Catholic commentary on culture, media, and politics.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Losing the culture war, one "victory" at a time

At stake in the culture war is not so much political victories and freedom from PC thought police as it is the salvation of souls and, in John Paul the Great's memorable phrase, the promotion of the civilization of love. Referring to debate opponents and cultural enemies, Bishop Sheen sagely said that it's possible to win the argument and lose the soul. In other words, charity must be front and center, lest we become like the enemies we're trying to influence.

Canadian journalist Timothy Bloedow argues we should ditch St. Augustine's advice to love the sinner but hate the sin. But he doesn't offer much of an alternative except fighting "to win" the way gay activists do.

I'm sure his new book, State vs Church: What Christians Can Do to Save Canada from Liberal Tyranny, well worth buying, but I think he's dead wrong here.

Who cares if angry homosexuals disbelieve us when we insist on the (very sensible) Augustinian distinction? The same distinction applies to all sinners and all sins. Are we more honest if we say we hate them? Do we really want to adopt their brownshirt tactics? Is there a worse anthropomorphism than to posit God looking down on sinners and hating them with his Divine Hatred? Sing with me -- "Yes, they'll knowww we are Christians by our haaate!"

I was under the impression that Jesus came into the world to save us from our sins, to take them away, not us.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Michael Johnstone said...

Perhaps it's just me, but I find myself amazed at the way in which homosexuality has become the "enemy" in the first place.

Augustine most certainly was right when he stated to love the sinner. Though I'm not certain that hating the sin was a particularly prudent selection of terminology. My understanding is that Christianity should not be based around any form of hatred, even towards sin. The most that any Christian should aspire towards is the avoidance of their own engagement in what they consider sinful activity. Making the distinction between the sinner and the sin is too thin a line, I think, for most people to grasp. In that sense, I don't think that it is reasonable to expect to hate one aspect of someone's life, and not expect for that hatred to transfer to your overall feelings towards that person.

I think you are right when you say that "The same distinction applies to all sinners and all sins". Certain "sins" in Christianity (whether or not this is intended) have been placed on a "sin scale" which allows, perhaps subconsciously, for others to judge the lives of others, while ignoring their own more private vices. At the moment, homosexuality has become a target for criticism. Why is it being judged by people at all?

Christianity does not agree with homosexuality. But it doesn't agree with masturbation, either, and I would argue that 90% of Christian men have gone down that road a few times, to say the least.

Let people "sin" the way they want to. Ultimately, Christians should be more concerned with what goes on behind their own closed doors...and attempt to eradicate the term "hate" from any kind of Christian theologies or mantras.

6:30 AM

 
Blogger Patrick said...

Michael! You've shamed me into returning to the blog, and for that I am grateful. Great to hear from you.

You raise many issues in your comment, and I hope I can respond sufficiently. First, I don't see homosexuality as the enemy per se. What I see is that homosexualists (aka so-called gay activists) have been hard at work foisting the entire lifestyle onto the broader culture in the last 10-20 years in a very disciplined, determined way. way. If you were a Martian and you watched sitcoms, read mainstream newspapers, and sat in on liberal arts classes in universities for a year, you'd conclude that all earthlings are gay, or were gay, or want to be, and all the others only want to despise and persecute them. (I'm exaggerating but not by much.)

Yet virtually every statistical survey done since the 1980s has placed the total number of active homosexuals at no more than 3-4% of the general population. A very small minority. (Of course, there are more than that who secret harbour same-sex attractions but that is not likely a high number either.) The point is, most people -- if they haven't been "conscientized" by the non-stop pro-gay societal drumbeat -- simply do not agree that homosexual behavior is morally right, nor are they willing to place so-called gay marriage on a par with the way marriage has been understood and nurtured for 3000 years of recorded human history. Poll after poll shows this.

About your objection to St. Augustine's famous maxim, I'm scratching my head. You're a sharp guy, but if you're going to reject out of hand the very concept of anyone (God or man) hating sin yet loving the sinner, I don't know what to say. said. In my limited experience, the distinction is abundantly obvious to most people, even if they think the Church is dead wrong in what it condemns. What God hates, and what we are called to hate, is not one aspect of someone's life that may bleed over into hating the rest. It's sin. Human beings are not the sum total of their sins. I and my bad behavior are not identical. Even atheist psychologists distinguish between *action* (behavior) and *being* (the person who acts).

Sin is not an amorphous blob stuck onto us somewhere like invisible velcro. It's our willful complicity in unreality. It's the commitment to love myself above all things and to obey my cravings whenever they arise, no matter how personally damaging to myself or others. It's my own participation in Satan's slogan "non serviam," I will not serve. The Greek word in the Bible for sin is hamartia, which means "to miss the mark."

The fact is, some things (actions and attitudes) are compatible with Christian faith; others are not. Those that are *not* must be admitted and repented of -- that is, if one believes that morality is an objective reality. Those that *are* ought to be nurtured and practiced. But if one thinks right and wrong is purely a matter of personal opinion, and God has no say (if there is a God) then we are left with anarchy, and a world in which might makes right.

The word hate is now treated in the mainstream media (and in 99% of colleges and universities) as the World's Worst Thing Ever. We have new laws against so-called hate speech, we have a whole new legal category called a hate crime, and so on. The fascinating part of this acute allergy toward even using the word hate is that objectors fall into hating the word and the idea they think stands behind it. It's like standing in a pool shouting one's impassioned opposition to wetness.

Biblically, the word hate has a profound, and, paradoxically, beautiful meaning. The Hebrew word for hate does not have the same emotional "violence" as in our current usage. It refers to an intense, committed rejection of everything opposed to goodness and lasting happiness, much like the "hate" a mother has for poisonous household items that may threaten her child. Or like the "hatred" an aspiring musician has for laziness, or the hate an Olympic athlete has for junk food.

This would become a very long reply if I listed every passage in sacred Scripture where God is depicted as hating. Even though Jesus reveals God as love, the opposite of love is not hate. It's apathy. In the Book of Revelation (chap 2 I think) God makes it clear that lukewarmness is worse than hatred. Often when people reject God or his law, they actually see what's at stake more clearly than pew sitters whose hearts are not really in it. The English writer Evelyn Waugh wrote that great sinners and great saints are made of the exact same material.

I have heard the objection you raise about judging others, oh, probably a million gazillion times. Don't you see the contradiction in it? Aren't you judging others for judging others? The very objection you raise totally contradicts itself. You see?

Now, it's one thing to "judge" someone in a finger-pointing, moralistic or arrogant way, as though you are God and the other person is a worm. And you're right that there are people who go to Church obediently and feel holier than thou and take special delight in condemning others, including people with same-sex attractions while ignoring the plank in their own eye, as Jesus said.

But this attitude of superiority and jugmentalism is not what the Faith teaches. God alone is the true judge. We are called to do judge behavior, however, although we must pray for a spirit of charity and humility before we open our big traps. We "judge others" do it all the time, thank God, in the civil order by slapping heavy fines on drunk drivers, speeders, rapists, tax evaders, thieves, etc. In the spiritual order, if we truly love someone, we want that person to embrace what is lasting, authentic and true, and reject what is fleeting, counterfeit and false -- even if that person becomes defensive and "feels judged."

Yes, human nature has a built-in knee-jerk impulse to take great offense whenever our choices and actions are challenged -- and the offense becomes more grievous the closer the person is to us. (Who gives a %^%# what a stranger thinks of me?) It is this impulse that led to the crucifixion of Jesus. He says so in John 13-16.

We all want to be right, and on our own terms. The message of the gospel is that "our terms" are screwed up. Sin, as has been wisely said, makes you stupid.

Not sure what your point was about masturbation. The numerical popularity of a sin has nothing to do with its being a sin. Lots and lots of people cheat on their taxes and on their wives but we don't drop our opposition to those thing on the grounds that "everybody's doing it." Regardless of the sin, and how many times it's repeated, Jesus loves us so much that he gives us his forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. God is a God of the second chance. And the third. And the thousandth.

If you strip away all the surface coating and all the details, the basic choice we face in life is whether we're going to submit to desire to truth, or truth to desire.

That's it.

Finally (finally!) at the risk of sounding like Captain Sermon Man, let me say I consider the gospel an invitation to the world's greatest adventure. And it demands a response. We MUST decide for or against Christ. Not deciding is not only a cop out -- it's the equivalent of deciding against.

Thanks for dropping by.

In the Lord,

Patrick

4:25 PM

 
Anonymous Michael Johnstone said...

Patrick,

First of all, I have to say that I in no way object to your first comment in regards to the Martians - gay culture is undoubtedly everywhere right now, and indeed saturates most of the media that we see on a day to day basis. If I see "Will and Grace" on television one more time, I might resort to destroying my TV with a hammer. The homosexual lobby is undoubtedly disproportionate to the number of homosexuals in America (or anywhere else). But then again, that's what a good lobby group does. They raise the awareness of a small group so that the larger population is aware of their existence. I didn't live through the 1960's and 1970's, however the overall impression that I get is that the Black Civil Rights movement was everywhere. As of 2005, only 12% of the United States was black, and I'm guessing that back then the number was slightly lower. And yet everywhere one looked, issues of African Americans were everywhere - "All In the Family", "The Jeffersons", etc. They were a marginalized group who was asserting their identity within American Culture. Now, we even have BET. (Over)Exposure is one of the earliest stages of a marginalized group asserting its place in the world. I have no doubt it will pass, eventually...likely when there is a channel called GayTV. Rosie O'Donnell will host it, and not even gay people will be able to tolerate actually watching it.

Back to hate.

Here is the problem that I have. You're also right about hate being looked upon as a foul curse word. But the definition of hate that I am operating on is "to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest". And I don't doubt that Augustine may not have intended for this extreme hostility to translate into our modern language. You know it, and I know it. However, the vast majority of society is not quite so prudent in this regard - I will admit I do not know the Hebrew definition of hate, and herein lies the problem. This improper translation is generally unknown to the majority of the populus, who, like all good North Americans, are all too hasty to rip a small portion of something from its source and slap it on a bumper sticker, leading to misinterpretation. I would like to point out at this point, that there are no bumper stickers on the back of my car. I am, however, tempted to purchase the one which states, "Eschew Ebfuscation". Sadly, Augustine's saying about sin and the sinner, is also at high risk of misinterpretation on the basis that hostility and destesting are encompassed in the definition of hate. Augustine's assertion was one of tolerance, of distinguishing the difference between the man (or woman) and the sin, which was well intended, however we have to consider that this information, in its fast food form, will make its way to the lowest common denominators of society and will be misconstrued. According to a 2007 Gallup Poll, 43% of Americans (who I'm not picking on, by the way) believe that humans were created within the last 10,000 years. We live in dangerous times.

Onward to Masturbation. I don't know why I picked that as an example, by the way.

I was not implying that Christianity does not look at masturbation as a sin, or that its frequency makes it any less so. I was merely implying that a great deal of Christians who engage in such behavior, or others, have the audacity to criticize the moral degredation that they see homosexuality to be. All too often homosexuals are summed up as being merely defined by their sexuality, which is entirely unfair. It is only a small portion of their identity, although it should be said that often times homosexuals themsevles are guilty of placing too much emphasis on this portion of their lives. On the other hand, I have several homosexual friends who have had a large portion of their lives destroyed by families who rejected them, kicked them out of their homes, and refused to have anything to do with them on the basis that they were deviants. At the same time, these families were going through divorces, domestic violence, and other terrible circumstances. But those pointing the fingers so harshly were ignoring their own vices for the one which is more socially acceptable to criticize. Over 50% of marriages end in divorce, and it is generally considered socially acceptable, whether or not it is condoned by the religious affiliation that the participants subscribe to. In other words, while we are all suffering from our own afflictions, we are at the same time passing judgement on others. Where is the political outrage against divorce? It's rampant, and yet not an election issue. Gay marriage, abortion and racial issues (rightfully) are thrown around during electoral debates, yet the moral issue of divorcing your spouse for the most mundane of reasons is no longer contested. Don't like the snoring? Divorce! I'm not suggesting that there should be an outrage, merely that there is a tendancy towards picking and choosing which sins are judged on a sliding scale, and minority groups tend to be the ones that fall victim to hate crimes and the like.

And yes, I realize by making all these statements I am making judgements on judgement. But in doing so, they cancel each other out.

I'm kidding, of course. I'm not picking on judgement. Judgement is required for a functioning society. And I'm glad you point out that judgement needs to be made with a sense of humility. It does. But most judgments being made in regards to homosexuality are not, in today's society, being made as such. I know to many people who have been alienated and isolated because of their sexual orientation to believe that society, not just Christians, is tolerant enough towards this particular group. The way that I see it, Christians have every right to be opposed to homosexuality. Homosexuals have every right to be opposed to Christianity. And I have every right to be opposed to Rosie O'Donnell. But at the risk of sounding like a buddhist, or a left-wing hippie nut (I'm opposed to hippies as well, by the way), the common perception of hate, at least in the English-speaking world, is too extreme to be used towards other human beings. I think that the current relationship between homosexuals and any religous group that opposes their lifestyle, at this point, is at too fragile a state for the word hate to be used by either camp.

From the book of Leviticus 20:13:
"If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads."

The point I am making here is that it is all to easy for the majority of the populus to slip from one form of hatred to the other. In a society where so many fundamentalist Christians take literal truth from every word of the Bible, I merely think that there is a huge danger of coupling passages such as these with any form of hate. Judgments such as these are employed by those who misconstrue the overall message of Christianity, which should be, as you know, a lifestyle based purely on love.

On a completely unrelated note, drop me a more private line at mikejohnstone@dal.ca and tell me how the heck you are...I'm curious as to what you're up to these days...I hear you put David Blaine to shame...

5:30 AM

 
Blogger Patrick said...

Mike:

You're dragging in too much ancillary stuff. Let me boil it down:

1) If your point is that some people saying and doing bad things to persons with homosexual attractions, then my answer is, obviously yes. From this it does not follow that St. Augustine's maxim is useless or dangerous. I have been teaching the Catholic faith before many different audiences (secular, all-Jewish, mixed, all-Catholic, young and not so young etc) for over 20 years. Not one person has ever said to me nor have I read of a single example of someone confused by its meaning.

You're right, he was preaching tolerance, but this is only a half truth. He was also most definitely preaching intolerance of the poison of sin. Which in my humble opinion is as correct as it is truly loving.

2) I think you're over-interpreting the word hate, big-time, at least when it comes to what the Saint meant by his distinction. He doesn't mean, nor does the Holy Spirit who inspired the sacred writers of Scripture mean, some kind of wild emotional or extreme aggression. It just means firm, resolute rejection (I hate olives, you hate Rosie O's TV persona, I hate the Bee Gees, you hate bumpersticker oversimplifications (so do I BTW) -- but why must hate be likened to venomous rage? Besides, Augustine's very motivation in putting the phrase together that way was rooted in his deep love of sinners.

And he was a guy who knew a thing or two about sin. Before his conversion and his eventual ordination to the priesthood and the bishopric of Hippo, Augustine had two shack-up relationships with young women over 10 years before Jesus Christ broke through and melted his heart.

3) Good lobby groups? Huh? I seriously doubt that the broader heterosexual population anywhere on earth was unaware that there is such a thing as same-sex attractions and that some people acted on them and defended said behavior. You may not have intended it, but I also disagree with the identification of homosexuality with skin colour.

4) I won't challenge the Gallup poll. But, and I mean this affectionately, so what if 43% of those polled think man was created 10,000 years ago? I happen to think it's far more likely to have occured far earlier than that, but there is a body of scientists who are far smarter than me who reach different conclusions. The fact is, there is no scientific consensus on dating the appearance of homo sapiens. Why does the poll indicate that "we live in dangerous times"? (am I reading Michael Johnstone or Michael Moore? lol). I don't see the connection between a minority of Americans (or Outer Mongolians) possibly being dead wrong on an arcane science question and anything we've been discussing. Please advise.

5) Just because someone misunderstands the (obvious?) distinction between legitimate hate and the nastier violent version, doesn't mean the distinction is invalid. After all, some people misunderstand the phrase "God is love" to mean that we can do whatever the hell we want, cuz God's just a big fluff ball of Acceptance and Niceness.

6) Why can't someone who masturbates five times a day believe and proclaim that homosexual behavior is immoral? That is, if said masturbator believes that his own behavior is sinful? As far as I can tell, all he's guilty of (apart from the sin he apparently luvs a lot) is falling short of his own ideals. While it does dilute his moral authority and "credibility", it doesn't make him a hypocrite nor does it negate the true of his message. By your standard, it seems the only people who have any right to call anyone else's behavior a sin are sinless people. No? Yes?

7) I think your quote from Leviticus proves too much. Apart from the much balleyhooed Matthew Shepherd case (which was much more complex than the movie-of-the-week version) I can't count on one hand the number of actual murders or stoning of so-called gay people because an obscure ancient Jewish legal prescription (which was no longer in force with the coming of Christ) said it deserved the death penalty. You'd think that homosexuals would be stoned daily in every city by mobs of neanderthal Christian homophobes! Quite the contrary. I'm hard pressed to name any other tiny minority more protected legally and culturally.

8) The 50% divorce stat is an urban legend, I'm afraid. Unfortunately, I've seen it quoted by many otherwise educated Church leaders. I don't have room here to break down why it's false, and where the myth came from, but I can send you to Michael Medved's bracing book, "Hollywood vs America." He has a whole chapter on the history of the 50% stat/myth. The real stat is close to 25-30% divorce rate for first-married couples.

9) I thing you know why politicians in Canada flee any and all comment on divorce, abortion and so-called gay marriage: political correctness is the dominant Canadian worldview. God forbid anyone.....JUDGE anything no mater how objectively perverse or socially destructive. The PC thing is partly true in the United States also, but the salient difference is, Americans are allowed to assertively, loudly, and frequently argue the other side. Ah, the crisp clean air of American free speech! The Soviet Republic of Canuckistan is getting worse in legally censuring and sanctioning unpopular or politically incorrect speech under the world's widest unbrella: hate speech laws.

But don't get me going!

- Patrick "David Blaine's a pantywaist" Coffin

10:40 PM

 
Anonymous Michael Johnstone said...

Patrick,

1) My point, perhaps, is not so much that Augustine's maxim is dangerous per se, rather, I oppose the simplification of a complicated theory. I suppose on some level I agree with Bloedow's suggestion that different tactics be employed in the Christian objection to homosexuality. Perhaps, in my own experience, those who have used that statement have then gone on to hypocritically look upon homosexuals as being one and the same with their "sin". Perhaps, I'm surrounded by idiots.

2) Perhaps I am. Firm, resolute rejection is a much better definition for hate, one which would allow much more acceptable usage, but if you query "hate" on Dictionary.com, you come up with a plethora of definitions, all of which are various interpretations of the word that are used by various people. I guess "hate" is just an ambiguous word and perhaps not specific enough. When I say I hate Rosie O'Donnell (correct to point out her persona, not her being), I mean that in a hyperbolic sense. Which is common. But it is also a word which has been used to describe Nazi Propaganda, and thus needs some specificity when being used to make mantras. But fundamentally, I think we agree on the Augustan phrases meaning.

3) They have a very well organized public relations system! And of course they have always existed and have always been known to exist. This, however, is the first time to my knowledge they they have demanded things such as marital status and sitcoms.

As for the race thing, I am merely pointing out that in North America, Homosexuals and Blacks (as well as Russians, Mexicans, Atheists and Klingons) are both minorities. I am in no way implying that being Black is a sin!

4) First of all, that Michael Moore thing hurt. I meant to sound somewhat sarcastic when I said "we live in dangerous times", because I don't actually think we do any more than any other point in history. Sadly, sarcasm is difficult to write. I think it is an absurd statement as well.

Second, as for the population who believes in the 10,000 year thing. The consensus among the scientific community puts the origin of modern humans at about 130,000 years. Of course this is give or take a bit, but this is where fossil evidence places us. And in day to day life, of course, this makes little difference. The issue that I have stems from the fact that the best evidence we about our origin is ignored by such a large percentage of us common folk. There are a small number of scientists (mostly objectors to evolution) who dispute this evidence and those who believe this small number of scientists are the 43% of the American people. The kind who make museums with dinosaurs wearing saddles with humans on their backs. John Paul II (whom I love and miss) was brilliant not to object to evolution, like most intelligent people accepted it as part of our history and was able to reconcile Catholic Theology with its existence. And yet, almost half of Americans blatantly reject fact for fiction based on little to no knowledge as to what it means. These people elect the president of the free world. Twice. (Well, I suppose, only technically once).

I probably shouldn't start with the Creationist/Evolutionist debate. Very off topic.

5) I don't dispute this point at all -- I think we both agree that if it is to be used, it is to be well-explained.

6) I suppose here I would say "let he who has not sinned cast the first stone..." although I don't entirely agree with that statement either. Obviously, this would collapse the entire legal system. But from a moral perspective, not a legal one, there may be some truth to it. Christians know that masturbation/homosexuality is a sin. Ergo, if you are Christian you avoid both these things at all costs. If you are not a Christian, do what you like in regards to your own life. This being said, I think both groups have equal right to object to one another and to debate to the end of time. So long as they both remain civil.

7) In regards to "an obscure ancient Jewish legal prescription" that I referenced, yes, it has been negated by much of the New Testament. But that still doesn't change the fact that it is still there. Yes, I know, I'm going to be burned alive for suggesting this, but I think it's a disgusting, immoral and excessively violent passage that should have never been written or accepted by either the Jewish Faith or the Christian Faith. I'm not suggesting censoring the Bible, it's been written and that's that. But I have to scratch my head at how it passed in the first place. It's not alone, there are many other verses that are equally, if not more, offensive. There are also a lot of really good verses in there as well. And it's a saving grace that Jesus corrected a lot of editorial errors. I do believe, however, that if a law was passed that re-instated the old Jewish law depicted above, that people (not necessarily Christians or Jews, but more than we would like to admit) would absolutely start violently cleansing the gay population. In Islamic countries where such laws still exist, women are buried to their shoulders and stoned to death if even suspected of infidelity. Wow. That was a very depressing paragraph. Nobody dares to say they are gay there.

8) You are correct about the divorce rate. Should have checked my facts on that. Damn you, Doctor Phil, for once again filling my head with trash. The corrected number is not nearly as alarming, yet still rather sad.

9) I agree that Canadians often lack the backbone to stand up for, or against, well, anything. Americans, however, stand up for, or against, well, everything (sometimes to the point of being obnoxious). We're the most bipolar continent there is. Canadians are too quiet, and often too scared to voice their opinion. Americans, on the other side of the coin, so to speak, are often too anxious to get up and fight against (or for) things which they know absolutely nothing about. We're both idiot nations in one way or the other. But I have NO idea what you're talking about when you suggest that we are not permitted to speak out on anything...unless you are confusing us with China, the other country that starts with C. I would be interested in any articles that you have that exemplify an instance in which Canadian Hate Speech Laws have censored reasonable discussion. Perhaps I'm merely ignorant of my own oppression. Or, perhaps we are oppressed, but our oppressors are so passivist that we aren't even aware that we aren't permitted to say certain things, because the oppressors are to scared to point it out. I think this the likely scenario, if any. OR, by stating this am I merely being a polite, docile Canadian by not stating loudly WE'RE NOT WEENIE'S, AMERICAN SWAG! BRING BACK THE GLORY DAYS OF 1812!

Respectfully, like a good Canadian,
Mike

7:12 AM

 
Blogger Patrick said...

Mike:

1) My whole point is, it's not a complicated maxim to begin with. It's easy as pie to see the point Augustine is making...why you can't see it is very puzzling. I was going add that you have to have kids to really understand the distinction between sin and the - sinner, but that's not true either. I understood what he meant as a single guy years before I came back to the Church. The saying is so commonsensical, so obviously rich in meaning and simple to get that it's freaking me out that you keep "obfuscating where you should be eschewing."

You "to some degree" agree with Bloedow? Bloedow advocates hating gays the ways gays hate their Christian opponents! Talk about becoming who you say you want to oppose. He says, "gays don't believe is when we use the maxim.' Well, big whoop. Who cares what they do or do not believe. Since when it is his job, or even within his ability, to control what someone believes or rejects about what he says? If sharing the gospel in all its moral aspects depended upon first guaranteeing that people will believe what you say, then the gospel wouldn't have made it beyond a Jerusalem suburb 2000 years ago.

2) Well, no, hate is not an ambiguous word. It's a polyvalent word. Just because some hearer of its use may ascribe a slightly different meaning to it than the precise meaning meant by the speaker hardly means it shouldn't be used at all. In this life, some level of misunderstanding is always possible.

3) My point was that they don't need a public relations firm when they have the MSM (mainstream media), the majority of current politicians (I'm talking Canada now) the university elites, the court system, the whole structure of Hollywood, etc heavily in their favour. (Thanks for clarifying your race comment.)

4) My friend, I think you're misreading something very important about the Gallup poll in relation to "dumb Americans." Hear me out. First, I can almost guarantee that the 43% people have sat down, read 10 books about the human origin question, find themselves convinced that the 10,000-year creationist account is more coherent and then report this to the Gallup pollster when he came knocking at the door.

On the contrary, they, like most people in every country, have not given it much in-depth thought for whatever reason, and when asked one day about it on a survey, they shot from the hip based on the limited number of possible answers.

Second, my original question remains, so what? I don't see why it's such a vital question anyway. Which is probably why so many folks polled haven immersed themselves in science journals and anthropological courses. All in all, from a daily life perspective, it means precious little whether man first appeared 10,000 years ago or 10 bazillion. I know all Canadian adore mocking the dumb Americans but I can tell you that most all-knowing, all-patronizing Canadians would do embarrassingly poorly on, say a poll involving American history, or even Canadian history.

5) Agreed.

6) You say you don't entirely agree with Jesus Christ when he said, "let he who has not sinned cast the first stone..." (and that, from a moral perspective, there may be some truth to it) but do you understand it? Your glib reply suggests that you haven't read the passage in context. See John 8. His answer is given to those who were trying to verbally trap him by getting him to renounce what the law of Moses laid down for the sin of adultery. His reply is sheer brilliance. What one would expect from God himself in human form....

7) Heavy sigh. There is no way I can address any of this here.

8) I say next to Dr. Phil's personal makeup artist on my JFK to LA flight the other week. Nice lady. She was joking about how much powder his dome uses.

9) You say, "Americans, on the other side of the coin, so to speak, are often too anxious to get up and fight against (or for) things which they know absolutely nothing about." Can you give me one example? (The Gallup poll doesn't count because none of the respondents say they "fight for or against" when man was created; they merely answer a poll question about a disputed scientific point.)

As to articles about Canadian Hate Speech Laws vis a vis censoring reasonable discussion, here's a good surface-scratching start:

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=38268

http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2007/jul/07071907.html

Patrick

1:49 PM

 
Blogger Patrick said...

Michael:

I urge, you, I abjure you, I intimidatingly pressure you, lol, to check in daily to Kathy Shaidle's, blog. http://www.fivefeetoffury.com/

Make it a fave on your computer. She is an amazing talent, and I think you'll find that milk will spurt out your nose with amazement and humor several times per month as you say, "Oh GAWD did she actually write that?"

Even if you weren't drinking milk at the time.

I am so jealous of her prose prowess and her guts.

2:06 PM

 
Anonymous Michael Johnstone said...

Patrick,

I have to say, this comment section of your website is the highlight of my day. And I will most definitely check out the links, though if you could repost the first one, that would be great (it didn't work).

On to the meat & taters.

1) Sometimes, I have to work on being a bit more specific. When I say that I "to some degree" agree with Bloedow, I refer to his assertion that they don't believe Christians when they use the Augustine distinction. They probably don't. Perhaps I also believe that the phrase is a bit faulty in that it is often used much like this:

Husband: Stop nagging, woman! You're acting like a bitch!

Wife: WHAT!? How dare you call me a bitch!

Husband: Hey! I didn't say you were a bitch, I said you were ACTING like a bitch.

Wife: You're sleeping on the couch.

Whereas in our topic of discussion the conversation goes more like this:

Straight: Homosexuality is a disgusting, immoral, sinful act!

Gay: How dare you call me disgusting, immoral and sinful!

Straight: I didn't say that YOU were those things, just that homosexuality is the aforementioned! I love the sinner, but hate the sin...

Gay: But I AM a homosexual...so you're therefore suggesting that I willingly choose to be disgusting, immoral and sinful!

Straight: Damn straight.

In other words, I while the theory is alright, it's in some sense, a matter of semantics. I'm not particularly judging the saying itself, but I do find it to be a bit problematic in gay/straight relations. Too often do people use it to say something really nasty about homosexuality, then suggest that in no way does it pertain to homosexuals themselves. Of course it does. If I said that Christianity is dumb, and you are Christian, then assert that I only find your religion dumb, you would argue that your Christianity is a core part of who you are, and that to make such a statement makes you feel like you are being called dumb. Ergo, there is no likelihood that we are going to live in the same neighborhood without animosity.

If, however, Christians don't care what homosexuals believe in the first place, like you say, then what is the point of hauling out the maxim at all? Perhaps the phrase should only be used for Christian perceptions of Homosexuals, and not for Homosexual perceptions of how Christians see them.

Does that make any sense?

2) You make a good point, EVERYTHING can be taken out of context and misconstrued. But we have to TRY to attain clarity.

3) I misread your point then - you're right, they have all those things, which I understand to be a part, or perhaps the whole of their "lobby".

4) Waaaay to much to get into on this one, for sure. But in short...the objectors Evolution, outside of Regent (or Pat Robertson) U are extremely limited, and rejected by the vast, vast majority of the academic and scientific community on the basis that scientifically, it's as sound a theory as you get. My guess is that you agree in evolution, but also believe that God guides the process, or gave it the big kickoff, or what-have-you. I have no issue what-so-ever with this. I do have an issue, when the American electorate farts in the face of science by suggesting that all this evidence is wrong and that the world was created in seven days, literally. It is a serious issue, if nothing else, that the educational system is failing our youth. And perhaps they didn't put much thought into the question when it was posed, and shot from the hip. But this is what I refer to when I talk about Americans taking definitive stances on things they know nothing about (Canadians do it too, especially in Alberta). If they don't HAVE an opinion one way or the other, they could have taken the "undecided" option, however it was worded. These are exactly the same people who pick an electoral candidate based purely on appearance, charm, or "gut feelings" rather than look at their social policy. Does this not seem like a problem?

6) I have read the aforementioned passage several times, but I don't see any misinterpretation there - in one brilliant phrase, he saved the woman, himself, and left everyone else scratching their heads. But if Jesus didn't usurp the laws of Moses, then shouldn't we still roll that way? He was, after all, put to death for doing just that. In this instance, however, he managed to out-think his way from a death sentence, while at the same time refuting their violence.

7) Why?

8) She does a phenomenal job at cutting back the glare.

9) See point 4. But Canadians are not absolved of this either. Americans are just louder about it. The British, too, are quite terrible in this respect.

Ciao,
Mike

5:11 PM

 
Blogger Patrick said...

Mike:

I now officially believe you've stopped reading what I write and instead shoot back what's on your mind based on a vague, blurred version you pick up by racing through my replies without asking yourself whether you really let what I'm saying sink in. I'll do you the favor of giving some examples, per each of your items. Before I do that (and here I'll answer your question about why I'm not going to address your #7 question about the Old Testament prescriptions) let me say that beneath and behind our whole discussion lurks two rather different worldviews, and their respective presuppositions.

One's worldview conditions every other issue. It is key. I'm not sure what your is, or even if you've given it enough thought to have formulated or discovered what yours is. Mine is fairly straightforward. I'm an orthodox Catholic with strong conservative leanings in the political order, although not lockstep with the contemporary GOP leadership.

I am sick at heart at how condescending what I'm about to say will probably sound, how arrogant it will probably come across, but because I respect you I'll say it anyway: you sound very much like the Americans you roundly mock because of their tendency to fight against/for things about which they know "absolutely nothing about." (your words). When I ask you to tell me why it means more than a hill of beans that 43% of those polled probably get the date wrong about when man appeared, and you bring up Regent U. and Pat Robertson. It reminds me of the MSM interviewing Jerry Falwell over and over because they only want to show ONE kind of Christian conservative to "be fair." Without googling the names, can you honestly tell me you are familiar with the works of Michael Behe, Philip Johnson, William Dembski, Jonathan Wells, or Stephen Barr? All are scientists who've devoted their lives to the question of evolution in light of scientific inquiry esp. as it interacts with the teaching of the Bible. Or...right now, with no internet or book consultation, could you provide a simple summary of the different variations of Darwin theory, and some explanation of how the Catholic Church has historically approached the question of man's origins vis a vis generalized empirical method -- beyond "well, God lit the Big Bang, sort of, and helped evolution along"?

It looks suspiciously like your entire environment -- educational, social, political -- is thoroughly Canadian, ie kneejerk anti-American and automatically allergic to anything that the elites would label conservative. The problem, and it was a problem I was afflicted with when I was your age (see who patronizing I told you I'd sound? aaarrrrgh!) is this: you have almost no exposure to alternative viewpoints when it comes to politics and religion. Almost zilch, nada, zero. And those you are exposed to are heavily filtered through the Canadian MSM lens of euro-liberalism. Bush is a dummy, and anyone with the balls to challenge that Obviously True assessment is a far right nutbar, or an Albertan, or both. To the vast majority of Canadians, it's better to be a child molesting kitten killer than a Republican because at least the former might not have any control over his madness. Invite Rush Limbaugh to speak at the Dal Student Union and see what happens. Stand up in class and criticize any dogma of feminism, and see what happens to your grade. And so on.

I have seen both sides of all the questions and issues you've raised; you have not. It's not your fault, and you obviously have an above-average intellect. You know what, though? Ten years or so from now, you'll look back and remember when I practically called you a kid, and you'll say, "You know what? He was right. I didn't want to hear it, but I was a kid." Actually you remind me a bit of me: witty, skilled at words, and a bit arrogant -- more than is comfortable to admit.

Because the information flow is so restricted in Canada (Fox News, and Eternal World TV Network no -- Playboy channel yes, etc. etc) Canadians are kept at a terrible disadvantage when it comes to debating ideas. There is NO conservative media in Canada, except on the web, mainly, and is not well known. As a result, they (or *we," because I'm still a Canadian in my soul and on paper if not my mind) do not learn to analyze opposing viewpoints; they are, rather, merely demonized and mocked. There is very little true clashing of ideas in an open forum. When the average Canadian hears "conservative" they are brainwashed (only partly an exaggeration) to immediately think of a neanderthal hick who's as bigoted as he is intolerant.

Per #7, I just don't have the bandwidth to write out all the elements that go into biblical hermeneutics related to Jewish ritual purity laws, the contextual meaning of Old Testament death penalty sanctions and how (and why) the magisterium of the Catholic Church is the only true arbiter and guide to sort out which laws were abrogated and fulfilled by Christ and which ones remain in moral force. And honestly, I don't think you're all that interested except as a word game. If I tried to start explaining it, you'd reply, "yeah, but.." to many more things, and our exchange would morph into a hundred reply threads. I'm too time worn. I have two kids, a full time job and I'm trying to finish writing a book. Besides, there are plenty of good resources online, like Catholic Answers, or the ETWN library.

Mike, your bitch analogy doesn't work. "Homosexual" is simply a neutral term denoting someone with same-sex attractions. It is not in itself a moral term, but a factual adjective. "Bitch" is negative and moral through and through, whether meant as a description of behavior or a claim about perpetual identity.

Your line of thinking is also fuzzy here:

"Straight: Homosexuality is a disgusting, immoral, sinful act!"

Nowhere have I, nor has the Church ever said that "homosexuality" is sinful or immoral. If you don't see the distinction between hating the sin and loving the sinner (on the grounds that hate is so deeply and powerfully yucky and inappropriate forever and ever amen) then I doubt you're going to catch the drift of the simple distinction between inclination and action, aka between behavior and person behaving....but here goes:

The desire for sodomy is not in itself a sin (assuming it's not acted upon or lustfully entertained). But since it's a desire for an intrinsically immoral act, the desire itself is objectively disordered.

You write: "Gay: But I AM a homosexual...so you're therefore suggesting that I willingly choose to be disgusting, immoral and sinful!"

Michael, this will probably only sound insane to you, but there is no evidence, none -- apart from homosexualist propaganda -- that any human being IS gay. There is no "gay gene." I have had too many good friends whom I have loved deeply over the years who've struggled with SSAD (same-sex attraction disorder, the more accurate term, IMHO) and have done a ton of reading on the nature v nurture debate and on the psycho-sexual origins of homosexuality. Get back to me when you've read a smattering of the following researchers and psychotherapists: Dr. Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse, PhD, Dr. Charles Socarides, MD, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, PhD, Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons, PhD, Philip Mango, Leanne Payne, Dr. Paul Vitz, PhD, Rev. Mario Bergner, Father John Harvey or Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, MD.

According to the Catholic (and orthodox and evangelical Protestant) and the findings of sound psychology there is no such thing as a homosexual as far as identity goes. The person with SSA may FEEL in an intense and long-established way that he or she IS GAY, PERIOD, but this is a delusion.

To me, based on my 25 years of relating to persons with SSAD (hell -- I spent three years as a full-time actor) and now as a practicing Catholic, the belief that a person IS gay is a Satanic lie, the fundamental lie par excellence at work in the person's life.

For it presumes that God made them that way, thank you very much, and that they are therefore locked into an identity model that allows no change, no lasting conversion or restoration to heterosexual desire. None of which is true. Reversion to natural sexual interests and an essentially heterosexual orientation is very possible although difficult and not uniformly consistent. Do I have to tell you that the average "gay activist" would find the previous few paragraphs absolutely outrageous, deeply offensive....and maybe hate speech?

Yet every word is inspired by Christian love. Gay bashing is morally repellent to me and to all thinking, believing Christians. Are there anti-gay wackos and "Christian" persecutors of gays (I'm suing the term gay because it's shorthand for "person with SSAD" but PWSSAD looks retarded!). Yes, but a) they are most definitely on the lunatic fringe, and b) they don't represent me nor the Church I love. Rather, persons with homosexual inclinations -- like everyone else in the world -- deserve respect, support, friendship, companionship, and freedom from all forms of unjust discrimination. That's the teaching of the Catechism and I accept it.

Bloedow wants none of this. He wants to "hate gays like they hate us" and fight just as dirty as they do against conservative values. Well, I disagree. I think Christians are called to a higher more charitable and rational way of approaching the debate.

When you say: "If, however, Christians don't care what homosexuals believe in the first place, like you say, then what is the point of hauling out the maxim at all?" I have to answer, "Where did I say that Christians don't care what homosexuals believe? Huh? I never said this. What I said was that our primary concern should not be on the openness mode of the listener but on the truth of the message being communicated. If someone wants to twist St. Augustine's maxim -- a maxim any seven-year-old can grasp with no apoplectic spasms -- and say Christians "hate them" then what can we do about that? Besides, who cares who hates whom? This whole hypersensitivity about "being hated" and this wimpy handwringing over "avoiding hate" drives me insane. Have we become a nation of frightened, thin-skinned school girls? My GAWD, Mike, being hated by the world (and that can add up to a lot of haters!) is part and parcel of an authentic, normal, Christian witness. Jesus warned us it would happen. Christians must take it in stride as part of the package. Homosexualists take you to court to shut your mouth.

While I'm on a roll, "gay" is a political term I do not accept. "Homosexual" is more accurate, but even that designation doesn't exhaust what or who a person is, nor does it necessarily imply a permanent desire for sodomy.

Let's just say that's my worldview. I am quite confident you disagree and I'm fine with that. But I wanted to give a full account of how my Catholic worldview applies to the question. You may strongly disagree but I think you'll find it has the merit of being consistent with that worldview.

You say: "I do have an issue, when the American electorate farts in the face of science by suggesting that all this evidence is wrong and that the world was created in seven days, literally."

First, you have no evidence that the people polled by Gallup (typically a very small sample relative to the US population) are voters. Some probably are, all things being equal, but it's not accurate to call them "the electorate." I told you the creation account question is not an important one and signifies next to nothing. I have asked you three times to tell me why it's such a big whoop other than it reminds you of those dumb Albertans and Pat Robertson.

When you write: "It is a serious issue, if nothing else, that the educational system is failing our youth" I have to laugh. You can't be serious, Mike. The whole point is that the public educational system censors any treatment of the question of creation and the origin of humanity other than the THEORY (or theories, to be more accurate) of evolution. What the science community still considers an open question, most educators and school administrators assume is a done deal. Darwin is God, Evolution is his holy writ, and anyone who believes the fossil evidence (not to mention the evidence from cytology) points in the direction of Intelligent Design must be a redneck Creationist bufoon. Or a Pat Robertson fan. Or an Albertan.

You say: "These are exactly the same people who pick an electoral candidate based purely on appearance, charm, or "gut feelings" rather than look at their social policy. Does this not seem like a problem?" Well, yes, I agree for the most part that is IS a problem. But it's been a problem ever since the Kennedy/Nicon TV debate. Exit polls done on CBS radio listeners had Nixon as kicking JFK's sorry ass across the foyer by a wide margin. Nixon's grasp of history, his ability to break down the premise of the interviewers questions, were very impressive. Most people agreed that Kennedy sounded like he stumbled through his answers, sounding like a gawky college grad over his head. Not very presidential to say the least.

But guess what? The same poll done on TV views showed the opposite ratio. The TV image of Kennedy next to Nixon was the difference between sickness and health, between youthful energy and rumpled Establishment. JFK was dressed in a designer suit, he was tanned and stood poised. Nixon was more pale skinned onscreen, he gestured nervously, and looked like he was sweating.

Since that night, TV has owned political campaigns. If you can debate brilliantly with the charm and delivery of Abraham Lincoln, but you also look like him on TV -- you're screwed. Not much can be done about it, except maybe try out Ann Coulter's barbed suggestion that women no longer vote, at least not single women, who overwhelmingly vote liberal and base their voting sympathies with the very superficial issues you rightly get annoyed at.

"But if Jesus didn't usurp the laws of Moses, then shouldn't we still roll that way? He was, after all, put to death for doing just that. In this instance, however, he managed to out-think his way from a death sentence, while at the same time refuting their violence."

I am absolutely lost here. I have no idea what you're trying to say.

On more examples of the whole Canada hate speech issue, please do your own googling. Try "world New Daily hate speech Canada" and see what comes up. Or do a word search at lifesitenews.net.

M'kay? And don't take my comments about your youth and inexperience too hard. I could have called you Michael Moore again and really hurt ya.

In the Lord,

Patrick

PS "Inherit the Wind" should get the Shittiest, Most Obnoxiously Biased Movie in History Award. I was forced to show it to my Grade 10 religion students in Toronto. Gag. What a misleading dog of a movie. Thus endeth my rant.

1:25 AM

 
Anonymous Michael Johnstone said...

I realize you are pressed for time, I have a full-time job, full-time school and whole lot to do in between, so I’ll try to keep this as brief and wrap up my side of the discussion so that perhaps we can move on to other topics in your future posts. If mine are still welcome by the end of this! (I say this in jest, of course).

You challenge my education, sir, to which I take mild offense. While admittedly, at 24, I don’t know everything about everything, I do spend a considerable time studying American Politics (which are far more interesting an consequential to the free world that Canadian Politics, though I am interested in that too), The Origins of Life, Theology etc.

Honestly, I am only familiar with Michael Behe and Stephen Barr, though I will admit that I am not familiar with their entire body of work, only certain aspects of it, which I find problematic. The other three I don’t know anything about. I have also read Richard Dawkins, whom I’m certain you will shoot down momentarily, as well as Sam Harris, and Carl Sagan, to name a few. To say that I haven’t studied the issues surrounding evolutionary theory, intelligent design theory and other such topics is entirely unfair. Darwinian Theory generally has only one basis, and is that the accumulation of minute changes, over a great deal of time, lead to the development of life to its present state. The changes themselves are a result of random genetic mutation, but the success or failure of such traits is NOT random, but based on environmental factors. Another school of evolutionary thought, who fall in step with Paley’s Watchmaker analogy state that yes, the above statements are true, however the complexity of life cannot be entirely explained by such a theory, and that such complexity invokes the existence of a supernatural being (irreductable complexity). This of course is crude and summarized, but I’m attempting to cut back on my word count.

Pulling out Pat Robertson is only one example of a Christian Conservative, and likely not one that all Christian Conservatives would wish to be identified with. It his brand of Christianity that I object to. It’s not all Christian Conservatives I’m taking issue with, but Robertson’s (or Coulter’s) particular strain is absurd. Bill O’Reiley is also frequently quite objectionable.

I can’t say that I’m familiar with the specifics of the historical approach to the origin of humanity by the Catholic church, because for the most part, nobody can give me an answer when I ask. Any possibility you can briefly enlighten me on the actual official statement?

The only thing that I know officially is what John Paul II said to the effect that evolutionary theory and Catholicism are capable of coexisting. I don’t have internet access at the moment, as I’m at work and behind a nasty powerful filtering program, thus I cannot pull the quote. At least you know that I didn’t cheat earlier on. I’m writing you back based on a printout.

I’m NOT in opposition to conservatives, though my views range closer to liberal. I’m against political bipartisanism. I don’t like Bush, true, but I do like quite a few Republicans. I have voted PC in my own country, though last federal election I did not.
I think you are dangerously close to lumping me with tree-hugging, left wing hippie types who line up to see “The Vagina Monologues” for the fortieth time and spell women as “womyn” to eradicate the patriarchal spelling that oppresses women.

How can you assume that I have no exposure to alternative viewpoints? There’s this wonderful thing we’re using right now called the Internet, not to mention the fact that most Canadian television is American television anyway.

Incidentally, I criticize (some) aspects of feminism every Tuesday night in a women’s studies course I’m taking, and despite being one of the only two males in the class, I have yet to be penalized or unfairly treated as such. You are making far too many assumptions about my education and my exposure.

As for the “10 years from now” comment, I’m disappointed that you would make the condescending assumption that I will someday regret what I believe. Attempting to discredit my opinion based on a speculation that I will not believe this in 10 years serves no purpose. In ten years, we will BOTH think of some things differently and some things the same. If not, then we are condemned to an exceedingly narrow life. No matter what we believe, of course we continue to test it to see if it holds up.

As for the homosexuality thing, no, I haven’t read (or heared of) any of the doctors that you listed. But, I can say that there’s no gene for intelligence either, to my knowledge, yet some people are intelligent, and some are not. You can’t just say someone isn’t intelligent solely on the basis that there is no known gene for it. But, in the interest of not making huge declarations on things I know nothing about, I will add that my information on this is strictly limited.

You say that “the whole point is that the public educational system censors any treatment of the question of creation and the origin of humanity other than the THEORY (or theories, to be more accurate) of evolution.” Need I point out the difference between untested hypothesis and scientifically backed theory? The Theory of Relativity is a theory too, and yet, somehow, we created atomic weapons and power. Pretty impressive, for only a theory. Creationism, which they are STILL fighting to include in schools in some parts of the US, is based on nothing scientific at all. Intelligent Design at least admits to the overwhelming evidence of evolution, and yet Creationism, in its young-Earth form at least, spits in the face of science.

I don’t know how to be more clear on my point that irrational beliefs should be criticized because of the mindset that they create. The entire logical and rational decision making process is thrown out the window when you trade scientific fact for the book of Genesis as an account for the making of the world. Literal biblical exegesis (at least in the Old Testament) is irrational. I simply don’t think it’s an intelligent way to live one’s life, and I find it a problematic way to look at the world.

All this being said, I suppose we probably should wrap up the discussion. You are right that we don’t share the same world-view and as such have likely reached an impasse.

I have very much enjoyed our blog debate here on STD (giggle) and hope that we can have more (shorter) discussions in the future.

Thanks for your time,
Mike

8:34 PM

 
Blogger Patrick said...

Mike:

Did you not get the private emails I sent you in the last week?

P, possessor of an STD.

3:04 PM

 

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