Friday, January 25, 2013

Happy Feast Day To Me!

(from the Lives of the Saints)

St. Paul was born at Tarsus, Cilicia, of Jewish parents who were descended from the tribe of Benjamin. He was a Roman citizen from birth. As he was "a young man" at the stoning of Stephen and "an old man" when writing to Philemon, about the year 63, he was probably born around the beginning of the Christian era.

To complete his schooling, St. Paul was sent to Jerusalem, where he sat at the feet of the learned Gamaliel and was educated in the strict observance of the ancestral Law. Here he also acquired a good knowledge of exegesis and was trained in the practice of disputation. As a convinced and zealous Pharisee, he returned to Tarsus before the public life of Christ opened in Palestine.

Some time after the death of Our Lord, St. Paul returned to Palestine. His profound conviction made his zeal develop to a religious fanaticism against the infant Church. He took part in the stoning of the first martyr, St. Stephen, and in the fierce persecution of the Christians that followed.

Entrusted with a formal mission from the high priest, he departed for Damascus to arrest the Christians there and bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he was nearing Damascus, about noon, a light from heaven suddenly blazed round him. Jesus with His glorified body appeared to him and addressed him, turning him away from his apparently successful career.

An immediate transformation was wrought in the soul of St. Paul. He was suddenly converted to the Christian Faith. He was baptized, changed his name from Saul to Paul, and began traveling and preaching the Faith. He was martyred as an Apostle in Rome around 65 AD.

— Excerpted from Lives of the Saints

Hat tip, Catholic Culture.

Intention: Stop the Aggressor

I believe that, in general, all men with families should own a firearm and learn how to use it properly as a part of a comprehensive defense strategy against aggressors. I say "in general" because there people who are so uncomfortable with the concept of a firearm due to misinformation and propaganda that they can be excused from this duty out of ignorance. But I also personally feel the weight of the duty to combat this ignorance.

I also believe that Catholics should be in the forefront of the defense of the right to bear arms in our country. Based on constant teaching and summarized in the following catechism points, the Church has always upheld the right to the use of means such as firearms for legitimate self-defense.

2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. “The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not.”

2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow.

If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.

2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.

The description of the killing of the aggressor not being intended is worthy to note, because it exactly ties in to a point I heard reiterated often in one of the self-defense courses I took. The instructor started with a trick question "Do you shoot to kill or to wound?" The answer is "neither—you shoot to stop."

To the ignorant, shooting to stop rather than to kill might sound like a distinction without a difference. This is because the "knowledge" most people have about fire-fights is garnered from film dramatizations on television or in movies. Someone shot by one round from a high-powered rifle often flies back 5 feet which completely goes against real-life experience, not to mention several dozen or so laws of physics. Someone running toward you can be hit in the chest several times and yet still have enough oxygen in his brain to reach you and slit your throat with a credit card shiv. This is why emptying a magazine into an attacker to stop him is not considered excessive but necessary.

I could go off on this tangent even more, but let it suffice to ask if you really think that the "good guy" is always a better shot in real like like he is in the movies. My point is to show how practicing self-defense with a firearm, as it is presented by the NRA and other groups, lines up with the classic double-effect principle espoused by the Catholic Church. Death is the second, unintended effect, and learning to shoot accurately should never be equated with becoming a killer.

Any prudential argument against personal gun ownership must provide an alternative method for stopping a criminal aggressor. To date, I haven't really heard one that doesn't smack of fantasy and wishful thinking. A politically liberal Catholic friend of mine once said to me "I'm for gun control. People should rely more on their guardian angels for protection." Well, his major premise—we should rely on the protection of the angels—is correct. But I have seven dependents who all have guardian angels. How does anyone know they didn't all team up and make sure their pater familias possessed the means and the will to use lethal force to defend them from criminal aggressors? Spiritual beings like angels—as well as God himself—normally rely on human agency. You might as well argue that a man could either work for a living or trust God to provide food on the table. Obviously the angels-only strategy is based on an either-or fallacy which religious people routinely dismiss.

The only other alternative means I can think of have to do with martial arts or non-lethal weapons. These are simply not plausible for most people and would require almost a devotion to techniques that would be prohibitive for men raising a family. Guns level the playing field in a remarkable way.

My intention of writing this post is to counter the troubling statistic that 62 percent of Catholics favor more gun control measures, the highest among religious groups. The problem is, I fear, more ignorance; broadly put I support regulations dealing with guns, e.g., felons should not be able to buy weapons, etc. But looking at the actual Feinstein proposals which require destroying weapons upon the death of the owner and you can see that confiscation is the end goal. There is no way these measures can be called sensible, and it is frightening that anyone is proposing them and calling upon religious support for them.

I plan to write many more posts here on this topic of America's First Freedom. I'm not worried that people may see this as "gun-nuttery" or obsession. I'll preemptively cop the Limbaugh plea that I'm just trying to be equal time on this. The real nuts in this "debate" are those who know that stricter gun control laws will not prevent violence but try to pass them anyway. I hope none of the US Bishops fall into this category but are only being utopian and impractical. The truth is I am a total fanatic about my family, and about all other fathers and their families. So I'm going to tag all these posts with the tag Defending Your Family. Because that is what it is really all about.

We are assuredly not alone in this philosophical struggle. Here are a few more good reads on the topic with plenty more to come:

Jimmy Akin: The Right To Keep and Bear Arms

Matt Abbott: Catholics and Gun Ownership

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hewn into the living rock...


Tiananmen Square protester explains how it works

"To me a rifle is not for sporting or hunting. It is an instrument of freedom."

"It guarantees that I cannot be coerced, that I have free will, that I am a free man."

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Unveiling of Wendell Berry

Reactions to Wendell Berry's coming out in support of same-sex marriage have run the gamut on the level of admitted surprise. Rod Dreher is "greatly surprised". Emily Stimpson -- who's piece gets the hat tip from me -- states "[A]t least for me, it’s not entirely shocking."

Having written the following paragraph less than a year ago, my reaction is somewhat lower on the surprise spectrum than either Dreher's or Stimpson's.

The imagined world of Wendell Berry is no less silly than the one "imagined" by John Lennon, it just has more tillable land, furry animals, and maybe a few Indian tribes running around killing each other. Berry is a user of the land and a user of resources just like everybody else he criticizes. The fact that he may use a little bit less than others is ultimately a matter of taste and not morality. I don't care what he does with his life, but he seems to care a lot what others do with theirs and has developed his own Sharia-like law based on his preferences.

I would point everyone toward Timothy Dalrymple's excellent response—as do Dreher and Stimpson—as a sensible, representative Christian response explaining why what he calls Berry's "epic slanderfest" is so preposterous.

My concern here is to merely point out why I am not surprised by this at all, and why no one who believes that ideas have consequences should expect this type of transition from Berry, if it is even indeed a transition at all and not just an unveiling of beliefs he has held for quite some time.

First of all, accusing Christians of being haters of homosexuals is merely the latest in a long line of factual errors based on personal prejudice in the non-fiction writings of Wendell Berry. In his famous Why I am NOT going to buy a computer essay from 1987, Berry refers to a computer as "expensive equipment" which, if he decided to purchase one, would be akin to and attempt to replace his wife who typed his writings for him on an old, manual typewriter. A PC with peripherals marketed to a farmer in that year would probably have cost $800.00 ($1,616.00 in 2013 inflation-adjusted dollars) and I'm guessing wouldn't be extremely unreasonable compared to equipment expenditures for a medium-sized farm. Almost anyone reading the essay would find his insistence that that acquiring a computer would be in effect replacing his wife, rather than replacing the typewriter to which he's become attached, a strange, weak and badly-reasoned argument.

Secondly, Berry has been a dissenter from mainstream Christianity for a long time, and he has been a fierce critic of Christianity for not being more like him. A good example is his Christianity and the Survival of Creation essay. He first calls the condemnation of Christianity by conservationists for its "culpability of Christianity in the destruction of the natural world" a just condemnation. Then he points out that the anti-Christian environmentalist zealots haven't read the Bible, so they don't realize that modern Christianity's supposed disregard for and rape of creation is not rooted in Scripture, or at least not his understanding of Scripture. He calls for a need to "learn to read and understand the Bible in the light of the present fact of Creation." This in turn requires "careful and judicious study, not dismissal." Ironically, he quotes Leviticus to condemn accumulating large amounts of real estate, however he obviously dismisses earlier passages in that particular book condemning homosexual acts. I'm guessing that if I suggested that real estate regulations were ceremonial or cultural my interpretation would be dismissed along with explicit scriptural condemnations of said acts which he personally finds no problem with since, to his mind, these acts do not affect energy consumption, agriculture, or the airy-fairy ideal of "sense of place in community".

So, what are we left with? The Gospel According to Wendell Berry in all it's self-righteous condescension and hypocritical inconsistency, whether it's appealing to biblical authority to support pet opinions or stereotyping Americans as conspicuous consumers because they use electricity and buy computers. Berry has always been a self-righteous scold about issues that most Christians from the time of Christ on have considered to be matters of prudence and not absolute morality. The fact that he might go the other way, regarding orthodox Christianity's moral prohibitions as matters of personal choice, should not surprise anyone. This is due to the fact that he is obviously marching to the beat of his own drum. The only question left is this: how does he get away with this inconsistency and bad-reasoning?

My theory is that he is protected by the people who have been deeply moved by his works of fiction or have been swayed by some of his down home wisdom about farming. It is sort of like the protection the media gives Obama on matters like the Benghazi cover-up or the Fast and Furious gun-running operation. Or the kind of pass that's given to film industry pedophilia of the Woody Allen or Roman Polanski variety. The obvious prejudices, logical inconsistencies and factual errors are glossed over because "Well, someone needs to say this stuff and nobody else is doing it." I don't buy either premise. Nobody needs to state inaccuracies about Christians hating gays or destroying the environment. Plus everybody on the left is doing that, non-stop, every day. And there is really no point in trying to deny a simple fact, especially not at this point: Wendell Berry is a man of the left. As such, he warrants the protection of the left and receives it.

One more thing: I commend Rod Dreher for his strong words of condemnation against Wendell Berry for his attacks. For emphasis I link to them again. It's not easy to accuse a favorite author of behavior which is "crude, simplistic, combative, vicious, and altogether deeply disappointing" or calling his words on an issue a "barely-coherent farrago of liberal clich├ęs, ugly insults, and shallow, indignant moralizing". But I applaud and echo all his words which can hardly be called exaggerated if you read Berry's original statements.

Guns don't kill people; Democrats kill people

Another reason the media would rather talk about gun control laws than the murderers who commit gun crime: the perps are Democrats and/or come from Democrat families.

Ft Hood: Registered Democrat/Muslim.

Columbine: Too young to vote; both families were registered Democrats and progressive liberals.

Virginia Tech: Wrote hate mail to President Bush and to his staff.

Colorado Theater: Registered Democrat; staff worker on the Obama campaign; Occupy Wall Street participant; progressive liberal.

Connecticut School Shooter: Registered Democrat; hated Christians.

Common thread is that all of these shooters were progressive liberal Democrats.

This shouldn't surprise people. The left is always ginning up hatred against Christians, conservatives and other groups. Oh, yes, also hatred against America is a pretty big theme on the left. So that's a skip and a jump from hating Americans in the mind of an unstable brute.

Yeah, Einstein I know that not all Democrats kill people. But the media pipe dream is that a serious NRA member is going to pull a Lanza and there is very little chance of that. Hang around us for a short time and you would know this.

Incidentally, please consider joining the NRA. I recently renewed my membership which I had allowed to lapse a few years back.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Gosh, I Wonder Why So Many Catholics Have Left The Church

Today I celebrated my own personal feast day of "scold the priest after Mass".  I propose this feast day should be established church wide across the United States, and should definitely fall on the Sunday before the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  Because today, I was informed by my pastor, in an ad-hoc address from the altar following mass, that, in his "opinion" abortion will not be solved "legislatively" and that therefore we Catholics have to "do more" to end the culture of abortion (unclear what "do more" means specifically).   In and of itself this is a fair point, but let me give some context: on the Sunday immediately preceding Election Day, about 70 days ago, this same priest gave a homily detailing issues we are obligated to consider when deciding our vote.  And on that Sunday immediately preceding Election Day, did this same priest mention abortion even once?  He did not.  While he mentioned the homeless, the hungry, the disenfranchised and the poor, he did not mention the unborn.  He did not mention the fact that one Presidential candidate ran on a pro-life platform, and the other did not.  Therefore, it was rather ironic to be told 70 days later that Father did not believe abortion could be defeated "legislatively": but of course he's absolutely right, if the unofficial policy of American Catholic clergy is to sit idly by as 50% of Catholics vote for a candidate who not only supports abortion, but pushes through legislation that forces taxpayers to fund same.  

After mass, I told Father his position was not helpful.  Actually, I told Father that since he refused to guide Catholics on the abortion issue prior to Election Day, he was manifestly part of the problem.  And finally, given that 50 state legislatures banned abortion until 1965, and could again resolve the issue "legislatively" upon reversal of Roe v. Wade, I strongly implied Father doesn't know what the f*&@ he is talking about (alas, not in those words).  I hope Father enjoyed my personal feast day as much as I did.