Monday, October 31, 2011

Infuriating: Nonsense on AIDs, Africa

The piece overall is good, and the bit that ticked me off really isn't the author's fault--it's a true representation of the beliefs of some people.  But the sheer absurdity of the belief...Gah.  Anyway, excerpts:
...Some liberals complained the program pushed for ineffective abstinence measures, to please the religious right, while some conservatives viewed it as a an unneeded expenditure. But in general, it has been considered an example of policy success in an era when Americans love to criticize government...(emphasis added)
"Ineffective abstinence measures?"

Let us examine the silliness behind this phrase.

We are discussing the transmission of AIDs, a disease which has largely been passed along by sexual intercourse over these last few decades. And initiatives encouraging people to refrain from sex are ineffective...why?

Because, the assumption runs, people cannot possibly abstain from sex.

Baloney. Anyone reading this who is currently abstaining from sex--congratulations. You are achieving the impossible, simply by sitting in a chair, not having sex. Well done.

Over a longer period of time? I say again--baloney. There are people the world over successfully living very contented celibate lives in a variety of religions or circumstances of life which preclude sexual activity.

And best of all--an abstinence policy to prevent the transmission of AIDs still has room for monogamous sexual relationships between uninfected partners. So what exactly is so mind-bogglingly silly about encouraging abstinence as a means of preventing the transmission of AIDs?

Are there married couples with one infected partner and one uninfected?  Yes.  Are there cases of transmission by rape?  Yes.  Are people prone to have sex outside marriage?  Yes.  Does any of this mean that abstinence has no place in AIDs prevention measures?

I'd take a lot of convincing on that one.  You want to curtail the spread of a sexually transmitted disease.  Gee.  What should we do?  Faithful marriages, no sex outside of marriage...transmission rates would do what?

"unneeded expenditure?"
"...At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge," said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."

"Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge.

"Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

"And the Union workhouses?" demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"

"They are. Still," returned the gentleman, "I wish I could say they were not."

"The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?" said Scrooge.

"Both very busy, sir."

"Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course," said Scrooge. "I'm very glad to hear it."

"Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude," returned the gentleman, "a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?"

"Nothing!" Scrooge replied.

"You wish to be anonymous?"

"I wish to be left alone," said Scrooge. "Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned -- they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there."

"Many can't go there; and many would rather die."

"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides -- excuse me -- I don't know that."

"But you might know it," observed the gentleman.

"It's not my business," Scrooge returned. "It's enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people's. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!..."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In the Long Run, It's Either Conscience or Cops

A fascinating piece.  Go read the whole thing.  Excerpts:
...Colson’s Law is science rather than sermon, empirical rather than ideological. We can see the law at work in the history of any body, individual or collective, and we can predict its future on the basis of this law. Any individual human body that loses its internal immune system will die, unless propped up by many artificial, external aids: pills, operations, prosthetics—and even then, it’s only a matter of time. The same is true of social bodies: Police states without consciences are brittle. The “Thousand-Year Reich” lasted twelve years. The longest-lasting societies in history were all highly moralistic: the Confucian (over 2,100 years), the Roman (about 700 years), and the Islamic (almost 1,400 years). The longest-lasting moral order in history has been that of Mosaic law: It has structured Jewish and then Christian life for 3,500 years (though not as a continuous civil society)...

A corollary of Colson’s Law is that a community’s longevity is proportionate to its morality—and to its religion, for no society has yet existed that has successfully built its morality on any other basis than religion. In theory, the natural law can be known without knowing the divine law, but in practice, it is very rare; there has never been a whole society of Platos and Aristotles. It is a massive and obvious fact of history that religion has always been the primary source of morality. This fact is so massive and obvious that no age ever ignored it except the one so blind and arrogant that it labeled the era lit by the Christian faith “the Dark Ages” and called its own time of darkness the “Enlightenment...”

We seem to have caught the disease during the Enlightenment, which closed our eyes to God. This linguistic irony is not surprising, for language is one of a dying society’s first organs to be infected, as Confucius clearly saw. Asked to name the single most important of his many social principles of reform, he answered, “the restoration of language,” that is, calling things by their proper names...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sarandon, the Pope, and the Nazis

A brief rundown of her initial comments and reactions.  Excerpts:
...the Oct. 15 remarks she made about how she had given a copy of the book “Dead Man Walking” to the pope. Sarandon hastened to add that the pope to which she had given the book was Blessed John Paul II, “not this Nazi one we have now,” meaning Pope Benedict XVI.

It’s been well-documented that Pope Benedict was registered into the Hitler Youth while a teen in his native Germany, but he never went to meetings, and his lack of participation resulted in hardships for his family. But you can’t let context get in the way of a good quip.

But pushback against Sarandon has emerged from both Catholic and Jewish circles, condemning the remarks and demanding an apology...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Doctor on the Economy

Doctor of the Church, that is.  St. Basil the Great says:
They say: whom do I wrong by keeping my property? What, tell me, is your property? Where did you find it and brought it to your life? Just like someone in the theatre, who had a seat and then stopped those who entered, judging that what lies common in front of everyone to use, was his own: rich men are of the same kind. They first took possession of the common property, and then they keep it as their own because they were the first to take it. If one had taken what is necessary to cover one's needs and had left the rest to those who are in need, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, no one would be in need.

Isn't it true, that you fell off the womb naked? Isn't it true, that naked you shall return to the earth? Where is your present property from? If you think that it came to you by itself, you don't believe in God, you don't acknowledge the creator and you are not thankful to Him who gave it to you. But if you agree and confess that you have it from God, tell us the reason why He gave it to you.

Is God unjust, dividing unequally the goods of our life? Why are you rich, while the other is poor? Isn't it, if not for any other reason, in order for you to gain a reward for your kindness and faithful providence, and for him to be honored with the great awards of patience? But you, having gathered everything inside the bosom of avarice which is always empty, do you think that you wrong no one, while you strip so many people?

Who is the greedy person? It's him, who doesn't content himself with what he has. And who strips? He who steals what belongs to the others. And you think that you are not greedy, and that you do not strip the others? What was granted to you, in order for you to take care of the others, you took it and you made it your own. What do you think?

He who strips the clothed is to be called a thief. How should we name him, who is able to dress the naked and doesn't do it, does he deserve some other name? The bread that you possess belongs to the hungry. The clothes that you store in boxes, belong to the naked. The shoes rotting by you, belong to the bare-foot. The money that you hide belongs to anyone in need. You wrong as many people as you could help.

From Homily On Avarice 7
This is not a denial of the right to property, or that the wealthy can be good--it just indicates that the rich man can all to easily become he who cried out to Father Abraham for a single drop of water.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Why does he matter? What did Pope John Paul II do worth commemorating? A run down of his life, some Catholic awesomeness (jugs of blood borne aloft by robed virgins, anyone?), and Pope Benedict looking really, really happy.

Beatification of Pope John Paul II from Rocco Palmo on Vimeo.

Blessed John Paul II's Challenge to the World

The absolute, and yet sweet and gentle, power of the Lord responds to the whole depths of the human person, to his loftiest aspirations of intellect, will and heart. It does not speak the language of force, but expresses itself in charity and truth.

The new Successor of Peter in the See of Rome today makes a fervent, humble and trusting prayer: Christ, make me become and remain the servant of your unique power, the servant of your sweet power, the servant of your power that knows no dusk. Make me a servant: indeed, the servant of your servants....

Do not be afraid. Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development.

Do not be afraid. Christ knows “that which is in man”. He alone knows it.

So often today, man does not know that which is in him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair.

We ask you, therefore, we beg you with humility and with trust: let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of life eternal.”

--Inaugural Homily of the Pontificate, 22 October 1978; Office of Readings for 22nd October

Pope Announces Year of Faith

Next year.  He appears to want a rather significant amount of preparation in the run up.  Excerpts:
..."The 'door of faith' is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into His Church. It is possible to cross that threshold when the word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace"...

"Ever since the start of my ministry as Successor of Peter, I have spoken of the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ. ... Whereas in the past it was possible to recognise a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society, because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people".

"In the light of all this, I have decided to announce a Year of Faith. It will begin on 11 October 2012, the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II, and it will end on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, on 24 November 2013. The starting date of 11 October 2012 also marks the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a text promulgated by my Predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, with a view to illustrating for all the faithful the power and beauty of the faith"...

"The renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers: by their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us. The Council itself, in the Dogmatic Constitution 'Lumen Gentium', said this: ... the Church ... clasping sinners to her bosom, is at once holy and always in need of purification".

The Year of Faith, from this perspective, is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world. In the mystery of His death and resurrection, God has revealed in its fullness the Love that saves and calls us to conversion of life through the forgiveness of sins. For St. Paul, this Love ushers us into a new life. ... Through faith, this new life shapes the whole of human existence according to the radical new reality of the resurrection. ... 'Faith working through love' becomes a new criterion of understanding and action that changes the whole of man's life".

"Through His love, Jesus Christ attracts to Himself the people of every generation: in every age He convokes the Church, entrusting her with the proclamation of the Gospel by a mandate that is ever new. Today too, there is a need for stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelisation in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith. In rediscovering His love day by day, the missionary commitment of believers attains force and vigour that can never fade away. Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy".

"Only through believing, then, does faith grow and become stronger; there is no other possibility for possessing certitude with regard to one's life apart from self-abandonment, in a continuous crescendo, into the hands of a love that seems to grow constantly because it has its origin in God"...

Monday, October 17, 2011

German Secularism and Benedict XVI

An interesting analysis of the German reception to Benedict XVI. Excerpts:
...A majority of Germans and other Europeans may well be indifferent to religion, but the fury with which the generals and soldiers of today’s Kulturkampf greeted Benedict suggests that these people are not blithe secularists, but rabid apostates from the Christian faith. They have consciously rejected their heritage, even if they never understood what it truly means. In its place, in Benedict’s words, they have created an “artificial world” that “resembles a concrete bunker with no windows, in which we ourselves provide the lighting and atmospheric conditions, being no longer willing to obtain either from God’s wide world.” Having fought hard to create this artificial world, they remain on guard against challenges from believers who seek to restore balance to a wayward reason divorced from faith.

Achieving this restoration is the theological and cultural project of Benedict XVI. For decades he has wielded his pen against this apostasy, and now as pope he marshals tens of thousands to his cause with each appearance abroad. But what makes Benedict’s counter-attack especially fearsome to the German intelligentsia is more than just the depths of his work, which offers a formidable challenge to their position. Rather, it is the fact that he is Germany’s native son who has escaped from their artificial world to see the truth of God, of reason, and of nature that they have long denied. And even more devastatingly, he has done so always with a gentle and warm smile. The dreariness of the concrete bunker cannot withstand the explosive power of genuine happiness wedded to truth, and Benedict’s critics know this.

Benedict’s person and message are one. By his very presence last week he offered his fellow countrymen a path out of the bunker and into the light of truth. It is no wonder that the lawmakers in the Bundestag did not bother to hear his speech: they knew what he had to say before he uttered a word, and they did not want to hear it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Egyptian Christians in Darkening Circumstances

A small sample of the difficulties of Christians in the Middle East.  Excerpts:
...Sources say Egypt’s military is powerless against attacks by Salafis who use money and promises to turn people in the poorest regions of the country against Christians.

The extremist group is spreading across the Middle East, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Iraq, and Lebanon.

Salafis are taking advantage of the region’s instability to get caretaker governments to impose their ideology based on Sharia and Islam’s supremacy on other religions.

According to a recent report cited by the Assyrian News Agency (Aina), about 100,000 Christians have already left the country since Mubarak’s fall.

“The figure is an exaggeration,” sources told AsiaNews, “but many Copts are indeed leaving the country. In Upper Egypt, but also Cairo and Alexandria, many parish churches lay empty. People are afraid and believe that if the Muslim Brotherhood wins, there will be no place for Christians in the country...”

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Who Was Hitler?

An interesting and slightly odd video.
I don't like all of his tactics, but it's worth a view, no matter what you think of what he's doing or how he's doing it.  Why?  Parts are quite well done, parts are interesting glimpses into modern trends (such as an alarming lapse in historical memory), and parts are examples of a particular method of argumentation and exposition common in certain circles.

I'd welcome comments and thoughtful critiques in the comboxes.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sons of the World

What happens when you become interested in alternative spirituality simply as a means of avoiding conforming to one of the major religions.  Excerpts:
...It was a dazzling farrago of crazy nonsense that kept me spellbound all the way to the airport.

But it got me thinking about that quote from Jesus. Scott was not stupid. Nor was he crazy.

He was simply what Jesus called a “son of this world.” In his own sphere, he was brilliant and gifted. But when it came to the things of heaven he was a living embodiment of the old saw that people who refuse to believe in God (Scott informed me he was an ex-Catholic) will believe in anything...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Prayer: Heart of the Spiritual Life

The essence of the spiritual combat and the spiritual life: prayer to become holy. Excerpts:
...What do demons seek to arouse inside us?

Gluttony, prostitution, avarice, anger, resentfulness and all the other passions that fatten the mind so that it will be unable to pray properly;

because when irrational passions prevail, they do not allow the mind to move logically.

Do not think that you have acquired virtue if you have not previously struggled for it, even unto blood.

Because, according to the apostle Paul (Eph 6:11) we must resist sin to the death, with a fighting spirit and an irreproachable manner.

A bound person cannot run. Nor can the mind, which works like a slave for a certain passion, be able to offer a true prayer, because it is dragged around and wanders here and there on account of impassioned thoughts and cannot remain undisturbed.

You will not be able to pray clearly if you are preoccupied with material things and are agitated by incessant cares, because prayer implies riddance of every care.

If you wish to pray, you are in need of God, Who grants true prayer to whoever persists tirelessly in the struggle of prayer.

Nilus the Ascetic of Sinai (d. c.430): On Prayer, trans. Holy Monastery of the Paraklete Oropos, Attica (Greece)...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Executive Branch Can Order Assasinations of Citizens

How bizarre.  Excerpts:
American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions, according to officials.

There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House's National Security Council, several current and former officials said. Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.

The panel was behind the decision to add Awlaki, a U.S.-born militant preacher with alleged al Qaeda connections, to the target list. He was killed by a CIA drone strike in Yemen late last month.

The role of the president in ordering or ratifying a decision to target a citizen is fuzzy...

Current and former officials said that to the best of their knowledge, Awlaki, who the White House said was a key figure in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al Qaeda's Yemen-based affiliate, had been the only American put on a government list targeting people for capture or death due to their alleged involvement with militants...

The process involves "going through the National Security Council, then it eventually goes to the president...

Other officials said the role of the president in the process was murkier than what Ruppersberger described.

They said targeting recommendations are drawn up by a committee of mid-level National Security Council and agency officials. Their recommendations are then sent to the panel of NSC "principals," meaning Cabinet secretaries and intelligence unit chiefs, for approval. The panel of principals could have different memberships when considering different operational issues, they said...
This is ridiculous. The people deciding who to include on this list are an anonymous mix of administration officials who now have the power of life and death without trial over American citizens. Words fail me.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"We Are In A War" Said Kreeft

Another analysis of the culture by Peter Kreeft, philosophical popularizer extraordinaire.  Excerpts:
What is the problem?

The problem is to "fight the good fight".

Fight? What fight? Are we at war?

Yes, we are at war. And if you aren't aware of that yet, the most important task this chapter can do for you is to alert you to that fact.

The enemy is not people. The enemy is not humans, but dehumanization: the spectacular and unmistakable social, cultural, and above all moral decline and decay that our society has been suffering for decades.

A generation ago, the five most bothersome problems complained about in polled American high schools were:
  • disrespect for property
  • laziness; not doing homework
  • talking and not paying attention in class
  • throwing spitballs
  • leaving doors and windows open
Does this sound like another world? It is. The same poll was retaken a few years ago. The five leading problems in those same high schools now are:
  • fear of violent death; guns and knives in school
  • rape
  • drugs
  • abortion
  • getting pregnant
The streets are not safe. The schools are not safe. The society is not safe. Not safe physically and not safe morally...

What He Said

Bleah.  Why did the Occupy Wall Street protests get going?  Hint: it's not just the unions or the fringe.  Excerpts:
Ex-mortgage CEO sentenced to prison for $3B fraud

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The CEO of what had been one of the nation’s largest privately held mortgage lenders was sentenced Tuesday to more than three years in prison for his role in a $3 billion scheme that officials called one of the biggest corporate frauds in U.S. history.

The 40-month sentence for Paul R. Allen, 55, of Oakton, Va., is slightly less than the six-year term sought by federal prosecutors.


Homeless man gets 15 years for stealing $100

A homeless man robbed a Louisiana bank and took a $100 bill. After feeling remorseful, he surrendered to police the next day. The judge sentenced him to 15 years in prison.

Monday, October 10, 2011

How to Win the Culture War--By Peter Kreeft

Well worth reposting, though that article prompted one of the first posts on this blog.  Still timely--perhaps even more so than when he first wrote it.  Excerpts:
To win any war, the three most necessary things to know are: (1) that you are at war, (2) who your enemy is, and (3) what weapons or strategies can defeat him.

You cannot win a war (1) if you simply sew peace banners on a battlefield, (2) if you fight civil wars against your allies, or (3) if you use the wrong weapons.

Here is a three point checklist for the culture wars...

If you don’t know that our entire civilization is in crisis, I hope you had a nice vacation on the moon.

Many minds do seem moonstruck, however, blissfully unaware of the crisis—especially the “intellectuals,” who are supposed to be the most on top of current events. I was dumbfounded to read a cover article in Time devoted to the question: Why is everything getting better? Why is life so good today? Why does everybody feel so satisfied about the quality of life? Time never questioned the assumption, it just wondered why the music on the Titanic sounded so nice.

It turned out, on reading the article, that every single aspect of life that was mentioned, every single reason for life getting better, was economic. People are richer. End of discussion.

Perhaps Time is just Playboy with clothes on. For one kind of playboy, the world is one great big whorehouse. For another kind, it’s one great big piggy bank. For both, things are getting better and better.

There is a scientific refutation of the Pig Philosophy: the statistical fact that suicide, the most in-your-face index of unhappiness, is directly proportionate to wealth. The richer you are, the richer your family is, and the richer your country is, the more likely it is that you will find life so good that you will choose to blow your brains apart.

Suicide among pre-adults has increased 5000% since the “happy days” of the ’50s. If suicide, especially among the coming generation, is not an index of crisis, nothing is.

Night is falling. What Chuck Colson has labeled “a new Dark Ages” is looming. And its Brave New World proved to be only a Cowardly Old Dream. We can see this now, at the end of “the century of genocide” that was christened “the Christian century” at its birth...
Read the whole thing. Print it out, pass it around. Absolutely vital.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

No-Fault Divorce and the Family

A fascinating article.  A blast from the past, really, but it says a great deal about where we've been and where we're headed.  Excerpts:
...These cards and books point to an uncomfortable and generally unacknowledged fact: what contributes to a parent's happiness may detract from a child's happiness. All too often the adult quest for freedom, independence, and choice in family relationships conflicts with a child's developmental needs for stability, constancy, harmony, and permanence in family life. In short, family disruption creates a deep division between parents' interests and the interests of children...

...Sometimes the tables are completely turned. Children are called upon to invest in the emotional well-being of their parents. Indeed, this seems to be the larger message of many of the children's books on divorce and remarriage. Dinosaurs Divorce asks children to be sympathetic, understanding, respectful, and polite to confused, unhappy parents. The sacrifice comes from the children: "Be prepared to give up some things." In the world of divorcing dinosaurs, the children rather than the grown-ups are the exemplars of patience, restraint, and good sense...
Go read the whole (long) thing--extensive research on the family, the effects on children of the two-parent versus the single-parent versus the step-family. Fascinating, scary, and indicative of why we are where we are.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cookie Awesomeness

Definitely going to try this.  Other coolness follows in the comments.  Excerpts:
The dream of enjoying cookies and milk—or cookies and ice cream—at the same time is real, and all you need to do it is cookie dough and a muffin tin. Flip the muffin tin over, form the cookie dough around the cups instead of inside it, and bake the tin upside down. When the dough is cooked through, you'll have cookie cups, ready for any delicious filling...

Another Financial Crisis Roundup

Some rather odd stories floating around the net these days.

From Italy, we get Maurizio D'Orlando commenting on the downgrades of European nations, the troubles with Greece, and what he calls "a controlled demolition" of the global economy.  He sounds rather strongly pro-Berlusconi and defensive about the Italian economy, but I'm not that familiar with the Italian situation--anyone with more knowledge able to comment?

From Britain, we get one of the strangest, most inflammatory interviews with an independent trader imaginable.  That guy has no PR chops in evidence in this clip.  Further information on his background.
Meanwhile, the British are not being understated about the severity of the current bout of crisis. Excerpts:
...Sir Mervyn King, the Bank's governor, said "this is the most serious financial crisis at least since the 1930s, if not ever". He later told Sky News that global economic prospects had deteriorated over the previous three months. He declined to rule out even more gilts purchases in the months ahead. Economists predict that the latest round will be only one of several...
Former President Bill Clinton offers his set of recommendations for getting us out of the crisis.

And, from last year, the BBC on the Greek problem:
The man who appears to be the lead spokesman for the Euroskeptic movement at the heart of the European project speaks, declaring the upcoming "end of the Euro" many months ago.
No idea how accurate the man's criticisms are, but in light of the current situation, it seems quite relevant.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Death Sentence for Apostasy Reveals "Nuances?"

Cause being sentenced to death for converting to Christianity is the sort of post-modern experience that really challenges one's dominant narrative, right?  We go from the whole "I'm alive" paradigm to "Ah, the lights just went out, and...oh, look, the Pearly Gates!"

Nuanced.  Feh--it's a bad piece.  Excerpts:
The possible hanging of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani for converting from Islam to Christianity has exposed a division among Islamic jurists on whether Iran would be violating Islamic law by carrying out the execution...

According to some of these scholars, the Quran not only outlaws the death penalty for the charge of apostasy, but under Sharia law, conversion from Islam is not a punishable offense at all.

"Instead, it says on a number of occasions that God prefers and even demands that people believe in Him, but that He will handle rejection of such belief by punishing them in the afterworld," wrote Intisar Rabb, an assistant professor of law at Boston College and a faculty affiliate in research at Harvard Law School, in an e-mail to CNN.

But Rabb also acknowledges that there is a more nuanced view to Islamic law, too...
Note the academic jujitsu here--the blunt, simplistic interpretation is that Islamic law doesn't prescribe the death penalty for apostasy. It's only when you pull out the microscope to examine the nuances and subtleties that suddenly a death penalty appears. So someone has got to really dissect this thing in order for it to read "Delete, delete, delete..."
"The problem in the modern period is that contemporary states apply medieval rules in unreflective ways that do not often match the classical Islamic legal tradition to which they are trying to adhere," wrote Rabb.
So--hang on a minute. It's only those people who adhere to medieval law in unreflective ways who decipher an obligation to execute in sharia? But I thought only those highly nuanced thinkers who subtly dissect Islamic law in order to discern an obscure call for the death penalty ever demanded death for apostasy?
"One of them would be to say traditionally in Shiite Islam, people have interpreted the scripture for apostates to be put to death," Lombardi said.
Of course. Sunnis don't do that sort of thing. Ever.
"The reality is the 13 scholars on our sites could give you a variety of different responses," Bhatti said. Islamic law has a "rich legal tradition and it is important for us to not convey something definitive or to suggest there is one answer."

The overriding opinion of each scholar was simple - the complication of Islamic law makes it somewhat difficult to predict what Iran will do...
Ah.  The answer is simple--it's complicated.  Lovely.  If the law is that unpredictable, is it really capable of being just?

Lombardi recalled a story in Afghanistan, where a man's neighbors hauled him to court for leaving Islam.

"The judge takes a look and says this person is an apostate and therefore the crime should be putting them to death," Lombardi said. "But then the judge said, Islam is such great religion, you could have to be crazy to have to convert from Islam. And therefore, I think this person should get off on ground of insanity."

Moral of the story, according to Lombardi: "There are all sorts of grounds for pardoning someone..."
But you can only pardon someone if they are actually guilty of a crime, right? So even though this is a real part of the law, we can find all sorts of reasons for ignoring it, right?

Angels Save Lives

So talk to yours!  Excerpts:
...My Dad said as they came over the brow of the hill they saw in the distance another car coming at high speed directly in the oncoming direction. The country lane was only wide enough for one car. There were steep banks on either side, and they knew that as they went down into the dip the oncoming driver would not be able to see them.

There was no place to turn. There was no space to get over to let him pass...
Make sure to check out the comments for other cool stories--including one where someone saw their angel!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Religion is Like Baseball

An excellently made point.  Excerpts:
...I realize personal belief is a touchy subject for journalists, but in the religion beat it’s been a tremendous asset to my reporting. It’s an imperfect comparison, but if you grew up rooting for the Chicago Cubs you’re going to be a better baseball reporter than someone who’s never been to a game. That’s not to say I think active membership in a religious group is a prerequisite for the beat, but an ex-Cubs fan still knows the game even if she doesn’t follow the team anymore...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

This One's For You, Father Michael Moynahan, SJ

Conversion as Christian Spirituality.  Excerpts:
...Haters come and go, zealots (who are always dangerous, no matter what side they’re on) come and go, but Christ remains, for Christ is Eternal. And Christ changes things. That has been true for 2000 years. The reality of Christ, experienced, changes us. I am not talking about churches, or about gatherings or fellowships – you can come up “in the church” and never have the experience of knowing Christ. You can go for 60 or 70 years with nothing but a vague hunch and a sense that something about church feels alright to you (or, that it doesn’t, but church is what everyone does, so…)

But there is a moment in most lives – in all lives, I believe, when Christ knocks and you let open the door, (what we call in our family the “milk-and-honey moment”). It is not a lucky moment, truth be told. It often occurs when you are in the dregs of despair – sometimes it takes despair for us thick-necked creatures to finally look up and say, “yeah, I really am making a balls of it, over here…”

That Milk and Honey moment, it changes us. It turns a ne-er do well drunk into the sort of man who can be a president able to withstand a mountain of worldwide abuse and maintain his composure. It turns a political conspirator into a prison chaplain. It saves a wretch like me...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

All You Need Is Love

Whose name is Jesus, and Holy Spirit, and Father God.  Excerpts:
...Some say the wide dissemination and easy-acceptance of heresy and re-written history portends tough times for the church – ridicule, hatred, suppression, discrimination, even (paranoia alert) outlawing. I am not worried. If fifty years from now Catholics are once again hiding priests and holding Holy Mass underground, if Christians are using signals to direct others to worship, it will not surprise me. But the church is always at its most fervent and alive when it is under siege. It gains strength from the blood of martyrs and “there will always be a remnant.” What was it St. Peter wrote, in his gorgeous first epistle: “There is time for rejoicing, here, although for a little while you may have to endure trials…”

Really, all of this comes with the job.

The job of the Christian is to hold fast in the face of chaos and recall that Christ is more powerful than any man or media, and that darkness does not overcome light. To be honest, all the fretting from us Christians is a bit unseemly. If we are secure in what we believe, a cartoon does not take us down, no matter how perverse and offensive, because Christ is alive, and Grace abounds, and because just as an Abbess or Abbot is entitled to use whatever resources his or her community contains to advance the stability of the abbey, the Holy Spirit has a way of confounding us by using what is out there in the world – sometimes very surprising things and people – to do the will of the One...

How to Permanently Receive the Holy Spirit

According to St. Francis of Assisi.  Excerpts:
One acquires the Holy Spirit, says holy Francis, not by techniques but by simple consistency in penance, prayer, alms, purity, and charity. Such persons will gain the Holy Spirit "permanently." Is this not that for which we long? Here are Saint Francis' words on the subject...

Happy Feast of St. Francis!

Euro Gone By End of 2011?

Links in the original.  Excerpts:

...the French now realize that an increase in the EFSF would put pressure on their credit rating, which would not be a good thing, given all the derivative exposure of the French banks. (And, by extension, all banks in Europe, which collectively need to roll something on the order of $5 trillion in short-term debt in the next two years, according to financial commentator John Mauldin.)...

(As an aside, an extremely knowledgeable and well-placed friend of mine on Wall Street shared his view that the scope of the problem in Europe is probably $1 trillion, which he thinks is just too much for the Germans to afford, or for the PIIGS nations to endure through austerity. Thus, he believes that the flawed experiment called the euro is going to come to an end in the not-too-distant future.)...

...In short, he believes that "in its current form," the EMU's days are numbered, to the tune of the end of 2011. What that means for investors (particularly European ones) is that, "when it comes to EMU . . . trade as you like, but run like hell . . . . I think there is a growing risk the guardians of EMU do something to our financial system that could be worse than anything we experienced in 2008..."

...I believe the U.S. banking system is far more sound than it was in 2008; thus, to the extent financial problems occur here, they will be as consequences of what is happening in Europe. Still, we cannot forget that the real-estate market is weakening again, and we have no idea how those kind of assets are marked inside the U.S. financial system...

Monday, October 3, 2011

"Greece is Bankrupt"

According to European investors and German politicians.  Excerpts:
..."Greece is bankrupt," said Michael Fuchs, a deputy parliamentary floor leader in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, reflecting a growing mood in Berlin.

"Probably there is no other way for us other than to accept at least a 50 percent forgiveness of its debts," Fuchs told the Rheinische Post newspaper...

Uncertainty over the extent of damage to the already fragile European banking sector from a possible Greek default has been driving investors to take refuge in safer assets.

Yields on Spanish and Italian government bonds rose and the cost of insuring their debt against default spiked on the news from Greece, while money poured into safe-haven German Bunds. The euro fell to an eight-month low in Asia.

"The markets continue to conclude that a default for Greece is an inevitability and a question of when rather than if," said Nick Stamenkovic, strategist at RIA Capital Markets...

Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said Europe faced a triple challenge of "stalling growth, stressed sovereigns and still vulnerable banks...

Officials expect the next aid tranche will be paid, because the euro zone will not be ready to cope with the fallout of a Greek default until its bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), gets its new powers of market intervention ratified in the next two weeks.

Even then, however, while the 440 billion euro fund will be able to buy government bonds from the market, recapitalize banks and extend precautionary credit to sovereigns, it may not have enough cash to cope with all the financing needs...

When the World Hates Us

Don't be furious.  Be at peace.  Excerpts:
...Pray for those who hate us. There is power there. And don’t be afraid of a “what if.” Bad times might come. So, what? “If in all things thou seeketh Jesus, doubtless thou shall find him.” (St. Theresa of Avila) and “All things are alive in the sight of their King” (Avila, again). Christians are joint-heirs with the Chosen people – it makes perfect sense that we might taste some of the sting and poison the world keeps offering His people, Israel. There is nothing to fear, here. Changing situations in the world are nothing in the face of the Unchanging.

This is why sometimes stillness and silence and even retreat is so important. If we Christians do not occasionally step out of the whirlwind, if we do not remove ourselves from the day-in, day-out noise and craziness of the world and everything, and everyone, in it…we tend to get caught up, to forget that half of what is assailing our senses is strictly illusory and the other half is only semi-important. We start hyper-ventilating about every insult, we start wringing our hands about conspiracies. All of which flies in the face of faith, and grace and trust.

Don’t get distracted. Don’t get over-involved in the whirl, and leave the wind to the Holy Spirit. There are angels and demons in the whirlwind; let ‘em battle it out. Observation is valuable; so is reflection. Most vaulable of all is prayer and contemplation and communion...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

War With the World, the Flesh, the Devil

The Anchoress on how it should be done.  Excerpts:
...Well, combating the world “as it is” requires us to teach and admonish, not with the tactics of the world, but “in wisdom made holy” through the love of Christ. If we do that correctly we will — like the early Christians — attract others, and thus assist the Holy Spirit in the turning of the world toward the light.

If we do it incorrectly, we will only repel those who are perhaps in the greatest need to come to know the love of Christ and his salvation. And then we will have to deal with a turned-off, tuned-out world whose heels are stubbornly dug-in to the darkness.

Worse, we will have to answer to Christ as to why we trusted the worldly way of confrontation — the way of anger and distrust and scored points and power — over His way, and the way of His saints, the way of patience, humility and love.

Bl. Pope John Paul II famously said that we Catholics must look at the world clearly and see it “as it is” before we can help to form it into something more perfect-in-Christ.

To do that, we to pray, certainly, and we need more than prayer, but we are not sure what that might be...
A few great models for thia: G. K. Chesterton, St. Philip Neri, and C. S. Lewis.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Grace, Quiet in the Soul

More from the Anchoress, living up to her bloghandle. Excerpt:
...It is into the chasm between our imperfect and limited understanding and God’s infinite Knowing that we sometimes must simply trust that — even though we do not understand — the the Holy Spirit is on the move. The same Holy Spirit who so often confounds us by saving the “unlikeliest” of people, or reaching into and turning a heart in ways our understanding (and our attachment to letters-of-law) cannot quite get. We dislike it when a politician committed to a pro-abortion platform publicly receives Holy Communion but we have no idea how Christ, in Flesh and Blood, may be working on that person. We know the law; we know what we think. But we cannot know what is happening, supernaturally, within that exchange — in the power of that absolute, darkness-overcoming-Light received in that Communion, or its effects over time on a soul with whom God is not finished.

As he was is not finished with any of us.

In that chasm of unknowing is where the miracles happen. And knowing that should cue us toward humility for all we do not know, no matter how much we do...


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