“We are all Trayvon Martin”

August 19, 2013

To the gentle reader,

A Miami artist has unveiled a painting in the Florida State Capital which she has titled “We Are All Trayvon Martin.”  It shows a man standing upright firing a pistol from several feet at a figure wearing a hoodie.  The face of the figure is a mirror, indicating (as the artist said) that the victim of the shooting could be the viewer.  Next to the hoodie, and also in the line of fire, is Dr. Martin Luther King.

This painting is pure propaganda and contains only enough truth to make it dangerous.  When Mr. Zimmerman fired his pistol on that tragic night, he was not standing upright several feet from Mr. Martin, off to one side and slightly behind him as the painting purports to show; he was flat on his back with Mr. Martin pounding his head into the ground.  Dr. Martin Luther King, while he suffered many injustices, would never have approved of beating a person’s face in as Mr. Martin was doing to Mr. Zimmerman when he was shot.  One may ask what on earth this sort of propaganda is doing at the State Capitol Building, but that is a separate matter.

The artist, according to the article, hopes that Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law will be amended.  Dream Defenders, the group the artist was with, has a more ambitious goal:  they want the law to be repealed.  This opposition to the “Stand Your Ground” law, irrespective of its merits or demerits, is irrelevant to the tragic death of Trayvon Martin.  When Mr. Zimmerman drew his pistol to defend himself, he had no other choice.  He was not “standing his ground”; he was flat on his back being severely beaten and threatened with death.  Flight was not an option for him.  For propagandists, though, this sort of detail is irrelevant.

While I appreciate the sincerity of the Dream Defenders, they need to sit down and give the matter some serious thought.  Justice is an admirable goal; justice for Trayvon Martin is also admirable.  But repealing the “Stand Your Ground” law will not bring justice for Trayvon Martin.  If people want to bring some good out of Mr. Martin’s tragic death, they should teach their children that jumping on a man and beating him up could get them killed.  Propaganda paintings that bear only accidental resemblance to the truth do not help anybody.

- John F. Fay

 

On President Obama and Trayvon Martin

July 20, 2013

To the gentle reader,

Since the tragic death of Trayvon Martin last year, I have attempted to keep a dignified silence on the matter since I have no direct knowledge of it.  One thing that can be said of early news reports is that they are inevitably wrong on some particular or another; since I had no reliable information I thought it prudent not to speak.

In the case of Mr. Martin’s death, the truism about early reports being wrong was found to be truer than usual, and not always accidental.  After the shooting, the image of young Mr. Martin presented to the public was of a young, innocent pre-teen; the more accurate picture of a seventeen-year-old football player with gold teeth and tattoos giving a single-digit salute to the camera was not publicized widely.  That Mr. Martin had traces of marijuana in his system at the time of his death and had been suspended from school was not reported either.  The tape of the telephone call to 911 by Mr. Zimmerman, who killed Mr. Martin, was deliberately altered by NBC News to make it sound like Mr. Zimmerman bore an animus against Mr. Martin because of the latter’s race.  The news media, rather than trying to inform the public, made an extended effort to inflame passions and to excite racial hostility.

Shortly after Mr. Martin’s death, President Obama weighed in, saying that “if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin.”  At the time, I considered this a poorly-thought-out reaction to inaccurate news reports.  My thoughts at the time were, Mr. President, would you have allowed your son to make obscene gestures to a camera?  Would you have allowed him to get a tattoo and to adorn his teeth with gold?

When Mr. Zimmerman was put on trial for murder in the death of Mr. Martin, the actual events of the fateful night were made public–and made public in a way that the news media could not report inaccurately.  We found that Mr. Martin had not been running away from Mr. Zimmerman when he was killed, as had been said earlier; he was on top of Mr. Zimmerman, breaking Mr. Zimmerman’s nose and pounding his head on the sidewalk.  (As a side note, the discussion of the “Stand Your Ground” law was rendered irrelevant; when Mr. Zimmerman made the decision to use his firearm, flight was not an option for him; he was on the ground with a significantly larger and stronger man on top of him.)

Now that Mr. Zimmerman has been acquitted, a very predictable outpouring of outrage has erupted. Starkly missing from this outrage is the question of Mr. Martin’s conduct; the verdict of self-defense was rather clear and did not take very long to reach.  Various African-Americans have called for violence and made death threats against Mr. Zimmerman in particular and against Caucasians in general.  Protests against the verdict have become violent with property damaged and people arrested.  Other African-American groups, while making generic appeals for calm, have not (as far as I have heard) explicitly condemned the violence.

Echoing this outrage and probably adding to it, President Obama has weighed in again:  “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”  At this point Mr. Obama should know better.  Really, Mr. President?  Would you have attacked a man smaller and weaker than yourself?  Would you have knocked him down and jumped on top of him?  Would you have pounded his head into the ground and beaten his face in?

Mr. President, I had expected better of you.

- John F. Fay

 

Concerning the Common Core State Standards

June 15, 2013

To the gentle reader,

The Common Core State Standards are a set of education standards in the United States of America which have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. They presently cover the subjects of Mathematics and of English Language Arts.  I have heard that the Science standards came out last week but I have not been able to confirm this; the Common Core web site does not display them at the moment.

While this is not directly relevant to Jacobs business, I must ask your forbearance. As a society, raising the next generation properly is the single most important thing we can do; if we fail to raise the next generation properly, then nothing else we do really matters. Education is an integral part of raising the next generation properly. As such, Jacobs should be concerned with what goes on in our schools.

The Common Core standards have generated a good bit of controversy in the United States, some of it justified. Critics have denounced them as a power grab by the Federal government. Whether or not the Federal government is trying to grab power, and whether or not it may be using the Common Core State Standards as a weapon in this power grab, the Common Core State Standards are not themselves this alleged power grab. They have also been denounced as a data-mining and record-keeping program on students and their parents, with the data to be handed over to anybody (government or corporate) who asks for it. This is the stuff of conspiracy theories; schools have always kept records on their students, and while this record-keeping is “going electronic” as most other record-keeping is doing, there are laws against publishing people’s personal data. (It is a sad commentary that things which were denounced as conspiracy theories last year are now headline news this year.) Again, though, whether or not this data-mining effort is going on, it is not Common Core; Common Core is a set of education standards and needs to be addressed as such.

Since I live in Florida, I have spent a little time comparing the Common Core standards to Florida’s Sunshine State Standards for education. Since I am an engineer, I spent the lion’s share of my time with the mathematics standards. Here is what I have found.

In the lower grades, I found very little difference between the Sunshine State Standards and Common Core. They both cover the same mathematical concepts in pretty much the same order.

Both sets of standards consider high school (grades 9-12) as a block. They both divide high school mathematics into separate bodies of knowledge and set forth the standards in each body of knowledge separately. And this is where the differences begin.

The Florida Sunshine State Standards include a Calculus body of knowledge. The Common Core standards do not. The Florida Sunshine State Standards include a Financial Literacy body of knowledge. The Common Core standards do not. The Florida Sunshine State Standards include a Trigonometry body of knowledge. The Common Core standards do not, although all of the individual subjects in the Sunshine State Standards Trigonometry section are scattered among different sections in Common Core. The Florida Sunshine State Standards include a section on Discrete Mathematics. The Common Core standards do not, although again much of what is in the Sunshine State Standards appears elsewhere in Common Core. The subject of Mathematical Induction, though, is not found in Common Core except as a footnote giving it as an optional method of solving a specific problem under a different subject.

The Common Core State Standards include a section on Number and Quantity in their high school standards. The Florida Sunshine State Standards do not, although all of the individual subjects in that section are found elsewhere in the Sunshine State Standards.

In sum, then, Common Core is missing high school Calculus, Financial Literacy, and Mathematical Induction. There may also be other omissions which I have not found; I have simply listed what I found myself. This is, let us be plain, a watering down of our high school curriculum.

A second concern which I have heard concerns the method of teaching. This is in something of a shadowy area; while it is not part of the Common Core standards themselves, it is apparently being promoted along with Common Core. The focus will apparently be on the process of arriving at an answer rather than on the correctness of the answer itself. (My source for this particular piece of information is the Associate Superintendent of the local county’s school district, with whom I met on this subject.) This certainly sounds innocuous, and even a positive thing, but I am old enough that I have seen this before. In the 1960′s there was an initiative called “New Math” which sought to motivate children by showing them the beauty of mathematics, the theory behind all their boring multiplication tables and geometric proofs. Because mathematics was my first love, I took to it like a ring to a bell; the average student, though, really didn’t care and so lost out on both the beauty of mathematics (which he didn’t care about) and the problem-solving skills (which he wasn’t taught). The result was a flurry of magazine articles a decade later with titles like “Why Johnny Can’t Add.” Our social experimentation with schoolchildren handicapped a generation of Americans.

I have also heard that the Common Core promotes word recognition in teaching children to read rather than teaching them phonics. If true, this is also a bad thing; the same generation of American schoolchildren who were shortchanged by the New Math were also handicapped by the “look-see” method of learning to read. The magazine articles about “Why Johnny Can’t Add” were accompanied by articles with titles like “Why Johnny Can’t Read” or “Why Johnny Can’t Spell.” This bears further investigation, though; a quick look at the Common Core standards for Grade 1, under “Foundational Skills” shows “Phonics and Word Recognition” as one of the skill areas.

The question of whether the Common Core State Standards as a whole are an improvement or a watering-down of our educational system is still not answered. The subject is important, to parents of school-aged children, to Americans who will have to live in a society sustained by these children when they have grown up. and to businesses as a future employers of the products of the American education system. There is a great deal of misinformation available about Common Core. I recommend strongly that people take a calm, objective look at the subject and then get involved with their local school districts.

- John F. Fay

On Government Surveillance

June 8, 2013

To the gentle reader,

In the past week, the American people have learned that the Federal Government has been recording information about every single telephone call made in this country.  Yes, so far the only order that has been made public is the one they delivered to Verizon, but only a fool would think that they have not delivered similar orders to other telephone companies.  The claim is made that they have not been recording the telephone calls–or even listening to them–but simply that they have been recording who telephoned whom, when, and for how long.  They may also have recorded where the people were during the telephone conversations; for a landline telephone, this is a no-brainer but for a cellular telephone it would require knowing which telephone tower the cell phone was using at any given moment.

Let us think about this for a moment.  Any time you are using your telephone, the government knows who you are, where you are, to whom you are speaking, and where this other person is.  Of course, they know this primarily about honest people; any criminal or terrorist who is smart enough to be dangerous will take steps to make sure that his telephone number cannot be traced back to him.

There are so many things wrong about this, I am unsure where to begin.  As good a place as any is the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The only word in this amendment that may be open to interpretation is “unreasonable.”  I am sure that to a power-hungry bureaucrat, the ability to snoop on people’s telephone calls is reasonable, but to the rest of us it is not.  I daresay that most power-hungry bureaucrats, if they were informed that perfect strangers were snooping on their telephone calls, would also consider it unreasonable.  One might also quibble about the exact definition of “probable cause,” but the wholesale gathering of telephone data is so far beyond any definition of “probable cause” this is not an issue here.  Living in the United States is not “probable cause” for suspicion of terrorism.

Some representatives, including the president, have defended the practice as being necessary for keeping us safe from terrorists.  This is complete malarkey.  To begin with, it has not kept us safe from terrorism.  To continue, most of the terrorist plots that have been foiled have been found out in other ways besides poring over reams and reams of telephone calls.  I say “most of the terrorist plots” because we are assured that this massive surveillance program has indeed “helped thwart” a “significant domestic terrorist attack,” although because the government has kept all the particulars of this hypothetical attack secret we cannot be sure.  We also have no idea how much help this surveillance program gave to the thwarting of the attack.  I am giving the government the benefit of the doubt here.

It is also worth noting that the government attempted to keep this surveillance program secret.  If this was such a great idea and was so necessary to keep us safe from terrorism, why are they so unwilling to share it with us?  Were they afraid that we would disapprove of such a necessary and beneficial program?  Any terrorist smart enough not to be caught in another way is also smart enough to cover his telephonic tracks as well.

The flip side of this is the question of what other uses the government wishes to have for this data.  We have already seen the present administration using the IRS to target groups of which it disapproves; there are allegations that the EPA has also worked to make life difficult for conservative groups.  There is a continual push to develop law enforcement tools to use against terrorists and then to use them against ordinary criminals, and now to use them against people of whom the government’s present administration disapproves.  Let us not forget the Department of Homeland Security’s attempts to label war veterans and pro-lifers as “potential terrorists.”

It is a truism that sooner or later, the government will abuse any power that it has.  The only solution is to allow government to take as little power as possible.

Please note the verb I use here.  I did not say that we should give the government as little power as possible, although that is also the case.  I said that we should allow the government to take as little power as possible.  This means that we need to be pushing back on the government continually, resisting its every attempt to encroach upon our lives.  Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; at the moment the greatest threat to our liberty is our federal government.

- John F. Fay

 

On Dying and Being Catholic

June 2, 2013

To the gentle reader,

A week and a half ago I attended a memorial service, a “celebration of life” for a coworker who had died suddenly.  He had been about two-thirds my age.  The memorial service was held at the local Unitarian-Universalist Church.

I arrived at the church somewhat early and was offered a cup of tea, which I accepted.  The pastor and a few other people arranged a few dozen chairs in a circle in the front of the church sanctuary (as the Evangelicals would call it–Catholics call it the nave; it is the large room in which the congregation sits during services), just below the podium.  Naturally this particular church has no altar.  At the appointed time, we sat in the circle of chairs, several of us with our tea in hand.  The pastor lit a candle on a table behind him and concealed behind something to symbolize the deceased.  There was some symbolism in the concealment of the flame, but the pastor did not mention it and it may not have been intentional on his part.  Then he invited us to meditate for a minute in silence with our eyes closed, noting that for people unaccustomed to meditation a minute may seem long, but that in fact it is not.  (On that point, he is correct; anybody who things a minute of silence is a long time needs to practice.  The Catholic Church has just the thing.)  As I was praying with my eyes closed, I heard a chime sound three times; opening my eyes, I saw the pastor returning to his seat in the circle after having stepped up next to the podium.  Each person in the circle then took turns saying a few things about the deceased, how he had known the deceased.  With a few dozen people, this took about an hour.  At the end of it, the pastor thanked us, got up, and blew out the candle; we got up, mingled for a short time, and then left.

In fairness to the Unitarian-Universalist Church, this was the second service for the deceased.  The formal funeral had taken place two weeks earlier; this was billed as a “celebration of life” and lived up to its billing admirably.

Let us think briefly, however, about what was missing from this service.  There were no prayers except for those silent ones offered by renegade outsiders like me.  There was no mention of Heaven, Hell, salvation, or damnation.  There was an almost complete lack of ceremony; there was nothing to indicate that the deceased was connected to the world at large beyond what we few dozen people spoke of.

Contrast this with what happens at a Catholic funeral mass.  At a Catholic funeral mass, the good news of the Gospel is proclaimed in relation to the deceased.  As the priest sprinkles holy water over the coffin, he prays for the deceased:  “in baptism he died with Christ; let him now live with Christ in His eternal kingdom.”  A crucifix and a book of the Gospels are also placed on the coffin.  And this is just the beginning.  There are readings from the Bible, giving wisdom and speaking God’s words from ancient times.  If there is to be a eulogy, there is a time set aside for it; then further prayers are offered for the deceased and those left behind.  Finally, the sacrifice of the mass is offered, in which God comes down from Heaven, is physically present on the altar in the church, and is shared among the faithful.  It is abundantly clear that the deceased is part of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Catholic Church spread around the world and also present in the immediate church.

The primary impression I received from the Unitarian-Universalist attempt at a church service was its intense poverty.  There is so much out there that they cannot receive without denying their faith. They cannot pray; they do not officially believe in God.  They cannot speak with any authority about death; all they have is scientific reason and there is so much about death that is beyond scientific inquiry.  They can offer no hope of an afterlife; they do not believe that there is such a thing.  For them, death brings down the final curtain and after it there is no more.

The faith of the Unitarian-Universalists is also weak; even in the circle of people remembering the deceased a week and a half ago, I saw the lack.  One of the members of the church, while affirming that he was a strict naturalist who did not believe in the existence of anything outside the physical world, said that in spite of this belief he was sure that the spirit of the deceased was with us somehow.  Gentle reader, that is a man whose faith cannot withstand a test.  The pastor told me afterwards that he tried to make in his church “a safe place” for any and all beliefs; this is tantamount to saying that one has no knowledge of the truth and so any substitute will do.

How much richer is the Christian, and specifically the Catholic, faith in the face of death.  The fundamental belief of Christianity is that God Himself came to be one of us, died, and rose from the dead.  As G.K. Chesterton put it, “Christianity … has a God who knows the way out of the grave.”  We know, as the priest says at the beginning of the funeral service, that “for us, life is changed, not ended.”  We also know that we are not alone when we make the passage.  The commendation at the time of death is:

May the Angels lead you into paradise;
may the martyrs greet you at your arrival
and lead you into the holy city, Jerusalem.

May the choir of Angels greet you and like Lazarus,
who once was a poor man,
may you have eternal rest.

In short, if you’re planning ever to die, be sure to do it as a Catholic.  It’s much easier that way.  If you’re not planning to die, be sure to let me know how that turns out.

- John F. Fay

On Obama, Nixon, and the IRS

May 30, 2013

To the gentle reader,

A recent column by Stephen Chapman attempts to draw a marked contrast between President Nixon and President Obama, particularly in regards to their use of the IRS for political purposes.  In the column, Mr. Chapman contrasts President Nixon’s statements about political use of the IRS (“We have all this power and we aren’t using it. Now, what the Christ is the matter?”) with Obama’s reaction when he discovered (evidently, like a cuckolded husband, he was the last person in the White House to find this out) the present behavior of the IRS (“Americans have a right to be angry about it, and I’m angry about it. It should not matter what political stripe you’re from. The fact of the matter is the IRS has to operate with absolute integrity.”).

The fatal flaw in Mr. Chapman’s reasoning is that he is placing Mr. Obama’s public statements next to Mr. Nixon’s private statements and expecting us to consider them to be equivalent.  This is complete hogwash.  Public statements, like Mr. Obama’s expression of outrage, are bromides meant to placate the electorate.  Private statements, of which we have heard none from Mr. Obama, reflect the politician’s true thinking.

Mr. Chapman noted that Mr. Obama made the statement as he announced the dismissal of the acting commissioner of the IRS, but this dismissal was a trivial matter; the man was going to leave his job in a week anyway.  More telling is that the IRS official who was personally in charge of the department that showed the politically-biased behavior has been promoted.

As this scandal continues to unfold, let us not be led astray by smoke screens from the left.  Until there is a major turnover of personnel at the IRS, the White House, and the Justice Department, and until people go to prison over this misconduct, the administration is not taking its misbehavior seriously.

- John F. Fay

 

On Pope Francis and Heaven for Atheists

May 28, 2013

To the gentle reader,

A friend yesterday pointed out to me an article on CNN titled “Heaven for atheists? Pope sparks debate.”  The article discusses some remarks His Holiness made last Wednesday and the reaction of various people to these remarks.  I’m not able to find the full text of what His Holiness said, but a second article on the subject, which I quote at length here, gives some additional words:

“We are all children of God — all of us. And God loves us — all of us,” the pope said in his homily … .

The pope said that by saying, “If he’s not one of us, he cannot do good; if he’s not in our party, he can’t do good,” the disciples were “a bit intolerant, closed in the idea of possessing the truth, in the conviction that ‘all those who do not have the truth cannot do good.’”

However, the pope said, “the possibility of doing good is something we all have” as individuals created in the image and likeness of God.

All people are called to do good and not evil, the pope said. Some would object, “‘but, Father, he isn’t Catholic so he can’t do good.’ Yes, he can. He must.”

The idea that others cannot really be good and do good in the world creates “a wall that leads to war and to something that historically some people have thought: that we can kill in the name of God. And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that one can kill in God’s name is blasphemy.”

“The Lord has redeemed us all with the blood of Christ, all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone,” he said. Some may ask, “‘Father, even the atheists?’ Them, too. Everyone.”

The commandment to do good and avoid evil is something that binds all human beings, he said, and it is “a beautiful path to peace.”

Noticing the good others do, affirming them and working with them promotes an encounter that is good for individuals and societies, he said. “Little by little we build that culture of encounter that we need so much.”

Someone can object, “‘But I don’t believe, Father, I’m an atheist.’ But do good and we’ll meet there,” he said.

Noting that May 22 was the feast of St. Rita of Cascia, sometimes called the saint of impossible causes, the pope asked the small congregation to pray for “this grace that everyone, all persons would do good and that we would encounter each other in this work.”

“May St. Rita grant us this grace, which seems impossible,” he said.

Gentle reader, there is not much here–if anything at all–that is new or foreign to Catholic teaching.  First, that Christ redeemed the whole human race by the shedding of His blood is nothing new; you can find it in paragraph 605 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  (It is worth noting that just because Christ redeemed a person does not mean that the person will find himself in Heaven.)  Second, that non-Catholics can do good works is self-evident to anybody who looks around.  Third, and this is a critical misunderstanding on the part of the commentators, His Holiness was speaking of doing good works; he was not, by and large, speaking of salvation.  The only hint of salvation that one finds in his words is the line in the third-to-the-last quoted paragraph:  “But do good and we’ll meet there.”  Strictly speaking, this refers to “that culture of encounter” mentioned in the previous paragraph.  One could optimistically take it to mean Heaven, but then one must make the additional logical leaps that an atheist who does good will continue in his atheism or that his good works will get him into Heaven.  (They will not, by the way; the Catholic Church teaches that one gets into Heaven through grace, which is received from God as a gift.)

According to the CNN article, the Vatican issued an “explanatory note on the meaning to (sic) ‘salvation’” the next day.  Given the misunderstanding that greeted His Holiness’ words, this was highly apropos.  Given the rarity with which the secular media listen to the Catholic Church, any chance to proclaim Catholic doctrine when it will be heard should be seized with both hands.

But “the meaning to ‘salvation’” misses His Holiness’ point.  The Pope was speaking of doing good works with anybody who is interested in joining us in them.  In the doing of those good works, we can then meet each other, get to know each other, and recognize each other as decent human beings.  When that happens, we will find ourselves (to use His Holiness’ words) on “the beautiful path to peace.”  As Jesus said (and this was the passage about which His Holiness was speaking), “For there is no man that doth a miracle in my name, and can soon speak ill of me.

- John F. Fay

On Christianity in the American Military

May 5, 2013

To the gentle reader,

Yesterday a friend of mine on Facebook, who has had rather a difficult time with life of late, wrote a post that said in essence, “Oh, no, not again.”  I responded by suggesting that he ask God what He wanted him to do with his life; since God made him and keeps him alive, God would know a thing or two about him.  In the United States Army or Air Force, under proposed regulations, my suggestion would open me to court-martial proceedings.

On the surface, the policy sounds very innocuous:  “Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one’s beliefs (proselytization).”  And if people are reasonable, it is indeed innocuous.  The problems begin when people are not reasonable.  Let me give a few examples.

It was in the news recently that an officer at the Air Force Academy was ordered by a superior to remove a Bible from his desk.  While the nominal Air Force policy allows Bibles on officers’ desks and this incident was attributed to an overzealous superior, the fact remains that–according to the news story–the officer was required to remove his Bible.

A briefing on religious extremism by the Army Reserve Equal Opportunity Office listed as examples of religious extremists Evangelical Christianity, Catholicism, Al Qaeda, Hamas, the Ku Klux Klan, Sunni Muslims, and the Nation of Islam.  When this was made public and people rightly expressed their outrage, the offending slide in the briefing was removed, but there is nothing to indicate that the person who created the briefing has changed his mind at all on the subject.  It is worth noting what a broad brush he used in labeling religious extremists:  all Evangelical Christians, Catholics, and Sunni Muslims are included, but only isolated terrorist groups otherwise.  (I am sure that any Roman Catholic priest would be delighted if all of the parishioners under his care were as devoted to Catholicism as Hamas members are devoted to their religion.  Catholicism forbids the use of terror tactics; the level of devotion to true Catholic teaching, though, would be a marvelous thing.  As it is, many Catholics don’t even meet the minimal requirements of the Church.)

Last year, Catholic chaplains were forbidden from reading a pastoral letter from the Catholic Bishop for Military Services to the people in their charge.  The subject of the letter was the abortion mandate in ObamaCare and the violation of conscience that this mandate entails.

There have been a host of other incidents in the last few years adding up to a pattern of hostility towards Christianity on the part of the American military hierarchy, and in fact on the part of the United States government in general.  (I will only not in passing the Department of Homeland Security’s characterization of me as a potential terrorist because I believe that unborn children are human beings.)  Opponents of Christianity deny that such a pattern exists, claiming that these are only isolated occurrences.  One must ask, however, how many isolated occurrences it takes to form a pattern.  To me, the threshold was crossed long ago.

Concerning the present policy, let us consider also its vagueness.  Sharing one’s faith in a way that makes the other person uncomfortable is forbidden.  This opens several cans of worms.  First, while there is a great difference between the statement “I am a Christian” and “You should be a Christian,” many people do not recognize this difference.  As such, this policy opens the door for many complaints against Christians for simply expressing their own faith–never mind any obedience to Jesus’ final command to “go make disciples of all nations.”  By some interpretations, simply exhibiting some sign that one is a Christian opens one to sanction under this policy–as the officer at the Air Force Academy with the Bible on his desk found out.

A second problem concerns the question of discomfort.  Many non-Christians, at least in the United States, are very uncomfortable in the presence of active Christians.  The Christian does not have to say or do anything; it is his mere presence that makes the non-Christian uncomfortable.  (I remember a conversation many years ago in which a coworker told me that when he took over the world I and my fellow Christians would be the first ones “up against the wall.”)  What, then, is the Christian to do when a non-Christian expresses discomfort?  Is the non-Christian allowed to impose his own (lack of) religion on the Christian any more than the Christian can impose his own values?

A third problem has to do with the practical implications of Christianity.  When a Catholic chaplain refuses to perform a wedding ceremony for a homosexual couple, will he be sanctioned for forcing his religious views upon them?  The present administration in the government has shown great hostility for “conscience clauses” in advancing its social agenda.
If I may speak personally, my wife and I separated about eight years ago.  We are still married, though; we are Catholic, and the Catholic Church follows Jesus’ lead in forbidding divorce.  Friends, family members, co-workers, even casual acquaintances have urged me to divorce my wife and have shown discomfort from my refusal to do so.  In many cases these other people are divorced and remarried themselves; this is a surmise, but there is a possibility that my refusal to break my wedding vows causes them discomfort because it reminds them that they have broken theirs.  Were I in the military, would I be forced to divorce my wife in order to spare them the discomfort?  People may say that this is a ridiculous and impossible scenario, but scenarios that were considered ridiculous and impossible a generation ago have now come to pass.- John F. Fay

More Respectful Dialogue from the Homosexual Community

April 26, 2013

To the gentle reader,

News from Europe brings an item to the effect that a Catholic archbishop was attending a debate last Tuesday over freedom of expression when he was attacked by feminist protesters.  These protesters stripped to the waist, screamed insults and curses at the archbishop, and threw water on him from bottles shaped like Mary statues.  The archbishop sat there quietly with his eyes closed and his hands folded in prayer.  A picture of the incident–with the protesters’ breasts pixillated out for the sake of delicacy–has been circulating on Tumblr.  The picture also gives some scathing commentary which, for the sake of people who do not wish to look at pictures of topless women, even pixillated, I will repeat here:  “Gay liberals showing peace, love, tolerance, equality, diversity, and progress.  Christian priest showing hatred, bigotry, racism, right-wing ideals, and violence.”

Perhaps the American news media do not consider this newsworthy; perhaps they are simply a little slow on the uptake.  As of Friday morning, I do not find any mention of the incident on CNN or Fox News.  A Yahoo search of the incident yields nothing from the American news media.  The European news outlets cover the story; so does the Sowetan from South Africa.  But the American mainstream media are silent.

There is an article on the incident (the article also contains photographs which may offend the delicate reader) in the Huffington Post.  The article is relatively straightforward; I find the comments at the end of the article most revealing, though.  There are two main themes:  first, that this sort of conduct will not help the homosexual cause; and second, that the victim of the assault (and the Catholic Church in general) had it coming.  (The irony of “blaming the victim” comes to mind here.)  Rarely in the list of comments did I find a statement that decent people do not behave this way.

This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened.  A quarter-century ago, on December 19, 1989 to be specific, members of the homosexual group ACT UP invaded St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and disrupted the service that was going on, shouting slogans, throwing condoms among the congregation, and chaining themselves to the pews.  (While they were doing that, the cardinal whose church they invaded made a regular practice of visiting AIDS patients in the hospital and, among other things, changing their bed pans.

Gentle reader, this appears to be what the homosexual community considers to be a “respectful dialogue.”  Until they can show some respect, I want no part of it.

- John F. Fay

 

A $900,000,000 “Accounting Error”

April 17, 2013

To the gentle reader,

In these days of sequestration, budget cutting, and questions of how the government can function on less money than it has been accustomed to, we have an excellent example of why we need these budget cuts.  It appears that last November an audit from the Inspector General’s office discovered about $900 million worth of parts for the Army’s Stryker armored vehicle sitting in a warehouse in Washington state.  These spare parts accumulated over the past decade and are apparently obsolete and unusable.  It also appears that the Army’s accounting system had no entries for them; had the inspector not stumbled over them, they would have gathered dust there until the end of time.  One is reminded of the last scene in the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” in which the Ark of the Covenant is filed away in some dusty warehouse while the bureaucrat is assuring Indiana Jones that “our top men are working on it.”

Perhaps more disconcerting than the magnitude of the error–this is more than the full military budget of over a hundred countries–is the blase attitude with which it has been greeted.  Another article on the subject quotes one Dan Goure of the Lexington Institute, a defense think tank, as saying that this is “‘much ado about nothing’ because it’s ‘essentially miscommunication.’”  Pardon me, but their failure to communicate has cost the American taxpayers $900,000,000.  If he thinks this is “nothing” I invite him to give me even one tenth of one percent of that “nothing.”

- John F. Fay

 


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