08 May 2018

Book Review: The Great Revolt by Salena Zito and Brad Todd

After Richard Nixon won the 1972 Presidential election in a 49 state landslide, New Yorker film critic was flummoxed at how this could happen as none of her Manhattanite friends would vote for him.  This possibly apocryphal episode illustrated how seaboard elites can be so out of touch with Middle America (sometimes flippantly labeled as  “Fly Over Country”).

A similar cognitive dissonance has occurred at the election of President Donald Trump in 2016. Heading into election night, the 538 blog polling guru Nate Silver predicted that Hillary Clinton had a 72% chance of winning.  Yet when election results were confirmed at 2:30 AM November 9th, Donald J. Trump gave a victory speech.  While Mr. Trump won a huge 304 to 227 (with five disloyal electors), the margins of victory in five Rust Belt states were close.  Had 56,000 voters not voted for Mr. Trump, then Bill Clinton would have returned to the White House as First Gentleman (sic).

To delve into how Donald Trump was able to confound conventional wisdom and assembled a new coalition which led him to the White House, Salena Zito and Brad Todd wrote “The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics” (2018 Crown Forum 309 pages).  Salena Zito is a reporter from Pittsburgh but made made her mark during the campaign for the New York Post by traveling to these Midwest battleground states and interviewing prospective Trump voters to understand their attraction and enthusiasm for this first time populist candidate. 

These oral histories are backed up by data from Brad Todd’s On Message Inc. polling unit. The metrics were particularly instructive in seeming how sentiments shifted in swing counties between 2008 and 2016.

The Great Revolt featured 21 interviews with voters from two key counties in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. These interviews felt like an extended coffee talk at a diner with a trusted confidant.  The Great Revolt broke down these voters into seven archetypes: 1) Red Blooded and Blue Collar 2) Perotistas 3) Rough Rebounders 4) Girl Gun Power 5) Rotary Reliables 6) King Cyrus Christians 7) Silent Suburban Moms.  While they all chose to support Trump, their pathways were not straight and narrow and deserve careful consideration. 

Over the past several elections, Democrats seemed to abandon salt of the earth blue collar erstwhile Democrats to favor demographically up and coming minority majorities and those new voters who might be culled from immigration.  During the 2008 Democrat primaries, candidate Barack Obama derisively referred to rural Rust Belt voters as “bitter clingers to their guns and their Bibles”.  Ironically, Ms. Clinton was trying to win their support for her first failed presidential run.   

Yet in 2016, these same segment of voters were ignored by the Hillary! campaign as she declared that half of Trump supporters were a “Basket of Deplorables” which might serve as a caricature of this segment of voters which would be more sympathetically described as The Forgotten Man.  

Hillary Clinton chose to ignore Wisconsin during the 2016 General Election campaign and made only a couple of trips to large population centers in Michigan, figuring that she had those votes already in the bag.  Donald Trump campaigned hard in Rust Belt states in rural precincts and scraped together enough support to win the Wolverine State by about 8,000 votes (0.23%) and the Badger State by about 22,000 votes (0.77%).  

Pundits have pontificated that Republicans face a demographic problem whereas Democrats have a geographic problem, as they continue to lose support in vast swaths of middle America.  In 2016, Mrs. Clinton only won 526 counties compared to the over 1500 counties that her husband President Clinton won in 1992.  What became obvious after election night 2016, racking up large victories in the popular vote does not necessarily win the White House.  Both parties would learn from contemplating the shared psyches of these Trump voters  if The Great Revolt was a one time populist phenomenon, if it can transfer unto other populist politicians and if it can be sustained after 2016.

A couple of these Great Revolt subgroups, such as Rotary Reliables and NRA inspired Girl Gun Power types  are likely to continue to actively oppose progressive politics as it directly impacts their intrinsic interests.   It is more dubious for other groups.  In 2016, evangelical voters made a pragmatic decision to back Mr. Trump, who has a messy personal life and whose blithe brashness is an antithetical attitude, because they were concerned about the Supreme Court and pushing back against abortion.  The outlook for Perotistas is unclear as their support seemed personality driven and may not be transferrable.  The three women interviewed as Perotistas were superannuated, so one can surmise that their support will age out.

As much as the iconoclastic mainstream billionaire turned celebrity politician appealed to some segments of The Great Revolt voters, what became quite clear is how his opponent and the nature of the race also impacted the election.  In some of the vignettes, the anti-Hillary! sentiment jumped off the page. 

 Many of the interviewees came from union families or those who served in the military would have been quite at ease in John F. Kennedy’s Democrat Party but who are red headed stepchildren in today’s Democrat Party.  That being said, they probably would not have participated in politics or been motivated to vote GOP had Donald Trump not reached out and appealed to their sensibilities.   They may not always agree with Mr. Trump and may recoil at some of his Tweets or stances but as Salena Zito nailed during the campaign, they know to take Trump seriously but not always literally (unlike the anti-Trump pack press).

Most of the coalition in The Great Revolt worried about their economic security and loss of their rural way of life, it did not seem like there was strong linkage to “Build the Wall” or immigration.  While one union activist was strongly against NAFTA, much of the blue collar sentiments revolved around being forgotten by their erstwhile allies, the Democrats.   

While the interviews in The Great Revolt were vivid, it would have been desirable if there was a bit more uniformity when describing the interlocutors.  Not all of the portraits had demographic details or made it easy to discern the interviewees profession.  There also seemed to be a disconnect between the prefatory analysis with the dialogues of the Trump voters.  The authors rightly proposed that Mr. Trump’s social media instincts allowed him to circumvent curating by the mainstream media and directly reach his coalitions.  Yet many of the interviewees contained in The Great Revolt wished that President Trump would tweet less. 

That being said, surely Salena Zito and Brad Todd appreciated President Trump’s pre-publication post which extolled the virtues of The Great Revolt.

The case histories in The Great Revolt offer insightful context for the unexpected coalition which elected Donald Trump to the White House in 2016.  But the archetypes portrayed in The Great Revolt may point to traits that could appear in other voter segments.   Democrats have opted to appeal to progressive identity politics and rely on the brown wave of new voters in lieu of  “The Forgotten Man” (rural, blue collar, union white males).   A flaw with that strategy is that it relies upon banked voters, which since 1964 have been the bulk of black voters.  The Great Revolt chronicles how slim segments of voters who feel neglected and come to the epiphany that their traditional party no longer represents their values can impact an election.

Recently, Kanye West said some favorable things towards President Trump. Perhaps that was a publicity stunt or an African American celebrity "talking out of turn" as Rep Maxine Waters (D-CA 43rd) claimed. But afterwards polling showed a doubling of his support among African Americans.  Mr. Trump has been making explicit appeals for those voters.  

It is conceivable that an upsurge in black labor participation and showing up to make the case may shift some attitudes, or mollify some of the bile against him. Conservative Black video bloggers Diamond and Silk have shown that elements of the Trump Administration agenda may have some appeal to fed up African American voters.  Black represent about 13% of voters and in recent elections have voted about 95% for Democrats.  If there is a 5% shift in that segment of reliable votes, Democrats’ election strategy may be in trouble. 

20 April 2018

Ruminating on the Book Primal Loss by Leila Miller

Recently, I had some coffee talk with a more liberal Catholic friend who wondered why I am aghast at the sleight of hand in Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (2016) concerning communion for Catholics in irregular marriages.  My interlocutor argued that I should not care as this change neither effects me nor rocks my faith and it is meant to reach out to an increasingly secularized culture that needs healing. 

The impetus of Amoris Laetitia's pastoral provision can be characterized as offering band aids to the wounded in the field hospital of faith. However, by  circumventing the annulment process with a suggestion of pastoral counseling, it seems intended to attract more wayward Catholics who have “moved on” from a bad marriage  back to the faith with the incentive of receiving the Eucharist.  Such a procedure moots the Magisterium and risks cheapening the faith and endangers souls.

This theological conversation took place as I was reading Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak (2017) edited by Leila Miller. The author graduated summa cum laude from Boston College, is a reverted Catholic mother of eight who became known for her blog “Little Catholic Bubble”.  Leila Miller has now turned to writing apologetics on thorny moral issues.  Primal Loss which aggregates the oral histories of 70 adult children of divorce in reaction to six simple but revealing questions:

1) What effect has your parents’ divorce had on you?
2) What is the difference between how you felt about the divorce as a child and how you feel as an adult?
3) Has your parents’ divorce affected your own marriage or view on marriage?
4) Asking for reactions to the bromides “Children are resilient”, “You’ll be just fine and live a successful life after your parents’ divorce.
5) Asking what would you say to your parents about their divorce and if their reactions are just unconscious revenge.
6) What should society know about how divorce affects children.

Sociologists might dismiss Primal Loss as anecdotal evidence from a self selected contributors which did not stem from a controlled study.  The author’s objective was to given unvarnished opinions from those directly impacted by a divorce and to educate people on the ignored pitfalls of the Divorce Ideology which is championed in current culture and is one of the linchpins of the Sexual Revolution.

Indubitably, divorce is more prevalent today than it was a half century ago before the widespread. implementation of No-Fault Divorce.  But those bent on accommodating the new reality of divorce culture cite the statistic that 50% of marriages in America end in divorce.  But the index of Miller’s interviewees (whom she scrupulously protected their anonymities) belie that false fact.  So many of the contributors to Primal Loss have parents who were married several times after their initial divorce.  This certainly inflates the marriage rate.  Michael Medved points to studies which show that two thirds of marriages last until one person dies.  But the bogus 50% divorce rate statistic is part of the mythology that people in troubled marriages use to justify their self-centered action of divorce.

It was remarkable to read in Primal Loss the unvarnished opinions and reflective reactions that the now adult children of divorce had to their parents breaking up their family.  Several of them chronicled abusive parents or adults mired in addiction (sometimes both parents), where it was understandable that separation was necessary for safety. Many times adultery (or the desire for a newer or more compatible mate) was the driving force for the divorce.    But more often than not, these grown children of divorce recognized that parental selfishness was at play.  Divorcing parents also broke up their families for seemingly trivial reasons under the generous guise of No Fault Divorce without weighing the devastating consequences on their children.

It was unsurprising that divorce pushes custodial parents into poverty and unsupervised parenting which makes kids prone to promiscuity, abortions and addiction to fill the void that they feel. These interviews also highlight how their parents example of divorce negatively impacts their faith.  To justify their life style choices which are contrary to traditional church teaching, previously faithful parents pull back on their religiosity and children follow suit.  The domestic church is decimated. 

There is also the uncomfortable dynamic that with joint custody, kids of divorce have to adapt to two different households and parental styles.  So during adolescence, when kids are struggling to discern their true identities, they must act to please the powers that be in their household du jour (which often may harbor bad feelings towards churchy purveyors of guilt).  Add on the feeling of betrayal and abandonment for an institution which seems to be made of straw caused a fair number of interviewees to abandon their faith, seek more conducive pastures or seek self destructive secular solutions.  As Primal Loss originated from Catholic social media connections, most of the contributors seemed to have reverted back to Catholicism.

A set of lies which the Divorce Ideology trumpets is the knee jerk reaction “Oh, kids are resilient, they’ll get over it.” and the self serving “Kids will be happy if I am in a happier relationship.”.  The tangled webs we weave when first we learn to deceive.  Children crave acceptance so they will fake it until they make it and to great extends mask their woundedness from their family identity being torn away from their through divorce.  Superficially, they’ll embrace the prospect of having two Christmases etc...  But that comes at a cost of not having a stable place of their own.  And the reality that they will have to grow up quickly, often becoming their custodian parent's sounding board about the failed marriage. 

Combine an emotionally fragile adolescent who has been wounded by their parents’ divorce and parents preoccupied with their own love life along with authority issues with step parents, these children of divorce often are laxly parented lest they scion leave (and give their divorced spouse a “victory”).  That interplay creates FINE kids, which one interviewee used as an acronym for “F-‘ed up Insecure Neurotic Emotional”.

Another reaction to their hemaneutic that divorce is OK because it allows the parent to seek a happy relationship was:

Before I say anything to them, can I slap them around a little first, and let them know that that makes me happy so they should be happy too? No. Okay...

A reconstituted family rarely runs as smoothly as portrayed in the TV myths like “The Brady Bunch”.  Most adult children revealed that they long yearned for the possibility that their parents may become reconciled.  Adult children of divorce ruefully recall that their well being was perennially put in a lower position than their parents’ happiness.  And it is usually made clear to divorced children what their place is in a blended family. No wonder the contributor harbored that slap happy reaction.

What really seemed to be lacking in a Divorce Culture is the notion of sacramentality of marriage. If one views marriage as a contract, it is relatively easy to mentally justify walking away from it if you are not happy.  Marriage ought to  properly understood as a covenant which is a sacrament modeled as the Lord wedded himself to a stiff necked people who He called his own despite their weaknesses and infidelity.  Moreover, if we understand the Trinity as a divine relationship which results in the overflowing of love of the Holy Spirit, we should see the analogy in our own participation in creation through the sacrament of marriage and having children.  Being wedded to someone is never easy and often requires sacrifice.  And it is not just for us mere mortals. After all, the Lord endured having His only begotten Son sacrificed to reconcile with an estranged humanity. 

The Church also needs to improve its catechesis about divorce.  While dining with some on fire social justice warrior faithful, one person gave uninformed assent to provisions of Amoris Laetitia because divorced Catholics have already had it hard enough and ought to receive the Eucharist.  He seemed stunned when I observed that those who remain celibate (honoring their covenental nuptuals) can.  And those in irregular marriages (civilly divorced and remarried) can go through an annulment.  The author tried to solve this by including Catholic teaching on marriage in her last chapter, but the message is better disseminated from the pulpit as well as Catholic media.

Some Catholics consider annulments to be a Catholic divorce, and contend that annulments  are much easier to get today in America.  But the process for a certificate of nullity asks incisive questions of petitioners and their witnesses which require deep introspection.  I appreciated the suggestion by one Primal Loss contributor that couples should be allowed to go through the annulment process BEFORE having a civil divorce proceeding as it might encourage more couples to work through their problems and stay together. 

Circumventing the annulment process to allow for pastoral counseling to educate couples in irregular marriages poses several problems.  Priests already have severe time constraints and the necessity of educating thoroughly secularized consciences may make true faith formation challenging.  The reliance on abiding by individual consciences without the surety of formal pronouncement of nullity from church authorities means that either souls are endangered or the process is a fiction.  Furthermore, to continue to have an annulment process when this pastoral provision is foisted as being magisterial (which is mistaken as paragraph 3 of Amoris Laetitia indicates that it is a persuasive document intended pastorally) makes anyone seeking annulments as a pious patsy.

I appreciated the observation that when an annulment is granted, it may bring closure to the ex-spouses but it does not have the effect on the offspring as it does not change the dire circumstances of blowing up the family and snatching away their identities.  An adult friend of mine declared that he was a bastard because his parents had their marriage annulled.  I tried to tell him church teaching that while the sacramentality of the marriage was void, he was not born out of wedlock.  That nugget of truth did not change his long held self perception.

One contributor to Primal Loss eloquently expressed the resulting marred self perception of being a child of divorce:

Divorce creates its own language for a child. Much of it is unspoken and the child is the only one who achieves fluency.  It might be the voice of doubt in the back of one's mind one day, or the voice of indecision where I should be resolute another day.  This perpetually dysfunctional language replaces the language of family love that otherwise forms a child's internal dialogue. So, in a way, divorce becomes the 'everlasting gift' to the child that a child can't overcome. The dysfunction replaces the permanence and security of an intact family.

Since most of Primal Loss were oral histories grouped together by topics, it was in many ways an easy read. Yet absorbing the tales of pain, reflections on the adverse impact of divorce on kids lives and the intractable issues associated with breaking up families also made it a painful read.  A virtue of Leila Miller’s organization of the book is that aside from grouping narratives together which corresponded to her six questions, there was scant thematic argumentation, so a reader was not led to obvious take away conclusions, other than divorce is bad, it harms children in innumerable ways and ought to be avoided at almost all costs.

The penultimate chapter of Primal Loss contained Stories of Hope. Many of these accounts attest to the power of prayer. But they are not saccharine stories of sanctimoniousness.  These adult children of divorce find themselves at the brink of a marital breakup. But the reoccurring theme is that they do not surrender to selfishness and look beyond themselves, turning to prayer along with considering their childrens’ plight.

Recently, Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, offered high praise of Primal Loss for highlighting a world view which denies the value of self sacrificial love along with the damaging and long lasting consequences of divorce.  This is a recommended read for anyone in a troubled marriage to contemplate before their break up their family.  These testimonials may also give real life examples for adult catechesis. For myself, it illustrated the ill born consequences of the Church circumventing the Magisterium on marriage to be more appealing in a populist driven New Evangelization.

27 March 2018

Savoring Sakura on the Potomac

The 6821 Quintet concert at the National Gallery of Art, March 26, 2018
The 6821 Quintet performing at the National Gallery of Art, March 26 2018

For the last few years, the National Cherry Blossom Festival has been privileged to feature the 6821 Quintet, an ad hoc group of musicians, which was formed in 2015 and is comprised of members from Japan, New York and Philadelphia with through the support of the Ryunji Ueno Foundation. The 6821 Quintet derives its name from the distance between Washington, DC and Toyko, Japan.   This year’s ensemble is comprised of violinist Mayu Kishima, violinist Eric Silberger, violinist Meng Wang, cellist Clancy Newman and pianist Jason Solounias.

Sakura on the Potomac, which premiered at the 2018 National Cherry Blossom Festival was composed by Japanese composer and producer Kunihiko Murai.   Sakura is the Japanese word for Cherry Blossom Tree, which includes the twelve species of Cherry Blossom Trees that encircle the  Tidal Basin in the Nation's Capital since Japan’s generous gift to America in 1912.

The 6821 Quintet also played Songs of Spring and Portraits of Sakura– our memories of bloom, which were respectively the prior two years commissions for the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

During the final performance at the National Gallery of Art, two of the three composers of National Cherry Blossom Festival commissions were present.  Michael Djupstrom had performed with the 6821 Quintet for a couple of years, but also composed Songs of Spring for the 2016 Cherry Blossom Festival.  Mr. Djupstrom commended the 6821 Quintet for their remarkable cohesiveness in their artistry, especially since they only perform together one week a year.

Kunihiko Murai had written over 300 songs and 30 film scores, so composing a tone poem like Sakura on the Potomac was a new adventure.  Mr. Murai revealed that he associated lyrics in his head for Sakura on the Potomac but did not reveal them.  The composer, however, noted that he was inspired by the T.S. Eliot quotation “April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land”.  This seems apt as the blossoming of the Sakura on the Potomac signals Spring in the District of Calamity (sic), a.k.a Washington, DC.

Meng Wang, Kunihiko Murai, Clancy Newman, Eric Silberger, Jason Solounias, Mayu Kishima
The 6821 Quintet pose with Sakura on the Potomac composer Kunihiko Murai 

18 March 2018

Shamrockfest 2018 Memories

Despite the mostly mild winter in the DMV, St. Patrick's Day 2018 had weather which mimicked the Emerald Isle as it was chilly, overcast with a touch of rain.  Still hearty partiers shook their fists at the sky and danced a jig at Shamrockfest, which was held on the grounds of RFK stadium.

Shamrockfest featured three stages.  The Electric Isle featured DJs spinning tunes under a big tent. DJ Clinton Matthews kicked things off at what became quite the popular venue. 

DJ Clinton Matthews spinning tunes at Shamrockfest
Watching DJ Clinton Matthews while wearing the green at Shamrockfest

The Shamrock Gold and Shamrock Green stages rotated with bands playing high energy rock with a touch of the Irish.  One had to marvel at the guitar playing prowess demonstrated by Reel Big Fish.  

Reel Big Fish performing at Shamrockfest
Reel Big Fish performing at Shamrockfest

And it was craic to rock to Carbon Leaf.

Carbon Leaf playing at Shamrockfest
Carbon Leaf playing at Shamrockfest 

Of course there was plenty of festival food and libations to enjoy, with plenty of Guinness and Jamison. 

A Guinness toast on St. Patrick's day at Shamrockfest

Shamrockfest is said to be one of the largest outdoor St. Patrick Day festivals around.  People really try to dress to impress to show their Irish.   Some chose to sport some udderly crazy costumes (sic) to have a good time. 
Having an udderly good time at Shamrockfest 2018
Having an udderly good time at Shamrockfest 2018

Shamrockfest is produced by Red Frog Events.  In mid June, they will hold Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware, which is a four day music extravaganza which will feature scores of bands, headlined by Eminem, the Arctic Monkeys and The Killers. 

Hope to see you at the Woodlands.

12 February 2018

On What Propaganda is Condemned and Countenanced at Pyeongchang Winter Olympics

The 23rd Winter Olympiad in Pyeongchang, South Korea had a reoccurring theme of Peace, as was evident from the Opening Ceremonies.  It was well known that athletes from North and South Korea would march as a unified team into Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium.  

One of the draws for casual sports fans to watch the Olympics is the Opening Ceremonies. The pageantry of the Opening Ceremonies, as expressed through artistic expression as well as thematic choice sets the mood for the Olympic Games.  Afterwards, there is the Parade of Nations, when all of the competitors gather in a gesture of unity and good will.  During this long march of nations, television viewers often have to endure commentary from NBC announcers to add color and context to the visuals.  Often this dialogue is pap or seems scripted.

However, when the Japanese team made their debut at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, NBC Asia correspondent Joshua Cooper Ramos offered an incredible generalization.  Ramos claimed that Koreans looked with admiration to Japan as an important example of cultural, economic and technological transformation.

Several hours after uttering this insensitive and insulting insinuation, NBC Sports issued a hasty apology.

NBC offeres shame faced apology for Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony insulting commentary

NBC paid $967 million for broadcast rights for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, and it would seem that they did not want to insult their hosts.

With that in mind, one wonders why NBC keeps pushing North Korean propaganda while covering the Winter Olympics.  No doubt that a unified Korean team marching during the Parade of Nations was a big story.  It epitomizes the international aspiration of brotherhood and exemplifies the Pyeongchang Game's theme of Peace.  

[Front Center] Vice President Mike Pence [Back Center] Kim Yo Jung, sister of DPRK dictator Kim Jun Un
It is understandable that an Olympic broadcaster would want to capitalize on controversy by showing how close Vice President Mike Pence was seated to North Korean Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong during the Opening Ceremonies.

The coverage of the North Korea cheerleaders during the womens' hockey game between Korea and Switzerland does raise eyebrows.  It was a cute featurette to have a piece about the some of the 200 woman squad of  the North Korean "Army of Beauty" cheerleaders leading chants during the 0-8 rout of Korea.  Some say that the synchronized chants of the North Korea Beauty Cheerleaders stole the show. But what what telling is what they chanted and how they performed.  These NPDK cheerleaders chanted "Unity" waving "neutral" flags of a unified Korea. After each goal by their opponent, they chanted: "Cheer up!".  Perhaps that exemplifies a cultural trait.  

What has been shown but little explored are instances in which the female Beauty Squad use big heads of a Korean man.  Hmm.  Who could this be?  

It is dubious that it was an everyman Korean.  The Big Head looks rather like an idealized image of North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un. What does it say about the consequences of  "Unity".  Is that something that all Koreans also believe?

UPDATE 02/12/2018  BBC News quotes Korean media that the DPRK Army of Beauties cheerleaders were holding up big heads of Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un (the first of the Hermit Kingdom's Juche post World War II dictators).  Yet the South Korean Unification Ministry insists that the cheerleaders were just holding up cut outs of "a good looking man". 

09 February 2018

Being At Peace With Different Measures of Glory

Athletes from Unified North & South Korean Team at Winter Olympics
The 23rd Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea are themed to be the games of peace.  This was accentuated by athletes of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) marching with their Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (North Korea) counterparts under a unified flag.

Olympic Athletes from Russia for 2018 Winter Olympics 
Due the doping ban on Russian Federation, the 169 clean Russian athletes marched as neutrals in red and grey uniforms as neutrals.  Any gold medal winning "Olympic Athletes of Russia"  will be feted with the raising of the Olympic flag and anthem. 

While the  2,952 athletes participating in the Pyeongchang games are the best winter sport athletes in the world, but only a few make it up to the medal stand to receive their glory. For most, marching in the Winter Olympics opening ceremony is the highlight of their careers. 
This makes Eric Liddell's admonition about glory all the more poignant.
This makes Eric Liddell's admonition about glory all the more poignant. 

Eric Liddell on Glory

What is particularly noteworthy of Eric Liddell is not that he was the the Flying Scotsman was the first  British Gold Medal winner in track from 1924, or that he was the basis of the film Chariots of Fire (1981), or his steadfast Sabbath keeping, but for dying as a missionary in a Japanese internment camp in China in 1945. 

We should all be inspired to run a good race in life and doing our best.

02 February 2018

Connecting Candlemas to Groundhog Day

An old English rhyme celebrating Candlemas, the Presentation at the Temple of Jesus, the light of the world

February 2nd marks 40 days after Christmas.  On the liturgical calendar we celebrate the Presentation of Our Lord at the Temple, the traditional close of the Christmas season. It is also known as Candlemas, as the faithful traditionally processed into the church sanctuary with Candles. This ceremony re-presenting how the Mary and Joseph brought Jesus, the Light of the World, into the Temple.

On the secular calendar, we celebrate Groundhog Day, awaiting the predictions of Punxsutawney Phil from western Pennsylvania on whether there will be six more weeks of winter (not Black History Month as some wags have wondered).  This makes sense as it roughly is midwinter (especially prior to the Gregorian calendar adjustment of 1752).  Unbeknowst to most, Groudhog Day has a direct connection to Candlemas.

In eastern Europe, which focused on light and candles, there was a folk association between how much light was in the sky on Candlemas and God's providence in the months to come. Thus they believed that if there was a lot of light in the sky on February 2nd, there would be 40 more days of winter.  Germanic peoples used an animal as their light detector, typically a hedgehog or a badger.  When they immigrated to America, they adapted their instrument and used the plentiful groundhog. 

25 January 2018

On the Politicization of Church Life

Cardinal Raymond Burke on the Politization of Church Life under Pope Francis

Cardinal Raymond Burke gave an extended interview with Christopher Altieri for "Thinking With the Church" about matters of controversy among Catholics.  Burke's interview was recorded as a podcast and the transcript was published in the Catholic World Reporter. The Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta expressed anguish that some consider his request to the Holy See for clarifications (dubia) about the  apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (2016) are motivated to create a schism in the Catholic church.  

Cardinal Burke is concerned that the interpretation and application of Amoris Laetitia contradict long standing traditional teachings on the Sacrament of Marriage.  While Cardinal Burke scrupulously avoided ideological labels in his Altieri interview, he noted the Bishop of Malta's innovation regarding irregular second marriages, which clearly are progressive in nature.

One of the characteristics of Pope Francis' reign is the injection of secular progressive politics into papal pronouncements.  In Laudato Si' (2015), Pope Francis implored world leaders to approve the Paris Climate Change Accords.  Pope Francis' visit to the Mexican-US  border was a pointed ploy to champion open borders, counter to the platform of then  candidate now President Donald Trump. Even Pope Francis' annual announcement for World  Communication Day  railed against "fake news"

Pope Francis' advocated a journalism of peace, which the Holy Father defined as:

A journalism created by people for people, one that is at the service of all, especially those – and they are the majority in our world – who have no voice,” A journalism less concentrated on breaking news than on exploring the underlying causes of conflict, in order to promote deeper understanding and contribute to their resolution by setting in place virtuous process. A journalism committed to pointing out alternatives to the escalation of shouting matches and verbal violence."

A true faith ought to be challenged and should not be confined to the sanctuary of the Church. There is the danger , however, that the Catholic faithful are being shepherded to take sides on secular political issues which are outside of the aura of competency of the Petrine office) and sometimes seem counter to traditional church teachings).  Those who object to this progressive polarization and stand fast to the Magisterium have increasingly been scorned, ostracized or dismissed as getting with today's program, even if the innovation is not magisterial.

For example, Chicago's Archbishop Blase Cardinal Cupich interpreted Amoris Laetitia as being a development of doctrine which the Petrine office has loosened requirements when pastorally addressing irregular marriages. But the apostolic exhortation did no such thing.  

Paragraph 3 of Amoris Laetitia indicates that the document was not doctrinal and was intended to start the conversation.  The controversy over Amoris Laetitia involves footnote 351 regarding Paragraph 305 which suggests that there might be some pastoral means of curing irregular second marriages.  But Pope Francis has refused to answer dubia's regarding the implementation. And progressive powers in the Church are attempting to steamroll their will, in a jesuitical manner, speaking with great force but not having the facts on their side.

As we grapple with the politicization of Church life, we ought to heed 16th Century Lutheran theologian Peter Meiderlin's wisdom that we ought to have "[U]nity on necessary things, liberty on dubious things and charity in all things."