"I sought among them for a man that might set up a hedge, and stand in the gap before me in favor of the land." Ezekiel 22:30

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Brief "Year in Review"

2013.

A year which brought immeasurable changes to my life - a new life with my best friend, a new job, a new car, a new house, and a new son, just to name a few.

Clearly, 2013 has been one of the best years of my short life thus far, and will be remembered in my later years as a remarkable period of time.

If 2013 was this awesome, I can't imagine what 2014 will be like.

Here's to a Happy New Year and an amazing 2014.

I can't wait for the ride.


Monday, December 30, 2013

G.K. Chesterton on Pope Francis

G.K. Chesterton has written some amazing things about our new Holy Father, Pope Francis.

I know what you're thinking: "But Chesterton has been dead for, like, a hundred years, right?"

Yes, he has been. But brilliant writers are brilliant for many reasons, especially their ability to describe events they weren't even around to experience. They can accomplish this feat because great writers have tremendous insight into the human experience and psychology. And guess what? Human nature doesn't change.

So what did ol' Gilbert have to say about Papa Francesco? Here's a wonderful excerpt from his brilliant work Orthodoxy in which he describes Christianity by use of metaphor:
Suppose we heard an unknown man spoken of by many men. Suppose we were puzzled to hear that some men said he was too tall and some too short; some objected to his fatness, some lamented his leanness; some thought him too dark, and some too fair. One explanation (as has been already admitted) would be that he might be an odd shape. But there is another explanation. He might be the right shape. Outrageously tall men might feel him to be short. Very short men might feel him to be tall. Old bucks who are growing stout might consider him insufficiently filled out; old beaux who were growing thin might feel that he expanded beyond the narrow lines of elegance.
Does this sound in the least familiar? Does it not describe in some ways the predicament of Christianity in it's purest form? But even more appropriate for our time, it seems to describe the situation of our beloved Pope Francis where the liberal press fawns over him, declares him "Man of the Year" and then shirks back when he it is publicized that he opposes adoption by homosexual couples.

Oh the shock! The horror! The outrage! This Pope must be, of all things... Catholic!?

In other news, water is still wet.

The quote above was from a chapter which Chesterton titled "The Paradoxes of Christianity" but he might as well have called it "An Outline of Christianity by Metaphor", or "A Description of Pope Francis", or even "A Description of How Every Pope and Catholic Should Be." The possibilities are endless really. Christianity, but specifically the Catholic faith which Gilbert practiced, does not fit in a box. It is not easily defined. It is neither "right" nor "left"; "conservative" or "liberal." It is no more brutal than it is merciful; no more complex than it is beautifully simple.

Chesterton goes on to say:
[I]t is exactly this which explains what is so inexplicable to all modern critics of the history of Christianity. I mean the mostrous wars about small points of theology, the earthquakes of emotion about a gesture or a word. It was only a matter of an inch; but an inch is everything when you are balancing. The Church could not afford to swerve a hair's breadth on some things if she was to continue her great and daring experiment of the irregular equilibrium. Once let one idea become less powerful and some other idea would become too powerful. It was no flock of sheep the Christians shepherd was leading, but a heard of bulls and tigers...
Beautiful, no? 
This is the thrilling romance of Orthodoxy. People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There was never anything so perilous or exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad... It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one's own.
If you think you "get" Pope Francis, if you're confused, or just aren't sure what to think, might I suggest you find a copy of Orthodoxy and read it yourself. The book is flowing and poetic, albeit dense at first. If you can't stay awake during the first few chapters, skip to the sixth chapter "The Paradoxes of Christianity."

Trust me and read the chapter. Only then will you begin to understand.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Read This Blog

This post over at Catholic Vote is perfect. I love it when I read what other people write and agree with it 100%.

Here's an excerpt:
No matter what the politicians say, no one political party is the standard bearer for the Catholic Faith. Both, in some way, are at odds with Church teaching. Forgetting that is a shortcut to cafeteria Catholicism. It encourages people to think they can disregard some of the Church’s doctrines simply because their preferred political party says they can.

And they can’t. That’s not how it works. Shocking though this may be, the DNC and RNC are not divinely appointed arbiters of the moral universe. If we’re Catholic, we’re supposed to believe that job has long been taken by the Church. So, it’s her voice, not MSNBC’s or Fox News’, to which we should be listening.
Amen.

Click here to read the whole post.

Friday, December 27, 2013

What's Lost in all the #StandWithPhil Drama

Well, that didn't take long.

Phil Robertson is back (even though he never really left) after the "controversial" remarks he made while being interviewed for GQ.

It only took 1.5+ million "likes" on the facebook page "Stand With Phil Robertson", more than 250k petition signatures, and not even ten days of "indefinite hiatus" from the hit show Duck Dynasty for A&E to reverse course and announce that the show will proceed with the Dynasty patriarch. Plus, no taping of the show occurred during the week-and-a-half period, so the show won't be missing Phil at all because of this little exercise.

Isn't this a wonderful example of the free market at work?

Kudos to the Robertson's for sticking together as a family and not backing down to enormous outside pressure.

Shame on A&E for cow-towing to interest groups pushing a radical, anti-family, anti-faith, anti-God agenda.

Now that the roller-coaster-like ride is more or less resolved, it's highly appropriate to reflect on the situation and see how it all developed. 

If you know me at all, or are a consistent reader of this blog, it's no surprise that I agree with Phil Robertson - at least in principle. My Catholic faith and my reasoning inform me that homosexuality - just like inappropriate heterosexuality - is sinful. Sex has a purpose. That purpose is to bring a man and a woman together in a unitive and procreative union. ANY sexual activity lacking this dual purpose is contrary to God's will and the beauty of His design for man and women.

Is such a viewpoint really that radical? I don't think so.

Disagree with me and you disagree with Biblical teaching and 2,000 years of Catholic tradition.

None of what I've said implies hatred for anyone who espouses anything else. Nor does it condemn anyone who is living in sin. It also in no way asserts that I, or anyone else, have not fallen into sin myself. However, a spade is a spade. Sin is sin. Jesus said "he who is without sin cast the first stone"; but Christ goes on to say to the adulterer:
"Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, from now on do not sin any more.”
He doesn't say "keep doing what you're doing. It's wrong, but I don't care." He doesn't refrain from judgment, but Jesus does refrain from condemnation.

I digress.

Phil Robertson said basically the same thing as I've written here. I heard someone say that he pretty much just quoted the Bible. It was the Louisiana Standard Version of the Bible, but the Bible nonetheless. So, like I said, I don't disagree with Phil on principle. Where I disagree with him is in how we went about saying it.

I won't put his exact words on my blog, but in case you don't know, I'll simply say he uses some biologically accurate terms in a way I would not. Just because we believe something is sinful, wrong, or "illogical", does not mean we can be crass, uncouth, or undignified in our speech. Lost in all the controversy about what he said, his suspension, and the Cracker Barrel response (and re-response) is the simple fact that Phil Robertson made true statements in a very undignified fashion.

We (the millions who watch the show or agree with what he said) can chalk it up to his southern roots, his Louisiana, backwoods way of life and give him a pass. Or we can clearly say we agree with Phil, but not the way he said it. Because there is a difference. Class shouldn't disappear just because you're from Louisiana, New York, California, or Missouri.

The bottom line is, class and dignity matter. If we are going to claim the moral high ground, we need to do so with class and dignity. Otherwise, we aren't much better off than anyone else.

I #StandWithPhil, but I also expect a lot more from him.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Government, Boeing, and the Allure of Jobs

My latest post at The 9s has to do with the effort to lure Boeing's new 777x plant to St. Louis.


Jobs are great. Actually, they’re not just great; they are vitally important to our economy, to families and to communities. Common sense and statistics tell us that an individual with a job feels better about himself or herself than a person without one. At the least, jobs simply keep people off the streets; at best, they give people hope, happiness and a better life. Either way, jobs are undoubtedly a good thing.

Since 2007, jobs have become increasingly more difficult to find. The U.S. unemployment rate has remained over 7% since December 2008. Locally in St. Louis, the unemployment rate has dropped to 6.5% only within the past couple months, but was as high as 7.9% as recently as July.

Things are getting better, but as a country and a community we obviously have a long way to go.
So when it was clear that Boeing was considering St. Louis as a location for another assembly plant, which could bring anywhere from 2,000-8,000 jobs to the area, community and state leaders took action. Governor Jay Nixon called a special session of the General Assembly to approve a round of tax incentives worth $1.7 billion, and the St. Louis County Council approved a $1.8 billion tax credit package.

As of this writing, a decision from Boeing is still pending. The State of Missouri and St. Louis County did all they could do, so now the waiting game begins. And with the extra time to sit back and wait, it makes sense to take some time to reflect on the situation.

It goes without saying that a Boeing assembly plant in St. Louis would be an enormous boost to the local economy. As said above, jobs are undoubtedly a good thing, and the more jobs, the better. However, with all the extra steps taken to entice Boeing to the region, we can and should ask if the ends – more jobs – truly justify the means.

This is not the place to get into the minutia of the bill signed by Governor Nixon; instead a more basic question to ask is whether or not government should go out of its way to woo a corporation. Should Boeing decline the offer, the state and county is no better or worse for the exercise. On the other hand, should Boeing choose St. Louis, we know that the immediate result will be an increase in jobs and a boost to the economy. Seems like a win-win, right?

But what about the little guys, the small businesses across the state who account for thousands of jobs, and potentially could afford to hire thousands more employees if they had additional tax incentives thrown their way? Conceivably, a $1.7 billion tax incentive program for Missouri’s small business could lead to even more jobs than Boeing’s new plant would provide. That would be good too, right?

This is not intended to be a Republican vs. Democrat, conservative vs. liberal discourse, but rather a serious, introspective thought experiment. So, just take a couple minutes, lay aside party affiliations, and ask yourself these questions:
  • Do you think that bringing any jobs to the state or region is a good thing, regardless of the way they got here?
  • Do you think states, cities, or regions should win contracts on their merits, or go out of their way to entice companies to come?
  • Do you think governments should cater to large companies because they are more stable, reputable, visible, etc., or should they treat all companies equally, regardless of size?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Matt Walsh Is Awesome

themattwalshblog.com
In case you don't know who Matt Walsh is, you need to discover him now.

He's a normal guy, and he writes in such a way that the average Joe can "get it." Basically, he's brilliant.

I might have a man crush.

Mr. Walsh recently delved into the topic of Pope Francis' recent apostolic exhortation, Evengelii Gaudium, and the supposed "Marxist" tendencies in the document. Walsh says everything I could ever possibly want to say, so I'll simply encourage you to read his post - here's an excerpt:
Here is the similarity between what Pope Francis said and what Karl Marx said: they both criticized certain elements of capitalism.

The end. That’s it.

To say that the Pope is automatically a Marxist because he condemned obscene wealth is like saying I am automatically a vegan because I didn’t have a Big Mac for lunch last Tuesday. It’s absurd.

The following is NOT the definition of Marxism: “Anything that isn’t capitalism.”

Karl Marx was a godless materialist; Pope Francis is an obedient and humble servant of Jesus.

Boom.

Read the whole thing on The Matt Walsh Blog here.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Clear As Mud

I find it funny, really. Almost more sad than anything. But I don't like being sad, so I'll just chuckle softly to myself in the quiet of my living room.

Yeah, I'm talking about Evangelii Gaudium, although, it's not so much the document itself, but the reaction to it that I have to find funny in a desperate attempt to remain sane.

I'll refrain from my in-depth commentary on Pope Francis' recent apostolic exhortation... for now. Sometime when I have a little more time and feel up to it, I'll delve into that. Right now, I just want to point out how sorry I feel for Pope Francis.

I mean really. Our poor Holy Father has said some things that are as theologically, doctrinally, and spiritually sound as any pope in recent memory. Nobody remembers those statements.

But when Francis says "Who am I to judge?", or something about atheists possibly getting into heaven, or when he points out that Christians can get too focused on a "disjointed" set of morals, the media can't stop talking about how this pope is "different."

Smartly, Pope Francis, probably on his own volition, but maybe with some guidance from some PR people in the Vatican, decides to release an "apostolic exhortation." And this exhortation isn't just a little letter from the shepherd to his flock; this is a treatise.

But poor Pope Francis.

Even when he writes a document nearly 50,000 words long, with almost 300 lengthy paragraphs, and over 200 footnotes, the media, political pundits, talking heads, looney Catholics, and a whole host of other people STILL manage to take what he wrote out of context. And it's not even so much that these commentators (ehem, Rush, ehem, Limbaugh) take it out of context; it's that they don't understand the basics of Catholic social teaching.

I'll stop myself here and refrain from further commentary until I have a chance to really pull my thoughts together.

Until then, I'll continue to feel bad for our Holy Father, Pope Francis. He just can't seem to get his points out there without some screwball adding their worthless two-cents. But I actually feel worse for Catholics everywhere who maybe aren't as in-tune with their faith as they should be. Sadly, some of these Catholics do rely on the main stream media for news and guidance on their faith. It's those Catholics who are seriously being misled.

I pray that all this confusion about what the Pope did or did not mean does not lead too many souls astray. I pray that it leads many to study more intently the fundamental teachings of their faith, because right now, the average Catholic must think it's all about as clear as mud.

------

If you want some insightful analysis of Evangelii Gaudium, without the garbage, here are a couple stories to read:

Some Economic Applications of Evangelii Gaudium

Of Downward Mobility and the New Evangelization

Evangelii Gaudium 54 ("trickle down economics"). Significant Translation Error Changed Meaning

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What's in a Name?

My most recent blog for The 9s magazine tackles the question: is another Bush or Clinton what we need in this country?

_______________________

Barbara Bush is right.

In an April 2013 interview on the TODAY show, the matriarch of the Bush family responded very bluntly when Matt Lauer asked about a potential Jeb Bush presidential run.

Her response:

“…we’ve had enough Bushes.”

And she’s right.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I Want to Blog More, But...

I really want to blog more. There is so much going on that I want to comment on (because the internet really needs ONE more person spouting their views).

I literally have 34 draft blogs left unpublished; at least a dozen of those are just a title of a topic I want to write about and lots of blank space. What I'm saying is: I have plenty I want to say/write.

But, I'm not writing as much as I would like.

Why?

Priorities.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I spent some time with this guy...


Who can blame me?

We also took some time to get one of these...


And we turned it into this...


And that's just a small part of the fun we had over the past five days or so.

So, in case you're wondering why I don't write all too often, it's not for lack of desire! I have a couple other responsibilities on my plate, not the least of which is a nearly two month old baby. I am still writing for The 9s on a weekly basis, so if nothing else, you'll see that post every week.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Rules? You Can't Handle The Rules!

My second blog for The 9s is up today. And yes, for the title I shamelessly ripped-off the famous Jack Nicholson quote.



If you played with other kids growing up, no doubt you engaged in numerous childhood games such as “hide-and-seek”, “red rover”, “tag”, or even baseball or football. Each of these simple games has a set of traditional, straight-forward rules that have been handed down over the years to make the game as fair as possible for everyone.

However, every so often you may have encountered a particular group of friends with some small tweak in the rules that changed the way the game was played. No doubt there were times when the rules were not well understood, which caused confusion and frustration. And of course, there was often a kid who wanted to change the rules or make up his own as the game went along. If that kid didn’t get his way, a temper tantrum usually followed, and sometimes he would take his ball and go home. Those situations never ended well.

As we get older, rules in everyday life become increasingly important because they keep us safe and give us a sense of certainty about how the world works. As adults, we can expect that people will drive on the right side of the road, that the utility company won’t overcharge for service, and that a criminal will get the justice he or she deserves.

In life, just like in baseball, the rules are the rules. They don’t change that much, but if they do, it’s usually with much deliberation, respect for all parties involved, and special consideration for future implications. Rules, in games and in everyday life, are very, very important because they make things as fair as possible for everyone.

So when people start changing the rules to suit their own interests – just like the kid who wants to make up his own game – it makes the game miserable for everyone.

This issue of rules, how important they are, and who gets to make them has been in the news lately after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lastweek pushed through a rule change that eliminated the 60-vote requirement to overturn a filibuster on federal nominations. According to Reid, the change was necessary so that the Senate could get back to legislating instead of bickering across party-lines.

Fair enough. President Obama’s federal nominees have faced an historic level of scrutiny and objection in their nominations. Whether it has all been justified or not is beyond the scope of this blog. But, there is a reason the Senate is known as the deliberative body. As Washington said "we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.” The Senate does not – and should not – operate under the rules of pure democracy where the majority gets the say-so at every turn. Our government is a republic, where representatives are elected as a voice for the people and the rights of minorities are heard and respected, even if they don’t ultimately win.

Like it or not, the filibuster is unique to the Senate and a powerful tool for the minority party in the upper chamber. It should not be discarded as an inconvenience. Should there be less partisan fighting? Absolutely! But removing one side’s ability to make its voice heard is not going to help. We can hope that whichever party with control of the Senate after the 2014 mid-term elections does the honorable thing by re-instating this filibuster rule.

Gentlemen, part of being a man and living in organized society is that you have to work with other people. Rules usually make those interactions go more smoothly than they otherwise would, even if we don’t see exactly how or why. Rules are serious and should not be added, removed, or changed in any circumstance without thoughtful, careful, deliberate reflection.

Question:
Do you follow rules in your daily life, even if you find them inconvenient or a hassle? If you have rule-making ability in your home or work, do you make rules that are conscientious and just, or do you suit your own interests?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why I hate Twitter

This is an old blog I wrote way back in the winter of 2007-2008. I was six years younger back then, so I think my writing was a little more raw than it is now. I've also changed some of my thinking about the subject since then, but I still have a love-hate relationship with Twitter - I use it, but I don't feel good about it.

Twitter is  beautiful thing for the easy access to information, but it's frustrating for the seemingly artificial limitations is places on your expression. It's also frustrating because people continually want to argue about politics, philosophy and theology in 140 characters. Just stop it. Aquinas, Aristotle, Chesterton, Lewis, Tolkien, and all the greatest thinkers of human history wrote books on these subjects, and you think you can boil it down to 140 characters?

So that bothers me. Anyway, take a read and let me know what you think. But I can't promise that I agree with everything I wrote back then.


My Year In Review - What I'm Thankful For

Ever sit around and think about how your life has changed? Some people will say nothing ever changes about their life. On the other hand, some people can say things have changed significantly over 5, 10, or 15 years.

Me? Let me briefly recount the degree to which my life has changed since this time last year.

This time last year...
...I wasn't married...

...I didn't have a baby...

...I was living with my future mother-in-law...

...I didn't have a job...

...I only had one car...

...I had a blackberry for a phone...

...I wasn't coaching basketball...

...I wasn't updating this blog...

...I didn't have a mortgage...

...and...

...I was changing significantly fewer diapers...zero to be exact.
Of course, I'm so incredibly thankful for all these changes.
I've gotten married to my best friend in the whole world. Together, with God's grace, we've brought a healthy, little baby boy into the world. I got a job doing pro-life work (how great is that?!), which has allowed me to buy a car and a house. My job is flexible enough that it has allowed me to start coaching basketball.

Thankful? Yeah, I'm thankful. Just a little bit.

So, how has your life changed in the past year?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Two Reasons Why I Hate Drive-Thru's

I hate the drive-thru.

No, really: I HATE the drive-thru. But not for the reasons you may think.
  • I don't hate it for the service - (or lack thereof).
  • I don't hate it for the deliciously unhealthy food most drive-thru restaurants offer.
  • I don't hate the drive-thru because no one spells it right ("thru" vs. "through").
More than any other reason, I really hate the drive-thru for two reasons: 1) because I think it is the epitome of 21st century decadence, 2) because it breeds complacency or laziness.

Boom. There it is. I said it. And now you think I'm a hippie.

But I'm not. The reality is, I've probably spent way more time thinking about this than I should have. And here's what I came up with...

For thousands of years, mankind has had to focus almost his entire being on just staying alive. Except for the very rich, human history has generally been devoted to subsistence living. Only in relatively recent times, i.e., since the industrial revolution, has food production become so mechanized and downright easy. In the western world, scarcity of food is far from being a problem; distribution is the problem.

While many, many millions of humans around the world live in squalor, the truth is that food has by-and-large never been easier to come by on a daily basis.

Don't get me wrong, I am so glad to be living in the world today. The basic necessities of life are so incredibly easy to obtain; clean running water, food, shelter, heat - these things are in greater supply today than ever before in human history. I thank God for hot water every time I step into a shower. Talk about a blessing that is taken for granted by so many people!

The same can be said for the drive-thru.

It is absolutely stunning to ponder the fact that most of us have hot, satisfying nourishment only a few short minutes away, at a cost that adds up to mere pennies on the dollar considering all the work that has gone into making that sandwich, taco, or pizza. But besides the proximity and economies of scale, with the advent of the drive-thru some 50-60 years ago, we don't even have to get out of our cars! Forget for a second that cars, which are a very recent phenomena as well, are in themselves amazing feats of technology and just think about how easily we in the United States can obtain a hot meal.

It should make you feel truly blessed by the Almighty. Yet, I would argue that few people ever pause to consider how lucky they are.

As for me, that feeling of being blessed stirs up the desire to completely reject the drive-thru, park my car, and walk through the front door to order my food. I mean, come on people. At the very least, shouldn't we be expected to walk just a few feet in order to get our food? Besides, a couple extra calories burnt walking into Taco Bell should make up for at least one bite of the 7-layer Burrito I'm about to get, right? If you're so lazy you can't take a 20 second walk, you probably should put down the Big Mac.

If exercise isn't your thing, think about all the gas you waste waiting in line in the drive-thru. Depending on how much you get fast-food, that could really add up. And beyond the cost saving benefits, the drive-thru really isn't all that much faster than walking in. It's the same people preparing the food. They'll get to your order whether you're in your car or not. The only time you save is the ten seconds from your car to the front door and the ten seconds back.

Of course, if you have kids, the time saving thing can turnout to be completely wrong. BUT! Here's the good news: you can turn that daunting trip into the fast food restaurant into a learning opportunity. Going into the restaurant, instead of just sitting in the car, can teach your kids valuable lessons about behaving in public. Gotta teach them sometime, right?

It really isn't all that complicated. No matter which way you slice it, the drive-thru is decadent and the embodiment of laziness. The only question is whether or not you're still going to use it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What Are You Doing This Friday Evening?


Tomorrow night, Friday, November 22nd, at 7pm, St. Cecilia Catholic Church (5418 Louisiana Ave) in south St. Louis City will dedicate an altar and a new statue of St. Cecilia.

St. Louis Auxiliary Bishop Edward Rice will celebrate Mass. The seminarians of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary will be in attendance too, as well as many young men considering the priesthood on a "Come and See" weekend.

Fr. Anthony Ochoa, pastor of St. Cecilia's, informs me that there will be some extraordinary music, plenty of pomp and circumstance, and just generally a lot of awe-inspiring Catholicism on display.

Grab the kids and pack 'em in the car. Tell your friends you'll be late for drinks at the bar. Come to St. Cecilia for a very neat experience.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The News You've Been Waiting For


Last week I told you that some big news was on the way.

Thank you for your patience. Now, the big day has arrived!

*Drum roll*

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Big Announcement Coming Soon

I will have some big news to share with you sometime very soon.

Don't worry! This blog isn't going anywhere.

But...

Good things are happening for this writer, and I hope you'll join me for the ride.

Re-blog: "The Birth of the iPhone (and the Death of People Watching)"

Somehow, in searching the backroads of the internet, I found the blog The Death of Catholicism. Before you judge the name of the blog, you need to go over there and read his explanation. It's actually very insightful.

I don't know the author (but I wish I did!). He seems to have it spot on. And he writes really well, which is always a bonus.

So, I wanted to share a portion of one of his recent posts entitled "The Birth of the iPhone (and the Death of People Watching)." I love this piece of writing. Enjoy!
Two days after I got my new iPhone, I was sitting with my wife in the waiting room of her OB, waiting to get a sonogram of our coming-in-January baby (it’s a boy, if you’re wondering). We love our doctor, but when we go to her office where they do their sonos, we always have to wait at least 45 minutes. It kind of sucks, but it provides a perfect opportunity for people-watching. While we were waiting that day, I looked around the room.Nine other people in the room. Nine people on their phones. Four of those were couples on their cells simultaneously.

Perhaps you are like me and get upset by the very mention of a situation like this. I scoffed internally. What a waste.

What to do with glazed-over eyes staring at screens? They do nothing! They tell no story! They express no personhood! All these gloriously different people become a monotonous redundancy when their phones get involved.

And at the OBGyn, the shame of wasting such prime people-watching is exponentially worse. I mean, it’s the scene of the height of human drama! Life and death, teen pregnancies and barren wives, first-time moms and first-time STD carriers, hopes and fears and dreams and anxieties all sitting in the same room, waiting to see what direction their lives will go. But when you have TMZ’s website at your fingertips, the distraction steals the intensity of the moment.

Ugh.

Of course, my self-righteousness and indignation reached the boiling point. I shook my head. I know, I thought. This would be perfect for a blog post.

So I reached for my phone to type a little reminder to myself. I went to my list of reminders and saw a note about an outdoor event at work the next day.

I better check the weather while I’m at it…30 seconds later….ooh look, new MLB Power Rankings on ESPN.com!

And that was it. I was one of them.

I was that guy.
Read the whole thing over at The Death of Catholicism.

And check out the follow-up blog: "The Birth of the iPhone (and the Death of Parenting)."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Libertarians vs. the Tea Party. I could've told you so.

I saw this a few weeks ago, but I'm just now getting around to posting it:
Most American libertarians do not consider themselves part of the conservative Tea Party movement despite a public perception that the two political groups are linked, according to a national survey released on Tuesday.
Read the rest here.
I could have told you this a long time ago. I even touched on the subject of freedom a little while ago in this post.

The problem with libertarians is that they really are liberal in the truest sense of the word. For hard-core libertarians, freedom is the be-all, end-all answer for everything.

Government? Who needs government? We should be able to do whatever we want! Smoke pot? Sure! If it makes you happy. Have an abortion? The government shouldn't keep you from a "safe" procedure. Start a war in Iraq? Heck no! (But we should definitely punish Syria for using chemical weapons.) In the mind of a true libertarian liberal, nothing should keep an individual from doing what they want - not the government, not the Church, not morality.

This just scratches the surface, and doesn't even get into all the inconsistencies and contradictions of full-on liberalism.

Contrarily, the Tea Party, with all its love of liberty and special focus on fiscal responsibility, still maintains (at least I think hope that it does) that [limited] government is essential, family values are important, and even though freedom, liberty, & independence are to be revered and protected, they are not the ultimate societal values. Freedom is great, but I think most people who identify with the Tea Party will admit that we need government to provide some services (e.g., national defense) and certain values, such as fiscal responsibility, are at least equal in importance to liberty. I think most Tea Partiers would consider themselves pro-life and pro-marriage.

That's just my perception of the Tea Party though, and it could be wrong.

The data shoes libertarians don't identify with the Tea Party, but as much as the Tea Party wants to be "libertarian", they aren't, and shouldn't be. There's a vast difference between "give me libery or give me death" and give me liberty because I don't want anybody to tell me what to do.

 ***Update***

After writing this blog post, I found another article entitled "The Problem With Libertarians" which you can read here.  Since the article's author writes for Townhall and I am a lowly on-my-own blogger, he sums up the problem much more eloquently than I can. Check out his article

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Hope and Change We Need

 


I saw this bumper sticker on a van at church last Sunday. Couldn't help myself but to take a picture. (the owner wasn't around, so I hope they don't mind.)

It's so poignant and so simple.

Hey! Here's an idea!

Let's restore Jesus Christ as rightful King over our hearts, minds, souls, communities, families, governments, and the whole world.

Now that would be some REAL Hope and Change.

Friday, November 1, 2013

St. Louis: Be Proud, But Let's Get Over Ourselves

Now that the World Series has been over for about a day, we've had time to digest everything that happened and come to grips with reality.

First, let me be clear: I'm as big a St. Louis Cardinals fan as anyone.

I can't tell you all the obscure facts like Michael Wacha's college ERA, or Jon Jay's on-base percentage during the month of June. I don't know, and I don't really care. But I pull for the Cardinals every day and hate it when they lose.

The Cardinal Way
I love the "Cardinal Way", and the tradition of the Cardinals franchise. I'm very proud that the Cardinals call St. Louis home, and furthermore, that St. Louis is part of the great State of Missouri.

Even though the Cardinals lost this Series, with the young arms in their bullpen, the up-and-coming talent in the farm system, and now, the experience of playing in the World Series, there's a good chance they'll be back in short order. We can only hope it's next year.

At the same time, I'm a realist. And I have a few realist observations after this series:
  1. The Cardinals were a good team this year, despite the odds.

    They dominated the regular season in incredibly surprising fashion, yet, even though they won 97 games, I felt like they never quite hit their stride. (Remember the multiple game losing streaks?) Having lost their shortstop, closer, starting ace, two other starting pitchers to injury, one to free agency, plus one closer (Jason Motte), another closer (Mitchell Boggs), and towards the end of the season, another closer (Edward Mujica), there's really no way they should have been playing in October, let alone the World Series. But they made it there. And the players, Mike Matheny, the coaches, and the front office deserve all the credit that comes with what they accomplished.
  2. The World Series was different.

    Kozma's botched double-play in Game 1 of the World Series set the tone for the following games.
    Even through all the adversity, they were in the World Series, and looked fairly impressive getting there. As a fan, you'd expect a team that makes it this far to play like a championship team.  But something happened during the Series, and I don't know exactly how to explain it; I'm not sure anyone does. But I think the botched double-play transfer in Game 1 set the tone for the series, and the mediocrity sadly continued for six games.
  3. I hate to say it, but it was embarrassing.

    I was a little embarrassed for the Cardinals at times during the series. Especially after the botched double-play, the missed infield pop-up, losing 8-1 in the first game of the Series, the multiple times with the bases load, no outs, and no runs scored. It was hard to be a Cardinals fan. But I kept with it; I believed in them because, heck, these are still the Cardiac Cards, the Comeback Cards, the team with the Rally Squirrel. They don't quit. They don't give up. They play hard even if they're down with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth. That's the Cardinal Way. They even came back and won Game 2 (albeit with a little help; more on that shortly).
  4. I thought they quit.

    I'm not sure when exactly it happened, but I could tell the body language changed. I didn't think the team was very confident from the beginning, but it definitely got worse. Don't believe me? The bats stayed on the shoulders. Pitchers grooved a pitch, or let a breaking ball hang a little too much. Players got that "deer in the headlights" look. Former NLCS and World Series MVP, David Freese, was the worst. Judging by the look of his body language, he looked like he'd never been there before. Judging by his play, it looked like he shouldn't be. Okay, some of it could be chalked up to "you'll have games like that."

    But six games like that? Perhaps the most telling sign was the story I heard after Game 3 when they won on a strange obstruction call. Apparently, the locker room was silent and the mood was sort of tense. Injured ace Chris Carpenter finally spoke up and said, "Hey fellas, we just won a World Series game!" That's not the same swagger that Boston had.
  5. Boston is a good team.

    We all know this. That's why they won their division. They won the NLCS. That's why they were in the World Series. Good teams do those things, and good teams have swagger. I didn't see swagger from the Cardinals. Boston played with reckless abandon each and every inning. They didn't quit. They didn't mope. They played hard, and they annoyed the crap out of me.

    When Jonny Gomes hit that monster home run at Busch in Game 4 and ran around the bases pounding his chest, I realized just how much I disliked the way Boston went about playing. I wanted so badly for the Cardinals pitcher to put one in his ribs the next time he got up to bat. But that's the Red Sox. That's who they are. If a series ever pitted the good guys vs. the "bad guys" this was that series. It was the "Cardinal Way" vs. the "Beard." A group of nice guys vs. a group of scraggly, arrogant, win-at-all-costs guys. Even when the Red Sox were at their worst, and made bonehead plays which literally handed a couple games to the Cardinals, it was because they were going for broke.

    Think about it. Game 2, trying to get an extra out on a play. The throw was bad, but it was aggressive. Game 3, doing everything possible to keep a guy from scoring, even though it was illegal. And you know what, an injured Craig was probably going to be called out had he not been obstructed. In my opinion, both Cardinals wins were gifts. Just as much as, or more than, the Cardinals won those two games, Boston lost them by being too aggressive.
  6. And finally, St. Louis, let's get over ourselves (If you're not mad at me already, this section will surely do it, especially if you're from St. Louis.)

    St. Louis fans, we need to get over ourselves. We have a great team to root for, no doubt about it. But people are starting to, and already do, think we're arrogant. We have the best fans in baseball, but we also have the best fans at reminding everyone else that we're the best fans in baseball. We may have that midwestern charm and all, but we need to stop patting ourselves on the back.

    Permit me to go off on a tangent here, but we're basically a one-horse town when it comes to professional sports. The Blues have some tradition, sure, and a loyal fanbase. But they don't have an elusive title, or an historic name like "Red Wings", "Rangers", or "Bruins." It's also hockey, and no disrespect, but the NHL is not the NFL. And let's not even talk about the hapless Rams. Since 2004, nothing worthwhile has happened in the Edward Jones Dome. So, we hang our hat on the one venerable franchise we have in the Gateway City, the St. Louis Cardinals.

    But, I think we need to take a chill-pill and put things in perspective. We're a great city, but let's look at some others that we're trying to compete with - say, Boston, for example, which has kicked our butt in championship opportunities since 2000. The Patriots beat the Rams in 2001, the Cardinals got swept by Boston in 2004 - ending the 80+ year World Series drought. Then there's this year. And now, Boston has had more World Series titles in 10 years than the Cardinals have in the same time frame. Truth be told: I hate Boston. But I respect the fact that they have good sports teams up there. In all four major sports (they're lucky to have all four), they have a total of nine championships since 2000 - 3 Lombardi trophies ('01, '03, '04), 3 World Series ('04, '07, '13), 2 NBA titles ('08, '10), and one Stanley Cup ('10). (If nothing else, nothing else "Shippin' Up To Boston" is way cooler than "Meet Me In St. Louie", so there's another reason to hate Boston.)

    In St. Louis, we have two World Series wins ('06, '11), and a Super Bowl win in '99.
    The Rams Super Bowl win in '99 was awesome
    It's great that we have had those championships, but even a city like Chicago, which we love to rag on, has had a few NFL championships, six NBA championships, and even a World Series title (albeit the south side) in the midst of a 100+ years of Cubs mediocrity, of which we in St. Louis are so apt to remind them. Those Cubs fans go along with us, and play the pity-game for fun, boo-hooing and whining periodically just for sport. But they know the truth: besides the Arch and A-B, we don't have anything else to brag about.

    Don't Be a Little Brother; Let's Get Over Ourselves

    The gist of my scant World Series analysis and my little tangent is this: I think we're like the annoying little brother to some of these other cities, and they're just like our annoying older brother. They have more going on, more glitz, more glamor, and more championships, mostly in things other than baseball. But we're good at one thing, and we don't let anybody forget it. So, I think ultimately that's why myself and so many around Cardinal Nation are justifiably frustrated after this World Series loss at the hands of "big brother" Boston. Because when the one thing you're good at is trumped by the mean "older brother" who has plenty of other things to brag about, it hurts all the worse. So, St. Louis: be proud of what we have, but let's get over ourselves. We're not quite as great as we think we are.

    Go Cardinals! #12in14

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Keep Calm and...

My blogging buddy, Marc, posted a link to a fun website today. I couldn't help myself. Here's what I made:

 

Check it out yourself. Have some fun.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Am I Being Indecisive?

What do you write when you have nothing to write about?

Do you write about nothing? Is nothing something you can actually write about? Is nothing actually something? What is nothing? Can I actually be as un-creative as I think I could be by not having something to write? Is this normal? Is there someone who could help me?

It can't be as bad as it seems, can it? Could I write about not having anything to write about? Would that be a very interesting topic to write about? Would that be possible to do?

Doesn't anyone have an idea for me? Why can't I find inspiration? Am I a failure? Will my brain turn to mush? Will it run out of my nose? If I do find a topic, how do I know I can write a sufficient amount about it? Do I really have to write 500 words? Does anyone else think that's a lot of words?

But is it really?

How would I know? Why do I have to do this? What am I learning from this? Could I find a topic I need to learn about and write about that? How long would that take me? How will I find time to write? Will I have time to write? Will people leave me alone? Will I have to go somewhere dark, and warm, and quiet so I can concentrate? Will I be able to stay awake? Will I be able to eat while I write?

What if my right arm gets broken? (got milk?) Will I still be able to write? Who will I get to help me?

Do I sound paranoid? Will I always be this way? What can I do for my condition? Why? Why me?

Oh!

I might have thought of something to write about...

...now what what it?

Monday, October 28, 2013

I Find This Funny


I don't always agree with the Chamber of Commerce (they tend to focus on the moolah, often at the expense of other values I hold dear). Even so, I find this article from last Monday quite funny, for so many reasons:
On Monday, the chamber sent out its ratings of all the legislators, based on their votes this session on bills important to the state’s largest business group.

...

In the ratings, 73 legislators – all Republicans – received a score of 90 percent or above. Nine received a perfect score of 100 percent; none were from the St. Louis area.

Failing grades of below 70 percent were awarded to 77 legislators. That group included all the Democrats in the state House and Senate.

Read the Beacon story here
.
Why do you think I find this funny?

Let me know.

In the meantime, I'll be laying on the couch, eating a sandwich, and chuckling to myself.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Can You Help a Friend?

My buddy Marc, over at Marc's View on Stuff is asking for some help.

Think you can pitch in? Here's what he's asking:
Once again, our family doctor is taking his medical practice on the road to El Salvador for his annual medical mission. As in years past, he has sought anyone’s extra rosaries. This year is no different. There are baskets at the entrances to the [St. Francis de Sales] Oratory for you to bring in your extra rosaries so we may box them up and send them on his medical mission. He leaves in early November, so the latest day we can take the rosaries will be on Sunday October 27th.
If you'd like to help out, visit his blog and he'll figure out a way to get the rosaries from you. Or you can contact me I guess, and I'll help you get in touch with Marc.

Unlike Obamacare, I actually help people.

[raucous laughter]

*takes bow* "Thank you. I'll be here all week."

Friday, October 18, 2013

Chesterton's "Othodoxy"

I recently finished "Orthodoxy" by G.K. Chesterton, and part of me really wants to read it again. If you haven't read it, I would highly suggest it, even if you're not Catholic or Christian.

The reason is simply because the brilliance of Chesterton's prose is not often equaled in literature. His mastery of the English language is something the rest of us mere mortals only dream of. Line after line I was taken aback by the constant stream of uninterrupted thought, which seems to be have been written barely as quickly as Chesterton could think it. It gives the reader the feeling of being perpetually doused with an onrush of brilliance by a narrator of unparalleled imagination and intellect, just as one would be nearly overwhelmed by the beauty in a beautiful piece of art.

In the midst of this cascading rhetorical waterfall, Chesterton presents his views on various abstract concepts which often plague modern thinkers. He doesn't get into the "nitty gritty" of the subjects themselves; instead he explains enough of the issues to make his arguments make sense. He treats each subject delicately and forcefully; he does not mince words. What struck me is the way Chesterton writes so that one begins to wonder how anyone could think anything different.

The book itself is not a treatise in support of the specific doctrines of Catholicism/Christianity in-and-of itself. Rather, it is an explanation of how Chesterton came to believe how he believed. Thus, in some ways it is autobiographical, while it maintains some of the features of a philosophical essay.

So, don't pick this book up if you want a catechism, for it is not. However, if you want to know how one of the most brilliant and respected writers of the 20th century came to abandon his old beliefs - or absence thereof - in deference to Catholicism, then read this book. If you want to read some of the most flowery and remarkably eloquent writing of the past 100+ years, read Orthodoxy. Many times during the course of reading I had to remind myself that it is a work of non-fiction, for Chesterton writes in such a way that even making a sandwich would seem dramatic. Trust me: you won't be disappointed with this semi-autobiographical treatise.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Halfway

Today is an interesting day.

My dad was born March 27th, 1963. I was born July 7th, 1988.

I did the math (yes, call me a nerd), and today, Thursday, October 17th, 2013, I am exactly half as old as my Dad.

Yeah, it's not a birthday or anniversary, but it represents a big moment: from now on, I will have been around for the majority of Dad's life.

That's weird to think about.

So, happy Half-As-Old-You Day, Dad. I can't wait for Two-Thirds-As-Old-As-You Day. By that time, my son will be about half as old as me. And no, I haven't quite figured out when that will be.



God Doesn't Hate Anyone



There are so many things I could say about this picture.

Where do I start?


It's ironic, because I would say the bottom sticker applies to the top sticker. Clearly, if Joe Biden is the Vice President of the United States, it should be obvious God doesn't hate anyone. It should also be obvious that God has a sense of humor.

Additionally, it's sad to think that there may be people who think God does hate some people. Or, there are people like this poor person who think there are people who think God hates some people.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Republicans Should Listen to Pope Francis

Most people don't like talking about religion or politics, much less thinking about the two. For me, I can't help but combining the two. In my mind both are fundamentally about principles.

So, it should be no surprise that as I was contemplating "The Interview" of Pope Francis, I came up with what I think is an interesting perspective.

The Republican Party should listen to Pope Francis.

That's right. If you didn't think the GOP could be any more attached to the "religious right" here I am advocating that they take marching orders from the Pope himself.

Take this quote from "The Interview", which has gotten so much attention:
"The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently."
Replace "church" with "Republican Party", "pastoral ministry" with "grassroots mission" or "messaging", and "doctrines" with "policies" and you'll get where I'm going.

Here's how it would read:
The Republican Party's messaging cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of policies to be imposed insistently.
Hmmm...

The Holy Father went on to say:
"Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow."
 As far as I see it, this is the same when it comes to politics. Think about it.

Replace any biblical or religious references in the quote above with fitting political terms and it applies just as readily. The basic point remains the same: to be effective, focus less on the specific issues and explain the fundamental basis of your principles first, and the rest will follow.

In blunt terms, this means the GOP should focus less on abortion, marriage, and other divisive moral issues. Instead, conservatives and Republicans need to constantly preach about the totality of their belief system, because unlike liberal progressive Democrats, the totality of our belief system is consistent and makes total sense.

Honestly, I'm a little surprised to be writing that conservatives should focus less on abortion. I mean, I do pro-life work for a living. But winning elections is not a single-issue endeavor. Politicians deal with an enormous range of problems in government, just like pastors, missionaries, and ministers of the Gospel do on a daily basis. To extrapolate what the Holy Father said, people will slam the door on you immediately if the first thing you say is "abortion is bad." And it doesn't matter if you're talking politics or religion.

Now, I'm not the first person to say these issues should be less prominent. A report that came out after the November 2012 elections said similar things. But while I'm not convinced the authors of the report were 100% pro-life, I do support their conclusion that in order to bring people to "our side" we need to be less divisive in our initial outreach.

I also take issue with the terminology commonly used to differentiate between some of the important issues of our time. Whereas most people who would agree with me up to this point would say "Yes, we should focus more on economic issues and less on social issues", I would have to disagree vehemently.

See, if you really understand what it means to be a conservative, there are no "social" or "economic" issues. We have a unified vision of the world, and that means economics, society, religion, pop culture, etc., etc. are all interconnected. "Economic issues" do not exist in a vacuum. I need only remind you that 55 million American children have been murdered by abortion since Roe v. Wade. What if those millions were now paying taxes, creating jobs, and contributing to the solvency of Social Security?

Say what you will, the truth is that most people who aren't pro-life already will not listen to whatever else you have to say if the first words out of your mouth offend them or frustrate them. Instead, start with mercy, preach the truth, and the rest will follow.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Community or Christ?

I was recently  searching online for some religious images for an upcoming presentation, and saw this picture from the website of a Catholic Church :


Before I add my commentary, I want to make sure to say that I am in no way opposed to parish community. Community is very important to a parish. My wife and I have recently been trying to get more connected with the community in our own parish where we have been going since I moved to St. Louis. We've gone from knowing basically no one in the parish, to feeling much more comfortable on Sunday morning knowing more and more people at coffee hour. I've joined the Knights of Columbus, and we're starting to get to know some of the younger families. The sense of community we feel is growing, but still in its early phases.

However, that is not the thing that keeps us coming back. Community is a part of why we like the parish now, but has very little to do with why we go to church in the first place. It made no difference to me when we first started going and didn't know a single person. Nor would it make a difference to me if I went to church on Sunday and knew every single person the the pews. I'm not there for community; I'm there for Christ.

The thing that brings me back to church week after week, day after day is beautiful liturgy, reverence for Our Lord, and above all, knowing that Christ is there.

Sadly, I don't think that's why everyone goes to church on Sunday. Many people don't go there to spend some quality time with Our Lord and Savior. They go to spend time with their friends, or the pastor, or to hear some "cool" music. No, Christ isn't quite as important as he should be.

I heard an experience pastor once admonish a group:
"Don't waste time developing a parish mission statement. You already have one. It is to 'go and make disciples of all nations.'"
There is the crux of the matter. We must do everything for Christ Jesus, the Son of God. Making friends is one thing; making disciples is another. That's not to say they can't work together; the two are similar, and sometimes mutually beneficial. However, if we do anything without Christ as the ultimate goal, aim, and purpose, then we become, as Pope Francis said, merely a "charitable NGO."

Bottom line: I think putting "community" on your church website as if your community is the BEST THING EHVA! is frankly just silly. Unless you go to church in your basement, there's going to be a community. Community shouldn't be a selling point. Christ should be.

Monday, October 14, 2013

"1984", or rather, 2013

Talk about scary:
To bypass journalists, the White House developed its own network of websites, social media and even created an online newscast to dispense favorable information and images. In some cases, the White House produces videos of the president's meetings with major figures that were never listed on his public schedule. Instead, they were kept secret - a departure from past administrations, the report noted.

Read the whole article here.

I don't even need to add any editorial comment, but I leave you with this:

Would the Founding Father's be proud of this country? Is this what WWII vets fought for? Is this the "City on Hill" envisioned by Ronald Reagan?