Interesting piece from the BBC about how the FBI conducts interrogations of terrorist suspects. And it doesn’t involve torture. [Read more...]
Interesting piece from the BBC about how the FBI conducts interrogations of terrorist suspects. And it doesn’t involve torture. [Read more...]
Schools are doing their part against guns by punishing children for playing. George Will recounts some of the latest absurdities, while also making a larger point: The government, through our schools, but also in other venues, is becoming our therapist.
Joshua Welch — a boy, wouldn’t you know; no good can come of these turbulent creatures — who is 7, was suspended from second grade in Maryland’s Anne Arundel County last week because of his “Pop-Tart pistol.” While eating a rectangular fruit-filled sugary something — nutritionist Michelle Obama probably disapproves of it, and don’t let Michael Bloomberg get started — Joshua tried biting it into the shape of a mountain but decided it looked more like a gun. So with gender-specific perversity, he did the natural thing. He said, “Bang, bang.” [Read more...]
Many on the left just know that the Christian right is scheming with big corporations to take over the country and eliminate our freedoms. Many on the right just know that the United Nations is scheming with the liberal media to take over the country and eliminate our freedoms. Ezra Klein, in a piece on how China is trying to understand American schemes by hacking into government and business computers, explains why the kind of elaborate plans necessary for a good conspiracy just can’t get carried out. [Read more...]
Economics columnist Robert J. Samuelson says that the reason economic recovery is so slow in coming and the unemployment rate so high is a shift in the national psychology:
We have gone from being an expansive, risk-taking society to a skittish, risk-averse one. [Read more...]
Wisdom from Earl Weaver, the legendary manager of the Baltimore Orioles, who died on January 19. “Until you’re the person that other people fall back on, until you’re the one that’s leaned on, not the person doing the leaning, you’re not an adult.” [Read more...]
We Lutherans believe in confession and absolution. That happens in every Divine Service, and, when someone is particularly troubled with a sin, the individual confesses to a pastor, who brings Christ’s forgiveness. This is an evangelical version of what Roman Catholics do (instead of requiring acts of penance, our pastors forgive sins in terms of the Gospel). (See John 20:21-23.) Anglicans and Orthodox also have something similar.
In our culture, though, Oprah Winfrey is our priest, or rather priestess. She is the one who took charge of all of our religions to organize our national worship service in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. She has her index of books that we are to read. She teaches us our morality. And now she serves as confessor for one of our heroes who has fallen from grace, with champion cyclist Lance Armstrong confessing his sin of doping on her show. [Read more...]
A New York archbishop shut down a “gay mass” that was held regularly in a SoHo church. His explanation why there must not be a distinct worship service for homosexuals–the one mass is for everyone–makes a further interesting point about human identity:
First among the principles of pastoral care is the innate dignity of every person and the respect in which they must be held. Also, of great importance, is the teaching of the Church that a person must not be identified by their sexual orientation. The moral teaching of the Church is that the proper use of our sexual faculty is within a marriage, between a man and a woman, open to the procreation and nurturing of new human life.
Comments David Mills:
That “must not be identified by their sexual orientation,” for example, also means “must not identify themselves by their sexual orientation,” which is to say, must not assume they can or must act upon their desires.
You are not first a homosexual, the archdiocese is saying to the people who attended that Mass. You are first and primarily a human being, and therefore someone called to chastity, and the proper expressions of your sexuality are defined and limited and do not include homosexual practice. Being homosexual is only the personal context in which you are called to be chaste, as being heterosexual is the context for most people. But it is not an identity that brings with it a way of life.
How does this help to frame the issue of homosexuality and pastoral care to gay people (that is, to human beings with same sex attraction)? On the other hand, what is distinctly Catholic about this formulation?
The French government is planning a crack-down on people with what is being called “religious pathologies,” including those that are overly orthodox and traditional, want to be separate from secular society, or believe in creationism. From Reuters:
France will deport foreign-born imams and disband radical faith-based groups, including hardline traditionalist Catholics, if a new surveillance policy signals they suffer a “religious pathology” and could become violent.
A French Islamist shooting spree last March that killed three soldiers and four Jews showed how quickly religiously radicalized people could turn to force, Interior Minister Manuel Valls told a conference on the official policy of secularism.
His warning came two days after President Francois Hollande announced the creation of an agency to track how the separation of church and state is upheld in this traditionally Catholic country with Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish minorities.
Valls and two other cabinet ministers told the conference on Tuesday evening the Socialist-led government would stress the secularist policy called “laicite” that they said was weakened under the previous conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.
“The aim is not to combat opinions by force, but to detect and understand when an opinion turns into a potentially violent and criminal excess,” he said.
“The objective is to identify when it’s suitable to intervene to treat what has become a religious pathology,” said Valls, whose ministry oversees relations with religions.
France’s official secularism sidelines faith in the public sphere, but a trend towards a more visible religious identity among some Muslims, Jews and Catholics has made defending it a cause for the traditionally secularist left-wing parties.
Valls stressed the focus would be not only on radical Salafi Muslims recruiting among disaffected youths, but also on groups such as Civitas, a far-right lay Catholic movement that protests aggressively against what it calls insults to Christianity. . . .
Valls said the government had a duty to combat religious extremism because it was “an offence to the republic” based on a negation of reason that puts dogma ahead of the law.
Giving examples of religious extremists, he mentioned creationists in the United States and the Muslim world, radical Islamists, ultra-traditionalist Catholics and ultra-Orthodox Jews who want to live separately from the modern world.
Notice the psychologizing of the issues. Religion will not be persecuted because of their beliefs but because those who hold those beliefs will be considered to have a “pathological” condition.
Do you think this will spread from France? Is this what Christians will be facing everywhere, including in the United States? Perhaps a mental hospital if you believe in creationism?
HT: Trystan Bloom
According to an on-going Gallup study, Americans and Spanish-speakers are the world’s most emotional people. Not only that, they are happy to the point of exuberance. Not so with Middle Easterners and former Communists. From Max Fischer of the Washington Post, who goes so far as to provide a color-coded map of the world’s emotions:
Singapore is the least emotional country in the world. ”Singaporeans recognize they have a problem,” Bloomberg Businessweek writes of the country’s “emotional deficit,” citing a culture in which schools “discourage students from thinking of themselves as individuals.” They also point to low work satisfaction, competitiveness, and the urban experience: “Staying emotionally neutral could be a way of coping with the stress of urban life in a place where 82 percent of the population lives in government-built housing.”
The Philippines is the world’s most emotional country. It’s not even close; the heavily Catholic, Southeast Asian nation, a former colony of Spain and the U.S., scores well above second-ranked El Salvador.
Post-Soviet countries are consistently among the most stoic. Other than Singapore (and, for some reason, Madagascar and Nepal), the least emotional countries in the world are all former members of the Soviet Union. They are also the greatest consumers of cigarettes and alcohol. This could be what you call and chicken-or-egg problem: if the two trends are related, which one came first? Europe appears almost like a gradient here, with emotions increasing as you move West.
People in the Americas are just exuberant. Every nation on the North and South American continents ranked highly on the survey. Americans and Canadians are both among the 15 most emotional countries in the world, as well as ten Latin countries. The only non-American countries in the top 15, other than the Philippines, are the Arab nations of Oman and Bahrain, both of which rank very highly.
English- and Spanish-speaking societies tend to be highly emotional and happy. Though the Anglophone nations of the world retain deep cultural links, it’s not clear if Spain’s emotional depth has anything to do with Latin America’s. According to Gallup, “Latin America leads the world when it comes to positive emotions, with Panama, Paraguay, and Venezuela at the top of that list.” Yes, even Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela is apparently filled with happy people.
Africans are generally stoic, with some significant exceptions. The continent is among the world’s least emotional, though there is wide variation, which serves as a non-definitive but interesting reminder of Africa’s cultural diversity. Each could be its own captivating case study. It’s possible that South Africa’s high rating has to do with its cultural ties to Western Europe, for example, and Nigeria’s may have to do with the recent protest movement in the south and sectarian violence in the north.
The Middle East is not happy. Gallup notes, “Negative emotions are highest in the Middle East and North Africa, with Iraq, Bahrain, and the Palestinian Territories leading the world in negative daily experiences.” Still, that doesn’t quite fully explain the high emotions in the Levant and on the Arabian peninsula, compared to the lower emotions in Libya, Algeria, and Morocco. Perhaps this hints at how people in these countries are being affected by the still-ongoing political turmoil of the Arab Spring.
Dana Milbank, while crowing over President Obama’s re-election, says that Republicans are going through the 5 stages of grief:
Denial. “I think this is premature,” Karl Rove protested on Fox News election night, after the cable network, along with other news outlets, correctly projected that President Obama had won Ohio — and therefore the presidency. “We’ve got to be careful about calling things.”
Bargaining. “We’re willing to accept new revenue under the right conditions,” House Speaker John Boehner offered Wednesday, shifting his budget negotiating posture before reconsidering the next day, but “the president must be willing to reduce spending and shore up entitlement programs.”
Depression. “If Mitt Romney cannot win in this economy, then the tipping point has been reached,” Ann Coulter said on Laura Ingraham’s radio show. “It’s over. There is no hope.”
Anger. “We should have a revolution in this country,” tweeted flamboyant mogul Donald Trump, who had served as a prominent surrogate for Romney. “This election is a total sham and a travesty.”
Acceptance. Uh, well, there hasn’t been much of that yet.
Well, let’s work on that last one. First of all, remember that the Democrats were going through the very same depression with the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004. They too were worrying if their party would survive, if they could ever win the hearts of an American majority again, if they needed to give up their liberalism and become more like Republicans. That was for the president just before this one. And now the Democrats have re-elected their guy and are as triumphalistic as 2004 Republicans. And now look at those woe-begone Democrats and those crowing Republicans. The pendulum swings, the wheel turns, and fortunes keep changing.
Furthermore, those of us who believe in limited government should also believe in the limited importance of government. True, this election will mean that government will get stronger and, perhaps more concerning, that the general public wants it to get stronger. But our country is too big and complicated to control or even to figure out. Attempts to control and to figure out everything and everyone invariably fail, making for new political opportunities.
Yes, conservatives will have lots to resist. Republicans will need to regroup and address their failures.
But this election surely doesn’t mean the end of America, as I have been hearing. The government as presently constituted does not prevent us from going to church, enjoying time with our families, having a good meal, reading an interesting book, or exercising other facets of our humanity. We are far, far from state totalitarianism, and if you don’t think so read up on life in the former Soviet Union or present-day North Korea.
Christians in particular should cultivate some perspective from a much-much bigger picture. However you voted–and I recognize that some Christians are overjoyed with this outcome that others are mourning–I invite your meditation on Psalm 146, the whole thing, an exploration of whom we must trust including for things we think are political:
Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry. . . .
The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord! (Psalm 146:3-7)