Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter!

Our pastor in his homily today told us that the traditional Eastern rite greeting at Easter is not simply, "Happy Easter," but rather a much more direct, joyful, "Jesus Christ is risen!" I'm not sure I'd have the courage to make that my standard greeting on meeting random people throughout the day, but it's certainly the truth and it forces you to think about it if you weren't already. So I'll say it to my readers and ask you to think about it: Jesus Christ is risen! :) Yesterday I watched The Passion of the Christ for the first time since it came out two years ago. It's a difficult film to watch but there's so much depth to it that it is a wonderful reflection for the Triduum in preparation for Easter.

This evening I've been doing some document review but now I'm watching the A&E documentary "God or the Girl," which follows four young men who are discerning a call to the priesthood. The title isn't really the best, but so far the program has been very respectfully done and it's pretty interesting. Amy Welborn collected some reviews here and the post attracted some interesting comments, including from one priest who advised one of the young men on the show and appears in it. Already it's striking to see young men, who seem familiar somehow (maybe because, thanks to Notre Dame and thanks in part to my brothers, I'm privileged to know many young Catholic men who truly know what it is to live out their faith), engaging with the culture -- attending World Youth Day in Germany last summer, going on a mission, saying grace at dinner, serving at Mass, and praying the rosary outside an abortion clinic (in Columbus, actually -- I think on High Street). God bless them.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Threatdown

PBS has a show on right now titled "Polar Bears with Ewan McGregor." Yes! After being thoroughly entertained by Long Way Round, Ewan's trip-around-the-world documentary, this is a fun thing to come across. He was just singing in a pub in Churchill, Manitoba (no U2 this time like in Ukraine, though). Plus (tangential thought here), like many people, I have been enjoying the Colbert Report over the past six months, and I always laugh at the Threatdown's biggest threat being bears. These particular polar bears are massive and threatening. Made less threatening by Ewan McGregor :D

Wackiness, cont.

Further to my post referencing Katie Holmes's pregnancy restrictions, I should pass along gossip columnist Liz Kelly's assorted links on the subject. As Kelly says, "There's something so creepy and otherworldly about the upcoming birth of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' child, I just can't get enough of the details."

If that wasn't enough, however, I came home tonight to find Scientology materials pushed under my door, and they do little to dispel the "creepy" impression. The first card asks how "toxic" you are by asking ten questions about whether you feel anxious, have flashbacks, feel listless, or are otherwise depressed or bothered. If this were a magazine quiz (or regular depression checklist), if you answered "yes" to a few number of questions you'd be fine, middle number possibly at risk, and high number needing to seek help. With Scientology's version, you have a lot of pollution if there's a high number, weakness with a middle number . . . and with a low number, it's because you do have "toxins" but they're clouding your mind. In other words, if you are depressed, you need the wisdom of L. Ron Hubbard, and if you aren't obviously depressed, it's because toxins are clouding your mind . . . so you also need the wisdom of L. Ron. That's a little disturbing. Also, given that many people are afflicted with depression, this could be seen as insidious. In any event, I wouldn't want to rely on a pulp science fiction writer for help with mental illness. (The other apparent Scientology material I received was for a moving company -- the card looks normal but there's something off about it. I'd be rather afraid of having those movers come to my house despite seeming legitimate. It cites a Bible verse, but as far as I know (thanks to Wikipedia for the insights) this "religion" has absolutely no basis in Scripture.)

Enough about Scientology. I think I shall be going to Holy Thursday Mass and confession now.

Morning musings

Quin Hillyer starts off his latest article in the Spectator thusly: "Rarely (if ever) in my adult life have I ever been so distressed and demoralized as I am today by the political situation and prospects both here and abroad. From many informal conversations, I gather I'm far from the only one who feels this way. And for once, even though I'm the prototypical 'glass is more than half-full' optimist, I don't see any obvious solutions to the problems."

He then ticks off the problems: out-of-control spending from a "conservative" president and worthless Congress, governmental incompetence, immigration and health care, Britain, France and Spain declining (one commentator on the Spectator site quipped yesterday that France is now surrendering to itself), Cuba still there, Iran a threat, and Russia a menace. His only real solution is to win in Iraq, and then many policies will be validated. He concludes, "In this Easter week, all our eggs are in that rickety basket. All the more reason for us to redouble our efforts to make sure the basket doesn't fail."

What a dour assessment. I do think many of us feel it at times, reading the news from all over the world and not least this city, but I still feel more optimistic that civilization isn't going to collapse around us. All right, maybe it is going to collapse at some point in Western Europe. And Russia. And Congress is pretty worthless on most things. Few Republicans have been principled enough to stand up for things that should matter to Republicans, like, say, cutting spending and limiting government growth. But is it all bad? The tide is turning on the courts, as Congress and the President have gotten some things right. We do have a vision of freedom that the President has stayed committed to. Our society, for all its failings, is still pretty vibrant, as there are enough people of faith living out that faith publically. Okay, that's sort of vague, and the counterexamples aren't really coming so quickly. But even if it does all go to pot, while winning decisively in Iraq might help many things in the public square, it does not represent "all our eggs." In this Easter week, I would think it's especially appropriate for Christians to remember the public square doesn't represent the only reality, because we have a greater hope in Christ. Succumbing to despair about this world or the next would be sinful when we know that hope always exists. That's a better thought than reflecting on the imminent downfall of civilization, in any event.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Selective protests

As the debate rages on illegal immigration (I do have a few opinions myself, just haven't taken -- well, what's the internet equivalent of pen to paper? Fingers to keys?), one thing that strikes me is a lot of the MSM coverage is not as critical. There are a good number of balanced articles out there, but there's also a fair number like the Washington Post's "Marchers Flood Mall with Passion, Pride," where "Many Take Their First Political Step." How sweet. In the article one man tells us that his mother, an illegal immigrant, has a job at the FBI. You'd think that would be an agency that would check for such things as work permits.

Well, I do have more complicated thoughts about the matter, particularly with regard to the Church's involvement, but first had one only tangentially related thought that came to mind on this offhand remark on Marc Fisher's Post blog: "In all, it was a cheery gathering under gorgeous, clear skies, reminding all that demonstrations are indeed a spring sport."

. . . Except when they're held every single year for decades in the cold middle of January by thousands of young people in support of the right to life. As far as I can tell, Marc didn't have anything to say about that one this year. (Snarky, yes, but even though both have been big issues, one has received far more sympathetic coverage than the other.)

Monday, April 10, 2006

A 'disintegrating society'

Theodore Dalrymple has long chronicled the societal collapse of Britain, but he's not the only one noticing. Notre Dame professor Hal Colebatch has this commentary in today's Spectator about the latest absurdity: official police policies authorizing and in some cases specifying mere cautions, instead of arrests and jail time, for burglary, assault, and car thefts. This in a country where violent crime has been on the rise for some time and victimized homeowners often appear more likely to be arrested for acting in self-defense than criminals are to be arrested for burgling in the first place.

I've been an admirer of Tony Blair's conviction and steadfastness in the war on terror, but after observing his policies in country during my semester abroad and after research (I was fairly critical of the New Labour "permanent campaign" approach to governance in my senior thesis) I was never a fan of his domestic policies. This just seems like the latest travesty. If only the alternative party would reverse its slow-motion implosion, there might be a chance for change, but it doesn't seem like that's going to happen anytime soon.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

In wacky news

Item one: if true, it's nuts. In the news the other day, I saw the story that Katie Holmes is supposed to be silent during the delivery of her baby, according to the "tradition" of her new "religion." Signs have been helpfully posted around her house. Why the tradition? Apparently children are traumatized by their mothers' crying out during birth. (As opposed to, I don't know, getting forced through the birth canal.) Well, I'm sure the whole process is unpleasant for the baby; that's why babies cry. But I don't think there's any lasting trauma from it. More to the point, I don't think L. Ron Hubbard had any scientific justification for his theory, just as there was no scientific justification for any of his pseudo-psychological theories. I feel bad for Katie, particularly since it is clear she has been led far afield of the Catholic faith she was raised in. When Tom Cruise says "I won't let this woman get away," it doesn't sound sweet, it sounds creepy. Poor kid.

Item two: Capitol police apparently are seeking an arrest warrant for Cynthia "Don't you know who I am?" McKinney. The issue is that McKinney breezed past a security checkpoint in the Capitol, which as a Member of Congress she's allowed to do -- but she doesn't wear her identifying pin and made no other effort to identify herself. A police officer rightly "asked her three times to stop," then put a hand on her after receiving no response, and she turned around and hit the police officer. And then she immediately assumed the "victim" mantle and at a bizarre press conference yesterday said it was all due to racism and racial profiling. Actually, I think it was profiling of people who barge past security checkpoints and ignore security officers. But maybe she's right that she should be so instantly recognizable ("internationally recognized," as a defender put it yesterday) that only racism or her new hairstyle (?) could explain why she was stopped in the Capitol. Then again, maybe Jonah Goldberg had it right a few years ago, that time addressing her 9/11 conspiracy theories: "Cynthia McKinney is still an idiot."