Friday, July 31, 2015

The facts about Cecil the Lion

Everyone in the Western World has by now heard about the killing of Cecil the Lion by an American, Walter James Palmer. It appears as though it may have been against the law in Zimbabwe, where the act occurred. If so, then it is up to Zimbabwe authorities to pursue the proper course of action. That said, the outrage over the incident has really gotten bizarre.

Palmer has been called a murderer who should be hanged. While the thrill killing of an animal is fraught with moral peril (it is morally wrong to kill anything just to kill it) it is nonsense to argue that Cecil was murdered. Animals cannot be murdered: they are not on a high enough moral plain to merit that charge. His crime, if he did commit one, was in breaking the law. He may have violated Zimbabwean conservation law. He did not murder that lion.

It is interesting to note that Zimbabweans themselves are surprised at the reaction of the United States and many westerners. In a recent article from AOL, they seem surprised. With all the other (and more pressing) issues they face, the uproar over killing a lion they find somewhat absurd. You may read about it here: http://www.aol.com/article/2015/07/30/zimbabwean-baffled-by-foreign-concern-for-killed-lion/21216119/?icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl2%7Csec3_lnk3%26pLid%3D903214704 And indeed, there are westerners to whom it is much ado about nothing, considering the horror of things such as the abortion of human babies which we permit.

We reject that it is much ado about nothing. Proper anger over a thrill kill is fine, and it's wrong to be dismissive of that fact. Yet there is a question which we'd love to know: is Ricky Gervais, a celebrity in the forefront of the fight against big game hunting (which is exactly the sort of thrill killing which is abhorrent) for abortion? How many people aghast at the killing of a lion are for it? These are legitimate questions because it would take from them the moral high ground.

We ask that because it would demonstrate the lack of a rational moral compass on the part of such folks. As such, their view on any moral issue should be held suspect. But having said that, the right degree of concern about the wanton killing of animals is a moral good which should be encouraged.

At the end of the day we should be against thrill kills even of animals. Yet we also need to understand that they are just animals who do not merit the same moral concern as human beings facing human ills. Animal neglect and abuse is, properly, against the laws of most nations. But it is not the worst sin one might commit.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Social issues fight will never be over

Cheer up, social conservatives. Things aren't so bleak as they seem.

To be sure, the battle over gay marriage is lost. Not to be flippant, but so it goes. Sometimes, in this imperfect world, the wrong side wins. Yet there are many reasons for that happening, and not the least of which is the simple fact that the world in its imperfect vision blurs the lines. People reach a point where they cannot or are unwilling to fully see right from wrong; this is not said to excuse them but only as an observation. Either way, we're at the point so that as long as religious liberty is not infringed upon by the gay rights activists we may just have to live with parts of their program. Worse things have happened in human history and, not to excuse them, but sins of the flesh are indeed the least immediately harmful of the sins. At the end of life, those who commit them will have to answer to God for their errors as we will for ours. If you aren't shuddering at the task of explaining your own sins to St. Peter, then you may need to give that question better thought anyway.

But as to our responsibilities towards justice on this Earth, well, sometimes all that can be done, so long as we've actually done all that we can do lately, is to wait for the next best opportunity and do what we can do now about whatever other errors are out there. With some few exceptions, there is no point to fighting battles which cannot at this time be won. All that does is expend resources uselessly while perhaps leading to other more critical battles unwon. Abortion still exists, and is surely a worse evil. So long as we will not support human rights among our weakest brothers and sisters then talk about rights and responsibilities in general is pointless. Even this does not preclude our speaking from the pulpits and through our social media against what has been made conventional. Leaving the battlefield does not mean we are no longer to propagate. It only means that we must be patient about ultimate ends.

The one thing we cannot do is allow ourselves to be painted into a corner. We cannot be lumped in with the buffoons who say that rape can't cause pregnancy or that God wills this or that; we don't really know God's will in particular instances, and He cannot undo the free will of men and women. But we insist that as a group we are not Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock. We must stay reasonable about our cause. Further, we must not allow ourselves to be called bigots. It is the bigots against religion who call us that, and they cannot be allowed the high ground. We speak, if we speak truly, for what is really right and what is really wrong. As such, we need to call for honest introspection and proper self denial among ourselves as well as our adversaries. They speak almost by definition for shallow self interest. That by itself should give our beliefs greater moral clarity and power.

And it will in the long run. Keep the long run in mind, for the short run will never give us complete satisfaction for the good or the bad. That's simply the way things are, and there's no use becoming pessimists over short term defeats. We must remember that we are called to optimism in this world even when evil seems to be carrying the day. Without that belief, how are we to be optimistic about the next?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The bad scientist

One of the great debates between the Christian and the scientist is the degree to which we are animal or spiritual. Many scientists wish us to be wholly scientific in our approach to humanity and understanding of ourselves. It is really a rather shallow outlook on human nature or, even, the necessary consequences of a purely scientific view of who we are.

Science has apparently discovered the part of our brain which helps us to recognize justice. It thus asserts, at least in some quarters, that goodness is innate within us physically. Yet that attitude ignores a very real point. The possibility that good occurs in us naturally is an entirely different question from the judgment of what is good, or the expectation that people will do good.

How do we know what is good except to be able to judge it in our individual and societal actions? Or are our scientifically minded friends suggesting that we just 'do things' and they happen to be good? Either way, any judgment about good, any assertion that 'this is good' cannot come wholly or entirely from within ourselves; there are too many of us with too many of our own nuanced ideas of good and bad.

Or are you saying that everyone from childhood, without guidance of any kind (parental, societal, or spiritual) will necessarily elect to do good? No Lord of the Flies scenarios possible? To claim that we are naturally good begs the question of why people (and it should be obvious that all people do bad things sometimes regardless of physical construction) do bad things. Why does the thief steal, if he knows in his heart and head that it's wrong? Further, what's free will, if we are born with, say, no choice but to do good? Indeed, if we have no choice but to do good, if it is 'just what we do' then even calling our actions good comes into question. What's so good about doing what we cannot help but do?

It should surprise no one that we are hard wired to recognize justice; we are, at the end of the day, physical as well as spiritual creatures. It should not be shocking news that a just and all knowing God in the very act of creation would make our physical selves able to recognize spiritual, eternal, and absolute truths, truths outside our own will, thus enabling us to see (so to speak) justice. That science has discovered as much enhances rather than detracts from our knowledge of God. It strengthens, not weakens, our relationship with Him. It makes our spiritual side and our physical side properly complimentary. It raises us from the mere animal into a higher plane of existence.

Science does not tell us who we are in our entirety. It only sets us on that road. How far we trail along that path is ultimately up to us. And the questions we discover along that way will not be answered empirically.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Men can understand women's rights

It is often heard, from women who support birth control, that they don't see where a celibate clergyman ought to be judge to the issue because they can't really understand woman's rights. Yet those same women won't denounce a celibate clergyman who agrees with them on the grounds they're men.

Similarly, they say that men shouldn't legislate about banning abortion, because they can't really understand what that might mean to women. But they don't hold the same point with male lawmakers who vote for abortion rights, even though they presumably can't understand woman's needs either. Indeed, whenever a man supports a so-called woman's right in a way which women (or, should we say, liberal women) like, he is not condemned. But why should male affirmation mean any more than male denial if men cannot possibly understand a woman's position?

Two things come up here. One is that it is arrogant to assert that men cannot understand a woman's rights merely because they're men. Women sure don't mind respecting a man's opinion if it coincides with theirs; dismissing male opinion as automatically wrongheaded if it disagrees with any given woman's is, simply, hubris.

Two, it is more likely that someone not directly involved in an issue would be more readily impartial than someone who wants a certain outcome. We have umpires and referees in sports precisely because, although they may not be the actual players, they are expected and indeed are more likely to be impartial than the players. An umpire says safe or out independent of the player, who would more likely rule his own way given the chance.

This isn't to say that all umpires are right and all players wrong each and every time. But it is to say that objective right is something anyone can grasp if they want it. Whether the rule maker or opinion giver is male or female means nothing to right and wrong about anyone or anything.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

How we're born never justifies how we act

Why should anyone think that they have a right to act certain ways, and this includes any kind of action at all, simply because they are 'born that way'? If there is a more asinine defense of what we may do as people, it certainly isn't obvious.

No one, and that means absolutely anyone under absolutely any conditions, has the right to do anything they please based merely on intuition, feeling, or physical or psychological makeup. They may not be able to help what they do if and when a genuinely physical ailment or other explicable impediment is involved, yet even then we do what we can to help them learn to do the right thing, because even their genuine ailments or unfortunate conditions cannot justify their actions. It can only mean, at most, they are not morally culpable for what they do.

But most of us are. As such, we can choose what we should or should not do as we get along in our lives. We make decisions, and it is up to us to be rational about them. Indeed we have a duty to act rationally so far as we can, and we must be willing to face the consequences of what we do as well. But if we are to be rational, we must admit that we have a basic, general control over what we do. Why? Because one of the things which most of us are indeed born with is the capacity for intellectual considerations. We have free will.

A properly developed intellect will tell us that we simply cannot do things just because we have a desire to do them. This includes doing the things we like to do which are not wrong in themselves. If you are inclined to play baseball, you may play it. But not because you're born with an affinity for sports and games; rather, because it is not wrong to play baseball. Even then, it can be wrong, according to circumstance, to play it. If you're supposed to be at work or doing your chores, then you can't play because more important obligations trump the desire.

If you cannot accept that, well, so be it. But you had also better not disdain conservatives supporting conservatism. Because, of course, they're just born that way.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Religious Humor, Seriously

You gotta hand it to the Catholics. They have a sense of humor about themselves. Of course, so do conservatives in general, but that is an issue we'll take on another time.

What brings this up is the discovery of a funny little website called Eye on the Tiber. It promises to deliver all Catholic news as it happens, when it happens, and before it happens. And it does a very good job of it. Check it our for yourself: http://www.eyeofthetiber.com/

You don't have to be Catholic to find Eye of the Tiber hilarious. That might help at times, yes, such as the article which tells us that Irish bishops are lengthening opportunities for Confession into 8 hour blocks due to 'gargantuan' demand, a manner which neatly lampoons supposed Church authoritarianism and Irish guilt at the same time. Then there's the piece about the Mars Rover discovering a Jesuit seminary...but we digress. The point here is that serious Catholics can joke about themselves. Let's face it: they aren't expected to by the world at large. Catholics are supposed to be staid, stolid types.

But there are greater points than that at work. Perhaps first on that list is how the site demonstrates how little the media know or understand Catholics and Catholicism. How often in recent months have we heard the media chirp that Pope Francis is leading the Church in a new direction, into the 'modern' world, away from all that mythology and God stuff. He isn't, of course, and EOTT cleverly mocks that attitude. There's a recent article, if that's the right term for it, which gleefully reports that Francis has split with the past in announcing that gravity is true. This comes on the heels of media assertions that the Church had traditionally opposed evolution when the Holy Father said that it was compatible with Catholic doctrine. Yet Pius XII said so in 1950; what's up wit dat?

Simply that the media and the population at large don't understand Catholics and Catholicism. In fact, it's probably safe to say that they don't care to understand religion beyond their own straw men which they use to knock it. To actually take religion seriously would require a feat which they would not find humorous at all, because it might challenge their lifestyle choices. It might make them have to become introspective. They don't want to have to answer the questions that that might entail.

Yet the people who try to answer those questions honestly about themselves are the ones with a comic streak about something very dear to them. We believe that that tells us all we need to know about the secular world, and that it should instruct the secular world on the real Church.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

7/4/15

Independence Day. July 4, 2014. Officially, we have enjoyed 238 years of freedom.

Well, freedom for the most of us. There are those who are not quite so free: the ones who have elected to surrender part of their lives so that the rest of us may be free. They surrender a part of themselves so that the United States does not surrender.

It is far too easy to write about the sacrifices made by the soldiers and sailors who give of their lives, who have given their lives, for the sake of ours. Words are simple, talk is cheap; actions, however, speak loudly, and echo through history in a way text pounded into a computer never can, and never will.

It is particularly important on this holiday to remember the armed forces of our Allies as well, the Canadians and Britons; the French, Spanish, and Dutch (for would we be a nation today without their aid in the 1770s and 1780s?) and countless others, who give and have also given of their lives and efforts for the same basic reasons our men and women in uniform do. Our Constitutions may differ, our political systems vary; but the commitment to freedom is quite the same.

Yes, there are and will be differences, as there are differences among ourselves. But if the long range goals are the same, if all eyes are on the same prize, then all roads will lead to the same reward. It is our armed forces who pave that road, and they are the reason we live free on this 238th anniversary of our birth.

God Bless America, God Bless our friends, and God Bless those all who do His work.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

No peace on gay marriage issue

Now that the debate about gay marriage is over (at least for now) there is much concern about what will happen next. Some people in the gay rights camp are calling on their peers to be magnanimous in victory, to not force themselves or their beliefs too much on the body politic. Leon Drolet, a libertarian conservative of note in Michigan and a generally reasonable man, encourages such 'tolerance and civility' towards those against gay marriage as the years unfold. You may read his views in more detail here: http://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2015/06/30/drolet-gay-marriage-golden-rule/29480455/

We've read enough of what Mr. Drolet writes to trust his sincerity and good intent. But we say in this instance, you're barking up a tree. That tolerance and civility which he rightly calls for ain't gonna happen.

How can it, really? When basic rights are at stake, in fact when two are almost contradictory to one another as what we are now looking at, something's got to give. If gay marriage is a Constitutional right as much as religious liberty then one view must win out as the other diminishes. We're not saying that simply to preemptively accuse gay rights activists of intolerance either; both sides are subject to vindictiveness and can each go overboard. And it goes without saying that those with serious moral and religious reservations about gay unions will not now give up the ghost. But now that the former has got the ear and power of unlimited government behind it, we're guessing that the push for more gay rights is inevitable.

The Supreme Court ruling will only embolden the believers in gay marriage. The situation will become worse before it gets better. If it ever gets better: with states such as Mississippi and Alabama toying with the idea of abolishing marriage licenses altogether we doubt the issue will go away. If they or other states manage to get out of the marriage business we'll just about guarantee that gay rights groups and the ACLU will find some grounds to keep states overseeing marriage, if for no other reason than that they will feel compelled to keep their fictionalized rights.

Mr. Drolet is right to call for civility. Yet we suspect that even he knows his call will be for naught.