Friday, December 30, 2011

On the Question of How to React to Panhandlers and Beggars on the Street: What is Our Christian Obligation and Responsibility? + The Larger Question of Poverty: Causes and Solutions

 [ source ]

By Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong

My friend Brent Robbins sent me the following "self-examination" of sorts and made a request that I write about it, if possible:

I get panhandled all the time by supposed homeless people while walking down the streets of Seattle. There is a person on a street corner holding up a cardboard sign at every stop light as well. I even get panhandled at church after mass! It’s kind of epidemic. In all honesty, my reaction is pretty standardized when someone approaches me, “NO! Leave me alone!”

I assume they are alcoholics, drug addicts, potential muggers looking for an opening or legitimate people needing help. I can’t tell their true intentions so I treat them all the same. Honestly, if I stopped and truly tried to help each person that panhandled me, I literally would never make an appointment or even make it anywhere. Plus, sometimes I fear for my safety or fear being put in a bad position. Anyone that lives in a large city would know what I’m talking about.

With all that, I have questioned my technique and don’t think Jesus would do that. On the flip side, I’m not God, so I give myself slack. I am a big supporter of donating and volunteering at homeless shelters and food kitchens, but I have taken a hard stance against panhandling, but am questioning if what I do is in the mind of the Church.

If you could answer these questions:

As Christians, what are we obligated to do towards panhandlers?

As Christians, what should we do towards panhandlers, assuming we want to maximize holiness and minimize purgatory time for ourselves?

If we are obligated to do something more than tell panhandlers to go away like myself, could you give an example of how that conversation may play out?

Does it make a difference on if you get the feeling the purpose is lying to you?

Thanks for any help!!

This issue is a very good one to ponder, and can get quite complicated ethically in one sense, while it might be said to be simple in another. It's what could be called a "large and lumpy" topic. Holy Scripture is abundantly clear (beyond all argument) in teaching that we have an obligation to help the poor, insofar as we are able to do so. That is so obvious I don't think I need to even cite Bible passages, for those of us (most of my readers, I think) familiar with the Bible. But the first one that immediately came into my mind was Luke 3:11 (RSV, as throughout): "He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise."

For a biblical survey of the general topic of "The Poor", see related Scripture passages, arranged by sub-topics, from Nave's Topical Bible. To pick out just one of many, here is Matthew 5:42: "Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you." The Catholic Church and most Christian communions I know of would concur in a general sense: that this is a Christian obligation incumbent upon all.

The question before us is practical application of the biblical commands to help the poor, to be beneficent and caring and compassionate for the plight of people less fortunate than we are: to be our brother's keeper. This is where complexity and confusion enters in. We need to clarify in our minds (Brent's sense of obligation and guilt that I think most of us can relate to) and for the sake of the poor and needy. Riches are to be shared, not hoarded solely for ourselves, etc. What do we do about it? We may have the very best of intentions: the biggest heart of gold in the world, but despite that, may go about it in an unwise way.

It doesn't follow, we need to note, that there can be no one at all who has possessions or savings in the bank or investments, or that all nice things (houses, cars, pools, big book or music collections [ahem!], fine clothes, etc.) are forbidden. Not everyone is called to give up everything they own, like the disciples and the rich young ruler (Luke 18:22). It's not a command binding upon all, to "Sell all that you have." Riches had become an idol for this particular man, and Jesus stated what was necessary in his specific case. In other instances, such as ordained / religious who take a vow of poverty, or the early Franciscans, it is a case of following the evangelical counsels. Scripture refers specifically to this:

Jeremiah 35:8-10 We have obeyed the voice of Jon'adab the son of Rechab, our father, in all that he commanded us, to drink no wine all our days, ourselves, our wives, our sons, or our daughters, [9] and not to build houses to dwell in. We have no vineyard or field or seed; [10] but we have lived in tents, and have obeyed and done all that Jon'adab our father commanded us.

St. Francis de Sales, in his Catholic Controversy, commented on this passage as follows:

So the Rechabites are magnificently praised in Jeremiah 35, because they obeyed their father Jonadab in things very hard and extraordinary, in which he had no authority to oblige them, . . . Fathers certainly may not so tightly fasten the hands of their posterity, unless they voluntarily consent thereto. The Rechabites, however, are praised and blessed by God in approval of this voluntary obedience, by which they had renounced themselves with an extraordinary and more perfect renunciation. . . .

If everybody runs after money and possessions, to whom will that word of Our Lord [Matt 6:19] be addressed: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, “or that other [Matt 19:21]: “Go, sell all, give to the poor”? If every one will govern in his turn, where shall be found the practice of that most solemn sentence (Luke 9:23): “He who will come after me let him deny himself”? . . . [it] would be vain and useless if in the true Church all these parts are not made use of.

But the rest of us who are not bound by personal choice and divine calling, to follow the evangelical counsels,  are nevertheless called to be good stewards of what God has blessed us with. How do we help the poor? What do we do when approached by beggars and panhandlers; ostensibly destitute sign holders who appeal to the good will and good-heartedness of the average American person who is very well-to-do, by the world's standards, and especially by the historical criteria of "possessions"? Let's take a closer look at this.

I grew up in Detroit (till age 17), in an old, almost inner-city working class neighborhood (my house was built in 1916); went to all Detroit public schools, including Cass Technical High School and Wayne State University, both just outside downtown. I attend church in a parish (St. Joseph's) close to downtown, and have for twenty years, and lived in Detroit again from 1988-1999. Thus, I am very familiar with panhandlers and the destitute. There are plenty of them in Detroit, as is well-known.

Our parish actually states in its church bulletin, to not give money to beggars outside the church. We are told to direct them to our food outreach that occurs at certain times. This is the prudential judgment of our pastors, as to what is best, and we ought to be in subjection to our own priests. My own family brings food to contribute to this charitable work, every Sunday.

The last time I was approached by such a person outside our church (about four weeks ago), I said (quite truthfully) that I had no money on me. Oftentimes, I literally have no or very little extra money beyond my bills (as a full-time apologist of very meager income, with a family of six to provide for). Other times, I have some in the bank, but don't have cash, preferring the ATM debit card. This person had asked in the usual manner, then when I said I had no money, I noticed that she went off grumbling and (from what I could tell) putting me down.

Perhaps she (a black woman) thought I was racist, and had a stereotype of  what she thought was the typical white suburbanite, unconcerned about African-Americans in Detroit (which does indeed oftentimes hold true, and the highly segregated neighborhoods of metro Detroit reinforce it). Thus, I was falsely deemed to be an uncaring person. My heart was judged.

I have often had one or more of the following thoughts:

1) Many (who knows how many, but a lot) of such beggars and panhandlers are drug abusers or alcoholics, who will take the money given them and immediately go buy more drugs or drinks. They are almost never, however, violent. It's not a "mugging" scenario, though there is often the "con game" aspect to it. Very few beggars -- in my experience, none -- are muggers.

2) Assuming #1 is the case, it is far better to physically go with the person to eat at a restaurant, so that the money is used for healthy purposes. This way, we know that the money was used properly. While eating with them, we can also share Christianity and become more personally involved.

3) It is better to teach a man to fish rather than giving him fish to eat ("hand up" rather than a handout, which is the motto of a local charity called Joy of Jesus).

I think these are all relevant factors. There is much more going on than simply a person who has a need, and our obligation to help them in an immediate circumstance of begging. And there are more ways of assisting them than giving money on the spot. There are underlying, immediate and remote causes for their plight; both personal and societal senses of causation; closely related factors such as moral and familial issues, and personal responsibility. For every case of a truly "hard-luck" scenario, I suspect that there are five or more where the person under consideration has made wrong choices and is primarily responsible for his or her plight. I don't know the ratios, but these are all important considerations.

It doesn't necessarily follow that we don't help the person if we deem that they have largely brought about their own misery (I'm not saying that; mercy and charity includes compassion for these wrong life choices), but it gets to the question of underlying causes, and what to do about them, in order to effect long-term solutions to human deprivation and misery.

We know that there are many causes for poverty and homelessness (my major was sociology): drugs, family breakdown (in turn closely related to immoral sexual practices that lend themselves to divorce and broken homes), poor government programs such as the "Great Society" (the well-intentioned "war on the poor" begun by LBJ, that is a demonstrable failure), racism, economic conditions (here in Detroit the auto companies are extremely important), bad laws, lousy schools, negative influences of media and entertainment, music, or unsavory products of the Internet, etc.

How do we apply all that to the panhandling situation? I have tried to make a determination of whether the person who is soliciting was being truthful or not. One time I encountered a man who gave the usual story (I've heard it well over 100 times) of his car breaking down, and just needing $10 or $20 for gas. I decided to test it out. This particular person (I recall general details), who did not outwardly look like a "bum" or homeless person, said he had some money at home, and all he had to do was get there and would then be happy to pay me back. He swore that this was the case over and over. I gave him the money, and a way to get back to me. He never did. He was never heard from again.

I considered that a test case. I wanted to help and have the proper compassion, but not to be gullible, and not to be a stooge for a con. We are obligated to help less fortunate people, but we are not obligated to help liars and manipulators and con men, for in doing so, we are being bad stewards ourselves, not showing good judgment, and actually contributing to the ongoing personal problem by feeding into the sin; helping to enable it, in other words. If everyone falls for the con and gives money, they will go on doing this indefinitely, and lying is a serious sin.

Oftentimes, the beggar is a liar, who has honed his or her craft by cynically developing heart-grabbing tactics that have proven successful. They know what works, and they milk the tactics for all they are worth. We are not obliged to help liars of this sort: at least not in the form of immediate cash on the spot. We should take them out to eat. Then we're not taken advantage of. We freely share with them the necessities of life and show Christian love.

Once when I was in high school I ran into a guy outside the library I used to go to, who wanted a ride. He said he would give me some tickets to a concert in return.  I was completely taken in by this con man. I drove him around for several hours, often waiting out in the car, and scared my mother half to death, by not letting her know where I was (I still cringe thinking about it, even after some 35 years). He was a liar. I was utterly used. He took advantage of my good intentions, and even my mother had to suffer as a result of my naive and gullible stupidity.

On another occasion, my wife and I ran into a young woman who was in a very bad situation. We actually took her into our home for a few days, and then arranged to have her go stay at a temporary Salvation Army shelter (that coincidentally was the same place where I was born: it used to be a hospital). We tried to help her gain a footing and make a new start. Sure enough, once at the shelter for a day or two, we got a phone call from her. She said she had broken the curfew there and wanted to stay with us. We refused, on the grounds that she was not willing to help herself and be responsible; therefore, there was nothing further we could do.

I dimly recall a fourth incident where I tried to work with a man in the same manner. He said he had skills as a baker. Nothing came of it. It was a fiasco, just like the other three instances. I think these things have to be dealt with on a grand scale: with moral teaching, education, avoidance of broken homes and divorce. As our society rejects traditional Judaeo-Christian values, things get worse and worse. We see it all around us, and the inner cities are the worst.

I don't want to get "too political," but my own opinion as a Christian is that the root cause is the loss of these traditional moral values and the breakdown of the home and basic sexual morality. As a political conservative, I also critique the "Great Society" and welfare and more liberal social engineering for actually bringing about the misery through a series of complex causes, that they intended to alleviate. These efforts were socially naive (to put it mildly) and historically and morally shortsighted.

Families in the inner cities are far more broken down than they were before the 60s and all these massive social programs, designed to eliminate poverty. It has been said that the black family survived even the horrors of slavery, but couldn't withstand the deleterious effects of the Great Society. Children from unmarried African-American mothers in 2008 accounted for 72.3% of all births in that sub-group. Among white women it was 28.7%.

For unmarried white women, aged 15 to 44 in 1966 (just as the Great Society was kicking into high gear), the birth rate was 16 out of 1000 or 3%. Thus, the rate had exponentially exploded, to over nine times as much in 44 years: one biblical generation. And that is despite the fact that some one out of three pregnancies end in childkilling (aka abortion). The rate for "nonwhite" women under the same criteria, from 1966, was 12%, whereas now it is 72.3% among black women, or about six times higher.

These are momentous, massive societal problems, and we know from many sociological studies that illegitimacy and broken homes are perhaps the leading indicators of further poverty or a life of crime. A broken home (which usually means without a father) is a greater predictor of a life of crime, than even poverty itself. It perpetuates poverty in great proportion, too. Nor can racism be blamed as the primary culprit.

It is well-known now that the vast majority of black people who are murdered, are killed by other black people; not by racist whites (with figures as high as 90%). Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was murdered by a white man (I visited the site in 2007), but Malcolm X was not. His widow, Betty Shabazz, died in 1997 of burn injuries as a result of her grandson setting fire to her apartment. Violence and deaths among African-Americans have gone far, far beyond racist white persecution.

Another illustration of this is the case of an incident involving Rosa Parks: the civil rights giant. I met her once; visited the spot where she refused to move to the back of the bus (in Montgomery), and have sat in the bus itself. The Wikipedia article on Parks states:

On August 30, 1994, Joseph Skipper, an African-American drug addict, attacked 81-year-old Parks in her home. The incident sparked outrage throughout the United States. After his arrest, Skipper said that he had not known he was in Parks' home but recognized her after entering. Skipper asked, "Hey, aren't you Rosa Parks?" to which she replied, "Yes." She handed him $3 when he demanded money, and an additional $50 when he demanded more. Before fleeing, Skipper struck Parks in the face. Skipper was arrested and charged with various breaking and entering offenses against Parks and other neighborhood victims. He admitted guilt and, on August 8, 1995, was sentenced to eight to 15 years in prison. Suffering anxiety upon returning to her too small central Detroit house following the ordeal, she moved into Riverfront Towers, a secure high rise apartment building where she lived for the rest of her life.

One article on black-on-black crime noted:

The Reverend Damon Lynch III says the family unit is suffering and therefore, so is the community at large.
"The biggest challenge is restoring the family unit," said Rev. Lynch. "The destruction of the black family is the main cause - the root cause - for all of these ailments that we see in our community. The violence, the teenage pregnancy. The infant mortality rate in our community - and people watching this - many of them know the history. In 1920, 90 percent of black families had a father in the house. In 1960, 80 percent of black families had a father in the house. In 2011, it's only 30 percent. Three out of 10."

I digress into these stories to show that neither poverty nor crime are primarily due to racism. They are huge societal problems that have very complex causality (including a close relation to the breakdown of the family and traditional Christian values), and therefore, are not resolved in a simple fashion, by giving money out to a panhandler.

Therefore, in my opinion, the problem of poverty must be dealt with on a grand scale, not a small scale, but with a very different model than the failed Great Society: going back to the self-help, learn-a-vocation philosophy of Booker T. Washington. What we need is a Christian-informed capitalism; not socialism. The former is a proven success: the latter rarely if ever is. Rather than giving a beggar a fish that helps him for a half-hour, we teach him how to fish, which helps him survive for a lifetime. Non-metaphorically, this means teaching him an occupation (and to make one available by fostering a thriving economy), so that he can support himself and not have to beg.

That isn't accomplished by giving a person $20 on the street, that will likely be transformed into drugs or another drink. We do have models of successful programs to help the poor: usually private, faith-based enterprises, such as Joy of Jesus, here in Detroit, or the widely-praised Focus Hope: another local organization that was led by a Catholic priest, the late Fr. William Cunningham. Charleszetta "Mother" Waddles (d. 2001) was a legendary figure in Detroit charitable works. Her organization now primarily donates cars to poor people. We have donated one of ours to it. Faith-based charities always seem to be far more effective than government programs.

There are some government (bipartisan) incentives to economic development that actually work. Free enterprise zones, promoted by Robert Kennedy and Jack Kemp, are quite effective to create opportunity. Mexicantown in Detroit, a mile from where I grew up (Springwells Village), was a great recipient of this benefit in recent years.

We must teach traditional values, too. If a preacher talks about concern for the poor, but ignores the known factors (other than racism) that create poverty: bad social programs, crime, broken homes, promiscuous sex, then he does nothing to alleviate the problem in the long run. He puts a small, temporary band-aid on a gaping wound. We must have good schools for everyone. For years, school choice (a proven method to improve quality) and teacher pay based on merit have been rejected by the teacher unions, so public schools (and the poorer the neighborhood, the worse) continue to crank out kids who can't read, and thus, won't be able to get a job. I was privileged to attend the best public high school in Detroit, and one of the very best in the country, but Detroit high schools today on the whole are a disaster, with widespread illiteracy and atrocious non-graduation rates.

It is a known fact that schools can succeed, even in the inner-city, with the right techniques and devotion. An example in Detroit is the Cornerstone Schools. Good education, like strong families and hopeful economic opportunities and faith and religious observance, defeat poverty. Merely throwing money at the problem without sensible longterm solutions (Great Society) doesn't help things; it makes them worse. This is now demonstrable fact, once we get past all the posturings and rationalizations and mere partisan bickering: always blaming the other guy or race or social class.

Another entire discussion could be had about creating economic opportunity (meaning, bottom line: decent-paying jobs available for all). This existed under both Republican (Reagan, both Bushes) and Democratic (JFK, LBJ, Clinton) presidencies, while in presidencies under both parties (Nixon, Carter, Obama), bad economic conditions have dominated. The thing to do is to put into place policies that will help alleviate poverty by creating widespread opportunity through availability of jobs, solid education, and promotion of traditional family and sexual and communitarian values.

To go beyond a quick $20 bill handout and provide some lasting solutions, which is really where love and compassion "get practical and prudent", we have to take into account these larger causal factors. The best way to truly assist such a person is to direct him to a church that teaches traditional doctrines and morality, a good school, and a faith-based social program with a proven track record (if needed), to help get him on his feet and established and self-sufficient.

By supporting the appropriate (most effective) institutions and charitable organizations financially, we help the poor in a tangible, effective way. Our taxes also go to governmental assistance programs like food stamps or unemployment insurance. Our donations in the Catholic Church go partially to a wide variety of social programs.  We're already providing some solutions to the beggar's plight just from taxes and church donations, as well as other charitable works that we support. I may not directly aid a beggar outside my church with a ten dollar bill, but I have put food in the offering basket, and donate to the church that in turn offers a food pantry for the area's poor. So I have helped them: just in a different way.

I think all of this necessary analysis lies behind the proverbial scene of being confronted by a beggar. If someone feels led at the time to give them money on the spot, that's fine and great, and good as far as it goes, but it is not going to help alleviate the poor person's problem as a final solution. It works for a few minutes. The best way, as I stated above (if we want to help right now), would be to take them out to eat right at that time, if possible. If a beggar's family or other personal influences have let him down or led him to these straits, the Church can be his family. There is hope.

But the first thing necessary is to not keep repeating the same old society-wide mistakes and folly that have led to the tragic, truly alarming and troubling situation as it is now. Good life-choices set the stage for the progression of the quality of our life. And there are many things we can do and promote in order to ensure that solid life-choices are made on a wide scale. We can't solve every social problem, but there is an awful lot we can do if we will closely examine what actually works and what has abysmally failed and led to sad results the opposite of the original good and charitable intentions. We must apply our minds to come up with effective solutions, and not just our hearts. Both together create acts of profound love that surpass the often guilt-laden urge to give money to the panhandler on the spot.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Blaise Pascal on Biblical and Theological Paradox, and Heretics' Miscomprehension and Consequent Resort to False Dichotomies

John Calvin

By Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong

From: "Thoughts on the Pope and the Church," included in Miscellaneous Writings (translated by M. P. Faugère; London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1849), pp. 376 ff.

* * * * *

There is then a great number of truths, both in faith and morals, which seem antagonistic, and yet harmonize in admirable order.

— The source of all heresies is the exclusion of some one of these truths; and the source of all the cavils brought against us by heretics, is their ignorance of some one of these truths.

— And it usually happens that, being unable to perceive the relation of two opposing truths, and believing that the admission of the one involves the exclusion of the other, they adhere to the one and renounce the other; and fancy that we do the contrary. Now this exclusion is the source of their heresy, and the ignorance we have shown them to labour under, the ground of their cavils.

+ 1st Example. Christ is God and man. The Arians, unable to combine these things, which they hold to be incompatible, say, he is man : therein they are orthodox. But they deny him to be God: herein they are heretical. They pretend that we deny his humanity: therein they show their ignorance.

+ 2d Example. Respecting the Sacrament:—We believe that the substance of the bread being changed, and being consubstantially in that of the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is really present in it. This is one truth. Another is, that this sacrament is also one of the types of the cross and the glory, and a commemoration of both. This is the Catholic faith, which comprehends the two truths seemingly opposed to each other.

The modern heretics, not understanding that this sacrament contains both the presence of Christ and its type, and that it is both a sacrifice and a commemoration of a sacrifice, believe that the one of these truths cannot be admitted without necessarily excluding the other.

They make their stand upon this one point,—that this sacrament is figurative; and therein they are not heretical. They think we exclude this truth; and thence it is that they bring so many objections to the passages in the Fathers which affirm it. Lastly, they deny the presence; and in that are heretics. . . .

— Therefore it is that the shortest way to prevent heresies is to instruct men in every kind of truth ; and the surest way to refute them, is to declare it as universally. . . .

+ The error they all fall into, is the more dangerous, from each pursuing one truth: their fault is not in adopting falsehood, but in not embracing the countervailing truth.

Ridicule and Sarcasm Regarding Sin and Absurdity Sanctioned by God (Argues Blaise Pascal); Many Biblical Examples Provided

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662): combination of his portrait and death mask (Snark International)

From Provincial Letters, Letter XI (18 August 1656), pp. 167 ff. Bracketed, blue-colored additions are my own: biblical passages from RSV. Everything else is from Pascal.

* * *

Indeed, reverend sirs, there is a vast difference between laughing at religion, and laughing at those who profane it by their extravagant opinions. It were impiety to be wanting in respect for the verities which the Spirit of God has revealed; but it were no less impiety of another sort, to be wanting in contempt for the falsities which the spirit of man opposes to them.

For, fathers (since you will force me into this argument), I beseech you to consider that, just in proportion as Christian truths are worthy of love and respect, the contrary errors must deserve hatred and contempt; there being two things in the truths of our religion—a divine beauty that renders them lovely, and a sacred majesty that renders them venerable; and two things also about errors—an impiety, that makes them horrible, and an impertinence that renders them ridiculous. For these reasons, while the saints have ever cherished towards the truth the twofold sentiment of love and fear—the whole of their wisdom being comprised between fear, which is its beginning, and love which is its end—they have, at the same time, entertained towards error the twofold feeling of hatred and contempt, and their zeal has been at once employed to repel, by force of reasoning, the malice of the wicked, and to chastise, by the aid of ridicule, their extravagance and folly.

Do not then expect, fathers, to make people believe that it is unworthy of a Christian to treat error with derision. Nothing is easier than to convince all who were not aware of it before, that this practice is perfectly just—that it is common with the fathers of the Church, and that it is sanctioned by Scripture, by the example of the best of saints, and even by that of God himself.

Do we not find that God at once hates and despises sinners; so that even at the hour of death, when their condition is most sad and deplorable, Divine Wisdom adds mockery to the vengeance which consigns them to eternal punishment? "In interitu vestro ridebo et subsannabo—I will laugh at your calamity." 

[Proverbs 1:26-27 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you, [27] when panic strikes you like a storm, and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.]

The saints, too, influenced by the same feeling, will join in the derision; for, according to David, when they witness the punishment of the wicked, "they shall fear, and yet laugh at it—videbunt justi et timebunt, et super eum ridebunt."  

[Psalm 52:5-7 But God will break you down for ever; he will snatch and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living. [Selah] [6] The righteous shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him, saying, [7] "See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches,
and sought refuge in his wealth!"]

And Job says: "Innocens zubsannabit eos—The innocent shall laugh at them."

It is worthy of remark here, that the very first words which God addressed to man after his fall, contain, in the opinion of the fathers, "bitter irony" and mockery. After Adam had disobeyed his Maker, in the hope, suggested by the devil, of being like. God, it appears from Scripture that God, as a punishment, subjected him to death; and after having reduced him to this miserable condition, which was due to his sin, he taunted him in that state with the following terms of derision: "Behold, the man has become as one of us!—Ecce, Adam quasi unus ex nobis!" [Genesis 3:22] —which, according to St Jerome and the interpreters is "a grievous and cutting piece of irony," with which God "stung him to the quick." "Adam," says Rupert, "deserved to be taunted in this manner, and he would be naturally made to feel his folly more acutely by this ironical expression than by a more serious one." St Victor, after making the same remark, adds, "that this irony was due to his sottish credulity, and that this species of raillery is an act of justice, merited by him against whom it was directed."

Thus you see, fathers, that ridicule is, in some cases, a very appropriate means of reclaiming men from their errors, and that it is accordingly an act of justice, because, as Jeremiah [48:26?] says, "the actions of those that err are worthy of derision, because of their vanity—vana simt et risu digna." And so far from its being impious to laugh at them, St Augustine holds it to be the effect of divine wisdom: "The wise laugh at the foolish, because they are wise, not after their own wisdom, but after that divine wisdom which shall laugh at the death of the wicked."

The prophets,"accordingly, filled with the Spirit of God, have availed themselves of ridicule, as we find from the examples of Daniel and Elias.

[1 Kings 18:26-27 And they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Ba'al from morning until noon, saying, "O Ba'al, answer us!" But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped about the altar which they had made. [27] And at noon Eli'jah mocked them, saying, "Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is musing, or he has gone aside, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened."]

In short, examples of it are not awanting in the discourses of Jesus Christ himself. St Augustine remarks that, when he would humble Nicodemus, who deemed himself so expert in his knowledge of the law, "perceiving him to be puffed up with pride, from his rank as doctor of the Jews, he first beats down his presumption by the magnitude of his demands, and having reduced him so low that he was unable to answer, What! says he, you a master in Israel, and not know these things!—as if he had said, Proud ruler, confess that thou knowest nothing." St Chrysostom and St Cyril likewise observe upon this, that "he deserved to be ridiculed in this manner." [John 3:1-15]
. . . I am sure, fathers, these sacred examples are sufficient to convince you, that to deride the errors and extravagances of man is not inconsistent with the practice of the saints; otherwise we must blame that of the greatest doctors of the Church, who have been guilty of it—such as St Jerome, in his letters and writings against Jovinian, Vigilantius, and the Pelagians; Tertullian, in his Apology against the follies of idolaters; St Augustine against the monks of Africa, whom he styles "the hairy men;" St Irenaeus against the Gnostics; St Bernard and the other fathers of the Church, who, having been the imitators of the apostles, ought to be imitated by the faithful in all time coming; for, say what we will, they are the true models for Christians, even of the present day.

In following such examples, I conceived that I could not go far wrong; and, as I think I have sufficiently established this position, I shall only add, in the admirable words of Tertullian, which give the true explanation of the whole of my proceeding in this matter:

What I have now done is only a little sport before the real combat. I have rather indicated the wounds that might be given you, than inflicted any. If the reader has met with passages which have excited his risibility, he must ascribe this to the subjects themselves. There are many things which deserve to be held up in this way to ridicule and mockery, lest, by a serious refutation, we should attach a weight to them which they do not deserve. Nothing is more due to vanity than laughter; and it is the Truth properly that has a right to laugh, because she is cheerful, and to make sport of her enemies, because she is sure of the victory. Care must be taken, indeed, that the raillery is not too low, and unworthy of the truth; but, keeping this in view, when ridicule may be employed with effect, it is a duty to avail ourselves of it.

See also related passages:

Psalm 2:4-5 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the LORD has them in derision. [5] Then he will speak to them in his wrath, . . .

Psalm 37:12-13 The wicked plots against the righteous, and gnashes his teeth at him; [13] but the LORD laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming.

Psalm 59:8 But thou, O LORD, dost laugh at them; thou dost hold all the nations in derision.

Proverbs 3:34 Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he shows favor.

Proverbs 14:9 God scorns the wicked, but the upright enjoy his favor.

Amos 5:21 I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.

Nahum 3:6 I will throw filth at you and treat you with contempt, and make you a gazingstock.

Matthew 7:3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 


Friday, December 23, 2011

Logos Catholic Bible Software Provides Quick, Searchable Access to the Riches of Scriptural and Traditional Resources

For years I have been noting (and utilizing in my own work) the exciting potential of the Internet and particularly links-technology, for the purposes of making comprehensible in a convenient fashion, the inherent "interconnectedness" of  the Catholic faith. It's all tied together, and should be understood and studied as such. But only in the last twenty years have all of these treasures been so easily accessed. On my website I have delighted in trying my best to present Catholic Christianity and help make it easier to conceptualize in its totality, by means of links and overall categorization.

Logos Catholic Bible Software now makes these tasks far easier still, since dazzling state of the art technology allows the user or researcher to search and peruse (in just seconds) many hundreds of relevant documents: theological, spiritual, historical, linguistic, magisterial, and apologetics resources. The technology combines them all together, with search and integrative capabilities not even imagined fifteen or even ten years ago, wrapped together in an intuitive and user-friendly interface.

Catholic Scholar's Library is the most extensive package available, with nearly 400 works included. It's a bit pricey, but well worth it (90% less cost than all of the same resources in hardcover and paperback), and payment plans are available. Logos offers less extensive packages, too, such as Catholic Scripture Study Library. It supplies 300 resources at about 60% of the cost of the larger program, or the smaller-yet Catholic Library Builder. In early December 2011, just as I was writing this review, Logos added the new, lowest-cost product, Catholic Foundations Library (150 resources). Priests, Bible scholars, teachers, catechists,  RCIA instructors, apologists (like myself), and indeed anyone who is interested in learning more about their faith, the Bible, and Catholic theological and spiritual tradition, will greatly benefit from these wonderful tools.

Follow the links in the previous paragraph (especially Catholic Scholar's Library) for detailed descriptions of all the different aspects and tools:  many Bible translations, commentaries, Greek and Hebrew lexicons, biblical culture and maps, ancient Jewish and Church history (e.g., the complete 38-volume set of the Church fathers), theological aids (e.g., the Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas; many works by G. K. Chesterton and Cardinal Newman). Just about anything any inquirer would need to shed light on a biblical text or particular Christian doctrine or spiritual matter to be explored, is included.

Logos has provided the best electronic Bible study tools for years. Now it has, thankfully, expanded its efforts to include specifically Catholic products. Catholic Products Manager Andrew Jones gives a brief overview in the following video:

Jones sounds the same "interconnectedness" theme that I highlighted above:

The rich Catholic tradition, with its intricate interplay of Scripture, liturgy, law and theology, is profoundly suited for study on the Logos platform. . . . Catholic Scripture study requires both serious textual and historical criticism of the biblical text itself, and it requires that the insights gained from this study be situated within the Church’s tradition. . . . print has required that each work be essentially isolated from all others, physically and conceptually. The digital age is changing this. Logos is extremely flexible and adaptable to many styles of Bible study, but it is especially well suited to the Catholic approach, because it allows the biblical text to be studied literally surrounded with the Tradition — really in constant dialogue with the tradition.

Amen! To get an idea of the marvelous nature of this software, note, for example, how it searches (or, more accurately, finds materials), Jones explains that "it is not a normal search engine like Google or something like that. Logos doesn’t just search for keywords. Rather, we’ve put human intelligence into the tagging of the books. So, for example, if you search for 'Eucharist' the software will return references to the 'Lord’s Supper,' 'Communion,' and so on."

It also provides the Greek or Hebrew word for any given English translation (what is called the "word wheel"), and searches that word, in order to provide all the various translated words in English for each term. I have done the same thing with my Englishman's Greek Concordance for years, but it is a much more tedious and time-consuming process that is now made possible in about five seconds. One can save a lot of time and eye strain!

As a veteran of many individual word searches, both the old-fashioned way (Strong's Concordance or Treasury of Scripture Knowledge or Nave's Topical Bible), and even on faster Internet Bible sites, I can testify that this is a huge benefit. Concepts in the Bible are rarely contained in just one word: whether in English, or Hebrew and Greek. These three reference works are included in Logos Catholic Bible Software: but integrated together with many others for "super-search" capabilities. The software offers English-Greek and English-Hebrew reverse interlinear versions, synopses, parallel Gospels and harmonies, among many other tools.

I know full well, from my own personal work of thirty years of apologetics -- thumbing through hundreds of books --, how very useful this software is. In a large sense, those who have done theological research "the old way" probably appreciate the "new way" the most. Perhaps in a generation, the old methods will become almost obsolete.

All of the fabulous integrated search technology of Catholic Scholar's Library and other Logos packages make one appreciate all the more, the labors of the thousands of scholars throughout history.  Their work is made readily available to anyone (conventional books often don't have an index, or have an inadequate index: again, I can amply testify, again). The capacity for learning and spiritual growth is endless. Andrew Jones comments: “One of the things that historians do is organize vast amounts of information, hundreds or thousands of sources all focused on a single concept or event, and that is precisely what Logos does.”

Catholic apologist and author Brandon Vogt, in his review, gave a great description of how it "feels" to use Logos software:

What really sets it apart, though, is that when you use the program you feel like you’re working with a librarian rather than a lifeless computer program. It acquires, catalogs, and organizes your resources, and helps you, the digital patron, find the information you’re looking for, quickly and easily.

Logos products are multi-platform and will work on PC and Mac (see system requirements): including an iPhone Bible app and an iPad Bible app. Video tutorials for many different aspects make learning to use this great resource fun and fairly easy.

I myself am a relative newcomer to the "scene" but recommendations of this software from prominent figures and friends of mine in the Catholic apologetics community who have been longtime users, are glowing:

Patrick Madrid: "I’ve been a happy and satisfied Logos customer and cheerleader for over 15 years . . . I’m very excited about Catholic base packages and  whole-heartedly recommend them."

Steve Ray (user of Logos software since 1990!): "Its customer support and training are unsurpassed. . . . it has always been powerful and easy-to-use and keeps getting better. . . . As a Catholic convert I am very excited about these new resources." 

Jimmy Akin: "Logos Bible Software gives you the ability to instantly and effortlessly make discoveries in the Bible that would have taken scholars endless hours of labor in the past. . . . [it includes] Church Fathers, Church councils, and the great saints and doctors of the Church. I use Logos Bible Software constantly, and I enthusiastically recommend it to others."

Mike Aquilina: "It's a respectable theological library that fits easily onto an iPad and goes everywhere you might have to go. In some ways it's better than the bookshelves of a theological library, since it's searchable."

Purchase Logos Catholic Bible Software today! You'll never regret it. For additional 15% savings, use the coupon code ADVENT at checkout.

Other Reviews:

First Things (Dr. Steve Smith)
Jeff Miller (at The Curt Jester blog)
Michael Barber (Sacred Page podcast with Andrew Jones)
Taylor Marshall (includes an interview with Andrew Jones)
Thomas McDonald (at National Catholic Register)
Brandon Vogt (The Thin Veil website) 
Dan Burke (Catholic Spiritual Direction website)

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More Love and Pearls of Wisdom from RadCathR Catholic Steve ("scotju" / "juscot") Dalton / Documentation of Various of His Irrational Rantings and Ravings

Steve "scotju" Dalton wrote on Christmas day:

This is the third time this year that Michael Voris has been attacked by members of the Church hierarchy. It's obvious that RCTV is upsetting the right people. People like this bishop of a diocese on it's way to oblivion, and bitter hate-filled laymen like Mark Shea and Dave Armstrong. These folks are sooo sensitive to the feelings of heretics, radicals, and other deviants, but when it comes to the feelings and desires of those who want the church as it has always been before Vatican II, you are suddenly transformed into a critter called a 'rad-trad'. you are accused of being a Nazi, a racist, a reactionary, . . .[two spelling corrections made]

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of the Archdiocese of Detroit (my own), had forbidden Michael Voris to use the name "Catholic" on his TV show, because of ongoing RadCathR (radical Catholic reactionary) elements of that production (made in Ferndale, Michigan).

Dalton has long been a severe critic of mine. He usually shows up when geocentrism is being discussed (he believes in that, as well as young-earth creationism), and possesses quite the uncontrolled, unbridled tongue. He seems to delight in bringing up my name in a calumnious fashion at the drop of a hat.

Apparently, I am described as "bitter hate-filled" simply because I did one little old post on Voris, objecting to his trashing of Amazing Grace as supposedly a terribly heretical Protestant song, that should never ever ever be performed in a Catholic church. I noted in my post a review of Voris' enterprise from the Catholic Culture website, that monitors the orthodoxy and fidelity of websites claiming to be Catholic. It describes Voris' liturgical opinion as "Extreme antipathy to the liturgy of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite." In my post on Amazing Grace, Dalton showed up in the combox, under the moniker "juscot."

For this unutterably wicked transgression,  Dalton feels justified in publicly describing me as a "bitter hate-filled" person who supposedly (so is his strong implication by citing my name) also calls people (i.e., those who aren't such) "Nazis" (which I've never done: a thing that can be quickly verified by a search on my voluminous site). This is par for the course, in the ongoing slanderous rotgut written about me, on the Internet.

Recently, a notorious inveterate troll (on my blog and on many other sites) dredged up the ridiculous claim that I supposedly "desperately" sought to keep up a Wikipedia entry about myself, out of my alleged extreme narcissism. The truth of the matter is that I have never at any time written anything on Wikipedia about anything: no editing or writing at all there: let alone a page about myself. Someone else put one up at one time (I don't even know who that person was), and folks who made themselves my "enemies" made up this myth that I had something to do with it (following another myth that I have the most bombastic, self-inflated ego in the history of the world), and had it removed.

But getting back to Dalton, on 21 December he described my previous post as follows: "Dave Armstrong went ballistic over Voris's criticism of AG and people like me who defended it." I often observe ludicrous speculations about my supposed (imaginary, fictional) emotional or mental state being made by people who think they know all about me. This is a classic case. I challenge the reader to check out my post in order to determine whether my demeanor and tone there would lead anyone -- who didn't already have an axe to grind -- to think that I "went ballistic." If we want to see "ballistic," I submit that we ought to read some of Dalton's other ravings about myself and other Catholic apologists. For example:

Question, if Bob Sungesis [sic] is so far out on the fringe, why are people like Dave Armstrong and Dave Palm so worried about him? Why are they even paying any attention to him? Why not just ignore him? Instead, you are giving him scads of free publicity he couldn't buy at any price. With all the problems we have in the Church with queer priests corrupting young men, evolution being taught instead of creation by God, parishes closing right and left, you would think that Sungesis's [sic] critics would be far more concerned about these things than a fringee living in a small Pennsylvania town. I got some advice for some of you, don't worry about Bob, if He's wrong about geo, the Jews, the state of the Church, and other things, He'll fade away in a few years without any smear campaign that some are directing at him. If He's right, no amount of smears or ridicule is going to make him fade away. Heck, the free publicity Armstrong, Shea, Palm, and others are giving him are insuring that his ideas will become more well known with each passing day! So, Dave, Dave, Mark, and others, keep up the good work of keeping Bob in the spotlight, go after those mean anti-Catholic Prots who outrage you, because they ignore you, make every little disagreement with someone in blogland into a petty feud, ignore the bigger issues, (like the priest scandal, the liberal theology) that are destroying the faith of millions of Catholics. I'm sure your reward will be great in heaven because of all the camel swallowing and gnat straining yo'll [sic] have to do before this is all over! (3 September 2011)

To respond briefly to some of the particulars in this sustained nonsense:

1) I pay "attention" to Sungenis because I think he commits several serious errors, and the business of the apologist is to note and refute such (see many examples and critiques on my "Radical Catholic Reactionaries page: second section from the end). In other words, I am simply doing my job. I have nothing personal against Bob. We have written cordial letters back and forth on several occasions. We simply have some honest, serious disagreements.

2) It is almost certainly the case that Sungenis receives more exposure than I do: having been on TV, radio; having held several conferences, etc. He gets plenty of hits on his websites. Almost anyone who reads about his errors on my pages already knows who he is; thus I am not providing any "free publicity" to him to any significant extent. People know of him; they may not know of his serious errors that I have the unfortunate duty, as an apologist, to highlight and object to.

3) For Dalton, apparently apologetics is all (or merely) about personality disputes and "petty feud[s]", jealous wrangling. In fact, it is about the seeking and defending of truth as any individual sincerely deems that to be, in conjunction with a total obedience to the One True Church.

4) Speaking for myself (I don't speak for my friends David Palm or Mark Shea), far from "ignoring" either the priest sexual scandal or liberal theology, I have several posts and lots of links about the sex scandal, and an entire web page about theological liberalism and also half of one of my books devoted to it. Mark Shea at least writes quite a bit about Voris (as a search on his blog reveals); whereas I only have done so once.

One "Wes" made a very excellent point in the same thread where Dalton commented about Robert Sungenis:

Considering that the LA Times, Chicago Trib and other publications are basically using Sungenis and his group to make the Church look ignorant and paranoid, I can completely understand why people like Pat Archbold and the others you mentioned are out there making it clear that most all Catholics don't give these ideas the time of day. There's a reason these big publications are giving this group national attention and it's not because they find their theories credible or fascinating. They just want groups like this to be seen by the public as the face of the Catholic Church because the more the Church is discredited and marginalized as ignorant and paranoid, the less people will consider becoming Catholic and the more the Church's voice will be muted and neutralized in the public square. And the more the Church's voice is muted and neutralized in the public square, the easier it is for the relativists to push their immoral agenda.

In another comment a year ago in the midst of the usual tempest in a teapot "discussion" regarding geocentrism, Dalton opined that my "ego" was the reason for my writing against it:

John, I really appr[ec]iate your defense of geo[centrism]. It amazes me that Armstrong will allow you to post on his site when you fire salvo after salvo into his helio[centric] ship. He doesn't seem to realize that if he wanted to really hurt you, he would ignore you completely. Instead his ego drives him to attack geo and it's defenders, even though, as Rick points out, he and his buddies are losing the debate. (12-27-10)

Again, on his own site (on 8-31-11), Dalton was insistent that my one little ol' post about Voris (out of 2522) is proof positive of "jealousy" and some sort of frenzied agenda:

The one thing, however, that saddens me to no end is the in-fighting of Catholic apologetic bloggers against Mr. Voris. It is almost a jealousy and as long as it exists, the great restoration to which Michael Voris refers cannot occur. This is the same problem that the Church of Corinth had so long ago when followers of Apollos would fight against followers of Cephas or Paul, or vice versa. It's wrong. We do not follow Michael Voris or Dave Armstrong or Steve Ray or Mark Shea. But when we are divided like this, we hurt the Body of Christ . . . .
Also, Mike Voris has some powerful enemies in the blogging community. The two best know[n] are Dave Armstrong and Mark Shea. Both of these men have a [sic] overwhelming hatred for Voris, especially Mark Shea. . . . Dave Armstrong has been upset with Mike since Mike suggested that Amazing Grace, being a Protestant song, doesn't reflect Catholic theology. But why do they really lash out at him?

I think it boils down to these reasons. 1. Jealousy. Armstrong and Shea have been apologists for years. They have been praised by the blogging community (and others) as the best. Now comes Michael Voris and He's getting the praises and hosannas they have been used to getting. Instead of asking themselves, what's He doing that's attracting an audience, they're smearing him with some of the words I've already mentioned. Why? They're afraid of losing their audience to someone who has a winning, winsome, personality, as opposed to their snarky ones. Both Armstrong & Shea have become increasingly meanspirited, bitter, controlling and isolated from many in their audience over the last few years. . . . it's no wonder why many Catholics are attracted to Voris and repelled by the likes of Shea & Armstrong. 2. Both Shea & Armstrong are probably being used by certain powerful members of the clergy and the laity to bring down Mike Voris. 

Conspiracies abound! I supposedly have an "overwhelming hatred for Voris" because I spent all of an hour (two, max) writing one post about one opinion of his. Such absurdities are their own refutations.

Dalton (barely able to spell) savagely attacked Blessed Pope John Paul II on my blog, too:

John Paul the Great? The man aided and abbedded [sic] in the cover-up of queer priests by doing absolutely nothing to stop the scandal. The man also encouraged false ecumenicalism [sic] with nonsence [sic] like Assai [sic]. The rush to declare this extremely flawed individual a saint shows the extent of the spiritual and moral vacousness [sic] of the Church's clergy and laity. (4-23-11)

See the related posts:

Dalton responded to this post as follows (with more of his ubiquitous quack psychoanalysis):

I must say, you must be very uptight and hyper-sensitive to lash out at someone who is a very minor player in the blogosphere. . . . I don't try to reason with people like you who are emotionally bent out of shape.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Political Ponderings About Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich (and His Catholic Conversion), Pro-Life, Libertarianism, & the Great Importance of Every Vote (Partially vs. Mark Shea)

Gleanings from several Facebook threads, where lively discussion has been taking place. Mark's words will be in blue.

* * *

I've watched all the debates and I think Ron Paul is a kook on foreign policy. I've never cared much for libertarianism. I think it is naive, half-baked, virtually warmed-over liberalism, that doesn't comprehend the inherently social nature of both Christianity and human behavior. Domestically he is not nearly as bad, but the wacko foreign policy is the deal-breaker.

Dick Morris made a good point on Hannity tonight: that if Paul manages to win in isolationist-tending Iowa, he'll be "frontrunner" (heaven help us!), but then he'll have the bullseye on his back and all the attention, and he will be crushed like a rotten tomato when kooky details come out. This will probably effectively end his candidacy.

* * *

Basic rights apply to all and are not "state issues." E.g., the bill of rights. The right to life is the most basic of all and shouldn't even be an issue. So we need to pass an amendment establishing the obvious legally, once and for all. Same thing with the definition of marriage.

If we do the "states' rights" routine then we have a situation like slavery: with "death" states and "life" states: where a human life is protected here in this spot, and then you go five feet over a boundary and it's fair game for slaughter. This is some of the foolishness of libertarianism. No! We went through that with slavery, and this is far worse than that.

I just don't want a scenario where Roe is overturned and it goes back to the states. Then it is great in the red states, but abortion will remain legal in all the blue states. I remember back in 1972, when childkilling was legal in New York. I was in favor of it back then because I was a good brainwashed liberal and utterly ignorant as to what it was about (I thought we were talking about a few cells, etc.).

It has to be a constitutional amendment, to be done with, once and for all: establish the right to life, as it always should have been. It was such a casual assumption that it was simply stated initially as "self-evident," in the Declaration. I don't think the founding fathers could conceptualize an America in which people thought it was moral to kill a child in its mother's womb. It took the sexual revolution and the modern ultra-secular liberal mind to bring that horror and abomination about.

I didn't say that Ron Paul wasn't pro-life. I'm talking about ideal conditions and moral principles: that pro-life ought to be a federally-protected right. I'm arguing against the position that making it a states' rights issue is fundamentally superior to dealing with it on the federal level. Universal rights ought not be a matter of individual states, because they apply to everyone equally.

The slavery analogy does indeed apply because we would have states with abortion and others without it (that was the analogy: similar to the situation in the 1850s). It shouldn't be allowed anywhere, just as slavery shouldn't be allowed anywhere. Those who owned slaves fought ferociously to keep their so-called "right." Those with a vested interest in abortion fight ferociously to keep their so-called "right" too.

Of course I will rejoice if Roe is overturned. I agree that this is better in the short-term than how it is now. But I think we can't let up with that and should still push for a constitutional amendment. It may take another 20-30 years.

The easiest way to accomplish it would be for Christians to actually have a lot more children than secularists, and to raise them as good Christian disciples. If we did that, legal abortion would be completely over in 20 years. We would conquer by demographics. But unfortunately, we have bought the anti-life contraceptive mentality, and so we are little different from the surrounding pagan culture; hence abortion goes on and on.

The article I posted above about 80% of young evangelicals being sexually active supports my point exactly about how compromised we are with the sexual insanity of this culture, leading to abortion, since having sex sort of leads to babies coming into existence, even despite all the marvelous anti-life techniques and devices. 

I'm not a Democrat. I'm a homeless conservative who refuses to vote for any candidate who advocates grave intrinsic evil. For my conviction that Catholics should attempt to avoid the everlasting fires of hell, I am told I'm a purist when in fact I'm looking for bare minimum decency. When I note that Ron Paul, despite his various glaring faults as a doctinaire libertarian, does not ask me to support grave evil, I am suddenly declared impure and found to be a Democrat on the basis of nothing. There's no pleasing some people. :) The real issue is no longer left/right. It's our Ruling Class vs. the rest of us. Ron Paul gets this. Our Ruling class, on both sides of the aisle, just passed a law reducing all of us to having the same rights as the unborn enjoy, get that he gets it--and want to destroy him. He's not perfect, but he'll do.

Now you're doing the Tweedle Dum / Tweedle Dee libertarian thing, huh?

I might have been [a Democrat] before the Dems made abortion their sole core value. But that happened a long time ago. I'm also not a Republican or Libertarian. I am allergic to party loyalties and ideologies. My rule of thumb in voting is that I will vote for what works (more or less, nobody's perfect) and is not intrinsically and gravely immoral. This year, that leaves only two candidates I'm will to consider: Paul and Huntsman. There's not enough space here, but for my philosophy of voting [see my recent article]

Do I think Paul is perfect? No. Do I think him a kook? Sometimes. But then Gingrich is a massively bigger kook with a swollen ego and a lying tongue to boot. And Romney is a total phony. If all I've got to choose from is kooks and phonys, I'll take an honest and modest one. Because, as I've been told so many times by people who complain I'm a purist for not voting for people who wish to enact policies worthy of hellfire, we're not voting for a pope or St. Francis of assisi. We're just looking for a relatively decent President.

You don't think Paul's views on Iran and nuclear capability are kooky enough to be a deal-breaker? 

No. I've been stampeded into war by hysterical War Party representatives once. I decline to let it happen twice. And, by the way, our troops who have been sent to suffer and die by these chickenhawks are pouring money into military vet Paul's campaign in percentages that outstrip all the other GOP candidates and Obama. It appears they have figured out that the chickenhawk pols who have never served themselves, who gratefully leave them unemployed to the tune of one million vets, who scheme to deprive them of benefits, anand who dump their remains in landfills while denying them Bibles at Walter Reed are not to be trusted as they plot to shovel them around like manure in pursuit of their plans for Empire. I think the troops have a pretty good bead on who has our country's best interests in mind.

I agree that we're not voting for a saint or a pope. That's why Gingrich's past sins are not troubling enough to me to disqualify him. And I accept his conversion to Catholicism as genuine, and haven't yet seen a good reason to seriously question it. People simply assume that it is some kind of ploy. I've seen no evidence of that at all, and it's quite Catholic as well (if we wanna talk consistent Catholicism) to extend charity and the benefit of doubt, even to a politician.

It's not Gingrich's past sins I care about. It's his present lies, including his ongoing lies about his despicable treatment of his wife, of course. But particularly his lies about influence peddling and, most especially his recent lie about when human life begins. First, he said implantation, then quickly amended it to conception. So which time was he lying? Personally, I think he said implantation to signal his willingness to butcher babies with ESCR. Then he lied in order to pacify the base. He's not a stupid man. And he knows what the Church's teaching is. So it's rubbish to say he "accidently" said "implantation". It was, like everything he does, a calculated political move. Anybody who trusts that man, especially with his track record, deserves the betrayal he is surely going to get.

Newt's answers to the onslaught of attacks, on his site . . . 

Newt fans: Caveat emptor. I just wanted to make clear that I'm not a Dem. I don't vote for people who support the murder of helpless babies. Not under any circumstances. Ever.

For what it's worth, I discuss the racism thing on my blog. I've yet to see any evidence that [Ron Paul] is a racist. Only that he tolerated racists, which pretty much fits his uber-libertarian tendency to not want to tell jerks what to think. I see no evidence at all of anti-semitism. I have no idea what the cloning thing is. As to the smoking ruin thing: yes, they used the mushroom clouds over America hysteria generation device in 2003. Worked great at stampeding us. I decline. The Iranian mullahs are aware that one nuke unleashed against us would turn all of Iran into a vast sheet of glass. Also, as Paul has pointed out the proclamations of Iran's weapon's capability are, rather as with Saddam, not nearly as certain as they have you think. Meanwhile, the real menace we face is a Congress and President who, in the name of "security" just passed a law making it possible for the Prez to declare you and enemy of the state and throw you in jail forever without hope of appeal. I'm rather more afraid of that. Crazy Ron seems rather sane when he agrees with the Founders that habeas corpus is a good thing and multiple unsustainable wars of Empire are crazy.

In any event, Paul will NOT be the GOP nominee, so a vote for him will only be in a primary. It will probably be Gingrich or Romney (whom you've classified as kook / liar and phony, respectively), so it looks like you'll be passing up the presidential slot on election day 2012. Don't imagine a non-vote from you (along with others who take your general position) would have much effect on the results in a blue state like Washington, anyway (Obama won it 58-41).

Just so. Nor will your vote, nor the vote of any other American have an effect on the outcome of the election any more than an air molecule has an effect on an oncoming train. But (and you really should read my piece I link above) it will have an effect on me if I choose to support grave intrinsic evil. So I decline to do so and instead make a rough prudential judgment to support one of the few candidates who does not pledge to commit sins worthy of the fires of hell. He's got oodles of problems that I'm quite happy to grant. But they are problems I can live with. It's all in Cdl. Ratzinger's 2004 letter on voting for the proportionate good. [referenced in his article]

I disagree that votes are as inconsequential as your dramatic metaphor. The famous example is JFK in 1960, where if one person had voted differently on an average of one per precinct (I think that is what was said), it could have had a reversed outcome. And of course there is 2000 and Florida, where a few hundred votes would have swung the election. Or if Gore had carried his own state: those who knew him best . . . That's why I specifically mentioned your state, where your "non-liberal" vote would have less effect (since we're talkin' electoral college).

I did read your piece. The same letter [from Pope Benedict XVI, as Cardinal] seemed to give leeway for voting for non-perfect candidates, so it is debatable from the outset that you would necessarily be "support[ing] grave intrinsic evil" -- based on the reasoning in the letter. In other words, that particular principle (which is a good one) is not completely supported by the letter in question, by your own description and interpretation of it.

In my opinion, if you sit out on the presidential vote, it's the same as giving Obama your vote by default, since you have not voted against him. It seems to me that there ought to be a concern for booting out the rabid, extreme abortion advocate (not to mention his intransigent economic stupidity), even if it is a non-perfect candidate (which anyone besides Jesus and Mary is destined to be anyway).

There is more than one way to view anything: especially in political matters.

Argh. Okay. One last thing. It's just not true that abstaining or voting third party is voting for Obama. Voting for Obama is voting for Obama. The way we got to this pass was by being held hostage by Republicans who argued that failure to vote for them and their crappy policies was "really" a vote for this year's Dem bogeymen. We will be, forever, slaves of the party as long as we continue to play that game. I refuse. I will vote my conscience, since I can find no proportionate reason to vote for the candidates you mention, who plan to take my vote and use it to do things condemned by Holy Church.

Here is what "realism" gets us. Goodbye to all that.  

It's not voting for him, but it is aiding him. Obviously, if it is roughly a 50-50 scenario and a bunch of opponents of Obama decide that they can't support the opposing guy, then 50-50 eventually goes 50-49 in Obamessiah's favor, and he wins, and the guys who sat out (if in large enough numbers) indeed contributed to that. I don't see how that can be denied.

This is how Clinton won in 1992. That was a third party. But say all the Perotistas sat out. Clinton would have still won 43-40 or whatever it was, if they wouldn't have voted for President Bush (the Elder) under any circumstance. Thus, conservative stupidity and shortsightedness and apathy on the abortion issue (Perot was a pro-abort) brought us eight years of President Clinton.

Non-voting from someone who is conservative like yourself is largely the same scenario. If enough people think like you (Paul or bust), then we'll have four more years of Obama. It won't be because of people like me who will vote for anyone the GOP puts up (including even the kook Paul). What then happens to the country (truly frightening to ponder) won't be on my conscience.

If we emphasize ourselves and our own conscience without any consideration of the tangible results (as you seem to be doing), then that is the fundamental libertarian error once again: extreme individualism with little or no concern for the actual results of non-action: evil triumphs when good men do nothing. It lacks the communitarian outlook. This is why it is wholly inadequate as a Catholic social philosophy. It's barely "social" at all . . . it fits great with Protestant sectarianism and (in large sectors) atomistic individualism, though.

* * *

Gingrich always does good, but it doesn't stop the avalanche of attacks. With fellow Republicans trashing him daily we're in great shape. I would think we'd have some semblance of sense and smarts, but I guess not. We'll break Reagan's 11th commandment ["thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican"] right and left . . . It's still ours to lose, if we don't forfeit out of stupidity and wrongheaded in-fighting. Why is it that so many Paul supporters seem to think everyone else is Attila the Hun while their guy is Sir Galahad? A black-and-white, conspiratorial world, I guess . . .
I like Santorum, Bachmann, Perry, and Gingrich, and I think Romney and Huntsman ore okay. I don't think Paul is a good candidate because of his isolationism, which I consider equally naive and dangerous, and due to my general dislike of libertarianism. If Santorum is the very best, it doesn't mean much, practically speaking, because he isn't gonna win it. I think Gingrich is great, as stated in many of my posts. I don't think he's shady or dishonest. I believe he has had a genuine Catholic conversion. I don't think he's perfect. Reagan was the greatest Republican president since Lincoln. I don't favor Romney because I think he is moderate (to some extent) and has waffled too much. But I think he'd probably be a pretty good President, and infinitely better than President Obama.

Gingrich is solidly pro-life and pro-marriage. He's a good conservative. He made money as a private businessman. I have no problem with that. I don't see that it was unethical. He advised the mortgage companies to do other than what they did. The culprits in all that were Rep. Barney Frank and Senator Christopher Dodd. Republicans tried to prevent it to no avail, because they were in the minority. 

[Steve Schell asked: "Why do you believe that Gingrich has had a substantive conversion experience? What do you base that on? How would you begin to demonstrate that point to me?"]

His report; what his closer friends say about him; the fact that he has written books and done documentaries about popes; his talking about the Eucharist on secular TV, and about repentance before God in debates.

Are you in the habit of questioning other conversions, like mine, or those in Surprised by Truth or on The Journey Home? I doubt it. Yet when it comes to a politician, we become all cynical. Why? That is the question here, not some foolish requirement of absolute certainty that a person is not lying through his teeth.
That is not thinking the best of a person, rather than the worst (1 Corinthians 13). It is a command to extend charity and not fall into cynicism, which is the leading trait of atheism and agnosticism, not consistent biblical Christianity.

As I have said before, if we want to play the game of questioning every convert or the genuine piety of someone, out goes St. Paul (killed Christians), and King David (murder and adultery), St. Peter (denied Christ three times), and Moses (murderer). All of a sudden, we have to throw out much of the Bible, based on attitudes that you display. Disagree with a man's policies if you wish, but don't judge his heart and casually assume that he is a liar.
A double standard seems to be applied: we accept most converts' words as genuine, at face-value, while we are too often highly cynical of politicians' spiritual odysseys.

Beyond that, I think I have enough spiritual discernment after 34 years as a serious Christian, to make out whether someone is speaking genuinely about God or not. I can spot a fake a mile away: and that has been confirmed times without number (and is part of my work as an apologist who is on the lookout for counterfeits and errors and wolves in the flock). I don't see anything non-authentic whatever in Newt Gingrich's conversion. If I'm fooled and he turns out to be a wolf in sheep's clothing then I am, but I don't expect that to happen at all.

You're not likely to vote for Gingrich. I just want to see Christian, Catholic charity extended towards him, just like anyone else, in this matter of his religious life.

* * *

It's [Paul's foreign policy] called isolationism . . . it is a policy of non-intervention. Paul ain't gonna win: not even the GOP nomination, let alone the Presidency. So his followers have a choice of either getting behind the GOP nominee, or pouting and going third party or not voting and possibly getting Obama re-elected.

If that's what you guys want, you may very well get your wish, given the way Gingrich is now being treated by folks like The National Review. We can be stupid and sabotage our own chances, and fight ourselves to death if we wish, and let the country go bankrupt and become Greece in four years.

I would gladly vote even for Paul vs. Obama. I don't care who it is. If an aardvark ran again Obama, it would have my vote. It would get more done in a month in office than Obama has in three years. And even an aardvark (unlike Obama) knows that you don't kill your own offspring.

None of the other GOP candidates are evil incarnate. We have seven pro-lifers vs. an extreme childkilling proponent in the White House. It's a no-brainer by Catholic social principles. You (and other Paul supporters or "nobody else" partisans of any candidate) can be extreme if you like: the result will be Obama re-elected and disaster on many levels. We have to pull together to beat him. It's ours to lose. Unfortunately, we conservatives are more than enough stupid and foolish (politically) to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

We have good pro-lifers to choose from. Gingrich has a 99% rating from Nat. Right to Life. Santorum isn't perfect. He supported pro-abort Spector for Senator. He's still very good, but that was a black mark. This is not a time to play around and engage in mere abstract politics and supposed superior principles. Babies continue to die. Politicians aren't saints (did anyone labor under the illusion that they were?). The next President could appoint a Supreme Court Justice that may make it possible to overturn Roe. We were dumb enough as a country to elect Obama, when we had a great chance to overturn Roe. Now we have another chance, and no one talks about abortion at all, because the pocketbook is always #1 above anything else.

There is some realpolitik there. The problem is how to work together (if possible) with people with whom one disagrees (coalition-building). So there are pro-abort Republicans. How are they to be treated? Gingrich took the stand that they shouldn't be outright purged.

One could disagree with that without necessarily questioning the person's overall pro-life commitments. I would prefer that they be purged, myself, but I understand the outlook that says Republicans need to have a majority to get things done, and unfortunately, that includes some pro-aborts and otherwise liberal members: often from the northeast, etc.

* * *

Some people [i.e., Gingrich] actually have a productive record in Washington, and got things done! I know it's hard to believe; it's been so long . . . People have very short memories. I remember it as if it were yesterday. I remember the Reagan era too, and what was said about him, including by country-club Republicans in 1976 and 1980.    

* * *

If we squish all of Obama's qualities together we get class warfare, widespread governmental corruption, 9% unemployment, rabid promotion of childkilling, the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression, Obamacare, and $5 trillion of new debt that our children and grandchildren get to pay off.

We will campaign by presenting facts, while Obama will campaign by contending: "my opponent is a scoundrel." Well, a guy might win by such "campaigning" if he had anything to brag about at all in his term. But with his abysmal record, it will be political suicide. Meanwhile, many Catholics continue to vote for the preservation of the wholesale slaughter of over 4000 children a day: self-inflicted terrorism. It's amazing.

Newt Gingrich [along with the other six Republican candidates] knows enough to know that killing babies in their mother's wombs ought to be illegal, which is something many Catholics and other Christians still haven't learned, since they continue to vote for the childkilling advocates, thus enabling the holocaust to continue: including a vast disproportion of African-American abortions: virtually a self-genocide (as Jesse Jackson used to talk about). 

Detroit is flourishing under liberal government since time immemorial: about half our high school students don't graduate and can't read. 40-50% unemployment of young black men, families decimated in the inner-city because of Great Society paternalism and social engineering. High crime rates, rotten neighborhoods. We're just about to go bankrupt. Everything is hunky-dory. Let's do more liberalism: add fuel to the fire so it can get better. 

[addressing a Catholic Democrat, who is also a deacon] Whether you have donated a heart and give 95% of your money to charity (praise God for all your good works) has nothing whatever to do with whether you uphold the abortion holocaust or not by your vote. It would be nice to have a serious, substantive discussion for a change with a Democrat. If you can't rationally defend your voting for pro-aborts, then don't. But insulting others and waxing paranoid is no answer.

* * *

[addressing a person very cynical about both parties and the entire voting and political process, as if Christians are soiled by any participation whatever in these things]

Do you honestly think anyone here is stupid and ridiculous enough to actually believe that a mere political party will "save" them? You come to this conclusion simply because I post a facts-based article about the history of conservatism and liberal smear attacks?

Yours is the ultra-naive dangerous view here, because you forsake your civic duty to elect the best political representatives that we can put in office. This attitude is why we have abortion today: because Christians didn't care enough about political involvement to prevent that outrage from happening in the first place.

"'The liberal media' is a myth" is perhaps the most absurd single sentence that anyone has written on this page in its eleven-month existence. Many studies have documented the far-left orientation of the media: far more so than the general public. We're talking in the range of 90% who are left-leaning, and almost as many who don't attend church.

This attitude of "to hell with all the politicians" will prove more dangerous to our society in the long run than even liberalism has, because it is the spirit of despair, cynicism, and apathy, which always goes against God's will. The Christian is the eternal optimist and idealist: looking ahead; looking to transform society with the gospel and the message of the fullness of the faith, in Catholicism. Jesus is Lord of all of life: not everything except politics.

How could Jesus say to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's"? How could Paul tell us to "honor the emperor"? How could the state be called an agent of God in Romans 13? We vote in order to remake the government in the Christian image, as much as possible: to preserve justice, to protect its own people from tyranny.  

The "English Reformation" was not from God. Nor was the French Revolution, or Russian.  I like the idea of disobeying unjust laws, which is why I was in Operation Rescue from 1988-1990. There is a Law of God above all human laws. Doesn't make all human law bad; rather it means that some are unjust and immoral.

The American Revolution has been questioned on Christian grounds. I would defend it on the basis of nations having the right to self-govern, rather than be governed by a power lying across an ocean; in other words, an opposition to colonialism. The right to self-governance . . .

Constitutional Republicanism is not the same thing as egalitarianism. Catholics like the principle of subsidiarity. I think the key is to have an informed populace, so that voting is informed, not polemics and propaganda-driven. The answer is not to "diss" voting, but to have an educated people.

Meanwhile, 4000 babies are slaughtered every day. Those who don't vote are allowing this to continue, on the principle of "evil flourishes when good men do nothing." Our duty is to end this horrendous injustice and others by voting for people who will work to end them, and to provide for the poor, etc.

We can play pie-in-the-sky philosophical parlor games, but meanwhile there are very real injustices and sins that have the sanction of law, that we can change for the better. You sit on your hands on election day; millions of others who think as you do, do the same, and the babies keep dying because good men do nothing about it. The Bible is about concrete justice, not abstract philosophy.

Liberals have never smeared anyone. They don't even know how to do it. And I have some great oceanfront property in Kansas to sell. Any takers?

No one ever said they [conservatives] didn't [ever smear people]. But it is exponentially less than the liberals do. Conservatives need only tell the truth about liberal positions, rather than cowering in fear, as we usually do, out of lack of principle and self-confidence (from years of being derided outsiders). For many years now, liberals have been reluctant to even describe themselves by that word. They know it is political death. So they pretend to be "moderates." They know that the public by and large rejects their agenda.

There is no need to smear them at all. The truth is sufficient and ugly enough to defeat them in all but the bluest states. Bill Clinton actually did what he was accused of! That was not a smear. He lied, and he was caught.
John Edwards actually did have a child out of wedlock and lied about it. That's not a smear, either. Even The National Enquirer got it right.

President Obama actually did attend the church of a radical black liberationist preacher [Jeremiah Wright] for 20 years, and he DID know an unrepentant terrorist [Bill Ayers] and engage in Alinksy tactics, etc. He was the most liberal member of the Senate and gave us many idiotic "present" votes, and saw nothing whatever wrong with partial-birth infanticide, etc. All of that is true. The American people were snookered by his campaign rhetoric. This time he can't fool people because he has a terrible record to run on.

Whether Cain is guilty remains to be proven. Thus far not one shred of hard evidence has been offered. Running him out of town, strictly on anecdotal hearsay of several bimbos of questionable character is classic liberal methodology. Guilty until proven guilty. That's how much justice Cain got. Now we have to listen to blowhards put him down. Maybe he in fact did what is claimed. I'd be the first to condemn it if so. But I won't trash a man with no solid evidence or proof whatever for doing so.
* * *

[replying to someone who questions Newt Gingrich's conversion to Catholicism]

What gives you the right to judge a man's soul and his entire conversion as "fake"? On what basis? You're able to read hearts and minds? You have a beeline to God or something? He tells you things that other mortals have no inkling of?

Newt is guilty of big sins in the past; therefore his conversion can't possibly be real? Okay, that takes out St. Paul (murderer), St. Peter (betrayed Christ), King David, with whom God made an eternal covenant (adulterer and murderer), Moses (murderer), Matthew (tax collector for the Romans), etc. I'll admit that Newt is a wolf in sheep's clothing if you concede that Paul, Peter, David, and Moses all went to hell due to fake conversions . . . Deal?

How ironic that we may have the first real Catholic ever as President (religion meant little to JFK): a guy who has written books about popes and who talks about the Eucharist and the mass on national TV, and people simply conclude that his conversion is fake. The devil must be laughing his socks off over that.

As a convert who has himself had his own spiritual journey lied about (publicly) times without number, mischaracterized, with motivations entirely questioned, and little or no concern for actual fact and documentation, I can empathize with this more than a little. The sad thing is that it is Catholics who are often leading the charge in questioning a man's soul and trying to read his heart and judge him harshly.

* * *

I would say, sure, Gingrich is full of himself, but then, so are, I highly suspect, most politicians. You have to have a big share of (shall we say, charitably?) "self-confidence" to get up and listen to yourself speak and have folks hang on your pearls of wisdom for days, weeks, and months on end: be adored. Unless you are a very well-grounded person (in God), that could truly get to you after a while, and create hubris. It's the same dynamic as being a movie or rock star. We see what those things have done to hundreds of victims.  

Many are assuming that his conversion is not genuine. People can actually change. I'm testimony to that myself, and I'm sure many of you are too.

Gingrich has a solid pro-life record. I went through this with McCain four years ago: people were saying he had a lousy record on the issue, and in fact he had an excellent one. The same with Gingrich. 98.6% Lifetime Pro-Life Rating from the National Right to Life Committee.    

A candidate may not be absolutely perfect. Hence, both Bushes allowed abortion in cases of rape and incest. That's not in line with Catholic teaching, yet many of us voted for both of them because of the vast superiority to the Dem on the issue.

Capital punishment and abortion are not on an equal plane. The Church teaches that abortion is intrinsically evil, unlike capital punishment (which it highly discourages in recent documents but does not classify in the same way as abortion).

Therefore, it is quite different to vote for a pro-life, pro-death penalty politician, compared to voting for a pro-abort, anti-death penalty. According to the Church, it is far preferable to vote for the former. Anyone who votes for President Obama (or any pro-abortion candidate of either party) is participating indirectly in allowing the holocaust to continue.

Just be aware that if you vote third party, you could help Obama to be re-elected. This happened in 1992, when "pro-life" people were foolish enough to vote for pro-abort Perot, thus costing Bush the election and allowing Clinton to get elected. People can help allow evil to flourish in many different ways.   

* * *

Newt is saying he doesn't support amnesty (nor do I: not in any blanket sense; we do have to respect laws or they will become meaningless). Rather, he is making necessary distinctions. I think conservatives gain by doing so. The backlash against Perry was because he went too far: saying we must pay all this college money, and if we don't agree, we don't have a heart. He apologized for it, but the damage was done, and it may have sunk his campaign. 

Of course we must distinguish between "pro-immigration" and "anti-illegal immigration." I hold to both. There is no contradiction. How to deal with illegal immigrants now here is a third distinct problem. Virtually no one (no one I know of, anyway) is against immigration per se and no one is against securing the border.

Newt Gingrich's interview last night on Hannity was extremely impressive. I am excited about his candidacy more than I have been with anyone since Reagan. He really continues the same tradition. He noted how his policies in the 1994 re-taking of the House were the same as Reagan's: lower taxes, lower regulations, and encouragement of business and the entrepreneurial spirit. 11 million jobs were created as a consequence. And that was with a Democratic President . . . Newt also has the advantage of saying that he worked with the other party (in Washington: not just in a state, where it is a lot easier) and actually got things done: balanced budgets, reformed welfare.

One thing he said was excellent (paraphrase): "we shouldn't move to the center in a general election, but move the center to us, and present a stark contrast; then conservatives win." It's hearkening back to Reagan again. It will work. The landslide is ours to lose. This is our best opportunity to really make huge changes in Washington, since 1994 (and that revolution was led by Newt, so it's sort of deju vu all over again).

I have been lambasting Romney, but let it be stated that I like him personally, and would be happy to vote for him if he were the nominee. He's infinitely better than Obamessiah. But I think Gingrich is far preferable to him. That's what primaries are about: we make our case for "our guy." We've had a lot of good choices this year, and I am delighted that Newt is currently on top. 

I don't think it is difficult at all for Newt to win over the moderates and independents and "Reagan Democrats", because Obama has already long since lost them. They have nowhere else to go. There is no reason for them to stick with Obama, when they forsook him two years ago. They will vote for "different" and "change" from the miserable status quo. All the polls show this. Plus, if he makes Rubio VP, we get tons of Hispanic votes and take Florida for sure: two very important things. If he makes Santorum VP, we take Pennsylvania: a crucial swing state. If he makes Bachmann VP, we get more of the women vote, some tea partiers who might be reluctant, and Minnesota. Lots of good choices this year. I think it will be a landslide. It's '80, '84, '94, and 2010 all over . . .

I think Newt is a solid mainstream conservative in the tradition of Reagan (not much different from Bachmann or Santorum), but an exceptionally thoughtful and idealistic one: hence, he may take somewhat different positions on occasion. I would expect this. I do the same, myself, with some issues. It shows that he is a thinker, not a clone or a sheep. To me that is a plus, not a minus.

As for passing bills, no problem: we're gonna take the Senate, too, and keep the House (probably win more seats). Things will get done because Newt is a go-getter, not the same old do-nothing nonsense that we have now in DC: with the House doing all the work and the Senate killing everything before it has any chance; and Obama playing golf and campaigning rather than making law.

Newt is an actual leader. He has also shown that he can work with the other party: because he did in the 90s. Newt has the proven track record in DC, and that is something Romney can't match. I don't care if Newt is an "insider" as long as he is the right kind of "insider": a true Reaganite progressive conservative (as I would describe the position): in the Jack Kemp mold as well.

He talked about the Eucharist and going to Mass last night, in a room of South Carolinians (probably 90% Protestant), and of writing books about Pope John Paul II and Reagan. He's a thinker, an idealist, a guy who actually gets things done, a Catholic convert, historian. All of these are great things. Most of the opposition to him seems to be merely personal dislike and noting past sins that he has long since repented of. Hence many have questioned the genuineness of his conversion (those who know him well: guys like Bill Bennett and Sean Hannity, do not at all).

Mormonism in a President is not a deal-breaker for me, either. All I have said about that is that it will hurt Romney with the evangelical vote and in the South: perhaps fatally so if he got the nomination. Thus as a purely political consideration, it is an important factor. I do think, though, that for most who have a problem with that, they would still choose him over Obama, if they are at all conservative or even moderate.

The Republicans who actually got things done in Washington in the last thirty years were the solid conservatives (panned as "far right" by liberals and moderates): Reagan and Gingrich. This is a matter of record. In foreign policy there is more consensus in the GOP, so Bush I and Bush II had successes there: but did very little domestically. They lowered taxes. And what was Bush I's downfall? precisely, trying to compromise with the Dems: raising taxes while getting an empty promise that they would cut spending (that never happened). That's how depending on unwritten promises from the other party works: a double-cross and a lost election because of it. But one can work with the other party and maintain one's principle and conservative views, as Reagan and Gingrich did.

"Middle of the road" is about as exciting and motivating as the same thing in music. If you sit in the middle of the road, you get hit by traffic coming from both sides; both directions. You gotta be on one side or the other to move ahead and make progress: can't straddle the line, trying to please everyone and satisfying neither in the end.

And that is one good reason of many to support Newt. He won't be attacked anymore than Reagan was. Who cares? That's like saying, "the sun is coming up tomorrow." He can deflect that, with facts and a smile and a good return jibe that is true, not distorted like the Dem smears about him will be. He's gonna kick butt and mop up . . .

* * *

There is no particular admiration here for big corporations, but it doesn't make me advocate socialism. That's a case where the supposed "cure" is worse than the purported disease. 

* * *

If one goes too far into libertarianism, there is a large ground where it meets liberalism. That's why I've never cared for it. In some ways, libertarianism is even worse than liberalism, because it doesn't understand communitarianism and social responsibility. It is to politics what Protestantism is to theology and religion: individualism gone awry. 

* * *

I for one, though, don't want to stop this [the "Occupy" mobs] at all. I'd love to see it continue right through to November 2012: a whole year of 1968 Democratic Convention riots (I remember seeing those on TV)! I think it would be fabulous. We would take about 47 states in the landslide victory. As it is, we'll probably win in a landslide, anyway (Dick Morris thinks so). 

You gotta love it when the big advocates of free speech and right to express opinions, tried to shout down Karl Rove at a speech. I absolutely love it! I've always been a big fan of highly ironic absurdity.

Reminds me of the incident in the abortion rescues when some pro-abort goon had a woman pinned down, choking her, and at the same time saying, "stop interfering with women's bodies!" or some such . . . 

So far I haven't seen any of these rich famous people who visited passing out hundreds of dollars. Maybe I missed it. Spread the wealth . . .

You can break a law if it is immoral, but it has to be done peacefully, and you take the consequences of it, without being a total jerk (fighting with the cops, rioting, etc.). Examples: civil right movement, abortion rescue movement that I was part of. I broke trespassing laws, because a higher law was involved: saving babies' lives. These guys are not peaceful or respectful of those around them. That's the difference.

These same kinds of clowns were out there when we were blocking abortion clinic doors: mocking us, and in some cases beating us. Left-wing radicalism never changes in its essential character: going all the way back to the French Revolution (or even the English so-called "Reformation").

I will always diss rabble-rousing mobs. It doesn't accomplish anything. You can only protest with class and dignity. Otherwise it backfires big-time, as we see happening now.   

* * *

"Conservative" means to conserve traditional American values, including the right to life. It has the connotation of "tradition" in it, which is why it is a good word, that resonates with orthodox Catholics. 

But the present status quo is legal childkilling and in that sense I am a radical or revolutionary against left-wing, anti-Christian ethics, which is increasingly becoming the norm in our society and indeed, in western "civilization" as a whole. 

I'm actually more like a neo-conservative, but certainly with a lot of traditionalist elements. See my statement on politics on my Facebook profile. I voted for Pat Buchanan once in a primary. I don't care much for his isolationist policies (nor Ron Paul's). But Pat's a good guy. I respect him a lot. He's always a gentleman and disagrees with class. 

* * *

Here is the article by Gingrich's daughter [about Newt supposedly serving his first wife divorce papers on her "deathbed"] Turns out the visit goes all the way back to 1980, and the woman (Jackie Battley Gingrich) is still alive. She had an operation for a tumor the day before, that was benign. They were already in the process of getting a divorce, that she requested.

So leave it to liberals to spread a rumor about their hated target supposedly abusing someone on their "deathbed" in 1980, who is still alive today; and completely distorting the actual facts of the matter. :-) The daughter was there. I think she can be trusted to give an accurate report.

* * *

The real test will come in SC and FLA, because some conservative "anti-Romney" will win Iowa and Romney will almost certainly take NH. So it'll be a tie, with the advantage going to the one who can take SC and FLA. If Romney by some fluke loses NH, he is already toast. The main thing about winning Iowa is "momentum." I think Romney will have big problems in the south, being a moderate, and because of his Mormonism. I believe his campaign will be essentially over once we go through the southern "Super Tuesday" (if that is still called that). 

We will all have to get behind whoever the Republican nominee is gonna be. After all this primary "division" it'll be time to get united and defeat the Clueless Socialist / Social Divider. 

Obama is history, no matter what lies he tries to throw, to get folks' minds off the issue. Their minds get back to the issue every time they look at their bankbooks and compare them to their bills. So try as they may . . .

All polling indications suggest this. He is even lower than Carter in mid-1980, and we all know what happened to him. He's completely lost the moderates and independents, and has decreased in almost every other category (having now alienated even liberal Jews, with his nonsense about Israel), etc. Swing states are NOT gonna vote for him again. Ohio won't. Pennsylvania probably won't. Virginia certainly won't . . . GOP just gained control of the state legislature there, showing the trend.

* * *  

The Facebook discussion thread underneath the cross-posting of this post there, contains additional intense exchanges about Ron Paul's positions on abortion: particularly regarding the exception clauses (rape, incest, life of the mother). He allows for those, which is a "limited pro-choice" stance and not completely, consistently pro-life. His views are shared in this respect by Gingrich, Romney, Huntsman, and Perry, while Bachmann and Santorum are the only consistently pro-life candidates, who would disallow it in all cases.

More thoughts in another Facebook thread: mostly about the ridiculous, pathetic, savage conservative and Republican in-fighting that is taking place, and the intensely personal attacks against Newt Gingrich.

* * *