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Friday, March 24, 2006

Quote of the Day
If you believe everything you read in Maureen Dowd, you better get a life."--Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, press conference, March 23

St. Paul City Office Boots Easter Bunny
A small Easter display was removed from the [Saint Paul, Minnesota] City Hall lobby on Wednesday out of concern that it would offend non-Christians.

The display - a cloth Easter bunny, pastel-colored eggs and a sign with the words "Happy Easter'' - was put up by a City Council secretary. They were not purchased with city money.
If this is offensive to non-Christians, are there any plans to rename the city? Who do they think Saint Paul is?
It's not the first time a holiday symbol has been removed from City Hall. In 2001, red poinsettias were briefly banned from a holiday display because they were associated with Christmas.
How can you have a holiday display in December without including Christmas? That's not being sensitive; that's lunacy.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Jeff the Baptist: The Religious Left
But beyond that I just feel sorry for the left. When you're understanding of Christianity is so poor that the best religious rhetoric you can come up with is "Jesus would oppose this immigration law", all I can feel is pity. You don't get it and you obviously don't realize it or you wouldn't be saying things like that in public. There are so many things you could use good (if, in my opinion, flawed) "Love your neighbor" and "Honor your Parents" rhetoric on, but instead Hillary picks illegal immigration? What the hell?
In addition to Jeff's point about the Left's misunderstanding of Christianty in the political realm, I wanted to add this point: Christianity calls us to treat all people are our brothers and that we are their keeper. (Think Cain and Abel...) The liberal solution to just about every problem is a new law or program. Make it someone else's problem; take money from someone else's pocket, start a government program and make the problem disappear from their daily lives. There's no sense of personal responsibility for the less fortunate; it's all about passing responsibility to the government. We don't need to care for our parents any more when they get old; the government gives them money.

Aside from a individual's failure to get involved on a personal level, there's another problem with government programs: they ignore (at least in our current society) the fact that we humans have a spiritual side. Current legal opinions misinterpreting the 1st Amendment prevent any effort on the part of the government to deal with the spiritual realm, which is the what really matters. (It's why Alcoholics Anonymous has a better success rate than the Betty Ford clinic: they acknowledge and care for the spiritual side of the person to give them true healing.)

Too many Christian liberals have unknowingly fallen into sharing thought with secular liberals and wind up only looking at this world while forgetting about the next. (Could you tell the difference between a speech by a liberal Episcopalian minister and your typical atheist liberal? Not really.)

You see, one of the problems with government programs is that people start to view them as what the government calls them: entitlements. Something they're owed. Something they have a right to. (As Grandpa Simpson once said about a government check: "I didn't earn it; I don't need it; but if they miss one payment, I'll raise HELL!!") When a private person or charity helps someone, there's a better understanding that this is charity and therefore may be taken away. So people aren't as likely to demand charity; they don't get as selfish about it.
Also, assistance from the government can be seen just as people doing their job, spending money forcibly taken from another. Assistance from a private charity is from someone who took a below-market salary spending money someone freely gave; there's two levels of caring there, compared to none from the government. Plus, a private charity can spiritually feed the aid recipient and help them find spiritual healing.

Now, none of this is meant to deny the government any role in charitable assistance, but making them the first resort is not the best policy for either taxpayers or those receiving aid. Let's aid the whole person, rather than just looking at their wallet.

Random Pop Culture Quote
Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor: What do you mean, "biblical"?
Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath-of-God type stuff.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.
Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling.
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes...
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria.

The Blog | Greg Gutfeld: BY POPULAR DEMAND: AMERICA SUCKS! | The Huffington Post
I don't often read the HuffPost, but this was funny. Some highlights:
If only our culture was as inferior as those of other countries, we could fly planes into their buildings.

Not executing homosexuals or adulturers makes us a laughing stock in Islamic countries.

If we truly were a corrupt corporate pawn, we would have gotten oil for blood.

The relentless stress of tenure is causing scholars across the nation to crack under pressure.

Churchgoers continue to attend mass despite the added folk guitar.

Winning the Cold War means George Clooney can tell us how meaningless the Cold War was.

No large-scale rioting occured after the New Orleans disaster. There's clearly not enough factional violence to undermine this whole melting pot thing.

Our constitution is simply too lenient and doesn't allow for beheadings.

Abu Ghraib proves our military is totally okay with encouraging gay lifestyles.

Unending series of medical and pharmaceutical breakthroughs by private research undermines population control.

We will probably solve global warming before anybody else, then use the solution to make more money.

Native Americans getting rich off casinos instead of staying dirt-poor does nothing to prove how bad colonialism was.

Democracy still an untested theory! 230 years not nearly long enough trial period to truly know if it's safe for general use.

delawareonline | The News Journal | 302 area code called 7th smartest in U.S.
Wilmington is one of the Top 10 “smartest” area codes in the U.S., according to new Trivial Pursuit mobile game today.

The First State’s biggest city, with an area code of 302, ranks 7th on the list, behind megopolises Los Angeles, New York, Washington, Houston, Boston and Oakland. Philadelphia and Baltimore, the nearest cities of size, aren’t ranked.
Take that, Philly!

The Ox Files
A Catholic humor blog I read from time to time. It's been added to my blogroll.

Some of the better posts:
An Enigma machine to translate what dissenters say and what they really mean
New Bishops appointed by the Pope (including Chewbacca and John McLean)
Catholic teachings for Dummies

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Quote of the Day
"Many opponents of the Iraq war both in the US and Europe have felt a not-so-secret sense of schadenfreude at the developing chaos in Iraq. While many might intellectually support the emergence of a stable, democratic, pro-western government in Baghdad, 'success' in this matter would be seen as a vindication of all of the baggage that the Bush administration loaded on to this project, including its unilateralism, use of force and incompetent execution of the war's aftermath... But people should be careful what they wish for. A [US] domestic nationalist backlash against the policies that led to the war is brewing, with implications for how the US will deal with Europe and the rest of the world down the road. Like it or not, American power and involvement are necessary to the proper functioning of world order, and the kind of role that a post-Iraq United States may play is very much up for grabs" -- Francis Fukuyama, writing in Britain's Guardian newspaper, with a warning for Europeans eager for a U. S. failure in Iraq

"Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" —Patrick Henry

"Never undertake anything for which you wouldn't have the courage to ask the blessing of heaven." —G. C. Lichtenberg

"[W]e don't have deficits because people are taxed too little. We have deficits because big government spends too much." —Ronald Reagan

"After order and liberty, economy is one of the highest essentials of a free government." —Calvin Coolidge

"We have got but one life here. It pays, no matter what comes after it, to try and do things, to accomplish things in this life and not merely to have a soft and pleasant time." —Theodore Roosevelt

"[L]obbyists are not the main problem. After all, they don't get to vote on the legislation. The main problem is lawmakers passing bills they haven't read, and pretending they don't know about the pork that gets slipped in when they pretend they're not looking." —Paul Jacob

"Enough generations of socialist policies have now passed for us to judge their effects. They are bleak. Socialism undermines the character of a nation and of its citizens. In simpler words, socialism makes people worse." —Dennis Prager

"If blacks come to embrace triumph, rather than grievance, the wound to liberal Democrats would be mortal. It wouldn't take much of a desertion of the black vote to make Democrat hopes of recapturing Washington a permanent pipe dream." —Walter Williams

David Letterman: "Top Reasons Dick Cheney Won't Resign": Turns out when you shoot somebody, if you're not vice president, you gotta do time; Bush leaves at two every day and then it's margaritas and Fritos; Set the solitaire high score on his office computer; Wants to see if he can help Bush get his approval rating under ten; Too hard to give up Vice Presidential Discount at DC area Sam Goody stores; Extra-zappy White House defibrillators; Undisclosed location has foosball; Why quit when things are going so well?

Today is the 186th anniversary of the duel between Commodores Stephen Decatur and James Barron.

Decatur, who was killed, was the author of the now-famous aphorism, "Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country right or wrong."
This aphorism would be a good one for many in our country to remember; it seems to happen more on the Left right now. Ever since Bush was elected in 2000, there seems to have been a rise in anti-Americanism on the political left, and this is to the detriment of our country and to the discredit of the Left. Jay Nordlinger on NationalReview.com was collecting stories for a while that showed the anti-American insanity that exists on the Left, especially during 2004. (One example that stuck with me was a condo owner who wanted to put up an American flag. A neighbor of his complained because that was a political statement in favor of the re-election of Bush. That's just nuts.)

It's one thing to hate the President; it's completely wrong to extend that hatred to our country. Conservatives weren't exactly spotless in expressing their distaste for our nation's President during the 90s, but we never extended that distaste to our nation. Conservatives still loved America.

And that's as it should be. We should always support our country. An example of this is our current war in Iraq. There seem to be many Americans rooting against our nation in this war. (To make things more amusing, they often claim to support our troops. You can't root for a nation to lose a war and support its troops; nations lose wars when too many of their soldiers die. Those who hope America loses this war but claim to support the troops either don't realize the implications of their views or are liars.) It would cause America harm to lose this war: lives would be lost; our international prestige would decline; our enemies, both foreign and domestic, would be emboldened. If someone truly loves America, they know we need to win this war and will support us in so doing. They may legitimately disagree with the means we are using to win it, but they have to agree on our need to win it.

More information on Stephen Decatur.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Mass Readings - March 21, 2006
I went to Mass this morning, as I'm trying to do every day during Lent. The priest gave a rather lengthy homily on today's Gospel, which can be frustrating when you have to get to work. Fortunately, it was a very good homily. Today's reading was the story of the wicked servant who after being forgiven a large debt refuses to the same for another servant who owed him a much smaller amount. (Mt 18:21-35)The priest tied in Confession, the need to forgive others and Purgatory.

Confession gives us a chance to pay back our debts to God before we die. (In this context, our debts are our sins, which we "owe" penance to God over.) The master in the parable stands in for God who is ready to forgive each of us our debts if we are truly repentant. However, upon hearing how the servant treated the other servant who owed him the money, Christ tells us
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”
Christ is teling us it's not enough for us to ask forgiveness of God; we must also show the same forgiveness to others that we seek from God. (This was such an important message, He put it in the Our Father: "Forgive us our trespases, as we forgive those who trespass against us.") If we want mercy from God, we must show mercy ourselves.

It's often claimed that the word Purgatory never appears in the Bible, so the doctrine cannot be held by Christians. There are many doctrines Christians believe that aren't explicitly mentioned in the Bible, but are true nonetheless. (The Trinity, the Incarnation, etc.) Here is one instance where Christ obliquely mentions Purgatory. The wicked servant is handed over to torturers until the debt is paid. This can't be describing Heaven; there's no torture in Heaven. This can't be describing Hell; there's no escape from Hell. This is referring to Purgatory: where we suffer until we are purified enough to go to Heaven. (A book I was reading a summary of says Purgatory is just like Hell in the suffering we'll undergo, but there's also joy because we'll know Heaven is near.) C.S. Lewis in The Great Divorce described Purgatory as a place where we are given the choice to leave behind our earthly attachments in order to get into Heaven, but many fail to do so, so attached are they.

Howver, saints who have been allowed to visit Purgatory describe it as a place of great suffering and fire. (Faustina Kowalska is one of these in Divine Mercy in My Soul.)An analogy that's always worked for me (and to the best of my knowledge I made up, but I could ahve read it somewhere and forgotten) is: Purgatory is like a sandy beach covered with broken glass that we must walk across in order to reach Heaven; we can see it and can do it if we want to, but we have to really want it.

You see, God never forces us to do anything, even after death. We can reject Him all we want on earth and He'll let us; but the complete rejection of him leads to Hell after our death. Upon our death, if we aren't deserving of Hell, but aren't pure enough for the perfection of Heaven and the unity of God we'll achieve there, we just be purified in some way. But God doesn't want, even after our death, to impose His Will on us; we still avhe to freely choose Him. So Purgatory is our final opportunity to remove our Earthly ties and learn to live solely for Him.

Purgatory is not additional punishment; it's our safety valve. Few (if any) among us truly deserve Heaven immediately upon our death. So, God gives us the opportunity to work to get to a state where we do. It's still our choice, we can get there as quickly or as slowly as want. (Why I like the glassy beach analogy.) It's our chance to tuly deserve Heaven; without it few, if any, of us would make it. It's just another sign of how much God loves us and wants us to spend eternity with him.

CNN.com - Tom Cruise vs. 'South Park'? - Mar 20, 2006
I'm loving the South Park guys right now. I think they do cross the line fairly frequently, but they do frequently burst bubbles that need to be. I'm glad that someone has the courage to call Scientology what it is: a fraud. Here's at least part of their statement on this current controversy:
So, Scientology, you have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for Earth has just begun.

"Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies. Curses and drat! You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail! Hail Xenu!!!
If anyone knows where I can find the whole statement, I'd love to read it.

Monday, March 20, 2006

I think Confession is a misunderstood sacrament. Yeah, it's an obligation we have to go through when we sin (especially mortally) and all Catholics are required to go at least annually. (Although many don't; I didn't go for almost a decade at one point.) But it shouldn't be viewed as an obligation or a chore, but rather as a great opportunity to restore ourselves to God's grace by atoning for our sins and receive grace to avoid future ones.

When I first returned to Confession after that approximately 10 year absence, it was hard for me to go through. Opening up like that to someone I didn't know. (Although that was a lot easier than opening up to someone I did.) Fortunately, probably through God's direction, I found a great priest to confess to, who has now become my Spiritual Director who wasn't judgmental or angry with me, but welcomed me back and (at least pretended well) to be glad I had come back even with everything I had done in the meantime. After making my confession and performing my penance, I felt a sense of peace like I had never felt before come over me. I could really feel God's grace and love come over me. (As for why we must confess to a priest rather than just pray to God for forgiveness: here's my logic: 1) We sin against God, but also against the Church of Christ so we must make amends to Her as well. 2) The Church is the administrator of the sacraments, why should this one be any different? 3) Actually telling someone what we've done wrong is probably part of the penance. 4) Naming our sins helps us confront them and deal with them.)

That sense of peace was something I wanted to feel more, so I continued going to Confession. And here's the thing: I also began to experience after receiving Eucharist, which I never had before. I really experienced Christ's presence under the bread and wine for the first time.

I had a bad week last week for a variety of reasons. I was feeling down, on edge, and just kind of angry all the time. I went to Confession Saturday morning. (I try to go weekly.) I didn't realize it right away, but later that day I realized ever since I had gone to Confession I was feeling better: happier, calm and at peace. And not at all prone to the short-temperedness that might have led me to commit further sins.

We don't just have our past sins washed away in confession; we are given grace and strength to avoid future sins. (That's why I try to go every week; even if I've been "good" in the last week, I know I need the grace and strength to get through the next one.) The world would be a calmer, nicer place if more people took advantage of the opportunity Confession provides: the chance to get out of our rut of sinning, start over, with more strength than we had before we went in. We'd certainly be a lot closer to who Christ wants us to be.

Pontifications | Blog Archive | A Letter to an Inquirer
Advice to someone who is thinking about becoming Catholic but has some issues with Church Teachings:
May I suggest that you bracket these convictions for the moment and consider a more fundamental question: Is the Catholic Church who she claims to be?
For the Catholic, the decision to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and the decision to accept the authority of the Church is one decision. They cannot be separated, for the risen Christ will not be separated from his mystical body.
If the Catholic Church is who she claims to be, then she speaks to me with an authority that binds my conscience. Because she is indwelt and guided by the Holy Spirit, she is protected from error in her formal teachings. She speaks truth. She can be relied upon. And so I trust her and seek to think with her. I do not ask her, must not ask her, to accept my views; she asks me to accept her views. One enters the Catholic Church in order to change; one enters the Catholic Church to be changed.
Is the Catholic Church who she claims to be? Is she the Church of Jesus Christ? This is the question that you must answer.

"In our world there are innumerable groups and organizations with grievances, some justified, some not. Only a tiny fraction has been ruthless enough to try to achieve their ends through vicious and cowardly acts of violence upon unarmed victims. Perversely, it is often the terrorists themselves who prevent peacefully negotiated solutions. So, perhaps the first step in solving some of these fundamental challenges in getting to the root cause of conflict is to declare that terrorism is not an acceptable alternative and will not be tolerated." —Ronald Reagan

"Abortion has evolved as civil-rights issues often do. What began as a question of conscience for a few has become a concern for many. Legal scholars, including many abortion supporters, now openly acknowledge that Roe v. Wade is hooey—grounded in hocus-pocus rather than facts and law. A generation of younger Americans, having been exposed to three-dimensional color sonograms, no longer regard unborn children as lumpy, undifferentiated thing-a-ma-jigs. They think of them as babies. Most importantly, Americans understand that the Supreme Court denied this country the benefit of democratic resolution of the issue. This explains why South Dakota is not alone... If South Dakota has led the way toward a democratic eruption, it also has shaken up the political marketplace by rejecting the popular rape-and-incest exception. The loophole doesn't make moral sense. If life begins at conception, children conceived through rape and incest are human beings. They are innocent of crimes, even if they are the byproduct of horrendous violence against women. So on what basis should we permit their destruction?" —Tony Snow

"Money is power, more money for the government is more power for the government. More power for the government will allow it to, among many other things, amuse itself by putting its fingers in a million pies, and stop performing its essential functions well, and get dizzily distracted by nonessentials, and muck up everything. Which is more or less where we are." —Peggy Noonan

"All the evidence suggests that the Bush Administration now has an all-out rebellion on its hands from the GOP Congress. This is not isolated in any single issue, such as the ports deal, but in fact extends to that and numerous other issues as well. Republican congressmen are tired of being bullied and ignored by a heavy-handed executive, and they are playing hardball with their President. Given his unpopularity, many of them find it useful to distance themselves from Bush anyway. In short, Bush has little leverage left within his own party, and his transformation to lame-duck status is all but complete. On all sides, conservative Republicans are working against him." —Robert Novak

"It is interesting to note that those who now proffer the most vociferous defense of these 'teachers' to say what they want in the classroom are the very ones who want to ban other educators from uttering a Bible verse, challenging Darwin's theory of evolution or noting that we are 'one nation under God,' when pledging allegiance to our flag. Not surprisingly, the so-called mainstream media has failed to note the utter inconsistency in defending the 'right' of some teachers to defame our President—while denying the freedom of expression to other educators who profess their faith in God. The consequence of the political-legal crossfire of America's classrooms is predictable. As shown by the Global Literacy Survey—and dozens of other assessments—students in public education aren't learning that which will prepare them for jobs and higher education in a highly competitive global economy. Parents who can afford to, vote with their feet. They pull their children out of these troubled schools and send them to private or religious institutions or home-school them. America's high-tech industry is constantly lobbying Washington to increase the number of visas granted to qualified immigrants—because our schools aren't producing enough competent graduates. There is no doubt that our children must learn 'critical thinking.' Before they get to politics—shouldn't they at least know geography—and maybe some math and science? It would be nice—if this is to remain the home of the brave and the land of the free—that America's students could place it on a map." —Oliver North

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