Friday, September 30, 2005

Beyond Good and Evil...Yeah, right!

One of my favorite neologisms coined by Fr. Neuhaus is "beyondism". This is a type of self-deluding moral triangulation that...well, just read this:

"On the left and on the right, we hear people claiming to be "beyond" the old categories of left and right, liberal and conservative. These are the beyondists. They are usually liberals running away from the sour smell of liberalism far beyond its sell-by date. And beyondists are sometimes conservatives wanting to distance themselves from the
stereotypes of conservatism. In either case, they typically represent only more of what they say they are beyond. The language of beyondism has to do not with substance but with salesmanship. Beyondism keeps returning us to where the arguments began. ... If someone proposes to you a position that is beyond left and right, you can be almost certain he's peddling a gussied-up liberalism or conservatism. Beyondism is a shell game."

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Exacerbation of Church and State

From Richard John Neuhaus' 1984 book The Naked Public Square.

The problem, of course, is that neither [church nor state] is prepared to remain within its institutional boundaries. Government, if it is to be sustainable, engages beliefs and loyalties of an ultimate sort that can properly be called religious. As the impulse of the modern state is to define all public space as governmental space, so the consequence is a tendency toward "civil religion." Religion, on the other hand, if it represents a comprehensive belief system, speaks to the human condition in all its aspects, including the right ordering (the government) of public life....Thus each institution is, in the eyes of the other, constantly bursting its bounds. Therein is the foundation of the open-ended argument between church and state. Open-ended, that is, so long as a society professes to be democratic.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

9/11 Four Years On...

...and I remember it as vividly as if it had happened this morning. I was driving to work, listening to the radio and waiting for the replay of David Letterman's Top Ten List to come on. The breaking news "swoosh* came on, and Tom Hughes announced that a small plane had hit the World Trade Center. Now, just a few weeks before that, someone in a parasail had fouled his rig on the Statue of Liberty, so I thought that this was just another doofus whose stunt had gone awry. How wrong I was.

The web was jammed. I only got news by going to smaller news outlets which were posting wire photos and copy, like the Sacramento Bee. I was so stunned that it didn't occur to me to turn on the radio until after lunch. The horrible news came cascading down all day and night. I woke up the next morning, from a pretty pleasant dream, only to have the awful new reality come crashing in as I woke.

So here we are now, four years on. We've sent thousands of jihadis on to their 72 virgins, for which I am thankful to President Bush. Elemental justice demanded no less. We have also managed to take Afghanistan and Iraq, however precariously, away from the jihadis and turn them into assets in the War On Terror. There's doubtless more going on that we will never know until years later.

But things keep coming down to ultimate issues, first things, if you will. Bush will never do anything more right than he's done in refraining from labeling Islam as the enemy. He's managed to keep our Islamic partners on board for the WOT, despite the provocative bigthink put out by many commenters and some politicians. And you know what? I've spent most of the past four years loudly agreeing with them. It's a good thing I wasn't in charge, else we'd be at war with a full third of mankind by now.

Most Muslims are not out there slitting infidel throats for the same reason that most Christians are not out there giving their possessions away to the poor: they just aren't that carried away with the message of their respective religions. But the messages are still there, waiting to blossom in people's minds. The possibility that "Slay the disbelievers" may suddenly possess a devout Muslim cannot be spun away. As much as I pride myself on being able to get along with people of most backgrounds, and as much as racism repels me, I must admit that Kipling's "The Stranger Within My Gate" does carry some weight with me these days. Especially when I look at how the "soft" jihad is eating Britain alive from the inside out.

Enough time, events, and honest scrutiny have passed in the last half-decade that I think we can dispense with the "It has nothing to do with Islam" defence. Save for the precious few good and brave souls out there, the much-bruited "moderate Muslims" are openly conflicted about speaking against the bloody deeds of their more committed co-religionists. The rank-and-file at best seem content to go along with whichever side Allah is favoring with victory at any given moment, at worst to actively cheer for terrorism's victory. Clearly, Islamic terrorism has everything to with Islam. Draw the Venn diagrams yourself: Most Muslims are not terrorists, but most terrorists are Muslims. Leave it to First Things to come up with the most charitable, Christian way of stating the situation:

The words of General Sherman must be kept ever in mind: "It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell." Just war teaching never countenances the cry for blood, vengeance, and desolation. That is the cry of our enemies who have forced this war upon us. Blood, vengeance, and desolation is their aim, as is now evident to all but the willfully blind. They are our enemies. They have repeatedly declared so in venomous words and murderous deeds. We must pray that one day they will not be our enemy. At present, and perhaps for a long time into the future, it is our moral duty to see to it that they are "found, stopped, and defeated." If we allow ourselves to be paralyzed by the uncertainties entailed in the conduct and outcome of war, we surrender to the certain triumph of great injustice.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Atlanta Area Katrina Relief

So today I spent the afternoon at my church, receiving donations of supplies, and helping to deliver them to the local aid agencies. Baby supplies, new clothes, canned goods, non-perishables, toiletries, cases of water, on and on and on. The Cobb County DFACS and the Elizabeth Inn shelter run by MUST ministry got full up with stuff early on, so by the time I arrived, only the Salvation Army in Marietta was still accepting our deliveries.

And boy were they rockin'! Cars were jammed in the none-too-capacious parking lot, unloading things. The uniformed Sallies were holed up in offices, tapping away on computers and such. Most of the people there receiving deliveries were volunteers off the street. The SA had briefed them and let them go to it. There were a couple of harried "quartermaster" volunteers marshalling efforts, though everyone seemed to know what to do. One kid had come by to volunteer that morning and was sent away--too many volunteers. He came back in the afternoon and was taken on.

There was a place for everything and everything in its place. They had a sign out asking folks not to bring any old clothes--no one has time to sterilize it. We did accept old clothes at our church, but discreetly piled it in a corner, to be dealt with later. I'd love to do more, but work and family have to intervene for the rest of this week. But I'll post any other adventure I have, if I blunder into one.

Katrina evacuees in Atlanta

Okay, I'm suspending this blog's schtick for the time being and going over to citizen journalist bloggage. Nothing particularly scoopy, just what I happen to see and hear.

Those inclined to help the evacuees need not confine
themselves to the area shelters. It looks like a good plenty of them
are put up at the motels around the Atlanta perimeter. Word came to
me that a lot were at a motel near my place of work, and the manager
was asking for donations of supplies, to be delivered for storage to a
nearby community center. So, I went down there and got their list,
and set about whittling it down to what I could afford to buy. I then
went shopping at Sams for a few items on the long list of necessities.

There I spoke with a couple in the next checkout line, hauling
three flatbed trucks piled high with bottled water, hot dogs, and
buns. They were, of their own initiative, road-tripping down to
Biloxi to deliver a meal to people they'd seen on TV. I wished them
well, and then set off for home.

Got home, weathered a domestic spat about having spent too
much, and then went down 285 to the community center. It was in a
projects, nowhere I'd care to be caught after dark. But it was
bustling, with the common area lined with baby supplies, and people
bringing things in. The head guy came out and unloaded my vehicle,
wished me a blessed day, and hurried back inside.

Phoned around to my own church, discovered that it is a
drop-off depot for MUST ministries, which runs the Elizabeth Inn, and
for Kennestone hospital. A lot of the patients who were evacuated
from Gulf hospitals to Kennestone have been accompanied by relatives,
who didn't have a change of dry clothes. So, I'll spend a couple of
hours tomorrow at the church receiving drop-offs. I'll do the same a
few days later, on my day off. Maybe I'll get to deliver stuff, too.
That's always the spiritual payoff for me, seeing the good a donation
does. I really wish I could hit the road with a work camp, like I did in
the south Georgia floods of 1994. And later, once the government's
gotten out of the way and the media attention has moved on, maybe I
will. But this little bit will have to suffice for now.

Went to Lowe's for some unrelated shopping. A very morose
checkout girl asked if I wanted to give to the Red Cross. When I said
I had given on the internet, she thanked me with a sad, faraway voice.
I asked if she had folks there, and she said her grandfather was among
those trapped at the NO convention center. I made the appropriate
noises and left.

Came home from shopping Sunday afternoon, and passed a couple
of contractor's pickups driving in convoy. They had their trailers
loaded with their bobcat, their generators, lots of gas cans, & etc.
They had duct-taped hand-scrawled signs over the sides of the trucks
and the back of the trailers: "disaster reliefs". I assume they were
heading to the Gulf to aid in cleanup. I pulled up beside each one's
right window, honked, and gave 'em the thumbs up.

I hope the readers with a race fixation can loosen up and have
a little basic human compassion for these people. "Even as you have
done it to the least of these, so you have done it to Me," the verse
says. It's a golden opportunity, for those who know what the real treasure in life is.