"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.