Take a Penny, Leave a Penny

Dear All,

The time has rolled around for me to renew my upgraded WordPress membership which, inter alia, allows me to use a real domain name for this site rather than the gangly and ghastly opuspublicum.wordpress.com address. If you are so inclined, I have setup a PayPal.Me account where you can toss a few pennies my way to help in this effort. No, I don’t “need” this money to keep the blog rolling, but even a dollar or two would be greatly appreciated. Also, anything I receive over the cost of paying off WordPress will be donated to St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church (which I mentioned earlier in the week here).

Thanks.

Double Prayer Request

Blogs and social media are probably poor forums to make prayer requests, but I use what’s available to me.

First, please pray for St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Grand Rapids, MI. After nearly 70 years the parish is looking down the barrel of being shuttered by 2018 due to the financial well starting to run dry. Eastern Catholics have never had a large presence in West Michigan and St. Michael’s remains to this day off the local Catholic radar. Ideas are currently being kicked around on how to keep the parish going, but your prayerful support would be most appreciated.

Second, please keep me in your prayers as I am currently dealing with some very heavy personal matters while also trying to search out new employment. Both have obviously taken a toll on my blogging, but first things first as they say.

Thank you.

The Ochlophobist’s Why I am… Series

With Opus Publicum still in down-shift mode, let me suggest that you pay a visit to The Ochlophobist web-log where Mr. Owen White is hosting a series of posts from various contributors entitled, “Why I am…” (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, etc.). The series has a very unique set of rules, which you can peruse here. While there are already many fascinating contributions posted, if you need a place to start, I heartily recommend Pater Edmund Waldstein’s “Why I am a Christian” and Bernard Brandt’s “Why I am an Eastern (Catholic) Christian.” Although I have been invited to contribute to the series, I am not sure at this point if I will be able to. Even so, just reading and reflecting on what has already been posted has been a very fruitful exercise.

Links

I am terrible with links. I admit it, and I haven’t done a thing to update the Links section to Opus Publicum since I (re-)launched it in July 2014. There are so many blogs and sites that I read regularly which have simply been left off of here and I plan to rectify that in due course.

Two lesser-known blogs I want to briefly highlight come from regular combox contributors to this one: Gregory Stackpole’s Into the Clarities and Bernard Brandt’s Random Conjectures. Both are well worth reading.

Also, if you notice that I have updated my links and omitted your blog or website, please don’t feel it rude to bring it to my attention. Sometimes things just get lost in the sauce, as they say.

More Quotes for the Day

There is also the superstition of the Ishmaelites which to this day prevails and keeps people in error, being a forerunner of the Antichrist. They are descended from Ishmael, [who] was born to Abraham of Agar, and for this reason they are called both Agarenes and Ishmaelites… From that time to the present a false prophet named Mohammed has appeared in their midst. This man, after having chanced upon the Old and New Testaments and likewise, it seems, having conversed with an Arian monk, devised his own heresy. Then, having insinuated himself into the good graces of the people by a show of seeming piety, he gave out that a certain book had been sent down to him from heaven. He had set down some ridiculous compositions in this book of his and he gave it to them as an object of veneration.

– St. John of Damascus, Concerning Heresies

Islam promises a worldly-dominated blissful happiness, the fulfillment of all desires and sensations of the faithful, but also a mental blissful happiness after death for the followers of Allah. Western Christians better understand this blissful happiness, despite the ascetic life of the Orthodox Church which ascetically aims at overcoming blissful happiness. The same commonalities are observed in other issues, such as the issue and source of Faith. For the Muslim the Koran is the revelation of God, and the redemption of the believer depends on the book and its reading. This mindset is also found among Western Christians, for whom the Bible is the word of God and the only source of faith, which is why [Protestant] Westerners better understand the Muslim perception of Revelation rather than the Orthodox, for whom the Gospel is not a Revelation but words about the Revelation

– Metropolitan Hierothos of Nafpaktos

Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached. God is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats. . . . To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death.

– Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos, 26 Dialogues with a Persian 

Quotes for the Day

Islam is apparently unconvertible. The missionary efforts made by great Catholic orders which have been occupied in trying to turn Mohammedans into Christians for nearly 400 years have everywhere wholly failed. We have in some places driven the Mohammedan master out and freed his Christian subjects from Mohammedan control, but we have had hardly any effect in converting individual Mohammedans[.]

– Hilaire Belloc, The Great Heresies 

There is in Islam a paradox which is perhaps a permanent menace. The great creed born in the desert creates a kind of ecstasy out of the very emptiness of its own land, and even, one may say, out of the emptiness of its own theology. It affirms, with no little sublimity, something that is not merely the singleness but rather the solitude of God. There is the same extreme simplification in the solitary figure of the Prophet; and yet this isolation perpetually reacts into its own opposite. A void is made in the heart of Islam which has to be filled up again and again by a mere repetition of the revolution that founded it. There are no sacraments; the only thing that can happen is a sort of apocalypse, as unique as the end of the world; so the apocalypse can only be repeated and the world end again and again. There are no priests; and yet this equality can only breed a multitude of lawless prophets almost as numerous as priests. The very dogma that there is only one Mahomet produces an endless procession of Mahomets. Of these the mightiest in modern times were the man whose name was Ahmed, and whose more famous title was the Mahdi; and his more ferocious successor Abdullahi, who was generally known as the Khalifa. These great fanatics, or great creators of fanaticism, succeeded in making a militarism almost as famous and formidable as that of the Turkish Empire on whose frontiers it hovered, and in spreading a reign of terror such as can seldom be organised except by civilisation

– G.K. Chesterton, Lord Kitchener

For as long as Moslems are an insignificant minority in a Christian country they can live in a friendly way, because they follow the laws and customs of the country which accepts them. But as soon as they are numerous and organized they become aggressive and they seek to impose their laws, which are hostile to European civilization. Examples are abundant. Soon they will take charge of our city councils, and will transform our churches into mosques. We will either have to become Moslem, leave the country or become their captives. This is in the profound nature of Islam. It is not I who am racist in denouncing this very racism.

– Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre

Paris II

There is a quite a bit of clamor on social media and other outlets that Friday’s deadly attacks in Paris are receiving a disproportionate amount of media attention compared to other high-casualty attacks in places like Kenya and Lebanon. The critical read of this reality is that (mostly white) Western Europeans and Americans don’t care about “dark people” from third-world countries. There is probably more than a ring of truth to this observation, though it ignores the fact that brutal, well-planned terrorist assaults are “not supposed to happen” in places like Paris, London, and New York. If Paris is susceptible to such organized violence by so-called extremists, what’s to top something similar from happening in Berlin or Rome or Chicago? Paris makes the threat of Islamic terror feel more immediate than bomb blasts in Beirut. A soberminded reflection reveals that terrorist violence is always abhorrent; but that doesn’t change how the popular consciousness will react to it. Remember: One of the (rickety) promises of liberalism, which finds its roots in Thomas Hobbes, is to keep the citizenry safe from violent death. Terrorism upsets this claim.

Terrorism upsets this claim not simply by the fact it kills people, but because it reminds us that there are still genuine enemies in the world, that is, those who force us to make an existential decision about ourselves. The problem is that liberalism itself is not a banner most spiritually healthy individuals which to march under, for there is really nothing “to” liberalism except a series of promises culminating in an unimaginative, hedonistic, and ultimately cowardly life—a life of “entertainment” as Carl Schmitt quietly, but powerfully, noted in his The Concept of the Political. Men are not willing to die for such things; they are only willing to put their power behind making sure that others die for them. Granted, America, more than its European neighbors, still presents a tale of transcendent meaning to prop-up the prevailing liberal ideology, but how long is that bound to last? At some point in the not-so-distant future the vacuousness of the so-called “American Experiment” will be as evident as the moral and spiritual emptiness of European-style liberalism. How long until we submit—as European is submitting—to the crescent moon?

It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. The future is not written in stone. The great and terrible problem before us is that nothing appears ready to step-in and renew the West’s spirit, to reorient its existential self-understanding toward something higher than natural desires. The institutional Catholic Church, which has been gutted by the same liberalism which has already eroded the traditional bases of society, has little more to offer than a banalized rhetoric of intramundane peace. Instead of praying to Almighty God for protection from the infidels and their conversion, the shepherds scramble to setup “interfaith prayer services.” Instead of using large public gatherings to inform people that what they need in their lives above all else is Jesus Christ, the Pope himself dresses up fashionable political problems in light Christian garb. Although it is a false religion built on violence, perversion, and lies, Islam at least offers a spiritually robust alternative to the West’s cultural malaise. It may be grotesque, but at least it is something. When will the Church wake up to this horror and fight back? How long will God allow us to suffer these evils? Pray. Pray that our Lord, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the Saints, raise up His Church again, not only in the West but the longsuffering East as well. The fate of not just civilization, but millions upon millions of souls, depends on it.

Paris

Much to the chagrin of many, the American comedian Anthony Jeselnik likes to have a bit of sport with tragedies on Twitter. At the end of his most recent comedy special, Thoughts and Prayers, Jeselnik explained that his reason for doing so wasn’t to belittle the victims but to lampoon the millions who take to social media to express their “thoughts and prayers” for the victims, which—according to Jeselnik—amounts to nothing more than empty self-aggrandizing. Being that I am not quite that cynical, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, though admittedly I keep a light social-media profile. I certainly have no problem with people expressing their opinions on social media so long as they are informed opinions (I’m naïve). Looking over my Facebook feed this morning, most of my online (and some real-life) friends are genuinely upset over what took place last night in Paris. Many differ on what those attacks mean and what the proper international response ought to be. Certainly the tragedy will have power political ramifications for both France and the European Union as a whole. The ongoing refugee crisis will likely worsen and further attacks are inevitable.

And yet, according to some online pundits and self-anointed moralists of the Left, Europe—and the rest of the world—must take care not to jump too any conclusions or, worse, “politicize the tragedy.” Already the “Religion of Peace” rhetoric is starting to fly, along with stern reminders that Christians, Jews, and Hindus “do bad stuff, too.” (Atheists are always left off of these lists.) Some want to cast last night’s attacks as part of a larger tale about “victims”—not just those killed or wounded in Paris, but all victims everywhere. If Europe could just find it in its heart to not be so mean to refugees (some of whom aren’t even refugees) and the rest of the world would just help “peaceful democracy” spread to countries which have never known it (and arguably have no use for it), then 130+ people would still be alive this morning. We shouldn’t be angry at the ones taking credit for the attacks, the so-called Islamic State. We should shake our fists at Obama, Hollande, Merkel, Assad, Putin, and so on and so forth. We should shake our fists at ourselves for clearly the decadent West alone is to blame.

The funny thing about this line of moralizing is that it does have a ring of truth to it. The West is decadent. It is fueled by passion and guided by consumption, comfort, and greed. None of that means that the West, or any part of the world, “deserves” to be hit by terrorist attacks. And none of that means that Islam is what we’re supposed to believe it is. By Christian lights—the only lights that matter—Islam is evil. It is a false religion built around a false god, brought into the world by a false prophet who deserves nothing but humanity’s contempt. If we cannot begin with that truth then there is no way to make sense of what has happened in Paris and will continue to happen all over the world. Instead, we all scramble about looking for political, sociological, and economic explanations when in reality the only explanation that means anything is religious. Maybe more people are aware of this than I assume. Perhaps that is why so many are expressing thoughts and prayers for France. They know that only God can save Europe now.

True Detective Season 2

I am not normally inclined to write about pop culture, particularly TV shows, but I will admit openly that I am, and remain, a fan of True Detective — both seasons. The flak taken by Season 2, which just wrapped up on Sunday, is understandable. Season 1 was arresting because of where it chose to go. The fact that creator Nic Pizzolatto managed to create one of the best television characters ever in Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle didn’t hurt either. There was no way the sophomore run stood a critical chance, which may have been for the best. For instead of trying to recreate the natural hell on earth that is a certain conceptualization of the South (one Cormac McCarthy has made a career out of tapping into), Pizzolatto opted to drop his audience into a more obvious world of desolation, debauchery, and deceit: the wastes that surround the unduly romanticized urban nightmare that has always been Los Angeles. And then he went one step further. Instead of populating it with ritzy, clever, and sexy celebrities, he chose instead to fill it — and thus this season — with a band of losers — losers who may have had glimpses of glory if they had made a few dozen right turns in their respective lives, but losers nonetheless. They entered the world beaten, and their chances of ever making it through whole were almost impossible. In fact, death proved for 3/4ths of them the only avenue to completeness.

Continue reading

Going Along

I am embarking upon a fairly detailed writing endeavor. The wise man would say that I should cease all blogging activity until it is finished. Being that I am anything but wise, I do plan to continue updating Opus Publicum, only with posts that represent something like extended footnotes for the book I hope to complete no later than the end of this year. Some additional asides and commentaries on secondary sources are bound to make their way on here, which may or may not include critical responses to certain authors. Regardless, inter-ecclesial squabbling or, for that matter, intra-ecclesial squabbling will find no more quarter here. I have long maintained a strict “hands off” approach to my combox, but that policy is changing as of right now. I have no interest whatsoever in this blog becoming a lightning rod for Orthodox/Catholic polemics, nor do I believe it is prudent that my personal life — and personal choices — become the subject of gossip and innuendo. You may, of course, agree or disagree with my positions, and that is fine. I welcome thoughtful criticism.

I know that in my own life I have a great deal to sort out. I have struggled. I have stumbled. I have sinned. I know that I have not always treated my interlocutors with the degree of charity I desire out of them nor have I always approached positions and ideas with which I disagree with the appropriate amount of levity. For that I am sorry. I do hope and pray that the substantive work in which I am currently engaged will bear good fruit.

Your prayers have done far more for me over the years than most of you realize. I cannot thank you enough.

Fortitudo mea et laus mea Dominus et factus est mihi in salutem