This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Friday, January 29, 2010

More than 5 years and counting

I was browsing my blog today and realized that I have been doing this in earnest for just over five years now. I set the blog up while avoiding workshops at a conference I was attending in October of 2004 and made a nasty post on Ann Coulter while on vacation at my in-laws house in Tennessee that December (a post which has been updated and moved to a later date). The first time I really started blogging with a passion was around Bush's second inaugural in 2005, where I wrote about Marching Season in Washington (MLK, anti and pro Bush and anti-abortion) in a few installments and then considered the question of whether the Republicans were as corrupt as everyone thinks they are. The following month, I dealt with questions of pro sports ownership in light of the NHL lockout.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, with the Republicans still as corrupt as we thought they were (or at least a misguided) while the football owners are cancelling labor agreements and getting ready to lock out there players for the season after next.

Originally, this blog was a supplement to a radio show I was developing and a website and privately published book that was up and running on Geocities. Geocities is now closed and I have moved the content to a set of entries on this (and other) blogs dated June 2004 - although this blog is the source of all the others. Sometimes, it seems I have more blogs than readers, except that occassionally I do get comments. For a while, I had (and technically I still have) a show on Blog Talk Radio - which you can link to on the right pane. I just have not scheduled a show in over a year, since I had high phone bills and a really bad flu. Now, I have a calling plan that will absorb the calls without being too expensive and I have long since recovered from that bout of the flu and a subsequent treatment for primary aldosteronism and associated hypertension. I have also branched out to the Freeliberal.com and to a paid blog on the DC Examiner page and a diary on the DailyKos. This is still the original blog and I still post here.

As Jerry used to sing, what a long, strange trip its been.

March for Life coverage in the Arlington Catholic Herald

Last night, the Arlington Catholic Herald came. As always, I turned first to the letters and opinion pages. They did not disappoint. You can read the current letters online at http://www.catholicherald.com/opinions/browse.html?category_id=78.

One letter was from an 8th grader from a local Catholic grade school. He relates his March experience and makes some points that will make the right-wingers a bit uneasy, citing the need for more services to pregnant women and the primacy of economics in the abortion issue. Sadly, he does not go beyond assistance to pregnant women in his remedies, since assistance to all families is what is really needed to really reduce abortions. He does make a fundamental error, which most likely reflects his training. He states that he thinks that "it is important for young people to go on the March for Life because someday we will be the ones making the choices. We will be voting for who is president and whether or not things like abortion should be legal. " This is not, in fact, the case, since the right to abortion is not legislatively based - at least not in the way he, and indeed the Bishops, believe. Abortion rights flow from the fact that under the plain language of the 14th Amendment, legal status begins at birth - although Congress can change this as part of its enforcement powers under the amendment. Outside of California and New York, there was never a law legalizing abortion and at the state level it is not, and should not be, a legislative issue.

A second article was from an opponent of immigration reform, who cites immigration and NAFTA cause of poverty (in reaction to an article which suggested otherwise). He claims to not support abortion, however the policies he suggests would only increase abortions among poor people, both here and in Latin America. So much for the seamless garment of life.

Congressman Chris Smith has an opinion piece which trots out studies, which I believe have been largely discredited, that abortion is harmful to women and girls. For some, it may be, but studies show that for others it is not - especially since there is little difference between a D&C after a miscarriage and an elective abortion. As far as young people being depressed after an abortion, that may be the case - but it may be because they are sexually active too early or in concert with alcohol or drugs, rather than from the fact of their abortions.

Russell Shaw does his part to attack health care reform in support of the Stupak Amendment, which was rejected in the Senate largely because it would have gone beyond abortion neutrality and put at risk funding of abortions now funded by private insurance with government subsidies if those policies move to insurance exchanges. That is not neutrality, that is overreach. One can argue that it would be good to further restrict abortion funding in the private sector - but lying about wanting to do so is not acceptable. It is also likely that most abortions would be paid for with cash as they are now, so that there is no record of the procedure for one's spouse or parents. All in all, even with the Senate bill, abortion will go down, since as our young 8th grader states, most abortions happen because of economic uncertainty or peril. Enacting health care reform would reduce that uncertainty and thus reduce abortions.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Stop the March for Life

I am not arguing here for an external action stopping the March, or even for opposition to it by the pro-choice movement. What I am arguing for is a change in the focus of the pro-life movement.

As long as this March is the center of the movement, along with the judicial overturn of Roe, it will be seen as a Republican recruiting tool and not much else. Even though the result was tragic, Roe was correctly decided on the facts and law.

Prior to Roe, abortion was regulated as a medical procedure, the unborn did not have a recognized right to life. Indeed, using the language of rights affirms the fact that we can never go back to the pre-Roe status quo, where abortionists were simply fined and women sought unsafe abortions but were not punished in the same way that anyone ordering the death of another is punished.

Insistence on state-by-state variation in abortion law may make Justice Scalia and the Federalist Society happy, but it won't do a thing for the unborn, as women and parents of girls can cross state lines to get an abortion. The collateral damage from such a ruling on all matters of equal protection law would also be quite undesirable to all who care for the rights of minorities (including Catholics in Alabama and Mississippi). States are not the competent jurisdiction to recognize citizenship - it is a federal role under the 14th Amendment. Once a fetus is recognized as a legal person, he or she would enjoy the full range of equal protection rights, including the right to have the person who ordered his or her death punished. Since the nation (and even the pro-life movement) does not have the stomach for this happening in the first trimester, the game is forever changed.

As long as the focus is on the impossible dream of overturning Roe judicially, nothing will happen for the unborn. If we work within the boundaries of Roe and the 14th Amendment, however, at least late term abortions can be legally ended and the economic views of Caritas in Veritate can be applied to first trimester abortions (by making larger families affordable). Oddly enough, this position is the one taken by many, if not most, Catholic Obama voters. Perhaps it is time for the movement to listen to us, rather than pillorying us from the pulpit.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The problem of Scott Roeder and the birthers for the March for Life

In nine days, the March for Life is returning to Washington, which continues the annual protest of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling overturning laws which ban abortion. In the coming days, I will be writing more on the direction of the movement, but for now, I will address a few interesting wrinkles which likely have the organizers on pins and needles.

The first event is the ongoing trial of Scott Roeder for the killing of late-term abortionist Dr. George Tiller. Roeder admits to the facts of the case, but is being allowed to argue that his actions were justified – although he can only use this argument to argue for a Manslaughter conviction – the judge is not allowing for the option of acquittal on grounds of justifiable homicide.

To be fair, the majority of cool heads in the Pro-Life movement reject such an argument. Indeed, the Catholic press was full of denunciations of the murder of Dr. Tiller when it occurred. Not everyone in the movement sees it that way, however. While the murder of Dr. Tiller cannot be justified on absolutist grounds, practitioners of situational ethics can make the argument that murdering one person is permissible to save the lives of others. Of course, this is forgetting the fact that there are other late term providers out there – as well as the fact that most late term abortions don’t happen out of a whim but because of medical necessity (also situational ethics), so Roeder’s defense is not justified. The problem is, there will likely be Roeder supporters at the March. If the organizers try to exile them, they will take their signs elsewhere and they are almost sure to get coverage on the local, and probably the national, media.

Similarly, the Tea Party movement will certainly wish to participate as well, as I am sure there is some overlap between the movements, especially given the overlap regarding the Hyde Amendment. Experience has shown that a few of the Tea Partiers are also Birthers, who also have the most interesting signs.

When the signs come out, or if speakers express any solidarity with either issue, it will likely cause the organizers to also address the issue in a way that the true believers won’t like. The media feasts on such controversies – hence the problem for the organizers.

The more profound problem has to do with fundraising. Any non-profit has two kinds of donors: big fish who fund most operations and smaller grass roots donations. Small donors are valuable as a way to build a grass roots organization. The problem is, sometimes small donors are “true believers” who hold ascribe to methods that may make the larger donors wince and take their donations elsewhere. Of course, there are also large donors who might be fringe – and they may withhold their funds if they are rebuked. Controversy within the movement is never good for fundraising, which is the life blood of any non-profit. I suspect that the leadership of National Right to Life is stocking up on Zantac right about now.

UPDATE: It looks like Roeder's supporters staked out the courthouse instead. I wasn't paying attention, but it seems like there were no shout outs for him at the March. Anyway, the expected word for today is GUILTY! Kind of says it all.

Monday, January 04, 2010

New Years and Epiphany

Observant Catholics went to Mass twice this past weekend. On Friday, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Mother of God while Sunday was the Feast of the Epiphany. Epiphany has been moved in the U.S. to Sunday rather than its traditional January 6th date - which is one month after the Feast of St. Nicholas - in Europe, St. Nick's and 3 Kings Day are when gifts are given, not Christmas. Some would argue that the New Years holy day is an attempt to hijack the secular holiday. If so, it would not be the first time.

As has been my wont this season, I will comment on the Gospel of each feast (I was sick on the Feast of the Holy Family, having spent the prior night in the ER with tachycardia - so I did not write about that Gospel). I am cross posting to both my Street Prophets page and to my Examiner page. I have ignored Street Prophets to date, which was an oversight.

The key verse from the New Year's Gospel is probably one of the most important of the entire season for understanding what happens later: Mary kept all these things and reflected upon them in her heart. Of late, it has been fashionable in biblical scholarship to consider the Nativity story as an add on to the Gospel. I disagree - largely because of this verse. It clearly identifies Mary as the source for this narrative and confirms her presence in the early Church. It also identifies how Jesus found out about his own divine nature. Many suppose that Jesus had a two track mind - one divine and one human. This does not comport to him being fully human, however. Jesus was not some superman - rather he was the ultimate "Man of Faith," who was likely told of the events of his birth by his mother (whom he challenged in the Holy Family Gospel with what seems like inside knowledge between the two of them that he was in fact teaching in His Father's House). He then confirmed this knowledge with a reading of the Scriptures. It was not until his baptism by John, which we celebrate next week, that he was offered the assurance of miracles.

Some may find this a debasing of Jesus. I consider it an exultation. He did not make it easy on himself, rather he depended on faith, just as he asks us to depend on faith in Him. Of course, faith in the Man of Faith is a lot harder than faith in a superman.

This also has an impact on human salvation. For milennia, people have been wondering what brought Jesus to the point of abandonment, where he echoed the 22nd Psalm and cried out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Seating Mary as the source of his knowledge of himself solves that problem. By entrusting her to John's care (rather than commanding John to preach the Gospel) he puts away both his mission and his divinity (which he was first told of by her). She likely could not even look at him at this point, so broken was her heart. This abandonment gave him direct experience of the isolation of sinner, an experience God could not have had without the incarnation, so that we can go to Jesus because he came to us first.

On the topic of challenging what we have been taught, I find it rich that in recent years the use of Astrology in locating Jesus has been downplayed by the Church, using the words "wise men" or "magi" instead. This is on, since both words translate to Wizard. While this may make for an interesting J.K. Rowling nativity story, ignoring the role of astrology leaves something out. Astrology would be the only way Jesus could be found by the Magi. The conjunctions present at his birth had meaning to them (a meaning that was probably lost on the Gospel writers, who misuse the terminology - because likely the Gospel writers and their source (Mary) knew nothing of Astrology). According to later research, these conjunctions showed the birth of a Great King of the Jews. If there were a star to be followed at all, it would have been an eclipse of the Sun - although it would have taken some intricate calculation to pinpoint the house at which Jesus was born.

Of course, acknowledging that the new King of the Jews could be found using astrology is to provide support for the veracity of astrology, which is a problem for a religion which is deathly afraid of anything associated with paganism. This mainly comes from two factors - one political and one epistemological. Politically, paganism is associated with Roman rule and attempts by the Romans to force the Christians to acknowledge the divinity of the Emperor. The whole point of the first Commandment is that no earthly authority is divine (a sentiment lost on some papal apologists) - and worse is kleptocratic. God is beyond all that - indeed Jesus, while divine, acted through faith rather than divine power. The second epistemological point is a misunderstanding of what paganism really is. Unless one actually believes that there are pagan gods, it is pretty clear that paganism is an exploration of the archetypes of human personality. It is more likely that paganism was created from astrology, rather than astrology existing as an outgrowth of paganism. Taken that way, we have nothing to fear from paganism itself - although we still have much to fear from hubris.

It is better to take the humble example of the Man of Faith who started as the humble infant in the manger than to emulate Caesar and Herod the Great.