system of government, or understands it and wishes to circumvent it in order to force thru his own agenda.

My question is, “Why would one want to appoint anyone who is unsympathetic to the poor to any kind of office whatsoever?” Such a person is not only un-Christian but would be considered inhumane by almost any civilized person in the world. Have we totally uncoupled ourselves from the most fundamental teachings of Jesus, who exhorted us to sell all we possess and give to the poor? There are over 2000 references to poverty in the Bible, and not a single one of them instructs us to “teach the poor to fish.”

So what gospel are you reading, John? I can agree that we should teach the poor to fish whenever possible, but the world is full of poor people who don’t “live near water,” so to speak. They have no opportunities, or they are sick, lame, or undereducated. Our country at present is full of unemployed people who would love to work, and they find themselves either unqualified, underqualified, or overqualified for available jobs.

Poverty and disease are often linked, and insurance has become unaffordable for millions of Americans. What do you say to someone who has been financially ruined by medical bills?

Please view this 33-second clip of teabaggers mocking a man with Parkinson’s disease, and tell me what you would do if you were standing there before him.

Also please tell me where you see Christ in this scene. He’s there if you can spot him.

Mike said...

"My question is, “Why would one want to appoint anyone who is unsympathetic to the poor to any kind of office whatsoever?” Such a person is not only un-Christian but would be considered inhumane by almost any civilized person in the world."

Ideally, our judges, and for that matter, everyone in the world would have empathy, not sympathy, for the poor and for any cause and any group in need of understanding and help. Ideally, we would all have nothing better to do than sit around and listen to hippy music and sing cumbaya.

Back in the real world, however, judges need to have critical thinking skills. They are not meant to be appointed because they are moved with compassion. That is not part of the job description. They are charged with making critical decisions based upon whether a law is constituional or not. Whether they like a law or not is not part of the equation. Their job is to examine a law thru the scope of the constitution, not create they own preferred scope.

"There are over 2000 references to poverty in the Bible, and not a single one of them instructs us to “teach the poor to fish.”"

Common sense should apply here. You imply that Christians are blinded by faith, yet, in this case, you are the one that is attempting to use the bible in order to rule out reason.

What Gospel am I reading? I read all 4 within the entire context of the Bible. Which one are you reading?

Have you read 2 Thessalonians 10-12?

"For also, when we were with you, this we declared to you: that, if any man will not work, neither let him eat. 11 For we have heard there are some among you who walk disorderly: working not at all, but curiously meddling. 12 Now we charge them that are such and beseech them by the Lord Jesus Christ that, working with silence, they would eat their own bread."

Don't assume that I don't have compassion for the poor. But don't make the mistake of believing either, that I think more government is the answer to solving all of our problems. That, I believe is the point of the original post.

"Our country at present is full of unemployed people who would love to work, and they find themselves either unqualified, underqualified, or overqualified for available jobs."

I've been there and done that. And guess what? I found work. Not because I was better educated or better qualified, but because in spite of my education and qualifications, I did not view certain jobs beneath me. If shoveling manure meant feeding my family, I did it.

"I can agree that we should teach the poor to fish whenever possible, but the world is full of poor people who don’t “live near water,” so to speak."

I can't speak to solving the abstract idea of the poor that exist somewhere out in space. But neither can this administration. Its policies of robbing Peter to pay Paul are at the end of the day, still robbery. I can do something for the poor that exist right here in my own community provided that government leaves me something to give. I do believe people need a hand up, not so that I can feel good about myself, but so that in the end, they are free to take care of themselves.

"Please view this 33-second clip of teabaggers mocking a man with Parkinson’s disease, and tell me what you would do if you were standing there before him."

Interesting how ready you are to accuse others of stereotyping, yet you do it yourself without batting an eye. What am I to think? "Wow, anyone who is against healthcare reform must be like these guys!?"

Most of the time, the rest of the page says more than the link itself.

John said...

Amen to that, Mike.

Doughlas Remy said...

Back in the real world, however,...

Christ’s teachings may in fact be incompatible with reality. Consider, for example, how impractical the following ones are:

Jesus answered, if you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. (Matthew 19:21)

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. (Matthew 25:35)

They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely. (Mark 12:40)

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. (Luke 12:33)

But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. (Luke 14:13)

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. (Luke 18:22)

And the author of 1 John 3:17-18 writes,
If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth

I am not a Christian. Even if I believed in God, I don’t think I would profess the Christian faith unless I could subscribe to these teachings, at least in theory. Unlike the verse you quoted from St. Paul, they are bedrock Christian principles, and people throughout the world associate them with the Christian faith. I had hoped maybe a Christian could explain to me how they could be “lived” in the world. Do you think any of the other Christians on this site could explain that? I would be eager to hear.

(You write:) Ideally, our judges, and for that matter, everyone in the world would have empathy, not sympathy, for the poor and for any cause and any group in need of understanding and help.

I’m sure there must be a lexical distinction between empathy and sympathy, but it goes way over most people’s heads. Would you have found Obama’s sentiment less offensive if he had used “empathy”?

You deserve a pat on the back for staying employed when times we hard. I presume you were in good health at the time? (i.e., not like the man with Parkinson’s, in the video?)

I was not suggesting that you were like anyone in the video. I asked what you would do if you were present in that scene, and I asked if you could see Christ anywhere there. I still challenge you to at least think about those questions.

Doughlas Remy said...

Re teabaggers: I think we all feel this way sometimes.

Mike said...

"I had hoped maybe a Christian could explain to me how they could be “lived” in the world. Do you think any of the other Christians on this site could explain that? I would be eager to hear."

Why don't you pick up any number of books on the lives of the Saints. Most of us on here can't claim to be there yet but they do give us a "real world" look at what we should all aim for. You may claim that the teachings of Christ are not comapatible with reality, neither are the spending practices of this administration, or the previous one for that matter. (Hmm. Perhaps this is how he developed his Messiah complex.)

G.K. Chesterton once said, "Christianity has been found wanting, without having been tried." We've tried big government and it isn't working. Maybe we should all try Christianity.

"Would you have found Obama’s sentiment less offensive if he had used “empathy”?"

It's not that I find it offensive, it's that it reveals a subversive agenda. Do I care if a judge is Democrat or Republican? No. What is important is that he is faithful to the Constitution. It wouldn't matter if he would have used empathy, although there is a clear difference.

And I don't want a pat on the back. What seems to be ignored is that there is a system in place that helps people. But the system is abused and is wastefull of the money that comes from hard working American people.

"I was not suggesting that you were like anyone in the video."

I didn't take it that you were. Clearly, you were stereotyping tea partyers as cruel and uncaring people, choosing not to talk about the issue on its own merits, but instead trying to persuade through emotion, much like an activist judge (oxymoron) or an activist president would.

Doughlas Remy said...

Clearly, you were stereotyping tea partyers as cruel and uncaring people...

Mike, I made no statement whatsoever about teapartyers. I showed you a video of some teapartyers attacking a man with Parkinson’s. Their behavior speaks for itself, and—at long last—you seem to acknowledge that they are cruel and uncaring. Not all teapartyers will conduct themselves in that way, but, in my view, all teapartyers should be quick to condemn such behavior instead of having to be coaxed to do so. My question to you, twice given so far, is “Do you see Christ in that scene?” The cock is about to crow. “Do you know that man?”

Your quote from G. K. Chesterton is spot on. Christianity has not been tried. Maybe folks like me will stop criticizing it when we see the real thing. So far, I see very little that is recognizably Christian in the behavior of the overwhelming majority of people who call themselves by that name. Your “lives of the saints” are covered with dust and you’ve long ago stopped even trying to emulate them. Jesus’s teachings about social justice in the Sermon on the Mount are dismissed as irrelevant and impractical. We have a former vice president who goes on television and brags about having authorized torture, and millions of Christians all over America simply nod their heads and continue munching.

But I am too harsh. One of the most vocal critics of Bush-Cheney torture policies has been Andrew Sullivan, a gay Catholic, and other progressive Christians have spoken out against these abuses. So far, however, if I am not mistaken, the only voices raised against torture on this site have been those of a secular humanist and a former Catholic.

Welcome to Wonderland, indeed! “Curioser and curiouser,” cried Alice.

Gordon said...

Doughlas,

"... if I am not mistaken, the only voices raised against torture on this site have been those of a secular humanist and a former Catholic."

When has any Catholic on this site endorsed torture? When has the subject even come up?

Mike said...

"Mike, I made no statement whatsoever about teapartyers. I showed you a video of some teapartyers attacking a man with Parkinson’s."

How did the link add to the conversation about the abuse of power by judges or the reference I made about candidate Obama? I don't think it added anything. It was simply an attempt to cloud the issue with emotion. Clearly the people are animated and aren't showing compassion to the man. Then again, it was a 33 second clip. What happened right before that? Do you know? I don't. How do I know he didn't instigate the whole thing knowing it was being recorded? Once again, I don't know that, and the whole thing is just a distraction from the initial point.

"My question to you, twice given so far, is “Do you see Christ in that scene?” The cock is about to crow."

Interesting you ask the question. Apparently you do see him, which is strange since you don't believe in him. But then again, that is your mode of operation. You come onto a Christian website and attack Christianity by misinterpreting its own teachings. Even though you are a self-proclaimed atheist, you feel free to give lessons on how to properly read Sacred Scripture. Of course, the only proper way is to read it the way you read it. Then when someone effectively defends the faith , you throw your hands up and walk away because after all, you don't believe in this stuff anyway.

Sooner or later, you need to ask yourself, why am I here? Is it because I seek the truth? Or is it because I want to win arguments. Life is too short to be concerned about winning arguments.

"So far, I see very little that is recognizably Christian in the behavior of the overwhelming majority of people who call themselves by that name. Your “lives of the saints” are covered with dust and you’ve long ago stopped even trying to emulate them."

Wow! And you say that Christians are judgemental! It's too bad we haven't lived up to your standards.

"Maybe folks like me will stop criticizing it when we see the real thing."

Sounds like a taunting voice from the foot of the cross if you ask me.

"Your quote from G. K. Chesterton is spot on. Christianity has not been tried."

Hey... Apparently you find it wanting. Maybe you should try it?

Doughlas Remy said...

Hi Gordon,

Torture was discussed back in January, and, I believe, at least once or twice in the latter half of 2009, when the redoubtable Mike O’Malley and the formidable Norma Bruns squared off about it. Dean, Ignatius, Robert, and I have been active in these discussions, and there may have been others participants as well. Dean and Robert spoke out unequivocally against torture. I’m not sure what Robert’s background is. He may be Catholic, in which case I misspoke in my earlier comment. Dean has a better memory than I and may be able to answer your question. I hereby withdraw the comment until I can decide whether I want to spend time digging through the old posts. Consider everyone’s name cleared until further notice. Carry on.

Doughlas Remy said...

Mike, I couldn’t exactly “try” Christianity, now could I? I don’t believe in God, and I’m not going to start believing in him by flipping a little switch in my head. However, I find certain core teachings of Christianity very inspiring, and I have a list of Christian writers that I keep going back to. So I’m hardly “attacking Christianity,” as you say. If anything, I’m defending it, and this is what I find so ironic about this whole discussion. According to the conventional wisdom about the immorality of non-believers, our positions should be reversed. You should be defending the poor and the downtrodden and I should be saying, “Let’em get a job and eat some cake while they’re at it!” I am rooting for the social gospel of the Sermon on the Mount. I sometimes feel shocked and dismayed when I hear Christians taking political positions that are diametrically opposed to them, or cavalierly dismissing these teachings as if they were somehow peripheral or unimportant. It naturally makes me wonder, “What do Christians really stand for, and how do their beliefs map to those of Jesus?” We have heard so many distortions over the years: Jesus would wear a Rolex watch; he wants you to be rich, etc. Hasn’t all this just gone off the deep end a bit, and is anyone actually reading the Gospels?

Dean said...

Mike,
Since when do you have to be a Christian to understand Christ's teachings? Or feel comfortable discussing them in a forum where other people make no bones about affirming they do? Dough came here as a result of his interest in Girardian anthropology, and expected to see a level of discourse that in some way underscored and revealed those teachings instead of actively working against them. As for attacking Christianity, who better to see its weaknesses than someone on the outside who doesn't automatically carry all the baggage and entrapments of party line dogma and ritualistic obeisance to unchanging rules and unspoken truths? This is an open, public forum. It's not restricted to believers, or even to one kind of believer. That means anyone can join in. I've often thought Dough makes a better Christian as an unapologetic atheist, then those who affirm their Christianity only by reference and comparison to those who don't. He asks important questions and probes delicate subjects with flair and panache. Personally, I suspected this thread was lost when you both tried out-scripturing each other with Bible quotes. That doesn't mean either one of you are wrong. The Bible is not an owners manual. It doesn't always mean the same thing to different people, or end up getting its wisdom appropriated in the same ways. What it does mean, is that anything can be rationalized with religion to the point of absurdity, but it can also move us in the direction of accommodation and enlightenment, that is, if we really want to go there.

When Dough says, for instance, "I see very little that is recognizably Christian in the behavior of the overwhelming majority of people who call themselves by that name" It sounds very irritating and uncharitable to those who feel stung by the criticism. But you know what? He's right. It's dead on and true. We are all hypocrites and sinners, and most of us do a pretty crappy job of representing our faith. And I stand at the head of that line. That's why Christ is our mediator before God. The inclination in response to Dough is to say, "well then…come aboard and join us. There is always room for another hypocrite or fool in our ranks." That would also be true, but it also isn't very charitable. But charity in a tomb isn't very charitable either.

I prefer to think of Dough as the house monitor at a college frat house. He tries to stay sober while everyone else gets wasted on their drug of choice. He reminds us of our failings, calls us on our shortcomings, and cuts through layers of varnish in order to get down to the base wood. In so doing he ruffles feathers, but he also moves the discussion along, or tries to, in productive directions. Many of his questions and criticisms never get answered. But he has the guts to provoke a dialogue about them. Before Dough came along, you could generally hear a flea fart in this place. Now it's abuzz with activity. Will we ever all love each other unfailingly and sing "hippie songs and Kumbaya"?

Christ Almighty I hope not. Although I do admit to having a certain unwavering fascination with naked women drenched in Patchouli oil.

Mike said...

"So I’m hardly “attacking Christianity,” as you say. If anything, I’m defending it, and this is what I find so ironic about this whole discussion."

You may be defending the idea of what you think Christianity ought to look like, but at the same time it sounds like you are condemning Christians. That seems a bit ideological.

"According to the conventional wisdom about the immorality of non-believers, our positions should be reversed. You should be defending the poor and the downtrodden and I should be saying, “Let’em get a job and eat some cake while they’re at it!”

Now is that what I said? You are assuming that because I don't agree with you politically that I am not compassionate toward the poor. My earlier post was in regard to massive government waste that is currently taking place. Rather than fix the waste problem first, and then assess what needs to be fixed, we are going to throw more money at the problem; more debt that our grandchildren won't be able to pay off. Just because I don't believe in government mandated charity doesn't mean that I don't believe in charity. There is beauty in giving of your own accord because it is a decision. It's free and it comes from the heart. It's not the same when the IRS is knocking on your door. Its not the same when congress gets to decide who is "entitled."

I know what your beliefs are in regard to Global Warming. You don't want to leave the planet a mess for our grandchildren, neither should we leave our economy in such a state.

"We have heard so many distortions over the years: Jesus would wear a Rolex watch; he wants you to be rich, etc. Hasn’t all this just gone off the deep end a bit, and is anyone actually reading the Gospels?"

I agree with you. There are a lot of distortions out there. There will always be voices looking to justify themselves and create Christ "in their own image." But if you give Catholicism a fair shake and look at history you will see that the Church is an equal opportunity offender. It had a hand in defeating the Nazis and continues to fight Communism. It doesn't matter if its the far left or the far right, the Church is fighting for the truth. It has done far more for western civilization that it gets credit for. That is why much of your criticism just isn't fair.

Mike said...

Dean,
"Since when do you have to be a Christian to understand Christ's teachings? Or feel comfortable discussing them in a forum where other people make no bones about affirming they do"

I don't believe you do have to be Christian to do these things. My statement to Doughlas is in regard to several conversations we have had in the past. I have appreciated some of his questions and rather enjoy discussing them most of the time. But it would seem that he steps in and out of the Christian playing field as it suits him which is a bit frustrating. It's like being criticized by a backseat driver who never has to worry about being the driver himself.

"I've often thought Dough makes a better Christian as an unapologetic atheist, then those who affirm their Christianity only by reference."

You might be right. But where as you have qualified the type of Christian you are comparing him to, Doughlas often makes no such qualifications. He paints Christians with a broad brush.