Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dylan and Baez: I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine

Although his feast day was three days ago, it's not too late to celebrate:

Bob Dylan - J Baez - Hard Rain 76 - I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine

 | MySpace Video

Monday, August 30, 2010

Linda Greenhouse on the establishment clause argument against the prolife position

My friend, Matthew Franck, ably dismantles a lament by the New York Times' Linda Greenhouse that the departure of Justice John Paul Stevens from the U. S. Supreme Court means that the Court has lost an important Establishment Clause argument against the prolife position on abortion. Stevens' argument is found in several of his opinions, though it is a view not shared by any of his colleagues on the Court. Writes Greenhouse:
For years, Justice Stevens was the Supreme Court’s strictest separationist. For example, in the abortion context, he was the only justice willing to articulate the position that laws incorporating the view that life begins at conception are theological exercises that should be invalidated on Establishment Clause grounds. (The fact that we may soon have to endure another debate over embryonic stem cell research makes me miss Justice Stevens and his wisdom all the more.)
Having published critiques of this and similar arguments in not only two of my most recent books--Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007), ch. 3; Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft (InterVarsity Press, 2010)--but in several articles including ones that appeared in Christian Bioethics (2007), American Journal of Jurisprudence (2004), Journal of Law and Religion (2009), and two in the Journal of Church and State (2001, 2003), it seems incomprehensible that someone of Ms. Greenhouse's acumen would confidently trot out Stevens' argument as if it were not the subject of withering critiques in the literature.  Here is what I write in my 2009 article in the Journal of Law and Religion in response to an article by law professor Sherry F. Colb (notes omitted):

The Catholicism Project

Here's the Trailer:

I will be hosting a screening of Episode One of the Catholicism Project at St. Peter's Catholic Student Center (Baylor University) on September 23 at 7:30 pm. I will make another announcement when we get closer to the date.

If you want to know more about the Catholicism Project, go here.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Off Topic: True Diversity is on the U. S. Supreme Court

On Thursday, I told my students in the class "Philosophy and Constitutional Issues" that the U. S. Supreme Court exhibits real diversity: four of the boroughs of New York City are represented with Antonin Scalia (Queens), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Brooklyn), Sonia Sotomoyor (the Bronx), and Elena Kagan (Manhattan).

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Hadley Arkes interview in the National Catholic Register

Earlier this year, I shared my own thoughts on Hadley Arkes' reception in the Catholic Church. My wife, Frankie, and I were privileged to be present at the Mass in which he was received. Recently Tim Drake interviewed Hadley for the National Catholic Register. Here are some excerpts from that interview:
Where did you grow up? 
Wartime Chicago. I was born in 1940, the very first grandchild on both sides. I’ve explained what a morning in that household looked like: A 2-year-old wanders into the kitchen early in the morning. The kitchen is filled with grown-ups getting ready to go to work. The child says, “Good morning” and receives a standing ovation. I grew up with a sense that the world was filled with catchers in the rye — everyone wanting to look after you and take care of you. 
Later, the question arose, How was it that a working family, where no one went to college, was able to impart that sense of security to a youngster? And I think the answer is that the grown-ups were competent to their ends. They could be counted on to be there when you needed them. They were always there. 
My father was a foreman in a factory, had a launderette, and later ran a shipping room for his brothers in a business they had. He died about 15 years ago. My mother died about five years ago.... 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Teen Mass Must Die

I walked out of Mass on last Sunday evening, a minute before the Mass was set to begin. It was not at my home parish, but at another local parish, one that has an early evening Sunday Mass, which it dubs "the Teen Mass." It is worse than you can imagine. It is an event at which an ancient rite of profound import--one in which the sacred ought to be encountered--is transformed into a profane stage on which well-meaning adolescents, poorly dressed and poorly catechized,  perform bad songs with bad lyrics and diminish the power of Christianity's most ancient creeds and prayers just by adding pop music to their recitation.  It's like sowing a tattoo on the Mona Lisa.

Five minutes before Mass was to begin, the "band," which was situated to the right of the altar, and consisted of a lead singer accompanied by drummer, bassist, and two electric guitar players, sought to warm us up with, what the singer called, "an old hymn." I thought, "This is going to be nice. Perhaps they will perform something like, `A Mighty Fortress is Our God.'"  But before I could complete my contemplation, the guitarist broke into a riff,  emanating from the poorly-engineered sound system.  The song--melodically based on The Troggs' "Wild Thing"--was the "old hymn," "Every Move I Make," which was composed in the early 1990s, the golden age of hymnology. (It was not the Police song, "Every Breath You Take," thank God [which would have actually been better], but some strange song that had "Hannah Montana" written all over it).  I felt so embarrassed and out of place, as well as offended and scandalized, that I got up, genuflected, and walked out before the Mass had begun. It was that bad.

Pastors, why do you permit this abomination in your parishes? The Mass is sacred.  It is not merely an occasion for your youngsters to showboat their pop skills as if you were hosting something called "American Eucharist."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Does "mere Christianity" mean the rest consists in only "mere squabbles"?: More on the D'Souza hiring

On August 24, 2010, Christianity Today published an informative story on the hiring of Dinesh D'Souza as president of The King's College in New York City. I was interviewed for that story, and was quoted in it. I had not read the D'Souza quotes found in the article until the story was published online. Prior to the story's release, I was under the impression that D'Souza was a practicing Catholic who also attends church with his wife, Dixie, at Calvary Chapel. Apparently, I was mistaken. D'Souza, it seems, does not want to commit himself to any one Christian tradition. The story reads:
"I do not describe myself as Catholic today. But I don't want to renounce it either because it's an important part of my background. I'm an American citizen, but I wouldn't reject the Indian label because it's part of my heritage," D'Souza said. "I say I have a Catholic origin or background. I say I'm a nondenominational Christian, and I'm comfortable with born-again."
He said that his views align with the Apostle's Creed and C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity.
"A lot of times, Christians spend a lot of time in intramural type debates and squabbles: Are you a Catholic or Protestant; if you are Protestant, what type are you; are you pre-millennial or post-millennial; what position do you take on Genesis 1?" D'Souza said. "I would comfortably describe myself as a born-again Christian, but I don't feel it is necessary to renounce anything. I am not doing Catholic apologetics, that's for sure."...  
From an institutional perspective, D'Souza said that he has not seen anything in the literature at King's that says "Protestant."  
"Being a Protestant is a term defined in opposition to Catholicism and refers to a set of historical battles over denominational issues," he said. "As far as I can tell, those denominational issues are not the center of what's being argued today. I do think evangelicals and Christians generally need to be more competitive in the secular marketplace of ideas." 

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Rhetorical McCarthyism beats your Islamophobia

This week, Time magazine published this question on its cover, "Is America Islamophobic?," inspired by the debate over the building of the Ground Zero Mosque. There is, of course, no actual ailment called "Islamophobia," as there is with claustrophobia and arachnophobia.  The latter two are diagnosable irrational fears that people acquire for a variety of reasons.  The first is a rhetorical invention intended to marginalize factions of the American public so that the rest of us will feel shamed into believing we should not take our fellow citizens seriously. It is, in short, an argument stopper, and thus is meant to undermine and not advance rational discourse on a matter of public controversy. This is not say, of course, that there are not people who in fact hold false and bigoted beliefs about Islam, just as there are people who hold false and bigoted beliefs about Catholicism, Protestantism and Mormonism. But it should go without saying that offering critical comments about a religion or its beliefs and practices is not automatically the result of inaccurate observations and/or bigotry. For if that were the case, then the worst bigots in the world would be the New Atheists who maintain that all religious beliefs and practices are not only false but harmful. Because the New Atheists seem to be the darlings of the Time magazine set, one can only conclude that the difference between a bigot and a respected intellectual is that the former rejects one less belief than the latter.  This results in the amusing judgment that it is intolerant and bigoted to believe one religious belief is true and all others false, but the pinnacle of tolerance to believe that none are true and all are false. This is, of course, perfectly stupid, though considered the height of sophistication by the most cerebral custodians of our public culture. This is why they prefer power over reason; they can only win with the former but not the latter.

Christianity's Ground Zero

From the CBS program, 60 Minutes:

Commenting on this, Bill Luse at What's Wrong With the World writes:
If you missed this 60 Minutes segment, and have the leisure, it's worth observing the fate of Christianity in one of its earliest outposts outside the Holy Land - in a country many have described as perhaps the most secular, enlightened, and modern of Muslim states, one that has repeatedly sought entry to, first, the Common Market and now to the European Union. This is the story of Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, and primate to the world's 300,000,000 Orthodox Christians. In it you will see some of the oldest Christian structures in existence, and its most ancient artwork. Some of the frescoes are instantly recognizable. As the camera takes you through the churches, the monasteries, and the schools - all mostly museums now (the Hagia Sofia is one, built a 1,000 years before St. Peter's) - you can feel the spirits of those ancient converts who built the faith, and ultimately the civilization we know as Christendom, pressing upon the present. If Bartholomew is right about a "resurrection," then maybe the work of our first brothers and sisters in the faith is not done yet. As of now, though, only 4,000 Christians remain in Turkey. It's a cause for sadness; it is also an abomination. 
The Patriarchate's website is here.
There is one 30 second commercial interruption.
Now read this about the Greek Orthodox destroyed on 9/11.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Jim Wallis apologizes to Marvin Olasky

See here.  For this reason, I have deleted my original post. When someone asks for forgiveness, you have to respect that.

Dinesh D'Souza named president of The King's College

(HT: Carl Trueman)  On his blog, the always thoughtful Professor Trueman writes:
The announcement that The King's College, New York, has appointed Dinesh D'Souza as its new President is interesting for a number of reasons.  D'Souza undoubtedly makes a good choice for an institutional president -- articulate, dynamic, and learned, as well as being a public figure of considerable stature.  He has also in recent years earned a reputation as a gracious apologist for Christianity.
What makes the appointment surprising is that he is a Roman Catholic....

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Cool" Christianity: Change you should be leavin'.

Just came across this interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal, "The Perils of 'Wannabe Cool' Christianity" by Brett McCracken. Here's how it begins:
"How can we stop the oil gusher?" may have been the question of the summer for most Americans. Yet for many evangelical pastors and leaders, the leaking well is nothing compared to the threat posed by an ongoing gusher of a different sort: Young people pouring out of their churches, never to return.

As a 27-year-old evangelical myself, I understand the concern. My peers, many of whom grew up in the church, are losing interest in the Christian establishment.

Recent statistics have shown an increasing exodus of young people from churches, especially after they leave home and live on their own. In a 2007 study, Lifeway Research determined that 70% of young Protestant adults between 18-22 stop attending church regularly.

Statistics like these have created something of a mania in recent years, as baby-boomer evangelical leaders frantically assess what they have done wrong (why didn't megachurches work to attract youth in the long term?) and scramble to figure out a plan to keep young members engaged in the life of the church.

Increasingly, the "plan" has taken the form of a total image overhaul, where efforts are made to rebrand Christianity as hip, countercultural, relevant. As a result, in the early 2000s, we got something called "the emerging church"—a sort of postmodern stab at an evangelical reform movement. Perhaps because it was too "let's rethink everything" radical, it fizzled quickly. But the impulse behind it—to rehabilitate Christianity's image and make it "cool"—remains.
>>>continue reading

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fr. James Edwin Coyle, R.I.P.

From Rick Garnett at Mirror of Justice:
Fr. James Edwin Coyle was murdered on August 11, 1921, by a part-time minister and Ku Klux Klan member, after Fr. Coyle presided at the marriage of the minister's daughter to a Roman Catholic or Puerto Rican descent.  The killer's defense lawyer -- (future Justice) Hugo Black -- pandered to the jury's anti-Catholicism and racism (and Klan ties) in order to secure an acquittal.  Yuck. 
Learn more here. 

Blue Catholic on Christopher Hitchens: Two Cheers for the Hitch!

Here's the ever insightful Blue Catholic on Christopher Hitchens:
I first encountered Christopher Hitchens’ writing at a neighborhood bookstore where I would go as a teenager to read magazines.  I usually skimmed a copy of the Nation, always reading Hitchen’s weekly column at the front.  Familiar with his style and aware of the magazine’s history, I associated him with a vanished culture of radical highbrow journals and freelance intellectuals huddled somewhere in Manhattan discussing Joyce and Eliot and the fate of the revolution. (In other words, the intellectual milieu Diane Keaton dismisses contemptuously in “Manhattan”: those little magazines totally mired in 1930’s radicalism.) 
Hitchens arrived later but still embodies, in his own way, the style and culture of that lost bohemian world.  I was surprised when he rose to media prominence; in my mind, people of that background and sensibility lived out their days in rarefied obscurity—and none the worse for it.  Can anyone imagine flipping on the television to find Dwight McDonald (that scourge of midcult) or Edmund Wilson (ofClassics and Commercials) or Susan Sontag (the last of the breed) keeping company with celebrities on “Topic A with Tina Brown” or sparring with partisan hacks on Fox News?  Gore Vidal bickered on television with William F. Buckley; but they belonged to the same circles, more or less.  Seeing Christopher Hitchens on Fox is a bit like spotting the Duke of Windsor at a Lady Ga Ga concert.  Even now, Hitch seems wildly out of place in such forums.
>>continue reading 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Lisa Robinson: "Why Protestants are quick to reject Catholicism - and what can be done about it."

Over at one of my favorite blogs, Parchment & Pen, Lisa Robinson offers this illuminating analysis, which clearly resonates with me. She writes:
Lately, I have been engaged in a variety of discussions in which both Roman Catholics and Protestants have been involved and I have noticed something very interesting.  Protestants are very quick to reject what Catholics contribute, even on topics that are not related to Catholicism.  In fact, I have observed a projection on the Catholic regarding their doctrine when their doctrine had nothing to do with the discussion.  It is as if the Protestant is telling the Catholic they have nothing meaningful to contribute simply because of the doctrinal positions that they hold.

Friday, August 6, 2010

“Must Theology Sit in the Back of Secular Bus?: The Federal Courts’ View of Religion and Its Status as Knowledge."

That is the title of an article I published last year in the Journal of Law & Religion 24.2 (2008-2009): 247-268. I bring this to your attention because of a comment made by Judge Walker who penned the opinion in yesterday's federal district court case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, overturning California's Proposition 8. Judge Walker writes: "The evidence shows conclusively that moral and religious views form the only basis for a belief that same-sex couples are different from opposite-sex couples." Although others have addressed this and other aspects of the opinion elsewhere (see here, here, here, here, and here), I am not sure anyone has raised the question of what happens to citizens in a same-sex marriage regime in which the laws and policies of that regime force those citizens to compromise their theological and moral beliefs and practices. This is what I write in a portion of the article in which I am interacting with comments made in 2006 in an address that then-Senator Barack Obama gave to the group, Called to Renewal (notes omitted):
But there's another way to look at Senator Obama's case that has affinity with a certain line of argument offered by those who defend what is called justificatory liberalism. Given the obvious limitations of  a political speech, and given the senator's background in Constitutional Law and jurisprudence, I suspect that he holds to some form of  justificatory liberalism. So let us imagine that Senator Obama is defending a version of this point of view, which would go something like this: because religious citizens have an evidential set-sources of authority, background beliefs and reasons-not shared by their neighbors, they should restrain from employing those sources as the basis for the reasons why they enact laws that limit the liberty of their fellow citizens who do not share those sources of authority. 
But it's not clear why the religious citizen should accept this rule if she has fulfilled all her epistemic duties and believes that she has good grounds for the coercive laws she supports. Surely it is correct that each of us comes to the public conversation with a cluster of beliefs that we hold for a variety of reasons, many of which are based both on arguments we have carefully assessed, and authorities that we believe are reliable and have no reason to distrust. But in that case, the typical non-religious citizen enters the public square in precisely the same position as the typical religious one. And in both cases, each likely supports laws that she thinks are reasonable and necessary but that in some cases have the consequence of limiting the liberties of others, even though each is not likely to see that consequence has a net harm, since each will see it as an advancement of justice and the public good. 
Consider the following example. In Massachusetts, soon after the state's Supreme Judicial Court in 2003 required that the state issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Catholic Charities, which was at the time in the child adoption business, was told by the state that it could no longer exclude same-sex couples as adoptive parents, even though the Catholic Church maintains that same-sex unions are deeply disordered and sinful. Because it did not want to compromise its moral theology, Catholic Charities ceased putting children up for adoption.From the perspective of the Catholic citizen who opposes same-sex marriage, this state of affairs limits her liberty and that of her Church based on sources of authority (e.g., arguments for same-sex marriage that its advocates find persuasive, a philosophical anthropology and view of human sexuality that same-sex marriage proponents find intuitively obvious, etc.) that she does not share with those who support same-sex marriage, including Massachusetts's Supreme Judicial Court. 
On the other hand, the proponents of same-sex marriage, including many gay citizens, see this state of affairs as an advancement of justice and the common good. For that reason, they find same-sex marriage as an almost logical entailment of what they think the ends of liberal democracy should be. For, in their minds, the state is unjust if it denies its citizens the opportunity to marry whomever they choose based on an understanding of human sexuality inexorably tied to a source of authority that gay citizens reject. On the other hand, opponents of same-sex marriage see the injustice in the state's actions coercing them to embrace a policy that their sources of authority maintain is deleterious to social justice and the public good. 
My point is this: if we interpret Senator Obama's position as suggesting that one cannot support a law that limits another's liberty if one's reason for the law is based on an authority not shared by one's fellow citizens, neither side in the same-sex marriage debate can escape the scope of that prohibition. One way to avoid this problem offered by some same-sex marriage advocates is to claim that liberal democracy by its very nature entails a particular view of the human person that requires that the government allow same-sex marriage. But this just begs the question, and also seems to violate justificatory liberalism; for it privileges, without argument, a controversial view of the human person over which reasonable citizens disagree against which they offer sophisticated and thoughtful arguments. And its plausibility depends on sources of authority that the opponents of same-sex marriage reject. 
Much of this article was incorporated in a revised fashion in my latest book, Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft (InterVarsity Press, 2010)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Blue Catholic on Anne Rice

An anonymous blogger named "Blue Catholic" does nice job dealing with Anne Rice's return to the world of the Undead. Here's how it begins:

I’m tired of Anne Rice. I’m not impressed with her as a writer, and I find her efforts to publicize her religious mutations a sign of gross conceit. The attention others have given her “de-conversion” exaggerates her importance as a public figure and creates the impression that her reasons for leaving the church are profound. Really, folks. Do you care that much about this women?

Still, I confess the inability to resist saying something about the matter. Buried within an otherwise banal and thoroughly predicable recantation, there is (it seems to me) a theological gem.

>>Continue Reading

David Anders on how John Calvin made him a Catholic

This is a video of David Anders' June 23, 2010 interview with Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S. J. on ETWN Live.  You can read Dr. Anders' essay--"How John Calvin Made Me a Catholic"--at Called to Communion

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Ground Zero Mosque and the meaning of religious liberty: the debate

Hugh Hewitt writes about it here, as does Bill McGurn here.  A contrary opinion by the Center for American Progress may be found here.  A collection of many opinions may be found here. But here's my question: What would those on the Left who support the mosque think if Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Rhodes Baptist Church wanted to build a cathedral on the site of the bar in which the Stonewall riots occurred?