Sunday, April 30, 2006
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:
[Conclusion Edited by Siteowner]
Saturday, April 29, 2006
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.)
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
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".
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.
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". ShirleyIs 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
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."
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 . . .
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
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.
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:
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: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.]
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.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.
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.)
Friday, April 21, 2006
Spotted in the eaves of the Summit, N.J., rail station early this afternoon: a fat, slightly squat bird with a cream-colored chest, brown wings, and dark eye markings, chirping up a storm. If I lived next to it, I might find it annoying. But I was just standing in the sunshine and crisp spring air on a train platform, and it was a delight to see a bit of unexpected wildlife.
In Canada, they've come up with a bizarre and disturbing way to make charity benefit from those who possess heavy mettle.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Gynecologist Dr. William R. Lile gives an astounding presentation of the Miracle of Life. Using ultrasound technology and in-vitro cameras, Dr. Lile shows how the unborn child develops while in its mother's womb.Here is Dr. Lile's presentation on partial birth abortion (non-graphic, but requires maturity to view):
After showing, with incredible clarity, the personhood of the human child, Dr. Lile uses the actual instruments of abortion to demonstrate how the procedure is performed at each trimester - including late term partial-birth abortions - without bloody pictures. His simple yet powerful technique is unlike anything you have seen before! (A preview of Dr. Lile's partial birth abortion demonstration can be found below.)
The DVD is a recording of a presentation to high school students. . . . More information on the video can be found at http://www.dyinglight.com. To reach Dr. Lile, go to http://www.prolifedoc.org.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
A male friend of mine — 36, handsome, very smart, and witty — would like to meet the right woman and settle down.
There's just one thing: He absolutely doesn't want kids.
It's a dealbreaker, and it greatly complicates his efforts. Many a relationship of his has disbanded because his girlfriend had initially said she was fine with having no kids, but then changed her mind. The girlfriend had never really thought about motherhood until then, or she'd been denying her own desire for motherhood all along.
As for the women who truly shared his desire for childlessness, none of those relationships have worked out. As far as I can tell from what he's told me, at least part of the reason for that is because every one of those women has been dysfunctional in some way.
I should mention that I'm one of them.
It's only been within the past couple of years — since my breakup with that happily childless gent — that I've been able to imagine being a mom. That's still a step from actually wanting to be one, but it's getting there.
For all I know, there may well be a woman or women who are simply not emotionally hardwired for motherhood. Likewise, it would not shake my faith to learn that there exists a vibrantly healthy and dynamic woman who shares my faith — and who is not a nun — fails to desire children.
I do believe that I am far from the only woman whose resistance to motherhood stems from a sense of brokenness, which in turn is due to a damaged understanding of the family. In my case, I come from a broken home. That saddled me as a young child with a tremendous amount of cynicism about families and relationships in general, which I continue to work through and consider with prayer.
The rise in divorce in the late 20th century — which neatly parallels the advent of oral contraception and the legalization of abortion — amplified modern society's message that children are neither important enough to spark a couple to marry, nor valuable enough to cause a married couple to stay together.
Children are viewed as property today in a fundamentally different way than in the days when they were expected to work on the family farm. Human eggs are bought and sold. Some gay and infertile couples claim a "right" to a child through in vitro fertilization, as though it were an ownership issue; I can buy a Mazda, so who are you to tell me I can't buy a kid?
Feminists have fueled the downgrading of children by insisting that motherhood is a choice that exists in a vacuum — as though women lack any sort of biological drive that might contribute to a decision to have kids. The irony is that feminists are perfectly willing to use biological drives as excuses for behavior that doesn't involve parenting — like having contraceptive-"protected" sex.
Biological connections to parental behavior are not limited to women. In recent years, many studies have pointed to biochemical factors that inspire paternal behavior as well.
I lived most of my adult life in a world where the only truth was that of our postmodern, postfeminist culture. It says, "You don't have to be a mother, therefore you should not feel pressured in any way to be a mother, therefore you should not be a mother if you can help it, because it will prevent you from being able to choose. The meaning of life is in our choices, and those choices can only be made if you are free from the ties of a husband — who would probably leave you anyway — and children."
I am choosing to wake up now. Thank God!
The abortion movement has its roots in the false ideal that women are by nature entirely self-sufficient, with no organic need for a husband, let alone a child.
It is feminists' fear of weakness that, with a sad irony, weakens them — by making them not only fear bonds of love and blood, but seek to convince others that such ties equal chains.
There's no shame in weakness, vulnerability, or incompleteness. No one in this life is ever complete. It's the awareness of our incompleteness that enables us to strive upwards.
"You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you," writes St. Augustine. And in Psalm 51, David says, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
Likewise, the Bible says nothing about man's or woman's being "complete." Our completion is only in God, and only in the future, as David writes in Psalm 16: "Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore."
In this life, the only relief for this sense of longing that is built into us is through love, and love by definition is forever. "We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him," writes the Apostle John (1 John 4:16).
More and more, I see the propagation of abortion and contraception as a means of separating women, in the name of independence and liberation, from their own need to give unconditional love to a child and to a husband.
"My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness," said God to St. Paul.
Admitting our own weakness is essential, not because such weakness strengthens us on our own, but because it strengthens us in God's love. In preventing a woman from being conscious of her own weakness, abortion supporters ultimately prevent her from being open to the great love that's available to her from a husband, from potential children, and from the Lord.
Check out today's Big Town, Big Heart, in which I singlehandedly edit Josh Max's excellent story about a nun who runs a mobile soup kitchen and write a main headline that references ABBA, and write a secondary headline that references the Who.
P.S. "Tom and Mom" on the front page was mine. Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
[12/21/06: GREETINGS, SALON READERS! You're reading an old Dawn Patrol item that I wrote very late one night, many moons ago. My more recent blog entries are more reflective of my current views. Also, the theological topics I mention in this post come across better (and minus the bloggy snark) in my book; check out this online excerpt.]
Jill of the group blog Feministe comments on one of the "Dawn Eden Takedown" posts of which that site is so fond:
I actually feel bad for Dawn. And I’m not saying that in a condescending way, I really do mean it. . . . The one thing she seems to want more than anything is a husband, and for whatever reason that hasn’t worked out for her. Can you imagine putting all of your energy into doing things (like abstaining from sex) for a future mate, only to never find one?There's an interesting leap of logic there:
- Lady X's foremost desire is to be married.
- Lady X puts all her energy into fulfilling her desire.
- Lady X has never found a husband.
- Lady X will never find a husband.
The first and obvious answer to Jill's assertions is that I might meet my future husband tomorrow. Upon our marriage, he and I might honestly be able to say that the self-restraint we practiced before marriage did more than fill us with desire; it increased our appreciation for the meaning and beauty of marital sex.
One might argue that such an outcome wouldn't be true of everyone who abstained from premarital sex. But if my husband and I honestly believed that it was true in our case, no one could reasonably dispute our experience.
All that is hypothetical, I realize — but no more hypothetical than assuming that a 37-year-old woman whom one's never met will never, ever get married.
The other reason Jill's story is not mine is in her rhetorical question, "Can you imagine putting all of your energy into doing things (like abstaining from sex) for a future mate, only to never find one?"
Let's be frank: The real question here is, "Can you imagine abstaining from sex only to never have a husband?"
This may be reduced to another logical sequence:
- Good sex is essential to enjoyment of life.
- Good sex does not require a partner who makes a lifetime commitment.
- Good sex is so important that one's decision whether or not to have it defines one's entire identity and purpose in life. "Can you imagine putting all of your energy into doing things (like abstaining from sex)..."
- Therefore, a person who refrains from having good sex for lack of a lifetime commitment is unimaginably, pathetically, tragically deprived. When she is on her deathbed, she will realize that she has wasted precious opportunities for joy.
I wasn't like that. If I had sex with a man, even a one-night stand, I always risked attaching to him to the point that I would pine for him.
I tried different tactics, like the hippie-type bonding, where my sex partner and I would act kind and loving to one another, saying we'd always be friends no matter what physically "happened" between us. It didn't work; he'd eventually move on to the next "buddy" (or "new special friend," to use Tony Hendra's wonderful term from "This Is Spinal Tap") and I would feel empty.
Knowing that I would be hurt, I eventually tried to avoid giving too much of myself emotionally in the first place. The result remained unsatisfying. I might have a fun evening, but afterward I would still be alone, only more conscious of my loneliness than before.
The fun wasn't worth the separation. Perhaps it is for Jill, and that's why she advocates having sex without love — and why she's so frightened by the thought of dying without having taken the opportunity to have loveless sex. For I believe that love, by definition, lasts forever — so marital love is the only true sexual love that a man and woman can express to one another. Anything else sexual is not love.
Growing into an old spinster used to indeed be my greatest fear. I used to believe that, if I knew that I would never get married, I would kill myself. This was before I had knowledge of Christ, when I suffered from depression and believed that if God did exist, He didn't care about me.
Today, my perspective has nearly reversed. (I say "nearly," because the suicidal aspect's thankfully disappeared.) The agon comes not from certainty, but from agnosticism. If I am to be single for life, I wish I could know it now. It would be wonderful to be able to plan out the rest of my life without having to leave a husband-sized gap just in case.
And — here's the thing — if I weren't getting married, I would still be chaste.
It's who I am.
I love this thing that God created called sex. Absolutely love it. And I love it so much that I will no longer accept any substitutes for the real thing, the way it was meant to be.
Put it this way: Suppose you discovered sushi for the first time and fell in love with the taste of it — except the only sushi place you knew was a really cheap place that left the raw fish out so long that you got food poisoning every time you ate it.
And suppose you knew, from billions of trustworthy reports, as well as a voice that was in your heart, that somewhere out there was a phenomenal sushi restaurant, the best ever, that — wonder of wonders — wouldn't make you sick?
Would you keep eating the delicious but sickening sushi, knowing that the more you ate it, the harder it would be to forget its sickening aftereffects once you had the real sushi?
Maybe you would. Maybe you'd tell yourself that's better to enjoy superficial pleasure that poisons you, then to hold out for the elusive real thing and risk never having even the superficial pleasure.
Contrary to Jill's logic, I believe that there is a pleasure in this world that includes sex, and yet is greater than the greatest sex.
I wish to God that I knew whether or not I'll experience it. Either way, my life is filled with meaning and beauty, and — often — joy. For all that, I thank the Lord.
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
So then death worketh in us, but life in you.
We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;
Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.
For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
A few days ago, I was thinking about why "feminist" bloggers such as Pandagon's Amanda and Feministe's Jill say The Dawn Patrol is one of their favorite guilty pleasures.
They and their kindred take delight in skewering what they perceive as my sex-negative views. In order to do this, they routinely create straw-man arguments. In their minds, I appear to be a 14-foot-tall towheaded golem, blocking abortion clinics with my body while spouting that the only purpose of sex is for procreation and that infertile couples had just as well quit bonking or risk hellfire.
Actually, that part about blocking abortion clinics with my body isn't such a bad idea — but it's been done.
Since A&J admit to being regular readers, I decided to get their attention with a post that would essentially call their bluff. I wrote an allegory about kissing, insinuating that true sexual freedom is accepting sex in all its meanings — pleasure, emotional union, and the possibility of procreation. To be truly sex-positive, one must be life-positive. Anything else stunts one emotionally and physically.
I didn't make the point so articulately in my post — in fact, it was clumsy, awkward, and corny.
But it did the job:
Amanda: "I’m guessing all the self-righteous non-contracepting women in her comments probably are still preserving some dignity withholding from truly, completely loving their men. For instance, I bet not a one of them shovels his sh-t in their mouths, grinning and swallowing Divine-style."
Jill (on the comments to my post): "...this clearly illustrates the anti-choice mentality: Sex isn’t about pleasure, and it’s especially not about female pleasure. It’s strictly about baby-making, and if you don’t want to make a baby then your sexual experiences should be filled with terror. "
Lindsay Beyerstein: "Isn't great ... that we have pills and IUDs that allow us to control fertility without drying up any of those nice seminal, vaginal, or oral juices? "
Erstwhile Wonkette Ana Marie Cox: "I have no idea what she's talking about but it's totally making me hot."
Meanwhile, my comments-section ban list fills because of all the trolls, but my hit counter goes way up.
I feel that I'm doing a public service by giving these angry people something nonviolent to do with their time. Kind of like that story, which is probably apocryphal, about how no tires were slashed in all of New York City on the night the Beatles made their Ed Sullivan debut.
Moreover, practically all the visitors from the angry blogs are people who would never bother to visit a blog just to read about the Biblical view of sexuality. I figure, if just one of them starts thinking about things differently thanks to coming here, then, praise God, I've done my job.
But even if no hearts are changed, my Truth Laid Bear rating spirals upward and my Google status improves with all the hits, so that kindred spirits have a better chance of finding this blog than they would otherwise.
I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;Praise Him!
So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;
And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:
The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:
But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.
What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
Today I will make my profession of faith in the Catholic Church.
After that, I will make my first confession and then take my first communion at the vigil Mass. On Saturday, I will be confirmed.
I hope to say more about this, but right now I must get some sleep.
In the meantime, I will say for the benefit of anyone from the New York City G.K. Chesterton Society or the American Chesterton Society who's reading this that they had me pegged correctly years ago when they told me that I was really a Catholic and I vehemently denied it. OK guys, you win.
Speaking of Chesterton, C.S. Lewis was right when he said a man who does not wish to become a Christian cannot be too careful of his reading. I only understand half of this poem now, but that's 100% more than I understood the first time I read it, as a 27-year-old agnostic; it seems to have especial meaning now:
A cloud was on the mind of men, and wailing went the weather,
Yea, a sick cloud upon the soul when we were boys together.
Science announced nonentity and art admired decay;
The world was old and ended: but you and I were gay;
Round us in antic order their crippled vices came—
Lust that had lost its laughter, fear that had lost its shame.
Like the white lock of Whistler, that lit our aimless gloom,
Men showed their own white feather as proudly as a plume.
Life was a fly that faded, and death a drone that stung;
The world was very old indeed when you and I were young.
They twisted even decent sin to shapes not to be named:
Men were ashamed of honour; but we were not ashamed.
Weak if we were and foolish, not thus we failed, not thus ;
When that black Baal blocked the heavens he had no hymns from us
Children we were—our forts of sand were even as weak as eve,
High as they went we piled them up to break that bitter sea.
Fools as we were in motley, all jangling and absurd,
When all church bells were silent our cap and beds were heard.
Not all unhelped we held the fort, our tiny flags unfurled;
Some giants laboured in that cloud to lift it from the world.
I find again the book we found, I feel the hour that flings
Far out of fish?shaped Paumanok some cry of cleaner things;
And the Green Carnation withered, as in forest fires that pass,
Roared in the wind of all the world ten million leaves of grass;
Or sane and sweet and sudden as a bird sings in the rain—
Truth out of Tusitala spoke and pleasure out of pain.
Yea, cool and clear and sudden as a bird sings in the grey,
Dunedin to Samoa spoke, and darkness unto day.
But we were young; we lived to see God break their bitter charms.
God and the good Republic come riding back in arms:
We have seen the City of Mansoul, even as it rocked, relieved—
Blessed are they who did not see, but being blind, believed.
This is a tale of those old fears, even of those emptied hells,
And none but you shall understand the true thing that it tells—
Of what colossal gods of shame could cow men and yet crash,
Of what huge devils hid the stars, yet fell at a pistol flash.
The doubts that were so plain to chase, so dreadful to withstand—
Oh, who shall understand but you; yea, who shall understand?
The doubts that drove us through the night as we two talked amain,
And day had broken on the streets e’er it broke upon the brain.
Between us, by the peace of God, such truth can now be told;
Yea, there is strength in striking root and good in growing old.
We have found common things at last and marriage and a creed,
And I may safely write it now, and you may safely read.
Love you all. Thanks so much for the prayers. God bless you. More later.
Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Edward J. McLaughlin did something extraordinarily daring and brave yesterday.
In sentencing a mother who killed her 1-year-old boy and then collected his welfare checks for four years, Judge McLaughlin made the defendant listen to a victim impact statement — from the baby.
That is, the judge read a statement he had written from the child's point of view.
It may sound strange, but it's a practice that those who care about victims commonly take up with regard to other innocent dead, such as those of the Holocaust. Speaking in the voice of a silenced victim drives home the heartlessness of the victim's killer.
The Daily News will have the story online shortly — in the meantime, here's an account from the New York Times:
A judge in Manhattan yesterday imagined the dying moments of a child as the toddler's mother was sentenced to 10 years in prison for suffocating him with a pillow and continuing to collect welfare benefits in his name.From Newsday:
The judge, Justice Edward McLaughlin of State Supreme Court, said he was distressed that the child had died "unmourned," his body thrown in a Dumpster like trash, without the rituals and prayers that usually accompany a death.
Looking down from the bench at the child's mother, Diatra Hester-Bey, who was sitting at the defense table before him, Justice McLaughlin said that her son, Devon Rivers, who was 13 months old at the time of his death, was now in heaven, living an "eternal and blissful" life.
The judge then put himself in the mind of the dying child. He imagined that as Ms. Hester-Bey was smothering him, the baby was thinking, "Isn't this my mother who held me?" The judge continued, still using the voice of the child: "What's that light? What a sight. Hello, God."
Ms. Hester-Bey chose not to speak during her sentencing. She cried as her lawyer said that she was innocent.
Sentencing hearings can often seem like a secular version of a religious homily, that is, a judge's disquisition on the law, rather than a priest or rabbi's commentary on scripture. But Justice McLaughlin's sentencing speech had strikingly more spiritual overtones than most, although he took pains to say he was trying to articulate principles of humanity, not of any particular religion.
McLaughlin, after alluding to sentencings that feature remarks by victims about the impact of a defendant's crime on their lives, began a religious reflection on Devon's life and death, noting that no one was there to speak for the boy.Amen.
"On Feb. 29, 2000, Devon Rivers awoke twice," the judge said. "The first time would be for a short, final day in his life on earth. His second awakening was in heaven as his life was transformed from brief and disheartening to eternal and blissful."
The judge said Devon's death was unacknowledged and he was unmourned.
"No Mass was said," the judge said. "No funeral or memorial service occurred. No prayers were raised. This sentence, therefore, is society's chance to acknowledge his short life, his mindless killing, and to recognize his presence among us and now his absence from us.
"Devon, humans failed you, but you know that God has not."
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
As I write this, I have the nagging feeling that I'm overdue to donate to my church, something I plan to remedy this week. I believe people should donate to their church according to what they can afford.But I still think that a certain RCIA (Catholic baptism/confirmation prep) class — not my own church's class, but one that put me on its mailing list — is going a little too far. One of the leaders of the class writes in an e-mail:
Also, each year we ask everyone in the class to make a contribution to a class donation to the church. On average people have given about $50-$100 each, but obviously everyone should make whatever contribution is appropriate to your circumstance. Tuesday is our last class, so bring your donations then.The class is at a conservative church whose clientele is among Manhattan's best-heeled.
Am I too sensitive, or is there something amiss about telling catechists they're expected to give a certain amount? Isn't there a hint of peer pressure there?
Greetings, visitors from Pandagon, Feministe, and elsewhere. When you're done reading this, read the follow-up.
. . . suppose you could French kiss your beloved boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse without exchanging spit?
No, seriously. Suppose exchanging spit greatly increased one's fertility at certain times of the month and was hence something to be avoided at all costs by those wishing to be childless.
You could take a pill that would dry up your saliva glands and prevent your own mouth from absorbing your partner's saliva.
To preserve that nice gushy feeling, you could swish some prefabricated spit substitute, just like the real thing, between your teeth before locking lips. But neither you nor your partner would be capable of transmitting any of your own natural wetness to the other.
Physically, it would feel just like a real French kiss. But would it be one?
Is a kiss still a kiss when it's only sensation, with no substance shared? Is it still a soul kiss when you're purposefully withholding part of yourself — something that's always been an essential element of a smooch?
I wonder . . .
Monday, April 10, 2006
Sunday, April 9, 2006
I will receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation — that is, make my first confession — for the first time this Thursday.
Looking for guidance, I find the following in the New York City archdiocese's "Guide to a Good Confession":
"When finished examining his conscience, [the penitent] should make a mental list of all the mortal sins he committed, noting how and how many times he committed them, as far as he can remember. He can also add any venial sins he remembers."
This is not helpful.
How exactly does one confess all one's sins from birth onward?
I have some vague idea of going down the list of the Ten Commandments and highlighting anything particularly egregious.
Saturday, April 8, 2006
The Raving Atheist's latest post assails an atheist/abortion-supporting/porn-feminist blogger who accused him of backing up his pro-life views with "magical thinking." He observes:
Magical thinking occurs when one asserts that the human status of the fetus is mind-dependent, varying from woman to woman, dependent on the notion of "wantedness." That's the thinking prevalent in the pro-choice movement today. "Nobody can say when life begins," the argument goes, "so it's whatever anybody says it is." Or "between a woman and her god," even if that god throws infants into volcanos. Planned Parenthood and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice have hired clergy to promote precisely that sort of view.
Friday, April 7, 2006
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.
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.
The post that was here is now at its new home on National Review Online.
Wednesday, April 5, 2006
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.The article notes that the current abortion limit in Britain is 24 weeks.
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."
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'."