Saturday, November 22, 2008

Charity or Violence?

A very clear judgment on the issue of euthanasia. I have some thoughts about it, some things I have been learning in my classes on ethics and political philosophy that gained a new light from this flyer, and I will attempt to post soon.

"So the case of Eluana puts us in front of the first evidence that emerges in our life: we do not make ourselves. We are made, we are wanted by Another. We are saved from our nothingness by Someone who loves us and has told us: 'Even the hair on your head is counted.' Rejecting this evidence means, sooner or later, rejecting reality. Even when this reality has the face of the people we love."

"Christianity originates exactly from a passion for man. God became man to meet the need of all men, believers and non believers, to understand the meaning of life and death. Christ had pity on our nothingness, and gave His own life to affirm the infinite value of each of us, in whatever condition.

We need Him to be ourselves. We also need to be educated to recognize Him, to be able to live."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

In Light of the Evidence...

More evidence is exactly what is not wanted by the pro-choice crusaders. What is interesting in this article is that the author admits that this is not even a scare tactic nor an appeal to emotions using graphic images, but rather is scientific evidence. It is quite evident (no pun intended) that this positivist-materialist mentality fears that the human person is all too able to expose the heresy (half-truth) of rationalism. Scared of evidence? Imagine that. Science can only be seen as an opponent (and vanquisher) of religion if evidence is trimmed in favor of the former. But there is, in fact, no opposition. Once all of reality is on the table...

"it's hard to argue that women deciding whether to have an abortion should be shielded from accurate scientific information, which is what ultrasounds are, after all."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Politics and the Election, Revisited

I am writing this post in response to both the MacIntyre article that has been copiously posted on Facebook, as well as a post by Joey. They can be found in links below.

Why I Must Vote for John McCain

The Only Vote Worth Casting in November

I think there are problems with both positions, Joey’s and MacIntyre’s, neither of which truly represent the Catholic position.

First, regarding Joey’s post:
The problem with this kind of look at the election is that it is just where the pro-abortion activists want the debate to be perpetuated: in the realm of ideology. We will not, at least at the point we are at right now (and I would venture to say never), be able to stop abortion. What would that even entail? The real problem is that most people do not value life. This is the real problem. Even many anti-abortion activists, deep down, do not value life. An ideology, in the sense that Giussani uses the word in The Religious Sense, cannot value life; every ideology is an idol, a part of reality exalted to the status of totality. I am NOT primarily anti-abortion. Let me say it like this: being anti-abortion is not what motivates me in politics; it is not a label that I want. I am pro-life. That means, the ones who die in the war, those who are euthanized, those who are murdered, those who are on death row, those who cannot afford housing or food, those who are immigrants, are just as valuable as the unborn. To say that these issues take the backburner to abortion is an ideology, a dangerous one. Life is life. As my friend Steve puts it, “People always bring up the sheer number of children killed in abortion and use that to justify the fact that it is more morally imperative than any other anti-life position. Honestly, this is not a Catholic moral argument. What is one life or one million in front of the infinite? In the end, we don't respect the dignity of a lot of human lives, but EACH human life. That's a 1:1 ratio.”

If we were to approach the election with a single-mindedness, focused only on abortion death tolls and numbers, it would not be reasonable to vote at all, to engage in such a utilitarian and futile exercise. Really, where is the unrealistic expectation of perfection that Joey refers to? I would say it lies in this single-issue mentality of the anti-abortion activists just as much as it is in those who maintain that the best way to vote is not to vote. This brings me to the MacIntyre article.

I agree with what Joey said in his post, that it does not help anything to disengage from politics with so much at stake. But I have to confess that I am tempted and fascinated by MacIntyre’s proposal. It is certainly eye-opening, to say the least. At this point I agree with certain points of his argument, but disagree with his application of it to American politics (a tenuous rejection, but I am leaning more and more towards rejecting it.) I agree with MacIntyre in the sense that he does not see any value in engaging in ideological debates that censure position as Catholics. It does not make sense to perpetuate a system that does not care about us, that throws us bones labeled “pro-life” or “anti-poverty” to keep us coming back to the polls. Then what do we do? Forget our original reason for our involvement in politics? Play the numbers game? This isn't engaging in politics, but giving way to enemies that are burning ground before us as we retreat.

If we do engage, and in the arena of abortion decide to play the numbers game, (which is how the pro-choice advocates want the battle to be fought) we can talk about numbers all day and never get to the real question concerning the value of life. The problem is this: “do you recognize the fetus as a person?”…I would add, in the same breath, “do you recognize the weary immigrant crossing the border in search of a better life as a person? Do recognize criminals as persons? Do you recognize the women seeking abortions as persons?” This further question is required, namely, what does it mean to be a person? I want my political question to be that one. Do you recognize the fetus and the immigrant to be equally important because they are the kind of thing that has the potential for happiness? THAT HAS A DESIRE FOR HAPPINESS THAT YOU CANNOT ANSWER, OR EVEN STIFLE, NO MATTER HOW MUCH POWER YOU POSSESS?

With that as the starting point, to be pro-life is not to be anti-abortion, but rather to be an advocate of the common good via the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity. Subsidiarity, because life consists of individuals and their communities (not ideas and issues), and people should not be deprived of their ability to tend to the needs to which they are able to attend without the interference of government. And solidarity, because solidarity is the mutual discovery of the desire for that happiness that we all seek, which I mentioned above, which facilitates education and the building of true culture. Succinctly put, I will vote for the candidate who allows me, and the Church, freedom. That is, the one that allows for the education and building of society and culture, foundational blocks without which our problems will never be addressed, regardless of our prevention of 6 abortions or 6 million.

The political situation may be bad, but, when in Rome, we should do as the Christians did; testify to the beginnings of a new world and a new freedom that cannot be granted by any political institution. The Romans feared the Christians because they were free. I think we need to seriously ask ourselves if we are free in facing this election. This is what changed my outlook on going to the polls in November, and it is why I ultimately disagree with MacIntyre. Would you describe yourself as free in this election? Why or why not? What is freedom? If we don't live with an experience of freedom, that is, the taste of fulfillment, given to us by Christ through the Church, really, let's not waste our time to go vote and think that anything is actually going to change. Unless we recognize this, MacIntyre is dead right and we can expect our retreat to continue.

For those who haven’t encountered Christ, it might seem to make sense to vote for Obama, the “messiah” as a last desperate grasp at salvation. But salvation does not come from politics. I will vote for John McCain not because he is anti-abortion, but because I believe he doesn’t look at me as someone in need of being saved by politics. (I have not given enough specific examples here, but this is not a post about the candidates.)

Pope Benedict, regarding one of his first encounters with Fr. Giussani and the movement Communion and Liberation, said that he was surprised to find a group of people “for” something rather than “against” something. Let’s be “for” something in this election; let’s not play down to the abortion activists and engage in the numbers game, and let's not just be "against" the whole system because we are dissatisfied. My friend Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete once said that our primary (in the sense of essential or ultimate) responsibility in politics is not to end abortion or the war but to build the Church. "To build the Church is the task of the saints, and that is not a bad party to belong to."

By the way, Albacete will soon be running on his own ticket as the leader of the Mystical Party. Contact me for more information, I am one of his grassroots members.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Death Cab Descends the Narrow Stairs

Hey everyone, here is my review of the new Death Cab CD. I actually haven't edited it yet, but I wanted to post it anyway. I will be adding corrections soon.

"I pulled On The Road off the shelf and found myself reading it between classes, and at that time in my life it was exactly what I craved, exactly what I needed to hear. I thought, 'That’s the way, that’s the ideal life, that’s great.'" Ben Gibbard, the lead singer of the indie band Death Cab for Cutie, has always idolized the beat writer Jack Kerouac for his acute sense of the way life should be lived, his intuition that something was missing. When writing the lyrics for his new album, he followed the footsteps of his hero by taking a trip to the terrain of Big Sur in California.

The result of his retreat is Death Cab's new album entitled "Narrow Stairs." In this venture, they are all grown up. Gone is the sentimentality of previous Death Cab projects; the album has a tight, impressive, and even shocking unity, which I think comes primarily from the stark and honest lyrics.

The first song "Bixby Canyon Bridge" is evidently addressed to Kerouac, as Gibbard sings, "I chased the end of your road"; he went to Big Sur in search of some kind of answer, only to find himself disappointed. Not only disappointed, but aware that he is struggling to keep his search alive: "I want to know my fate if I keep up this way/ It's hard to want to stay awake/ And everyone you meet they all seem to be asleep."

The lyrical tone never wavers the rest of the album: the songs "New Sunlight," "Long Division," and "You Can Do Better Than Me" sing of the death of optimism, the failure of relationships, and of the embarrassment caused by his unquenchable thirst: "It's like my heart can't be tamed/ And I fall in love every day/ And I feel like a fool."

One of the most lyrically and musically impressive songs is "Cath" where he sings about a wedding scene with characteristic Death Cab irony: "As the flashbulbs burst she holds a smile/ Like someone would hold a crying child/ Soon everybody will ask what became of you/ Your heart was dying fast and you didn't know what to do." The foreboding sense of disappointment once again surfaces in this song: "The whispers that it won't last roll up and down the pews."

Images of doom, fire, and graveyards in "Grapevine Fires" provide for the grimmest and most foreboding song of the album. Gibbard, the indie king of days gone by, laments over burned out dreams and the futility of love, as he delivers some honest lyrics: "A wake-up call to a rented room/ Sounded like an alarm of impending doom/ To warn us it's only a matter of time." The darkness in this song is not abandoned throughout the album. Gibbard himself describes the whole album as a descent, the same fall he talks about in "Pity and Fear," the descent down narrow stairs.

This descent brings Gibbard to the final track entitled "The Ice is Getting Thinner." In this somber piece he describes how he and his dear buried their love in a "wintery grave." And as winter melts into spring, he croons above a gently weeping guitar: "There's nowhere we can go with nothing underneath/ Then it saddens me to say what we both knew was true/ That the ice was getting thinner under me and you."

Sandwiched between the darkness of disappointment and frustrated desire that encompasses the entire work is the track entitled, "Talking Bird." Gibbard sings to the bird saying, "Though you know so few words/ They're on infinite repeat." The image he creates here reminds one of Chopin's incessant note in his famous prelude, the raindrop note, and as he croons to this bird it becomes clear that the song is addressed to this heart inside of him that is not defeated by disappointment. He vows to love this bird "Till the breath leaves your delicate frame."

Gibbard himself wrote this reflection concerning his new album: "My life really is great: I do exactly what I want to do for a living, I have a wonderful person to share my life with, I have a great family, I have great friends. But somehow there’s a void. I’m the last person who should be complaining or wondering why I’m perpetually unhappy. I would like to think that my lack of contentment is part of what makes my work the way it is, and for the better."

It is exactly this sentiment, or rather, disposition, that makes his work take the shape of a prayer, the only beautiful thing on this transitory earth. The album is dark, but not desperate; it doesn't turn out perfect, but it is beautiful. Gibbard still wants to say the same about life.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


The Pope's plane will arrive in America at 4 PM.

Hmmm.....I wonder if that is a coincidence.....

An Occasion for Wonder

The hype surrounding the Pope and his visit to America fascinates me. One can go to news websites, and the expectation for his arrival is everywhere. So much so, in fact, that it seems the media doesn't even know what to do about it. They've created things like "Pope Watch" and "Differences between JPII and Benedict" in order to try to categorize and make some sense out of his visit. They ask: "How can Catholics say they side with the poor when the pope lives surrounded with so much gold and splendor? And how can a pope claim infallibility when the Vatican has to spend so much time 'clarifying' offensive remarks?" They try to show how American Catholicism is different from this Pope's Catholicism. Is he God's rottweiler? Does he love the Church in America? Is he going to reprimand us?

I don't know where else these objections and questions could come from, other than the fact that most people want to ignore the Pope's real purpose which he himself has clearly stated: "Christ is the face of God present among us. Through him, our lives reach fullness, and together, both as individuals and peoples, we can become a family united by fraternal love, according to the eternal plan of God the Father. I know how deeply rooted this Gospel message is in your country. I am coming to share it with you, in a series of celebrations and gatherings."

It is this real reason that generates the original wonder. Among all this hype, I can imagine being there among the apostles and pharisees in the presence of Jesus. There were those who tried to trap him, to figure him out, there are those who might even take his social teachings to heart and try to "apply" them, and then there are the few who stand in wonder, saying, without presumption, without hiding any of their humanity, "Who is this man?" Somehow, in some way, he summoned them from their sleep, he awoke in them a desire for life, for fullness.

And so, the importance of the Pope's visit to America does not lie in the media's supposed reprimand he could supply, nor the intellectual and cultural musings or judgments he may have. Most people overlook the elementary fact of their wonder and curiosity in the presence of this man; they try to organize, stifle, or explain it away, rather than remaining in front of the Event. This remaining requires a simplicity and a love for truth.

Ultimately the most amazing fact is that the man himself, the very flesh that laughs, cries, goes to the bathroom and has to practice piano, is the successor of Peter and the guarantee of Christ's presence in the world. Were this not true, were this rock no longer there, as my friend Msgr. Albacete says, I would no longer want to live on this earth.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Outlet from the Underground

"We've all become estranged from life, we're all cripples, every one of us, more or less. We've becomes so estranged that at times we feel some kind of revulsion for genuine 'real life,' and therefore we can't bear to be reminded of it…We don't know ourselves. It'd be even worse if all our whimsical desires were fulfilled. Go on, try it. Give us, for example, a little more independence; untie the hands of any one of us, broaden our sphere of activity, relax the controls, and…I can assure you, we'll immediately ask to have the controls reinstated…What concerns me in particular, is that in my life I've only taken to an extreme that which you haven't even dared to take halfway; what’s more, you've mistaken your cowardice for good sense; and, in so deceiving yourself, you've consoled yourself…We're even oppressed by being men - men with real bodies and blood of our very own. We're ashamed of it; we consider it a disgrace and we strive to become some kind of impossible 'general-human-beings.'"
-Dostoevsky, "Notes from Underground"

Dostoevsky's scathing observation is striking. How many of us are so estranged from life, that we don't even know what we want? We wake up in the morning, run around in circles, go to bed, and do it again the next day. What can get us out of this routine of nothingness, this underground that Dostoevsky so severely desired to escape? We need to begin to use our heart, the bundle of infinite needs given to us, our elementary experience of life. We need to make judgments that stem from the core of life, from this heart. This is 3:59, where we take those needs, and the need for judgment, seriously.

As Fr. Giussani said, "Let us begin to judge. Judgment is the beginning of liberation."