Adults-Only Guessing Game

Guess what this doctor is talking about:

"Patients tell me afterwards they are more confident and comfortable,'' Rho said. "Some patients say having a sleeker, thinner ______ makes a tremendous difference in their lives.''

Hint: the missing word is something that won't make it through many spam filters. Hence I will not be more specific. Click here to see the answer.

I would love to read comments about this new and exciting medical breakthrough. Please tell me what you think.

Senatorial Footsie II

After reading this column I am slightly more sympathetic toward Senator Larry Craig. He persists in saying he is not gay and the whole thing is a misunderstanding. The evidence suggests otherwise, but we cannot be sure.

The point of Ann Woolner's column is that nothing of a sexual nature occurred in this case. Even if everything the police officer reported is true, there was, at most, a request for sex. Had consent been forthcoming, the sexual activity might have taken place in more discreet surroundings than the airport restroom. This would still be odd but not a criminal matter.

There's another point. If asking for sexual favors in crude ways is a crime, then the police don't need to hang out in restrooms. They will find all the perpetrators they can handle in any of a million bars, and to be fair should direct their enforcement efforts at both heterosexual and homosexual people.

Nonetheless, it seems that airport bathroom sex is more common than you might think. Police at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport have so far this year arrested 45 men for public indecency in the restrooms. All were actually doing something that went beyond words and gestures, such as exposing themselves. Clearly this is unacceptable, but it appears that the police in Minneapolis may be a bit overzealous as compared to their peers in other cities. Normally people are not arrested for things they might do or are thinking about doing.

This is, perhaps, why the crime to which the Senator pleaded guilty was some sort of "invasion of privacy" for inserting his hand into the police officer's stall. Certainly that is a place where most people expect to be left alone. The Senator should have kept his hands to himself. However, it seems unlikely that the police officer was stationed there with orders to catch mere privacy-invaders. Had he continued the charade a little longer, he might have gathered evidence of a more serious crime. This is strange and suggests there may be more to the story.

Senator Craig is now under pressure from his colleagues to resign from the Senate. As noted previously, the exact nature of his crime, if there was one, is not the primary issue here. The issue is the wise judgment that senators should possess and Senator Craig's demonstrated lack thereof. That being the case, he would serve the nation well to leave his position sooner rather than later.

Miss SC May Be Smarter Than We Think

The incoherent blonde who became the temporary Queen of YouTube this week may have the last laugh. I have long doubted the old saw that "all publicity is good publicity" but this incident may make me reconsider.

First a quick apology. This young lady has a name, which is Lauren Upton. While the women in these contests apparently don't mind objectifying themselves, they remain human and I should have regarded her as such and identified her by name. Mea culpa.

Ms. Upton parlayed her stumbling answer into an appearance on the Today Show, where she appeared reasonably intelligent and mature, along with a video feature on the People Magazine web site. It seems that she also has career ambitions and possesses an extensive and, ahem, compelling portfolio of model-type photographs. See an example here.

Given her unique gifts, it will not be at all surprising if Ms. Upton reaches a level of professional achievement far above her fellow beauty pagenat contestants, and indeed greater than most U.S. Americans, even those who can read maps. Let us hope that - unlike some buxom blondes - Lauren's success will be more than skin deep.

Senatorial Footsie

Senator Larry Craig's bathroom activities dominate the news and blogs today. Nothing gets the words flowing like the combination of sex and politics, I suppose. The Senator denies being gay but doesn't seem to deny the basic facts of the incident. His conduct was, at a minimum, very strange. I personally was not aware that foot-tapping is an invitation for sex but I'm glad to now have this useful bit of knowledge. (Note to self: don't listen to the iPod in airport restrooms.)

Anyway, two points come to mind. First, those who call Senator Craig a hypocrite for opposing gay marriage while, apparently, having same-sex inclinations of his own are not helping their cause. If gay people want the right to enter into legally recognized, lifelong commitments, the last thing they should argue is that anonymous sex in airport restrooms is just fine as long those who engage in it come out of the closet. This sort of behavior is the polar opposite of marriage. Gay people who seek committed relationships should be repulsed by it.

As for being a hypocrite, aren't we all in one way or another? It is entirely possible to simultaneously a) believe that a certain behavior is immoral, and b) be unable to resist one's own urges to engage in that same behavior. As much as we struggle to do good, every single day we still do things we know to be wrong. To be human is to be a hypocrite. The fact that we are often unable to live up to the standard does not mean that no standard exists.

The second point is political and practical. If, in fact, Senator Craig is gay, it is likely that this was not his first bathroom encounter. Leaving aside the moral dimension, such behavior is risky, dangerous, unhealthy and rude, not to mention illegal.

We elect people to represent us in Washington on the assumption that they are smart individuals who will make wise decisions on matters of public policy. Can a Senator who looks for sex in an airport bathroom stall also be a man of sound and mature judgment? Someone we trust to make life-or-death decisions? Maybe so, but the odds are against it. Therefore he should not be a Senator, a fact which the people of Idaho will likely make clear to him at their next opportunity.

Wake Up, America

Here is wisdom from Leticia at Causa Nostrae Laetitiae:

The Islamofacists aren't merely against us because America is the land of freedom (as President Bush insists); they are against the gross misuse of freedom of expression in this nation which shames our Judeo-Christian moral heritage. If American popular culture had any of the respect for the dignity of womanhood and family life, which it had in the 1950's, it would be less of a target. I am not painting the Islamofacists as arbiters of morality, far from it, but we must admit the excess depravity which fills our media and corrupts the world's TV sets, is highly insulting to all people of faith. 'If this is Christianity, then we'll have none of it', may well be the statement our culture provokes.

Then there is the issue of the lifting of the veil of protection which God has seemingly kept over this nation. We hadn't been attacked in the Continental US since the Mexican-American war. We enjoy unparalleled prosperity, and are the envy of the world, as evidenced by the millions of immigrants who enter our land. And how do we repay this bounty? By saying we can't afford children, and aborting them, by abandoning our marriages to no-fault divorce, and deserting our children to 'fulfill ourselves' in the workplace, buying bigger homes and more gadgets than we need. We neglect the starving of the world while we are dying of obesity. We can't fit church into our weekend entertainment plans, yet we sit in front of TV shows which mock God and our morality, belittle women, by making them into sex objects, emasculate the men by mocking them in sitcoms, and we say nothing.

A loving God would let us have a wake-up call before we find ourselves before Him in the Judgement Seat. On 9/11/2001 we got the message, and for two weeks we filled the churches. Our Lady has been warning us of a coming chastisement for centuries. Must the hand of God be harsher to get our attention?

Sadly, the answer to that last question seems to be "Yes." I saw some similar thoughts elsewhere a few months ago, and I have to say the outlook isn't getting any better. Fr. John Corapi says it better than I can. Watch this:

Goodbye Gonzales

After months of investigation for various & sundry alleged scandals, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned today. This was a welcome and long overdue move, in my opinion. Call me crazy, but I think it is important that the nation's top law enforcement official should focus his attention on enforcing the law. Gonzales was always more interested in finding ways for the Bush Administration to evade the law.

Be that as it may, the timing of this resignation is curious. The U.S. Attorney controversy remains unresolved. Most of the people implicated at both the White House and DOJ have now resigned, which is strange if, as the Administration contends, nobody did anything wrong. Also odd is that Gonzales announced his resignation in a solo press appearance. Unlike Karl Rove, Gonzales didn't get the reward of a Rose Garden good-bye appearance with the President.

It is also strange that Gonzales resigned before a replacement could be named. Anonymous sources are pointing at Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, whom you may remember for his stellar response to Hurricane Katrina. Bush has argued that he needs a reliable Attorney General at his side to assist in the Global War on Terror. If that's really true, you would think he and Gonzales could have worked out an exit strategy that provided for a smooth transition.

Put the pieces together and it begins to look like 1) Bush and Gonzales aren't such buddies anymore, and/or 2) some sort of news will soon emerge that won't make Gonzales look good. That's the only way I can think of to explain how all this is all happening. We'll find out soon enough, I guess.

As a farewell to Mr. Gonzales, I will leave you with this story, courtesy of Andy Borowitz.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned today, effective immediately, telling reporters that he wanted to spend more time eavesdropping on his family.

Mr. Gonzales, a champion of domestic surveillance and warrantless wiretaps while in office, said he was “totally stoked” about turning his prying eyes on his own family.

“Domestic surveillance begins at home,” Mr. Gonzales said at a White House press conference. “That means nobody in my family is above suspicion, not even the little ones,” an apparent reference to Mr. Gonzales’ children.

Standing by Mr. Gonzales’ side, President George W. Bush praised his former Attorney General, singling out his “courage” for ramping up his domestic spying program on his own family.

“If every head of every household was as willing to eavesdrop on his own family as my man Alberto is, we wouldn’t need a Homeland Security Department,” Mr. Bush chuckled.

Mr. Gonzales was noncommittal when a reporter asked him a question about the role that waterboarding and other forms of torture might play in his interrogation of family members. “Nothing is off the table,” he said.

Natural Blonde

The following video is from this weekend's Miss Teen USA pageant. Miss South Carolina is answering a question about education in the USA. Watch it and then weep for the future of our civilization.

Click here if you don't see the video imbedded below.

Hat tip: Catholic Caveman

Common Sense Immigration Policy

The decibel level in the immigration debate is on the rise again, with Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney trading barbs about the "sanctuary" policies of many U.S. cities, including NYC under Giuliani. Donald Douglas has an interesting post on this subject.

Somewhat related is the recent deportation of Elvira Arellano, the woman who had been hiding from authorities in a Chicago church for the last year. She ventured out on a trip to Los Angeles and was arrested and sent back to Mexico. Much is made of the resulting separation of Ms. Arellano from her young son - who is a U.S. citizen - but that is her choice. She is free to take him with her to Mexico. It appears to me that this woman is allowing herself to be used for political purposes by pro-immigration groups.

I've said before that positions on both sides of this issue are so hardened that any kind of compromise is very unlikely. On one extreme are the "open borders" advocates who would essentially allow anyone to enter the U.S. and stay as long as they wish. At the other end are those who want to lock down the border and take action against illegal aliens who are already in the U.S.

While there are elements of wisdom on both sides of the argument, no one seems to advocate what, to me, seems like a very common sense approach: secure the borders and allow a reasonable amount of legal immigration. Here is my suggestion.

First, we have to get control of the borders. The current situation, with thousands of people willy-nilly entering the country with little to stop them, can't be tolerated. Changing it will involve both tighter security on the border itself, and harsh penalties on those who employ illegal immigrants. National security has to be the first priority.

Second, once we have established zero tolerance of illegal immigration, the government should be generous in allowing people of good will to enter the U.S. and work here legally. Our economy obviously needs the labor that immigrants provide. Everyone will be better served if we open the door to those who want to work and are otherwise law-abiding good neighbors. Of course there have to be limits; but if the limits are calculated to match the amount and types of labor needed in the U.S., then a reasonable balance should be possible.

This leaves open the question of what to do with the millions of illegal immigrants who are already here. They will need to either leave or be legalized in some way. Serious workplace enforcement would go a long way to solving this problem. Those who really want to stay here and work will go through whatever process is imposed, while the rest will be motivated be the increased enforcement to leave the U.S.

The reason no one is suggesting such a policy is that both sides distrust the other. Border security groups do not trust the Bush Administration to actually do anything to enforce current laws, much less any new ones. Open-borders advocates think the other side has racist motives and wants to punish those who wish only to earn a living for their families. Attempts at compromise, such as the immigration bill that died earlier this year, have been so riddled with loopholes on both sides that in the end no one could accept them.

It would be nice if we had some kind of national grandpa that everyone trusted to do the right thing. Since we don't, it is hard to imagine any kind of sensible solution emerging from the political process. Where that leaves us, I'm not so sure. It won't be good.

Who Needs Training?

Disturbing news from the Pentagon:

FORT MONROE, Va. -- The US Army, struggling to cope with stepped-up operations and extended deployments of its soldiers to Iraq, has shortened the duration of several of its bedrock training courses so that troops can return to fighting units on the front lines more quickly, according to senior training officials.

One training course that is considered the "first step" in educating newly minted sergeants -- the noncommissioned officers considered the backbone of Army units -- has been cut in half to 15 days. Meanwhile, an intensive program designed to prepare young officers for advanced leadership has been compressed from eight months to less than five months so that the Army can fill positions in constant demand from commanders in the Middle East.


"We are doing everything we can without jeopardizing the quality of the training to make it more efficient and compress it," Colonel Joe Gallagher, chief of plans for the US Army Training and Doctrine Command, said in an interview earlier this month. "The whole intent is to get the soldier into the unit where he can be used faster. Time will tell if something is missing." MORE

The key phrase is "Time will tell is something is missing." Yes, indeed, time will tell, along with the lives of soldiers who are thrown into dangerous situations without adequate training. This is, you may recall, being done by the administration which promises "the troops" have "everything they need."

I realize the colonel quoted in the story says they aren't jeopardizing the quality of training. They are merely making it "more efficient." If it is really so easy to deliver the same amount of training at the same level of quality in less time, then why wasn't the Army already doing so? Have they been wasting the soldier's time and the taxpayer's money all these years? It has to be one or the other.

The truth is that the Iraq war has stretched the Army to its breaking point. Responsibility for this goes straight to the man in the Oval Office, who decided after 9/11 to take the country to war on the cheap. He knew full well that the force at his disposal was about half the size of the one that performed so magnificently in Gulf War I. Rather than re-build force structure to match the new missions, he decided to make do with what he had.

Was it a matter of money? No, because at the same time he was demanding more and more from the Pentagon he shoveled billions of dollars into all manner of useless domestic programs. Nor was Congress an obstacle. His own party controlled both houses for four years, and even many Democrats were eager to expand the Army. Bush is The Decider, and he decided "no."

So now we have too few soldiers deployed too many places for too many months with too little training. All totally unnecessary. We had no reason to invade Iraq in the first place, but doing it with half the force needed was, and is, a monumental fiasco.

We're going to need this Army for more important things in the coming years. And you know what? It won't be there when we need it because we've broken it trying to pacify Iraq. The soldiers will, always, give everything they have - but I fear a time will come when their everything won't be enough.

Hat tip: Born at the Crest

Invisible Heresy

Baptist theologian Albert Mohler has an interesting blog post called "Heresy in the Cathedral." The subject is retired Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong.

Bishop Spong is, by almost any way you care to define the term, wildly liberal in matters of Christian theology. Nonetheless, he was recently invited to speak at the Anglican cathedral in Brisbane, Australia. Brisbane's bishop is apparently quite liberal even by Anglican standards; his colleague in Sydney banned Bishop Spong from speaking in churches there.

Dr. Mohler argues, and rightly so, that the Sydney bishop was correct in refusing to allow this heretic access to the pulpits of his churches, while the Brisbane bishop was frighteningly lax in giving Bishop Spong an opportunity to spread false doctrines.

What is more significant about this story is Dr. Mohler's outrage. He seems quite annoyed that people like Bishop Spong are being given outlets for their thoughts ("Heretics are rarely excommunicated these days. Instead, they go on book tours."). In saying this, he unwittingly exposes one of the weaknesses of his own Southern Baptist tradition. The action taken by the Anglican bishop in Sydney could never happen in the Baptist world because there is no central authority that can either a) define heresy or b) stop people from spreading it.

For those who don't know, all Southern Baptist churches are completely self-governing. There are local, state and national organizations, but each individual church is free to participate, or not, on its own terms. There is no authority outside of each church. This structure has some advantages, of course. Unfortunately, it also results in a denomination that is vulnerable to theological subterfuge.

Here's the problem: it is difficult to call anyone in the Baptist church a "heretic" for the simple reason that there is nothing to be heretical against. Everyone interprets the Scriptures however they wish. There is no creed or authoritative body of doctrine. There is the Baptist Faith and Message which attempts to identify those things that Baptists hold in common, but each church is free to accept all, part, or none of it.

Since Baptists do not even agree which ideas are false and dangerous, it's easy for subversive messages to reach audiences that do not even know they are being subverted. Even if they do realize what is happening, there isn't much that church members can do about it. This is one reason why there are so many Baptist churches. When disagreements arise, often the only solution is for one faction to secede and start a new church. There is no higher authority that can step in and resolve local disputes.

Dr. Mohler criticizes liberal Anglicans for inviting the heretical Bishop Spong and then allowing the faithful to "make up their own minds." He is correct to do so. Yet the act that he criticizes is exactly what happens in his own denomination. Baptists have nothing equivalent to a bishop who can put a stop to this sort of thing. Dr. Mohler is a smart man so it's hard to believe he doesn't see the inconsistency here. I hope he'll address this point further.

Wisdom of the Saints XIX

Don't let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love. With your apostolic life wipe out the slimy and filthy mark left by the impure sowers of hatred. And light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart.

St. Josemaria Escriva

Hat tip: Elizabeth Andrew

Fred Thompson Watch V

As previously noted herein, non-candidate for president Fred Thompson worked as a lobbyist on behalf of a pro-abortion group in the early 1990s. This remains a problem for his non-campaign.

First, this was clumsily handled from the beginning, with his staff at first issuing a flat denial any such thing every happened. From there the story progressed to "maybe I did" to "If I did it doesn't matter" to "I did and I'm proud of it." Here is the latest version:

"Don't confuse the lawyer with the client," Thompson said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It has nothing to do with one's political views. Lawyering is a profession but it's also a business."

Thompson has come under fire for representing - among others - abortion rights activists, raising questions about his own position as he prepares to enter the contest for the Republican presidential nomination.

"I'm not representing an issue," said Thompson. "I'm representing a client who has an issue."

Thompson, a lawyer, compared his work lobbying to that of a lawyer who represents someone accused of a crime.

"I've represented people accused of crimes," Thompson said. "These are people who deserved representation." MORE

Indeed, people who are accused of crimes deserve representation. This is not exactly the same thing as lobbying the government for political favors. Anyway, neither lawyers nor lobbyists are required to represent everyone who asks them for help. If, in fact, Fred Thompson was willing to lobby on behalf of anybody with cash no matter how much he disagreed with their cause, then the main thing this tells us is that he will do anything if the price is right, ethical principles notwithstanding.

Think about it another way: suppose in the early 1990s Fred Thompson had lobbied the U.S. government on behalf of, say, the Palestinian Liberation Organization? Or Osama bin Ladin? Saddam Hussein? Saudi princes? Open-borders advocates? The Ku Klux Klan? Greenpeace? Would conservatives be so quick to grant absolution on the basis that he was "just representing a client?" Certainly not.

Abortion is a non-negotiable issue for me. There are some things to like about Fred Thompson, but, for me, nothing else will matter until I know that he believes life begins at conception and must be given full legal protection from that very moment.

So far, all I've seen are vague statements from Thompson saying he is "pro-life." Like most politicians, he leaves himself plenty of wiggle room so he can try to be all things to all people. I've been fooled before and it isn't going to happen again. He needs to be specific.

This is one of many reasons Ron Paul remains my candidate of choice. Here is a cool test that helps identify which candidates match your opinions on the issues. Try it out.

Not Chopped Liver

Imagine you are very sick. After suffering for years, doctors say you need a liver transplant or you will die very soon. Amazingly, more than two dozen people volunteer to donate part of their own livers to you. You can take your pick, right? Sweet.

This is exactly what happened to Bishop William Weigand. He did not celebrate his good fortune. Instead, he worried about the risk to the donor. In most cases the liver will regenerate itself, but the donor still faces a small chance of complications.

Here is a story about Dan Haverty, the Sacamento firefighter who was finally chosen as donor for Bishop Weigand.

The bishop required that the donor have neither children nor parents to care for and be financially secure, in the event of disability or death. He insisted that any donor have the support of his entire family.

To guarantee such support, the Havertys called a family meeting with their parents, three adult children and grandchildren. They showed medical data, graphs and photos. They described hypotheticals.

One daughter-in-law wondered what would happen if one of his grandchildren needed a liver in the future and there was nothing left to give. Haverty's mother said she had lost two daughters, one to cancer and another in a plane crash. She could not face losing another child, she said.

"We trust in the Lord," Haverty assured the assembled family. "If I should die, that's the sacrifice we are willing to make."

Eventually, the family came to share that perspective, he says. "There was a bit of faith involved."

By the fall of 2004, Weigand was growing weaker by the day. He could no longer work full time and had to turn over some of his responsibilities to others. When saying Mass, he needed other people to help him stand or hold the chalice. The toxins had begun to affect even his mental acuity and made him dizzy. He got up to use the bathroom one night and fell down the stairs.

Meanwhile, the search for a donor was narrowing. In February 2005, the bishop phoned Haverty to say the fire chief had been chosen.

"The Lord puts suffering in some people's lives so other people have the opportunity to show love and compassion," Haverty recalls the bishop saying.

It was tough, even then, for Weigand to accept such a gift. He was awestruck by the parishioner's generosity but wondered if he should jeopardize another man's life. What if something happened to Haverty, he worried. That would be worse than dying himself. MORE

What amazing faith and sacrifice in both men. God honored them with a complete success. Doctors took 73% of Haverty's liver to implant in the Bishop, who had practically no functioning liver left. Now both men have livers that are about 90% of their original size. Read the whole story. It's inspiring.

Hat tip: Orthometer

Now Who's Behind The Curtain?

This week presidential advisor Karl Rove announced he will soon depart from the White House. It is unclear at this point who will take his place as the power behind the throne.

Clearly Rove was one of the most powerful staffers in American history. It's no exaggeration to say that Rove won the presidency for Bush twice. Many disagreed with his tactics, of course. History will judge whether Rove truly served the nation well. My own view is that he won short-term victories but may well have destroyed any hope of reaching long-term conservative goals. The Bush Administration's relentless expansion of executive power will come back to haunt us.

Rove's abrasive attitude wasn't helpful, either. Crunchy Con has an interesting story about Rove and Bush, taken from a recent article in Atlantic Monthly.

Dick Armey, the House Republican majority leader when Bush took office (and no more a shrinking violet than DeLay), told me a story that captures the exquisite pettiness of most members of Congress and the arrogance that made Bush and Rove so inept at handling them.

“For all the years he was president,” Armey told me, “Bill Clinton and I had a little thing we’d do where every time I went to the White House, I would take the little name tag they give you and pass it to the president, who, without saying a word, would sign and date it. Bill Clinton and I didn’t like each other. He said I was his least-favorite member of Congress. But he knew that when I left his office, the first schoolkid I came across would be given that card, and some kid who had come to Washington with his mama would go home with the president’s autograph. I think Clinton thought it was a nice thing to do for some kid, and he was happy to do it.”

Armey said that when he went to his first meeting in the White House with President Bush, he explained the tradition with Clinton and asked the president if he would care to continue it. “Bush refused to sign the card. Rove, who was sitting across the table, said, ‘It would probably wind up on eBay,’” Armey continued. “Do I give a damn? No. But can you imagine refusing a simple request like that with an insult? It’s stupid. From the point of view of your own self-interest, it’s stupid. I was from Texas, and I was the majority leader. If my expectations of civility and collegiality were disappointed, what do you think it was like for the rest of the congressmen they dealt with? The Bush White House was tone-deaf to the normal courtesies of the office.”

George W. Bush came into office promising to be a uniter, not a divider. Was Karl Rove helpful in that regard? Apparently not.

Cheney Predicts Quagmire

Above is none other than Dick Cheney explaining why, when the U.S. was in perfect position to depose Saddam Hussein in 1991, President George H.W. Bush elected not to do so. The interview took place in 1994. Here is a transcript in case you can't hear the video.

... if we'd gone to Baghdad we would have been all alone. There wouldn't have been anybody else with us. There would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq. None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq.

Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein's government, then what are you going to put in its place? That's a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off: part of it, the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of it -- eastern Iraq -- the Iranians would like to claim, they fought over it for eight years. In the north you've got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey.

It's a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq. Source

Sounds like a very sensible view to me. Too bad Cheney changed his mind a few years later. He had it right the first time.

Hat tip: Born at the Crest of the Empire

Wisdom of the Saints XVIII

Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ
For all the benefits Thou hast given me,
For all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly,
Day by day.


[If the above prayer sounds a little familiar, you may have seen this 1970s classic.]

Funeral Rights?

A man named Cecil Howard Sinclair died recently. It is unclear what, if any, religious affiliation he had. His brother, however, is a janitor at High Point Church in Arlington, Texas. Somehow, plans were made for a funeral to be held at High Point.

The problem is that the deceased Mr. Sinclair was gay. The family says that church officials knew this at the time the funeral was scheduled. High Point's pastor denies it, saying they became aware that Mr. Sinclair was gay only when preparing a video tribute for the service which showed photos of men kissing and embracing each other. In any case, permission to hold the funeral at High Point was suddenly withdrawn because the church did not want to appear as if it endorsed the homosexual lifestyle.

I am not familiar with this church or its theology. Certainly they have the right to decide the conditions under which funerals can be held on their property. They are also correct that homosexual acts are sinful and churches should not condone them.

One thing that seems strange is why, if High Point is so firmly anti-gay, Mr. Sinclair's partner and family would want to hold his funeral there. Presumably Mr. Sinclair would have wished otherwise. We don't really know if the family accepted Mr. Sinclair's lifestyle. Maybe some did and some didn't, and the funeral arrangements involved compromises to keep everyone happy. It may also be that High Point Church does not have clear policies for such things. The whole thing sounds like a giant miscommunication to me.

To its credit, High Point offered to pay for another facility to hold the service, produced the tribute video, and provided food for the family and friends. That was very kind of them, but Mr. Sinclair's survivors still sound displeased.

The real issue in this case is not the propriety of Mr. Sinclair's lifestyle. It is whether the funeral service would have placed the church in a position where it appeared to endorse something it believes to be wrong. Without knowing all the details, it is hard to make that judgment from afar. Sadly, it is kind of unusual nowadays for church leaders to expose themselves to public criticism just to defend a moral principle, so I am a little bit skeptical. I hope they were in fact trying to defend the Faith as they understand it. Yet I wonder if other factors were involved in the decision.

Another reason to question this story is that nondenominational megachurches, which is what High Point seems to be, are not exactly well-known for consistent teaching of Biblical morality. Suppose, for example, Mr. Sinclair was not gay. Suppose further that the service was to feature photos of him kissing a female with whom he had been living outside of marriage. That lifestyle is just as sinful as living with a gay partner. It would have made High Point appear to endorse immorality. Yet somehow I doubt High Point would have canceled a funeral under those circumstances.

The fact is we all live sinful lifestyles of one kind or another. Without the grace of God, none of us have any hope of redemption. We don't know Mr. Sinclair's fate. We should hope that, in the last moments of his Earthly life, he grew convicted of his sins and asked God for forgiveness and mercy. We should also hope that the confusion surrounding Mr. Sinclair's death will lead everyone involved to re-consider how they are living their own lives.

P.S. I found this story at the Texas Fred blog. You may recall that I have had disputes with Texas Fred in the past. I was pleased to see in his post on this subject - and another one today - that Fred seems to be taking an interest in the Bible. He even quoted some Scriptures.

Fred, if you are reading this I hope you will continue to explore the Bible and reflect on what it teaches us. Here is a passage you might find thought-provoking. Here's another one. And another.

Considering the Draft

President Bush's hand-picked White House War Czar, Lt. General Douglas Lute, said this week that "it makes sense to consider" a return to the military draft. He quickly added the administration has no plans to propose such a thing. The fact that he didn't automatically and instantly rule it out is surprising, though. This suggests that people at high levels are at least thinking about the idea.

The chances of a draft actually happening are zero, even if Bush wanted it. Congress will never go along, nor would the wealthy Republican donors whose children and grandchildren who might find themselves drafted. I would be against it as well, mainly because the volunteer Army we have right now is far more professional and effective than any conscript force could ever be - recent morale problems notwithstanding.

Nonetheless, there would be a bright side to the draft. It would result in a broader cross-section of society going into uniform and give those who serve a new perspective for the rest of their lives. More important, the draft would make it close to impossible for any president or Congress to keep the country in an unpopular war for very long. If we woke up tomorrow and to find the draft was restored, the U.S. would be out of Iraq so fast your head would spin. "Support the troops" only goes so far.

Right now the U.S. is, for the first time in history, trying to fight an extended foreign war with an all-volunteer force. The Army keeps raising bonuses and lowering standards and still struggles to meet recruiting goals. What happened to all the post-9/11 patriotism? I don't think Americans are any less patriotic. If the military were engaged in, say, defending America instead of nation-building in the desert halfway around the world, there would be plenty of volunteers. People will sacrifice for a worthy cause. When the cause is, at best, questionable, which is certainly the case with our Iraqi adventure, people would rather pay someone else to do the dirty work. So we end up with a force that is partly dedicated professional and partly mercenary. I wish there were a better word I could use, but it's the only one that fits.

The Roman Empire faced a similar challenge in its waning years, as the wealthy class found it easier to fill its Legions with foreigners than send their own sons into battle. Ultimately, their hired hands turned on them and the Empire collapsed. I'd like the think the U.S. can be spared a similar fate. But I'm not so sure.

One Blind Cat

You might think a blind cat is pretty useless. In fact, many people think ALL cats are useless. Not so. This one taught its owner some very valuable lessons.

Mali was neglected at birth by a Syracuse, NY shop owner and kept in a cage in a storefront. She received little attention or care. When she developed feline herpes, it went untreated and spread to her eyes. She was blinded as a result.

I heard about Mali from an angel of a woman in Syracuse who went out of her way to rescue animals in need. She saw Mali in the store and insisted that the owner surrender the cat. The little calico was taken to a vet and there she stayed in a larger cage, awaiting adoption.

But there were no takers for a blind cat. Truth to tell, Mali was not a great candidate for adoption. Her fur was not kept especially clean and her eyes had frequent discharges. There was concern that, because of these discharges, she could infect other cats with the herpes virus.

So when we were called about Mali--we had already rescued two cats from this woman--our leaning was to take a pass. We didn't want Gina and Ginger to possibly contract the virus.

But, I decided on my own--without telling anyone in the family--to visit Mali.

Read more.

Ron Paul on Life

Here is presidential candidate Dr. Ron Paul speaking about the relationship between life and liberty. The video is about ten minutes long. You need to watch it.

Hat tip: Bro. Robin.

Too Many Barns

This weekend my Dad was here helping me with some household projects. Of course we had to go to Home Depot on Saturday. In the course of this we saw a massive new subdivision full of the big homes I like to call "McMansions." Dad remarked that these were expensive homes and it was remarkable so many people are able to afford them. I said that it is ironic how families are getting smaller and smaller while houses are getting bigger and bigger.

Now I suspect that many of those who inhabit McMansions really can't afford them. Their dreams will end unhappily. But clearly there are substantial numbers of people who have no problem buying $400,000 houses. Here in Texas the property taxes can be as almost much as your principal and interest payments, too.

Then on Sunday I heard yesterday's Gospel reading, Luke 12:13-21. Christ tells the story of a rich man who probably lived in a sort of ancient McMansion:

Then he told them a parable.
“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.
He asked himself, ‘What shall I do,
for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do:
I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.
There I shall store all my grain and other goods
and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years,
rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’
But God said to him,
‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves
but are not rich in what matters to God.”

"I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones." Hits a little close to home, doesn't it? It's exactly what we in America have been doing in the real estate boom of the last few years. This parable warns us that a time will come when our treasures will be useless. Earlier in the passage Christ says it is fine to be wealthy, as long as your life does not consist of your possessions. It's all a matter of priorities - which for all too many of us are frequently misplaced. I'm guilty of it as much as anyone.

With that in mind, consider this video clip of Wall Street pundit Jim Cramer going nuts on a live news program. Cramer is mad because the mortgage bond market is blowing up. He wants Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to bail out all the poor millionaires for whom losing money is apparently an unfamiliar experience. Maybe it's just me, but I have a hard time feeling sorry for those guys.

Nuking Mecca

CNN reports that presidential candidate Rep. Tom Tancredo wants the U.S. to threaten nuclear strikes on the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina as retaliation against any more attacks on the U.S. He's actually been saying this for some time. I first heard it from The Catholic Knight a few weeks ago.

On this surface it seems like an appealing idea, not unlike the strategy of "Mutual Assured Destruction" that the U.S. and Soviet Union followed in the Cold War. Think a little further and the logic falls apart quickly.

  • First, in the Cold War, Soviet nukes were under firm, centralized control, as were those of the U.S. Hence the two governments could actually make agreements with each other. Not so with radical Islam, which has a wide variety of insurgent groups, any one of which could attack the U.S. whether the others like it or not.
  • Second, there may well be Islamist groups that would like to see Mecca destroyed, just as there are Christians who would not mind seeing Vatican City or Westminster Abbey burn to the ground. Tancredo's plan would not serve as a deterrent to these groups. In fact, it would inspire them even more. There being no central control to radical Islam, it is impossible to make an enforceable agreement of any kind. That is why the current conflict is so challenging.
  • Third, if it became necessary to execute Tancredo's plan the United States would be killing thousands of people who had nothing to do with attacking the U.S. This is, as Steven Taylor and Daniel Larison explain, both morally repugnant and politically stupid.
  • Fourth, Mecca and Medina are located in Saudi Arabia, which is (putatively, at least) an ally of the United States. Nuking the territory of one's allies is not the way to win friends and influence people.
  • Fifth, it would also not serve the U.S. well in the long run to let the nuclear genie out of the bottle in this way. Others - say, North Korea, or Pakistan, or India, or China - would then find it much easier to use nuclear weapons for their own purposes.

This sort of thing is the reason Tancredo is a third-tier candidate. He thinks that "tough talk" will somehow impress people into supporting him. In some cases it does. The guys who sit around in bars and try to impress each other with their macho manliness, without giving too much thought to the consequences of their actions, tend to like Tancredo. Fortunately they usually come to their senses after they sober up.

Tancredo, conversely, is saying these things while he is cold sober. I'm sure he is a very nice man most of the time, loves animals, kisses babies, all that sort of thing. But anyone who so cavalierly throws out such an idiotic idea, and then sticks to it despite objections, and then surrounds himself with advisers who agree with him, proves himself unqualified to be president. I'm striking him off my list.

Croagh Patrick

Since St. Patrick is the patron of this blog, I must share this story with you. It concerns the place where the first Snakes were Driven Out.

A ripple of applause greeted the first Mass yesterday morning on the summit of Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holy mountain, as tens of thousands of pilgrims laboured up its treacherous approaches in brilliant and unexpected sunshine.

Rising in a perfect cone on the southern shore of Clew Bay, St Patrick’s Mountain is one of the world’s oldest pilgrimage sites. Its importance as a holy place predates the arrival of Christianity and the national saint’s 40-day fast on its summit.

During his Lenten fast in the year 441, St Patrick is said to have dispelled all the snakes from Ireland by throwing a bell down the mountainside. (...)

The pilgrimage took root soon after that date but in the 12th century was moved to the summer months after 30 pilgrims perished on the mountain during a thunderstorm on the night of March 17, 1113.

That also conveniently put paid to the more ancient celebrations on the mountaintop. For the Celts it was the dwelling place of the deity Crom Dubh and the principal site of the harvest festival of Lughnasa, where women slept the night on the summit in the hope of encouraging fertility. MORE

Someday I will have to travel to this place and make a wireless post to Driving Out The Snakes. Hopefully St. Patrick will approve.

Irish hat tip: Mark Shea