[Update: the previous attempt was to embed a Windows Media Player, which only succeeds for those who have the plugin. All Mac products (afaik) require it. So I'm trying html5 video with a flash fallback for older browsers. If your browser supports html5, you won't see the flash version. I recommend going full screen on this one.]

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Equality is a powerful argument

Two videos. In the first, Bill O’Reilly and two guests – a liberal and a conservative – discuss whether “our rights come from God.” They are prompted by an exchange between Judge Roy Moore and CNN anchor Chris Cuomo. It is further evidence of why conservatives appear impotent on this issue. O’Reilly and the conservative Tantaros admit that the equality argument is a powerful one. It is so powerful that neither offers a counter to it.

Since they won’t say it, I will (for about the 5,000th time): not only is it not powerful, but downright stupid. In case you missed it, I said stupid. I have no rights that a homosexual man does not also have. He is equally as entitled as I to marry – a person of the opposite sex, that is. But he doesn’t want to do that. Therefore, he wants us to treat him not equally, but as a very super special poor little oppressed victim for whom we must invent an entirely new right – the right to marry a person of the same sex. This requires a redefinition of what a marriage is, to the degree that it is no longer recognizable. Further, it bears no kinship WHATSOEVER to discrimination on racial grounds. None. Zero. At all. I’m still waiting for prominent black leaders like Sharpton and Jackson to come before the cameras to scream about the injustice of the comparison.

This link should take you to the video.

In the other, Baronelle Stutzman, the Washington state florist who declined to perform her service for a male homosexual imitation wedding – claiming that it would dishonor Jesus Christ – talks to Shannon Bream on The Kelly File. The attorney general of Washington apparently tried to bribe Stutzman’s conscience but, says she, “you can’t buy my freedom.” No, but they can ruin you. And her situation is a harbinger of what is to come for all of us after the Supreme Court spreads this plague across the land later this year.

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“Muslims Predict Jesus Will Defeat ISIS…

Beginning in 2015.”

That’s the title of an article at Huffpo written by a Muslim with the interesting Islamic name of Dr. David Liepert. It’s full of reassurances that real Muslims know how “crazy-stupid” ISIS is, that they too love Jesus and await his coming again. (They’re also waiting on the Mahdi, but I couldn’t quite figure out what one of those is). As a result he says some crazy-stupid things like:

Even though Muslims and Christians disagree about what he is, with Christians claiming he’s God and Muslims declaring he’s not, everybody agrees about what sort of a person he was, is and will be: a man who fulfilled the Jewish Covenant and taught benevolent compassion to his followers, his example remaining a source of hope and inspiration to all humankind for the rest of time.

B.S. Except for the Jewish Covenant stuff, he might be talking about the Buddha or Gandhi. If you don’t believe in his divinity, you can’t even come close to knowing “what sort of person he was.”

It turns out that Dr. Liepert and Jesus (“peace be upon him”) have a past:

Bottom line, I have served God and loved Jesus my entire life, and I followed Jesus into Islam when I realized I became a worse man by worshipping Him and a better man by following him.

Some people just can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

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Sunday Gratitude: for friends when you can find them

Had the good fortune this weekend to meet the pseudonymous, trenchantly enigmatic, lethal combox warrior, scourge of usurers, corruptor of every consequentialist conscience, and enemy of everything evil under the sun, the Catholic blogger known as ZippyCatholic. His company is convivial, or he could not have gotten along with me. It also helps that he likes many of the right things, such as good European pilsners and homemade pizza. We tipped a few, had a good dinner, and discussed the Fate of the Nation and of all mankind, concluding that both would be in good hands if we were in charge. Just as importantly, he brought along his beautiful daughter (who clearly adores him), musically talented (she played our piano for hours) and lover of all things artistic. We took her to an art store and made sure she left with something useful. A good kid with a big, open heart. She gives me hope for the future. May the Lord bless her and keep her, show his face to shine upon her, and be gracious unto her all her days.

Prosit, my friend. And soon, I hope.

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Go Coptic

I finally took a look at the “Rules for Fasting and Abstinence” handed out by my parish church. It contains the “Current Discipline” and the “Traditional (1962) Discipline.” I think I can guess which my pastor prefers. In 1962, “Full abstinence was required on Ash Wednesday, all Fridays during the year, and the vigil of Christmas. Partial abstinence was required on all days of Lent, Wednesdays and Saturdays of the Ember weeks, and all vigils (except Christmas).”

“Fasting was required on Ash Wednesday, the three following days, all days of Lent, Ember days, and vigils.” Today, fasting is required on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. On Holy Saturday it is recommended but not required. Furthermore, “Abstinence obligations applied to those age 7 and older.” Now, the age is 14. Thus was I caught between thinking that the older discipline was better in the rigor of its demands, and being thankful that I didn’t become Catholic until 20 years later.

Then I get an email from a Catholic friend who was feeling sorry for himself that he couldn’t have his usual night-time snack, a chocolate covered protein bar. He had sacrificed it to the Lenten suffering. The next day, one of his co-workers who is a Coptic Christian told my friend about his (theirs, the Copts’) fasting regimen: “No meat, no dairy during the whole of lent, ONLY one full meal EVERY day, fasting began last Monday (prior to Ash Wednesday), and they are required to go to the church every day and pray, and to pray about 300 times individually per day.”

After that, my friend felt less sorry for himself. He still belongs to the Western Roman Rite, though. I told him that all that time without pizza would probably kill me. Thus, the counsel in the post’s title is offered to the reader, not the writer, of it.

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What is a moderate Muslim?

I keep hearing on the news that moderate Muslims need to “stand up and denounce” the radical branch of that religion (you know, the false branch, the rotten one that needs cutting off). They need to “rise up and,” well, do something. In American political parlance, when we describe, for example, a Republican politician as “moderate” on abortion, what we mean is that he is in favor of killing babies in the womb in some situations but not all.

So what is a “moderate” Muslim moderate about? What is he moderating? Is he in favor of terrorism some of the time but not all? Does he walk a fine line between a fanatical bloodlust and the brotherhood of man? Between the passionate piety of the devout and the indifferentism of the couch potato? Would the moderate Muslim, in a Muslim majority society, embrace equality of citizenship for all? That is, would a Christian be allowed to vote, hold any job for which he’s qualified, permitted complete freedom of worship? Jews? Does the moderate Muslim love Jews? Does he wish to live in comity with them? Are they as much children of God as he? What about other Muslims? Can they convert to Christianity with the moderate Muslim’s blessing, or at least without his laying down a fatwa?

These are honest questions, asked because I don’t know the answers. If I said of a man, “He’s a decent fellow, and very pleasant company, because so moderate in his Christianity,” would this make sense to anyone? Does it mean that he goes to church once a week instead of every day, avoids absolute prohibitions in moral matters, never disturbs the affability of a social gathering, or the political public square, with his intrusive religious convictions?

If Islam is truly a religion of peace, it seems to me we ought to hear from the true peacemakers, the ones who hold close to their hearts the reminder to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.’ After all, they shall be called the Children of God.

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BTW…speaking of the low road…

…I have forgotten to mention that the same-sex marriage mirage is now “legal” in Florida (in case anyone failed to notice). It became so in early January. In 2008, 62 percent of Floridians (60% being needed) voted to keep marriage to one man and one woman. If the same vote were taken today, I would fear for the result. Last year, a federal judge, a guy named Hinkle, who hangs out in the Tallahassee area ruled the amendment unconstitutional. He put a brief stay on his order while Pam Bondi appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. I don’t know what has become of that appeal (presumably denied), but I do know that the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t think the preservation of marriage sufficiently important to extend the stay until they have ruled on the issue themselves. So one guy has changed the meaning of marriage for an entire state. One guy. The degree of hubris required of any man or body of men who fancy themselves authorized to redefine a thing of which they are not themselves the authors verges on the insane.

I’m prepared to believe that democracy is a wonderful thing, if someone can just tell me how democracy can fix this.

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Riding the High Horse down the Low Road

[This post has been revised because...well just because]

There has been some discontent with Mr. Obama’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, where he delivered the following cautionary historical snippet:

Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.

On their face, his words seem to mean more than one thing. One that occurs to me is that we ought to keep our moral outrage and our thirst for vengeance within some kind of reasonable bounds, since our Christian ancestors have done awful things. In short, don’t imagine that you are somehow a superior, far more civilized creature than your average ISIS jihadi for the mere reason that you find cutting off the heads of innocents one of the lower forms of barbarity. Another implication seems to be that there is a perfect historical and moral parallel among the jihadis, the Crusaders, the inquisitioners, the American slaveholders, and the 20th century segregationists. All are the same manifestation of evil under different religious guises.

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Paper Money

So, this is the state of things, what it has come to at last.

Last night the wife and I decide to order out – pizza. As I’m taking out my phone she says, “Wait. I’ve got some coupons.” She’s got a lot of these hidden away in places men would never think to look. I hear the rustling of paper and then she returns to the hallway, thumbing through the stack. She hands me one, which reads: Large 1 Topping Pizza, 7.99.

I make the call, informing the girl on the other end that I have a coupon, that this is take-out, not delivery, and that we’d like mushrooms for the topping and light sauce under the cheese. She says that’ll be $8.51 and she’ll see me in about 20 minutes.

As the 20 minutes is about to expire, I walk through the pizza parlor’s front door to stand at the counter. “Yessir!” says a very young woman, mildly pretty. I like them that way.

“Pick-up for Bill?” I answer.

She snatches it off the oven, places it on the counter and starts punching the register. The keyboard, I should say. “Eight fifty-one,” she announces cheerily.

I don’t have the exact change so I pull out a dollar bill and a penny. She takes it, stares at it resting in her palm, and then repeats, “Eight fifty-one?”

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The End of Usury

Well, we can dream. If it were an absolute impossibility, though, I don’t think our old friend Zippy would have written a book about it. The book is actually in the form of an FAQ, answering all of your most urgent questions and destroying, especially, all your misconceptions. For example, you have no doubt asked at one time or another: What is usury? His answer:

Usury is lending money for profitable interest. The term “usury” often specifically refers to the interest itself – interest charged on a mutuum (personally guaranteed by the borrower) loan.

Horrors, you think. Doesn’t everybody do that? Charge interest for profit, I mean? It’s the heartbeat of the American economy. So you ask, reasonably: Is usury always morally wrong?

Yes. Usury is always morally wrong without exception.

But, sputter, gasp, What if the interest rate is reasonable? I have a credit card, for Pete’s sake. I like my credit card and they only charge me 10%.

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Posted in Catholicism, culture and morality, Economics | 14 Comments