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Problem or Mystery?A problem is something which I meet, which I find completely before me, but which I can therefore lay siege to and reduce. But a mystery is something in which I am myself involved, and it can therefore only be thought of as a sphere where the distinction between what is in me and what is before me loses its meaning and initial validity. -- Gabriel Marcel
Our Ways of Understanding"Our ways of understanding have been collective, beginning with the stories that we told each other around the fire when we lived in caves. Our ways today are still collective, including literature, history, art, music, religion, and science." - Freeman Dyson
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- "When someone opposes me, he arouses my attention, not my anger. I go to meet a man who contradicts me, who instructs me. The cause of truth should be the common cause of both." -- Montaigne
- "If your anger decreases with time, you did injustice; if it increases, you suffered injustice." -- Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- "And the missionaries, they tell us we will be left behind. / Been left behind a thousand times, a thousand times." -- Arcade Fire
Incapable of doubt, incapable of faithThe majority of mankind is lazy-minded, incurious, absorbed in vanities, and tepid in emotion, and is therefore incapable of either much doubt or much faith. -- T.S. Eliot, Introduction (1931), Pascal's "Pensees"
Wittgenstein on Kierkegaard
"Kierkegaard was by far the most profound thinker of the[nineteenth] century. Kierkegaard was a saint." - Ludwig Wittgenstein, to his friend Maurice Drury.
Read Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard: Religion, Individuality, and Philosophical Method by Charles L. Creegan free online.
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- dudgeon: Dictionary.com Word of the Day February 22, 2017dudgeon: a feeling of offense or resentment; anger.
- dudgeon: Dictionary.com Word of the Day February 22, 2017
- Poem of the Day: The Fist February 23, 2017The fist clenched round my heartloosens a little, and I gasp brightness; but it tightens again. When have I ever not lovedthe pain of love? But this has movedpast love to mania. This has the strongclench of the madman, this is gripping the ledge of unreason, beforeplunging howling into the abyss.Hold hard then, heart. This way at least you live. Derek Walcot […]Derek Walcott
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- Paradoxes and Contemporary Logic February 23, 2017[Revised entry by Andrea Cantini and Riccardo Bruni on February 22, 2017. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] By "paradox" one usually means a statement claiming something which goes beyond (or even against) 'common opinion' (what is usually believed or held). Paradoxes form a natural object of philosophical investigation ever since the […]Andrea Cantini and Riccardo Bruni
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- African Predicament February 16, 2017The African Predicament The African predicament is a concept that explains the aggregate of plights that threaten the African people. It is also an account that combines methods from various disciplines since the robustness of the theme is not limited to the field of philosophy alone but serves as a problem for consideration in the … Continue reading African […]
- Thomas Aquinas February 15, 2017Thomas Aquinas (1224/6—1274) St. Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican priest and Scriptural theologian. He took seriously the medieval maxim that “grace perfects and builds on nature; it does not set it aside or destroy it.” Therefore, insofar as Thomas thought about philosophy as the discipline that investigates what we can know naturally about God and … Continue […]
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Liturgy For The PeopleThe liturgy is essentially not the religion of the cultured, but the religion of the people. If the people are rightly instructed, and the liturgy is properly carried out, they display a simple and profound understanding of it. For the people do not analyze concepts, but contemplate. The people possess that inner integrity of being which corresponds perfectly with the symbolism of the liturgical language, imagery, action and ornaments. The cultured man has first of all to accustom himself to this attitude; but to the people it has always been inconceivable that religion should express itself by abstract ideas and logical developments, and not by being and action, by imagery and ritual. --Romano Guardini, "The Awakening of the Church in the Soul"
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Arts and humansArt is the signature of man. -G.K. Chesterton
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The Anguished QuestionIf you really enquire about God, not with mere curiosity, not, as it were, like a spiritual stamp collector, but as an anxious seeker, distressed in heart, anguished by the possibility that God might not exist and hence all life be vanity and one great madness -- if you ask in such a mood as the man who asks the doctor, "Tell me, will my wife live or will she die?"-- if you ask thus about God, then you know already that God exists; the anguished question bears witness that you know. -- Emil Brunner, "Our Faith"
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Imagine: a court awards you custody of your four children.
You go to get them, only to be met by the security force of a closed religious community.
That’s exactly what Sabrina Broadbent experienced.
Broadbent is a former Fundamentalist Latter Day Saint — yep, the cultic community of “Prophet” Warren Jeffs fame — and her kids were still living in the FLDS community she had left 8 years ago.
Her story was told on this evening’s World News Tonight on ABC, and she was featured on Friday’s 20/20.
Tonight’s news anchor called Broadbent’s story a “struggle by one mother waging her own battle against a powerful polygamist religious sect.”
Broadbent was “speaking out for the first time about the fight to be reunited with her children and to teach them about life on the outside,” the anchor said.
After she was met by the security force, Broadbent returned the next day.
A crowd of FLDS members, appearing on television to be mostly women and children, surround Broadbent’s vehicle and began to weep, sing, and pray in what become “a 22-hour standoff, a mom surrounded by a sea of polygamists,” the reporter said.
Eventually, a sheriff’s deputy intervened, and Broadbent was allowed to leave with her kids.
The kids didn’t want to go, but “within weeks” they have adjusted to living outside the polygamist community “with the help of TV, video games, a new puppy and a huge amount of maternal love and patience,” the reporter said.
Television and video games are the new deprogramming tools? Considering where those kids came from, sounds good to me.
I was struck by the religious and social power of surrounding a single person with crying, praying, and singing. I imagine many people would have caved.
Broadbent must have grown and strengthened during those 8 years, to be able to withstand that level of emotional and spiritual persuasion, especially considering she used to be part of the community and probably still recognized some of the members.
But that’s the power of “maternal love and patience” — not a bad thing to remember on Mothers Day Weekend.
For the record, I’ve been an admirer of Frank Schaeffer — both Frank Schaeffer Past and Frank Schaeffer Present.
That admiration, however, doesn’t blind me to his inexcusably horrible Christmas Eve article at Salon.com.
In the article, he criticizes his and his late father’s anti-abortion efforts in the 1970s and 1980s. He claims he and his late Dad are responsible for making the Republican Party an “extremist” organization, and for making the Tea Party movement happen. He also apologizes for doing so.
Again, for the record, I’ve been a fan of his father, too. The late Francis Schaeffer founded L’Abri Fellowship, the Greatham, England, branch of which still has a warm place in my heart, even if I’m more doubtful and skeptical (and less conservative) than I used to be, as many recent posts here testify.
My intersections with L’Abri as well as the writings of Frank Schaeffer and his late father were not political. They were refreshing and life-giving to me, attentive to the arts and philosophy as they were, and so they really helped me at specific times.
My departure from my own past involvement with the religious right makes me more likely to appreciate Frank Schaeffer’s departure from the same. So when I began to read Schaeffer’s article at Salon.com, I wanted to find something good to mull over.
But instead, what I read was irrational and indecent.
Just for radical clarity, I rejoiced at several sentences in his article, including, “You see, only in the Mafia, the British Royal family and big time American religion is a nepotistic rise to power seen as normal.” Ha-ha and amen to that!
I also shared Schaeffer’s disgust with the smug power-plays in the overlapping zone where the Republican Party and the evangelical priestly class mingle.
And here is Schaeffer’s knock-out punch, an excellent right-hook that should have appeared in a decent article:
What began to bother me was that so many of our new “friends” on the religious right seemed to be rooting for one form of apocalypse or another. In the crudest form this was part of the evangelical fascination with the so-called end times. The worse things got, the sooner Jesus would come back. But there was another component. The worse everything got, the more it proved that America needed saving, by us! Plus, it was good for fundraising.
YES, that is so friggin’ true.
But I’m still dismayed and astonished by Schaeffer’s abuses of rhetoric and misuses of his own credibility.
Let’s take a look.
First, if you haven’t already, read Schaeffer’s article.
Then, closely mark what Schaeffer says in the following two early sections of the article:
This zealous negativity has a long history. I was part of it as the nepotistic sidekick to my religious-right evangelist father. The 1970s Evangelical anti-abortion movement that Dad (Evangelical leader Francis Schaeffer), C. Everett Koop (who would be Ronald Reagan’s surgeon general) and I helped create seduced the Republican Party. We turned it into an extremist far-right party that is fundamentally anti-American. There would have been no Tea Party without the foundation we built….
You can’t understand why the GOP was so successful in winning back both houses of congress in 2014, and wrecking most of what Obama has tried to do, unless you understand what we did back then.
Schaeffer’s nonfiction, here and elsewhere, is full of hyperbole. The phrase “extremist far-right party” is just one example, a phrase that only applies if one is looking only at America with only conventional, contemporary perspectives, in other words, looking as if some perfectly moral social norm had always existed and the GOP is unique in its political transgressions.
More importantly, notice how Schaeffer conflates the Republican Party and the Tea Party movement. The Republican Party (a.k.a. GOP) is an “extremist far-right party,” yet strangely enough, the Tea Party was unhappy with Mitt Romney as the official candidate.
So, the GOP has been taken over by Tea Party extremists who weren’t able to control the presidential nominee? Apparently, a group can take over a party without controlling the party. That doesn’t make sense, but that’s what Schaeffer is saying.
The heart of Schaeffer’s article deals with abortion. He assumes, wrongly, that today’s conservative movement within the GOP had everything to do with his and his father’s anti-abortion efforts. I can’t decide if that move is an oversimplification or a gross generalization or a bogus claim.
I’m leaning toward “bogus claim.” Anyone familiar with the conservative movement knows National Review founder William F. Buckley, Jr., presidential candidate and senator Barry Goldwater, and author and professor Russell Kirk were crafting the movement long before Schaeffer & Son decided to get evangelicals fired-up about abortion. Maybe it’s a bogus claim combined with a side of self-importance.
The problems with Schaeffer’s assumptions about abortion, the Tea Party movement, and the GOP don’t stop there.
I don’t recall seeing anti-abortion signs in media coverage of Tea Party events. Of course it stands to reason I missed some, but I thought the T-E-A in Tea Party stood for “Taxed Enough Already,” which was a clever way to allude to the original Boston Tea Party anti-tax revolt, which was fundamentally foundational to America.
But anti-abortion politics are not foundational to the Tea Party. In the TeaParty.org’s “15 Non-Negotiable Core Beliefs,” not one mention is made of abortion.
Schaeffer’s premise for the article is his culpability for the entire Tea Party movement because of his and his Dad’s work as anti-abortion activists. Yet the Tea Party movement didn’t list it.
So Schaeffer (guiltily) takes credit for providing the seedbed for today’s Tea Party movement. This is his zaniest move. He assumes that the pro-life evangelical influence in the Republican Party walks hand-in-hand with anti-tax and anti-regulation folks.
He completely misses or ignores the real aggravations experienced by every-day people who were going about their business only to discover they’d violated a jot or a tittle in some inane law known only to busybody bureaucrats.
Maybe Schaeffer could scroll through Reason‘s frequently updated Brickbat blog to learn more about absurdities that fuel at least a healthy portion of the current anti-government backlash.
Instead, he subtly ties anti-government feelings to racism, as if the black people who have been screwed by their own government would just continue to support their government.
Of course, it’s easy and hip to peg the anti-government backlash on racism while the first black president is in office, and apparently the Salon.com editors, much like Schaeffer, don’t find it necessary to think beyond their own implicit political biases to the possibility that someone, somewhere, might just disagree with an Obama policy because of the policy.
But to clear things up, Franky could tell us why — in his post-evangelical, post-anti-abortion life — he (by apparent default) supports so many invasions of privacy outside the womb. He could go through each absurdity in the Brickbat blog and defend it, and then he could get back to accusing Them and Those and other random strangers of being racists.
(I’m glad you’ve overcome your own implicit biases, Franky. You can be proud of that, too, while you’re patting yourself on the back for throwing your Dad under the bus — justified violence in your mind, I’m sure.)
Schaeffer’s remarks about the anti-immigration movement as “part of the reaction to a black man in the White House” are baseless, unless ignorance counts as a basis for saying something.
Schaeffer apparently wrote his article without looking at the TeaParty.org’s “15 Non-Negotiable Core Beliefs” page, which most certainly deals with immigration, just not in the way the reader is led believe.
On that “nakedly racist” page we find, among others, Dr. Ben Carson and Lt. Col. Allen West, who, like the president, are black. “Nakedly racist” is a radically inaccurate description of the movement.
No one is accusing Schaeffer of being a racist just because he is a white guy who opposes black Tea Party leaders Dr. Ben Carson and Lt. Col. Allen West. That would be ridiculous — and inaccurate, and irrational.
But, unfortunately, Schaeffer is just that ridiculous throughout most of his article.
He uses an old trick among inflammatory political activists of all stripes: When you disagree with someone, lob a rhetorical hand grenade in his direction.
In the mind of an inflammatory activist like Schaeffer, a racially diverse group can be called “racist” because Salon.com’s editors and Franky won’t let accuracy get in the way of their special beliefs. Truth is chased-down and run-over by strong feelings.
(People can have all kinds of strong feelings. Some are found in stadiums and some in churches and some in mental wards.)
As a writer, pro-government Schaeffer could also defend the government’s decision to spy on an Associated Press office and to steal telephone records from reporters.
But no, instead, he’s subtly defending the Obama administration, which includes the Justice Department that broke the law and pissed on the First Amendment while spying on the Associated Press and stealing protected, confidential information from reporters. It’s irrational to support such a government.
And notice how Schaeffer smuggles in the assumption that everything Obama has done has been golden.
He writes, “You can’t understand why the GOP was so successful in winning back both houses of congress in 2014, and wrecking most of what Obama has tried to do, unless you understand what we did back then.” (emphasis added)
Buried therein is an assumption about Obama’s work even Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi would question on their most kind-hearted days!
But that’s not stopping Schaeffer, who makes his appeal to the Salon.com crowd and then drives it full-speed into grotesque pandering.
I didn’t think smart people did that kind of thing. I thought Franky was smart. There’s a syllogism brewing here, but you can work it out for yourself.
Next time, we’ll look at even more egregious indecencies in Schaeffer’s article.
Here’s what happens when you make too quick an interpretation and appropriation of facts. Political and religious movements of all stripes could learn from this:
If you believe something to be true or believe something to be a trend, you’re at risk of accepting any and all accounts that fit your beliefs.
You could be generally right — but you need to consider the possibility that not every account is accurate or true.
A former newsroom colleague of mine used to say she was concerned that some article ideas were “commit[ting] sociology.” In other words, being too sweeping in their perspectives.
And in many sermons and many news reports, I hear sweeping sociological statements that capture sentiments and anxieties rather than realities.
In sermons, watch out for the royal “we.”
In news reports, watch out for lead-ins that include “some experts say” or “has some leaders saying.”
A University of Virginia fraternity issued a broad denial Friday of a Rolling Stone story that depicted a gang rape occurring at its house, just as the magazine itself cast doubt on the story’s credibility.
Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity where a woman called “Jackie” said she was raped, pointed to what it called a number of factual errors with the story. It said it didn’t host a party the night of the alleged rape and that none of its members at the time were employed at the campus pool, where Jackie said her fraternity date that night worked.
“We have no knowledge of these alleged acts being committed at our house or by our members,” the fraternity said in a statement. “Anyone who commits any form of sexual assault, where or whenever, should be identified and brought to justice.”
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‘We’re not the worst thing we’ve ever done in our lives’ — and yet sometimes distancing oneself is ethical
Today I un-friend-ed my Facebook connection Kirk Nesset, an English professor at Allegheny College and a well-known figure among academic writing programs.
As I write this, [Nesset and I] share 710 “friends” on Facebook, which essentially represents our overlap in the writing community. Many of those writers are parents who unhesitatingly post snapshots of their kids in various stages of dress. They deserve to know, and so I will link to this on Facebook.
She admirably has taken responsibility for her possible role in exposing anyone to risk. Compare that to the apparent irresponsibility of Sovereign Grace Ministries founder C.J. Mahaney and his own brother-in-law when another man’s sexual abuse of children was revealed.
Beasley goes on to write:
There’s been anxiety and anger in our community as of late because of transgressions–some alleged, some confirmed–of one writer against another, with accusations that a cloak of protective silence has come down around the perpetrator due to his or her popularity and/or influence. I’ve stayed out of it. That choice, I realize with some embarrassment, is a luxury of not knowing any of the parties involved. I have no such luxury here. I have implicitly endorsed Kirk by making friendly introductions over the years; I have offered explicit endorsements by sending students his way.
What an outstanding confession. I mean, of course Beasley had nothing to do with Nesset’s extremely harmful behavior. Yet she realizes that even unwittingly placing someone in harm’s way obligates her to speak out.
I noticed in comments on Warren Throckmorton’s blog people who were saying, in various forms, forgiveness is one thing, but trust and respect are other matters. Similarly, Beasley quotes former Sen. Bob Kerry, who recently told a reporter, “We’re not the worst thing we’ve ever done in our lives, and there’s a tendency to think we are.”
That, to me, is not the biggest issue when numerous other lives are damaged by an influential person. To me, the biggest issue is, as Beasley says, “a cloak of protective silence has come down around the perpetrator due to his or her popularity and/or influence.” She’s making a broad comment here, not referring specifically to Nesset, but she is explaining a tendency within social groups and professional groups to give leaders and high-profile banner-carriers special privilege.
With that in mind, I think this is one of Beasley’s most important points:
The eccentric good-ness of this writing community has seen me through many a dark night.
We owe it to each other to shepherd that goodness, and that means recognizing when something has gone very wrong.
This evening, NBC Nightly News aired a report on Islamic extremists recruiting in Minneapolis.
“For years, Minneapolis has been a target for terrorist recruiters seeking angry, disillusioned young men,” reporter Ron Allen said.
Tens of thousands of Somalis live in a Minneapolis neighborhood called Little Mogadishu where recruitment of young men into Islamic extremist groups is “an all too familiar story,” Allen said.
Allen interviewed a Somali man about his nephew’s recruitment (the report included the names but did not show them on the screen, so I cannot spell them).
Allen: “You lost your nephew.”
Somali man: “Yeah.”
Allen: “What happened?”
Somali man: “He was brainwashed.”
The nephew, Allen said, was “lured” back to Somalia in 2008, when the kid was only 17 years old.
The nephew died a year later while fighting for al-Shabaab, the same group behind last year’s attack on a mall in Nairobi, Kenya.
Robbinsdale, Minnesota, a town in the Minneapolis area, was also home to Douglas MacArthur McCain, who reportedly died last week while fighting for Islamic State.
The word “brainwash” has been used more frequently as Western males have started fighting for Islamic extremist groups.
Some have become radicalized before traveling to areas controlled by Islamic extremists, while others might have been tricked into entering extremist groups.
In at least one case, a young man (from Belgium) traveled to the Middle East because he was led to believe he would be helping a charitable organization, but the organization was actually an extremist group.
Like many stories, the story of Zia Adbul Haq of Queensland, Australia, suggests religious brainwashing is most successful in times of crisis.
The 33-year-old had told those closest to him that he’d travelled to the [Syrian] region to find a wife after the breakdown of his marriage…
NCTC [National Counterterrorism Center] reports have noted the high level of terrorist activity in Somalia, as terrorist group al-Shabaab has intermittently controlled various key regions of Somalia. A Center for Disease Control and Prevention document cites Office of Refugee Resettlement statistics that list Minnesota, California, Georgia, and Washington, D.C. as locations where the majority of Somalis have settled in the U.S. Thousands have come to the U.S. as refugees under the banner of fleeing war and persecution in their home country. Current population estimates of Somali-born individuals living in the U.S. range from 35,760 to 150,000.
Trouble with radicalized Somalis has been building for years. Here’s a snapshot:
Oct. 31, 2011: “Suicide bomber in Somali attack was reportedly from Minneapolis”
Aug. 5, 2010: “14 U.S. citizens charged with trying to join Somali terror group”
July 20, 2009: “Minneapolis struggles with Somali gangs“