Sunday, September 23, 2012

Not sure what will happen.

As you probably know already (if you have read any of the posted comments in the last couple of months), the company that provides my comment box (JS-kit) is changing its business strategy and will be discontinuing this feature effective October 1, 2012 (about a week from now). I don't know what will happen at that time.

Obviously I haven't been posting lately (lacking both time and inspiration), so I have not even decided about what to do with this whole blog. I have toyed with the idea of deleting it entirely. Or, if I decide to keep it going, there may be a template change or two coming (the comment feature is embedded in the HTML code of the template) as I attempt to delete the old JS-kit/Echo/Haloscan comment feature from my current template and install a new comment widget (either using one from Blogger or obtaining one from another third-party source). I may have to dump my old template entirely and adopt a new one (that I may modify again over time). That's the part that I'm most unsure about.

As for all the comments currently posted that have accumulated over the years, they may all be deleted during the change-over process, or there is a possibility that they may be saved into the new system. I'm not sure what will happen. Of course I'd like to keep them all (many of them are quite interesting), but they may simply get lost in the process, and I am very sorry about that! I'm doing what I can, but I have forgotten nearly all of what little I ever knew about blogging and HTML code (template design/modification, etc.) because I haven't been using it of late. There is so much that I don't understand!

At present I am feverishly attempting to save (via copy&paste method) the entire blog, including all the comments, to Word.doc format so at least I will have a permanent archive of my own to keep. (Who knows, I may even publish an edited version sometime in the distant future in some format or other, either printed or electronic. Stranger things have happened!)

So I guess I'll see you in the future ....

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Beyond “business ethics”

Seeing and treating employees as persons, not just as means to profitability

Persons have intrinsic worth. They have value just by the fact of their existence as persons, for their own sake. They have value because of who they are, not just for the things they can do or make for someone else’s benefit or use. (This is the reason murder is murder, regardless of whether the victim was a wealthy celebrity or a tramp on the street. Although the former may garner more time on the evening news than the latter, the accused perpetrator faces the same prospects in the application of justice—if it is true justice.) To treat human beings simply as economic commodity units, as means to a company’s profitability, is a serious violation of justice. It is to reduce their true value to mere economic utility, their availability to be used (in the sense of consumed) by “the company” (i.e. the owners and/or management).

Don’t get me wrong. Productivity is a very good thing, and no company will survive without it. The problem arises when productivity (an employee’s material contribution to a company’s product or service line) is placed on the highest level and viewed as the highest possible good in terms of the company’s existence. This in practice denies that employees, as human persons, have any purpose or value beyond the material level. It denies that they have any spiritual value or purpose. In essence it denies the existence (or at least the relevance) of spiritual realities in regard to persons.

This is not to say that employees should necessarily bring their spiritual beliefs or views to the fore in their work activities (e.g. preaching to their co-workers or “wearing their religion on their sleeves”), but only that a company (employer or boss) must at the very least recognize the validity of a higher spiritual dimension and value of all employees (not expecting them to park their spiritual sensibilities at the door when they come to work) and not abuse them solely for their perceived economic usefulness.

In the minds of many executives and managers in corporate America (and around the world in this “global economy”), the term “ethics” is frequently interpreted so narrowly as to refer almost exclusively to the employees’ responsibility to the company and its interests, and not having anything to do with the company’s responsibilities towards its own employees. “Ethics” has become in many places in the business world a one-way street.

Of course, virtually all companies both big and small have written or unwritten rules about “treating others with respect” and “valuing diversity,” but the concepts usually remain vague, and in practice such phrases frequently become mere lip-service, while in the daily grind of the business operations the utilitarian imperative to “stay focused and engaged” on the immediate tasks of the job tend to obscure or replace our awareness of the higher value of the persons around us in the workplace. People who are so “focused” on their jobs soon forget that they have duties and concerns that go beyond the immediate economic concerns of the company.

“Ethics” has come to mean things like protecting company secrets, avoiding giving embarrassment (to the company, its officers or management), no “insider trading” of company stock in violation of statutes or regulations, and never, ever implicating the company (or management) in anything illegal (even if it’s true). It generally boils down to this: “It costs the company enough money just to employ you. Don’t cost us any more money than you have to.” “Ethics,” in other words, is all about the company’s (or management’s) money and prestige, not people’s true human dignity. If some activity or behavior does not somehow redound to these narrow materialist categories, it is not considered to fall under “corporate ethics”. Since you can’t put a dollar figure on human dignity, it is safe to ignore. The only dignity that concerns management is their own, when they are concerned about possible fines, criminal prosecution, civil liability, or their public image.

Everything is considered in crass economic terms. For example, if a production worker is paid a wage of, say, $21.60 per hour (which works out to 36 cents a minute, 6/10 of a cent per second) a supervisor may see fit to reprimand him (or her) or dock his pay pro rata by the stopwatch if he feels he is not “focused and applying his efforts directly to the production tasks of the job” at every moment he is “on the clock” or “on my [the manager’s] nickel”. (And is it really his nickel to begin with, or the company’s?) Some managers have even been known to intimidate their workers and act as though their wages are a gift from the company, and not something that is due them in justice. “We pay you enough,” they seem to think, “we should be able to treat you any way we like. While you are ‘on the clock’, we own you!”

Having worked in a large company for many years myself, I have known managers who seem to think that the only legitimate matters of justice on company premises during “company time” involve the increase in profitability of the company. All other (“personal”) concerns or considerations must be laid aside until company-authorized break periods (lunch or coffee breaks). “This is not a matter of justice for the individual employees,” they might claim. “The only consideration of justice is what they owe the company—their diligence and hard work.”

Should a production or support service worker who is paid “by the hour” be treated differently than a supervisor or office worker who is paid on a monthly or annual salary? Why should that make any difference? Is an hourly worker somehow less deserving of leeway or consideration than a salaried employee or manager? Is he somehow less human? Is there any justice in that? Wouldn’t it be unethical (in the true sense of the word) for a manager (or even the business owner) to “squeeze” labor out of an employee like so much water from a dishrag, expecting him to be “hard at it” at every minute of the day? Human beings are not made to function, either on the mental or physical level, like galley slaves. They are not to be turned on and off like machines at the whim of management. (This is also why forced or “mandatory” overtime without any consideration of the employees’ “outside” duties and responsibilities to family and community (with very few exceptions, such as for manifest public order and safety) is immoral and unjust. If overtime ever becomes the rule rather than the exception, it is a sure signal of the need to hire more employees!)

In truth, the business owes a living wage or salary to each of its employees sufficient to provide a reasonably dignified standard of living, enough to support the worker and his spouse and his children (this is also called the “family wage”). No manager, executive, director or business owner should receive compensation beyond a reasonable figure—not the astronomical salaries and “compensation packages” that are so common in large corporations today). Perhaps the highest level of compensation (pay & other incentives) in a company (e.g. for the company president or CEO) could be of a fixed and limited percentage above the level of the lowest paid employee (e.g. the entry-level janitor), with a reasonable grade scale in between. This way, if the business is very successful, everyone who played a part in its success would reap a proportional and equitable share in the benefits. The business should use the superabundance of its profits to expand the business and hire more employees. This would ensure that “a rising tide” would indeed “lift all boats,” to use a slogan popular in “free market” capitalism. Workers are also consumers, and more people in society with sufficient money to spend on goods and services (beyond the bare minimum to sustain life) will stimulate the general economy all without government intervention!

The first responsibility of any company is, contrary to popular conception, not to its stockholders or customers, as important as they are, but to its employees. A company is in business to provide a product or service to customers, and a company that sells shares of stock should strive to give a good return on investment to its stockholders who share in the business risk. But its first responsibility is to offer meaningful employment (and a “family wage or salary”) to as many people as reasonably possible.

If a manager feels that a worker is not sufficiently “focused” on his work, or is “not applying himself enough”, just not working hard enough, what is the boss’ standard for saying so? Against what is the employee’s effort being measured? Or by what objective scale is one type of work (e.g. product manufacturing, construction or assembly—manual or physical labor) being compared to a different type of work (e.g. design engineering, logistics [movement of information, people or goods], clerical or supervisory)? To make the claim that a CEO or other executive somehow “deserves” annual compensation in the millions of dollars (because his job is somehow “more important” or of “greater value”) while his production or service workers are left to struggle from paycheck to paycheck, often losing ground month by month, is sheer insanity!

I submit that the concept of “comparable (or equal) worth” is not objective at all, but rather subjective to the point of being meaningless, like comparing the proverbial “apples and oranges”. The objective standard that should be employed here is the family wage, what an employee needs to live and support himself along with his spouse and children. In an age when even comparing one person’s intelligence (I.Q.) to another’s (when some people are obviously more intellectually gifted than others) is considered a social heresy, how is it that comparing the “value” of their work is even tolerated?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Why everyone in heaven is Catholic

I admit that the title of this essay might seem a bit provocative, even presumptuous, but in fact it is not. I could as easily have phrased it: Why there are only Catholics in heaven; it amounts to the same thing.

But that is not to say that one has to be a formal member of the Roman Catholic Church on earth in order to get to heaven. Much less do I mean to imply that all Catholics go to heaven.

So what do I mean?

To answer that, it is necessary first of all to understand the nature or essence of what we Catholics mean by the term "heaven." Simply put, heaven is not actually a "place" (in the way we think of places as locations in space and time), but rather the condition or state of spending eternity in the presence of God, the one and only Creator and Source of all that is. All beauty, all truth and all goodness reside (or "subsist") in Him--indeed, that is His very nature: He is, in Himself, absolute and infinite Beauty, Truth and Goodness. Everything else that we might call beautiful, true or good only borrows some finite quality or share of those attributes from God.

To be in heaven means to "see God as He is" (1 John 3:2), which means to have full possession of (or participation in) all of what God is (to the extent that a finite creature can be said to "possess" the infinite). Heaven means full participation in Absolute Goodness, Beauty and Truth. The clouds of ignorance and uncertainty will have been dissipated; the tarnish and dross of misunderstanding and error will have been purged away. The soul's spiritual vision (or knowledge) will at long last be perfectly clear. This is the essence of pure, unadulterated happiness.

In contrast, the essence of hell (also not a "place") is the condition of eternal existence without God, an eternity rejecting God. This is why it is sometimes said that some people are experiencing "hell on earth"--they have already chosen in this life to reject God and to live their lives without Him, as if He didn't exist. If they persist in that rejection to the end and do not repent of it, when they die (since our choices for eternity are fixed at the moment of death), they will get their wish: eternity without God. That is what hell is, and nothing else. It is, in other words, the total absence of all truth, goodness and beauty (leaving in the void only error, evil and ugliness), which can only result in unimaginable misery.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God come to earth in the flesh, established His Church on earth (which by the end of the First Century came to be identified as the Catholic Church) to teach all peoples the truth of His revelation in its fullness for the salvation of their souls (cf. Matt 28:18-20). Jesus proved that He was God by His many miracles, by the perfection of His teaching, and by His absolutely singular act of raising Himself from the dead. And, being God, He has infinite power to accomplish anything and everything He said He would do. He said, on many occasions and in a wide variety of ways, that He would preserve the Church He founded intact until the end of the world. Every other religion or denomination traces its origin to some human person. Only the Catholic Church (in its many Rites) can trace its origin to a divine person: Jesus Christ. (This is not just my opinion; it is historical fact.)

So to be Catholic means to possess (in a dynamic, not static sense), as a member of Christ's Church, the fullness of divine revelation. (The word catholic, incidentally, comes from the Greek word meaning "of the whole" which is often translated "universal." So "Catholic" [one of the four identifying marks of Christ's Church] is an expression of this dynamic fullness of truth and grace.) Now, does anyone in the Church fully understand this revelation, everything about God and everything that Christ taught? No way! Because that teaching is essentially divine (by virtue of its source [God the Father] and its disclosure to us [God the Son and God the Holy Spirit]), it is quite impossible for a merely human mind to grasp it all--or even a part of it--fully. But members of the Church nevertheless possess its fullness in a very real way, even though they don't understand it all, by the virtue of faith. Catholics, therefore, have the fullness of divinely revealed truth and the fullness of the ordinary means of grace [the seven sacraments] necessary for the attainment of heaven, and have the universal mission to share these gifts with all mankind without exception.

But one can be sitting in a gold mine or in a bank vault and still die in poverty. One can own a farm and a warehouse full of food and still die of hunger, if he does not make proper use of what he possesses. Mere membership in the Catholic Church is not sufficient for a person to get to heaven; he must also respond to the grace and act on the truth he is given (i.e. "live the faith") and persevere in it until the moment of death, which can only be done through participation with the grace that God gives freely to all who ask for it. So not all Catholics will get to heaven--some wind up rejecting God in the end, refusing His offer of friendship and adoption.

At the same time, many people who are not Catholics (formally or in the fullest sense) arrive at the end of life madly in love with God and wanting to be eternally united with Him through their cooperation and participation in whatever graces they'd received in this life and by following "the law written on their hearts" (Romans 2:15). Their desire will be fulfilled by their participation in the love of God. They will go to heaven.

We Catholics say that non-Catholic Christians (Protestants, Orthodox and members of other schismatic or heretical groups), people of other religions who seek the truth in sincerity, indeed, all men of good will, have some degree of "imperfect communion" with the Catholic Church. But let's face it, no one's participation in grace is full or perfect in this life. Everyone sins, everyone fails to cooperate in some measure, great or small, with the graces God so lavishly showers upon us. Our communion with God (and therefor with His Church) in this earthly plane is always flawed, imperfect, incomplete. That perfect communion is what we hope to achieve only in heaven. We call the souls in heaven the "Church Triumphant," completely purified and no longer forced to struggle under the burden of temptation and sin.

Those who are in heaven, therefore, (and all those who will eventually get there) will have achieved that fullness of perfect communion with God, will have full and unsullied posession of the full truth about God in all its beauty, and experience and appreciate to the fullness of their individual capacities all the goodness and love that is God. Well, that is what God desires for the members of His Church, His ultimate reason for establishing the Church in the first place: their complete happiness in union with Him forever. Everyone in heaven, therefore, is and will be full and perfected members of His one Church--the Catholic Church--regardless of what they may have called themselves on earth. In heaven, everyone's knowledge and love of God will be perfected in purity, complete and in perfect harmony with the One Truth that is God.

That's why everyone will be Catholic in heaven.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Dictatorship of Relativism: the end of truth and freedom

It’s the height of hubris and the greatest philosophical non-sequitur: the mindless claim that “truth is relative”. We’ve all heard it before (and some of you out there may even have said it). “That may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.” Such a statement can only be valid if the topic is one of subjective experience, like “my favorite color is blue,” or “I like fresh strawberries,” or even “I find tattoos distasteful.” In such cases, what is true for one person may indeed not be true of another.

But if the idea in question is something like “abortion is the willful murder of an innocent human being, and therefore is always wrong” or “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered because they violate the meaning and purpose of the sexual dimension of human persons,” then it is something objective, something outside of ourselves. It’s not just a matter of personal judgment, preference or esthetic taste. Either an innocent human life is extinguished or it isn’t. Either the principle of human sexuality is violated or it isn’t. It’s not a matter of taste or opinion. (Of course, it is possible to debate those statements to determine whether or not they are in fact true, but what you can’t say is “it may your truth, but it isn’t my truth.”)

In no field of science, mathematics, engineering, etc. will any sane person claim to decide for himself his own truth. Truth is something that is discovered, not invented. It is outside us, beyond us, and we are meant to search it out by using our senses and intellect in order to find it, not create it with our feelings. Either colors exist or they don’t (regardless of whether or not a blind man believes them to exist). Either sodium and chlorine atoms react together to form salt or they don’t (whether or not we understand the process). Either 2 + 2 = 4, always and forever, or it doesn’t. Either the house, bridge and airplane are designed and built properly to withstand the forces and stresses of use or they aren’t. Science and engineering stand upon the bedrock of objective and discernable truth, and when they ignore it disaster ensues. We learn from what is real — we don’t just make it up as we go along as it suits our fancy, creating “our own reality” (something that is out-of-sync with what everyone else recognizes as reality).

So why is it only on the subject of morality (how people ought to treat each other and how they expect to be treated) is it common to hear that “truth is relative — there are no absolutes”? Is it just because it can’t be arrived at and demonstrated mathematically? But when you think about it, even here everyone but the most depraved will agree that some behaviors (wanton theft, murder and rape to name a few) are always wrong and must be strongly condemned and proscribed by society, that some things are indeed absolute. Some people would probably want to add “homophobia” to that list.

But if moral truth is indeed relative, who is to say that anything is always wrong? (“My morality tells me it’s OK to shoot you because I find you annoying and inconvenient. You’re in my way, you’re a problem to me, and I’ll just make you go away.” This is how hardened criminals think. Our prisons are full of moral relativists, and that’s the reason they are there!) No, if you give it any serious thought at all, it quickly becomes clear that even moral truth is objective, not “relative” (or subjective). The only real question is, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to conform your behavior to the objective reality of moral truth, or are you going to try to “redefine truth” to permit your immoral behavior and salve your troubled conscience. The latter choice can only lead to insanity, personal or societal.

If there is no such thing as objective moral truth, if “morality” is not something that is independent of subjective feelings and experiences, but only something that is created by human desires and imposed on others by the force of will, then real and honest debate (the art of persuasion by reasoned argument in pursuit of truth) becomes a meaningless concept, defined out of existence. It is no longer a matter of searching for and recognizing what is objectively true and good, but only deciding what is expedient or profitable for those with the strength to impose it on others who lack the power to defend themselves. It is a case of "might makes right".

So why is the idea of moral relativism, if it makes no logical sense, so prevalent in society and public discourse? The reason, of course, is that most people enjoy sinning and don’t want to be reminded that they are sinning so they can continue to sin without having to think about or worry about the consequences. So they fall into the evil habit of denial regarding one or more of their favorite sins because they refuse to repent of them.

And if such people become powerful or influential enough (either as individuals or, more commonly, in concert with large groups of like-minded people) they can persuade (or intimidate, or compel — depending on how powerful they are) others to accept (or at least not to resist) the idea that their sin is somehow okay, that it isn’t really a sin after all, and that it might even be a desirable form of civic virtue. It seems that the only “absolute” that the moral relativist will admit is “I’ve got this gun (or this law) at my disposal, and I can force you to do what I want!” This is the point at which moral relativism crosses over the line from mere “tolerance” to become a dictator and a tyrant, trampling upon all natural human rights, even as it contrives and imposes artificial “rights”.

Frequently there is a great deal of money behind this gradual shift from universally proscribed (defined as immoral or criminal), to tolerated, to accepted, to mandated. (“The love of money is the root of all evils” 1 Tim 6:10.) In politics, this is called corruption. “If you tolerate my indulging in my favorite sin, I won’t complain if and when you want to indulge in your favorite sin. And I’ll pay you to keep your mouth shut. I might even pay you more if you can convince others that I’m not so bad after all.” That’s how it usually starts — or perhaps with some form of blackmail instead of the promise of payment.

Here is an example. Prior to 1930 artificial contraception was universally condemned. All civilizations up ’til then considered the practice immoral and had laws prohibiting its use. Then, at its 1930 Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Communion of churches decided to permit it under limited circumstances inside the bonds of marriage. (The history of how it came to that decision is immaterial to this present discussion.)

That opened the floodgates. One by one, other (and eventually, all) Protestant churches dropped their objections to the use of contraception (only the Catholic Church remains steadfast to oppose it). Approximately 30 years after that fateful decision, “the Pill” was introduced and artificial contraception became easy and commonplace, and resistance to it was considered a joke. In 1965 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all States’ laws prohibiting or restricting the manufacture and distribution of contraceptive chemicals and devices. Abortion is nothing but the logical “backup” to failed contraception (it always fails eventually). In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court took the next logical step and struck down all State’s laws prohibiting or restricting the practice of abortion.

The big legislative battle today is “Healthcare Reform,” the stalking horse for unlimited and mandatory “access” to contraception and abortion. Considered by its proponents to be “a fundamental right and an element of basic healthcare,” contraception and abortion are (according to Obama’s Plan) to be required by law, and anyone with strong moral or principled ethical objections to it (based either on religious conviction or scientific data), and who thereby refuse to participate in it, will certainly be subject to criminal prosecution (and all that that entails). This gives the lie, of course, to the whole “pro-Choice” B.S. (“Oh, I’m not ‘pro-abortion’,” they always say, “I’m pro-Choice.”) Under the present Obama-Care proposal, however, you will NOT have the “choice” to refuse. You will comply in providing contraception and abortion (or anything else Congress or the courts may deem “basic healthcare”) … or else!
(And by the way, what makes lawyers better qualified to run our lives than we are? Nothing, of course. They just think they “know what’s best” for everyone else and have the “guns” (police and courts) behind them to force their will on us.)

So there you have just one example of how the cover of moral “relativism” and “tolerance” turns into absolute tyranny.

The “gay rights” and “animal rights” agenda are following the same trajectory, pointing relentlessly to the ultimate destruction of the entire civilized social order (I am not exaggerating). Normal people are first asked to “tolerate” deviant opinions and behaviors at the fringes of society. Then, eventually, normal behavior and attitudes are “outlawed” by the deviants and their fellow travelers who have succeeded in “taking over the asylum,” and what was once universally understood as necessary for the proper functioning of human society becomes “a most intolerable crime to be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law!”

The “free exercise of religion” in America (supposedly “guaranteed” by the U.S. Bill of Rights) is being steadily driven underground by those who wish God and religion didn’t exist, just as was done in Soviet Russia and Red China (and elsewhere) in the last century. (Religion cannot be totally “exterminated”, of course, no matter how many believers are imprisoned or killed for their faith, but it can be temporarily driven from public view.) Soon, if the trend is not resisted and reversed by thinking and principled men and women, the only “religious expression” that will be permitted in public will be that which is “authorized” by the State. God help us all.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

coming soon ...

I hope to post a new essay on the topic of the Dictatorship of Relativism, especially as it relates to legislation and public policy, acceptable modes of public discourse ("tolerance"/P.C.), and the freedom of religious expression and practice.

Please be patient, and I'll try to get it up as soon as I can.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

It's been a long time, I know

It has been a very long time since I've posted here. I still occasionally check to see if anyone has left a new comment, but I just haven't found the inspiration to write anything major. I have a few ideas for topics, but they just seem to drift about in the back of my mind like vague cloud formations.

My mind hasn't been able to focus on a solid topic for some time. I think it's because there is SO MUCH going on so FAST that I haven't so much as started mulling over Topic A before I am distracted by Topics B, C and D and start thinking about what to write about them. And so it goes. There is so much to write about that nothing gets written.

Time/opportunity to write is also a big issue, as well as dealing with mental and physical fatigue after my long daily commute (approximately 50 miles between home and work).

My mind is fairly active most of the time, and there are plenty of things that bug me or I think need to be clarified or brought up for discussion, but I can't seem to focus on any one thing long enough to "put it to paper." There are a lot of things at work that bug me about how things are done, how people treat each other, or how "management" is structured or practiced. But I also write a column in my organization's quasi-monthly newsletter where I try to lay out issues in a logical fashion (sort of a "reality check"), or at least describe them from my perspective. (There's been nothing but positive feedback for the 4 articles I've written so far.) I should be starting on another one, but the thing that bugs me the most at work is extremely sensitive (touching on certain legal and regulatory issues), so I'm wondering if I can speak the truth (reality check again) without getting into serious "hot water."

So my mind is working on that problem (which has nothing to do with this blog, except that it consumes my time and mental energy). And I hear about the things going on in the political realm that are very serious and disturbing. And things and events that touch on public morality that demand discussion and clarification. And various issues within my own family that require my time and attention (but not necessarily things I would write about).

I envy those bloggers out there who find the time to write regularly (sometimes several times a day). For some, they can work it into their jobs, but for most people that isn't an option, so I appreciate and applaud their efforts and the passion that keeps them at it. (A lot of blogs are junk, of course, but many are quite good, and run the whole gamut of interesting fields and topics.) I also envy people who can just sit down and pound out an interesting blog on the spur of the moment. It takes me a couple of days, at least, to craft an essay once inpiration comes.

Blah, Blah, Blah ....

So what I'm trying to say, I guess, is that I'm still here but struggling to settle on a good topic to write about. (I'm always open to suggestions from you; but as I said above, I know that there's no shortage of things to write about. All I have to do is sit down and "just do it.")

Friday, December 05, 2008

Jimmy Akin on same-sex “marriage”

(The following is a closely-approximate transcription of his answer given to a caller on "Catholic Answers Live" on Thursday November 20, 2008 (3:00 PM hour), show ID # CA-3992 [time reference 40:45 / 55:01]. If you click on that link and queue up the time-slider thingy at the bottom of the Real Audio player that appears, you can listen and read along at the same time. Neato!)

Caller (Vic): My question is with respect to homosexual or same-sex “marriages”. I was debating with a friend regarding his idea that, well, marriage is simply an institution for those who love each other, which seems kind of whimsical because … then anyone should be able to enter into it with … [Jimmy chuckles and interjects: “Oh yeah, parents could marry their children then, if it’s just about loving people.”] Yeah. So someone informed me about an article by a Robert P. George or somebody, with respect to how marriage was never intended to be an issue of the rights of the adults — like well, let’s grant rights just to a male and a female — but it was about the needs of the child, and the benefit of the community in which this child would be beared [sic] and reared with them. So my question is about the Catholic view on that, because he is kind of attacking my faith quite vigorously with that.

Jimmy: OK, this can be approached in a couple of different ways. Marriage does involve the good of the spouses. If you look in the Code of Canon Law and the Catechism of the Catholic Church it’ll say that “the ends of marriage are the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring” … umm … so those are both … goals, and the Church has had a clearer awareness in recent times of the importance of the good of the spouses, that’s something that really has developed in the last couple of decades. But what you can’t do is say, “Oh, well, it would be good for me and my ‘boy-pal’ to get married …um… and fulfill that end of marriage” … and leave the other undone, you know … just as with contraception, you can’t separate the unitive and the procreative aspects [of the marital act], you also can’t separate the good of the spouses from an openness to children. And you are doing that if you are entering a union that by its nature is intrinsically incapable of producing children. (That’s different than a union that for some external reason, some extrinsic reason, can’t produce them, like when the couple is advanced in age or something like that, or they have a medical condition so that they can’t conceive.) If you’ve got two men or two women together … there’s just a difference in their union.

There’s also a problem in that it’s really not good for them. It doesn’t foster the good of the parties if the two people are of the same sex. They may enjoy it on some level; they may say they are deriving benefit from it — but on a fundamental level, they’re not. They’re really harming each other. So neither of the purposes of marriage is going to be fulfilled through a homosexual union.

You can also look at the question another way, and say, well okay, fundamentally, marriage is — I mean, the way the term has historically been used — it refers to a union of a man and a woman oriented towards the procreation and education of offspring. Fine. Suppose you change the meaning of the word. Are you changing the fact that a union between a man and a woman oriented to the procreation and education of offspring is different than any other union? No you’re not. That reality remains the same. The reality of marriage is the fact that there is a union between a man and a woman that is oriented to children, both their production and education. If you stretch the term “marriage” like Silly Putty to refer to other things, you’re not changing the fact that that man-woman union is unique. All you’re doing is obfuscating the fact that it’s unique, but you’re not changing the underlying reality. The underlying reality is a man and a woman can get together in a particular kind of union and do something that two men, or two women, or … a person and a tractor … cannot do together. So all you’re doing is confusing the issue by pretending that something is like the union of a man and a woman, which it’s not. And that just detaches us from reality, it gums up public policy, it devalues the actual uniqueness of the man-woman union, and it will mislead people into thinking that they are married when they’re not, and it will confirm them in a destructive lifestyle that will ultimately harm them in this life and in the next. And that is not loving.

[And that's why he's the PROFESSIONAL apologist, and I'm just a rank AMATEUR! --G/F]

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Life is like ... Faith is like ...

Life is like a 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle

Suppose you'd never seen a jigsaw puzzle before, nor even heard of one. When you first dump it out of the box it looks like mass confusion. But with a little imagination and effort you begin to see that what at first seemed like a big pile of random shapes actually might fit together.

There are two ways to put it together. One way is to put it together backwards (i.e. what we would call upside-down). This is possible, of course, but extremely difficult, since it appears all gray and meaningless. But it gives you something to do, and might even prove how "intelligent" and clever you are because you are able to fit together meaningless pieces.

The other way is to turn the pieces over at the beginning to reveal the "picture" side. This makes putting the pieces together much easier, more interesting and delightful, it tends to draw other people in to enjoy and share in the project of assembling the pieces. You discover as time goes on, bit by bit, an interesting and meaningful picture begins to emerge that pleases the whole person, body and spirit, because the effort of doing the puzzle pays off in the accomplishment of the meaningful task, and the final result is a picture that everyone around you can enjoy both in its details and its overall beauty.

Faith is like the way Adrian Monk solves a case

Have you ever seen the show "Monk" on TV (USA Network [cable], Fridays 9-10 pm, and repeat episodes at other times and On Demand)? It's listed as a "comedy drama", and is suitable for children.

At the beginning of many an episode, someone dies, and you don't always know who, if anyone, is at fault. After the theme music and opening credits, the San Francisco Police are shown going over the scene. Mr. Monk and his lovely assistant show up and, if he has something else on his mind (which is often the case), Mr. Monk says, "There's no mystery here; it was all just an accident."

But then he starts to notice things here and there, an object that seems out of place or a casual remark someone makes, that suggest that it might be something more than an accident. Then, as he pokes around, it becomes clear that someone knows more than he's telling.

In time, his investigation leads him to point someone out and say, "He's the guy! I know he did it. I just don't know how he did it ..."

Everyone around him remains skeptical, coming up with one reasonable excuse or another why he's wrong, until in the end the final clue is revealed and all the pieces fall into place. The final explanation is given and all the former skeptics say, "Of course! It was right there all along. Why couldn't we see it before?"

What started as "no mystery" then becomes a mystery of vital importance, and ends with a clear and satisfying explanation that makes everyone happy.

Everyone, that is, except the murderer. Roll the credits...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

On Political Correctness

Part of the trouble with Political Correctness (there is much more) is that it has to be enforced politically (artificially) since it apparently does not stand up even to ordinary reason. If it did correspond to reason, that would make it true, not just “correct”. (E.g., “You’re not allowed to say that … In fact, it just might be a hate crime!”)

So the way I see it, the implication is that the kind of people who invent and insist on P.C. usage know that it is false (contrary to right reason), so they have to change the terms of the discussion and back it up with artificial peer pressure (demanding recognition of a non-existent duty not to offend and the non-existent “right” not to be offended) and, on occasion, the force of “law”.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Comment Box is not a Chatter Box

JohnnyK (calling himself "The Truth" or "Not The Truth" at present) posted to my last blog entry about 70 comment entries over a period from July 3rd to 30th in what amounted to a VERY LONG and uniteresting monologue of New Age (or something like it) nonsense.
[When copied-and-pasted to Word document format and compressed to 8-point Ariel font and minimal .5 inch margins, the thing still ran to over 30 pages! Incredible.]

He seems to rely on my sense of "fair play" in not deleting him outright. But since he does not respect the norms of courtesy for me or my little corner of cyberspace, I feel no obligation to treat him with even the barest civility. My policy for him is to ban & delete without warning. Soon (I hope) he will get the message and stop trying. (I am reminded of the knife fight scene from "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" where "no rules" means NO rules.)

The contorted "logic" of his views and endless non sequitur "word-play" takes tedium to bold new extremes. It is absolutely opaque. I have stated many times before now that he is free to post his verbal dysentery elsewhere, but not here. If he does find some other cyber-spot to unload on, he has the option of e-mailing me privately and (in 100 words or less) asking me nicely to post a LINK here to his drivel. I might consider it. Then anyone who cares to can follow the link and read it.

On the other hand, if God knocks him off his horse and he has a conversion back to something resembling coherent thought, he can e-mail me privately about that too (in 100 words or less) and I might consider readmitting him to this forum.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Mike Jones' new book

I thought I made a promise some time ago that I would announce particulars in this space when E. Michael Jones (editor of Culture Wars magazine) finally published his book on the "Revolutionary Jew". I can't find exactly where I made that promise (it might have been in a private e-mail), but here are the particulars nonetheless.

The title of the book is The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit and Its Impact on World History. It is hot off the press and available only in hardcover at present. 1,200 pages; $48.00 plus $8 for S&H; order from Fidelity Press, 206 Marquette Ave., South Bend, IN 46617; ISBN 0-929891-07-4. It was reviewed by Robert Sungenis, Ph.D., in the current (May 2008) issue of Culture Wars Magazine (available for $4.00 single issue or by subscription (in U.S.) for $30 per year from the same address given above).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Christian basis for human social progress – Part 3 (conclusion)

After an unexpected hiatus, the Blue Blazer returns to complete his 3-part series on the seeming contradiction of the Progressive attacks on Christian values.

Why do “Progressives” seek to undermine the cultural heritage of Western culture, particularly those that relate to Christianity? Why would they do this when those cultural elements also form the foundation of democracy and human rights—values that “progressives” hold so dear? I see three possible explanations. And I believe that each of these factors is at play on some people, but usually not at the same time for any individual.

The Culturally Gullible: Many people believe strongly in the progressive ideals while rejecting their Christian origins and principles (covered in Part 2). They do this not because of any inner conviction or personal experience, but rather because they have accepted, uncritically, a whole range of ideas that seem “acceptable” in popular media or the so-called “conventional wisdom.” Many of them take this gullibility a step further and thoughtlessly repeat criticism of the ideas that they hear criticized in popular media. Thus their beliefs about what is good or bad are not based upon personal conviction about good and evil, but upon what sounds good on the surface. Therefore, they frequently end up adopting an idea without any concept of its historic philosophic foundations. In other words, they “follow like sheep” or “jump on the bandwagon” to accept just about anything that seems popular (including unsupported cultural mythologies). They never question the post-Modern views of religion (and especially Christianity) promoted by various influential shapers of popular culture; ideas of religion as, at best, an annoying collection of “superstitions,” and at worst, an insidious source social evils, past and present.

Of course, while these people may accept foolish ideas out of ignorance, gullibility or laziness, they are not responsible for creating the distorted views in the first place. That requires active deception. And active deception comes in two types: subconscious and deliberate. The subconscious deceivers seek to avoid facing anything in life that is difficult or inconvenient. This means avoiding the challenging components of Christianity while openly embracing the warm and comforting components. This self-deceptive view of Christianity also requires an added deception—an act of hiding from their own motive which, like the gullible, is usually laziness. While I will touch on this second group briefly, I will focus most of my attention on the deliberate deceivers, those who consciously and carefully craft distortions and lies about history that will serve their vested interest in discrediting Christianity.

Subconscious Deceivers: In his bestselling book, The Road Less Traveled, psychologist M. Scott Peck describes the modern epidemic of self-deception: “Some of us will go to quite extraordinary lengths to avoid our problems [things that cause us discomfort or pain] and the suffering they cause, proceeding far afield from all that is clearly good and sensible in order to try to find an easy way out, building the most elaborate fantasies in which to live, sometimes to the total exclusion of reality.” Peck’s book, subtitled “A new psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth” provides striking evidence that everyone, to some extent, seeks to avoid responsibility for problems or challenges they face. Rather than taking responsibility to deal directly with problems and difficulties, it is tempting to avoid responsibility in various ways. Traditional religious values are an historic reminder of the challenges of being human with individual responsibility and accountability to follow a “good” or righteous path, even when it is difficult or inconvenient. Modern pop culture has embraced a god-less and self-centered ethos articulated by (but not invented by) Rousseau and Nietzsche. It is a self-perpetuating elevation of personal comfort and autonomy that became possible only with the development of modern technology that enabled leisure, learning, communication and social mobility and freedom—all of which, ironically, were the direct result of Christian influence on Western society (see Part 2). While the Church and the society under the influence of her ideals worked to promote learning, justice and freedom, she removed historic constraints of fear and ignorance that, while keeping people in poverty and oppression by the powerful, also applied constraints on the opportunities for self-absorption that is destructive to society.

With the primitive constraints on individual autonomy gone, it has become a “lifestyle choice” to either accept personal responsibility for promoting good in the society or to avoid responsibility when it is hard and opt for an easy out. Given the choice, it seems a growing number avoid the harder road of personal responsibility in favor of the easy course of taking as much as possible while giving as little as possible. Freedom thus becomes a popular concept (at long as it refers only to the freedom from duties, constraints or norms). “Justice” is the rallying cry to be used to claim something that somebody else has (but conveniently, justice is never mentioned when it would threaten my grip on what I have that others might claim). As more individuals have succumbed to these distortions of the Christian values of freedom and justice, the more the distorted versions are viewed as “mainstream” in popular culture, further reinforcing the ideas in a self-perpetuating spiral. And it is not surprising that the basic Christian values of freedom and justice (and likewise peace and love), when redefined from their theistic root meaning, can be elevated by someone who simultaneously attacks Christianity and its basic world view.

Deliberate Deceivers: Not all deception is subconscious, however (though most self-deception appears to be subconscious). In fact, the growth of the anti-religious and uber-autonomistic culture would not be possible without a conscious and deliberate program of deception by people in positions of influence and authority. The evidence for that is that there are those who willfully discard or reconstruct institutions that have proven successful in conserving and advancing society; while replacing them with unproven and clearly anti-intuitive substitutes. Education and science are two examples of institutions that have been transformed from institutions for preserving and advancing social goals of individual freedom and progress, into institutions for influencing social change and control of resources and political and social power—a direct contradiction to their espoused purposes. The aim of these deceivers is not a society in which all members of society share equally in freedoms protected by an equal share in the responsibilities of a social contract. Instead, it is a society run by the “enlightened” who use political power and control of social institutions to meet their own needs at the expense of a cultural underclass, dependent upon them. Today’s so-called “progressive” rhetoric must always be tested to see if it is consistent with the society’s espoused values, or not. The test will frequently reveal a carefully crafted deception to promote a different society altogether—an oligarchy of the powerful who control an underclass through monopoly power over economic resources and social institutions. It should be clear that that oligarchic model is an all-too-familiar fixture in human experience. It has been checked only where Judeo/Christian ideas of human equality under the law have flourished (basically only in Europe and the West since gaining hold in the Middle Ages and Renaissance). Because Christian ideals and education have been the only force to ever overthrow the “law of the jungle,” those who would rule for their own aggrandizement must discredit or destroy Christianity.

There is a group among so-called progressives, who are intent upon more than claiming autonomy and sovereignty over themselves. They wish to claim sovereignty over others too. To claim this sovereignty, they must be thoroughly committed to undermine Christianity. But because imposed sovereignty is inconsistent with the very values of Western Culture inculcated by Christians, there is danger in pushing this agenda openly. Instead they have learned from earlier failures of fascist and communist regimes that direct confrontation will not succeed. Instead, they patiently chip away at the West’s Christian foundation while claiming to embrace its progressive values. This seeming contradiction is not hard to explain. They conveniently embrace the parts of the Christian message that support their agenda, but they cannot embrace the totality of the Christian world view (such as equal dignity for all). But Christianity is a holistic world view that acknowledges a reality that cannot be dismembered. It includes hope and optimism, but it also recognizes weakness and demands responsibility. For those who want freedom to do what they want, without any personal responsibility, it is not pleasant to accept the whole of human experience that Christianity imparts. It must be picked apart. And those who know or suspect the power of Christianity realize that, if they are to pick it apart, they must first destroy it.

I do not consider the culturally gullible to be cause of the progressive threat to freedom and human rights. If anything they are the most pitiable victims. They are manipulated into the destruction of the culture that allows them the luxury of blissful ignorance. They have become the pawns of the few deliberate deceivers who seek to derail the journey of Western Culture and return to a culture of deceptive domination in which “Some are more equal than others.” It is a culture that cannot coexist where a divine creator is acknowledged, especially the God who bestows dignity to all as He reveals Himself through the values of the Torah, the prophets and the Gospel.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Christian basis for human social progress – Part 2

How did Judaism and Christianity lead to the philosophic framework that enables Western democracy and social and economic freedom?

This is part two of a series in which I describe how Christian philosophy led Western society to the basic fundamentals of modern liberal thinking on human dignity and rights; including the idea that government or the "ruling classes" have a duty serve the people, rather than the other way around. I will also show that the idea of social, economic and technological progress is also based upon Christian ideals. It is important for so-called progressive thinkers to recognize where these values came from, for if they hope to sustain these cultural values they would do well not to attack the free practice or discussion of the Christian ideals upon which they rest.

To support this assertion of the role of Christian ideas, I must show is that there is something unique about Judaic and Christian beliefs or experience that set them apart from other human cultures; and that those unique elements are directly related to the values and ideas that have won the allegiance of self-proclaimed enlightened liberal humanists.

I listed in Part 1 four values that seem to underpin modern, progressive philosophy:

  1. Individual human dignity and equality under the law based upon that dignity
  2. Basic rights of the individual to self-determination in their life and property
  3. The belief that social, economic and technological improvement (progress) is possible and good
  4. That humans have a moral value — or even an imperative — to work for progress, not just in our own life, but in the lives of others

Individual human dignity and equality under the law
Today, in modern Western civilization it is largely agreed (although not always practiced) that each human being is worthy of some basic standard set of rights. Implicit in this is the acknowledgement that all people share a certain dignity. In fact, recent history has been a journey to expand the depth and scope of those human rights, and to codify them into law. These laws represent the power of the state, mobilized to protect the rights of individuals. This is fundamentally different from the concept in other ancient and modern civilizations which have held that individuals are to be mobilized to protect the power of the state (acknowledging that in most cases “the state” means the ruling class).

Throughout ancient history, and continuing in non-Western societies today, “The State” is usually represented by a small group who wields power, frequently in support of a monarch or dictator. Everyone else is relegated to a subclass that is at the disposal of the ruling class. Even in ancient Greece, a society that we think of as the birthplace of democracy, the most important duties were those owed by the individual citizen to the polis (city-state). Plato clearly espouses this view in The Republic. And the civil law was designed to protect the government and society as a whole. The idea of the state taking steps to protect individual freedom and civil rights had not occurred to anyone we know of in any society — except among the ancient Hebrews and their cultural successors.

The Hebrews received a law that applied to all equally. It did not afford special rights to the ruling class that trumped the rights of the least in the society. Quite the contrary. Unique in the history of civilization, the Hebrew law placed a duty upon the society for the welfare of the weakest of the individual members (e.g. widows and orphans) and even extended that duty to welcome and respect non-members (the stranger or sojourners). Rulers were seen as stewards responsible to God for the care of His people. This can be seen in the Biblical history of the rulers of Israel, frequently confronted by prophets speaking in God’s name, being taken to task for ignoring their responsibility as stewards.

This was remarkable at a time when rulers exercised absolute power over both civic and religious life, and the institutions of both were used by the elite ruling class at the expense of everyone else. It was in the new and unique cultural system described in the Old Testament that we see everyone afforded equal standing under the law. Incidentally the same principles established a “Separation of Church and State” for the first time. Just as the rulers in Israel were given authority by God to serve all the people, those same rulers served only a civic role. Their role was separate from — and did not overlap — the role of the religious class of priests and Levites. This separation of duties between the civic leaders and the religious leaders, all of whom served the people, was ingrained in the Hebrew culture and was seen as strange by outsiders. Evidence of this separation is seen in the rabbinic traditions surrounding the Ten Commandments and the two tablets upon which they were written. The commandments were said to be divided into two groups — the duties to God (religious duties) were expressed in the first 3, written on one tablet. The duties to all other people (civic) were written on the second tablet.

There is certainly no historical or biological reason for such ideas to emerge. Especially to an “enlightened” Darwinian, it makes no sense to espouse equal rights to all people based upon some philosophical notion of equal dignity. To them, “rights” only follow strength, power and success. "Might makes right" and power is the only source of dignity. But it was the notion of an equal dignity of everyone “born of woman” (created by God) that stands as the lynchpin of this whole system of societal protection of individual human rights. To paraphrase the book of Job, everyone comes into this world equally naked and all will depart without a stitch; so everything that anyone has is a gift of God. With this view, it is impossible to accept a system of stratified rights based upon power.

So why do the modern progressives denigrate — and even attack — the philosophic pillars holding up this view of human dignity? We’ll answer that later on in Part 3.

Potential for Human Progress
What is perhaps the primary philosophical hallmark of what we call “Western Civilization” and modern liberal thinking is the belief in human progress. Many of today’s liberal thinkers characterize themselves as “progressives,” holding up the idea of progress as a keystone of their outlook on life. It would probably surprise many of them to find that the optimistic view of human potential is a direct legacy of Christianity. Judaism broke from the ancient concept of humanity trapped in endless cycles driven by capricious fates, demons and deities. The Hebrews were the first people to view themselves as a people on a journey. Instead of repeating endless cycles, they were making progress on a linear pilgrimage through history (see Thomas Cahill’s book Gifts of the Jews). But the journey was still largely a journey of the people as a whole. It was Jesus, the Christ or Messiah (anointed one), that built upon the Jewish concept of individual dignity (discussed above) to emphasize the individual’s responsibility to follow a path of righteousness to advance the coming of the kingdom on earth as a prelude to the kingdom of heaven.

St. Paul and the early Christian Fathers further developed this theology of human progress. Unlike Judaism (and later Islam) which dwelt upon their scriptures and history in terms of legal frameworks of the past to be consulted to navigate the present, Christianity was distinctly forward-looking, shaped primarily by a view of the present as a prelude to a future filled with hope, enlightened by faith. (see St. Paul, I Cor. 13:9; St. Augustine, City of God, Book 22, ch. 24)

The Christian view of a world enlightened by the spreading Gospel, with believers serving as stewards of God’s gifts, enabled them to escape the doldrums of a life as a pawn of fate in an endless cycle of destiny. Instead they embraced a hope-filled future of change and innovation. Just as Christianity assumed a distinctly developmental view of theology, it also encouraged a developmental spirit in daily life. In his book The Victory of Reason, Rodney Stark traces the blossoming of innovations in farming, animal husbandry, transportation, commerce, trade and technology in Europe to the adoption of Christian ideals into the popular culture of the Western Roman Empire. Although Stark points out that Christian ideals and idealism were necessary for this to happen, alone they were not sufficient. He cites two other factors present in Europe that made the blossoming of Western civilization possible. Without the other two — small political units and diverse, well-matched interest groups — other Christian areas remained stuck in ancient cultural patterns of tyranny and class struggle.

From its beginning, Christian theology developed continuously. In the Middle Ages, led by Thomas Aquinas, theological exploration naturally led to similar exploration of the natural world. The founding of universities came from this growing culture of education and inquiry. It was the same culture of inquiry that would lead to the so-called “scientific revolution” of the 16th Century. It is well known that the great scientists of that age, from Copernicus and Galileo, to Newton, were men of faith driven to understand the world as a way to better appreciate its Creator. Even the modern secular observer Alfred North Whitehead acknowledged in his 1925 Lowell Lecture at Harvard that “science rose in Europe because of widespread faith in the possibility of science … derived from medieval theology.” He recognized that modern science could not emerge from the cultures of Greece, China or Islam.

We see that the modern list of progressive values and virtues only make sense within a context of the Judeo-Christian ethic of the individual’s dignity as a child of God. And the idea that social progress is possible and worth pursuing is not found as a universal human value. It has only emerged in a culture that accepts the uniquely Christian-based premises that what an individual does matters beyond the immediate results. But the moral assumptions of Christianity have been so deeply imbued into Western Culture during its centuries of development that they can easily be ignored by those who wish to ignore them. And yet, any intellectually honest assessment must recognize that the liberal values that Western Culture brings to the rest of the world are ultimately rooted in a set of moral imperatives that cannot be separated from their Judeo-Christian religious context — to work for progress, not just in our own life, but in the lives of others.

The greatest danger to human progress today is that modern thinkers have started to view “liberal values” as self sustaining and have jettisoned the foundation of religious heritage that supports them. The modern attacks on the beliefs and institutions that nurtured the progressive advance of human development over the past 1500 years, serve to weaken the hold of those values on the culture. And without them the culture is free to fall, once again, into the ethic of other civilizations in which “Might is Right,” and law is used to enslave a lower class in service to the “State” (i.e. the ruling class).

This scenario would be considered horrible to the average Westerner. Why would anyone who embraces the liberal ideas of equality, human rights and human progress take actions that would hasten such an outcome? This is the question we will attempt to answer in Part 3.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

News Item

I came across this AP article by Larry McShane in the local newspaper the other day. It got me thinking: Why are the big crime families of the Cosa Nostra (a.k.a. "the Mafia" and "the Mob") gradually going out of business?

My guess is that, when it comes to Organized Crime, it is becoming more and more difficult to compete with the Government.

Sunday, September 09, 2007