Friday, January 23, 2015

Just because

Heard on the way home last night - David Bowie's Modern Love.

(A new series on the music I hear during the drive home - mostly to fill space!)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Life 2015

The number is staggering:

Fifty-seven million have died in induced baby murders, aka the abortion mills, making the United States third only to The People's Republic and the Commonwealth of Independent States in babies slaughtered.  With the abortion advocates knowing the time to strike back from their losses is through packed judiciaries that are willing to advance every left-wing cause, it is a scary time.  How many times will the Christian worldview be silenced by the packed judiciaries?

This was my 18th Pro-Life Weekend, with both of our Senators, Congressman Wilson, and others representing the state legislature, along with Melissa Ohden being our keynote speaker for both our March and Rally (for which our local county chapter had a seat), she discussed in gruesome details her mother being forced by other family members to attempt aborting her with a saline abortion.  She was forced in the lethal solution five days, and still survived.  Attempts to find her biological family that abandoned her were futile, and her father has since died.  Some of what she learned about her family can haunt many of us, and to find out she is normal, and now a mother herself, is an example of how all human life matters.

We mourn today for those who have died in the gruesomeness of the false "choice".  We defend the sanctity of human life, something this Administration in the White House refuses to do.

Video courtesy of The Catholic Miscellany, the official publication of the Diocese of Charleston.  As usual, the South Carolina Baptist Convention also participated in the Stand Up for Life march and rally.

All pictures below were taken by the author.

Throwback Thursday: The role of hate

In this piece from 2006, written in the wake of the Amish school shooting, I reflected on questions which, in the wake of Islamist violence, seem just as pertinent today.

One of the more interesting issues raised by the Amish killings this week is the proper role of anger (or, more precisely, hatred) when reacting to this horror, as illustrated in a fascinating exchange in NRO's The Corner. Unfortunately, I think this is something that raises more questions than answers, so don't expect much in the way of definitive conclusions from me.

It actually begins outside The Corner, with Rod Dreher's post about the now-famous grandfather of one of the victims, urging others "not to hate" the killer. Dreher describes himself as one who is not at the level of forgiveness exhibited by the grandfather but, "Please God, make me into the sort of man who could."

NRO's John Podhoretz picks up on this and starts the discussion. Podhoretz is a self-described "moderately observant Jew," which I note not as some kind of neocon jag (this isn't The Wanderer or New Oxford Review, after all) but as a background to the moral footing from which he comes. Podhoretz notes that while
I can certainly see the beauty and the moral seriousness that would follow from attempting to hew as closely as possible to Christ's example of unconditional love and forgiveness. All the same, this story disturbs me deeply — because there can be no question that anger can be as righteous as forgiveness. I'm not sure I would want to be someone who succeeded in rising above hatred of those who murder children.
I suspect this is a comment that most of us can identify with. Like Dreher, we fall short of such an elevated level of forgiveness, and like Podhoretz we share a concern as to whether we really should aspire to that level. So, agree with Podhoretz or not, we know where he's coming from.
John Derbyshire next chimes in on the discussion:
Back in the Bronze Age, when folk knew what was what, Hate—personified as the goddess Eris (after whom we have just named a new Solar System object)—played a key role in civilizational survival. . . Christian meekness certainly has its place in human affairs. So does Homeric ferocity.
As Derb elicidates in a further post, he does not mean to suggest that we should emulate everything from the Bronze Age (female slavery, for example). But, he adds, "I do believe it is foolish to attempt to deny essential human nature, of which the propensity to hate those who wrong us is an invariant component, today just as much as in the Bronze Age." And he concludes, in what I think is the most relevant sentence in the discussion,
A civilization that can't summon up some pretty widespread hatred for a man who lines up little girs and shoots them in their heads, after having been foiled in an attempt to molest them, is a civilization with a spring broken somewhere.
No question that hatred has been around for a long time, and is an essential part of human nature. But did Christ come to us to transcend those motivations which drove us in the past, and in the process to transform us from our baser human nature to a higher level of understanding and love? You could get a headache just thinking it over.

Some of Derb's loyal readers did think it over, and came up with more compelling thoughts. One, citing Piper's The Four Cardinal Virtues, offers this analysis:
You will find, under 'Temperance,' a discussion of The Power Of Wrath. It focuses on, among other things, a question that Aquinas asks in De Malo (On Evil) 'whether all wrath is evil?' Later on, Pieper continues: 'Lack of sensuality is not chastity; and incapacity for wrath has nothing to do with gentleness. Such incapacity not only is not a virtue, but, as St Thomas says, a fault: peccatum and vitium. ... Only the combination of the intemperateness of lustfulness with the lazy inertia incapable of generating anger is the sign of complete and virtually hopeless degeneration. It appears whenever a caste, a people, or a whole civilization is ripe for its decline and fall."
Podhoretz returns to the discussion with a link to a thoughtful story from First Things by Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, on the different ways in which Christians and Jews view the role of hatred. Soloveichik, in recounting the story of Saul's hesitation in killing Agag, looks at the mischief performed by Agag, and sees in it a lesson similar to that noted by Derb's correspondent:
The message is that hate allows us to keep our guard up, to protect us. When we are facing those who seek nothing but our destruction, our hate reminds us who we are dealing with. When hate is appropriate, then it is not only virtuous, but essential for Jewish well–being.
Rabbi Soloveichik may be referring specifically to the survival of Israel in the Middle East tinderbox, but certainly in its broader sense he poses a question we all have to deal with, the same one that Podhoretz raises: what is the role of hate?

We dismiss the idea of vengeance as a suitable motivation for our actions (unless, of course, you're Mickey Spillane.) Indeed, those who defend capital punishment (as I do) often take pains to emphasize that the vengeance sought is not a desire to "settle the score" with the condemned on a personal level, but rather to express the collective outrage of the society toward the reprehensible actions which the condemned has taken. In doing so, we return once again to the concept of righteous anger, as a good and proper motivation for the actions of the state. It emphasizes the idea that intent is a key part of the discussion - that we must avoid the idea of the right action being taken for the wrong reason. Life often insists that we do things which we may find distasteful or unpleasant, but that when we do so our motives, as always, must be pure.

It has been argued, from the pulpit and elsewhere, that the Christian duty to forgive is tempered somewhat by the need for the accused to seek forgiveness. Such forgiveness, when accompanied by true contrition and remorse, demands our forgiveness as a just and proper response. But what happens when, as is the case in the Amish killings (and in so many other cases in our modern world) those conditions are not met? Soloveichik cites C.S. Lewis, who "detested" the idea that one could be eternally damned, "yet anyone who refuses to submit to salvation cannot ultimately be saved." Therefore, is our granting of forgiveness to one who does not seek it a sign of true charity, or a mocking of God's laws? And if it be the later, than what are we to do?

Maybe the closest thing we can come to in the form of an answer to these questions lies in another of the comments from the Amish community. In one of Get Religion's many fine pieces on the story, Mollie quotes a carpenter who offered, for my money, the most touching quote of the week: “I wish someone could have helped him out, poor soul. It’s obvious that something was troubling him.”
In his article, Rabbi Soloveichik returns to a quote from C.S. Lewis: “Christian charity,” he stresses, “counsels us to make every effort for the conversion of such a man: to prefer his conversion, at the peril of our own lives, perhaps of our own souls, to his punishment; to prefer it infinitely.” While we acknowledge the existence of Hell, we pray that all might be spared, even those for whom Hell appears a certainty.

In His last moments on the Cross, Christ forgave the Good Thief; He did not, however, spare his mortal life. The punishment, the thief noted, was a just one. And so perhaps hatred and vengeance are the wrong words to use after all, for they imply something eternal, unchangeable, irredeemible. Maybe anger was the right word, for in our righteous anger can be a just emotion, a display of God's justice and laws, much as the anger Christ displayed toward the moneychangers in the Temple. As the maxim goes, hate the sin, love the sinner. Our anger over the sinner's actions unites with our love for the sinner in a prayer for the sinner's repentance and redemption. And so we pray for the strength to forgive those who seek it; we pray for the conversation and salvation of the wicked; we pray for the fortitude to confront evil in a moral and just way. For us, prayer is the only answer to an issue that appears to offer only questions. If we're willing to accept it, most likely, it is enough.

Originally published October 6, 2006

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wagner and the Jews

I've written a lot on this blog about Wagner and the relationship between his music and his anti-Semitism, i.e. can a bad man still produce transcendental art?  Fr. Owen Lee thought so, and now there's a very good article by Terry Teachout that revisits the question, with perhaps a different answer.

Hence the uncanny timeliness of “Wagner and the Jews,” in which Nathan Shields takes a searching and persuasive look at the ways in which Wagner’s operas embody his anti-Semitic obsessions. The human capacity for self-deception is and will always be infinite, but I cannot imagine that any lover of Wagner’s music who reads Shields’ essay with an open mind will thereafter find it possible to erect a cordon sanitaire separating the composer’s operas from his ideas. They are consubstantial, as he meant them to be, and those who think otherwise are ignoring the self-evident assertions of their creator, who believed his work to be the New Testament of a religion of art.

Very interesting.   Read the whole article - questions such as these are seldom more relevant than they are today.  I don't know if I agree with him or not, but I've always felt that Teachout's opinions were worthy of deep consideration.  I know Mitchell does as well, having linked to him several times both here and at his TV blog, so I'm in good company.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Flashback Friday: Let the Bright Seraphim

On Wednesday, Nikki Haley was sworn in for her second term as Governess of South Carolina.  I had the opportunity to attend Family Fun Night Tuesday, but because of a longer workload, I was unable to attend the inauguration as I was in the past.

Since this commentary was originally written, I had the opportunity in 2013 to sing another Händel work, Israel in Egypt.  Furthermore, the liberal Diocese of Upper South Carolina is the older of the two diocese of the heretical Episcopal Church, of the 22 western counties.  The 24 eastern counties, of which my residence is part, is with the newly founded Episcopal Church in South Carolina, of which ten counties (including my own) do not have a congregation, as they have stayed with Bishop Mark Lawrence, aligning themselves with the Global South primates over the heretical teachings imposed by Katherine Schori, who leads The Episcopal Church.

Meanwhile, speaking of the 2015 Inauguration, the winner of a Pop Idol season so bad that RTL Group fired a judge after the season because of her actions, including a quote that could meant an intent to fix the contest in an unprecedented way that did happen (Minaj's comments against men proved to be prophetic -- could have sent RTL officials to fire her thinking she wanted the fix, since fixing game shows is a federal criminal offense), did the National Anthem at the Inauguration this time around.  Reading that the Pop Idol winner Candace Glover was performing forced me to play a political zinger.

"I know Ashley Briggs. Ashley Briggs is a friend of mine. And Candace Glover, you're no Ashley Briggs!"

Flashback here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Wish I'd written that

Ah, the irony of politics...

Mitt Romney is running to save the party from nominating Jeb Bush, and Jeb Bush is running to save the party from nominating Mitt Romney. It’s as if O. Henry moved over into political coverage.

You can read the rest here, but I do love a good turn of phrase.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Christmastide thoughts: the Gift of the Magi

This day, January 6, is known as the Epiphany, the twelfth and final day of Christmastide, with Ordinary Time in the Christian calendar coming until the Lenten season.

Let's meditate on the importance with this version of "What Child Is This," which is the correct version, as we mentioned a few years ago with the correct lyrics that are omitted in too many hymnals and by pop stars.

And this important day in the Christmas season, the last day, shall be observed with a reading of Matthew 2:1-12, as the Wise Men arrive to see the Newborn King.

(NOTE:  The term "three wise men" is often used, but we do not know how many were there;  three is often used because of the three gifts of gold, myrrh, and frankincense.)

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,

And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Has New Year's lost its luster thanks to Pay TV having the Bowls?

Does it seem that New Year's Day is no longer the “major” television event it was years ago? The big college football games are no longer staples for local television affiliates, as pay-television has acquired the entire kit and kaboodle, and the major New Year's Day sporting event on network television is the NHL Winter Classic, which thanks to its NBC deal (a new ten-year deal starting today) while the college bowls have moved to pay-television means the only “New Year's Day” bowl left on network television is the AT&T Cotton Bowl [Now the Goodyear Cotton Bowl - Ed.], which is not even played at the said stadium, but in Arlington at Jerry Jones' billion-dollar edifice on a Friday night. CBS is left with just their regular daytime programming on New Year's (the game shows and dramas have original programming today).

With the bowls likely moving to pay-per-view in the future, it seems the lustre of the big games has been lost. We learned the first year of the pay-television revolution the ratings dropped considerably, and when the BCS Championship rematch draws less than the same two teams on broadcast network television in November, we've seen that pay television is worse. What we're seeing now is the same thing Britons will see when F1 moves to pay television this year with a price of over $500 for the season (for F1 races only; this subscription for F1 must be ordered to have F1) so the Beeb could save coverage of The Open Championship and Wimbledon – two events that in the US have moved to pay-television exclusively.

With no New Year's programming left on broadcast television, what does this say about the quality of television when raunchy programming is the “standard” of quality?

Originally published January 2, 2012

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Let's start the new year right!

And I can't think of anyone better (looking) to put it into words than the lovely McGuire Sisters.  See you next year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmastide (Day 7) - Where is the Christ Child?

We cross the halfway point of Christmastide, with Epiphany coming the first Monday of the new year, and after that we start Ordinary Time until the Lenten season.  But as we reach Day Seven Wednesday, the last day of the year, I ask if we have lost the meaning of Christmas.

This Advent season (remember Advent is the four Sundays before Christmas, and Christmastide is Christmas to Epiphany), as I visited the stores, save for the religious stores and Hobby Lobby, it seemed that the decorations I saw on sale at stores and posted everywhere were promoting winter days that does not sound appropriate, considering the next Summer Olympics will take place in the winter (Rio is south of the Equator), and it's also summer for the INDYCAR champion (Australian).  The other type of decoration we are seeing at the stores is the old-fashioned obese man in a red outfit (you should have seen how two companies that I am a shareholder decided to slim him down for their marketing campaign) or the related reindeer from a 1960's television special always airing during this time of the year that later infuriated me when the Made in China winter holiday cards based on it were being sold at the Post Office, while I purchased Indiana-made Christmas cards from Abbey Press this year.  Why does everything have to be dreaming of snow and winter, as was the case of many years ago with movies?

The schools are saying “winter holiday,” and many stores are saying “holidays” with nary a reference to the child in the manger.  The signs of Joseph, Mary, the baby, the shepherds, the animals, and the magi are are few and far between.  (And don't raise the right hand in a toast when the last line is sung in “Away in a Manger,” which can be a problem if the Spilman tune is used!)  And after listening to “The Many Moods of Christmas,” I learned a song that has been very popular for Christmas isn't even theologically correct, it was written during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but I appreciated the Catalan music and other music that had the message of the Child that we long forgot.  The numerous songs listed on the ASCAP Top 30 list were mainly winter songs, and sacred song has long been ignored.  Why is Mariah Carey better rewarded than Mark Lowry, though both are 1990's songs (although Pentatonix had a version of Mark's song that, well . . . )?

Meanwhile, television has vastly ignored the Christ child.  Whereas you could have seen coverage of live choral performances of masterpieces that promote the Christ Child 50 years ago, as we've learned, the sacred masterpieces are gone, shed to the scrapheap while specials from the latest pop stars are everywhere.  Live sing-along Messiahs and Lessons and Carols are more virtuous than the specials that are there today.

Just ponder the question:  Why have we become so ignorant of the Child whose birth we celebrate throughout this twelve day season?  Has popular culture shown they are out of touch with the heartland again?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Some more Christmastide humour

Craig Courtney's "A Musicological Journey Through the Twelve Days of Christmas" first came to my attention when Voices in Harmony (the South Carolina public radio programme featuring choral music, whose future is uncertain with the host's departure from state public radio -- she and I sang in a few Summer Choruses together) played it on their Christmas episode.

See if you can catch the references to classical music's masterpieces in this whimsical piece that is only fitting for the season (which, remember, goes into the new year).