Friday, March 24, 2017

Items of Interest: Fourth Week of Great Lent

The Conservative Myth of a Social Safety Net Built on Charity
by Mike Konczal (The Atlantic). «[C]onservatives tell themselves a story, a fairy tale really, about the past, about the way the world was and can be again under Republican policies. This story is about the way people were able to insure themselves against the risks inherent in modern life. Back before the Great Society, before the New Deal, and even before the Progressive Era, things were better...But this conservative vision of social insurance is wrong. It’s incorrect as a matter of history; it ignores the complex interaction between public and private social insurance that has always existed in the United States. It completely misses why the old system collapsed and why a new one was put in its place. It fails to understand how the Great Recession displayed the welfare state at its most necessary and that a voluntary system would have failed under the same circumstances. Most importantly, it points us in the wrong direction.»

Living As A People Of God In Unsettled Times
«The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Administrative Committee has issued the following pastoral reflection in solidarity with those who have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict or fear in their native lands. In the statement, the bishops encourage each of us to do what we can to accompany migrants and refugees who seek a better life in the United States.»

The Lady of Medjugorje is not your mother
by Simcha Fisher (The Catholic Weekly). «This Mother of God giggles. She goes through lots of wardrobe changes. She lets people step on her robe, and then appears grubby from being touched. She moves up and down, here and there, at the behest of the seers. She shares her opinions on local politics and calls a fornicating, philandering priest a ‹saint›. And she’s a little careless about that baby she likes to drag around. And whenever she’s faced with the choice of encouraging her children to respect and obey their bishops, or appearing in the air as paid ticket holders look on, this Mother of God always goes for more ticket sales. In the Gospels, she says, ‹Do whatever He tells you.› In Medjugorje, she snickers and says, ‹ You do you. › Forty-seven thousand times.»

Private Property and the Redistribution of Wealth
by Paul Fahey (The Porch). «As an American it is difficult at times to think beyond the Right/Left, Capitalist/Socialist dichotomy that permeates our economic and political landscape. This often makes it difficult for Catholics on either side of the aisle to understand what the Church teaches about the ownership and use of property. As we should always strive to be Catholics first and Americans second, my hope with this article is to concisely share with you what the Church teaches concerning private property, the common good, and the role of government. I hope to dispel any notion of the Church being Capitalist or Socialist as She cuts through and transcends both of these ideologies.»

Two Essays from the New Pro-Life Movement - Rebecca Bratten Weiss (Suspended in Her Jar)
are we depending on abortion?
«When it comes to low-income women who have poor health, or too many children already, or are unmarried, or dependent on social welfare, society does not celebrate pregnancy. It is not beautiful anymore. It has intruded itself where uninvited. It is not useful. It is not productive – of the right product, that is. Poor women are supposed to produce labor. Well-off women are supposed to produce well-off, clean, healthy, beautiful, charming, dutiful citizen babies. That the Left’s answer to this is often “abortion” shows just how capitalist it is, and just how little capitalist systems value persons.»
the ever-moving goal-post of eliminating abortion supply
«The Republican party has been abusing the hopes of pro-lifers for a long time now, dangling the promise of a zero-abortion utopia, while dismantling social safety nets designed to protect the vulnerable, and enacting policies that are guaranteed to raise the demand for abortion, as poor families find themselves deprived of medical care, as parents of disabled children find themselves with no more recourse to programs that help them. An anti-life society is being created, in which the poor are free to go die, in which pre-emptive war and capital punishment are considered just and manly, and all of this is somehow excusable because they’re going to end abortion, really...
«The extent to which the pro-life facade is crumbling should be increasingly clear, as we see that Trump’s supporters from the Alt Right contingent actually, largely, support abortion, because it is eugenic...
«What is emerging is a right-wing narrative that favors eugenics, nativism, social Darwinism, and white supremacy, while remaining relatively indifferent to the plight of the unborn. Because, why would they care? Protecting defenseless life, making sacrifices for the sake of another, valuing a person for anything other than utility: these do not fit with their dominant ethos.»

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Items of Interest: Third Week of Great Lent

Minding Matter
by Adam Frank (Aeon). «The closer you look, the more the materialist position in physics appears to rest on shaky metaphysical ground...Rather than trying to sweep away the mystery of mind by attributing it to the mechanisms of matter, we must grapple with the intertwined nature of the two.»

Why Politics Is Failing America
by Katherine M. Gehl & Michael E. Porter (Fortune). «Why is the political-industrial complex flourishing while its customers are less satisfied than ever? To answer that question, we’ve applied the tools of business analysis to American politics. Our conclusion: U.S. politics is an industry—a duopoly that’s about as anticompetitive as you’re likely to find these days. The result, as a prominent 2014 study by Princeton’s ­Martin Gilens and Northwestern’s Benjamin Page shows, is that the preferences of the average voter have a near-zero impact on public policy.»

The Great God Trump and the White Working Class
by Mike Davis (Jacobin). An extraordinary restructuring of political camps, cadre, and patronage is taking place in an atmosphere of chaos and uncertainty, but we need to understand more clearly whether 2016 actually reflects, or necessarily anticipates, a fundamental realignment of social forces.

Why all Christians should oppose the ‹Alt-Right›
by Robert Christian and Daniel Petri (Crux). «The threat this movement poses to foundational American values and the key tenets of the Christian faith are so grave that Christians across the political spectrum should join together with other responsible citizens in opposing its pernicious influence and corrosion of our national character.»

6 Things Paul Ryan Doesn’t Understand About Poverty (But I Didn’t, Either)
by Karen Weese (Alternet). «There are many prescriptions for combating poverty, but we can’t even get started unless we first examine our assumptions, and take the time to envision what the world feels like for families living in poverty every day. ‹Compassion is a skill that we get better at with practice,› writes theologian Karen Armstrong. It just takes a little imagination.»

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Purim: A holiday for such a time as this

In this year we have seen the accession of a thoroughly unfit demagogue to the U.S. Presidency, with his strings being pulled by his very Haman-like advisor, Steve Bannon.

It is, therefore, a very good time to call to mind and heartily celebrate the great works of God in ages past, when he delivered the people of Israel from the hand of the oppressor, as well as both to strive for justice and pray for the mercy of the Lord to be upon us all.

The Miracle of Esther
by Yoram Hazony (First Things). «How can a work in which God is not mentioned, and in which every turn of its dense plot is the result of human decision and human action, hold the key to understanding the miraculous? This is not merely an exegetical or theological question. Contemporary readers need to reckon with the miraculous character of the Book of Esther, for it illuminates the possibilities and limits of political action, possibilities and limits we too often neglect.»

Megilat Esther
The Scroll of Esther, as read in Synagogue.

Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hath performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time. (Amen)

Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hath granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion. (Amen)

We thank thee for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds, for the saving acts, and for the wonders which Thou hast wrought for our forefathers, in the Days of Mordechai and Esther, in Shushan, the capital, when Haman, the wicked, rose up against them and sought to destroy, to slay, and to exterminate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, on the same day, on the thirteenth of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their possessions; But Thou, in Thine abundant mercy, didst nullify his counsel and frustrate his intention, and caused his design to return upon his own head, and they hanged him and his sons on the gallows.

Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who wages our battles, defends our rights, avenges the wrong done to us, punishes our oppressors in behalf, and brings retribution upon all our mortal enemies.

Blessed art Thou O Lord, who exacts payment in behalf of His people Israel from all their oppressors; God who delivers. (Amen)

Friday, March 10, 2017

Items of Interest: Second Week of Great Lent

To Fast Again
by Eamon Duffy (First Things). «So fasting is now confined to a derisory two days of the year, and compulsory Friday abstinence has been replaced by a genteel and totally individualistic injunction to do some penitential act on a Friday—an injunction, incidentally, that most Catholics know nothing about. What had been a corporate mark of identity has been marginalized into an individualistic option.»

In America, We Don’t Have Guns to Our Heads, But We Have Lawyers at Our Throats
by David Mills (The Stream). «In America, we don’t have guns to our head, but we have lawyers at our throats. Better lawyers than guns, sure. But the Constitution read as the Founders intended would mean no lawyers either. Or just a few, in the genuinely difficult cases. That’s an argument we’re going to have to make over and over if Trump signs an executive order on religious liberty. We’ll have all the new experts telling everyone that religious freedom doesn’t mean much.»

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Decision to Investigate Russell Moore Has Huge Implications for Black SBC Churches
by Dwight McKissic (SBC Voices). The spiritual descendants of Bull Connor in the SBC leadership double down in their firehosing of Russell Moore.

Capitalism’s Theologian
by Kyle Edward Williams (Jacobin). «Perhaps one of Novak’s greatest legacies was to help inoculate an entire generation of Protestants and, particularly, Roman Catholics against the more economically radical elements of their own traditions...[N]ow, as Novak’s generation of neoconservatives comes to an end, there seems to be an opening for a new coalitional politics, empowered by a new constellation of ideas, and an opportunity for American Christians to recover the radicalism of their heritage.»

How We Talk About the Least Among Us: Poor People in Public Discourse
by Annie Selak (Political Theology Today). «Language is important because it can create a false distance or closeness. By blaming poor people, we wash our hands clean of any responsibility we have to them or complicity in the conditions that allow this to happen. Likewise, romanticizing poor people creates a closeness that is also false, or a cheap grace. It makes us feel like we are in solidarity because we shared a post on Facebook, absolving us of the hard work that solidarity entails. Language can create a distance as well as a sense of patting ourselves on the back, regardless of where that language falls in the spectrum of blame to romanticization. Catholic social ethics calls us to shorten this distance, working to nurture solidarity with the least among us.»

Thursday, March 9, 2017

St. Ambrose of Milan: Homily on Naboth

The story of Naboth is an old one, but it is repeated every day. Who among the rich does not daily covet others’ goods? Who among the wealthy does not make every effort to drive the poor person out from his little plot and turn the needy out from the boundaries of his ancestral fields? Who is satisfied with what is his? What rich person’s thoughts are not preoccupied with his neighbor’s possessions? It is not one Ahab who was born, therefore, but — what is worse — Ahab is born every day, and never does he die as far as this world is concerned. For each one who dies there are many others who rise up; there are more who steal property than who lose it. It is not one poor man, Naboth, who was slain; every day Naboth is struck down, every day the poor man is slain. Seized by this fear, the human race is now departing its lands. Carrying his little one, the poor man sets out with his children; his wife follows in tears, as if she were accompanying her husband to his grave. Yet she who mourns over the corpses of her family weeps less because she [at least] has her spouse’s tomb even if she has lost his protection; even if she no longer has children, she at least does not weep over them as exiles; she does not lament what is worse than death — the empty stomachs of her tender offspring.

How far, O rich, do you extend your mad greed? ‘Shall you alone dwell upon the earth’ (Isa. 5:8). Why do you cast out the companion whom nature has given you and claim for yourself nature’s possession? The earth was established in common for all, rich and poor. Why do you alone, O rich, demand special treatment? Nature, which begets everyone poor, knows no wealthy, for we are not born with clothing or begotten with gold and silver. Naked it brings us into the light (cf. Job 1:21), wanting food, clothing and drink, and naked the earth receives us whom it brought forth, not knowing how to compass our possessions in the tomb. The narrow sod is equally spacious for poor and rich, and the earth, which did not contain the desires of the rich person when he was alive, now contains him entirely. Nature, then, knows no distinction when we are born, and it knows none when we die. It creates all alike, and all alike it encloses in the bowels of the tomb. What differences can be seen among the dead? Open up the earth and, if you are able, discern who is rich. Then clear away the rubbish and, if you recognize the poor person, show who he is apart, perhaps, from this one fact alone — that more things perish with the rich. 

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