in medias res

I thought I would let you all know that I am in between living spaces and still in the process of setting up a new internet account / computer situation. Regular posting will resume likely by the Christmas break. I wish you all a blessed Advent season!

In the meantime, I recommend reading The Political Teachings of Jesus. My initial impression was flawed because it was incomplete. While I think the first few chapters of the book stumble theologically, the subsequent chapters are very provocative and are an excellent New testament exegesis. Reading the book, one is struck by the profound unity and coherency of the moral teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. By the end of the book, I found myself thinking that any merely human teaching would be somehow deficient, somehow incomplete; Jesus' teachings do not suffer this defect of standard human wisdom, and the book helps us to see that clearly, even if it is not its explicit goal.

In other news, Dracula is a highly entertaining read. I know next to nothing about the book, but I'm wondering if the novel is in part a critique of certain excesses of Catholicism?



Beauty is one of the three foods of the soul, the three most vital human needs, along with Truth and Goodness. These are the three things we all want infinitely and absolutely. They are the three attributes of God that our very nature tells us about. They are the three ideals that raise us above the animals. Christians have succeeded, and are still succeeding today, quite famously in the first of these two areas. Christian philosophy is the most intelligent of philosophies, and Christian morality is he most holy of moralities. But Christianity no longer produces the world's most beautiful and arresting art. Modern man is not rejecting Christianity because it looks stupid or wicked but because it looks boring: dull, hokey, embarassing, "square," sissified, bland, repressive, platitudinous, preachy, dreary, "weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable." Its pictures are no longer moving pictures. They do not move hearts. The secular media makes the magic now.


Christ's beauty is a beauty that breaks our hearts. It is "no beauty we could desire" unless our hearts break first. Deep truth heals your mind, and deep goodness heals your will, but deep beauty wounds your heart.

Deep beauty hurts.
- Peter Kreeft in Envoy Magazine


money from nowhere

"This current bailout, calculated only up to $4.6 trillion, has cost more than the following government expenditures combined: The Marshall Plan. The Louisiana Purchase. The race to the moon. The S&L crisis. The Korean War. The New Deal. The invasion of Iraq. The Vietnam War. NASA. All of those combined, in inflation-adjusted dollars, equal $3.92 trillion."
- Rush L.


Change we can believe in

What is this change? Hillary Clinton! The New York Times informs us:
Hillary Rodham Clinton has decided to give up her Senate seat and accept the position of secretary of state, making her the public face around the world for the administration of the man who beat her for the Democratic presidential nomination, two confidants said Friday.
As time passes it becomes more and more obvious that the Obama administration is going to be... just like all the other Democratic administrations. Turns out the change we are supposed to believe in is really the federal government under the control of Democratic politicians. The Democratic campaign slogan should be: "believe in the power of the federal government to solve your problems".


Classical Christian Education

I recently visited the Logos School, a classical, Christian school in Idaho. It was a great school, inspired by a 1947 essay, "The Lost Tools of Learning," by the English novelist Dorothy Sayers. She argued that there was something seriously amiss in modern education; we have, she said, “lost the tools of learning--the axe and the wedge, the hammer and the saw, the chisel and the plane—that were so adaptable to all tasks.” Instead, students learn an assortment of “complicated jigs,” specific, isolated knowledge, which have turned out to be very poor substitutes. We are failing in the “sole true end” of education, which is simply to teach men how to learn for themselves.

What set Sayers apart was her solution. Schools, she urged, ought to adopt “the mediaeval scheme of education…what the men of the Middle Ages supposed to be the object and the right order of the educative process.” At the heart of classical education is the Trivium, whose three parts are Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric, in that order. Intended for the study of Latin, they actually instruct pupils in the process of learning. First, one learns the structure of language, grammar (hence, grammar school) “what it was, how it was put together, and how it worked.” Then dialectic, how to use language, make accurate statements, construct an argument and detect fallacies in argument. Finally, the pupil learns rhetoric, how to use language elegantly and persuasively. These steps—acquiring the building blocks of knowledge, analyzing how they are used, and constructing something beautiful and true from them—apply to all fields of study, not just language.

I've got more over on my education blog.

And here is the St. Crispin's Day speech from Shakespeare's Henry V.


times, people, laughs

[friend](9:12:42 PM): ya I hate working
[friend] (9:13:00 PM): maybe i'll file unemployment like the rest of america
[friend] (9:13:20 PM): that why I have a better chance of breaking a guitar hero record
Zach (9:13:28 PM): people will pay to see that
[friend] (9:14:10 PM): and i'll do it while picking up and quitting smoking cigarettes every two weeks
[friend] (9:14:21 PM): and i'll write a book about indians
[friend] (9:14:43 PM): there are so many things I would do if I didn't work


21st century dating

City Journal is a great magazine. "Love in the Time of Darwinism" is an insightful look into dating in a post-feminist age. Ms. Hymowitz explains her thesis:
The reason for all this anger, I submit, is that the dating and mating scene is in chaos. SYMs of the postfeminist era are moving around in a Babel of miscues, cross-purposes, and half-conscious, contradictory female expectations that are alternately proudly egalitarian and coyly traditional. And because middle-class men and women are putting off marriage well into their twenties and thirties as they pursue Ph.D.s, J.D.s, or their first $50,000 salaries, the opportunities for heartbreak and humiliation are legion. Under these harsh conditions, young men are looking for a new framework for understanding what (or, as they might put it, WTF) women want. So far, their answer is unlikely to satisfy anyone—either women or, in the long run, themselves.

Now, men and women have probably been a mystery to one another since the time human beings were in trees; one reason people developed so many rules around courtship was that they needed some way to bridge the Great Sexual Divide. By the early twentieth century, things had evolved so that in the United States, at any rate, a man knew the following: he was supposed to call for a date; he was supposed to pick up his date; he was supposed to take his date out, say, to a dance, a movie, or an ice-cream joint; if the date went well, he was supposed to call for another one; and at some point, if the relationship seemed charged enough—or if the woman got pregnant—he was supposed to ask her to marry him. Sure, these rules could end in a midlife crisis and an unhealthy fondness for gin, but their advantage was that anyone with an emotional IQ over 70 could follow them.
Check it out.


de-divinizing Jesus

A few months ago a man named Tod Lindberg wrote an interesting-looking book titled, "The Political Teachings of Jesus". Quite unexpectedly, I have found the book to have many similarities with liberation theology. It's expressed purpose is to analyze the Teaching of Jesus Christ as if he were merely a man. The book ignores any investigation into his divinity and looks to explicate the profundity of his teaching that is available supposedly without considering his divinity.

My brief review is this: to ignore the question of Jesus' divinity is to misunderstand some of his teachings. Not all, just some. The book, so far, is a reflection of this principle. Lindberg gets many things right, and at times his writing "makes you think deeply," as Michael Novak says. But at times his writing demonstrates a misunderstanding of Christian teaching and the very verses he is drawing from. Not to mention that the last thing Christianity needs is another de-supernatural-ification, or attempt to understand Jesus without reference to his claim to divinity.

Rather than substantiate this criticism with an example, I'd rather share something the book offers that was particularly interesting to me. The selection below demonstrates the strengths of Lindberg's style. He is talking about Jesus' notion of an "enemy"
What, then, does it really mean to "love your enemies," not just your neighbors? We might begin with what it means to have or be an enemy. Here, Jesus suggests that from the point of view of the old law, an enemy is someone you "hate," perhaps viscerally. We therefore have to begin with the notion of "enemy" as a relationship between two people, or two peoples, or two nations. What divides you from your enemy? And what do you have in common?

The easy answers are, respectively, "everything" and "nothing" To be in a relationship of enmity is to be in a relationship in which there are no ties of goodwill that bind you: no law, no "brotherhood," no neighborhood. There is accordingly no way you can agree on how to resolve the differences between the two of you. The only option each of you sees (assuming that both parties to the relationship of enmity are aware that they are enemies of each other) is to try to kill or force the submission of the other or to separate yourself by as much distance as possible if you fear the struggle that might ensue.

In truth, though, this is a misimpression, one that Jesus sets out to identify and correct. Note to begin with that, in most cases, enemies are aware of each other as such (and if not, one party will treat the other as something better than an enemy while the other pursues the relations between the two in accordance with the hidden or secret understanding of the other as enemy). But even a common understanding between two people that they are enemies is a common understanding between the two. They are not so radically apart as they might like to think.

Animals don't have enemies: The predator/prey relationship is different, even though we sometimes use terms like "natural enemies." To have an enemy is a matter of a person's understanding that someone is an enemy. We come back to that idea of "hate." The condition of enmity is precisely not "natural." If it were, how could we escape it? Generations of people would be doomed in perpetuity to a state of hostility.

Hobbes's "war of all against all" is one possible outcome, and it may be the initial state of relationships between people and a "state of nature" in the sense of the human condition before we encounter people who are willing and able to forge different principles according to which they will live. Nevertheless the Hobbesian struggle remains only one possible outcome. Others are possible as well.
So it's definitely an interesting read, but I think there is slight injustice done. I still think the best thing ever said about Christianity and politics can be found in Peter Kreeft's talk "Should the state take a stand on first things?". It solves just about every problem I've ever tried to deal with in an hour.
Check out Alan Jacobs' latest thoughts. It's good stuff.


worth amplifying

Or at least posting it here will help me recall this beautiful story:
The Dominicans report that one of their own has helped convert one of Serbia’s most notorious abortionists into an advocate for the unborn. The whole story is worth reading, but the critical part involves the appearance of a certain Angelic Doctor:
In describing his conversion, Adasevic “dreamed about a beautiful field full of children and young people who were playing and laughing, from 4 to 24 years of age, but who ran away from him in fear. A man dressed in a black and white habit stared at him in silence. The dream was repeated each night and he would wake up in a cold sweat. One night he asked the man in black and white who he was. ‘My name is Thomas Aquinas,’ the man in his dream responded. Adasevic, educated in communist schools, had never heard of the Dominican genius saint. He didn’t recognize the name.”

“Why don’t you ask me who these children are?” St. Thomas asked Adasevic in his dream.

“They are the ones you killed with your abortions,’ St. Thomas told him.

“Adasevic awoke in amazement and decided not to perform any more abortions,” the article stated.

“That same day a cousin came to the hospital with his four months-pregnant girlfriend, who wanted to get her ninth abortion—something quite frequent in the countries of the Soviet bloc. The doctor agreed. Instead of removing the fetus piece by piece, he decided to chop it up and remove it as a mass. However, the baby’s heart came out still beating. Adasevic realized then that he had killed a human being.”
Via First Things


Feministing points out the obvious

Namely, that Catholics are no different than the majority culture. In fact, they may be worse!

That's change you can believe in.


Return of the Native Son

NH native son P.J. O'Rourke has written a wide-ranging column analyzing the election results. In his free wheelin', humorous and traditionally spunky style, he makes many great points.

I bet there is some push back on this point:
In how many ways did we fail conservatism? And who can count that high? Take just one example of our unconserved tendency to poke our noses into other people's business: abortion. Democracy--be it howsoever conservative--is a manifestation of the will of the people. We may argue with the people as a man may argue with his wife, but in the end we must submit to the fact of being married. Get a pro-life friend drunk to the truth-telling stage and ask him what happens if his 14-year-old gets knocked up. What if it's rape? Some people truly have the courage of their convictions. I don't know if I'm one of them. I might kill the baby. I will kill the boy.

The real message of the conservative pro-life position is that we're in favor of living. We consider people--with a few obvious exceptions--to be assets. Liberals consider people to be nuisances. People are always needing more government resources to feed, house, and clothe them and to pick up the trash around their FEMA trailers and to make sure their self-esteem is high enough to join community organizers lobbying for more government resources.

If the citizenry insists that abortion remain legal--and, in a passive and conflicted way, the citizenry seems to be doing so--then give the issue a rest. Meanwhile we can, with the public's blessing, refuse to spend taxpayers' money on killing, circumscribe the timing and method of taking a human life, make sure parental consent is obtained when underage girls are involved, and tar and feather teenage boys and run them out of town on a rail. The law cannot be made identical with morality. Scan the list of the Ten Commandments and see how many could be enforced even by Rudy Giuliani.
Also, yesterdays RCP page was a winner: from P.J. to Hitchens to Will to Brooks, etc.


change we can believe in - i.e., collusion between government and big business

It seems one of the first functions of the new American government is to "save" businesses that under-perform. Or maybe just businesses that have powerful lobbyists in Washington D.C. Remember now that President-elect Obama and the Democrats ran on a platform of ending corruption and changing the atmosphere in D.C. They were supposed to go to Washington to send the lobbyists home. Well, so far, it seems they are acting contrary to their word. Here's an example of the type of policies we get with a Democratic President and Democratic Congress:
In a letter to Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) asked Paulson to "review the feasibility . . . of providing temporary assistance to the automobile industry during the current financial crisis."

The letter notes that Congress granted Paulson broad discretion to use the bailout money to "restore financial market stability. A healthy automobile manufacturing sector is essential to the restoration of financial market security," the letter continues, as well as to "the overall health of our economy, and the livelihood of the automobile sector's workforce."

If the request is granted, it would expand the federal government's role in private enterprise far beyond the financial sector. Critics have warned that a bailout of GM would attract a long line of other companies to Washington to argue that their survival, too, is critical to the economic health of the country. The move would push the Bush administration to decide winners and losers in yet another huge sector of the economy, and it would force President-elect Barack Obama to manage a complex restructuring of the ailing automotive industry.
Mind you, Congress has already given the automakers a $25 billion dollar loan. For those on the left who are worried about the collusion between government and business, you could not find a more unnerving example in these stories. Is this change we can believe in?


Rush Limbaugh's advice

Rush is always good at moments like this:
Yes We Can! The reestablishment of principled conservative opposition begins today. McCain did everything the Wizards of Smart on our side told him to do, and he failed. Moderate Republicanism lost. Conservatism didn't.

Pearl of Wisdom: "I'm not against graciousness and being congratulatory towards President-Elect Obama, but the motivation for it troubles me greatly, as we seek here not to 'rebuild' the conservative movement, by the way, but to simply reestablish it and take it back from a bunch of frauds and pretenders who want to 'redefine' it."

This is what moderation got us: 20% of "conservatives" voted for Obama.


election reflections

I wish President Obama the best. In all sincerity, I hope his presidency advances the common good. I pray most of all for the unborn children who will continue be killed unjustly because our Constitution does not protect their right to life. I pray for their mothers and everyone involved in such situations. And I pray President Obama has a change of heart. If he is truly a liberal, perhaps he will support expanding the community for which we are held responsible; perhaps he will grant civil rights to that currently dehumanized segment of our population, the class of unborn human persons. I have to at least have the hope.

For those who have supported President-elect Obama, I hope they maintain the same level of enthusiasm they exhibited throughout his campaign. I hope they pay attention to the news; I hope they read; I hope they become thoughtful, civic-minded citizens. Complacency and indifference are a great evil, and I hope President Obama is able to shake people out of it.

For those who share my sense of defeat, I implore you not to move to despair. Conservatives know that politics is not everything, and it is certainly not the first thing. While our country may suffer greatly, life's truly important battles are fought in the quiet of the individual soul. We must pray for the conversion of one heart at a time. Remember St. Augustine: "One loving soul sets another on fire". Let us continue this truly important work, remembering that in the end it isn't in our hands anyways.


Conservatives into the woods

Ready for the inauguration of King Obama?

Here's a hint of what's to come:

Looks like a landslide Democratic victory. New Hampshire has, I think, no Republican Congressman left. What now?

Preparing for Obama

Michael Ulhmann:
Which brings us to Senator Obama, the least experienced major-party candidate for the presidency in recent memory, if not in all of American history. Despite his ideological proclivities, which are decidedly left-of-center, he has run a brilliant campaign, especially compared to the Republicans, who have yet to come up with an overarching, coherent argument for electing John McCain – except, perhaps, for fact that he’s not Barack Obama or George W. Bush.

Other than Democrat enthusiasts, a large segment of the public are clearly nervous about Obama, as well they should be. Four years ago, he was an obscure Illinois state legislator of undistinguished achievement. Before that, he was a community organizer in South Chicago, which is not exactly a familiar job description or one that (pace MSNBC’s Chris Matthews) sends a tingle up the leg of most voters. His three-year record in the Senate is likewise devoid of accomplishment, which is perhaps understandable inasmuch as he spent most of that time running for president. So what, precisely, are his qualifications?

Beyond his remarkably thin professional experience, his penchant for far left-wing nostrums is his defining characteristic. His campaign, with the cooperation of the mainstream media, has done a masterful job in hiding that from the public. But it doesn’t require an ideological brain surgeon to figure out where his head and heart will take him. His economic and social policies are radically redistributionist. (Why the Republicans failed to spell this out until a few weeks ago is beyond me). His foreign policy, at best, is incoherent and, at worst, dangerously naive. (Joe Biden wasn’t kidding when he prophesied that as president, Obama would be severely tested by America’s enemies.) On abortion, his views are brutally hostile to the most vulnerable members of the human species and, if he carries through on his promises, he will eliminate every last vestige of legal protection, not only for the unborn but for babies who survive abortion. (That McCain was incapable of pointing this out is perhaps the most appalling feature of a generally artless campaign.)

Notwithstanding all this, there is a better-than-even chance that the American people will elect this man to the highest office in the land. If so, we will not be able to say we didn’t know what was coming.