Everyman Piece on Notre Dame

After watching Notre Dame Cathedral burn, I wrote up some of my thoughts, which are running today at The Everyman

We are the heirs of Christendom. We have inherited treasures beyond belief; Notre Dame Cathedral is only one jewel among hundreds of such cathedrals and churches, living prayers in stone and glass, not to mention the great palaces and other architectural wonders of the past. The treasures of Notre Dame are but a tiny fraction of the artistic tradition that has come down to us, not to mention the vast inheritance of learning, manners, morality, and law carried down through the centuries. While Notre Dame was being constructed, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure were teaching theology and studying Aristotle a few blocks away, and St. Louis the king was laying down the principle that a man is innocent until proven guilty.

Most important of all, of course, is the faith which Notre Dame and all the other Cathedrals were built to glorify; the true faith, which God sent His Son to establish upon Earth that man no longer need walk in darkness. We are heirs to the promise and saving work of Christ, of the knowledge that God has been among us and preached His Word to us as a man, and took upon Himself the punishment of our sins.

The Church and Her History in Flames

And what do we do with that inheritance, that unspeakable wealth of centuries? We neglect it, ignore it, and condemn it. In art we celebrate departures from tradition, however hideous or meaningless, as bold and original. In history we speak of the great men of the past as if they were ignorant children to be taken apart and explained by us. In education we dismiss the works of Aristotle, Aquinas, Cicero, Shakespeare, and other giants in order to cling to the latest fashionable turn of thought.

Read the rest here.

A Record of the Past

One way or another, I watch a lot of old films, whether old TV shows, old movies, or even old instructional videos.

It’s informative, and not just in the way the original filmmakers intended. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, consuming work produced in a different time doesn’t just tell you what the work is about, but also how people thought and their basic assumptions about life. The point isn’t that it’s completely accurate to how life was back then, but that it does show what at least some people thought and felt at the time regarding the subject. It also gives a sense of how that subject might have been generally viewed by the audience, depending on the assumptions the creator felt he had to cater to.

For instance, viewing 1946’s Miracle on 34th Street, we can tell that having a woman in a position of authority in a major corporation like Macy’s Department Stores was not considered particularly unusual or surprising at the time it was made, since no one comments on or expresses surprise at Maureen O’Hara occupying such a position, and the film feels no need to provide any explanation for it. We can likewise gather that having a Black day servant was fairly normal for a well-off businesswoman, since again, the film feels no need to explain the character’s presence. On the other hand, the film does need to explain the difference between a hearing and a trial, because it’s not something the average audience member might be expected to know or take for granted, and they might become confused as to what the stakes are and the rules of the proceeding.

A steady exposure to the thoughts of many different ages is an indispensable defense against blindly following the zeitgeist and prejudices of one’s own particular age. Because what you get is actually what was said or filmed or thought at that time; not someone’s reconstruction of it.

For an example, consider the following short. It was intended for a proposed Mystery Science Theater 3000 tie-in CD that never got off the ground. Looking past Mike and Bots’ typical irreverent humor, we see an image of what Venezuela used to be like (sorry for the poor sound quality).

Now, obviously it’s a very positive portrayal, since the film is Creole Oil showing their employees how great it can be to work there, but look at what’s on screen; the clean, busy streets and beautiful buildings of Maracaibo and Caracas (many of them recently constructed, according to the film), the Sears store, the full car lots, the stores crammed with American products. This is, at least in part, what the country looked like in the 1950s, and how an American company interacted with the country.

This is Evil

I’m a little late on this, but in case you’ve missed it:

Amelie Wen Zhao, an immigrant from China, dreamed of being an author her whole life. Then she achieved that dream, selling a three-book YA series to a major publisher. The book, called Blood Heir, was done. It was published. It was slated for release with a strong marketing push, making it one of the ‘most anticipated titles of the year.’ Miss Zhao was ecstatic, sharing her disbelieving joy on her blog:

Three-book deals. Manuscripts going to auction. Offers from the Big 5 Publishers.

These had all seemed like dreams to me. Literally, dreams towards which I could reach yet never even hope to achieve, to cross that yawning abyss in-between. Wishes from the highest star in the skyat which I could only gaze and gaze and gaze.

Until last month.

I don’t think it’s sunk in until this very moment, when I sat down to write this post — that I am going to be a published author.

I AM GOING TO BE A PUBLISHED AUTHOR!!!!!!

Then all that was destroyed almost overnight because a few people on social media decided to take exception to her book.

You see, apparently her work is about prejudice and slavery, only in the fantasy world that she describes, prejudice is not based on skin-color, but on some other factor (exactly as it is much of the time in real life). This, coupled with the fact that she, a non-Black person dared write about slavery (because it isn’t like any other peoples in human history have ever been slaves), and that, apparently, one of the characters is described as being Black, but isn’t written ‘properly.’

I reiterate that the book is not even released yet; no one in the general public has read it. Yet they condemn it because the premise and some advanced material seems ‘problematic’ to them. So, based on that, these people attacked a young woman for being ‘racist’ and pressured her into pulling her first book before it was even released, effectively destroying her career and her dream in the process.

Do I have to explain how monstrous this is? A handful of damaged souls protected by the anonymity of social media, swarm around an innocent woman, slander her, browbeat her, and destroy her dream because they don’t like the way bigotry is portrayed in a fictional world in a book they haven’t read! Along with a few other insanely petty reasons.

All this is directed at a lady who, based on excerpts from her blog, substantially agrees with them, but only wanted to express those progressive ideas from her own particular point of view. That is enough for these lunatics to destroy her life.

I have no interested in her book; that isn’t the point. The point is that this kind of behavior is evil. This should not be tolerated, and it certainly should not have any influence.

But why is it tolerated? Because it couches itself in terms of opposing bigotry and prejudice. That, in our world, is the all-sufficient excuse: “I was offended,” or “I feel excluded,” or “this is bigoted.” Invoking those sacred terms permits us to destroy lives at will. Just recently, a group of high schoolers were intimidated, slandered, and had their reputations shattered in front of the whole nation in the name of ‘opposing bigotry,’ and even after video proof that they were the victims and not the instigators, we still have people piling on them, because apparently where anti-bigotry is involved, truth has no place.

‘Anti-bigotry’ has long since become, for many people, nothing but a means to control and humiliate and destroy. This needs to stop.

You see, something that we seem to forget (or more likely are never taught) is that a substantially correct idea can be as pathological as a false one. Someone who opposes racism, but sees it under every rock and desires to destroy anyone who crosses their imaginary boundaries with the ardor of John Brown murdering pro-slavery settlers in Kansas is every bit as damaged and insane and evil as the most fanatical Nazi, and ought to be given as little credence and acceptance. We desperately need to learn this.

In the meantime, shame and curses on the “book community” that is responsible for this outrage. I hope, for their sakes and everyone else’s that not one of them ever finds a willing ear ever again. And I hope that Miss Zhao is somehow still able to achieve her dream in the future.

And to my fellow authors: do not permit this type of person to intimidate or discourage you. They are paper tigers at best. Do not try to appease them: that will only make them feel powerful and demand more. Do not engage with them. Do not give them the least attention. I recommend staying off of Twitter entirely, and only using social media to talk with people you actually know somehow. From all I have ever learned, it is a toxic, brutal, loveless environment that soils the soul and fuddles the mind.

Write what you want to write, tell the stories you want to tell, and don’t feel the need to justify yourself to soulless cretin’s hiding behind the veil of a computer screen.

For another take on this, read the Incomparable Larry Correia’s response to this outrage. As always, language warning: when angered, Mr. Correia let’s loose even more than usual.

AMDG

Please Do Not Try to Find Holy Images in Random Things

I happened upon this article through ‘Big Pulpit,’ and I have to make a quick comment: I really, really wish Christians would stop posting things like this:

Miraculous Image of Blessed Mother Holding Baby Appears in Pregnancy Sonogram – See the Photo!

by ChurchPOP Editor – 

The story itself is actually well worth reading, about a woman who was told she would never conceive, but went on to have nine children. But the image itself is nothing: it’s a vague, orangish blob that, to my mind, doesn’t look much like the image of a face (the ‘forehead’ is too large, there’s a weird projection on the bridge of the ‘nose’, two or three potential ‘eyes’, and so on). Here’s a clearer shot:

Now, anyone is welcome to take comfort from this image, or to use it as a reminder of the ever-present care of the Blessed Virgin, but please, please stop putting this sort of thing out there and calling it a ‘miracle.’ In the first place, it isn’t a miracle: it’s a subjective interpretation.  A real miracle would be far clearer, would be unaccountable by other explanations, and so on. This image has no meaning to anyone who does not already bring a desire to read that meaning into it.

Me, I believe in miracles: if you tell me St. Joseph of Cuptertino flew through the air, I’ll say it very well may have happened, and if you then give me documentary evidence of it, I’ll call it a fact that he did. Precisely for that reason I do not care for cheap, desperate attempts to claim miracles where there are none. To quote Father Brown, if I want real miracles, I know where I can get them.

The problem is that when you put something like this out there and declare it a miracle, or declare it is a sign from God, or anything of the kind, you do not convince anyone; you do the reverse. You make Christians or pro-lifers look insane, or at the very least extremely credible and willing to grasp at any flimsy straw that seems to confirm their preconceived view of the world. Worse, it encourages Christians to actually behave that way, which is the last thing we need. Not just because it hurts us in the eyes of the unconverted, but because it is actually damaging to our faith. Accepting flimsy, flattering ‘miracles’ like this only encourages us to take a lax, emotionally charged, and intellectually weak approach to our religion.

Please, please stop doing this.

 

Robert Davi Speaks the Truth

Veteran character actor Robert Davi (of Licensed to Kill, Die Hard, and The Goonies among others) shares his heartbreak in a quiet, powerful video in response to New York’s barbaric new abortion law:

Money quote: “You really think you can rip a baby from its mother’s womb at nine months and it’s ok?”

This is the kind of statement that should be coming from every Catholic, Christian, and civilized human being in public life in the country. But until that happens, we should be grateful for what we get.

I’ve always appreciated seeing Mr. Davi show up in films, and I’ll appreciate it all the more after this.

Thoughts on the Pro-Life Movement

Every year, about half-a-million people descend upon Washington DC, and many more march in other cities, to call for the end of abortion. It is probably the most noble and most important social movement in the country right now: one of the few that is both appropriate to the moment, possessed of a clear and achievable goal, and which deals with a vitally important issue.

It is thus with a heavy heart that I say they are never going to succeed. At least, not if things stay they way they are. Pro-lifers, as they are called, are up against something far more vast and complex and powerful than most of us seem to understand.

Put it this way; say the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade tomorrow. That would be a very good thing, as far as it went, and most likely abortion would then become illegal or mostly illegal in at least some states. But the problem is, it wouldn’t last. Sooner or later the balance of the polls would shift, new justices would take the place of the old, and another case would come before a restructured court, or new laws would be introduced, and the slaughter would begin all over again.

This is because abortion is only a symptom. A terrible symptom, but a symptom nonetheless. It derives from a much larger cultural and social movement, and what is key, it is necessary to that movement.

The movement is not, as it is sometimes described, the devaluation of human life as such. Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that once Hiroshima happened, Roe was inevitable. With respect to the great man, that is nonsense, whatever you think of the bombings. An act of war, justified or not, is clearly in a different category from a peacetime law.

The fact is that abortion does not primarily stem from a devaluation of life; it stems from the overvaluation of sex and, more fundamentally, of self-will. The devaluation of life is a parallel consequence of this.

In other words, the real problem is neither abortion itself, nor a culture that doesn’t value life, but what is called the Sexual Revolution: the radical movement to overthrow moral and legal restrictions on sexual indulgence in favor of an ideology of self-will.

The origins, philosophical and historical, of that movement are too complicated to go into here. The point is that this is the true enemy, and as long as it remains in place, abortion will as well.

The sexual revolution is based upon the idea that the only relevant rules in sexual matters are consent and (possibly) fidelity. It proposes that each person should be able to decide for his or herself the way in which he will be sexually active and the meaning that sexuality will have. This is the doctrine of self-will, which was explicitly expressed by Justice Kennedy in his ruling on Planned Parenthood v. Casey: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

The great flaw in this view is that nature itself imposes certain meanings upon human life which are not amenable to individual definitions. In particular, when it comes to sexual activity, it imposes the fact of reproduction, regardless of any consent or desire on the part of the participants (there are other ‘imposed facts’ as well, but this is the most blatant). Therefore, in order for these new ideas of sexuality to stand up even for the briefest of considerations some means is required to prevent intercourse from resulting in a child.

Hence contraception and abortion: the twin props without which the sexual revolution cannot stand (no-fault divorce is the third, but that is for another time). Contraception obviously is necessary in order to render the likelihood of pregnancy as low as possible, artificially creating circumstances where the new ideology is at least superficially plausible (I will leave off, for now, the wisdom of a worldview dependent for its credibility upon the existence and accessibility of a particular human technology).

Abortion too is necessary because it allows us to say that we are in control of our bodies: that we dictate the meaning and content of our behavior. It isn’t just that we prevent the consequences of our actions, we actively subvert them once they occur.

Ultimately, the sexual revolution is about claiming this authority to dictate the meaning of our actions, which means controlling the consequences. Abortion is necessary to this, all the more so because the Sexual Revolution coincided with the movement to bring more women into the workforce. You obviously cannot have both an active sex life and a flourishing career if you do not have a way to prevent and to end pregnancies before a child is born. Since we moderns find the idea of choosing one or the other to be abhorrent, we accept infanticide.

This is why pro-abortionists are so passionate about this issue, and why they will defend and even celebrate abortion to the end: because a large segment of our culture is dependent upon the ideas of the Sexual Revolution. Whole industries rely upon it, and even those that don’t go that far often find it extremely profitable.

That alone would make it punishingly hard to dislodge, but there is something else; something that, even in our culture, people value more than profit: self-respect. A huge number of people have staked their images of themselves and their friends as good people upon the ideas of the Sexual Revolution. It allows them to justify actions that otherwise would be seen to be wrong, and which most of them would never have done if they weren’t assured from all corners that it was acceptable. The maintaining of the ideology of the Sexual Revolution is necessary for many, many people to continue to think well of themselves. And abortion is necessary to maintain that ideology.

In other words, ending abortion doesn’t just mean enacting new laws or convincing a majority of the population of the humanity of an unborn child: it will involve convincing a large portion of the population that the moral standards by which they, their friends, and their parents have been living are simply wrong, with all the implications that come with it. That is in addition to overturning assumptions upon which much of our commerce and most of our culture now rests.

That is what we are up against. We’re struggling and fighting against an entrenched fortress when really it’s only guarding the pass to a whole Empire with forces beyond reckoning waiting for us.

When Imperial Japan was gearing up for war with the United States, some of the military brass warned their comrades what such a war would mean: it wouldn’t be a matter of taking Hawaii and California, they would have to somehow find a way to strike at the industrial and agricultural heartland and march into Washington. The pro-life cause is, of course the very reverse of that of Imperial Japan, yet the example applies to us as well. The fight we are engaging in is not to enact one law, or end one practice. We may wish that were all, but the nature of our enemy forbids it. This war must be a war of total conquest or of total defeat, and our enemy is very strong indeed.

I don’t bring this up to discourage those in the pro-life movement, but I do think we should be clear on our goals. It cannot be just to end abortion, or same-sex marriage, or any of the other obvious manifestations of the sexual revolution: that would be a temporary solution at best. The whole ideology has to be ripped up, root and branch, which will involve something akin to conversion and repentance on a national scale, along with a near-total rebuilding of our culture.

With that in mind, shall we begin?