Friday, March 14, 2008

Holy, Holy, Holy

When I take a break from my regular job and my schoolwork, I have been reading up on the saga of the Holy Grail. While that’s interesting, what struck me about it was how different we are today from Medeival times. In some ways that is good, but not in all things. No more quests, no belief in the numinous, no confidence in Chivalry or Honor, no sense of the Holy. You may smile to hear that people took comfort in the physical presence of relics, that they believed such things were signals of the will and pleasure of God, that people considered Man’s place below God’s will and that we pursue the holy not as a duty or a choice but because it changes us in ways that no other force could, but the man who lives without such beliefs is the poorer for that choice. The reality and presence of the holy is of an order of Reality beyond our comprehension, and is the essence of both fear and hope.

Non-Christians frequently charge that if Christianity were all it claims, there should be clear evidence of a different way of life among Christians. They’re right, it’s the fruit of our faith that we should live in love and hope, not acting as we did when our souls were dead in sin. Yet it must also be remembered that we still live in the carnal world, that our journey to the Kingdom of Heaven is through the wasteland of human hubris, and we are not truly home until we are perfected through Christ’s holiness. And so it is true not merely that we are granted visions of holiness as beacons to guide us in our lives, but also as spiritual sustenance; just as we partake of Communion in remembrance of Christ, so God sends us images of the holy to remind us of our identity and sustain our soul in spiritual communication.

I fear sometimes that we lose sight of the holy. As the Church finds more and more enemies, it has a harder time pointing out the holy to those who seek it, and as the world focuses more on more with personal pleasures and immediate gratification, the things of the next world are far too easily missed. We see the surface effect, not the cause, and we discard greatness because it is inconvenient. We see suffering as something to avoid, and miss the character of bearing hardship. We do no penance, because we assume we are in no need of rebuilding in our soul. We trust our own clever wit, and forget the deeper wisdom of our Maker. We call the Humane the highest ideal, and so pass by the road which leads to something greater than the human condition.

We should remember to seek that which is holy, and to be humble in our place.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Privileged Class

One of the mostly untouched subjects in debates between Conservatives and Liberals, is a direct discussion about Class Warfare. On the one hand, it is patently obvious that Liberals believe that Society is divided into various cultural and economic strata, which they blame for a number of perceived injustices. On the other hand, Liberals refuse to test many of their assumptions, as indeed is a problem for Conservatives as well. Today, I would like to explore the hypothesis of the privileged class.

The basic assumption among Liberals is that there are certain Americans who, to put it simply, have things too good. They are rich and powerful and are never called upon to “sacrifice”, which in the Liberal Lexicon means to voluntarily suffer in order to advance some ideal. Thus, tax cuts are demonized as being solely or mostly for “the rich”, even though in actual fact the income tax cuts of the past generation have more often helped lower-income Americans as a percentage effect of their income. Corporations are evil by simple definition of having power to accomplish anything, and anyone who supports the War in Iraq without having personally served in that conflict or suffered the loss of a loved one is somehow disqualified from being able to voice an opinion. The list is by definition never complete, as any targeted enemy can and will be designated as rich or elite, or otherwise marginalized to discredit their position or identity. Conservatives do the same thing, but not to the same degree. Leading Liberals can expect to be stereotyped by their opponents, although Conservatives tend to focus on the argument more than the person.

What’s odd about the Liberal perspective, is what happens when a prominent Liberal happens to have money or power. In their case, some sort of exemption is granted by the Left. John Kerry is the epitome of the empty-suit aristocrat, yet he was tapped to be the Democrats’ candidate for President in 2004. Kerry followed Al Gore, who made millions for himself shilling snakeoil remedies for the ficticitious but trendy Global Warming scare. And no one familiar with Liberal politics can forget the influence and long-time control by the Kennedy empire.

I think the Liberal notion actually started with good intentions. That is, that people who find themselves blessed with financial or positional advantage should be mindful that they have a duty to those less fortunate, a moral obligation to consider the general welfare in addition to their own well-being. Any experienced businessman can tell you that’s smart economics too, as goodwill by a corporation goes a long way and tends to be reciprocated. Besides, who doesn’t enjoy having a reputation as a good citizen?

Where the Liberals went wrong, though, was when they decided that selective morality should be coerced at times, that it was appropriate to deny rights to certain people because of their politics or personal choices. The Liberals also went wrong in deciding to apply charity through government. In addition to the horrid inefficiencies in having government disburse assistance, there is the moral offense of punishing success in business through “progressive” taxation, and the effective elimination of virtue in the assistance; the good comes from the compassion and the voluntary decision to help – it is quite a false claim to tell someone that money they lost against their will was well used, simply because the people who took it by force like what they did with it. By my lights it’s also well outside the boundaries of government authority granted by the United States Constitution, the idea that government should compel you to give money to someone else simply because they have less than you do.

I would also suggest that both parties have a real disconnect with regular Americans. Sure, there has always been a part of the public who would allow themselves to be outraged that a few people enjoyed great success from their own hard work and ingenuity. But more and more, people come to respect that a lot of the rich earn their money and take risks to do it, while members of the House and Senate seem to enjoy a lot of perks, privileges, and money from nowhere that smells an awful lot like graft. The legality of how they got their hoards is frankly beside the point, when the people grabbing the money are in position to make the laws to protect their self-interest. The question about whether or not Roger Clemens used HGH or whether oil companies make “too much money” is a rank hypocritical pose, when the Senators hide how they line their own pockets and fund their futures for when they are out of office. Fewer and fewer Americans see their Congressmen or Senators as defenders of their interests, when so many Senators and Congressmen have biographies that reveal almost no real-world experience. They don’t worry about Social Security, for example. They don’t have to pay for health insurance. They usually send their kids to private schools, and in many cases they don’t know what rush hour traffic is like, or what it means to buy their own groceries or school supplies, or mail their own letters or even do their own taxes. For the most significant routine activities of life, the people who make our laws have no effective understanding of our world. If there is a privileged class in America, it’s the politicians in Washington D.C.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Vatican and God

Here we go again. This week, the Vatican released a list of “new sins” for us to worry about. OK sure, being greedy and not caring about the harm you do to the environment is something I think should be criticized, but the schtick falls flat when you try to sell it as a “new” kind of sin. For one thing, it implies that it was – what – alright I guess to be greedy and dirty in the past? I don’t think so. Greed has always been out of bounds, remember Jesus’ admonition about how difficult it is for a rich man to enter Heaven? And He also covered pollution in that ‘what you do to the least of these, you also do to Me’ warning. What’s wrong now, has always been wrong.

But it also runs into a question of just why the Vatican thinks it has the mojo to be telling us what is and is not a sin. The Bible already lays it out pretty well, and I am one of those people who believes the Bible is how God laid down the Law. So the Vatican seems to be saying that God “missed” some sins? Or worse, that the Pope and his Posse are in a position to, what “correct” God? That kind of arrogance makes me even more of a Protestant. Sure, there are a bunch of Protestant ‘ministers’ whose egos are swollen bigger than counties, and there are a whole lot of people in all faiths and denominations who wrongly believe they have the right to order folks around like they own them, but even the worst Protestant minister stops short of presuming that he outranks God. I have to say that hearing the Vatican tossing out new standards of morality makes me wonder if the Roman Catholic Church is still just a bit tiffed by its loss of Temporal power a while back?

Well, to be fair the whole world of Religion seems to be pushing to grab power and influence. We had the whole Moral Majority thing back in the Reagan years, which lost of lot of its appeal when it began to look less like an appeal to reform government and more a ploy to pass laws which gave that group an advantage. The Muslims and the Mormons have done a lot over the years to gain political advantage as well, seeing no conflict of interest in using faith resources for material gain. Countless politicians make it a point to be seen on TV going into church, making nice with ministers and occasionally standing behind a pulpit. And even the quasi-religious types play that game, as Buddhists and Scientologists work hard to spin public opinion to their gain. It’s not as if the Catholics are the only group who have become rather obsessed with earthly power and influence.

But the Roman Catholic Church, fair or not, has the burden of a higher standard. The RCC has enjoyed power and influence for so long, that in most minds the Vatican speaks as the representative of Christ, and as such it should be, hmm, immaculate in its contemplation. This week’s bluster falls well short.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bloggers As a Demographic

John Hawkins re-ran an article on why Bloggers do not succeed. Like his other work, it was an interesting article and thought-provoking.

I do not, however, completely agree with it.

Here’s the thing. I write on two blogs, as part of a team at Wizbang!, which opportunity I greatly appreciate, and I also write on my personal blog, Stolen Thunder.

I also have a ‘real world’ life, which involves my family, my full-time job, my pursuit of my MBA and CPA, my cancer treatment, and repairing the damage done by my well-meaning but rowdy canines, pretty much in that order. As much as I’d like to become some internationally famous luminary with a huge expense account and the adoration of Right-leaning blogophiles everywhere, it’s not a big blip on my radar, largely because of something I heard years ago.

I remembered a story about a young man who was frustrated as a musician, because he really wanted to be famous and rich, yet he knew that was somehow off the mark. His father asked him if he loved music, and the young man said he did.

“So do what you love”, suggested his dad, “and don’t try to be famous or rich. Be a musician.”

It’s sort of the same thing with blogging. I like feeling appreciated as much as anyone, but I blog because I think I can add to the conversation, and sometimes just to say my peace. I blog when and how I see fit, and yes that means I don’t often pull in a huge crowd, but – eh – I never wanted to be a star, not really. I like conversation better than trying to make folks think I’m the next Christopher Hitchens or quote me from every post. And the people I read, they tend to be normal folks who have good arguments, an interesting way of writing, or whose work is important to me. Of course, I read the big guns, Michael Yon and Bill Roggio, and I have never posted anything near as significant as their work. But I flatter myself that I can tell a good story every so often, that my insights about various things are worth the time it takes to read ‘em. Nobody makes you do that, after all – if my stuff is dreck, just pass me by the way I do the NYT or the LAT. But I think a lot of us bloggers are not worried about punching up big numbers, or trying to impress anyone. We’re bloggers because we’re bloggers.