28 December 2013

Might Makes "Right," or Fascism Kills

The Feast of the Holy Innocents always prompts me to wonder: how do we -- allegedly among the most civilized nations on Earth -- allow the slaughter of our children by the thousands everyday? Part of the answer can be found in exploring how we've allowed Cultural Marxism to infect our nation's politics, and how we've adopted Soft Fascism as a way of life.
From a 2011 post:
Peter Smith, writing at The Bell Towers, reports on an annual public meeting in the UK called Battle of Ideas

One paragraph of his report very nicely sums up a distinction I've been trying to flesh out in my homilies for years now:

John Haldane, a softly-spoken Scots academic from St Andrews. . .and fellow-traveler Catholic, put forward the proposition that the fundamental cultural debate is between one collection of ideas, called ‘the anti-realists’, and another, those of ‘the realists’, and that this cultural tension is manifest in political and social policy. Real ideas (by which I think he also meant realistic) contained at their core the notion that the universe is natural, objectively ‘out there’, knowable but distinct, and informing views on sexuality, sex, marriage, death, etc. Anti-realist ideas, by contrast, consider everything as human constructs, plastic and malleable, which can be bended and altered but which inherently are unknowable. Realism and anti-realism contain fundamentally different understandings about what is knowable and what is not, what can be change and what cannot, and mankind’s place in creation.

The distinction btw Realism and Anti-realism is applicable in all branches of philosophy, especially the philosophy of science (essentially a practical application of epistemology), and used extensively in all the humanities.

Applying the distinction to political discourse is extremely useful b/c it gives us a way of addressing and refuting such contemporary political monsters as "identity politics," "victim culture," and other creations of Gramscian cultural Marxism. 

The basic political move of the anti-realists is this: 

1. Use appeals to perspectivism to undermine objectively knowable truth: "From my perspective, X is oppressive/unjust/wrong." The operative concept to push here is the primacy of "context."

2. Once perspectivism has been absorbed into the engines of culture (media, books, academy), move quickly to promote relativism: "You have your perspective on X and I have mine. There's no way to tell which perspective of X is really true."

3. Now that relativism is established, move to nihilism: "Since there's no way to know whose perspective on X is really 'true,' we can conclude that there is no such thing as 'truth.' about X." 

4. Nihilism leads to eliminativism: "If there is no 'truth' about X, then there's no reason to believe that there is any such thing as 'truth' at all."

5. Eliminativism supports "the will to power" in an attack on any claim that something is True: "Your claim that there is such a thing as 'truth" is just an exercise of your _____ power."  The blank is usually filled with an adjective describing the race, class, gender, an/or sexual orientation of the accused.

6. Once the Will to Power is broadly adopted, it's simply a matter of making sure that Your Side has the strongest will to grab the most power. Since there can be no appeal to an objectively knowable standard of distinguishing truth from error (anti-realism), truth is whatever the most politically powerful say it is:  "The greedy 99% is being exploited by the 1%." 

Anti-realism is the philosophical basis for fascism: the State determines reality/truth.

This is all just a highly simplified summary.  The moves between stages are complex and would require whole books to flesh out. However, nota bene, that the steps I've outlined here are on naked display in our contemporary political arena. 

One example: notice how easily our Cultural Betters throw the use "fact" to describe what it is in reality nothing more than an opinion.  Once everything is "just an opinion," then anything at all can be called a "fact." Challenging the "fact" exposes you to the charge that you are abusing your white, middle-class, heterosexual male power.

H/T: Michael Liccione (from Facebook)

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25 December 2013

Squirrels, or I Told Ya. . .

Vicious little rodents are just waiting for me to go outside. . .

Attack of the Squirrels from Gregory Bianchi on Vimeo.


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24 December 2013

A primer on the Incarnation

My annual post on the nature of the Incarnation:
The Nativity of Christ, or Christmas ("Christ Mass"), celebrates one of the most important events of the Church:  the incarnation of the Son of God.  Like the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, etc., the Incarnation is one of those rock-bottom Christian beliefs that most Christians assent to but probably don't really understand.  Though Catholics all over the world affirm their belief in the incarnation every Sunday by reciting the Creed, how many could explain this tenet of the faith in the simplest terms?

Let's start with a story. . .

The archangel Gabriel appears to Mary and announces to her that God has chosen her to be the mother of the Christ Child, His Son.  Mary says, "Your will be done" and the Holy Spirit descends on Mary, giving her the child.  Nine months later the Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Simple enough story, right?  If we left the incarnation there, we would still have the basic truth of Christ's arrival into the world.  Things get a little more complicated when we start to think about what it means for the Son of God (who is God) to take on human flesh and live among us.  How does the God of the Old and New Testament become incarnated yet remain sovereign God?  We are immediately confronted by what theologians call "the Christological question":  how is the man Jesus also God?

Before this question was settled by the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., a number of answers were offered and rejected:

Jesus is really a man who possesses God-like qualities.
Jesus is really God in the appearance of a man.
Jesus is half-God and half-man.
Jesus' soul is divine but his body is human.
Jesus' body is human but his mind is divine.

Complicating matters even more was the lack of an adequate theological vocabulary with which to think about and write about the incarnation.  Early Christian theologians turned to the available philosophical vocabularies for help.  The most prominent philosophical system in the first few centuries of the Church was a developed form of Platonism.  Borrowing heavily from the Platonists, the Church Fathers crafted a creedal statement that said:  The Father and the Son are the same in substance ("consubstantial"), meaning that they are the same God.:  "God from God, light from light, true God from true God." The Son was not created in time like man but rather begotten from all eternity.  He "became incarnate" through the Virgin Mary--fully human in all but sin. 

This creedal statement defined the orthodox position of the Catholic Church.  However, interpretations of the creed abounded and additional councils had to sort through them all in order to discover the orthodox expression of the true faith.  In the end, the Nicene Creed was taken to mean that Jesus was fully human and fully divine:  one divine person (one body/soul) with two natures (human and divine).  "Person," "essence," "being," "nature" are all terms borrowed from Greek philosophy.  So, as the West discovered new ways of thinking philosophically, these terms took on different meanings and our interpretations of theological expressions of the truth developed as well.  The basic truth of the incarnation does not change; however, how we understand that truth does change.

For example,  the Greek word we translate as "person" is prosopon, or mask.  This term was used in the Greek theater to denote the different characters played by one actor.  A single actor would hold a mask in each hand and shift the masks in front of his face to say his lines, indicating that the lines were being said by different characters.  Applying this term to God, the Blessed Trinity, we arrive at a single actor (God) using three masks (Father, Son, Holy Spirit).  Same actor, different characters.  Ultimately, this metaphor is woefully inadequate for expressing the deepest truth of the Trinity.  Yet, we still say that the Trinity is three divine persons, one God.  "Person" as a philosophical term used to describe a theological truth had to be developed.

Eventually, we came to understand several vital distinctions:  The Church uses the term "substance" (rendered also at times by "essence" or "nature") to designate the divine being in its unity, the term "person" or "hypostasis" to designate the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the real distinction among them, and the term "relation" to designate the fact that their distinction lies in the relationship of each to the others (CCC 252).

 So, God is one substance; three divine persons; distinguished  from one another not by their natures or persons but by their relations one to another.  The incarnation then is the second divine Person of the one God becoming a divine person with two substances or natures.

You are one person with one nature:  "I am human."
God is three divine persons with one nature: "I am divine."
Christ is one divine person with two natures:  "I am human and divine."

Aquinas, quoting Irenaeus, writes, "God became man so that man might become God."  The incarnation of the Son makes it possible for us to become God (theosis).  This is how Catholics understand salvation.

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The ultimate triumph of Light over darkness

NB. A Christmas homily from 2011. . .
Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, New Orleans

In 431 A.D., our Church Fathers gathered in Ephesus for a council and decreed that the Blessed Virgin Mary would be honored with the title, Theotókos, God-bearer or the one who gives birth to God. For a majority of Christians at the time, this decree was yawn-inducing b/c Mary had been known as Theotókos for a couple of centuries. However, one bishop, Patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople, objected to the title because he thought it was irrational to believe that a creature of God—a human woman—could be the mother of the God who had created her. He preferred the title, Christotokos or bearer of the Christ. This title makes it clear that Mary is the mother of Christ, the man, but not the mother of Christ, who is God. Nestorius was credibly accused of dividing Christ into two persons—a human person and a divine person—and thus destroying our means of salvation. After all, we are saved by Christ precisely because he is one person possessing both a human nature and a divine nature. The council fathers declared Nestorius' teachings heretical and supported the teachings of his opponent, the bishop of Alexandria, St. Cyril. In support of his position at the council, Cyril wrote, “I am amazed that there are some who doubt whether or not the Virgin should be called Theotokos. For if our Lord Jesus Christ is God, how is the Virgin who gave him birth, not the one who gives birth to God?” 

Now, you are probably thinking to yourself: Father, we're all stuffed with ham, sweet potatoes, yeast rolls, and pie. . .and we have a big mess to clean up at home. . .what have we ever done to you to deserve a lecture on fourth-century Christological controversies? Well, you've probably done something in the last year to deserve it. . .but that's not really the point. The point is this: the event we celebrate today is not Jesus' birthday. . .this is not a Birthday Party. The event we celebrate is (quoting John's gospel): “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. . .” The Word became flesh. Who is the Word? Again, quoting John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Don't miss that last bit: “and the Word was God.” God took on skin and bone and blood, and He dwelt among us as one us. Today, we celebrate the event of our Creator stepping into His creation to become a creature. This is most emphatically NOT a birthday party. . .this is an Incarnation Party! The Word of God, the Christ, who is God, becomes Man so that we might become Christs. 

And that's the answer to my next question: why did the Word of God, the Christ, who is God become Man? So that we might become Christs. John writes, “. . .to those who accept [Christ] he gave power to become children of God.” To be a child of God is to be a co-heir to God's Kingdom, to be a brother or sister to the Son of God. To be one of the Father's children is to be one who sees “[Christ's] glory. . .full of grace and truth.” And to see Christ's glory, full of grace and truth is to see clearly the righteous path back to the Father. When we follow that path—with humility, in obedience; loving, forgiving, showing mercy all along the way—we grow closer to Christ and become more and more like Christ. But the only reason we can even begin to walk this path is because the Word of God, the Christ, became human like one of us; suffered and died like one of us; and rose from the tomb in order to show us how it's done. He had to go first, so that we might follow.

Today, Christ is born to the Virgin Mary. She is Theotókos, God-bearer, Mother of God Incarnate. And if you step onto the narrow way, the path of holiness, you too can bear Christ into the world; and not only bear him into the world, but become him for others in the world. Your words, deeds, thoughts can all reveal God's glory to the world just as Christ himself revealed God to us. When you leave this evening. . .when you go back out there. . .back to your Christmas mess. . .or someone else's mess. . .wherever you go. . .remember that this holy day celebrates the ultimate triumph of Light over darkness. . .and so, as you go, be “the true light, which enlightens everyone.” Be Christ!

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A 4 y.o. me at Christmas

Here's a Christmas pic of part of my family from 1968.  

I'm the only one smiling.

This was taken at my grandparents' house in Lynn, MS.  My maternal grandfather, Clyde Mitchell, is in the center.  He died in March of 2011 at 98 y.o.!

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A Catholic literature?


The Squirrels have been less than vigilant in their war against my reading regime. They must've heard that I am focusing on spiritual/pleasure reading during this break. When I'm reading in preparation to teach a course, they are merciless in attacking my peace.

A HancAquam post wouldn't be complete w/o a link to some books. . .so, here's a piece from Cosmos The In Lost (yes, that's how he arranges it):

There's a debate raging amongst Catholic literary critics about whether or not Catholic literature is dead and/or dying. Prof. Rosman denies that "literature of faith" is either dead or dying and defends the existence of a robust Catholic literary scene. The title of the post linked above refers to Greg Wolfe, editor of Image, a journal that trades in the literature of faith. 

Check it out!

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