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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

For Your Listening Pleasure

I have reduced the number of essays I write each week for several reasons, most revolving around my new position as director of adult formation for a parish in Texas.

However, if you would like a weekly dose of Catholic doctrine from me, you now have two new options:

You can click over to www.grnonline.com
I am co-hosting a radio show each Friday between noon and one pm, CST.

Or you can click over to www.thegodpod.com and listen to the RCIA talks I do each week.

No registration is required for either listening session, and the latter can be downloaded for your iPod.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

CNN: God’s Gift to Religion

Thank God CNN understands religion better than any of its ignorant adherents. We need CNN’s unparalleled interpretive skill to understand complex Jewish, Muslim and Christian issues. For instance, without CNN, we would never know:

“…that during the last 30 years, each faith has exploded into a powerful political force, comprised of followers – “God’s warriors” – who share a deep dissatisfaction with modern society, and a fierce determination to place God and religiojn back into daily life and to the seats of power. Their political and cultural struggles to save the world from what they view as secular materialism, greed and sexual corruption have caused (sic) anger, division and fear.

You see? It isn’t secular humanism that causes problems. How could it be? Secular humanism has only been around since the Enlightenment, has only really gained traction in public culture with the growth of industrialization in the late 1800’s, and only had public advocates in the American political sphere in the latter half of the 20th century, that is, within the last thirty to fifty years.

No, the problem isn’t secular humanism, rather, it’s the explosion of faith into a powerful political force in the last 30 years that causes “anger, division and fear.” As every CNN viewer knows, faith in politics was never a powerful political force prior to 1970.

“Wherever I go,” CNN’s Christiana Amanpour says with wide-eyed amazement, “what the believers do all have in common is that they want to bring the politics of faith into the very center of public life - we are seeing this now on almost every continent."
Not on every continent, thank God, but almost every one. Who would have thunk it? Mrs. Amanpour, herself a Muslim, is apparently shocked, shocked to discover that some people actually expect religion to inform politics.

Her breathless revelation, indeed, the entire CNN special on religion is remarkable both in what it considers important and what it leaves out.

Take a look, for instance, at the timeline CNN provides on the documentary website. Beginning somewhat arbitrarily with WW I, it conflates international events like the fall of the Ottoman Empire, an event that changed several national boundaries, with purely local events, like the Scopes trial in Tennessee, an event that didn’t change much of anything.

Skipping entirely over WW II (the secular humanist's war of scientific economic theory and racism that created more body bags than all pre-20th century wars combined), skipping over the atheist-inspired conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, the timeline suddenly picks up twenty years later so as to claim that the 1960’s was the hinge decade of the 20th century. “By the 1960’s, secularism was beginning to be in trouble,” says Karen Armstrong, "There's a certain feeling of bankruptcy."

Bankruptcy? But why? Every European and trans-Atlantic war since (and including) the French Revolution has been based in secular humanist principles. Together, they have generated more famine, rapine, torture and slaughter than the rest of human history combined. What could possibly be the problem?

Furthermore, given the enormous strides made by secularism between 1960 and 2007, the ability of politicians to actually embrace the dubiously titled "ethos" it promotes and still get elected, Armstrong's statement is curious, to say the least. Who is Karen Armstrong that she would reach such a conclusion? Oddly enough, the CNN website fails to tell us.

But it isn't difficult to find out. Armstrong’s qualifications to comment on religion in the 20th century consists in the fact that she is an ex-Catholic ex-nun whose doctoral thesis in English was rejected by Oxford University. She herself claims to see no real difference between Judaism, Islam and Christianity, a position held only by Muslims. It is a pity that Christiana, herself a Muslim, didn't find a news story in that all by itself.

However, Armstrong's background might explain why she finds Roe v. Wade to have been “a rallying cry for Christian fundamentalists in the United States.” The ex-Catholic ex-nun is certainly a good enough scholar to know the 1970's opposition to abortion in the United States was originally led by, and unique to, the National Council of Catholic Bishops (NCCB). Most other Christian denominations didn't entertain the pro-life position until the late 70's and early 80's at best.

Thus, Armstrong is unique in referring to the Catholic bishops of the NCCB (now USCCB) as "fundamentalists", although given their notorious politically Democrat leanings, it is difficult to entirely disagree.

But, we are picking on a single one of CNN’s large list of “featured individuals.” Isn’t that unfair? Let’s find out. CNN provides a complete list of the “featured individuals” who will appear in its 6-hour opus. A quick perusal of the list is instructive.

The segment on Judaism features 28 individuals. Of these, at least five were either soldiers or directly involved in bombings, while several more actively funded military activity.

The segment on Islam features 34 people. At least seven are related to suicide bombers or were themselves soldiers, not to mention several more who directly support militant Islam.

The segment on Christianity lists only 14 people, one of whom, Jimmy Carter, is a repeat from the Jewish list. Of those fourteen, none have military ties. One pastor is creating an “army of Patriots Pastors”, men who urge their congregations to vote for change. Another is a couple who homeschools their five children. In the promotional video, this is represented as "frightening."

If the timeline and list of commentators is instructive, the map of “flashpoints” is equally so. For instance, in the US flashpoint, the Muslim attacks on the USS Cole, the 1993 World Trade Center and September 11, which killed 3000 people, are together counted equal to Eric Rudolph, the lone anti-abortion bomber who detonated bombs in a clinic, a gay bar and the Atlanta Olympic games. Apparently, one white guy is worth several dozen Arabs.

Oddly enough, however, there seems to be no reference to the 7000 acts of violence committed by pro-abortionists against US citizens and communities. Similarly, CNN somehow fails to mention the thousands of Christian pastors who denounced Rudolph, nor does its on-line material make any references to the reactions of Muslim muftis and imams to the multiple world-wide Muslim suicide bombings.

CNN’s silence in regards to Judaism is equally puzzling. The documentary claims militant Judaism draws inspiration from the Book of Ezekiel, "and saw Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War in 1967 as the fulfillment of prophecy: they believe that when Jews return to their Biblical homeland and live according to the Torah, the Messiah can come." For some reason, CNN fails to point out that many orthodox Jews find the establishment of the state of Israel as counter-prophetic. These followers of Judaism see Israel as an abomination precisely because it was established by secular Zionists who have no respect for Mosaic law or authentic Jewish faith.

“There are millions of people around the world who feel that their faith is being ignored – pushed aside – and they are certain they know how to make the world right,” Amanpour says. “We cannot and should not ignore them. And, with this report, we’ve tried to explain them.” Apparently, billions of believers throughout the world need a secular humanist to explain their own monotheism to them and to the world at large. Thank God Christiana Amanpour and CNN are here to help us. We all look forward to the follow-up special, "Godless Warriors."


Update:

Apparently CNN isn't the only group of journalists who haven't a clue. Check out this Chicago Tribune review, in which the reviewer shows a complete lack of familiarity with the Islamic teaching on the hidden imam. She's apparently unaware that this is both a major tenet of Shi'a Islam and that Iran's president holds to this view.


Monday, August 06, 2007

Not Worth Discussing

While researching an issue for a friend, I ran across this news item from this past April, 2007.

For some reason, this bit of news seems to have been missed by every single national and local newspaper in the United States. After a desultory search on Google, it seems only to have appeared in international editions of international newspapers. How odd.

Now, while the man who undertook the mass shooting was clearly a deranged racist (a rather redundant phrase – is there any other kind of racist, besides Senator Byrd?), it is also worthwhile asking why diversity training might have driven him to load his weapons and start shooting.

A quick look at the kind of language used by “diversity” groups helps explain the reaction.

"Respect = Affirm & Include, Disrespect = Denigrate & Exclude"

"Businesses that have maintained traditional views, values, and biases will be challenged to respect and value differences rather than the similarities between their employees."
"Approximately 10% of employees are gay or lesbian"

"Diversity is about uniqueness, each of us is different, even when we share a common ethnic, religious, and cultural background. Here are some of the elements that make us diverse/unique: ...age, gender, ... Sexual orientation ...religious beliefs, ... When we value diversity, we are supporting each person's right to be who they are -- a unique individual."

Traditional view: "Diversity is a potential liability."
Diverse view: "Diversity is a unique asset."

Traditional Underlying assumption: "Change the people and preserve the mainstream culture."
Diverse underlying assumption: "Modify the culture to support the uniqueness of people."

The quotes make it clear: diversity training is divisive. It promotes homogeneity, disrespects those it speaks to and denigrates their accomplishments. It is easy to show why this is necessarily true. Indeed, one almost (almost) feels sorry for the deranged racist.

To see why, let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the diversity trainers really were interested in diversity. Let us assume that every viewpoint really is to be affirmed and included. If this were true, rapists, child molesters, drug addicts, and socialists have equal moral and conversational footing with George Washington, Mother Theresa, or any other cultural icon of your choosing. The rapist is no better and no worse than Mother Theresa. David Duke is no better and no worse than the diversity trainer. Each should be affirmed in their lifestyle choice.

The man with the guns clearly didn’t get that vibe from the trainers leading his session. Instead, he appears to have felt deeply insulted, to the point of taking the diversity session as “fighting words.” Why?

People hold seriously different viewpoints on seriously important topics. If they are serious about their topics and their viewpoints, they want to discuss those things, not be told their views don’t matter. They certainly don’t want to “agree to disagree.”

In order to “agree to disagree”, we must first agree that neither my cherished values nor your cherished values are ultimately important enough to discuss. Weather, sports, or the best summer vacation spot – these merit discussion. The proper way to raise children, human sexuality, and faith, or lack thereof, in a Supreme Being – these do not.

Diversity training necessarily assumes that the ingrained values and viewpoints which every individual uses to guide his life are not worth having an argument about.

Deranged racists are deranged, not stupid. Even a racist is smart enough to know he’s being insulted by such an attitude. Even a racist understands that the point of the diversity seminar is not to celebrate his point of view, rather it is to make sure everyone understands that only one point of view will be permitted from now on.

The diversity value set is very narrowly focused. It doesn’t celebrate other cultures – the widow who throws herself on her dead husband’s funeral pyre, the men and women who volunteered to be human sacrifices in Mayan temple worship, even the worshippers of Kali, who strangled travelers indiscriminately, are not brought forward as lights to be imitated in their alternative lifestyles discussions. Apparently, all of the above would qualify as advocates of “traditional values.”

No, those who value diversity are quite different in the sense that they always value the same brand of diversity: (1) Heterosexuals are denigrated, (2) anyone who is not heterosexual is to be celebrated, (3) every minority is henceforth treated as part of the white man’s burden, as the famous diversity expert Rudyard Kipling so eloquently put it.

The deranged Ku Klux Klan member is deranged because he is not in contact with reality. He has never had the chance to work closely with and learn to admire an excellent man or woman whose skin is black or whose religion is Judaism or Catholicism. The diversity trainers, by the very content of their seminars, tell him he never will.

You see, the company that “celebrates diversity” hires the black man and pats itself on the back, but it never deals with the issue that lies in his heart. Every morning, as that man puts on his suit and tie, he looks at himself in the mirror and asks, “Was I hired because I am good, or because I am black?” He will never get an answer. That’s not worth discussing.


UPDATE: Seems I anticipated the latest release of a university study. The largest study ever done on diversity shows that it destroys the social fabric of the organization it is introduced into. Funny how theory and fact go together.