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My First Abortion Party
By Byard Duncan, AlterNet
Posted on July 8, 2009, Printed on July 9, 2009
"Have you guys heard the news?" Maggie (name changed) unwrapped the scarf from around her neck and patted her flat belly. "Preggers." It was around 30 degrees outside, and her cheeks were splashed pink from the Indiana wind.
She had discovered earlier that week, after missing a period and taking the test. "I kind of knew already. My boobs and my lower back have been killing me for a while." She shrugged.
My girlfriend Ali and I exchanged a surprised look. Our forks, dotted with pasta sauce, dangled identically, flaccidly, in our hands. She was quicker than me to gain her composure, and turned to address her best friend.
"What are you going to do?" Unnecessary question, really -- a conversational life vest, used when you’re sputtering for something to say. We knew the answer. Maggie, a 22-year-old college senior with no intention of bringing a child into the world yet, was going to have an abortion. She told us that she had already made up her mind; she had even determined the time, date and location. A better question might have been, "How are you going to pay for it?"
She answered that one before we had a chance to ask. "We’re having a party Friday to raise money," Maggie said. "You guys are obviously invited."
An abortion party. For the price of whatever we were willing to donate, she explained, we could partake of baked goods, beer and dancing. It was going to start at 10 p.m. at Maggie’s.
The Facebook invite came a day later, and it was settled. Ali and I were going to scrape together what donation money we could and join in the festivities.
Before continuing, I should make it clear that I’m no stranger to bizarre, pregnancy-related parties. My junior year of college, I attended a "Welcoming the Baby Kegger" designed to provide love, support and slurred confessions to a friend nearing her delivery date (she drank grape juice). Though I had initially been skeptical, I left this soirée du bébé pleasantly surprised. Everyone had brought gifts, toys, wine and food, which they piled atop a table in her living room. The music was low, and the conversation was great -- an all-around classy affair. I imagined the abortion party might be similar to this: a way to help out a friend who’s made a difficult decision. I was both right and wrong.
Ali and I arrived around 11, only half aware of the irony of being "late" to an abortion party. Walking in, we were bludgeoned with a blast of hot air, followed by the tangy stink of dance floor revelry. Someone had taken a red bed sheet and hung it below a light fixture to resemble a giant womb. Every so often, a dancer’s head or arm or dreadlock would brush against one of its smooth folds, creating a rippling effect. "Let’s Go Crazy" by Prince was playing.
As Ali went off to find Maggie, I sat down and struck up a conversation with Andrew (name changed), the three-year-old son of one of the partygoers. When Andrew and I first met months before, I learned that he’s a very precocious boy when it comes to animals and plants. His father has spent a lot of time teaching him about birdcalls and edible nuts, and he’s always spouting out little nuggets of useful knowledge. Tonight, he had the remnants of some apple-flavored dessert smeared on his mouth and owl pajamas.
Even though I thought the presence of a young child at an abortion party was a little bizarre, nobody else seemed to acknowledge (or care about) this contradiction. Instead, the rest of the guests just took turns fawning over him, exchanging high fives and swooshing him through the air. He, along with everyone else, was having a blast.
"Do you feel welcome here?" I eventually asked him, fully expecting a ‘grown-up’-type answer. He glanced around, chewed on his sleeve and went to look for some babes to hang out with. "Too cool for me," I thought, shaking my head and cramming a pastry into my mouth. I was bewildered.
I continued mingling, sampling pastries and chatting with some of Ali’s friends. I didn’t really feel comfortable discussing the abortion with strangers, so I just talked bullshit: Music. School. The Future. I guess I was hesitant to confront the breadth of the party’s complexity. Maybe I had even hoped to avoid it.
I couldn’t, of course. I saw Maggie’s boyfriend, sitting near the kitchen, wearing rainbow suspenders and looking uncomfortably alone. As it turns out, he had been the object of a lot of vitriol from Maggie’s friends -- women who thought that he should not have had anything to do with the abortion. Both he and Maggie had been saddened about this reaction because they had made the decision together. When we talked, his sentences spilled out in quick little jumbles, like scattered puzzle pieces. His eyes stayed focused on a point behind me. He looked as if he’d like to be somewhere else.
Maggie, too, looked less than excited. A few days beforehand, one of her friends had asked her to have the abortion in Ohio. When Maggie insisted on bringing her boyfriend along, the friend told her not to bother coming. Maggie was being shown a great deal of respect, certainly. But she told me she couldn’t help but feel as though her pregnancy had been "hijacked" by women who felt like her inclusion of a man in the decision was weak or wrong. This was a surprise to me, but I didn’t exactly know how to weigh in.
Abortion is, after all, a very tricky topic -- a minefield of opinions where the slightest misstep can elicit unexpected reactions from friends, family, co-workers and strangers. Though I would classify myself an ardent pro-choicer, I also recognize that I am a man, and therefore somewhat of a problematic player in the debate. It’s never been made clear to me what sort of involvement I’m entitled to on the issue, and I don’t feel particularly confident making judgment calls about women -- whatever their political leanings.
I did, however, think the extent to which Maggie’s friends were eager to vilify her partner was peculiar. These were liberal people, after all -- people whose views on sex were worlds away from anything someone might consider "modest." I couldn’t help but notice how aggressive and, for lack of a better term, ‘male’ their attitudes became when confronted with the issue of a woman’s right to choose. It was almost as if, in the process of upholding an ideal of openness and acceptance, they had fallen victim to the same forces they were trying to critique.
A small sign of the times: USA Today this week ran an article about a Michigan family that, under financial pressure, decided to give up credit cards, satellite television, high-tech toys and restaurant dining, to live on a 40-acre farm and become more self-sufficient. The Wojtowicz family—36-year-old Patrick, his wife Melissa, 37, and their 15-year-old daughter Gabrielle—have become, in the words of reporter Judy Keen, "21st century homesteaders," raising pigs and chickens, planning a garden and installing a wood furnace.
Mr. Wojtowicz was a truck driver frustrated by long hauls that kept him away from his family, and worried about a shrinking salary. His wife was self-employed and worked at home. They worked hard and had things but, Mr. Wojtowicz said, there was a "void." "We started analyzing what it was that we were really missing. We were missing being around each other." So he gave up his job and now works the land his father left him near Alma, Mich. His economic plan was pretty simple: "As long as we can keep decreasing our bills we can keep making less money."
The paper weirdly headlined them "economic survivalists," which perhaps reflected an assumption that anyone who leaves a conventional, material-driven life for something more physically rigorous but emotionally coherent is by definition making a political statement. But it didn't look political from the story they told. They didn't look like people trying to figure out how to survive as much as people trying to figure out how to live. The picture that accompanied the article showed a happy family playing Scrabble with a friend.
Their story hit a nerve. There was a lively comment thread on the paper's Web site, with more than 300 people writing in. "They look pretty happy to me," said a commenter. "My husband and I are making some of the same decisions." Another: "I don't know if this is so much survivalism as a return to common sense." Another: "The more stuff you own the harder you have to work to maintain it."
To some degree the Wojtowicz story sounded like the future, or the future as a lot of people are hoping it will be: pared down, more natural, more stable, less full of enervating overstimulation, of what Walker Percy called the "trivial magic" of modern times.
Mt. Airy, Philadelphia. Pope Benedict has recently gained a bit of credit with world media for emphasizing the urgency of addressing the environmental devastation we have wrought. This (combined with installing solar panels to make Vatican City the world’s only “carbon-neutral” sovereign state) has earned him the title “the Green Pope.” While journalists usually snip sound bites out of papal speeches for their own sensationalist purposes, so they can misrepresent their careful author as outrageous and inflammatory, here they employ their usual habits to make him more acceptable to the cosmopolitan liberal consensus. Consider the PBS coverage of Benedict’s speech to the UN last year:
He also spoke about the negative effects of globalization, especially experienced in Africa and other desperately poor parts of the world; scientific research and technological advances that, while they can bring enormous developments, can also lead, he claimed, to clear violations of “the order of creation, to the point where not only is the sacred character of life contradicted, but the human person and the family are robbed of their natural identity.” He also mentioned the necessity of swift, coordinated, and effective international action to preserve the environment. Overall, this was an uncontroversial—yet no less welcome for that—speech. It highlighted both Benedict and the Church’s internationalist credentials and went some way to gainsaying the idea that he is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative.
As PBS is there to remind us, you can’t be altogether conservative if you’re not in favor of allowing globalizing multinationals to devastate the earth.
Of course, the carbon credits the pope earns don’t make the rest of his teaching any more palatable. The Catholic expert voices consulted in a Newsweek piece on papal environmentalism make a well-meaning effort to point out the consistency of the papal message across the board. In the end, however, I don’t think they offer very helpful formulations. Lucia Silecchia of Catholic University observes
When you have an issue getting so much attention, there are a lot of voices talking about it. Benedict knows that and he wanted a seat at the table…. He saw this as a way to push the values of the church in a new context.
And Raymond Arroyo of EWTN insists
It’s all the same argument. I don’t think he loves the earth as an issue in itself, but he sees it as one thing of many that the creator designed. He’s just emphasizing it.
The truth is, however, that Benedict understands our loving and responsible relationship to God’s created earth as central to our human existence as created beings, and as fundamental to the integrity of Catholic teaching. The depth of this theme in his thought (which seems to have received little emphasis from his admirers and interpreters) comes out forcefully in his 1981 Lenten homilies in Munich (published by Eerdmans as ‘In the Beginning’).
Interpreting the symbolic significance of the seven-day creation, the then Cardinal Ratzinger points out the natural basis of the seven-day week in the lunar cycle. His explanation of the significance of this reads almost as if it could have been part of a neo-pagan ecofeminist invitation to dance naked beneath the full moon:
It becomes clear that we human beings are not bounded by the limits of our own little “I” but that we are part of the rhythm of the universe, that we too, so to speak, assimilate the heavenly rhythm and movement in our own bodies and thus, thanks to this interlinking, are fitted into the logic of the universe.
To understand clearly what he is saying here, it is crucial to note the reference to “the limits of our own little ‘I’.” As a student of Augustine, Benedict knows that self-enclosure is the essential form of sin. He also knows that the remedy for self-enclosure cannot be achieved purely “spiritually” by turning the soul to God, but involves the proper relation of love toward our human community and toward the created world—and that these are all fundamentally connected.
Exactly the same insight underlies his explanation, in The Spirit of the Liturgy, of the eastward orientation of the church building and the prayer of Christian worshippers. Praying to the east is “a fundamental expression of the Christian synthesis of cosmos and history.” Christian worship is not something that occurs within the walls of the church; it opens the worshippers to the whole integrated meaning of God’s creation and redemption of the world.
For all of humanity, the rising of the sun signals the return of light to the world after darkness, the dawning of new hopes and possibilities. Directing prayer to the place of the sun’s rising reminds us of the glorious creation we celebrate, the dawning of the world and time. But at the same time, when we look upon the sun as an image of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice, our bodily and emotional responses to the world and its rhythms become suffused with the significance of the redemption. The synthesis of the created cosmos and salvation history occurs viscerally in our oriented bodies.
A church not rightly oriented risks self-enclosure in two ways. Physically, it risks the enclosure of worship in the interior of its walls, losing mindfulness of its placement on the earth in relation to the cosmos and its emphasis on opening outward. But this physical enclosure has communal consequences: “The turning of the priest toward the people has turned the community into a self-enclosed circle.” Worship risks becoming a theater of personality rather than a turning-together and opening-outward of priest and people toward Creator and Redeemer. Thus Ratzinger asks:
Are we not interested in the cosmos any more? Are we today really hopelessly huddled in our own little circle? Is it not important, precisely today, to pray with the whole of creation?
But of course our right relationship to the created world is not primarily a matter of our bodily response to rhythms of sun and moon. Above all, it concerns our living on and from the earth. As Ratzinger emphasizes, the creation account in Genesis portrays humankind as originating from “God’s good earth.” He helpfully contrasts this account to the Babylonian story it is opposing itself to. According to the Babylonian Enuma Elish, the earth and humanity originate from the body and blood of the sinister dragon slain by the just god Marduk. According to Genesis, on the contrary, the earth and its inhabitants are created by God from nothing and recognized by God to be good. Humankind is united by its relationship to the earth: by originating from it, being sustained by its goodness, and returning to it.
It is common today to claim that this “disenchantment” of the earth accomplished by Biblical religion has destroyed reverence for nature, and the injunction in Genesis 1.28 to “subdue the earth” has led to our culture and economy of utilitarian exploitation. Ratzinger shows convincingly that these dire outcomes result, on the contrary, from modern rejections of core elements in the creation teaching. The model for subduing the earth is given in these terms: humanity has the responsibility to “till it and keep it” (Genesis 2.15). This is a model of good agrarian tending, not of exploiting to the breaking point the productive possibilities of “raw materials.” Ratzinger emphasizes that “the world is to be used for what it is capable of and for what it is called to, but not for what goes against it.”
JEFFERSON COUNTY, KANSAS.* In 1947, two titans of 20th-century economic theory, Ludwig von Mises and Wilhelm Röpke, met in Röpke’s home of Geneva, Switzerland. During the war, the Genevan fathers coped with shortages by providing citizens with small garden allotments outside the city for growing vegtables. These citizen gardens became so popular with the people of Geneva that the practice was continued even after the war and the return to abundance. Röpke was particularly proud of these citizen farmers, and so he took Mises on a tour of the gardens. “A very inefficient way of producing foodstuffs!” Mises noted disapprovingly. “Perhaps so, but a very efficient way of producing human happiness” was Röpke’s rejoinder.
Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben is essentially a book-length recapitulation and exploration of the Mises-Röpke exchange. McKibben’s task is first to demonstrate the failure of established economic theory to provide an adequate and sustainable account of human well-being and second to develop an alternative paradigm that offers a more durable way forward. On the former count, Deep Economy must be considered a rousing success. On the latter, more difficult score, it is disappointing. McKibben provides valuable insight and important stories of resistance, but he would have benefited from a more thoroughgoing appreciation of the insights of the communitarian Right.
Deep Economy begins with some simple questions: What does it mean to be rich? Is more necessarily better? Why aren’t we happy? McKibben argues that while our preoccupation with utilitarian economics has produced unprecedented growth and material wealth, it has faltered when it comes to providing human happiness and satisfaction. For example, McKibben points out that the established measure of economic growth—the Gross National Product—incorporates perverse incentives for economic exchange such that the most productive (read “happy”) citizen is “a cancer patient who totals his car on his way to meet with his divorce lawyer.” Obviously, evaluating human welfare requires a more supple set of tools.
Far more alarming to McKibben, however, is that the “American way of life”—easy mobility, hyper-individualism, mass consumerism, and the commodification of all things at the altar of the market—has made our society dangerously unstable. “Peak oil” (the phenomena of global oil demand outpacing declining supplies) and global warming feature prominently in McKibben’s argument. He likewise cites studies and anecdotes describing Americans’ general sense of malaise and unease, the widening gap between the haves and have-nots, our obscenely high rate of incarceration, and so on—all despite the continued growth of GDP. This litany amounts to well-trodden ground, and McKibben ably covers it again.
For anyone paying attention, the suggestion that our current economic and social arrangements are like a rickety house just waiting for the roof to fall in is not a hard sell. It is clear that the era of abundant growth and progress driven by a nearly insatiable appetite for the earth’s accumulated stores of cheap fossil energy is nearing an end. It is clear that our political and economic elites are mostly in denial about what this means for our social order. It is clear, whether one buys McKibben’s global-warming alarmism or not, that our sprawl mania is ecologically unsustainable, causing dangerous depletions of natural resources from top soil to water. It is clear that the financial sector is hopelessly overburdened with a legacy of cheap money (which means high debt) backed solely by the presence of cheap oil. It is clear that policy makers in Washington are intent on continuing to provide centralized subsidies to this stumbling behemoth thereby squelching the possible development of true alternatives. Finally, it is clear that as the billions of consumers in the developing world come online and begin to want and expect what we want and expect, the age-old law of scarcity will reassert itself with a vengeance.
Thus the age of “happy motoring”—as James Howard Kunstler has dubbed it—is all but over. McKibben is justifiably worried that the collapse of the postwar economy may bring down the tattered remnants of the social arrangements (not to mention the ecological foundation on which they were built) that stood for centuries. The totality of these complex arrangements are encapsulated for McKibben in the word “community,” which is the real subject of his book. Much of Deep Economy is taken up with the stories of those who are trying to salvage the wealth of true communities before they completely slip from living memory.
It is at this point that McKibben’s assets as a journalist become most valuable to his argument. His prose is lively and engaging, anecdotal rather than systematic. McKibben tells of his “year of eating locally” during which he attempted to obtain all his food from the valley in which he lives. In the course of this experiment, McKibben details the massive global food industry which produces, packages, and delivers virtually every bite to our lips across an average of 1,500 miles. Trying to eat locally was simply an “artificial attempt to persuade myself that some other view of ‘the economy’ was even remotely plausible, that in the absence of the industrial food system I wouldn’t starve.”
Here's a quiz: Which of the following rejected more than 30,000 of the nation's top college seniors this month and put hundreds more on a waitlist? a) Harvard Law School; b) Goldman Sachs; or c) Teach for America.
If you've spent time on university campuses lately, you probably know the answer. Teach for America -- the privately funded program that sends college grads into America's poorest school districts for two years -- received 35,000 applications this year, up 42% from 2008. More than 11% of Ivy League seniors applied, including 35% of African-American seniors at Harvard. Teach for America has been gaining applicants since it was founded in 1990, but its popularity has exploded this year amid a tight job market.
So poor urban and rural school districts must be rejoicing, right? Hardly. Union and bureaucratic opposition is so strong that Teach for America is allotted a mere 3,800 teaching slots nationwide, or a little more than one in 10 of this year's applicants. Districts place a cap on the number of Teach for America teachers they will accept, typically between 10% and 30% of new hires. In the Washington area, that number is about 25% to 30%, but in Chicago, former home of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, it is an embarrassing 10%.
This is a tragic lost opportunity. Teach for America picks up the $20,000 tab for the recruitment and training of each teacher, which saves public money. More important, the program feeds high-energy, high-IQ talent into a teaching profession that desperately needs it. Unions claim the recent grads lack the proper experience and commitment to a teaching career. But the Urban Institute has studied the program and found that "TFA status more than offsets any experience effects. Disadvantaged secondary students would be better off with TFA teachers, especially in math and science, than with fully licensed in-field teachers with three or more years of experience."
Read the rest here.
As a follow-up to presenting the first-ever twittered Passion Play on Good Friday, Trinity Wall Street will now make its Sunday worship services at Trinity Church available via Twitter, the social networking site that allows users to update followers in short bursts of content. Beginning on Sunday, April 26, 2009, the historic church whose founding dates to 1697, will relay services in a series of "tweets" that capture the content of Sunday worship from opening procession and call to worship through scripture readings, the sermon, prayers of the people, and the Eucharist.
Designed to convey the depth and beauty of the liturgy and Holy Eucharist within Twitter's 140 character limit, Trinity's Twitter worship content will capture the essence of the service with truncated language from the Book of Common Prayer, the Bible, and the sermon.
I’ve been recommending this clip from the Conan O’Brien show to anyone willing to listen (many simply back away, slowly…). It’s side-splittingly funny, and about as true as anything I’ve ever heard. Unbeknownst to Louis CK, he speaks to the existential condition of “restlessness” that Tocqueville believed would particularly infect a democratic people, rendering them incapable of satisfaction and inciting them to frenetic and unfulfillable activity. Enjoy - and weep.
Washington, DC -- UK's Lord Christopher Monckton, a former science advisor to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, claimed House Democrats have refused to allow him to appear alongside former Vice President Al Gore at a high profile global warming hearing on Friday April 24, 2009 at 10am in Washington. Monckton told Climate Depot that the Democrats rescinded his scheduled joint appearance at the House Energy and Commerce hearing on Friday. Monckton said he was informed that he would not be allowed to testify alongside Gore when his plane landed from England Thursday afternoon.
“The House Democrats don't want Gore humiliated, so they slammed the door of the Capitol in my face,” Monckton told Climate Depot in an exclusive interview. “They are cowards.”
According to Monckton, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Energy & Commerce Committee, had invited him to go head to head with Gore and testify at the hearing on Capitol Hill Friday. But Monckton now says that when his airplane from London landed in the U.S. on Thursday, he was informed that the former Vice-President had “chickened out” and there would be no joint appearance. Gore is scheduled to testify on Friday to the Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment's fourth day of hearings on the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. The hearing will be held in 2123 Rayburn House Office Building.
According to Monckton, House Democrats told the Republican committee staff earlier this week that they would be putting forward an unnamed 'celebrity' as their star witness Friday at a multi-panel climate hearing examining the House global warming bill. The "celebrity" witness turned out to be Gore. Monckton said the GOP replied they would respond to the Democrats' "celebrity" with an unnamed "celebrity" of their own. But Monckton claims that when the Democrats were told who the GOP witness would be, they refused to allow him to testify alongside Gore.
“The Democrats have a lot to learn about the right of free speech under the US Constitution. Congress Henry Waxman's (D-CA) refusal to expose Al Gore's sci-fi comedy-horror testimony to proper, independent scrutiny by the House minority reeks of naked fear,” Monckton said from the airport Thursday evening.
Read the Rest at Climate Depot; more links there too on 'climate change'.
The Eucharist, the source and summit of the Faith, is the greatest gift we can receive as Catholics. But some of the Faithful cannot receive that same gift, despite their desire to be one body with their fellow Catholics in Christ.
They are celiacs: individuals who cannot ingest wheat or gluten — including rye and barley – without a negative autoimmune reaction and serious intestinal damage.
According to a study by the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, almost one out of every 133 Americans suffers from celiac disease. That means that there may be one celiac, or more, in every Catholic parish with more than 100 members in the United States.
That celiac may even be the priest of the parish or the bishop of the diocese, like the co-adjutor Archbishop of Cincinnati, Dennis Schnurr.
Viable options exist for those who suffer from celiac disease to participate in the Eucharist, but much confusion and some ignorance still remains. What alternatives are there from receiving a traditional wheat host? And how can the Church, and her priests, serve parishioners with celiac better?
What Would Casey Kasem Do?
Wednesday May 10th 2006, 7:55 am
Filed under: Patristics
A visitor named Simon tells me that I should post my “top ten books on early Christianity…No, make that twenty!” Well, I could call him on a technicality because he never said “Simon says.” But I won’t, because I can’t resist his temptation. So I publish this list, with all the usual disclaimers: I do not, of course, endorse everything every author says in every one of these books; nor do I necessarily root for their favorite football teams. I, after all, am a Pittsburgher. Not all of these books are, strictly speaking, books on the Fathers. But these are the books whose scholarship on the Fathers has (in the words of my pre-teen kids) rocked my world.
1. The Spirit of Early Christian Thought by Robert Louis Wilken.
2. The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries by Rodney Stark.
3. The Church of the Fathers by John Henry Newman.
4. The Spirituality of the New Testament and the Fathers by Louis Bouyer.
5. The Celebration of the Eucharist by Enrico Mazza.
6. In Procession Before the World: Martyrdom as Public Liturgy in Early Christianity by Robin Darling Young.
7. The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600), vol. 1 in The Christian Tradition by Jaroslav Pelikan.
8. Face to Face: Portraits of the Divine in Early Christianity by Robin Margaret Jensen.
9. The Christians as the Romans Saw Them by Robert Louis Wilken.
10. Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought by Luigi Gambero.
11. An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine by John Henry Newman.
12. Easter in the Early Church: An Anthology of Jewish and Early Christian Texts by Raniero Cantalamessa.
13. Patrology (four volumes) by Johannes Quasten.
14. Fathers of the Church by Hubertus Drobner.
15. Early Christian Doctrines by J.N.D. Kelly.
16. The Theology of Jewish Christianity by Jean Danielou.
17. In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity by Oskar Skarsaune.
18. Symbols of Church and Kingdom: A Study in Early Syriac Tradition by Robert Murray.
19. Letter and Spirit: From Written Text to Living Word in the Liturgy by Scott Hahn.
20. Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words by Rod Bennett.
Washington D.C., Apr 14, 2009 / 02:28 pm (CNA).- According to a Homeland Security Report distributed to law enforcement organizations, abortion opponents are as great a threat to national security in the immediate future as white supremacists.
The nine-page document was sent to police and sheriff's departments across the country on April 7 under the headline, "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment." The report is unclassified, but is accompanied by a warning that says it “contains information that may be exempt from public release under the Freedom of Information Act.”
The report was prepared by the Extremism and Radicalization Branch of the Department of Homeland Security and claims it was “coordinated with the FBI.”
“Rightwing extremists,” the document says, “have capitalized on the election of the first African American president, and are focusing their efforts to recruit new members, mobilize existing supporters, and broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda, but they have not yet turned to attack planning.”
Nevertheless, according to the report, the combination of a prolonged economic downturn, the election of the first African American President and the return of many veterans with "combat skills" could create an environment similar to the early 90's, which lead to the Oklahoma City bombing.
The report describes "Rightwing extremism" broadly as “those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”
Under the title “Revisiting the 1990s,” the report claims that “paralleling the current national climate, rightwing extremists during the 1990s exploited a variety of social issues and political themes to increase group visibility and recruit new members.”
“Prominent among these themes were the militia movement’s opposition to gun control efforts, criticism of free trade agreements (particularly those with Mexico), and highlighting perceived government infringement on civil liberties as well as white supremacists’ longstanding exploitation of social issues such as abortion, inter-racial crimes, and same-sex marriage.”
The report “is provided to federal, state, local, and tribal counterterrorism and law enforcement officials so they may effectively deter, prevent, preempt, or respond to terrorist attacks against the United States.”
Pro-Lifers On the Post Office Wall
Posted on April 14, 2009, 5:57 PM | Deal W. Hudson
The headline on the Drudge Report really didn't do justice to the content of the Homeland Security report issued by its new director, Janet Napolitano, warning against "right wing" terrorism.
Basically any interest group opposing the Obama administration is listed as potentially dangerous -- pro-lifers, anti-immigration activists, gun owners, and -- get this-- military veterans who find it hard to integrate into society upon their return from active service.
The report is being used, obviously, to set up hate crimes' legislation, supported by Obama, that would criminalize specific language used about, among other groups, homosexuals (yes, also lesbians and the transgendered).
The report describes right-wing extremism as "divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups) and those that are mainly anti-government, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting governmental authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration."
Anti-government? Heavens, we better all get ready to bend our knee to the new administration or we will be accused of "rejecting federal authority."
(No wonder the great state of Texas passed a resolution today calling for state sovereignty!)
Single-issue? That should read a "crackdown" on Evangelicals and Catholics who care enough about the protection of human life, as quaranteed in the Declaration of Independence, to organize, educate, protest, and vote on the basis of the moral principle upon which all other moral principles are based.
Will Fr. Pavone's picture soon be hanging in the local post office? Or Fr. Euteneuer's, or Judie Brown's, or Congressman Chris Smith's.
The post office wall could become the place d'honneur during the Obama years.
[Obama's statement] is an eloquent description of ecumenical civility. In reality, the experience of Arab Christians living now amid majority Islamic populations is often repression, arrest, imprisonment and death.
Coptic Christians in Egypt have been singled out for discrimination and persecution. Muslim rioters often burn or vandalize their churches and shops.
In Turkey, the Syriac Orthodox Church (its 3,000 members speak Aramaic, the language of Christ) is battling with Turkish authorities over the lands around the Mor Gabriel monastery, built in 397.
Pakistan's recent peace deal with the Taliban in the Swat Valley puts at risk the 500 Christians still trying to live there. Many fled after Islamic extremists bombed a girls' school late last year. Pakistan has never let them buy land to build a church.
In 1995, the Saudis were allowed to build a mosque in Rome near the Vatican, but never reciprocated with a Christian church in their country. Saudi Arabia even forbids private worship at home for some one million Christian migrant workers.
In Iraq, the situation for small religious minorities has become dire. Reports emerge regularly of mortal danger there for groups that date to antiquity -- Chaldean-Assyrians, the Yazidis and Sabean Mandaeans, who revere John the Baptist. Last fall the Chaldean-Assyrian archbishop of Mosul was kidnapped and murdered. Some Iraqi Christians believe the new government won't protect them, and talk of moving into a "homeland" enclave in Nineveh. Penn State Prof. Philip Jenkins, author of "The Lost History of Christianity," calls the Iraq situation "a classic example of a church that is killed over time."
In short, the "respect" Mr. Obama promised to give Islam is going only in one direction. And he knows that.
Chinese Bias for Baby Boys Creates a Gap of 32 Million
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By SHARON LaFRANIERE
Published: April 10, 2009
BEIJING — A bias in favor of male offspring has left China with 32 million more boys under the age of 20 than girls, creating “an imminent generation of excess men,” a study released Friday said.
For the next 20 years, China will have increasingly more men than women of reproductive age, according to the paper, which was published online by the British Medical Journal. “Nothing can be done now to prevent this,” the researchers said.
Chinese government planners have long known that the urge of couples to have sons was skewing the gender balance of the population. But the study, by two Chinese university professors and a London researcher, provides some of the first hard data on the extent of the disparity and the factors contributing to it.
In 2005 , they found, births of boys in China exceeded births of girls by more than 1.1 million. There were 120 boys born for every 100 girls.
This disparity seems to surpass that of any other country, they said — a finding, they wrote, that was perhaps unsurprising in light of China’s one-child policy.
They attributed the imbalance almost entirely to couples’ decisions to abort female fetuses.
The trend toward more male than female children intensified steadily after 1986, they said, as ultrasound tests and abortion became more available. “Sex-selective abortion accounts for almost all the excess males,” the paper said.
Read the rest.
10 Reasons the Resurrection Really Happened
Christianity hinges on whether Jesus rose from the grave on the third day. Jeffrey Hart goes back to re-examine evidence—from the Shroud of Turin to the location of the nails at the Crucifixion.
Did the resurrection really happen? The empirical evidence is better than you may think.
This is important because Christianity requires much more in the way of belief than Islam or Judaism does.
Judaism requires belief in one God, honoring the history of the people as established in scripture (with considerable support from archaeology), and the law, beginning with the Ten Commandments set forth by Moses. Leviticus elaborates on the law at great length, and forms of Judaism differ on how much of the law elaborated there is to be observed.
Christianity asks much more. It requires belief that Jesus was crucified, died, was entombed, and rose from the dead on the third day. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me...
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith... Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than are all men.
That lays it on the line. “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
A number of things can be said about this passage. Since Paul was executed in Rome about 65 A.D., this is the earliest testimony we have regarding the alleged resurrection. The four Gospels provide much more, notably Luke 24:32. Second, Paul seems to know that the claims about the resurrection are difficult to believe. He cites 500 witnesses, “most of whom are still living.” That is, empirical evidence exists about what Paul says, and if Paul is lying, this can be established. Incidentally, Arthur Darby Nock, our foremost Paul scholar, thinks Paul (then Saul) very likely heard Jesus speak at the synagogue in Tarsus long before Saul’s famous conversion on the road to Damascus (in today’s Syria).
That Jesus rose on the third day remains very hard to believe. Not least is the fact that a body dead for that length of time would decay considerably and would have to be fully reconstituted in order to appear alive. So let us follow the scholar Ian Wilson to Turin and there walk to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and there to the circular, black Royal Chapel designed by Guarino Guarini. There behind iron grills in a locked chamber is a linen cloth known as the Shroud of Turin.
Ian Wilson is a well-informed scholar on regarding the facts regarding the Shroud of Turin, and in his 1979 book, The Shroud of Turin: The Burial Cloth of Jesus Christ (Doubleday), he brought together the evidence and the conclusions reached by many other experts in this field (“Sindonologists”). It seems to me, difficult to believe though it may be, that this ancient linen cloth is in fact the shroud Jesus was wrapped in before he was placed in the tomb. Here I will summarize the argument of Mr. Wilson’s book:
1. Pollen does not decay. And ancient pollen in the linen cloth indicates the origin of this linen cloth in Jerusalem and also traces its journey from Jerusalem from the Middle East through Europe. It is almost impossible that forgery could accomplish this. (David Hume: Call your office.)
2. The body was laid on the cloth and the remainder of the cloth folded over the body to produce front and back images of the man.
3. A startling fact: The image of the man on the Shroud turns out to be a photographic negative. When photographed it became a positive. Again, this seems to rule out an ancient forgery, that is, long before the invention of photography.
4. In most modern representations of the Crucifixion, the nails are shown as going through the palms. But as this image shows, the nails actually went through an aperture in the wrists. Had the nails gone through the palms, they would not have sustained body weight and would have torn through the flesh, the body falling from the cross. Execution required that the man die on the cross from lack of oxygen as he repeatedly tried to raise his body on the nails in order to breathe. Execution was slow.
5. Wounds on the back of the body indicate flogging by the Roman flagrum—metal weights attached to leather cords wielded by a wooden handle.
6. Had the image been painted on the cloth by a forger, the paint traces of the pigment would have remained on the surface. The color here penetrates the cloth evenly from one side to another. Note: In this, it is more like a scorch.
7. An objection: The Romans executed many men this way. Indeed, two criminals were executed that day along with Jesus. Could this shroud be that of another similarly executed man? It’s very unlikely. Crucifixion was disgraceful and an expression of contempt for the criminal. It is unlikely that the family or friends of a man of that sort would have wrapped his body in an expensive linen cloth—or that such a cloth would have been saved later on and made its way from the Middle East across Europe. Representations of Jesus in art reflect a knowledge of the Shroud by European artists.
8. Ian Wilson concludes that the image on the cloth is a “paranormal” phenomenon. That is, not made by hands. But how?
9. Speculation: The scorch might have been made by radioactivity attendant upon the resurrection. Whether or not it is pertinent, the Big Bang at the beginning of the universe produced measurable radiation that determines that the universe is about 13.7 billion years old. If the scorch on the Shroud is the result of radiation, it could have been radiation that reconstituted the dead body. But that is merely speculation.
10. Ian Wilson’s book appeared in 1978. In 1988, carbon 14 tests were conducted indicating a medieval date for the Shroud. But that result is controversial and almost certainly wrong, for reasons cited above. In fact, along its journey to Turin, the Shroud was in a church that was the scene of a fire, and that could have corrupted the carbon dating.
Jeffrey Hart is professor emeritus of English at Dartmouth College. He wrote for the National Review for more than three decades, where he was senior editor. He wrote speeches for Ronald Reagan while he was governor of California, and for Richard Nixon.
The first and greatest priority is God himself, that God who is too easily pushed to the edges of our lives, focused on "doing," especially through "techno-science," and on "enjoyment-consumption." That God is even expressly negated by an evolutionist "metaphysics" that reduces everything to nature, to matter-energy, to chance (random mutations) and to necessity (natural selection), or more often is said to be unknowable according to the principle that "latet omne verum," all truth is hidden, as a result of the restriction of the horizons of our reason to that which can be experienced and measured, according to the view now prevalent. That God, finally, who has been proclaimed "dead," with the assertion of nihilism and the resulting collapse of all certainty.
The most terrible malady in the West today is not tubercolosis or leprosy but feeling unwanted, unloved and abandoned. We know how to cure bodily sickness with medicine, but the only remedy for loneliness, helplessness and despair is love. Many die in our world for lack of a piece of bread but even more die for lack of a little love. Poverty in the West is a different sort of poverty: not just the poverty of being alone but also of spirituality. There is such a thing as a hunger for love just as there is a hunger for God.
It is one of the great paradoxes of our time that man, who began the period we call "modernity" with a self-confident assertion of his "coming of age" and "autonomy", approaches the end of the twentieth century fearful of himself, fearful of what he might be capable of, fearful for the future.Over the last four decades, Christianity has even questioned the importance of its doctrines, tradition, identity, and even itself. I am convinced that orthodox Christian faith, especially Catholicism, bears the fullness of Truth to shed light on the darkness of this world, leading mankind to his ultimate destiny with God. The Church has the ability to answer the deepest longings of the human heart: love, Truth, justice, hope, faith, charity, communion, unity, and above all a relationship with the Creator. The Church, divinely instituted, is the only power on earth that has the tools to build a culture around those aforementioned longings. She must permeate every aspect of modern life with a powerful witness to the Truth; as Pope Benedict has said,
Christianity, Catholicism, isn't a collection of prohibitions; it's a positive option.