Liberalism, Conservatism, and Catholicism – Crisis Magazine

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We all talk about liberalism and conservatism, and about liberal and conservative Catholics, but what does it mean? Some say it doesn’t mean much at all. They say these are labels attached to arbitrary and even contradictory collections of positions. Liberals say they want lots of freedom and lots of regulations. Conservatives say they want …

Source: Liberalism, Conservatism, and Catholicism – Crisis Magazine

Unmanly Men in Flannery O’Connor’s Short Stories – Crisis Magazine

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Many of O’Connor’s stories portray the ineptness of men to uphold traditional ideals of manhood. The men show no leadership, they do not protect or care for their family members, they lack all manner of chivalry, and they lose a sense of priority as they commit to careers and professions or social and political agendas …

Source: Unmanly Men in Flannery O’Connor’s Short Stories – Crisis Magazine

A Muslim President? – Crisis Magazine

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Would you support a Muslim for president of the United States? That was the question asked of Dr. Ben Carson on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.” He replied, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.” The Islamic faith, said Carson in explanation, …

Source: A Muslim President? – Crisis Magazine

Reason, Emotion, Rationalization, and Forsaking Christian Faith

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After three years in seminary, in 1986, I had temporarily moved from faith in God to agnosticism. At the time, I thought that decision was purely intellectual, based on the reasonable challenges to traditional Christian faith I had found in my readings in seminary. When I later returned to orthodox Christian faith I reflected further on my temporary loss of faith and realized that it was not due to pure reasoning inside “the view from nowhere,” but that I was rationalizing some emotional struggles I was having at the time. There is no need to spill personal details other than to say that often, when a male seminary student loses his faith, the first question someone should ask is, “Who is she?”

First of all, let me make clear that this is not an argument against unbelief and for Christian faith. It only reflects some observations I have made over the years in response to my own personal struggles as well as knowing a number of people who have lost their Christian faith.

Whether the emotional struggle be a relationship gone sour between a man and woman, a loved one dying of cancer or in a horrific car accident, or emotional struggles stemming from a bad childhood, it is easy to idolize these contingent circumstances into a god that takes away any room for the “very God of very God.” Some believe they have the right not to suffer, that if God exists, He has given us a raw deal, that the God of Christianity is, as Bertrand Russell put it, “a fiend.” That reaction may be understandable in someone who has lost a loved one to a slow, painful death from cancer or is dealing with a history of childhood sexual abuse. We all know that suffering a romantic disappointment can be so painful that it trumps all reason and leads one to question the order of the world, including questioning God. As a temporary reaction to pain and suffering, doubting one’s faith is something human beings–and, I think, God–understands. It is an honest reaction to circumstances that seem overwhelming in one’s life.

Some people, however, in the aforementioned circumstances lose their Christian faith entirely. Others give up their faith due to pride, an arrogance that refuses to bow down to any transcendent being. Such individuals may not become atheists but may prefer a more immanent deity such as the universe, that is not threatening to their egos. That also can be an honest, albeit wicked, reason for throwing away one’s Christian faith.

What is not honest is rejecting faith for reasons that are fundamentally emotional and then rationalizing in such a way to claim that reason is what resulted in the loss of faith. This is the case, I would guess, in the vast majority of cases in which human beings have forsaken their Christian faith. It is a form of self-deception, of lying to oneself, and the person who does this is morally culpable for such self-deception.

Now an opponent could argue that the argument can be turned on its head and applied to Christian believers–that they accept faith out of emotional reasons. That probably is true–human beings are not Vulcans from Star Trek, and emotions are part of the way humans interpret the values and dangers of things and events in the world. It would be dishonest for a Christian who believes out of primarily emotional reasons to falsely claim that intellectual reasons are why he believes. I can only speak for myself and my own experience with people, but this seems much rarer than the nonbeliever’s rationalization of a decision that is fundamentally emotional.

I agree with Augustine that the primal sin is pride, and I have found most intellectuals that have lost their Christian faith to be filled with the pride that Satan had when he told God, in Milton’s story, Non serviam–“I will not serve. Intellectuals are especially prone to fall into this trap, and often the arrogance masks a deep emotional pain that led to the loss of faith in the first place. The vehemence and defensiveness of some nonbelievers who were formerly Christians reveals a bitterness toward their former faith and often toward God–and it also masks insecurity. The nonbeliever is forced to ask himself, if he is honest, “What if I am wrong?” Being wrong would bring back the God whom the unbeliever either considers to be an evil fiend or a judge setting limits on his behavior–or someone to serve, which the unbeliever will not do.

Christian believers should avoid pride as well–knowing my own history, when I see someone who has lost his faith, I pray for the person, but I also say, “But for the grace of God were I.” Human beings are fallen, and although as a Thomist I believe that human reason was not destroyed by human sin, it can be easily distorted and misused. It can be use to cover up what is really going on inside oneself. It can be used to rationalize one’s way out of the limits of Christian morality, out of the specific claims of Christianity, and out of belief in the Trinitarian God. I made that mistake once, and all Christians should be willing to realize with me that “But for the grace of God were I.”

Taking Offense and the Adolescent Whine

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So many Americans are so easily offended these days, especially by positions opposed to their own. Some such Americans call those who disagree with them “haters.” I have been called worse things online–a “ a..hole,” “a worthless piece of s..t,” and other colorful terms. Many colleges and universities have “free speech zones,” so that students who might be offended by a speaker can stay clear. At least one local college (not the university where I teach) has a policy that classrooms are “stress free zones.” Some sexual harassment policies assert that asking someone on a date can be sexual harassment because it might offend someone. I wonder about people offended that no one asks them on dates. Too many people believe they have a “right not to be offended.” Being offended means, to such individuals, that the person doing the offending is guilty of a serious moral–and even legal–action that warrants actions ranging from reprimands to termination from a job to fines to prison time.

Parents of teenagers are familiar with the “adolescent whine,” the denial of personal responsibility, the demands that parents go along with whatever the teen wants to do. Denial of desires means the parents are full of hate. Anything parents say that offends them is a sign of serious moral failure by the parents–or at least some teens want their parents to think that way. The phenomena of people thinking they have a right not to be offended reveals a fundamental lack of maturity on their part. It is a denial of the responsibility we have to take account of our own emotions. Too many Americans (and Europeans) believe that other people are responsible for their emotions. This is like the teenager who is angry and tells his parents, “You made me feel this way.”

We see evidence of the adolescent whine in political correctness in colleges and universities, businesses, and other societal institutions. We see it when well-known people are demonized because they say something that offends some approved minority (make no mistake–the Left, which is control of most American cultural institutions, has its list of approved minorities–they are not concerned, for example, whether a Fundamentalist Christian is offended by someone’s speech or writing). Too many generally decent people have had their lives and careers ruined because of spoiled Leftists who may have adult bodies but whose minds are often pre-adolescent in their maturity level–sometimes they have the emotional maturity of a two-year old throwing a temper tantrum. In a society run by children, offense must be avoided at all costs. That viewpoint is especially destructive of education, in which one’s views, right or left, will be challenged (or should be). The idea of a “no stress zone” for classrooms is madness; students will stress about finishing assignments, being called on to answer a question in class, and so forth. They will stress when their pet positions are challenged. That is the way it should be. The professor should not be censored because students are offended by the content of the class. Nor should professors be censored if they are politically, morally, and/or socially conservative and speak their minds on controversial issues. Too many Leftists have become like the teen who says, “I’m going to talk about that anymore, and neither are you and then holds his hands to his ears when his parents try to talk to him.

If this post offends some Leftists, I’m pleased. Grow up. Stop being spoiled children who have to get your way or else. That road only leads to “might makes right”–and God forbid–perhaps worse.

The North Carolina Poetry Society’s “Policy against Harassment”

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No rational person can deny that sexual harassment occurs. A boss may pressure an employee to have a sexual relationship with him or her and make that a condition for continued employment or an incentive to promotion. A person may initiate unwanted sexual contact or fondle another person when no consent has been given. There are crude, low people out there, and when they do wrong, they should be held responsible and punished.

However, like many such issues in American society, there is an Puritanical ideology which identifies any kind of sexual interest, especially by males, as “sexual harassment.” This has led to sexual harassment policies in which a person de facto is presumed guilty until proven innocent and which lead to a denial of any kind of due process. This is the case in extremis with the “Policy against Harassment” of the North Carolina Poetry Society.

The policy does have a clause that rightfully condemns any form of sexual violence. However, the definition of “sexual harassment” below is chock full of problems.

“Sexual harassment consists of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or unwanted sexual attention by anyone associated with NCPS, whether male or female. Harassment may include, but is not limited to, requests for dates, touching, staring at, obscene jokes, lewd comments, sexual depictions, or other inappropriate conduct committed either on or off premises used by the Society” (NC Poetry Society Website).

Note that the policy applies “on or off premises used by the Society.” Thus, the policy extends to the relationships members may have with one another outside society meetings. The NC Poetry Society is not the be and end all of a person’s life. I am sure many members know one another outside of the Society meetings and socialize in other contexts. One should keep that in mind when considering the policy.

Since when did a “request for a date” constitute sexual harassment? I am not talking about a crude pass or any kind of obscene request, but something as simple as “Would you like to have dinner with me Saturday night?” Does that one request constitute sexual harassment? The policy does not say–it is so open-ended that someone who knows a person outside of a NCPS meeting could be considered guilty of sexual harassment for one request for a date. While the NCPS may deny that is what the policy means, the wording allows for that interpretation.

What about multiple requests for dates. I have read stories of people who have been happily married for many years in which a man asked his future wife four or more times for a date. This is not the Puritanical la la land o liberal creative writers, but often reflects actual human behavior. I would bet that the happily married wife would have something to say to the NCPS members who wrote this policy.

When does “staring at” become illegal “staring at.” I am aware that there is an obviously lewd sense of “staring at” that is wrong, for example, if a man is clearly looking down a woman’s shirt. But this wording opens the door to false accusations that can damage a good person’s reputation. Take a person who is slightly autistic or has what used to be called “Asperger’s Syndrome.” Often these persons have difficulty looking someone in the eye. If the autistic person lowers his head, will that automatically be interpreted as a lewd stare? Sometimes autistic people are in their own little world and are staring into space. If their eyes “look like they’re in the wrong place,” does this count as “sexual harassment”? One does not have to be autistic to give the impression of “staring wrongly.” We might as well stay on our computers and I-Pads and have no face to face interaction with other people.

I have been touched by “touchy feely” people, and I’m sure we know people like that–very outgoing, extending their hands, touching a shoulder, with no hint of sexual meaning in those touches. I am not certainly not offended by such touches, but I have more common sense than many creative writers. I am not “touchy feely,” but I am clumsy–if I trip into someone and touch that person, will that count as “sexual harassment?”

This policy is one of the worst written sexual harassment policies I have seen, but sadly is indicative of a societal trend. The Obama Administration has come up with similar overly broad policies for colleges and universities that in effect make every person guilty until proven innocent. How, with such policies, could someone accused falsely defend him or herself? We might as well be living in a Stalinist world in which everyone fears that everyone else is going to inform on them, whether the “information” presented to the authorities is actually true.

In sum, the North Carolina Poetry Society’s “Policy against Harassment” is totalitarian, is too broadly written, lacks any means for due process, and de facto assumes the accused to be guilty until proven innocent. it is an utterly unjust and immoral policy.

A Failed Experiment

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On June 26, 2015, the United States of America became a failed political and social experiment. With the legalization of homosexual marriage by the United States Supreme Court, the destruction of the American family via law came to final fruition. The destruction began with easy divorce, which had already occurred in some jurisdictions as early as the late nineteenth century. This trend was completed by “no-fault” divorce in the 1970s. Easy access to new birth control techniques led to a separation of marriage from procreation. Such separation need not have occurred; society should have affirmed that a marriage should be open to children at some point even if birth control were used at other times in the marriage. That did not happen, and marriage became a matter of “feelings” rather than a sacred institution surrounded by particular rules and expectations. The only rules and expectations now allowed are feelings of “love;” thus the obscene phrase used in some contemporary weddings that the couple stay married “as long as love shall last.” Marriage became separated from permission to have sexual intercourse, and millions of people took that point to its logical conclusion and practiced premarital sex. Abortion was legalized in case birth control failed or was not used. Longer-lasting relationships became what used to be called “shacking up.” With marriage only a voluntary contract involving love between two people, the next logical step was the legalization of marriage between homosexuals. The majority opinion by SCOTUS followed the trends in societal “development” to their logical conclusion.

The social harm caused by easy divorce and rampant illegitimacy is clear to anyone who is not blind. Rising crime rates, children without a sense of identity or purpose, heartbroken spouses and children after a divorce, abortion used merely as birth control, the loss of a coherent sense of family, the redefinition of “family” to include almost any voluntary association, and lonely old people are all the products of this social revolution.

Modern people believe that they can redefine natural relationships by the exercise of their wills. Thus, many moderns believe that if they call gay unions “marriages” that they are marriages. For thousands of years human societies have defined marriage as between a man and a women (or a man and women or a woman and men in polygamous and polyandrous societies). Marriage was rightly thought to be a natural relationship, and at its best this understanding emphasized both procreation and the union between one man and one woman. Marriage cannot be as easily separated from procreation as the so-called “progressives” claim. This is because a man and a woman are essential for the formation of new human life. Even if homosexuals adopt or use artificial insemination to have children related at least to one partner, a woman must carry the child to term. There are differences between men and women’s emotional responses to children that are complementary to one another. The terms “maternal instinct” and “maternal bond” did not arise out of mere imagination. There have already been studies revealing that children of homosexual couples do not fare as well emotionally as children from a man-woman home. The Left tries to discount or suppress these studies–or they attribute the difficulty of such children to societal prejudice against homosexuals–yet any violation of the natural order will harm people–inevitably.

The United States (as well as Canada and some countries in Western Europe) are engaging in a social experiment that is bound to fail. The fall of Western society may not take a year or five years, but without a fundamental turning back from the course it is taking its collapse is inevitable. President Putin of Russia understands this and understands that rampant homosexuality is one of the causes (though not by any means the only or main cause) of Russia’s population decline.

Advocates of homosexual marriage become angry when opponents use the slippery slope argument, but they should take it more seriously. If marriage is only related to “love” to “feelings” between two individuals, why can’t a fifty year old man and a fifteen year old girl get married if they are in love? How about children even younger? Why can’t a man marry his sister or mother or aunt? What about animals? Some people are fond of animals and engage in sexual intercourse with them. In Western Europe, animal brothels, in which people pay for sex with animals, are becoming more common. While everyone may condemn animal brothels, what if the animal is a beloved pet who does not mind sex with the human being. Why not hold a marriage ceremony? A chimpanzee can use sign language; it might even “assent” to a marriage. These are indeed horrible things, but their legalization follows from the same logic that generated the legalization of homosexual marriage.

There is also a danger that traditional Christians who oppose homosexual marriage will be persecuted for their beliefs. What if a homosexual “married” couple tries to join a church that opposes homosexual practice? Suppose this couple is told of the church’s teaching and continues to affirm that they are right and the church is wrong. If the church excommunicates or disfellowships the couple, can it be sued for discrimination? Can a minister or rabbi that refuses to marry a gay couple be arrested? Given the invention of a constitutional right to homosexual marriage, is the written constitution really a guarantee against laws discriminating against traditional Christians and Jews (and Muslims as well, though the Left tends to make them an exception since they are not Christian)?

The country in which I was reared no longer exists. In the meantime, I will in my garden, pick my crops, can, and be outside in a world where natural law operates despite human will. I will go to church and worship the Trinitarian God. These things help me keep sane in a world that has gone mad.

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