Sunday, April 30, 2006

No Comment

By The Raving Atheist

How am I going to handle the comments? That was my greatest concern upon accepting the keys to The Dawn Patrol. Apart from automatic spam controls, the comments aren’t touched at The Raving Atheist. Dawn, however, enforces the dread Harris Protocol. I barely made it through Robert’s Rules of Order, and had no desire to learn and apply a new set of speech regulations.

Fortunately, Dawn agreed to continue to police you. (Yes, you). But the prospect of assuming that unfamiliar role got me thinking about some of the free speech and censorship issues that arise at religious and secular blogs. In particular, I was wondering whether the stereotypes of the prudish (or authoritarian) believer vs libertine atheist withstood scrutiny. Also, given that abortion is a frequent topic at TRA and the Patrol, I’ve also considered whether there is more censorship on the pro-life or pro-choice side of the blogosphere. Although abortion isn’t a religious issue for me (nothing is), the debate generally breaks down along faith-based lines. So if the stereotypes held, you might predict more censorship at pro-life blogs (at least the non-atheist ones).

As noted, at my godless site reader submissions are completed unregulated. Is this in any way a function of my atheism? Indirectly. First, atheism is a negative philosophy, in the sense that its only purpose is to negate and attack theism. Such criticism, at least in societies with a religious majority, requires protection to survive. So atheists (especially those running the ACLU) have traditionally advocated strong free speech guarantees. And it would make little sense for an atheist blogger to censor believers, because their views are very subject matter of his site.

Atheists also tend to be blasphemers, which often leads to obscenity. Doestevsky's "everything is permitted" naturally morphs into Cole Porter’s Anything Goes: “Good authors too who once knew better words/Now only use four-letter words." My own cursing has declined over the years, but in the early days it was ubiquitous. Bad language are not a necessary component of atheist discourse, and, in fact, large philosophical works devoted to the topic have been written without them. But with respect to censorship, my point is just that given my own behavior I’m in no position to criticize or curtail anyone else's choice of words.

Atheists can, of course, be censors. Communists don't have a reputation as civil libertarians. And being a disfavored minority doesn’t inevitably lead to a love of speech -- the Nazis who fight for the right to march obviously wouldn’t reciprocate once in power. (Note: comments debating whether communism/Nazism are necessary consequences of atheism, or vice versa, will be deleted).

Atheism, by its nature, also acts as a censor, or at least a filter. Many religious people would not read, much less post comments on, an atheist blog. And those who do sometimes find them driven off by the nastiness of the atheist regulars, who forgo civil debate to exploit known sensitivities to blasphemy and obscenity. Some of my readers view TRA as a private atheist club, with the religious being unwelcome, proselytizing outsiders. So my failure to moderate has resulted in a less open forum in some ways.

The club atmosphere, however, is more prevalent at religious blogs, and more likely to be enforced by the site proprietor. Many of them are akin to churches or prayer groups. Their point is to worship and glorify God, not to debate. Atheists who leave comments can expect to be expelled as surely as they would had they started ranting in a cathedral. Some religious sites do welcome theological dialogue, but commonly the discussion is limited to narrow doctrinal differences within the context of theism rather across the theism/atheism divide. This is not necessarily evidence of theocratic intolerance -- it’s just a function of having a narrowly-themed blog. I'd expect (and deserve) to be banned if I started extolling the virtues of atheism at a stamp collecting blog, or engaged in cat-hating at a feline fanciers' site (or a cat god one).

The religious sites with the least censorship are those devoting to refuting atheism rather than promoting theism. Like atheist blogs, they depend to some degree on input from their adversaries. But there aren't very many of them (in fact, the only one I can think of is a defunct blog called The Secularist Critique).

The Patrol is not, strictly speaking, a religion blog. But it is evolving in that direction. Its author already has such a reputation as a religious wingnut (I take no position on the question) that no matter how common-sensically she writes her views are denounced as mere sectarian dogma. Her reputation as a censor is almost as bad. Stories of "banishment from Eden" so permeate the Blogsophere that you’d think you were reading Genesis. "She deleted me just for disagreeing with her" is a common refrain.

To which I say, bullsh*t. Not just because she's letting someone like me guest host (which can be attributed to our agreement on other issues) or just because she's never deleted any of my comments (which can be attributed to me being careful). I've read enough of the complaints -- usually posted at comments sections in other blogs with the offending Patrol comment reproduced -- to know better. Invariably, the commenter either engaged in a unacceptable level vulgarity or, more commonly, expressed the disagreement on an off-topic subject.

I don't obsessively police Dawn's policing and I imagine it's possible that she sometimes bans someone out of pure spite. (I certainly hope so). But what I find ironic is that the sites I've found much of the complaining on are atheist and/or liberal sites that have banned or threatened to ban me -- Pandagon, Feministe and BushvChoice -- for politely expressing an opinion, usually about abortion. The Pandagon ban (by atheist blogger Amanda Marcotte) resulted from commentary on the John Roberts nomination (reproduced here) which did not even mention "choice." The comment deleted from BushvChoice (see full discussion here) also concerned Roberts, including his views on abortion and other topics. Atheist Lauren threatened to ban me from Feministe (see here) for allegedly "hijacking" a comment thread -- after leaving an on-topic comment, I made the mistaking of responding to her fans' patently off-topic questions to me about my abortion stance. And Jill of Feministe more recently implied that I was banned from that blog (I haven't tried commenting to see if it is so) for allegedly mischaracterizing her view on abortion and religion at a post on my site (discussion here).

It's surprising to me that people who complain so frequently about religious oppression and advocate abortion up to the line of infanticide can be so thin-skinned sometimes about mere words. BushvChoice even once deleted a comment by Katha Pollitt -- an atheist pro-choice advocate -- because she criticized NARAL's support of pro-choice Republicans who voted for cloture on the Alito nomination debate (see here). It hurts me not to blame such intolerance on religion, so I'll just chalk it up to religious zeal (about politics). Or maybe "magical thinking" (which, as Amanda taught me, is how atheists can insult other for expressing allegedly superstitious thoughts).

I suppose Dawn will have an easy time overseeing the comments to this post since I haven't really said anything on which reasonable people could disagree. It's been fun guest-hosting the Patrol and I hope you've enjoyed my stay. If you haven’t, well, I have just two words for you:

[God Bless!]
[Conclusion Edited by Siteowner]

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Stoops to Conquer

Happiness is...a friend who offers to come over two evenings in a row to help you pack.

I'm still packing...but took a break earlier tonight so that my thoughtful friend Kevin could photograph me on my last night at my old place. You can see some of my discarded furniture in this shot — getting new stuff for the new place, praise God! Finally, at age 37, I will live in a place that looks like a grownup's home and not an overcrowded dorm room.

(Back to you, Raving Atheist.)

Secularist Organization Cracks Down on “Cafeteria Atheists”

New York, New York, April 28, 2006
Special to The Dawn Patrol
By The Raving Atheist

The nation's largest secular organization is purging its membership of so-called "cafeteria atheists" -- atheists who selectively exercise the freedom bestowed upon them by the absence of a supervising deity, picking and choosing among the vices they commit rather than engaging in every conceivable form of self-degradation.

American Atheists yesterday announced that the dissenters would be denied the nonsacrament of the "Eu Can’t Resist," a quasi-cannibalistic rite in which the flesh and blood of an unborn human is shed to symbolize a lack of restraint and the meaninglessness of life. However, many cafeteria atheists have already dispensed with the rite, or liberalized it by adopting a nine-month waiting period and releasing the resulting being to enjoy its own freedom.

The rift between cafeteria atheists and traditional atheists has been widening since the advent of Hefner II, in which the secular governing council eliminated all limits on the number of permissible sexual partners and liberalized other restrictions on civilized behavior.

One traditionalist bitterly condemned the godless newcomers for their "not unholier-than-thou" attitude. "I was raised atheist by pot-smoking hippies and my aunt is a prostitute," said Rainbow Skylark. "It sticks in my craw when people who f---ed around through their 20’s and then discovered atheism swan around telling everyone else -- including lifelong atheists -- that rationality requires One True Morality consistent with stable relationships and human life."

Self-described "atheist apostate" James Maclan disagreed. "Reason does not require the abandonment of rules or ethics," he said. "In any event, those who advocate the rejection of all laws cannot object to the violation of their own."

Friday, April 28, 2006

Packing Is Dis-tressing

Dawn again. (Trust me, The Raving Atheist wouldn't look quite like this in a blonde wig.)

I had to say goodbye to my Ann Coulter wig. I'm afraid it will not survive the move.

I wore it only once before, Halloween 2004. It disappointed me deeply when none of my New York Post co-workers knew whom I was supposed to be. In fact, they never even asked. Perhaps they were too scared.

Related: Charles G. (Dustbury) Hill's "Ann Coulter/Dawn Eden Dichotomy".

What Would Teresa Do?

Dawn again. I was just reading in St. Teresa of Avila's Life that one should regularly pray for the souls in Purgatory. What is a good prayer to say for such souls?

Hubba Bubble

Dawn here, squeezing in a quick hello as I pack. I'm thinking about the things I'll miss about this town where I've lived for over 15 years. I think the main thing I'll miss is being able to stop on my way to work to buy bubble tea. The place that sells it to me makes it with a mix of iced tea and iced coffee, both premixed with milk and sugar. It sounds weird but is absolutely delicious.


The Raving Atheist

As a Texas prison worker, Shirley Setterbo helped rehabilitate felons. The tables were turned last year when she revealed to the inmates that she had been an atheist for three decades — she was viewed as the biggest sinner in the joint and they all began praying for her reformation. She chronicled that experience in a blog called AtheistExposed, which has unfortunately been deleted. However, she's created a new blog, AtheistExposed2, in which she records similar adventures in coming out godless in her new office job within the correctional system.

I thought that in her relatively cushy work environment, Shirley might be missing the challenge of a really tough audience. The people at my crisis pregnancy center seem pretty hardcore, at least faith-wise, so I suggested that she volunteer at a local CPC and try her luck proselytizing there. Although I offered to cross-post her adventures on my regular blog, she wrote back reluctantly:

You know . . . It's an uncomfortable issue . . . I'm really not concrete on my views on the issue. I mean, I don't think children should be born to parents, that don't want to, or are not ready to raise them. So many of the federal prisoners came from just that environment. But, the whole ugliness of killing a baby is just so dreadful, I can barely stand to think of it. But, It does sound like a lively conversation starter. Let me sleep on it a night or two. I think it might, do some good, in spreading the word -- "That Atheists are good people". Shirley
Is it legitimate to argue that children who lead a life of crime result from women who commit the crime of life? I think you'll have an easier time convincing Shirley of the flaws of that reasoning than she'll have persuading a CPC crowd that there are errors in their cosmological, teleological and ontological arguments. Whatever the case, I'm sure that we all agree in the end, the Truth will prevail. In the meantime, try to talk Shirley into copping a plea for a "life" sentence.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Atheist Turns Catholic Blog into Soapbox for Blasphemy

New York, New York, April 27, 2006
Special to The Dawn Patrol

Reneging on a solemn promise to “behave,” an atheist guest-hosting at a Catholic blog has vowed to turn the site into a forum for the blasphemous advocacy of promiscuity, abortion and pornography.

The Raving Atheist, entrusted with the password to The Dawn Patrol while its proprietress prepares for a move, announced his plans to defile the blog at a press conference in front of Planned Parenthood’s headquarters.

TRA said he would expose the Patrol’s readership to the sordid world of polygamy, obscenity, feticide and loveless bed-hopping with liberal links to sites such as Pandagon and Feministe. “Furthermore, by offering pointed criticisms of their godless, libertine lifestyles, I’ll insure that the shrill, depraved harpies who run those sites will pollute the Patrol’s comments section with attacks on everything decent,” he said. He promised to incite them further by censoring or deleting any off-color or off-topic diatribes, in the hope that they would then litter the Blogosphere with intemperate, ad hominen attacks upon Dawn Eden’s faith, morals, work history and personal life.

TRA added that he was particularly looking forward to the reaction of the Patrol’s religious following to the expected onslaught. "Their faith will be sorely tested as they are swept up into an unfamiliar world of controversy and hatred," he said. TRA suggested he might enlist the help of another atheist blogger, Saint Kansas, to stir the pot and maximize anger and confusion among the faith-based regulars.

One thing that he will not touch, TRA noted, is the blog’s name. "I want 'The Dawn Patrol’ to be forever associated with Satan's war against humanity," he said. "So the more things change at this site, the more that will remain the same."

Long May He Rave

I'm preparing for a move, so, from now through Sunday, I'm handing the Dawn Patrol reins to The Raving Atheist. I know he's got some great things planned, so please stay tuned.

Quote of the Day

Jeff Grimshaw on Gene Pitney's hit version of the Ned Washington/Dmitri Tiomkin movie theme "Town Without Pity":

For one thing, it doesn’t sound like an actual song so much as it sounds like some bizarre, over-the-top Saturday Night Live parody of an actual song. Musically it’s a close cousin to sleazy burlesque numbers like "Night Train" but the huge brass section pumps so much testosterone into the arrangement it’s something else entirely. It totally transcends ‘sleazy’ and crosses over into ‘clinically insane.’ And of course wailing away on top of this, there’s the late great Gene Pitney. He takes on a brass section roughly the size of Patton’s Third Army and fights it to a draw; he grabs the tune by the throat, slams it into the dresser, frog-marches it into the bathroom, sticks its head in the toilet, slams the lid, and flushes repeatedly. "Had enough??" pants Gene. "Town without Pity" stands up, dripping, spits out 15 or 20 teeth, and says, "Is that all you got, bitch?" But it's not! Gene's got plenty left!! What a singer! What a song! It’s like Ali versus Foreman! Or more properly, Alien Versus Predator, in that no matter which one wins, we lose . . .

Here Comes the Son

My seminarian friend Dennis Schenkel just posted a practice homily, which he wrote for this past Sunday's readings.

I mentioned a few days ago that a friend had complained about dull Catholic preaching. Dennis is not one for dullness, that's for sure. His palpable enthusiasm for expounding upon God's Word is refreshing.

I have to say, I'm either too young or too old for Dennis's Fred, Velma, and Shaggy references. (Truthfully, nearly any television or film reference in a homily makes me cringe.) But that doesn't really matter, because he uses Scooby to make an excellent point. What's more, I love the message behind one of his other pop-cultural references, regarding the resurrected Jesus' first appearance in the upper room:

The Bible doesn’t tell us what they were thinking, but imagine what you would have been thinking. Imagine that your friend, who trusted you, had been arrested and executed, and during his trial, when he needed his friends most, you had not been there for him, you had not said one word in his defense, and you even told other people that you didn’t even know him. If you had heard that your friend was back from the dead, would you be looking forward to seeing him? Or would you be hearing the voice of the movie trailer guy in your head saying:
and THIS time…

Yeah, Peter and his friends were probably not feeling very brave that day. But the thing that happened next was not at all like the thing they were most afraid of ...
[Read the whole thing.]

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Feministe's Church Lady

UPDATE, 5/9/12: Welcome, Feministe readers! If you would like to learn more about my new book My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, watch this video to hear me speak about it. In the video, I also talk more about the regrets I expressed to Jennifer Fulwiler over having used my blog and other media to engage in personal attacks.

Original post:

Blame The Da Vinci Code.

Suddenly, everyone wants to be Catholic — if only so they can retain their politically correct credentials while bashing the Church. It's sort of like Jews' using their religion as an excuse to tell "Abe and Sol" jokes (a pet peeve of my sister the rabbi), or black rappers' arguing that the n-word's not racist when they use it.

Now, Feministe's Zuzu writes in a post titled "Converts' Zeal" that she, as an "officially apostate" Catholic, is infuriated when new converts like myself claim to express the Church's teachings:

Um, folks, I was raised Catholic. I’m of an ethnic group (Irish) where I am presumed to be Catholic. My aunt is a nun. Anyone who hears that there are six children in my family almost invariably mentions Catholicism. Even though I am officially an apostate now (ask me how!), I still have trouble not thinking of myself as Catholic, and I know that others assume I am still one. ...

But I have been subject to anti-Catholic bullsh-t in my life, including in law school, by a professor (who not only let a role-play exercise on the Church’s AIDS policies devolve into Catholic-bashing, he participated with cracks about the wine during Mass, complete with “drinky drinky” hand gestures, which I took as a slam against Irish Catholics, because nobody gets on the Italians or Latinos for drinking). . . .

So, yes, it sticks in my craw when people who f---ed around through their 20s and then found the Catholic Church swan around telling everyone else — including lifelong Catholics — that they have found the One True Way. These are people who idealize the Church because they have no institutional memory of the way things used to be. [Click here for the full post.]
She then quotes a comment referencing me from another Feministe blog entry (there's a cottage industry in angry-feminist Dawn Patrol retorts), which reads in part:
The main reason why I no longer attend a Catholic Church and now attend our lovely Episcopalian Church is because of the nature of recent converts. They have all but destroyed our parish.
The commenter then brings up a few of the Church-connected horrors which I have unfairly escaped as a recent convert, including the Magdalene laundries. The message is that I, knowing only the "nice" Church, have no right to assume that the dogmas I learned in the Catechism will lead to a world of niceness. In fact, according to Zuzu and her amen corner, the Catechism points to drunkenness (apparently that professor wasn't so far off) and white slavery.

There's a recognizable pattern to many of the responses to Zuzu's post, but I'll leave it to you to discover it for yourself. Here are some excerpts (or you can read them all):
Hear, hear. I was raised Catholic and also lapsed. I grew up in an extremely conservative small-town and there was a strong undercurrent of anti-Catholicism. Before I rejected Christianity altogether I was always proud that my fellow Catholics weren’t nearly as g--damn preachy and in your face all the time as the protestants were.

* * *

I too am I former Catholic, Irish, though I was part of a very liberal family, wherein we were always taught the spirit of kindness and giving and love and understanding rather than the bullsh-t preaching and condemning that goes on these days.

* * *

thanks for this, Zuzu. Also lapsed Irish Catholic; and adopted, so I’m Polish Catholic too. And still after being lapsed for more than 12 years, it’s really, really hard to not think of myself as Catholic, or to not get bent out of shape at really inappropriate Catholic-bashing (my personal favorite was the Jehovah’s Witness who came to my door and told me my mother, being a Catholic, was an idol-worshipper). Or not to hope that one day the Catholic church (as theocratic entity and international politico extraordinaire) will become what it could be as opposed to what it is.

* * *

I was raised in a village where 92% of the town is Catholic and I would guess about 80% of us attended the large Catholic Church a block from the high school that could seat/stand 5,000 on Christmas. I did religion class every Tuesday from k-8th grade, then two years of 8 weeks of two hours every Wed night seminar confirmation prep classes. I’ve been Baptised, I’m clear to take communion, and I’ve done Reconciliation. I quit a year before Confirmation, however three of my five good friends from high school I still keep in touch with are Catholic. And when I realized that Catholicism wasn’t right for me, I did more studying into the religion then most kids who were raised Catholic or converted. I wanted so badly to make it right so I could make my mother and grandparents happy. It didn’t work, but I still consider myself kinda culturally Catholic. It doesn’t matter what religion I am now (neo-pagan actually), a part of Catholcism will always be with me.

* * *

I call RCIA converts “magisterium Catholics.” I used to be one. My mom made my brother and I go kicking and screaming to our very first mass when we were 11 and 13 respectively. Having no religious references at all we thought the Lord’s Prayer chanted by the parish sounded a lot like the borg assimilation speech.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Taking a break from blogging this early morning so I may finish a chapter in Teresa of Avila's Life before going to bed.

For another good read, read the story I edited about a bat mitzvah girl who, with her Labrador, does mitzvot (good deeds) for the elderly. (It's up now — fixed the link.)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

In His steps

Caravaggio, The Entombment
(click on picture for larger image)

Just before 8 p.m. last night, I arrived at St. Patrick's Old Cathedral, on Mott Street in lower Manhattan, for the annual "Way of the Cross" procession through downtown.

The event was organized by Geoff Gentile, one-half of the RCIA team at the Church of Our Saviour. He's in his 20s, and most of the 80 or so people who showed up on that rainy evening looked to be in their 20s and 30s. The crew included at least one priest, a St. Joseph's seminarian, and a Franciscan friar.

Speaking of the rain, I had bought an umbrella on the way to the meeting place, but right at the point when we did our first Station there outside the old St. Patrick's, the rain stopped. A good sign.

Over the course of four hours, as we did the 14 Stations, we walked through the Lower East Side and the East and West Village — as far east as Tompkins Square Park, as far west as Washington Street, and as far north as Union Square Park. Wherever we went, the wooden cross went first, lifted high by one of the men. A few other participants carried tall torches, which also served to relight walkers' candles. Many walkers carried palm leaves; a few palm leaves were also draped around the cross.

We did the Stations mostly outside churches — Catholic ones — including a Latino church, a Polish one (St. Stanislaus), and one that I think was Slovenian (St. Cyril's). The diversity of ethnic churches within a few square miles was a beautiful reminder of Catholicism's universality.

We did most of the other Stations at parks. At Union Square, we found ourselves beneath a stunning statue on a high pedestal of Mary holding the baby Jesus, with John the Baptist standing by. (I cannot find any mention of this online and would love it if someone could tell me more about it.) I've walked by that spot numerous times , mostly during the years before I was a Christian, and I don't recall ever noticing it before. It's a mysterious reminder of Jesus and His Mother, placed in one of the city's most famously anti-Christian locations (which has hosted countless communist and socialist protests over the years).

We also did one Station, the second, at a place where thousands of innocent people had been killed. It was at Margaret Sanger Square, at the side of Planned Parenthood of New York City's headquarters.

As we walked, we usually sang — "Ave Maria" (a chant, not the song), "Were You There," "Misericordias Domini," "Ubi Caritas," "Salve Regina," "Our Father," and the like.

I was reminded that the Protestants have nearly all the best songs. No Fanny Crosby tunes wafted through the cool evening air, neither was there "And Can It Be" or "Amazing Grace."

On the upside, no one volunteered "Our God Is an Awesome God."

We walked past posters for Madonna's tour, which is called "Confessions." We sang praises to God in Latin as we passed shops with names like The Shape of Lies. We chanted about the Lamb of God when we walked past the satanic-themed Slaughtered Lamb Pub. We sang "Ave Marie" all the way down Christopher Street, past the homosexual cruisers and the display windows of leather and chains.

We also walked past Weinstein dormitory, where I lived for four years when I went to New York University during the late 1980s. We went through the streets where I had been so unhappy as a college student, suffering from depression and believing that if there were a God, He didn't care about me. We proceeded within 100 feet of where a fresh-faced college student handed me a pocket Gideons New Testament back then, which I held onto over the years even though I didn't read it much, and which I finally began reading in earnest in 1999, weeks before I received my long-desired faith.

I felt sad for a moment as I wished I'd learned the beauty of the Church in college and saved myself years of wandering in the wilderness. But then I thought that God must have known what he was doing. Perhaps if I'd entered the Church back then, I wouldn't have had a strong enough foundation to cleave to it. Also, my relationships with some of my family members have deepened since that time; loved ones accept my conversion, who might have distanced themselves from me had I converted back then,

As the procession wound its way through the Village, our songs echoing through the night, I had the distinct feeling that we were bringing salt and light. That, and an unmistable sword.

I had a mental image which had also come to me when I had my First Communion, that I think I got from Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. It's an image of the globe sheathed in darkness, but every so often a patch of light breaks through. It's like patches of new, healed skin emerging on a leper — and the healing keeps leading to more healing.

It felt so radical to take back the streets with song and prayer. We weren't blocking anyone, nor accosting anyone. All we were doing was being a living witness to Jesus' love and lordship.

I loved it, and I was so thankful to be part of a Church that would witness so boldly, peacefully, and powerfully. I want to pray outside abortion clinics now. I want to do processions everywhere.

People on the street had the predictable reactions. One young drunk asked us what we were doing; when someone told him, he said, "It is a Good Friday!" Another young man made a big show of saying, "I'm not with these guys, I have nothing to do with these guys, " as we passed by. A young, fashionable-looking woman eating in a restaurant put her fork down and turned her head to the window , mystified by the parade. Another woman, a bit older (40 is old for the Village), stopped as we passed her and smiled with apparent approval.

After singing and chanting our way down Christopher Street, we did the 12th Station at St. Veronica's Church on Christopher Street, across from the Archives building, where Monica Lewinsky lives. Then we walked to St. Vincent's Hospital, to observe the 13th Station at the Wall of Hope and Remembrance, where families and friends of 9/11 victims placed missing posters during the weeks following the attacks.

As midnight approached, we did the final station at St. Joseph's on Sixth Avenue and Washington Place. I had been there before; the church donates its basement to the local charity Caring Community, to prepare meals that are delivered to the elderly and shut-ins.

After the last prayer was said, one of the participants, a young man who had sung in a fine tenor voice, called out, "And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."

I had been thinking of the same verse, John 1:5.

The darkness didn't know what hit it last night. But come Easter morning, the sun will shine brighter there in lower Manhattan — and everywhere.

Praise God!

Friday, April 7, 2006

Someday Her Prints Will Succumb

Calling all Sixties and Seventies rock fans: Photographer Deborah Chesler recently started a blog with the arresting title Everybody I Shot Is Dead. She's already published a nice Seventies pic of Gene Pitney; also on tap, she promises, are photos she took of Harry Nilsson, Marc Bolan, George Harrison, Dennis and Carl Wilson, and others.

Good to the Bone

Florence Yoo is a beautiful, effervescent musician and comedienne. People in her field generally put their energies into promoting themselves. She does that, and does it well. But recently, she was asked to put her mailing list to work to save the life of a young woman she's never met.

Filmmaker Christine Pechera has non-Hodgkins lymphoma and is in desperate need of a bone-marrow transplant. That in turn means finding a compatible donor. Doctors say Pechera's best chance of survival is if a donor is found within a month and a half.

When Yoo learned of Pechera's plight, she did more than just send out a global e-mail. She's made it her mission to find the filmmaker a donor — and, in the process, save more lives, by convincing more people to join the National Marrow Donor Program.

Writer Heather Robinson tells Yoo's and Pechera's story in the latest Big Town, Big Heart, the Daily News feature I edit. If you're not familiar with the National Marrow Donor Program, please read it and learn how you may be able to help save a life.

'I've never, ever been away'
How Pitney Convinced Me of His Gene-ius

The post that was here is now at its new home on National Review Online.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

U.K. Obstetricians Blast 'Bed-Blocking' Preemies

A person's a person, no matter how small — unless he or she is using valuable resources that could be used to support a better-abled individual, according to Britain's Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The Norwich Evening News reports:

Research to be presented at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health's annual conference later this month shows babies born at 25 weeks or under cost almost three times as much to educate by the time they turn six as those born at full term.

In its response to an in-depth inquiry into premature babies by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, the RCOG writes: "Some weight should be given to the economic considerations (of neonatal intensive care) as there is a real issue in neonatal units of 'bed blocking', whereby women have to be transferred in labour to other units, compromising both their and their babies' care. One of the problems of the 'success' of neonatal intensive care is that the practitioners are always pushing the boundaries. There has been a constant need to expand numbers of cots to cover the increasing tendency to try to rescue baby at lower and lower gestations."
The article notes that the current abortion limit in Britain is 24 weeks.

I don't believe it's a coincidence that the United Kingdom's obstetricians and gynecologists, whose job includes providing state-funded abortions, are out to prove that babies 24 weeks and younger don't deserve to live. After all, the more premature babies survive and thrive, the more it proves that the abortions performed on babies the same age are truly murder.

It's the same line of thinking that infects abortion supporters in the United States who oppose efforts to call unborn babies persons. After all, it's not politically correct to call abortion murder. Keep calling it simply "abortion" or better yet, "pregnancy termination," and everyone's conscience will be clear.

The Evening News also has an excellent trio of interviews with parents of premature babies and with children who were born prematurely. Here are excerpts and links to the articles:
  • "Mum-of-six fuming at 'bed-blocking' row":
    When Carol Watts started to go into labour at 24 weeks, she feared her baby would not survive.

    This week, at home with her daughter Tara, now 12, she hit back at claims that premature babies are bed blockers and a burden to the NHS.

    Mrs Watts, now 43, called Carol White at the time of the birth in 1993, was taken from her home in Elizabeth Fry Road, Earlham, to King's Lynn hospital when she was about to go into labour at 23 weeks pregnant. ...

    "It was really scary when she was born weighing 1lb 5oz. She was so tiny; her skin was almost transparent and I was terrified."

    When medical professionals from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists spoke out this week saying that babies born before 25 weeks are blocking beds and resources that could be used on healthy babies, Mrs Watts was angry and upset.

    "It just really got to me to hear that; it makes me angry because many babies do make it and have got to be given the very best chance.
  • "Our boy survived against all the odds":
    Mrs. Vettese, 35, ... said she had been shocked to read the suggestions that babies such as her own should routinely be denied treatment. She said: "I was even more horrified because my baby did have to be resuscitated at birth so they wouldn't have done that at all if they had been working to that system.

    "We had a 24 week and three days baby. He was born on December 9 and his due date was March 28. He's a perfectly normal, healthy baby and we feel very strongly about this issue because the care we had at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital was absolutely amazing.

    "We had been trying for a baby for years, so it was really special for us that they gave us the opportunity to go ahead and bring him through."
  • "Tiny twins had to wear doll's clothes":
    Once they were so tiny they had to wear doll's clothes and so fragile that one of them "died" twice. Now, twins Daniel and Oliver Hammond are just like any other typical, healthy teenagers.

    The brothers, now 14, were born more than two months early, on November 14, 1992 and rather than gain weight as the days went by they lost it, prompting fears that they would not survive.

    But thanks to the dedicated care of nursing staff, then based at the old Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, both boys pulled through.

    Their mother Louise Hammond ... said she had been shocked to read that some medical experts were now recommending that babies born at 25 weeks or under should not be given treatment, regardless of whether they appeared healthy or not.

    Mrs Hammond said: "You can't take someone's life if you don't know whether they are going to live or die. We've got to give them a chance. A baby should be given a chance after 22 or 23 weeks, rather than say 'right, no treatment'."

Monday, April 3, 2006

This Sky's in Love with You

If you missed my review of Cathleen Falsani's The God Factor in the weekend Wall Street Journal, here's a temporary link that'll take you there. (Journal links for nonsubscribers self-destruct after seven days.)