Saturday, April 18, 2009

Quotes of the Day - René Girard

"We can no longer blame the favorite institutional scapegoats beaten to death by our master thinkers of the last two centuries. These beasts of burden have all collapsed long ago, just like Nietzsche's famous horse in Turin. One can go on beating dead horses for several decades, no doubt, especially in graduate seminars but, even there, there will be an end. No one can really believe that our families, the class system, the male gender as a whole, the Christian churches, or even a repressive university administration might be responsible for what is going on."

"We cannot escape the issue of a relationship with the real course of history. Indeed, we shall see that only by confronting the real course of history -- which the gospel text claims to determine -- can the astonishing coherence of the gospel logic be fully revealed in our time."

"The idea of the demon who bears light is more far-reaching than any notion in psychoanalysis. Desire bears light, but puts that light in the service of its own darkness. The role played by desire in all the great creations of modern culture -- in art and literature -- is explained by this feature, which it shares with Lucifer."
- René Girard
[ht: Gil Bailie @ Cornerstone Forum]

John C. Wright - PC not

John C. Wright goes ballastic over political correctness. A rant worthy of noting for the record. [ht: Curt Jester]

Gnostic Puer in Chief

As I have said before, we elected a puer to the office of President of the United States. Now, watch him fly.

Interestingly, he's flying ... to extend the olive branch to Hugo Chavez and to Iran's leaders and people.

I don't gainsay I Wun's desire to get along with others on the world stage. But his utter naivete to anthropological realities - the problem of the model/rival doubles, for one - combined with a romantic Gnosticism - if I can think it, educate and/or coerce sufficiently, it can come to pass - is especially worrisome.

What will happen when I Wun's through-the-looking-glass world shatters, as it must? Or, does he truly think he is more than a mere mortal and possesses powers of unifying harmony and prescience that transcend centuries of tribalism, anthropological realities, and millenia of human fallenness?

Time will tell.

NYT - Tea parties to the extreme

The NYT Weekend Opinionator takes a surprisingly cool and even-handed gander at the growing "tea party" phenomenon. He even notes "an odd warning from the Department of Homeland Security."

Goodbye, Spengler

Theology of Dance

[ht: Pam @ Atlas]

Friday, April 17, 2009

Paton - PRB

End of Spengler?

As I wrote pseudonymously for Asia Times Online, new friends announced themselves - journalists, academics, clergy, and people of faith from many walks of life, not least the indefatigable group of good friends that manages the Spengler Forum. The editors of First Things asked me for an essay on Franz Rosenzweig and Islam, which I published in 2007, and later a piece entitled "Zionism for Christians", which appeared in 2008 under the pseudonym "David Shushon". That was a milestone for me.

I had subscribed to the journal not long after its inception in 1990, the year I finished my PhD coursework in music. To write for First Things was an unanticipated honor. I came to know the magazine's editor Joseph Bottum, as well as such regular contributors as George Weigel, Russell Hittinger and R R Reno.

On January 8, 2009, the magazine's founder Richard John Neuhaus died. A few weeks later Jody Bottum asked me to join the staff of First Things as an editor and writer. It seems only heartbeats ago that I was in dark seas, looking up at this beacon; now it is my turn to help keep the lighthouse.

As for Asia Times Online - this scrappy, virtual expat bar - I was there at the founding, and will contribute to it as long it continues to upload, if somewhat less frequently than before.

"Spengler" is channeled by David P Goldman, associate editor of First Things (
Read all ...

Transparent Preferences

There is, apparently, transparency. Then, again, there is transparency. [ht: Karen Hall]

Fr Schall - Georgetown

Father James V. Schall on I Won's recent requirements at Georgetown:

Public relations folks think they can improve venues for media and other purposes. In any case, I received a report from a generally reputable source. Indeed, the request to cover the Christian symbols did come from the White House. The source asked the White House for a confirmation, but no response. What a good request! Why no response, as the issue goes to the heart of what this country is or was?

What interests me here is this: If this president speaks at a Jewish Synagogue, or a Baptist church, or the Crystal Cathedral, or the Muslim Mosque on Massachusetts Avenue, the Ravens Stadium, the George Washington University, the headquarters of Planned Parenthood, or the hall of the local Atheist Society, will the same policy be followed? Will all signs of what the place actually is and stands for be covered over? If so, it represents equitable treatment, but is it wise? Is the president never to appear in any venue with obvious particular commitments, and why choose religious and not secular signs? Should, say, a university seal be exempted, but a crucifix not?

Will presidents be able to appear anywhere outside government buildings if the rules are really equally applied to both religious and secular? And this raises a real question: Is it American? George Washington once talked before our New North Hall, so did President Clinton. I guess a porch does not need much cover-up. But is the American understanding of state and religion designed to hide any religious or cultural sign whatsoever? If a president is buried at a local church, as President Woodrow Wilson is, must the funeral be covered over so that no signs of a church are seen?

This country does not hide its religious presence. If a president does not want to speak in a given place, fine. Don’t ask. But if he does, it should not be on condition of the place’s ceasing to present what it historically is. Much ink has been spilt on the churches that the president went to in his earlier life, likewise much controversy on whether he "bowed" to a Saudi prince ...

Read all ...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Won (he was crucified - how 90's)

Patrick Archbold reports: Following Georgetown's covering of the IHS (Gr. 'Jesus')for I Won's speech, here is an exclusive by CMR on the finishing touches at Notre Dame for I Won’s presence on campus.

Political strategy vs. Truth

THIS is exactly why I put no earthly trust in bipartisan politics. "Tea parties" my sweet Aunt Sally. The GOP deserves to crash and burn if it, like the Democratic party, merely sees what direction the spirit of the age is sweeping the populous and jumps out front.

I am glad to be a member of a Body that puts no trust in princes - or focus groups either: the Catholic Church. It has the promise of the risen Lord of heaven and earth behind it; it believes what He, Jesus, told us is and always will be true; and it will not change just to get ahead of the ravenous hoard to grasp at earthly power or as some "church growth" scam.

Both political parties had better begin to think about the eternal consequences of their decisions and platforms. Building bigger barns means nothing when one draws one's last breath.

Leaving the Scimitar for Cross

Difficulties of conversion notwithstanding, Christianity Today examines Why Muslims Follow Jesus - The results of a recent survey of converts from Islam.

Someone should tell our commander-in-chief to stop pussy-footing, if he knows what is good for him in the long run.

Rosary with Notables

Remembering that the Rosary is a tool for contemplating the events of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, and for invoking the prayers of Our Lady: join these stars in the joy of truth, goodness, and beauty. [ht: Aramis @ The 4Ms]

Seance, Dude

Hey, Nancy Reagan consulted with a spiritualist. Why shouldn't President I Won privately speak with the dead?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Knowing & Walker Percy

I went to see Knowing yesterday on the good advice of Roger Ebert. Nicholas Cage plays an MIT physicist who unravels a series of numbers on a sheet of paper from a time capsule buried 50 years prior that is predicting accurately catastrophic events. An interesting movie, but the ending seemed a might contrived in terms of effecting a movie-audience catharsis. And I'm always leery about calling in aliens to rescue things, deus ex machina.

Nevertheless, I am one of those readers/viewers whom Walker Percy described so accurately in both his fiction and non-fiction. I like a lonely scientifically oriented bloke (or gal for that matter) who is making connections that others find incredible or that strain conventional wisdom. A story is better yet if said scientifically minded fellow finds his positivist presuppositions just don't match reality and he must admit old Will Shakespeare's dictum:

There are more things in heaven and earth ...
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Even better if he can witness or take an unwilling part in bringing down a gaggle of hubris filled politicians who think they have monolithic control of matters. Best of all if he has fallen in with a motley of unlikely stragglers - we few, we happy few - with whom to face an uncertain series of events that with seeming coincidence but betray a providential hand. And if he has been rejected or cast off or left behind somehow by his professional colleagues (Ah, yes. Poor So-and-so. Too bad about him. Had such a brilliant career, it seemed, before he put his foot in it.), then he is truly the protagonist for me.

So this Easter break I am reading The Thanatos Syndrome in which Dr. Thom More is taking stock of things in Louisiana after spending two years in the Fed for a minor narcotics charge and conviction.
And what does Walker Percy throw in? How about the following:
The great American philosopher, Charles Sanders Pierce, said that the most amazing thing about the universe is that apparently disconnected events are in fact not, that one can connect them ...
Azazel is, according to Hebrew and Canaanite belief, a demon who lived in the Syrian desert, a particularly barren region where even God's life-giving force was in short supply. God told Moses to tell Aaron to obtain two goats for a sacrifice, draw lots, and allot one goat to Yahweh as a sacrifice for sin, the other goat to be marked for Azazel and sent out into the desert, a place of wantonness and freedom from God's commandments, as a gift for Azazel.

Mohammedans believe that Azazel is a jinn of the desert, formerly an angel. When God commanded the angels to worship Adam, Azazel replied, "Why should a son of fire fall down before a son of clay?" Whereupon God threw him out of heaven and down into the Syrian desert, a hell on earth. At that very moment his name was changed from Azazel to Eblis, which means despair.

Milton made Azazel the standard-bearer of all the rebel angels.
Walker Percy was on to something. Yes he was.

The Mind - Owner's Manual

Everyone is logical and rational. You disagree? Read a few more sentences before clicking elsewhere.

What you mean is that people with whom you disagree (about so many things) make you feel slightly, or greatly, frustrated. Why do "they" see things so differently than I do? They're irrational, illogical, nuts. Feel familiar?

Let me, then, begin once more.

The area where we all differ the greatest and that which causes the greatest amount of apoplexy between people is the realm of epistemological presuppositions: the first principles from which we derive the "lenses" through which we see the world and from which we derive inferences. ALL of us are logical; we use logic to reach the conclusions upon which we base our decisions and actions.

All of us examine precisely the same data, but we see them through different a priori "lenses". Presuppositions are by definition faith statements, and cannot be proven. This is what nearly everyone misses (except a few moral theologians and a philosopher or two). It is at the very beginning of our reasoning processes that the differences begin, and by the time we arrive at logical conclusions from these presuppositions, formulate our thoughts, attitudes, summaries, belief sets, and behavior we as far away from one another as, say, spokes that began at the hub but now at the rim of the wheel are far away from one another indeed.

To compare the findings of a creationist and an evolutionist who examine the same data is pointless without first comparing their presuppositions - their (mostly unexamined) faith statements from which they begin their investigations. To compare the political merits of a left-winger and right-winger without looking at their presuppositions results in a useless falderal and perhaps a shouting match. To ask for the most logic, rational, reasonable stance toward belief in Christian faith vs. atheism is pointless without first examining the respective a priori faith statements of each.

We are all logical. We must first look at one anothers' presuppositions - which are ALL, by definition, unprovable. That is where the healing of the western world will begin if it is to happen at all.

A. N. Wilson - Return to Faith

(O)nly hard evidence will satisfy the secularists, but over time and after repeated readings of the story, I've been convinced without it.

And in contrast to those ephemeral pundits of today, I have as my companions in belief such Christians as Dostoevsky, T. S. Eliot, Samuel Johnson and all the saints, known and unknown, throughout the ages.

When that great saint Thomas More, Chancellor of England, was on trial for his life for daring to defy Henry VIII, one of his prosecutors asked him if it did not worry him that he was standing out against all the bishops of England.

He replied: 'My lord, for one bishop of your opinion, I have a hundred saints of mine.'

Now, I think of that exchange and of his bravery in proclaiming his faith. Our bishops and theologians, frightened as they have been by the pounding of secularist guns, need that kind of bravery more than ever.

Sadly, they have all but accepted that only stupid people actually believe in Christianity, and that the few intelligent people left in the churches are there only for the music or believe it all in some symbolic or contorted way which, when examined, turns out not to be belief after all.

As a matter of fact, I am sure the opposite is the case and that materialist atheism is not merely an arid creed, but totally irrational.

Materialist atheism says we are just a collection of chemicals. It has no answer whatsoever to the question of how we should be capable of love or heroism or poetry if we are simply animated pieces of meat.

The Resurrection, which proclaims that matter and spirit are mysteriously conjoined, is the ultimate key to who we are. It confronts us with an extraordinarily haunting story.

J. S. Bach believed the story, and set it to music. Most of the greatest writers and thinkers of the past 1,500 years have believed it.

But an even stronger argument is the way that Christian faith transforms individual lives - the lives of the men and women with whom you mingle on a daily basis, the man, woman or child next to you in church ...
Read all of Wilson's Religion of hatred: Why we should no longer be cowed by the chattering classes ruling Britain who sneer at Christianity.

Pro-life Hate Crimes ...

The post office wall could become the place d'honneur during the Obama years. Deal Hudson explains.

Father John Zuhlsdorf has more.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

O @ Georgetown - IHS Nowhere Seen

Does it have the same feeling tone - the efforts to co-op the Catholic Church by the Last Self-Help Administration - and the Chinese government's efforts with the Church (not to mention Buddhist leadership succession)?

Dawn Eden reports on the President's visit to Georgetown University and G'town removes the Holy Name to accommodate The One.

It is coming down who believes who has the power to define the terms of discourse: Obama and his ilk think they do.

UPDATE: has more. [ht: Spirit Daily]

Never Judge a Book

All of us, on occasion, experience moments of "ontological density" (DeLubac) or "ontological mooring" (Marcel). And a key principle of Catholic theology and anthropology is that we are most ourselves when we are most open to receiving the source of our being by giving ourselves away in loving service to God and others.

You want to see ontological substance? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Susan Boyle, who appeared on Britain's equivalent of American Idol.

Read all about Miss Boyle - the youngest of nine children, a life-long Catholic who cared for her aging parents till death, who has never been kissed, and who describes herself as looking "like a garage" - at The Anchoress here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Rossetti - PRB

Dante's Vision of Rachel and Leah (1855) - Dante Gabriel Rossetti

'This is what is new'

Amy Welborn posts the Holy Father's Easter homily. Once I heard a crusty, old Southern Baptist preacher say, "If it doesn't preach in the cancer ward, it ain't the Gospel."

Go read Urbi et Orbi: "Mors et vita, duello conflixere mirando: dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus - Death and life have come face to face in a tremendous duel: the Lord of life was dead, but now he lives triumphant."

Dawkins Delusion

Gerald Warner of The Telegraph comments on Richard Dawkins who said that Pope Benedict XVI is 'stupid, ignorant or dim' -
Dawkins is not interested in empirical, scientific evidence when he is kicking religion. If the Pope favoured condoms Dawkins would probably be against them - on sound scientific grounds. Atheism is the new superstition and nobody illustrates it better than a scientist who rejects scientific method in favour of blinkered prejudice.
Read all of Warner's observations here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bloch - Emmaus

Supper at Emmaus - Carl Heinrich Bloch

Happy Easter

Maggie Gallagher - Gov't Power Abuse

Ms. Gallagher holds her own and then some regarding government abuse of religious freedom. NB: the accusatory method employed by her adversary. It comes with the territory ...

BTW, one last thing: I find it sad to see a fellow human being like this advocate of dismissal of Catholic wisdom. Whereas Ms. Gallagher argues for marriage as a crucial element of cultural commonweal, he, on the other hand, is busy kicking last sticks out of the way which leads, as Girard has shown, to the "crisis of distinctions." Too, has he examined the realities of old age, mortality, Eternity? I wonder how many might change their tune if they did so.