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Archive for November, 2011

Princess Pelosi, Clueless Catholic

Back in 2009, Nancy Pelosi had an interesting take on things. Ignoring critics who spent much of the week after she introduced her stimulus bill criticizing the bill’s take on issues ranging from STD prevention funding to cash for the re-sodding the National Mall, she said:

I am the Speaker of the House. I don’t get into that… popular culture

Or her equally royal “I have deep emotions about the American people. If I were to cry for anything, I would cry for them and the policies that they’re about to face.” There certainly seems to be a separation in her mind between herself and what she regards as “the American people.” It’s a mindset that sees herself as apart from, and distinct from, the great unwashed. Perhaps, being fair to Cain, his remark wasn’t all that far off. Enough, though, of defending the idea that Pelosi regards herself as Antoinetteish.

My real thrust here is Pelosi’s apparent invincible ignorance regarding the Catholic faith. In her most recent gaffe on the subject of Church teaching and abortion, Pelosi was quoted in the Washington Post as saying: “I’m a devout Catholic and I honor my faith and love it…but they have this conscience thing [that puts women at risk.]”

During the 2008 presidential campaign, in a Meet the Press interview to the question of whether life begins at conception she answered, “I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition.”

Of course, the Church disagreed. Figuring he knows better than Pelosi what the Church teaches, Pope Benedict XVI told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in what some news reports called a “stinging rebuke,” that Catholics have a moral obligation to oppose abortion. The pope told Pelosi that Catholic elected officials have a duty to protect human life “at all stages of its development.” Pelosi has been a longtime supporter of taxpayer funded abortions and she opposed a partial-birth abortion ban.

The Vatican further clarified, by saying: “His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural and moral law and the Church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death. It said such teaching “enjoins all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men of goodwill in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.”

Nancy, of course, is bothered by all this.  She describes herself as an “ardent, practicing Catholic,” as well as “devout.” She claims to have studied this issue and cannot find a clear teaching of the Church’s doctors on the issue. Perhaps, being unable to discern a clear teaching, she would consider submitting herself to the Magisterium of the Church, and believing what the Church teaches that Catholics must believe.

Instead, Pelosi, by rejecting Church teaching, relies on her own conscience. The very thing she mocks the Church for having. To be fair, the Church does teach that personal conscience can take precedence over Church teaching. But like Papal Infallibility, the circumstances where it may be used are so circumscribed that an authentic invocation of the conscience clause can rightly be regarded as a rare occurrence.

As an ardent Catholic, given to studying the Church doctors, Pelosi surely knows that conscience come from the Latin con scienter and means “with knowledge.” And any conscience that claims primacy over the Church must be “rightly” formed, and with full knowledge. Her failure to find a consensus among Church teachers surely disqualifies her from such an invocation.

The most troubling aspect of the whole imbroglio is the attitude of Pelosi’s cafeteria-ness about her religion. In the face of clear condemnation by the Pope, she persists in claiming to be both Catholic, and pro-abortion. I don’t care about Pelosi’s politics, in a personal manner. What she believes, she believes. But I find her attitude about Catholicism disconcerting. It strikes me as another manifestation of what I previously called “inconsequentialism.”

It is a basic truth that one cannot both be something, and not be something at the same time. One cannot be alive and dead at the same time. One cannot be both human and not human at the same time. This, I believe, is self-evident. Likewise, one cannot both be Catholic and non-Catholic at the same time. To be pro-abortion is to separate one’s self from the Church. Pelosi’s position would make Catholicism a matter of heredity or, perhaps, culture, bereft of it’s core teachings and beliefs.

I don’t care about Pelosi’s religion. If she wishes to be a Unitarian or a Buddhist or a Methodist, good for her. But she cannot be a Catholic while thumbing her nose at the Pope, and the Magisterium, and the Bishops, and the good Catholics in the pews. She winds up being neither “fish, nor fowl, nor good red meat.”

Pelosi is either clueless, or a liar. The Church needs to demand her obedience or her resignation.

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Fuzzy Thinking On Sharia and “Islamists”

http://freethoughtblogs.com/assassin/2011/11/09/islamaphobia-and-islamists/

I was directed to this blog by a couple of friends, who suggested it was worth a read. So I read it, and truth to tell, was severely depressed. The author claims to be a Lieutenant in the US Army, serving in the Middle East. He further claims to have a college degree, and have taken “post-grad” level training by the Army in Muslim related affairs. There are two broad areas in which I was disappointed.

First is what I would call “adjective” complaints. This area includes things like the author’s atrocious grammar, inability to use commas with any precision, and his inability to continue any line of thought to a logical conclusion. One would think that a college graduate would have a better command of what I presume to be his native language. Especially since language is a critical and necessary component of thought. Everything in bold is taken verbatim from the author’s blog. I haven’t used the editorial sic when quoting whole blocks, but the errors are in the original.

The second area I would call “substantive” complaints. This is really the meat of things. Here we deal with facts, implications of those facts, and conclusions to be drawn from them. This also includes alleged facts, etc. So let’s jump into the heart of his blog post.

To start with, his choice of pseudonym is funny, picked without any conscious irony, apparently. The word assassin is derived from the word Hashshashin, and it referred to the Nizari branch of the Shia founded by the Persian Hassan-i Sabbah during the Middle Ages.

Then he goes on to explain why those who oppose Muslim terrorism are actually far-right “islamophobes.” He starts by suggesting that anyone who decries “creeping sharia” is a racist, although he agrees sharia is bad. Never does he tell us, however, to which race sharia belongs.

I have asserted that the far right’s claims of “Creeping Sharia” in America are racist. This deserves some explanation from myself.

First and foremost, Sharia is a bad thing. Any religious law imposed on any culture is in my opinion inherently immoral… Not only is it detrimental to women’s rights…[a]ccording to sharia law, the punishment for apostasy is death. And that is not good news.

I would note, in passing, that he decries any religious based law as “inherently immoral.” I am curious as to how he makes a moral judgement, and how his moral judgement isn’t inherently immoral.

In my life I have come across four “types” of Muslims. First, the ones that I love, Americanized Muslims who have kept only a shred of their tenants and heritage and have taken in American culture and secular values, I call them protestant Muslims. Second, are the American Muslims who congregate in their own social groups and communities, caught at a decision point between accepting the greater American culture or holding fast to their face. Thirdly are affluent Muslims who attended my college, they were the educated youth. Lastly, there are the people of Iraq, who are mired in their often brutal culture.

I am just amazed at the number of things that are wrong with that particular paragraph. First, he accuses others of “racism,” but then goes on to divvy up the entire muslim world into four types! One he loves, and three others that he doesn’t? The ones he loves are the ones who have kept, as he puts it, only a shred of their tenants.(sic) second are the ones who are just barely holding fast to their face.(sic) Then rich ones, then Iraqis. I guess poor Indonesian or Maldivean muslims who went to college elsewhere are beneath his notice.

I look at the first group as a model for the power of secular institutions to moderate a violent faith so it may coexist in modern society. American government did and continues to moderate Christianity to a great extent, we often forget that the various denominations of Christianity did not get along that well around the birth of our nation.

First off, does he really mean to suggest that islam is a violent religion? By saying that his first group, i.e., Americanized muslims, have been moderated by the government, he is in effect, making a tacit admission that islam needs such moderation. That being the case, why does he oppose people who clamor for just that thing?

Second, his assertion that government did moderate Christianity is contradicted by the history of early colonial legislation that favored some, and hindered other, denominations. Early government was an instigator of strife rather than a mediator. One only need look at the history of Maryland.

Here also is what I view as my biggest objection to the far-right’s criticism, their apparent lack of belief in that very moderating power of our society. If America becomes on par with the United Kingdom in its treatment of Islamic law, then we have a problem.

Here again is the admission that islamic law is a bad thing. I gather that what he objects to is that some people believe that islam is beyond moderation. But if that’s the case, then he needs to take exception to the muslims themselves. For example, Recep Erdogan, who said, “”There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it.” Or, closer to home, Imam Rauf of “Ground-zero mosque” fame, who stated that “The only law a Muslim needs is in the Quran and Hadith.” Hardly a moderate position.

The second group, like the Muslims of Dearborn Michigan, highlights a different issue… Now undoubtedly in concentrated community of any faith, the hard liners and extremists will find that it is easier to thrive in those environments than in a secular one, but not exclusively so. As often as not, American Muslim extremist spawn from secular societies as much as cultural enclaves as a response to rabid perceived or real racism.

Again, the charge of racism. Still without any identification of what race muslims belong to. Are Catholics a race, or Presbyterians? But that begs the question. If, as the author asserts, American muslim extremist(sic) spawn from racism, why is it that we hear the terrorists themselves claim islam as their motivation? None of them cry racism, but they universally yell “Allahu Ahkbar” as they begin their killing.

The third group is the most mixed bag of the bunch, the young foreign students. Some were fervent believers in their faith but other were secular, often it depended more on geography than anything else in how they interpreted the primacy of sharia law. And that geography was representative of their politics.

What? This is the most tortured of all the author’s paragraphs and is almost completely bereft of sense. I guess what he means is that some people are different from others, and it sometimes depends on where they’re from. Which, if you ask me, is a subtle form of racism.

Lastly, there are the people of Iraq. One of the more secular places in the Middle East, the insurgency has given the Islamists much more power, so much so that I fear for the Government’s ability to resist in the coming years. But here we see how culture affects religions. Islamists are a product of both culture and religion. From what I have experienced, even if you were to vanish religion from the region in the blink of an eye, the culture would still be Islamist. But if you are able to vanish the culture from the religion, if you are able to move the moral zeitgeist in a progressive direction, then the Islamists may be exorcised from Islam and Sharia will die with it.

More secular, but the Islamists have so much more power that he fears for the Government? Interesting. But then he goes on to attempt to differentiate between “culture” and “religion” as if they were independent of each other. And he does a poor job of it. He suggests that if religion was gone from the region, there would still be Islamists. But if you removed the culture from the religion, the Islamists would die on the vine. I believe that he thinks that culture and religion can be separated, and I believe he is wrong. You can not separate them without doing mortal damage to both. Even in America, we still speak of the “protestant work ethic.” How would one separate the Pilgrims from American culture without doing damage?

But his final sentence in the above paragraph is the most telling. He suggests moving the “moral zeitgeist” in a progressive direction, and then islamists and sharia would both die. This again, is an explicit admission that sharia and islamists are bad. So why are the people who object to sharia and islamists bad?

So the right needs to be careful of how it engages this issue, you can no more solve the problem of Islamists by destroying Islam any more than an atheist can solve the problem of Christian extremists by destroying Christianity.

And once again, there is a problem with islam, but it is no different than the problem with Christian extremists. Pray tell, where is the equity? Where is the equivalence? Since 9/11, there have been some 18,000 muslim-committed terrorist acts. What can the anti-Christians point to? Two or three over the same time? This, to use the author’s own criteria, is just rank “racism.”

The battle must be waged primarily by our culture and not our arms.

Agreed. It is a culture war.

In painting all Muslims with a wide brush that implies that they are all terrorists, you do more to create extremists than you extinguish, when a moderate Muslim encounters hate at every corner, he or she can be driven to dark places.

I don’t know of anyone who has said, or even implied, that all muslims are terrorists. The argument that if you call someone a terrorist they become one lacks evidence at best, and at worst, is specious.

Secular societies that stand up for every person’s inherent human rights are better societies. And by bringing more under its fold rather than shunning whole ethnicities for the actions of a few actors inside our state and the actions of cultures half a world away, we will win.

Agreed. America is better than a state that uses sharia. Therefore, it is better to promote American ideals than sharia. Opposing sharia is what every person who supports a human’s inherent rights should do. And the author has failed, again, in his attempt to pin the label of “racist” on those who would oppose sharia. Nobody advocates the “shunning” of whole ethnicities. What people do, however, is oppose the encroachment of a theo-political movement that denies that every human being is a repository of an irreducible dignity.

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