Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Youthful Maturity vs. Aging Adolescence

In my talks this month, I am repeating something I said in one of the talks last year, namely that in Christianity maturation and rejuvenation go hand-in-hand. We grow in wisdom and age and we grow more childlike at the same time. The secular parody of this -- to grow simultaneously older and more adolescent at the same time -- is on full display in a myriad of ways.

This came to mind this morning when I read over a few things I saw on the internet.

In a morning column, the economist Thomas Sowell, senior fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University said:
"Experience" is often just a fancy word for the mistakes that we belatedly realized we were making, only after the realities of the world made us pay a painful price for being wrong.

Those who are insulated from that pain-- whether by being born into affluence or wealth, or shielded by the welfare state, or insulated by tenure in academia or in the federal judiciary-- can remain in a state of perpetual immaturity. . . .

Even people born into normal lives, but who have been able through talent or luck to escape into a world of celebrity and wealth, can likewise find themselves in the enviable position of being able to choose whether to grow up or not.
This morning as well, Juan Cole, an American professor of modern Middle Eastern and South Asian history, as if to prove Sowell’s point, wrote an article for the widely read online journal Salon, entitled:

What is the difference between Palin and a Muslim fundamentalist? Lipstick

The rambling and predictable article ended with the following sentence:
You can't say you are waging a war on religious extremism if you are trying to put a religious extremist a heartbeat away from the presidency.
It’s the moral equivalency instinct that is triggered by any sense that the ideological bubble is being threatened by realities the ideology can no longer wish away.

Alas, however, Professor Cole is himself a religious man. In the middle of his article, for instance, he puts his professional erudition on display by observing:
As for global warming, green theology, in which Christians and Muslims appeal to Scripture in fighting global warming, is an increasing tendency in both traditions.
Green Theology.

His mistake here, as his co-religionists will have pointed out to him by now, was to use the now-retired term “global warming.” Statistics now show that the earth has been cooling for the last number of years, and, not to be deterred from their faith by facts such as these, the green theologians have renamed the apocalypse. It is now called “climate change,” a way of hedging one’s bets as to which direction that change might take.

On the question of “climate change,” I’m neutral, but on the question of “Green Theology,” I’ll go out on a limb. It’s further evidence of the spiritual crisis among those who fall under G. K. Chesterton’s withering observation that: “When a Man stops believing in God he doesn't then believe in nothing, he believes anything.”

Monday, September 01, 2008

Pro-Choice . . .

Sometimes a person is faced with a choice.

In a brutal Vietnamese prisoner of war camp where he was being tortured, John McCain was faced with a choice: he was offered release. He refused the offer, deciding instead to stay with the fellow prisoners under his command.

Many years later John McCain's wife Cindy was visiting an orphanage run by Mother Theresa. There she faced a choice. In the orphanage she saw an abandoned three-month old Bangladeshi girl in need of medical care. She brought the child to the United States, and the McCains later adopted her. Her name is Bridget; she is seventeen years old.

Early in her fifth pregnancy, Sarah Palin was faced with a choice: The Governor of Alaska, in the throes of a demanding and politically promising public career, she was told that the child she was carrying had Down Syndrome, a text-book case for pro-abortion feminists. Sarah Palin chose to have the child. His name is Trig.

Bristol Palin, herself a 17-year-old and the daughter of Sarah and Todd Palin, faced a choice. In her senior year in high school she got pregnant. She accepted responsibility for her behavior, as did the father of the child, and they plan to marry and provide a loving home for the child they are bringing into the world.

In a speech during the primary season, Barack Obama spoke of his support for abortion -- a support so wholehearted that he voted against a bill in the Illinois legislature banning infanticide. In his speech, Obama -- invoking as always the principle of choice -- defended abortion by saying that if one of his daughters happened to get pregnant he would not want her to be "punished with a child."

Bristol Palin and her future husband are not being punished with a child; they are being blessed with one, though they may not be as fully aware of that right now as they soon will be. But even before they discover the fullness of that blessing they will feel something of the moral maturation that comes to those who do the right thing even when it entails self-sacrifice.

The bitter irony is that the term "pro-choice" is almost exclusively used to justify the refusal to take responsibility for a choice.

"Freedom," said Benedict XVI, "isn't opting out; it's opting in."

What he meant by that was that we are given the gift of freedom so that we can use it in ways that are ennobling and selfless and courageous. We opt in by choosing, not the easy way out, but the responsible way forward.