The Honorable Anthony Weiner

So Congressional Representative Anthony Weiner, D-NY, now admits that he twittered the lewd photo and has been lying about it.  And now it turns out the congressman has been sexting and exposing himself to other women.

See Anthony Weiner admits he sent photo, but won’t resign – The Fix – The Washington Post.

I refuse to make any of the obvious jokes and bawdy wordplay.  I find the whole episode repellant, but it seems telling for the degradation of our politicians and the way our brilliant technology is being used for such base, degrading purposes.

I don’t have anything else to say about this.  If you do, go ahead.  But don’t be base and degrading yourself.

Absolute ethics vs. Pragmatism

If postmodernists are right in saying that there are no absolutes of truth or morality, how can they function?  The answer, according to both the masses and philosophers such as Richard Rorty, is pragmatism.  Just do what “works.”  Don’t worry about what is true or what is good, just pursue your practical agenda.

Now pragmatism is a philosophy, an ideology, and a worldview that is utterly opposed to Christianity.  And yet many Christians adopt it unthinkingly, determining the way they worship and the things they teach according to the tenets of pragmatism.  (We want to get more people to join our churches, so let’s eliminate the obstacles to that, whether in practice or theology.)

It’s interesting to see how people who perceive a moral issue nevertheless appeal to pragmatism to make a better case.   For example, in the debates about torture, most of those who reject the practice do so on moral grounds but then make a pragmatic claim:  Torture doesn’t work anyway!

Conversely, many people who do hold to moral absolutes often revert to pragmatism.  Yes, torture may be wrong in principle, but if we could save a thousand lives by torturing one person, it would be worth it.  (This is actually an example of Enlightenment-era utilitarianism, which sought to evade Biblical absolutes and to justify the abuses of the Industrial Revolution by promoting “the greater good for the greater number.”)

Now it appears that torture actually DOES work.  Not by crudely getting someone to tell the truth to make the pain stop–which, of course, would encourage saying ANYTHING–but by a sophisticated process of psychological manipulation.

M. Gregg Bloche, a physician and lawyer, faces up to the fact that his fellow liberals need to be willing to oppose torture on moral grounds even though it works pragmatically.  A sample:

Torture, liberals like me often insist, isn’t just immoral, it’s ineffective. We like this proposition because it portrays us as protectors of the nation, not wusses willing to risk American lives to protect terrorists. And we love to quote seasoned interrogators’ assurances that building rapport with the bad guys will get them to talk. . . .

The idea that waterboarding and other abuses may have been effective in getting information from detainees is repellant to many, including me. It’s contrary to the meme many have embraced: that torture doesn’t work because people being abused to the breaking point will say anything to get the brutality to stop — anything they think their accusers want to hear.

But this position is at odds with some behavioral science, I’ve learned. The architects of enhanced interrogation are doctors who built on a still-classified, research-based model that suggests how abuse can indeed work.

I’ve examined the science, studied the available paper trail and interviewed key actors, including several who helped develop the enhanced interrogation program and who haven’t spoken publicly before. This inquiry has made it possible to piece together the model that undergirds enhanced interrogation.

This model holds that harsh methods can’t, by themselves, force terrorists to tell the truth. Brute force, it suggests, stiffens resistance. Rather, the role of abuse is to induce hopelessness and despair. That’s what sleep deprivation, stress positions and prolonged isolation were designed to do. Small gestures of contempt — facial slaps and frequent insults — drive home the message of futility. Even the rough stuff, such as “walling” and waterboarding, is meant to dispirit, not to coerce.

Once a sense of hopelessness is instilled, the model holds, interrogators can shape behavior through small rewards. Bathroom breaks, reprieves from foul-tasting food and even the occasional kind word can coax broken men to comply with their abusers’ expectations.

Certainly, interrogators using this approach have obtained false confessions. Chinese interrogators did so intentionally, for propaganda purposes, with American prisoners during the Korean War. McCain and other critics of “torture-lite” cite this precedent to argue that it can’t yield reliable information. But the same psychological sequence — induction of hopelessness, followed by rewards to shape compliance — can be used to get terrorism suspects to tell the truth, or so the architects of enhanced interrogation hypothesize.

Critical to this model is the ability to assess suspects’ truthfulness in real time. To this end, CIA interrogators stressed speedy integration of intelligence from all sources. The idea was to frame questions to detect falsehoods; interrogators could then reward honesty and punish deceit.

via Torture-lite: It’s wrong, and it might work – The Washington Post.

So can those of you who oppose torture AND those of you who believe it justified make your case WITHOUT referring to pragmatic arguments?

Homosexuality & abusing priests

A $2 million study of the priest child abuse scandal, paid for in part by the Roman Catholic Church,  takes the politically-correct position that homosexuality had nothing to do with it.  Louie Verrecchio, himself a Catholic, disagrees, based on the report’s own data:

On May 18, researchers from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice released their long-awaited final report, “Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010.”

The research team, led by Karen Terry, Ph.D., gathered an impressive amount of information from which they drew a number of conclusions; the most unsettling of which is the claim that homosexuality is unrelated to the abuse (particularly of adolescent males, the primary victims in the crisis.)

Though 81 percent of the victims were post-pubescent males, researchers downplayed the homosexual connection by suggesting that this simply reflects the fact that offenders had greater access to boys. The report also proposes the possibility that, “Although the victims of priests were most often male, thus defining the acts as homosexual, the priest did not at any time recognize his identity as homosexual.”

A less politically correct conclusion, it would seem, is to acknowledge that the offending clerics were perhaps unwilling to take “ownership” of their struggle with homosexuality. In any event, this line of argument appears to be little more than a red herring.

According to Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a consultant to the Vatican Congregation for Clergy and a leading expert on clerical sex abuse, how an abuser may “recognize” himself is not entirely relevant; rather, the homosexual acts alone testify to “deep seated” homosexuality.

“We are identified by our behavior,” Dr. Fitzgibbons said in a recent telephone interview. “The attempt to distance the homosexual acts in question from a personal struggle against SSA (Same Sex Attraction) on the part of the abuser is inconsistent with clinical data.”

Information found in the report itself also strongly suggests that the abuse is directly related to homosexuality. For instance: “This excuse (that the victim initiated physical intimacy) was particularly common for priests who were accused of abusing adolescents, who referred to the abuse as a ‘relationship.’”

Does this scenario, in which an adult male imagines that he is involved in a sexually active consenting “relationship” with an adolescent boy, describe a heterosexual crime of convenience? So determined to deny the obvious, the John Jay researchers are at pains to have you believe that it does.

The report also reveals that abusers often “groomed” their victims over a period of time prior to the onset of abuse; where grooming is defined as “a premeditated behavior intended to manipulate the potential victim into complying.”

This information effectively undermines the “crime of convenience” explanation for the preponderance of adolescent male victims. It also clearly indicates a direct connection to homosexuality, but the John Jay researchers resolutely insist otherwise claiming that the abusers were simply men who “appear to have had certain vulnerabilities to commit abuse (for example, emotional congruence with children or adolescents), experienced increased stressors from work (for example, having recently received more responsibilities, such as becoming a pastor), and had opportunities to abuse (for example, unguarded access to minors).” 

via John Jay Study: A $2 million exercise in political correctness :: Catholic News Agency (CNA).

The abusers had “vulnerabilities to commit abuse”?  They were vulnerable?  So  they were the victims?

HT:  David Mills

Right wing atheism

Time’s Amy Sullivan draws attention to how a number of Republican leaders are fans of Ayn Rand, the militant atheist whose praise of capitalism led to her ethical principle of the “virtue of selfishness” and her attacks on Christianity for promoting the “weakness” of altruistic love.  We’ve blogged about her before, and some of you have defended her, Christian though you be.  I am less tolerant, having witnessed the family of a good friend of mine torn apart by her influence.  I was interested, though, in the names that Sullivan mentions:

When George W. Bush declared in a 1999 GOP debate that his favorite political philosopher was Jesus, pundits snickered and wondered whether he actually knew any political philosophers. But the answer was politically canny, establishing Bush’s evangelical bona fides with social conservatives.

In contrast, the philosopher GOP leaders quote most reverently these days was vehemently anti-religion, and referred to Christian teachings as “evil” and “monstrous.” Awwwwkward. Fortunately for Republicans, most social conservatives haven’t yet made the connection. (See the dozen Republicans who could be the next president.)

Here’s just a taste of the praise GOP and other conservative leaders have for Ayn Rand:

- Paul Ryan says Ayn Rand is the reason he entered politics and he requires all staff and interns to read her books. Says Ryan: “Ayn Rand more than anyone else did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism.”

- Clarence Thomas requires his law clerks to watch The Fountainhead, and has said “I tend really to be partial to Ayn Rand.”

- Sen. Ron Johnson, Ryan’s GOP colleague from Wisconsin, calls Atlas Shrugged his “foundational book.”

- Rush Limbaugh calls Ayn Rand “the brilliant writer and novelist.”

- Fox News repeatedly promoted the recently released movie version of Atlas Shrugged, airing the trailer on several shows and interviewing cast members.

The conservative evangelical leader Chuck Colson has become so concerned about Rand’s booming popularity in the GOP that he recently recorded a video warning that Rand “peddles a starkly anti-Christian philosophy.” And the Christian group American Values Network, which presents itself as an alternative to organizations like the Family Research Council, has distributed a memo to congressional offices highlighting Rand’s criticisms of Christianity and some of her more controversial comments, including praise for a man who raped, murdered, and dismembered a 12-year-old girl.

via An Atheist Icon? Social Conservatives Worried About GOP Ayn Rand Resurgence – Yahoo! News.

It sounds like some Christian activists and social conservatives are becoming aware of what Rand and the Randites stand for.  Does this herald a split in conservative ranks between those who believe in moral reality and those who don’t, between  Christian conservatives and materialist conservatives?

Bin Laden’s porn stash

From the New York Times:

The enormous cache of computer files taken from Osama bin Laden’s compound contained a considerable quantity of pornographic videos, American officials said on Friday, adding a discordant note to the public image of the Islamist militant who long denounced the West for its lax sexual mores.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity about classified material, would not say whether there was evidence that Bin Laden or the other men living in the house had acquired or viewed the material.

The discovery of the pornography, first reported by Reuters, may not be surprising in a collection of five computers, 10 hard drives and dozens of thumb drives and CDs whose age and past ownership is not known.

But the disclosure could fuel accusations of hypocrisy against the founder of Al Qaeda, who was 54 and lived with three wives at the time of his death, and will be welcomed by counterterrorism officials because it could tarnish his legacy and erode the appeal of his brand of religious extremism.

via Pornography Is Found on Bin Laden’s Computers – NYTimes.com.

Some people are dismissing this announcement as American propaganda, but it shouldn’t be surprising.   The original 9/11 hijackers–bin Laden’s henchmen–were visiting strip clubs right before their suicide mission.  Guilt over his porn addiction was allegedly one of the reasons 9/11 leader Mohammed Atta hated the West and wanted to atone for his sin by attaining the assurance of salvation available only to the martyrs who died waging jihad against the infidel.  And if someone has so little conscience as to execute the mass murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children, why should we think he would have qualms about sexually explicit videos?

This is just more evidence of the paradox that legalism in religion does NOT mean more righteousness; rather, it tends to mean more unrighteousness. This is due to legalism’s  spirit of self-righteousness, loophole hunting, and rationalization.  And above all its lack of repentance and faith in Christ that alone can change a person from the inside and that  bears good fruit.

ADDENDUM:  The Daily Beast reports that Pakistan was found to be the leading nation in internet porn searches. Iran was third. Egypt was fifth.

I don’t think the prevalence of pornography in Islamic countries that insist that women be completely veiled should be dismissed as mere hypocrisy. I would argue that this manifestation of our sinful nature is the occasion of both guilt and hatred for the culture that has tempted them to such sin. Further, I suspect this is a factor in the rise of radical, jihadist Islam.

New movement of the Holy Spirit?

From a collection of responses to the PCUSA’s decision to remove the celibacy requirement for single pastors.  Donald Fortson III observes that

“Church history is crystal clear: Homosexual practice has been affirmed nowhere, never, by no one in the history of Christianity.” Adoption of amdendment 10-A is therefore, by definition, anti-catholic.

Archpriest Siarhei Hardun from the Orthodox Church of Belarus, an ecumenical observer, said this to the Presbyterians at last year’s convention, which passed the proposal that was recently ratified by enough congregations:

“Christian morality is as old as Christianity itself. It doesn’t need to be invented now. Those attempts to invent new morality look for me like attempts to invent a new religion — a sort of modern paganism.

When people say that they are led and guided by the Holy Spirit to do it, I wonder if it is the same Spirit that inspired the Bible, if it is the same Holy Spirit that inspires the Holy Orthodox Church not to change anything doctrinal or moral standards? It is really the same Spirit or perhaps there are different spirits acting in different denominations and inspiring them to develop in different directions and create different theologies and different morals?

via Touchstone Magazine – Mere Comments: ‘Nowhere, Never, by No One.’.

I have been struck by the way theological innovators credit the moving of the Holy Spirit for leading their churches in these new  directions.   That’s the justification being given by Presbyterians, Episcopalians,  ELCA theologians, and others for moving away from traditional teachings, from ordaining women to affirming gay marriage:  the Holy Spirit is showing us new things; this is a new movement of the Holy Spirit.  These mainline Protestants are exhibiting a curious “enthusiasm,” separating the Holy Spirit from the Word of God.


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