Monday, December 30, 2013

Belated: Sunday Snippets — A Catholic Carnival (Vol. 13:52)

My apologies for the late appearance of this post. My brain decided it hadn't had enough rest on Wednesday and shut down on me Sunday.

"Sunday Snippets — A Catholic Carnival" is, as I've explained before, a selection of posts from around the Catholic blogosphere collected by RAnn of This, That and the Other Thing. In this manner, it's sort of like New Evangelists Monthly, to which I also contribute, except instead of directly linking you to the articles themselves, Sunday Snippets links you to posts in which any number of articles can be linked. So while it entails more steps, you'll find some good writing by writers that the big blog aggregators can miss.

On this blog I haven't done much ... just passed along a message from Phil Robertson concerning cuts to veterans' benefits, as well as linked to my quater-weekly submission to Catholic Stand, "Talking white trash". On Outside the Asylum, my only effort was "Phil Robertson's other controversial statement", where I turn my attention to the public perception that the Duck Dynasty patriarch had said black people were happy under "Jim Crow laws" and find it to be an exaggeration. Hopefully I'm all done with the Bearded One, and can discuss other things closer to my heart than a "reality show" I never watch.

And that's it for now. Have a great week, and a safe New Year's Eve!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Catholic Stand: Talking white trash

People of a certain age ought to remember the routine that made comedian Jeff Foxworthy a household name. And I’ll give just one example: “If you mow your yard, and you find three cars and a couch, you might be a redneck.”

What Foxworthy was describing, though, wasn’t really a redneck. No, there’s another name for the ignorant, slovenly boors Foxworthy’s jokes painted in such garish colors: white trash. We could go less race-specific and use the term I heard growing up — trailer trash. Either name makes the egalitarian-minded liberal shudder; and yet, while progressives are good at talking populist, when the crunch comes they can be as elitist as any Porcellian among the Boston Brahmin.

The term white trash has been popping up here and there since the infamous Phil Robertson GQ interview; understandably, since Robertson used it to describe himself and the people he came from (post-WWII, pre-Vietnam rural Louisiana). Peter Lawler, in the blog “Postmodern Conservative” on First Things, remarks:

The phrase “white trash” is, in fact, one of the most unattractive features of aristocratic Southern Stoicism. The Stoic, aristocratic (not to mention gay and racist) poet-philosopher William Alexander Percy disparaged “white trash” far more than southern blacks. And we see that same sort of stereotyping in To Kill a Mockingbird, where the white trash are really, really trashy — so trashy that nobody minds how cruelly Stoic attorney Atticus Finch deconstructs the pretensions of their way of life in the service of justice for a noble — if simple — black man. And of course the white trash jury was too trashy to keep an innocent black man from being convicted. …
When a Stoic Walker Percy character says that the behavior celebrated on our talk and reality shows is that of white trash — of people who don’t know how to act because they don’t know who they are — we can’t help but want to agree. … White trash, any real Southern Stoic would say, describes a way of living not confined to the impoverished or the South. (Here I refer you to the novels of Tom Wolfe.)
Read more at Catholic Stand!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Please stand by ...

Well, the essay for Catholic Stand hasn't posted yet — what the heck, I got it in late, and it's Christmas so everything's bound to be in disarray for a little bit — so let me offer a filler:

In the essay, "Talking white trash", I discuss the term white trash in connection with the Phil Robertson GQ interview and the rise of cultural illiteracy in which, as Southern writer Charlotte Hays puts it, "white trash has become the new normal". In a society that's culturally illiterate, people don't know enough of their culture to intelligently oppose or promote a viewpoint; yet, with an ever-increasing incidence of classic narcissism, the coming generation isn't bothered by their lack of subject-matter knowledge: "I don't know that s**t! Keep it real!" They believe they know enough to have a valid opinion ... and aren't we supposed to think for ourselves, anyway? Despite our technological progress, in some areas we're actually more ignorant than any previous generation ... and we're smug about it to boot. The essay is mostly in the context of religious knowledge (cultus being both the etymological and anthropological root of culture), but I fear it extends to other aspects as well.

Well, since the post is finished and committed for review, I can't incorporate this op-ed piece by Patrick B. Craine in LifeSiteNews: "The real 'war on Christmas' is perpetrated by Christians themselves". In my own piece, I mentioned the "stoopid lefty meme" as well as a CNN BeliefBlog piece which Terry Mattingly dismantled in GetReligion. Both of these items are good examples of what Craine is talking about:

The problem is that Christ and His Gospel have been co-opted and distorted. The Cross has been edited out, and Christ has been re-envisioned according to modern sensibilities. In the public mind, the Lion of Judah has become a hippy sentimentalist; the Lamb of God a cuddly teddy bear. He’s nice; He doesn’t make great demands of us – except for the ones the culture does. Our path to heaven is laid wide by being a “good person,” in other words, by staying on the right side of the law and giving to charity now and then. One of the key challenges of proclaiming Christ in this culture we live in is that to get our message across we have to first break through these preconceived distortions.

Granted, this is nothing I haven't said before elsewhere ... but then, I write in defense of Catholic Christian orthodoxy; there is a sense in which originality is a liability rather than an asset. Or, perhaps I should say that it's more important to get something right than to make it original or idiosyncratic.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A message from Phil Robertson

... or, at least it claims to be from him. With Photoshop you can never be sure. But given the kind of person Robertson's revealed himself to be, I can believe he is behind this message.

That's gratitude for you. Gratitude to all those who have served. Seems every time Congress wants to save a nickel, veterans are the ones they screw to save it.

Of course, the real problem is the longer lifespans we live. If you enlist right out of high school, you qualify for a 2/3rds pension when you're not even forty years old ... a pension the government pays you for conceivably twice as long as your original term of service. Go thirty years, and the government pays you 3/4ths pension for about as long as your service term. In either case, you have plenty of years left to earn a civilian salary while collecting a military pension; some even go to work for the government in another sector and become "double-dippers". Is it any wonder Alexander cut the Gordian knot rather than try to untie it?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival (Volume 13:51)

... And I finally got the proper photo credit at the bottom. Credit where credit is due.

Welcome again to "Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival", where, after briefly recapping my own poor efforts to entertain and instruct, I refer you back to RAnn's This, That and the Other Thing, wherein you'll find links to other Catholic writers begging for discerning readers to become followers. Just follow the link, and you'll be enriched and edified by a goodly collection of obscure but worthy talents on many issues.

Of course (of course you knew I'd say "of course"), this week I don't have much to offer, though I am getting better at posting at least once a week. In Outside the Asylum I offer you "No 'Christmas' without Christ", a reflection on American Atheists' annual whiny-a$$, crybaby billboard reflecting their odd conviction that people still go to church only out of a sense of social obligation (the only people this description really fits are Unitarians, whose church has been described as "Sunday worship for agnostics"). Then here on The Impractical Catholic I offer you "Another stoopid lefty meme to fisk", one that shows us once again why it takes more than a Bible and a sense of one's intellectual superiority to properly learn Christianity. Just for fun, I've also posted a video clip demonstrating that Chuck Norris is The Man and Jean-Claude Van Damme is a mere wanna-be.

I don't know if I'll be posting anything between Wednesday and today; if not, then have yourself a wonderful, memorable Christmas! See you Thursday with a link to my upcoming Catholic Stand post!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Another stoopid lefty meme to fisk

To your left is another meme making the usual rounds. Like most memes, its BQ (bulls*** quotient) is high and its SMK (subject-matter knowledge) is low; like most progressive memes invoking Jesus, it shows a high degree of scriptural choosiness combined with a shocking innocence concerning anachronism (do I need to point out that Jesus didn't have to pay for malpractice insurance, buy expensive diagnostic equipment or maintain a suite of offices?).

*sigh* Here we go:

Jesus was not a radical revolutionary. He affirmed the authority of religious leaders (Mt 23:2-3) and of the secular government (Lk 20:25). He hung out with sinners because "I came to call not the righteous to repentance but sinners" (Mk 2:17). Jesus' "silence" on homosexuality and abortion can only be taken to mean he did not oppose Jewish law forbidding gay sex and the use of abortifacients; Jesus “did not come to abolish the law ... but to fulfill [it]” (Mt 5:17). He did not condemn the adulteress, but he did tell her, “Go and sin no more” (Jn 8:11). 

Most of all, Jesus did not come to be a political sock puppet or to take sides in our godawful culture wars but so “that he who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Watch as Chuck Norris pwns Jean-Claude Van Damme

Jean-Claude Van Damme does the splits between two moving Volvos? Pfffffffft. Van Damme, Seagal, Jet Li — all of them amateurs and wanna-bes. Here he is, the star of Lone Wolf McQuade and Good Guys Wear Black, showing that Belgian second-stringer how it's really done:

(Heck with it — what I really like about the commercial is that Norris sends up his own tough-guy image so well. It's like watching William Shatner goof on himself.)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival (Volume 13:50)

Ah-HAH! Finally found the photo I used to use for this segment!

Although I post links to pieces I've written through the week here, this feature really isn't about me. If you want to read what I've done the last week — and this week it wasn't much to speak of — you can always go to my archives here and on The Other Blog. Heck, you can just scroll down the page and click the titles you want to read.

No, the real purpose of this post is to direct you to RAnn's blog, This That and the Other Thing, where once a week she holds a virtual kaffeklatsch called "Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival". This will lead you to other posts like this, where Catholics from around the blogosphere — most of whom you may not know — have their own efforts linked. You can always go to New Advent or BigPulpit to find the big-leaguer Catholic writers and the more promising of the farm-club players. But if you're a true aficionado, you can find some tasty writing among us sand-lot and small-town players. That's also why I promote Catholic Stand and New Evangelist Monthly — it ain't just because the editors of those outlets were kind enough to ask me to contribute.

So anyway: In Outside the Asylum, I offer you "The 'starter job' myth and economic reality", in which I muse over the recent fast-food strikes and demands for a $15/hour minimum wage. On this blog — well, heck, just scroll down a bit for a semi-review of two books on the Christian roots of science in the High Middle Ages, as well as for a slightly naughty rib-tickler on the thermodynamics of Hell.

Today is Gaudete Sunday — gaudēte being Latin for "all y'all rejoice" — when we're reminded that the coming of the Lord is a thing to rejoice over:

Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.

Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
they will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.
(Isaiah 35:4-6, 10)

Have a joyous week!

From the "Religious Apocrypha Department" ...

... comes this tale of a University of Arizona student's answer to a question on a chemistry midterm:

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic [gives off heat] or endothermic [absorbs heat]?

Wrote the student in reply:

First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving, which is unlikely. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let’s look at the different religions that exist in the world today.

Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. [?] Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. [??] With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle’s Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas holiday reading

There are two books touching on the history of scientific development that are out now which you may find interesting, and which bear on the Christian-atheist dialogue ... so far as a "dialogue" can be said to exist on any controversy on the Internet. (Most of what occurs out here on the misinformation superhighway consists of competing monologues, strawman-bashing and argument by sneer and meme.) The first book I haven't read yet, but which is going on my Amazon wish list on the recommendation of an atheist.

Yes, you read that right.

Tim O'Neill's "About the Author" blurb tells us that he "holds a Master of Arts in Medieval Literature from the University of Tasmania and is a subscribing member of the Australian Atheist Foundation and the Australian Skeptics. He is also the author of the History versus The Da Vinci Code website and is currently working on a book with the working title History for Atheists: How Not to Use History in Debates About Religion." The "About the Author" blurb is found on his review of God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science, by James Hannah (London: Icon Books, 2010). 

O'Neill's recommendation comes almost as an aside to his real topic, which is the "staggering level of historical illiteracy" he encounters on atheist discussion boards. "I like to console myself that many of the people on such boards have come to their atheism via the study of science and so, even if they are quite learned in things like geology and biology, usually have a grasp of history stunted at about high school level. I generally do this because the alternative is to admit that the average person's grasp of history and how history is studied is so utterly feeble as to be totally depressing."

The myth goes that the Greeks and Romans were wise and rational types who loved science and were on the brink of doing all kinds of marvelous things (inventing full-scale steam engines is one example that is usually, rather fancifully, invoked) until Christianity came along. Christianity then banned all learning and rational thought and ushered in the Dark Ages. Then an iron-fisted theocracy, backed by a Gestapo-style Inquisition, prevented any science or questioning inquiry from happening until Leonardo da Vinci invented intelligence and the wondrous Renaissance saved us all from Medieval darkness.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival (Volume 13:49)

Translation: "A real Merry Christmas and a real St. Nicholas!"
The best Feast of St. Nicholas meme I've seen so far is to your left. The second is an Eastern-style iconic portrait with the words: "He sees you when you're sleeping /He knows when you're awake /He knows if you've denied the divinity of Christ, so if you're an Arian, DUCK!"

(For those of you not up on your saints, St. Nicholas of Myra, the root of the "Santa Claus" legend, supposedly attended the Council of Nicaea, where in a fit of holy fury he punched the heretic Arius dead in the face. Alas, his attendance is apocryphal ... but it's still a good story.)

Okay, the Saint Nicholas observance is a couple days late, but just in time is this week's "Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival" link to RAnn's blog This, That and the Other Thing. My entries for the week:

From Outside the Asylum: "Ecce ancilla Domini ...", a reflection on the typology of the Blessed Mother as the New Eve, especially as it ties in to the Immaculate Conception.
From The Impractical Catholic: "Conservative 'cafeteria Catholics' on parade", which takes on Rush Limbaugh and the Catholic conservatives who treat the social doctrine of the Church as somehow "optional" or "not authoritative".

I've also submitted my monthly link to New Evangelist Monthly. When I picked "In loving (and selective) memory", I was thinking it was about the only real effort I made last month. However, I could have also selected "Bethlehem redux", which has gotten plenty of shares and "likes" over at Catholic Stand, although it's a trimmed-down and slightly updated version of a post I wrote for The Other Blog three years ago.

Last thought: I'm finally starting to separate the voices of Outside the Asylum and The Impractical Catholic. While I still expect to occasionally take on controversial subjects in OTA, that voice is more reflective, and will probably see at most one post a week from here on out. TIC, on the other hand, will be more engaged with topical matter, where I pull off the gloves and get in my first reactions in a more idiomatic voice. Any thoughts on this?

Have a great week! Pax vobiscum.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Conservative "cafeteria Catholicism" on parade

I thought that it was impossible for me to respect Rush Limbaugh less; I thought that needle was buried at zero for some years. However, there must have been a little morsel — perhaps a hidden affection for his term "femi-nazi" — sneaking around in a dusty, little-used corner of my mind. That little booger died quickly yet screaming in agony when Limbaugh decided to take issue with Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (which is back online in HTML format, although you can also download it in PDF format for perusing on your tablet or e-reader).

What, specifically, did Limbaugh take issue with? Why, Paragraph 54, which has turned out to be a stumbling block to free-market apologists, both Catholic and non-Catholic:

... [S]ome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably [in Spanish, por si’ mismo, which Fr. John Zuhlsdorf argues is better translated as "by itself"] succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Fake victims and lying for the Cause

Pseudo-victim Dayna Morales. (Dept. of Defense)
This has to be the most pathetic story I've read in thirty-plus years of following the culture wars.

Let me set this up by saying I'm conflicted on the issue of tipping. I tip good service because it's customary, and because I know a lot of servers depend on the extra change for their ability to pay rent and utilities and put gas in their cars. However, I don't believe servers are entitled to tips, and I resent that restaurateurs can legally take advantage of the custom to pay their waitstaff less than minimum wage — it's their moral obligation to pay a decent wage for the server's work, not the general public's.

But no way would I not tip a waitperson solely because of his/her sexual orientation. That's the kind of judgmentalism Jesus condemns in Matthew 7:1-5 — "You deserve to be underpaid because of your sinful life." Charity gives not to the deserving but to the undeserving; to give to the deserving is not charity but rather justice. If we were all to be denied the necessities of life because of our sinfulness, who would own so much as a loaf of bread or a pair of pants?

So when Dayna Morales, a former Marine and a server at Gallop Asian Bistro in Bridgewater, New Jersey, claimed that a customer stiffed her on a $93.55 bill and wrote on the receipt that it was "because I do not agree with your lifestyle", I was torn. On the one hand, such an act is petty and Pharisaical; on the other, precisely because it is petty it doesn't warrant a lot of attention ... it barely budges the needle on the persecution meter. Other people disagreed, and started sending Morales "tips" from all over the world, which she claims she will donate to the Wounded Warrior Project (a fine and worthy cause).

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival—REBOOT!

So I got the weekly email from RAnn at This, That and the Other Thing with the link for submissions to Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival, in which I've been participating off and on over the last two years ... lately more off than on. 

With the email came a little lecture: This thing is a two-way street. It's all fine and dandy to post links to your own scrivenings, but how about linking back? Other writers post to Catholic Carnival, too, y'know.

Quoth the prophet Homer of Springfield, "D'OH!" Yes, I dropped the ball, and I really have no excuse. 

So, to conform in all fairness with the host's "suggestion", the link back to Sunday Snippets is posted above. And here are the posts which I've submitted: From Outside the Asylum, I've posted "First Sunday in Advent", a meditation on the beginning of the Church's liturgical year; and from this blog I've linked to the post on my Knights of Columbus council's annual charity drive (which is done with, but you can still contribute through this link here).

So go visit RAnn and check out all the Catholic writers who post there! You'll be glad you did!