Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Matters of Faith, JP II, &c.

This morning's surfing...

Via Evangelical Outpost we get Francis J. Beckwith commenting at Southern Appeal, an eclectic group blog which seems to cover a range of subjects. At a glance they seem to peer carefully at everything through a conservative but contemporary Christian lens.
Dr. Beckwith points out that Evangelicals and John Paul II have more in common than they might think. The tagline is What John Paul II Can Teach Evangelicals.

Soon after John Paul’s passing, President George W. Bush spoke approvingly of the Pope reminding “us of our obligation to build a culture of life, in which the strong protect the weak.” But few Evangelicals have read the papal encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), in which the “culture of life” is fully explained and defended. It is a remarkable document in which John Paul carefully offers a case for the sanctity of human life, the wrongness of certain practices including abortion and euthanasia, and the obligation of Christian citizens and public officials in advancing a culture of life. What will surprise many Evangelicals is John Paul’s impressive grasp and use of Scripture and how he weaves together an extended argument whose premises include passages and principles from the Word of God. But what John Paul will teach Evangelicals, and what will appear novel to some of them, is the careful manner in which he shows that the moral principles found in Scripture are consistent with a reflective understanding of the order and nature of things that one can know apart from the biblical text.

Catholics also read and understand the Bible. I know some of my peers will be pleasantly surprised to learn that Catholics -- at least the leadership -- have been reading and studying scripture all along. In fact, upon further examination they might discover that Catholics have been doing it longer and better than a good many of our mainstream Protestant brothers.
Go read...

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On the same subject, but with a different take, New Sisyphus is itching to hurry up with official mourning so we can get on with substantive criticism of the Catholic Church without appearing to be tacky.
Out of respect for the dead, and for the man’s many positive accomplishments, we were going to hold off on any comment on the death of Pope John Paul II. There is no doubt in our minds that when the history of the Twentieth Century comes to be definitively written, the late Pope’s efforts against Communism and his obviously well-intentioned and heart-felt work to improve inter-faith relations will both be prominent. Along with President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher, the Pope’s tireless efforts in favor of liberty and freedom of conscience bore concrete results readily visible in the modern-day reality of tens of millions of free men and women where once walked only slaves.
They can't wait to get in a couple of licks before the story gets cold.
Having titled the post The Right and the Pope's Legacy: Willful Blindness they get on with the task.
...recent events have been such that only a willfully blind person could deny that there is something slightly desperate in the never-ending praise, especially insofar as it ignores two rather giant elephants in the sitting room.
Those two elephants are what they characterize as "the strong and strident anti-Americanism of both the Pope and the Church in general" and "the Pope’s and his Church’s wholly inadequate, debasing and insulting reaction to the plague of pedophile priest scandals that have wracked the American church."
Okay, already.
I got the point. Point taken.
Now let me get something off MY chest.
I get tired, really tired, of reading article after article, post after post, comment after comment, that cannot simply stick to the point and argue against it.
No, I have to plow through a blizzard of sarcastic references, cheap shots and condescending references to "the Left," "Liberals" this, "Left-leaning" that, and an endless drumbeat of unnecessary references to points of view that are not on ptopic.
If I can take the time to read through an opposing point of view, I believe everyday courtesy calls for a measure of constraint with the name-calling.
I do not appreciate anyone, with whom I may or may not agree, telling me what I as a reader ostensibly believe or stand for.
This one post alone has
The Left critique
the Western Left
depths to which the MSM is now plumbing
the Left and the MSM
the vaguely Left
a radically anti-American position
As the Leftists are keen
the Pope’s strident anti-Americanism
the Church’s latent anti-Americanism
the Left’s greatest fault
I did a word count. That is nearly four percent of the language, dedicated to a rhythmic distracting drumbeat of political characterization, not to advance an argument, but as a broad-brushed effort to -- I love this modern usage -- disrespect ME as a self-aware, openly-confessed and trying to be tolerant old-fashioned LIBERAL.
If I can take the time and effort to read points of view that I may or may not like, I think I am smart enough to figure out for myself where I stand. It is not really helpful that this or any writer start and continue an unrelenting hailstorm of left-right, Liberal-Conservative, pro-life/pro-choice, or any other comments that I simply dismiss as fingers on the scale.
In the end, the scale will balance because the contents are weighed properly, not because someone fudged with the rhetoric.
Not messing with the scales is scriptural. So for people who claim to be faithful to the Bible, at least, tipping the scales is not something they are supposed to be doing.
* * * *
On a final note, but not unrelated to what I just wrote, I heard a great reference in an interview to a phrase used in British politics: dog-whistle politics. Google that one and it already gets a bunch of hits.
It means putting out a message that, like a high-pitched dog-whistle, is only fully audible to those at whom it is directly aimed. The intention is to make potential supporters sit up and take notice while avoiding offending those to whom the message will not appeal.
The phrase is so easy to grasp, and the practice is so widely practiced, that I predict it will only be a short time until some American politician picks up on it and uses it by way of not-so-subtly putting a scratch or two on an opponent.
Like the word "politician," one would not use it to say something nice about anyone. (The word is statesman, NOT politician, if you want to be nice.)
But we all know about the practical application of the principle. White Southern politicians have done it for years to signal to white voters that they will behave when and if they are elected. More lately, but less subtly, black politicians have done the same thing when running for office in racially mixed constituencies.
Lists of buzzwords can be compiled from "culture of life" to "defense against terrorism," phrases that send much more complicated implications than the three or four words used.
My list of Left-bashing terms above is a kind of "dog whistling," although it is hard to make a line between dog-whistling and spinning.
Speech writers are really good at this sort of thing.
I'm sure that as the term gets into popular usage here it will cause speech writers to think up new ways to mislead people as the old ones become more transparent.

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