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Monday, February 27, 2006

Outsourcing Parenthood

Outsourcing Parenthood

“Let’s have a child!"

“How are we going to do that, big man? I got spayed and you got neutered long before we got married, remember? We would have to get the operations reversed, and reversals aren’t always successful. Besides, you know I don’t have the time to deal with doctor’s appointments, labor, delivery, recovery and all the rest. The merger is coming up in the next year, and it’s my job to get it done!”

“Don’t worry about the pregnancy. We could get Sally to carry the child for us. She would be a great surrogate mother. She’s always exercising, she eats right and she loves being pregnant. Besides, you still ovulate. We could harvest your eggs.”

“I suppose that’s true. But the follicle stimulation is really not that safe, and it would take almost as much time out of my office schedule as pre-natal visits would.”

“Don’t worry about that. We can get your sister to donate an egg. She’s always short of cash – this is a good way for her to earn some income. And we keep the money in the family.”

“Oh, that’s a good idea! But isn’t it kind of incestuous to have your sperm fertilizing my sister’s ovum?”

“Well, we could contract that out too – she’s got a live-in boyfriend, doesn’t she? He’s a nice guy, pretty good IQ, handsome. He’ll be a good gene source.”

“Oh… but my sister isn’t. Remember how diabetes and Alzheimer’s runs in our family?”

“Oh, right… Hey, well, that’s not a problem either. We could get a nucleus from Beth.”

“Your secretary?”

“Sure – her family is disgustingly healthy. Yes, she’s 60, but her genes aren’t. And she’s very interested in this new reproductive technology. She’s often said she would love to try something like this. It would be a new adventure for her.”

“Yes, I do like her. Alright, this sounds like a plan. Sally for the surrogate, my sister for the egg, her boyfriend for the sperm and Beth for the nucleus. And once we have the child, there’s that great pre-pre-kindergarten down on Elm Street. They operate from 6 am to midnight, so neither one of us would have to worry about working late at the office. We could pick him up whenever convenient. And now that the governor is making funds available for this kind of thing, it won’t cost us a dime to place him there.”

“Him? You already have a gender picked out?”

“Well, sure, why not? We just keep trying until we get what we want – a blond-haired boy, tall with piercing blue eyes. I mean, they’ve got doctors who do just kind of thing now, don’t they?”

“Yes, they do. It’s a little more expensive, but we have always gotten the best for ourselves, haven’t we? That’s what we deserve, after all.”

“Oh, but I just had a terrible thought. The Elm Street daycare only takes children a year old or older. I mean, sure, once our boy is a year old, we will have all kinds of schools, daycare, after-school, before-school and weekend stuff to keep him busy until it’s time for him to go to college, but what will we do for that first year? Remember the merger? I can’t give that up. It’s crucial.”

“Hmmm… You’re right. We have to keep our priorities straight. How about the family next door? I bet they would take care of the kid for the first year.”

“You mean those fundamentalist Catholics with the homeschooling mother?”

“Sure. Why not?”

“I don’t know. It feels creepy. I mean, they’ll probably try to brainwash the poor boy with all kinds of weird ideas.”

“Yeah, but he’ll be out of there by the time he’s a year old. Honey, he’ll be in pre-pre-kindergarten by the time he can talk. From that point on, he will be with people who think like we do.”

“Well, that’s true. And if they cause us the slightest bit of trouble, we can always call Child Protective Services on them… Alright, you get the checkbook, I’ll get the phone book. Let’s start making babies!”

Friday, February 24, 2006

A Child Is Born

It's a BOY!
(actually, we knew that going in...)

Benjamin Dominic Kellmeyer was born this morning at 8:03 am, 6 pounds, 14 ounces, 19 inches long. Mother and child are resting comfortably at the moment.

All your prayers are greatly appreciated. Baby boy is not very skilled at this whole breast-feeding thing, so if you could pray for success in this direction, I know Veronica would much appreciate it.

I would write more, but I'm short on sleep and food at the moment.
I hope to catch up a bit on the blog soon.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Mortal Sin at EWTN

I recently sent my new book, Designed to Fail: Catholic Education in America, to EWTN for a possible inclusion on Doug Kecks' BookMarks program.

Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I've never actually watched any EWTN program, nor have I heard more than a literal handful of their radio shows. We don't own a television, and the radio - when it is on - is generally tuned to classical music. Still, many Catholics swear by EWTN, so it is a useful place to make a Catholic offering known.

Now, Designed to Fail has been very well-received by reviewers, so imagine my surprise when I discovered the book had been turned down for theological reasons.

"Hmmm..." thought I to myself, thought I, "I wonder what on earth the problem could be. Perhaps they felt I treated America's nineteenth-century bishops a bit too harshly. But that seems odd. The analysis of the Americanist heresy is drawn from a Magisterial document they carry on their own website. Similarly, the discussion of Edgardo Mortrara's situation is based on the testimony he gives about himself, testimony also available on the EWTN website. What on earth could it be?"

I e-mailed, asking around at EWTN. This is the conversation that ensued. Only names have been omitted so as to spare the EWTN participants in the conversatuion their much-deserved opprobrium:

EWTN: "Unfortunately, theology has turned this book down."

ME: "Where would I get the theology report so I can discover what the problems are?"

EWTN: "one of the concerns was advising people to through out their tv sets" (sic)

ME: " LOL! Well, they can still listen to EWTN on the radio... I assume you're not being serious, right? "

EWTN: "you assume wrong ... sorry"

ME: "I assume they interpret Vatican Council II as meaning that it is a mortal sin not to watch television?Oh, ... I'm afraid EWTN is going to get SKEWERED on the blogs for this one! I'll be working on a press release ASAP. Thanks for the information!"

EWTN: "So this is not a private communication?"

ME: "EWTN has turned down a book that I submitted to them. If someone were to call EWTN and ask for the EWTN opinion on the book, EWTN would reply that it has theological problems, right? If EWTN is willing to tell people what they think about a book, then why can't I tell people what EWTN thinks about the book?"

EWTN: silence....

Later that morning, I called EWTN to confirm the situation. I was actually laughing at the absurdity of the thing when they answered the phone.

This is the conversation we had:
EWTN: "Actually, we don't tell anyone what is wrong with a book. We just say we don't carry it."
ME: "Well, why on earth wouldn't you say what the problems were? Shouldn't people be told exactly where the difficulties lie, so they can identify similar problems in other works? Shouldn't the author know exactly where the difficulties lie, so he can correct the problems?"

EWTN: "We don't give out imprimaturs. We aren't the Church. There are a lot of reasons not to carry a book - tone, style, etc."

ME: "Yes, but in this instance, you found a 'theological' problem - you apparently think it is a violation of Vatican II's decree on communications, Inter Mirifica, for a family to throw out their television set or for anyone to tell a family to do so."

EWTN: "I don't know what the theology department meant by that. Perhaps it was a joke. Besides, none of your books have ever been carried by EWTN, have they?"

ME: "True. My first book, Scriptural Catholicism, now Bible Basics, was rejected by Deacon Steltemeier on the grounds that it was useless - no one would want such an apologetics text. In the same communication, he also asked if he could keep the review copy I sent him as he thought it would be marvelous assistance to him for composing his homilies. The next book I sent, Sex and the Sacred City, was turned down by EWTN but was subsequently picked up by Dr. Peter Kreeft, who wrote a rave review for it, called it one of the best books of 2005, and uses it in his classes at Boston College. Now this."

EWTN: "Well, Boston College is barely Catholic. Certainly something that is in use there would not necessarily be appropriate here."

ME: "Boston College does indeed have serious problems, but I've never heard anyone say that Peter Kreeft's classes were only nominally Catholic."

EWTN: "Peter is a personal friend of mine. I know Peter. I have the highest regard for Peter. But a college textbook is not necessarily the best thing for EWTN's audience."

We conversed for a few more minutes in this fashion, and then I said goodbye and gently cradled the phone, shaking my head.

I directed a letter to their theology department. This was the only reply I received:
"Thanks for your note. Sorry that I don't know the particulars of Theology's review. Don't know if you caught Fr. Groeschel's Sunday Night Live program last night, but he touched on this very same topic of Catholic education in America. Most interesting."

Nothing more has been communicated.

As far as I know, this is the offending section of the book, Chapter 14:
"So, get rid of your TV. Throw it out. What? Why yes, EWTN has quite a good set of programs. Oh, certainly I agree, the sports channel is mostly innocuous. Yes, it is absolutely wonderful that you have blocked MTV. I applaud the fact that you have restricted broadcast television viewing.
That’s great. I’m proud of you.
Now throw it out.
Television advertisements teach one thing: you don’t have enough. Whatever “enough” might be, you don’t have it and you won’t be happy until you get it, so you must go out and buy it. That is television’s only lesson, it is the lesson that runs through every other lesson. Just as the curriculum of the compulsory school is contraception, so the television curriculum is the curriculum of the needy, the incomplete, the whining child. You wouldn’t let a used car salesman live rent-free in the spare bedroom. Why let this thing live rent-free in your living room?
If you must have it, cut the cable, rip off the antennas and operate solely on the DVD and VCR players. Don’t permit your children to even be aware that broadcast or cable television exists until they have at least received the sacraments of Reconciliation, Confirmation and First Eucharist. They need grace to handle the stuff broadcast and cable have in store for them."

It's a mortal sin not to watch television.
I am a sinner.
Go thou, and do likewise.

Monday, February 13, 2006

It Ain't Natural

As most people know, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has long been a hot-bed of activity in support of intelligent design theory. Take for example, their biology department. The entire staff of the biology department insists, and has insisted for quite some time, that what we see happening in the world is not natural, rather, it is the result of actions taken by an intelligence not properly part of nature or the natural world.

Similarly, the American Association for the Advancement of Science is a strong supporter of intelligent design theory. Just one year ago, on February 19,2005, the AAAS released a report that insisted supernatural phenomena were having long-term, serious impacts on the world we inhabit.

The Environmental Defense Fund, following even earlier findings by the Pew Charitable Trust , now recognizes that there is a force stronger than nature at work in the world, and warns that we must be willing to deal with this fact.

Only one thing remains to be clarified: why do these and like-minded organizations insist intelligent design is the only accurate way of describing the environment while simultaneously holding that intelligent design is junk science?

As Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould both famously pointed out, evolutionary theory made it possible for an atheist to reasonably deny the existence of God and of the supernatural. If they are correct about evolutionary theory, man is simply one more animal - no more, no less. We are only marginally better than the great apes in terms of technology, and certainly not morally superior to them in any respect worth noting.

In short, man is just part of nature.

But global warming? Ahh… that’s not natural. It is unnatural, it is contra-natural, it is a violation of the natural rhythms of the world. And, as everyone knows, global warming is caused by dolphins.

Hmm?? Oh, wait, scratch that… global warming is caused by man.

And there's the rub. If Man is just an animal whose actions are completely explained by natural processes,

AND man acts to cause global warming,

THEN global warming is natural.

Dawkins and other evolutionists imply that mankind’s ability to create houses, computers and similar things is merely an expression of genes – no more unusual than bees building a beehive or mollusks building shells to inhabit.

If Dawkins, et. al., are correct, then global warming is a perfectly natural phenomenon that none of us should worry our pretty little heads about. After all, according to this theory, an SUV is just as natural as a beaver dam. Just as a beaver dam may cause some local flooding, so the SUVs may cause some global warming, but each is a thoroughly natural event. If evolution has no teleology, no purpose, then there is no good or bad and the destruction of diverse habitats caused by global warming is neither good nor bad.

If, on the other hand, we insist that global warming is not natural, then who is causing it? A non-natural event can only be caused by something that is not part of nature. Since everyone seems to think man is the cause of global warming (even the most religious among us fail to blame God for this particular problem), the claim that this warming is not natural is thereby identical to the statement that man is not natural.

In fact, it is worse than this. If Non-natural Man is capable of controlling and impacting nature with powers and abilities for beyond that proper to nature, then he must be - dare we say it? - supernatural.

Even worse, if evolution is a natural process, then man is beyond the power of mere evolution and his presence here cannot be explained by evolution.

So, if global warming is not natural, man must be (a) supernatural, and (b) the result of a process greater than evolution, a supernatural process of some kind.

The positivists and the materialists are always asking for a proof for God’s existence. They don’t realize that they have not only already provided the proof, they insist on it. As a matter of Christian charity, we should take them at their word.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Why Cartoons Matter

When it comes to riots, Muslims certainly know how to do it up right. As Muslims torched embassies over the weekend, the crowds resembled nothing so much as the draft-card incendiaries and bra-burners of the 1960’s. There’s a good reason for that.

While many commentators are discussing the similarities between the most recent Muslim unrest and the 1938 Kristallnacht event, there are other connections that are at least as important. In order to see what is going on now, we have to remember what happened then.

When a seventeen-year old Parisian Jew, upset at his uncle’s deportation from Germany, assassinated one of the members of the German embassy in France, Goehring used the event to justify Kristallnacht, the 1938 German pogrom against the Jews.

While everyone remembers the rioting, few remember the purpose behind it: Goehring meant to use Kristallnacht as an excuse to seize goods and materials from every Jewish businessman in the country. Kristallnacht allowed the Nazi government to re-locate literally billions of marks, both in cash and goods, into government coffers.

Seen in this light, Kristallnacht was essentially the same eminent domain process recently approved by the US Supreme Court, although marvelously expanded and focussed entirely on a single group of people. Indeed, Goehring explicitly insisted the situation was an economic one. He intended to remove Jews from the German economy.

In 1938, Germany had been a fully integrated nation for less than seventy years. Prior to the 1871 unification under Bismark (accomplished only by the waging of the Franco-Prussian war), German territory was divided into literally thousands of fiefdoms – in 1781, there were 1,781 separate governments ruling over various pieces of the territory we now call Germany.

Seventy years later, the union had not fully quashed those earlier rival fiefdoms. Even on the eve of World War II, Hitler worried that Bavaria would defect to Italy – everyone knew Bavarians paid more attention to Catholic Rome than to Protestant Prussian Berlin.

While anti-Semitism was real, it was also a tool, a way to unite Germans against a common enemy, a way to maintain national vision and purpose among disparate people. Indeed, anti-Semitism served a very similar role in Poland, a country that had been completely wiped out of existence and only reconstituted at the close of World War I.

Year of the Barricades
Fast forward to 1968. The world-wide baby boom had created a late-60’s world-wide population heavily weighted towards the under-25 age group. The skew was more accentuated than normal because the war had already killed off a large proportion of what would otherwise have been mature adults.

This unusually high disparity between the population of old and young, matched for the first time with a factory school model that eliminated most of the traditional one-on-one mentoring mature adults had historically used to temper the impetuosity of youth, resulted in a world-wide explosion of that same youthful impetuosity. In 1968, riots broke out across the industrialized world.

No matter what country you looked at, violent demonstrations were in full force. Poland, France, Spain, Britain, Japan, America – each one rocked repeatedly as the youth streamed out into the streets at the slightest provocation.

The Muslim Riots
There was in 1938 Germany a very popular joke: “The Aryan is blond like Hitler, slim like Goehring, and tall like Goebbels.” Anyone who looked at Hitler’s dark hair, Goehring’s corpulence or Goebbels’ height could instantly see that none of the people in government lived what they promoted. Still, the myth of the ideal Aryan gave a divided people something to cling to.

Now, according to Muslim theology, faith and state are a single entity, a combined unity stronger than even medieval Christendom ever envisaged. And that’s the match to the fuel.

Today’s Muslims simultaneously face two problems, each of which was enough to cause enormously violent responses in European and American societies.

Like 1930’s Germany, the vision modern Islam has of itself is nowhere to be found. Instead, the reality is rife with dissension. Muslim populations are split both theologically and geographically. Despite the common Quran and the Hajj, there is no common Muslim identity. The two elements of common book and common journey, elements meant to maintain Muslim unity, are beginning to fracture under the load.

As competing groups each seek to make their vision the guiding one, each has to do something that is louder, purer, stronger than the last. Thus, images of Mohammed that had never caused issue before now become lightning rods. Whether this is by accident or design is not particularly relevant. The images couldn’t have been used as lightning rods unless they spoke to an inherent fear within the Muslim community of incipient apostasy.

The Meaning of the Riots
The Muslim fight is not ultimately against the Danes and their cartoons any more than Hitler’s fight was ultimately against the Jews. Certainly Hitler killed millions of Jews, but he did so as a means to an end – he wanted a united Germany, a united vision of Germany, and anti-Semitism was his preferred method for accomplishing that vision.

His anti-Semitism worked precisely because Germans already had an inchoate sense that they were not united, that something was keeping them apart. Rather than blame themselves, rather than blame their history or their vision, they blamed the Jews. It was a convenient story that resonated with an unstable population that wasn’t given to introspection.

And that describes modern Islam in a nutshell. Muslim countries are the only countries that have positive population growth. They have more young people per capita than any other population in the world. Historically, this has never been a problem as long as the economy has something for the youth to do.

Unfortunately, Islam is composed mostly of dictatorial, soviet-style economies that are not strong enough to handle the influx of young workers. As the West has demonstrated time and time again, well-educated youth are more likely to riot than poorly educated youth. Something must be done to keep the young from rioting against their elders, a la 1968.

The West, especially the United States, solves the problem by maintaining an inferior educational system and a hedonistic culture. The strong emotions of youth are kept uninformed, unguided. They are also channeled towards mindlessly numbing entertainment. Bread and circuses worked for the Romans. It works for us. We create eunuchs.

The Muslims took a different approach. They solve their problem through a similarly inferior educational system, the madras schools. However, they have a long history of experience with eunuchs, and are aware of the problems inherent to that system. Today, they choose a different path.

Not only does the madras system of schools keep the youth ignorant of all things except the Quran, it creates strong hostility against all things non-Muslim. Thus, the riotous youth, insofar as they become riotous, are already predisposed to point out towards the rest of the world instead of in towards the despots that rule them. Instead of creating eunuchs, they create xenophobes. For them, anti-Semitism is merely the particular instance of a larger worldview.

This is why cartoons that were published in September become an issue in February. This is why the Muslim who abhors pictures or drawings of persons is willing to smile into the cameras and watch himself on television. This is why all the signs are in English, and why all the Danish flags appeared as if from nowhere.

Even as the orthodox Muslim watches his own image on Islamic television, he knows he is blond like Hitler, slim like Goehring and tall like Goebbels. But that doesn’t matter. The burning is a carthartic balm to the nagging concern that the faith which is Islam, the faith which is his identity, is somehow crumbling into ash and dust. If a few Danes must be knifed, or a few priests must be shot in order to maintain that soothing self-image, well then, so be it. Mohammed assassinated those who questioned his image. It is just.