Click below to watch John Stewart talk about people “goin’ rogue” in the campaign.
Click below to watch John Stewart talk about people “goin’ rogue” in the campaign.
Could any man be less relevant to the politics and culture of our time than an old Kentucky poet-farmer who is so out of step with the times that he refuses to use a computer and still tills his earth using draft horses? And yet, given the converging crises of this extraordinary moment in American history, it just might be that in the winter of a long and honorable career, Wendell Berry’s moment has arrived.
This will be the first year since I was old enough to vote that I will not cast a ballot in a presidential election. I quote a character from Richard Linklater’s “Slacker” in my defense: “Withdrawing in disgust is not the same thing as apathy.”
I can’t vote for Barack Obama. He is a pro-abortion zealot and wrong on all the issues that matter most to social conservatives. Mind you, one should not be under any illusion that things will markedly improve under another Republican administration. But there is no question that on issues related to the sanctity of life and traditional marriage, an Obama administration, with a Democratic Congress at its back, would be far worse.
The best case that can be made for John McCain is that he would serve as something of a brake on runaway liberalism. But the country would be at significantly greater risk of war with the intemperate and bellicose McCain in the White House. That was clear months ago, but his conduct during the fall campaign–especially contrasted with Obama’s steadiness–has made me even more uneasy. His selection of Sarah Palin, while initially heartening to populist-minded social conservatives, has proved disastrous. Though plainly a politician of real talent, the parochial Palin is stunningly ill-suited for high office, and that’s a terrible mark against McCain’s judgment.
As both a conservative and a Republican, I confess that we deserve to lose this year. We have governed badly and have earned the wrath of voters, who will learn in due course how inadequate the nostrums of liberal Democrats are to the crisis of our times. If I cannot in good faith cast a vote against the Bush years by voting for Obama, I can at least do so by withholding my vote from McCain.
Following on Fr Matthew Olverâ€™s piece posted here last night, I am pleased to present a thoughtful exchangeâ€“intended to be a conversation starter and an aid to reflectionâ€“between Neil Dhingra and Fr Will Brown on the thorny question of how Christians in the U.S. committed to â€œlifeâ€ should approach the question of voting in the presidential election next Tuesday. Neil and Will are inclined to different answers to this questionâ€“the former believing that a case can be made out for â€œpro-lifeâ€ support of Obamaâ€™s candidacy, the latter believing that this is not possible (leaving aside the question of whether or not a case for McCain can be made). But much common ground is shared by both writers, as well.
What else can and perhaps should be said? We invite your comments, and wrestling along with Neil and Will and others of us. How to move along the conversation? Is the strategic question of how to vote something about which we can reasonably disagree as Christians who do not disagree about the blight visited upon American democracy and order by the contradiction of abortion tolerated in our midst?
Lord, give us your mind and your heart, to the end of justice in our country, especially for these voiceless and silenced ones, callously killed in the name of â€œfreedomâ€ and â€œchoice.â€ Forgive us, Lord, for our own complicity in this culture of death. And give us the grace, individually and as a Community of counter-witness, to model for our nation a spirit of repentance, joined to a willingness to make amends for our sins. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
During the years that I worked with my dad as a private investigator (and even before that as I heard stories of his various cases), I came to recognize the connection between the moral choices people make, the conflict and chaos they experience in their lives, and the way those choices effect others in their family–especially children. This experience made me cynical at first. Then it made me an Augustinian. My view could perhaps now be best expressed as a sort of Augustinian ironic cynicism. Some might see post-modernism in there… no doubt they are right to a degree as we are all children of our time as surely as we are children of our parents.
One of my favorite examples of the sort of immoral drama people sometimes make of their lives is that of the man who hired my dad to see whether or not his girl-friend was cheating on him. OK, so far a fairly normal request. But, it just so happens that his girl-friend was married. So, here’s this guy who’s having an affair with a married woman who hires a private investigator to determine whether or not said woman is involved in yet another extra-marital relationship. When I heard about that request it took me five minutes to stop laughing. “What does he expect,” I thought, “she’s obviously not of the highest moral fiber… and besides, what constitutes ‘cheating” on him… do you video-tape her on a weekend retreat with her husband–does that count as cheating on the boyfriend?” Such is the absurdity of the extended adolescence we often reward ourselves with.
This was of course a rather humorous example. Much less humorous is that of the promiscuous parent who cannot see how their children’s mimicry of their childish behavior will have negative consequences even as they try to pawn off their own responsibility as a role model on various other people–teachers, coaches, youth ministers, friends parents etc… Their concern for their children goes deep enough for them to hope that they will not follow in their footsteps, but not deep enough for them to actually change their lives. That is an illustration of what it means to be a childish adult.
Rod Dreher gives another example of this in the following blog post, beginning with the always insightful Wendell Berry:
Wendell Berry has written on why you cannot fully privatize sexuality, that it inescapably involves a covenant between the individual and the community. Excerpt:
If you depreciate the sanctity and solemnity of marriage, not just as a bond between two people but as a bond between those two people and their forebears, their children, and their neighbors, then you have prepared the way for an epidemic of divorce, child neglect, community ruin, and loneliness. If you destroy the economies of household and community, then you destroy the bonds of mutual usefulness and practical dependence without which the other bonds will not hold.
I thought about that this week when I heard from an old Christian friend I’ll call Bobby. Bobby is in late middle age, and in crisis. His wife left him earlier this year after having had an affair. It shattered him. He granted her the divorce. Now he’s living a pretty wild life, and called to tell me about it this week. It made me so sad I hardly knew what to say to him. He was once one of the most devout and upstanding Christian men I knew, but now? After listening to him recount his exploits, I finally said, “Bobby, how do you square that with your Christian faith?”
Also, check out this collection of essays by Wendell Berry, which I believe Dreher pulled the above quote from:
False Apology Syndrome: It’s always easier to be sorry for the sins of others…
Of course, we may take pride in the culture and achievements of our biological or political ancestors–indeed such pride is necessary for the preservation and development of any civilization–in which case it is only right and proper that we should also face up squarely to the less glorious aspects of our heritage. But this is a matter for genuine historical scholarship and moral reflection of the kind that leads to a determination never to repeat the crimes, not for sound-bite sloganeering. The world would be a better place if academics in the Islamic world faced up to the fact (and were free to face up to the fact) that their religion does not have a peaceful historical record, just as the world has become a better place because the Germans have acknowledged the recent historical record of their country. If large numbers of Germans, including their leaders, started to say that Germany is what it has always been, namely a land of peace, the rest of the world would have good cause to tremble.
But official apologies for distant events, however important or pregnant with consequences those events may have been, are another matter entirely. They have bad effects on both those who give them and those who receive them.
The effect on the givers is the creation of a state of spiritual pride. Insofar as the person offering the apology is doing what no one has done before him, he is likely to consider himself the moral superior of his predecessors. He alone has had the moral insight and courage to apologize.
On the other hand, he knows full well that he has absolutely no personal moral responsibility for whatever it is that he is apologizing for. In other words, his apology brings him all kudos and no pain.
The Stiftsbibliothek â€” literally, the abbey library â€” in St. Gallen, Switzerland, will digitize and post its collection with the help of a $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
But of course, everybody knows that conservative hate – especially when it comes from anonymous hecklers at massive rallies, or when it involves booing the press – is fascism come round again, but left-wing hate is just, well, kitschy and adorable.
When I taught the marriage course at Notre Dame, the parents of my students wanted me to teach their kids what the parents did not want them to do. The kids, on the other hand, approached the course from the perspective of whether or not they should feel guilty for what they had already done. Not wanting to privilege either approach, I started the course with the question, What reason would you give for you or someone else wanting to have a child?” And you would get answers like, “Well, children are fun.” In that case I would ask them to think about their brothers and/or sisters. Another answer was, Children are a hedge against loneliness Then I recommended getting a dog. Also I would note that if they really wanted to feel lonely, they should think about someone they raised turning out to be a stranger. Another student reply was, Kids are a manifestation of our love.” “Well,” I responded, “what happens when your love changes and you are still stuck with them” I would get all kinds of answers like these from my students. But, in effect, these answers show that people today do not know why they are having children.
It happened three or four times that someone in the class, usually a young woman, would raise her hand and say, “I do not want to talk about this anymore.” What this means is that they know that they are going to have children, and yet they do not have the slightest idea why. And they do not want it examined. You can talk in your classes about whether God exists all semester and no one cares, because it does not seem to make any difference. But having children makes a difference, and the students are frightened that they do not know about these matters.
Then they would come up with that one big answer that sounds good. They would say, “We want to have children in order to make the world a better place.” And by that, they think that they ought to have a perfect child. And then you get into the notion that you can have a child only if you have everything set–that is, if you are in a good “relationship,” if you have your finances in good shape, the house, and so on. As a result, of course, we absolutely destroy our children, so to speak, because we do not know how to appreciate their differences.
Now who knows what we could possibly want when we “want a child”? The idea of want in that context is about as silly as the idea that we can marry the right person. That just does not happen. Wanting a child is particularly troubling as it finally results in a deep distrust of mentally and physically handicapped children. The crucial question for us as Christians is what kind of people we need to be to be capable of welcoming children into this world, some of whom may be born disabled and even die.
I’m a nerd. I readily admit it. I have nerd pride. Part of having true nerd pride is being able to laugh at being a nerd. Tonight, as Anna and I watched the latest episode of “The Office” on Hulu, I saw a fantastic example of what can only be called “nerd torture.” You see, there’s been an ethics seminar at Dunder Mifflin; one of the issues that arose during the seminar was something called “time theft,” which is the idea that employees who spend a little too much time at the water fountain etc… are actually “stealing time” from their companies.
Well, true to his character, Dwight was the most intent on attacking anyone who was doing “personal” things on company time, so John decides to time exactly how much personal time Dwight takes during a given day. Hilarity ensues, including the section where John tortures Dwight–an alpha nerd–in an attempt to get him to break and misuse his time. You can see how all the misinformation, errors and intentional twisting of various fantastic worlds really gets at Dwight. That’s hard core nerd torture. Enjoy (click below to see the clip)