What NARAL doesn’t want you to know

It’s been quite a month, but life’s settled down again, mostly. I haven’t seen The Passion of the Christ yet, nor am I looking forward to it, but I imagine when I do it will spark a few thoughts. What caught me today was this article on the lack of regulation of American abortion clinics; I’m not sure which horrifies me more, the stories of how bad some of those clinics have gotten, or the fact that the abortion industry has been fighting regulation tooth and nail. Shouldn’t “women’s reproductive health” be more than a slogan? I have relatives who are nurses and doctors, and I’ve spent plenty of time in hospitals, both as a patient and as staff, and while I respect and appreciate most of my colleagues in healthcare (well, former colleagues, now), I have no illusions as to the necessity of regulation–and neither do they.

“If you think you understand . . .”

I often disagree with Fr. Andrew Greeley—make that usually disagree—on matters of theology, but I respect and enjoy his work all the same; while I think he argues from many incorrect first principles, he’s a man of considerable perception and insight. His latest piece in the Chicago Sun-Times, “There’s No Solving Mystery of Christ,” is a well-written recovery of one of St. Augustine’s greatest insights. As Fr. Greeley puts it in his closing line, “If Jesus makes you feel comfortable with your agenda, then he’s not Jesus.” Amen. Now there’s something that both liberals like Fr. Greeley and conservatives like me really need to bear in mind.(Note:  the original article is no longer online; the link has been repointed to a reposting of the original article.)

Cannibalism between consenting adults

You might not have heard this, but the lawyer for Armin Meiwes, the German cannibal, is defending his client’s actions on the grounds of mutual consent–Meiwes wanted to eat somebody, Bernd Brandes wanted to be eaten, and who is the state to interfere with the actions of two consenting adults? Unfortunately, as the inimitable Theodore Dalrymple points out, he has a case. Can modern philosophy and jurisprudence really come up with any coherent reason to convict him?

Sex, please, we’re British?

Sunday’s London Telegraph printed an eye-opening article on sex education in the US and the UK. The US has gone in the direction of abstinence education where the UK has emphasized safe sex and pregnancy prevention. The result? Teen pregnancy rates in the US are the lowest they’ve been in a decade, while the UK is “the pregnancy capital of Europe.”

Gee, maybe there’s something to be said for traditional morality after all . . .

A tree grows in Brooklyn

Who ever came up with the term “common sense,” anyway? There are few things less common, unfortunately—especially in politics. During Advent and the Christmas season, you can really see that in the tortured compromises we come up with to let people celebrate. To me, the answer has always seemed obvious: stop trying to censor celebrations, stop trying to censor faith or keep it out of the public square, and just let everybody in. Fortunately for me, Peggy Noonan agrees with me, and she’s made a better case for it than I can.While on the subject of holidays: I ran across an interesting opinion piece from the New York Times on Kwanzaa, written by a woman named Debra J. Dickerson. The piece is titled ” A Case of the Kwanzaa Blues,” and it raises some significant concerns about the holiday, concerns I suspect most people (especially those who haven’t studied much history) haven’t considered. Whatever you might think of Ms. Dickerson’s position, I think her comments deserve careful consideration.

“There’s too much to do—I’m bored.”

Think that sounds silly? Think again. As Charles Colson notes in one of his BreakPoint commentaries, psychiatrist and theologian Richard Winter has made a compelling case for just that thesis in his book Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment. Here’s Colson quoting and summarizing Winter:

When stimulation comes at us from every side,’ he writes, ‘we reach a point where we cannot respond with much depth to anything. Bombarded with so much that is exciting and demands our attention, we tend to become unable to discriminate and choose from among the many options. The result is that we shut down our attention to everything.’ That is, we get bored.Over-stimulated and bored, we start looking for anything that will give our jaded spirits a lift. Winter says that boredom explains the rise in extreme sports, risk taking, and sexual addiction. ‘The enticements to more exciting things have to get louder to catch our dulled attention,’ he writes.

I think Winter is dead on, but there’s more to be said (which he might well say in his book, for all I know). Speaking theologically, the root sin here is the sin of sloth. Now, we tend to think of sloth as laziness, but there’s more to it; the ancients defined sloth as “the sin of not caring enough about anything.” C. S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters, produced a vivid picture of a person fallen into sloth: “a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off,” because there is nothing that such a person cares about enough to pull them out of such a rut and give zest to life.Sloth, at its peak, is what we know as despair; and if Winter’s analysis is correct—and I believe it is—it’s because sloth has become a major besetting sin of people in our culture. We simply don’t care enough to do the work of engaging the world around us, but we still crave stimulation, and thus we demand stimulation without work; and thus the cycle begins. As to what has created this situation . . . well, I think Eastern Orthodox theologian David Hart has done an excellent job of explaining that in his essay “Christ and Nothing.” If you’re up for some serious philosophical reflection, check it out.

Captors, or rescuers?

If you aren’t familiar with DEBKAfile, you might want to fix that. It’s a site run by an ex-Mossad agent who still has, and uses, his old contacts. The site is decidedly pro-Israel, as you’d expect, but as long as you bear the bias in mind, it’s a great source for information and analysis. Case in point: an article on the site which argues that Saddam wasn’t in hiding, he was a prisoner, perhaps held by another clan which was in blood feud with him and his clan. That would certainly explain his odd submissiveness.

“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

Well, maybe not according to CBS execs back in 1965, when “A Charlie Brown Christmas” first aired; seems they thought it was way too religious—and they didn’t like the jazz, either. Apparently, even though they went ahead and ran it, they planned to bury it afterward. But then people loved it, and it won an Emmy, and so it was back the next year, and the year after that, and the year after that . . .

I can just imagine Lucy’s reaction to those network suits who tried to kill “the longest-running cartoon special known to man” 38 years ago: “You blockheads!”

“All Americans”? Uh-huh, riiight . . .

I don’t subscribe to Time, so I was late in reading Charles Krauthammer’s Nov. 17 column, in which he flatly declared, “The goodwill America earned on 9/11 was illusory. Get over it.” I regret the delay; imho, Krauthammer hits the nail on the head most of the time, and this column is one of his best. He does a valuable service in exploding the myth that Le Monde‘s famous “We Are All Americans” editorial actually signaled a real shift in French attitudes (or anyone else’s) toward our country. Read their editorial and his column, and see what you think.

Iowa meets Iraq

Denver’s pretty fortunate in its newspapers; I wouldn’t call either the Rocky Mountain News or the Denver Post world-class, but they’re better than a great many major newspapers in this country. (Detroit? Uggh.) That still puts them well below the papers we enjoyed in Canada, but the Great White North seems to be unusually blessed in that department. The key thing is that the Denver papers, unlike many, have a number of writers worth reading; and one of them, News columnist Bill Johnson, is currently on assignment in Iraq, and sending back good material. I recently discovered his Dec. 11 piece, covering his initial impressions of Baghdad; it’s an interesting column all the way around, but particularly so for his report of an event that didn’t get any other play in the US media, so far as I know: an anti-terrorism rally in the city’s Furdoise Square. From his description, it doesn’t sound like all that much, but hey, it’s a start.