Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dickens - Antidote for Pop Culture

To the Ghost of Christmas Present, Charles Dickens has Scrooge say, " ... you've shown me only greed, and malice, and apathy! Let me see some TENDERNESS, some... DEPTH OF FEELING!"

The former, one might say about pop culture, so superficial, nonsensical, and driven by greed, malice, and apathy.

But the latter - tenderness and depth of feeling - Charles Dickens specialized in depicting to the world; the grief of mortal, fallen men and the joys that could pierce in equal depth.

G. K. Chesterton said in his book, Charles Dickens, the Last of the Great Men,
He was the voice in England of (an) humane intoxication and expansion, this encouraging of anybody to be anything ... It is useless for us to attempt to imagine Dickens and his life unless we are able at least to imagine this old atmosphere of a democratic optimism - a confidence in commen men.
For any persons who feel forlornly as though a majority of Americans have lost their way and are about to cast their vote for an inexperienced candidate cut from the academical cloth of secular, social pragmatism, I strongly recommend a large dose of Dickens. If you can't find a quiet afternoon in which to sit and read him, then find a copy of the 2002 film version of Nicholas Nickleby, about which Roger Ebert says, "(I)t's jolly and exciting and brimming with life, and wonderfully well-acted."

And, I may add, full of greed, malice, apathy, AND tenderness and depth of feeling. Basically, everything you want but cannot find in today's superficial world of pop culture and cookie cutter news bytes.

Face to Face

Heaven's Patient, Loving Glance

As one who qualifies as a curmudgeon on several different fronts (yet who clings to youthful dreams of chivalry like ragged King Pellinor), I continue to run to Mother Church for grace, succor, and glimpses of beauty.

Many persons for whom I feel concern and love do not seem to have the common horse sense that we human beings are puny; they do not have an immediate, innate awareness of truth or what is good for us and others, and, are generally something just short of blithering idiots. These go blithely through life - I'm reminded of the boiling frog analogy - not feeling a thrill of fear/contempt/revulsion for the horrors of abortion and infanticide that heaven's gaze, too, must both hate and pity.

I heard Father Paul Scalia say yesterday at the Arlington Diocese Catholic Educators' Institute, if the Pharisees set the bar unrealistically high in terms of external behavior and prohibitions, our day's Christians across the board set the bar too low. "I'm good enough. I went to Mass this week, that's enough. I paid my pledge. I prayed a Rosary. I went to the parish meeting." Both the Pharisee and our approaches presuppose that WE save ourselves through our actions. But we don't. Jesus Christ alone can bridge the gap between our fallen human nature and heaven's entrance. He and his grace provides eternal life in and through our human nature and human being.

Our chivalric task is to participate not through a "good enough" effort but through our best and finest and noblest efforts of faith, morals, strength, hope, and charity to follow Him by means of the unique gifts and grace imbued in us by our Maker. This is our calling, our Vocation, and every single human being has such a Vocation. Our flaws and concupiscience are not the norm; they are elements of deviancy from our true human being, made imago dei.

So, regardless of the outcome of any election, regardless of events and tumult swirling in and around us, follow Him, hokey as that may seem. Where else shall you go - when cancer appears, when the accident happens, when the overdose occurs, when old age and infirmity finally catch up, when death takes one you never thought could die, when you realize that you set the bar far too low and the life and faith you could and should have been living was wasted and you find yourself in a far country ...
Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"

Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
The quickest way back to the you you should be is repentance. The Church Jesus gave us offers reconciliation and sacramental grace to start over. Clean. Forgiven. Good to go.

Heaven's glance is love. And divine, patient waiting. What's stopping you? What are you waiting for? You have free will. But you do have a dead line. Best get going. God speed.

Has America Lost Its Way, Bishop Asks

FARGO, North Dakota, OCT. 24, 2008 ( Here is an excerpt of the homily given Sunday by Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo at the Cathedral of St. Mary.

* * *

Today, Catholic politicians and individual voters on both sides of the aisle have lost the sense of this fundamental principle that underlies every just and enduring society. Most especially, they have lost the sense of the inalienable right to life for the unborn child. Even without considering God in the equation, human life, for every human being, begins at the moment of conception. That is when human life begins. That is when your life began. And that is when Rep. Pelosi’s life began. That is when Sen. Biden’s life began. That is when Sen. Obama’s life began and Sen. McCain’s life began.

Sadly, the dignity of human life from the moment of conception is lost today. The truth nonetheless exists. Our forefathers recognized it but present day politicians and voters do not.

Furthermore, we have lost too this fundamental principle in what it means to pursue happiness. We see the attempted pursuit of happiness without God and the collapse of this pursuit in Wall Street and the economics of today. Greed has guided the hearts of men and women, in which a 40 million dollar bonus is not enough in one year. When you take God out of the equation and life is lived as if he did not exist, the only thing left to pursue is materialism, because there is no life after death, there is no judgment. And so greed guides the hearts of men and women when we lose that basic essential understanding of the presence of God ...

Read all …

Friday, October 24, 2008

Lewis - Romantic Love

French poets, in the 11th century, discovered or invented, or were the first to express, that romantic species of passion which English poets were still writing about in the 19th. They effected a change which has left no corner of our ethics, our imagination, or our daily life untouched … Compared with this revolution, the Renaissance is a mere ripple.
- C. S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love

Belien - Lost Continent

A beautifully written essay by Paul Belien at Taki's, plaintively entitled, Lost Continent.
Since you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to spit you out of my mouth. You say, “I am rich. I have become wealthy. I don’t need anything.” Yet you don’t realize that you are miserable, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. (Revelation 3:16-17)

While 44 per cent of Americans attend a place of worship once a week—and this is mostly a Christian place of worship—only 15 per cent of Europeans do so—and many of them go to a mosque instead of a church. The European disease was aptly analyzed by Pope Benedict XVI who said that it was caused by “the cynicism of a secularized culture that denies its own foundations.”

Here lies the explanation for Europe’s current predicament. What we see happening today in Europe is not Islam replacing Christianity; during the past decades secularism replaced Christianity. What we see happening now is Islam replacing post-Christian secularism.

In an interview in the German newspaper Die Welt last month, Father Notker Wolf, the German professor and monk who is the head of the Benedictine monks worldwide, suggested that Islam might perhaps be “a provocation from God.” Father Notker implies that Islamization can only be stopped if Europe rediscovers its Christian roots.
Read all …

Big O, Meet Mr. Jackson

In Mr. Obama, Meet Mr. Jackson, John Robson of Mercatornet writes,
(W)hat historian Walter Russell Mead in Special Providence calls the “Jacksonians”, and David Hackett Fischer’s invaluable though regrettably interminable Albion’s Seed calls “borderers” (for their origins in the Anglo-Scots border region), remain the largest single component of the American political community. These folks left a huge stamp on America, with their rough and ready egalitarian manners and robust, unapologetic self-reliance.

It is they whom observers like Tocqueville took to be typical Americans and in large measure they still are. And though many will vote Democrat this time, it’s not because they share Barack Obama’s cultural or foreign policy instincts. If he doesn’t understand why he didn’t have to court them during the campaign he will become politically irrelevant with a speed that would astonish even Jimmy Carter. Especially given the growing contingent of “Blue Dog” Democrats in Congress, noted by Canadian commentator John Ibbitson in the Globe and Mail, who are classic Jacksonians, culturally conservative foreign-policy hawks.

At the moment Middle America is disaffected from the Republican party for good reasons. But not those the Democrats take for granted. Jacksonians have no patience with cultural radicalism. And they do not care that the world seems to despise America; Jacksonians despise foreigners and rally ferociously round the flag when America is attacked.
Read all …

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rabid Mama Bear - Karen Hall

Karen Hall goes to the mattresses in Confessions of a Hatemonger.

'Will Say Anything to Win'

As the race gets ugly - particularly and typically from the Leftist side - Sen. McCain spots a reality: Obama will 'say anything' to win. It's par for the course for those who mythologize their increasingly violent actions, all the while crying, "Peace, peace!"

Peering Into the Abyss

From New Oxford Review's contributing writer Maria Hsia Chang, Professor Emerita of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Reno, and Adjunct Professor at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, Graduate Theological Union, in Berkeley, California, during the 2008 spring semester. When a man looks into an abyss, the abyss also looks into him.
"I THINK THE JOKER KILLED HEATH LEDGER." So writes licensed attorney and former public defender Jay Gaskill in his review of The Dark Knight. Gaskill is not being melodramatic; he is simply stating what other reviewers only hint at.

The Dark Knight, the latest Hollywood incarnation of the superhero Batman, broke records for best opening weekend at $158.4 million. The movie ranked top in box-office sales for four consecutive weekends, pushing its domestic total to a staggering $461 million, and making The Dark Knight second only to the all-time box-office champion The Titanic.

No doubt, many went to see The Dark Knight out of a macabre curiosity because of the untimely death of one of its lead actors. On January 22, 2008, six months before the movie's opening, Heath Ledger was found unconscious in his Manhattan apartment. Paramedics called to the scene could not revive him. The medical examiner later determined that the 28 year old had died from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs -- a lethal brew of sleeping pills, anti-anxiety medication, and the painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone.

Reviewers have lauded The Dark Knight for its fine acting. In particular, Ledger's "electrifying" performance is singled out for praise; there is increasing talk of a posthumous Academy Award. His face caked with moldy makeup, with black-shadowed eyes, a red-smeared mouth, and yellowing teeth, Ledger's character, the Joker, is more than a sociopathic master criminal. Instead, reviewers use the language of the supernatural, calling him "demonic" and "diabolical" -- "a hound fresh out of hell," "a vivid, compelling picture of naked, nihilistic evil…with almost preternatural power," "a truly frightening vision," and "like Satan." Michael Caine, who plays Batman's butler Alfred, said that he found Ledger's performance so terrifying and disturbing that he sometimes forgot his lines.
Read all …

UPDATE: Nicholson says, “I warned him.”

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Quiet Eye

St. John Cantius via Daniel Mitsui at The Lion & the Cardinal. More here and here.

Obama, Keyes, and the Supreme Court

Benson, Ham, Bailie & Chivalry

Two young conservative journalists not bowled over by the Big O juggernaut and who want John McCain to win the election do a great service in compiling The comprehensive argument against Barack Obama.

Please note in the first video clip featured in the above: Obama is on the record regarding the first thing he'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. Gil Bailie has noted:
The Freedom of Choice Act would Eliminate:

• State abortion reporting requirements in ALL 50 states
It would render null and void:
• Laws in 44 states requiring parental notification when minors request abortions
• Laws in 40 states laws restricting late-term abortions
• Laws in 46 states providing conscience protection for individual health care providers
• Laws in 27 states providing conscience protection for institutions
• Laws in 38 states banning partial-birth abortions

The bill would abolish all restrictions on government funding for abortions. Once signed into law, therefore – as the Democratic nominee for president has promised to do – all restrictions on abortions would be eliminated and they would be funded by taxpayers, like it or not. Doctors and nurses would risk losing their jobs if they refuse to cooperate.

But there’s more: The Born Alive Infant Protection Act – which would require medical personnel to provide medical care to children who survive an attempted abortion – passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate – all the pro-abortion politicians voting for it. But the Democratic nominee for President, then a state legislator, led the fight against an identical bill in the Illinois legislature.

[ ... ]

When the Rip Van Winkles awaken and rub their eyes, they will find that their children and grandchildren are being taught in public schools that the deeply held moral principles of their parents are not only wrong but morally odious and socially hateful – a hint of what’s to come as the modern intermission in the world’s persecution of the Church draws to a close and Christian faith will be once again entail social opprobrium, legal and financial hardship and more.

If the voters elect the presidential candidate who has made his radical commitment to the culture of death unmistakably clear and his acquiescence in the demise of traditional marriage as clear as political expedience allows – the moral blame will fall very largely on two groups: American journalists and American Catholics. History will judge the former for professional negligence, but the latter will be judged morally and more harshly when the whole sordid episode of abortion becomes as clear in hindsight as the Nazi Holocaust is today. The past is prologue. God and posterity will hold us accountable.
KEEP praying. KEEP working. KEEP trusting. This work is about saving the children, our marriages, our families - all the basics of God's Natural Laws against a culture of death and unconscious, ignorant neopaganism.

Our work is that of chivalry. Keep at it, with faith, hope, and charity. In Christ's grace and by his Sacraments sing and work and pray to your last breath.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

10 Ways of Reforming the Scimitar

A few days old, but still quite useful, Daniel Pipes offers R. Spencer's ten criteria for a moderate Scimitar religionist.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Abortion - Moral Crucible of Western Culture

With his usual concise candor, Gil Bailie puts his finger on the moral evil being fought by a Christian minority in America this election season; simultaneously, it is a monstrosity being studiously swept under the political platform of the left:
Imagine what life was like for the average German in the 1930s. The Jews were being rounded up and sent first to ghettos and then to concentration camps while respectable German politicians sought “balanced” their hand-wringing on those matters by pointing to how clever and compassionate their proposals were for improving the tax code or public transportation or working conditions in the armaments industry. This is our situation today.

What, after all, was the moral monstrosity at the heart of both slavery and the Holocaust? It was that a whole class of human beings were morally and legally invisible and therefore exploitable or expendable at the whim of others. This is the crystal-clear moral center of the abortion issue.

If western civilization abandons the most vulnerable and innocent to abortion, it doesn’t deserve to survive, and if it abandons the institution of marriage, it won’t.
Read more …

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Holman Hunt - PRB

Isabella and the Pot of Basil (1868) - William Holman Hunt

Anglican Cleric Sees Threat in Olympic Mosque

Building a mosque next to the Olympic site could create a breeding ground for extremists, a senior Church of England official has warned, reports The Sunday Telegraph.
Dr Philip Lewis, an interfaith adviser to the Bishop of Bradford, said that the plans threaten to establish a ghetto of Muslims taught to embrace jihad.

Tablighi Jamaat, the group behind the proposal, are "isolationist", "patriarchal" and has a narrow reading of Islam that leaves it vulnerable to extremists, he said.

In the first intervention by a Church figure over the controversial project, Dr Lewis raised fears that a 12,000-capacity mosque in London would lead to a segregated Muslim community. The mosque would be four times the size of Britain's largest cathedral. [emphasis added]
Read more …

Making of a New Herr Wolf

Under the Let He Who Has No Sin Category in The Strangest Time of the Campaign Season, I merely offer the following as one who scratches his head at inebriated hero-worship by those who fall for internal mediators. Enter 'ali sina making of a fuehrer' in your search engine. If this seems sinister and overwrought, you forget your historical time line from the Weimer to the Reicht.

By their fruits shall you know them.