According to alt-right leader Richard Spencer, the alt-right movement is something very specific. People such as Spenser are very clear that this movement is primarily about race, precisely that they believe that Western Civilization can only be promoted and developed by white people. I won't give you the links (I'd rather not insult your intelligence or your moral sense), but you can examine this for yourself, and I think you'll quickly see that the alt-right movement is indeed white supremacist at its very core, and they're proud of that.
This is NOT conservative, and it is not even right-wing.
For the alt-right, race comes before everything, including personal and economic freedom, whereas for the authentic right, personal freedom and liberty come before anything else. A true conservative will promote the concept of the free-market as the best means to pull the most people out of poverty, regardless of race or culture, whereas the alt-right have a more fascistic view of economics, valuing the collective over the individual. The authentic right wants everyone to succeed, and to be able to compete in the marketplace, knowing that a more robust market and trade atmosphere benefits everyone, including those who are disadvantaged, whereas the alt-right wants white people to succeed over everyone else.
It's a disgrace to listen to both media figures and politicians such as Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, Maxine Waters, and many more, brand all conservatives as alt-right, when this is far from true. At the same time, it's also a disgrace that many conservatives, including the President, not take a clear stance against the alt-right. Both sides only prop up the alt-right, along with their radical twin, ANTIFA, and then nothing gets resolved.
Identity politics are never healthy because they are automatically exclusionary, and in the long run, they seek to "other" anyone deemed an outsider. Identitarian movements come in all shades and lifestyles, but rather than bringing diverse people together, they shut everyone else out by saying "your ______ privilege makes you incapable of understanding my experience." That's when dialogue shuts down and where demagoguing and virtue-signaling starts. Take that to the extreme, and you end up with Charlottesville or Ferguson or Berkeley or any of the growing number of incidents blowing up all over the nation.
None of that is remotely conservative. Conservatives want people to be happy, to push themselves and work hard, to succeed in the world and the economy, to be able to start their own business free from over regulation, and to be able to provide opportunities other others. No identity politics, no obsession with privilege, no macing people they don't like, nor keeping down any race.
So what do we do about this? The mainstream media has long declared war on conservatives, which means that the authentic right MUST loudly disavow the alt-right and to send the message again and again that the alt-right is not conservative and doesn't represent the authentic right. The media may not listen, of course, but that doesn't mean that conservatives should continue to let the alt-right speak in the name of conservatives or to appropriate conservative ideas. Conservatives' failure to completely condemn the alt-right as robustly as they have condemned ANTIFA has helped give rise to the current situation (in part, not all).
The alt-right and ANTIFA are two sides of the same, fascist coin, and both should be denounced so that both kinds of regressive extremism can float into the background, where it belongs.
PS: ANTIFA is nothing like the soldiers during WWII, unlike how some in the media are portraying them. To make this comparison is an insult to those who fought and died fighting against Hitler, and to those who suffered under the Nazis.
As August approaches, it's the beginning of the end...of vacation, that is. Some of you will be back to school, or your kids will be. In the last several months, we've heard a lot in the news about the so-called "SJWs" or "Special Snowflakes" that have taken over campus culture and made it incredibly difficult for many people to exercise their freedom of speech or thought.
You may have heard recent stories about the protests against Professor Bret Weinstein at Evergreen State College, which is among the most liberal colleges in the nation. When he refused to take part in their "Day of Presence," which required all white professors, staff, and students to refrain from coming to campus, he objected, saying that exclusion based on skin color is racist, whatever the intention. Students cornered him in his office, as you can see from the picture above, got in his face, called him a Nazi, and caused him to be in real danger on campus.
This is not necessarily an American problem. A couple of years ago, for example, radical feminist Germaine Greer had been scheduled to speak at Cardiff University, and while she gave the talk, she was widely protested by students because of her past statements critical of trans women. So it's not just conservatives such as Milo Yiannopoulos or Ben Shapiro that are under fire. Liberal comedian Bill Maher was protested at Berkeley, and even other comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Larry the Cable Guy don't play college campuses any more, because of the hostile and humorless atmosphere that has evolved on many campuses.
So off you or your child goes, ready to take on the world and learn a thing or two on campus! So how will they handle this kind of atmosphere, especially if they are remotely conservative or Christian? How will they make friends or even get a decent GPA if they run into activist professors who grade on personal opinion?
So here are a few little tips, just to help you stay sane and safe during the school year:
1. Pick your battles. Not every fight is worth it, to be honest, especially when you're dealing with someone who is absolutely intractable. Even at Catholic universities, you're going to run into students who don't share your values or your politics, and unless you see that there is a remote chance of swaying their opinion, it's sometimes good to take a step back and let them be wrong. That's not a sign of weakness or lack of conviction, but rather, a sign that some people are extremely closed-minded and need to learn things the hard way.
2. Find a touchstone. We all need a good friend on our side, and if you can even find a friend group that shares your values and your politics, all the better. Getting involved in a conservative club or a prayer group is a great way of finding those friends, and if you have a chance to go to benediction at an on-campus or local church, you're likely to find those individuals. It's so important emotionally to have that foundation, to have those around you who support you and won't unfriend you just because of a disagreement on politics. Similarly, it's important to have people with whom you feel free to discuss, knowing they won't judge you or think less of you for having an opinion.
3. Be realistic about people. Sometimes, we want to think the best of people--as Catholics, we're taught to be kind and loving and to accept all, no matter what. All of this is true, but a strong dose of reality is also needed, because frankly, some people are jerks, and there's no amount of compassion or empathy that will change them one bit. You don't need to give them the cold shoulder, of course, and you should pray for these intolerant fools, but that doesn't mean you have to be best friends with them or let them get away with abuse. Sometimes, people can approach a new situation and naively think that everyone is going to be oh so nice, and that's when they set themselves up to get hurt or disappointed. Better to take people for who they are and decide whether it's worth your time to be around them.
4. Decide what you want from a class and a major. Truth alert! Some professors base their grade on personal opinion. That can also happen on a Catholic campus, so don't be fooled. Thankfully, not all professors do this, but enough of them do that, if you find yourself in their class, you need to make a choice. The last thing you want to do is to sacrifice your values just to get a grade, nor do you want to allow the professor or your fellow students to bully you for your values. So what do you want? That's a decision only the individual can make, but there will come a time when most college students will have to face that decision. Do you fake your way through a class just to get a grade, or do you drop the class altogether? If you genuinely feel that a class will damage your belief system, then you might be better off dropping the class--that was something I had to do, and I have no regrets whatsoever. As you choose your classes, especially as you get into your major, therefore, you need to do some research on the professor, but also on the course content. And if you find that the course content is objectionable, then you have to ask yourself whether you're in the right major. Those are hard questions, but they're real.
5. Take the high road (when you can). Sometimes you're in the middle of a debate with other students or with your professor, and the second you say the smallest thing that differs from their leftist narrative, you may find yourself being called a Nazi or a hater or a racist or a transphobe. The last thing you should do is to reply by calling them a bunch of closed-minded, brainwashed snowflakes, even if that's how you feel. The minute the conversation devolves into ad hominem accusations, it's time to shut it down and walk away, because you're not going to get anywhere with someone like that. These folks usually have lots of slogans and no facts and no understanding of government or economics, and there's no point in shouting at them. Again, sometimes you have to allow people to be wrong and move on. The same rule applies on social media--if you see a conversation that has turned into a string of insults from all sides, don't feed the beast. Just keep scrolling down and choose to look at something positive, like videos of puppies.
6. If you do get into it, be armed with facts. Nothing can be more satisfying at times than serving up a nice big red pill of truth to your detractors, especially when they have nothing but slogans and stereotypes to offer back. There might be times when you can have an actual debate that doesn't end up in a shouting match, so if that's the case, then red-pill away! But do your research and be sure your facts are spot on. Know what their arguments will likely be and be ready to counter. And if you can use the "Rogerian strategy," where you approach with compassion, then all the better. You have to judge for yourself when the right time is to engage, so when you do finally jump into the fray, be ready.
7. Be OK with losing friends. A lot of people lost friends after the 2016 election, as we know. It never feels good to know that someone you cared about no longer wants to talk to you because of your values or your politics. Of course, if they're cutting you off over a ideological disagreement, then they weren't actually your friends in the first place, though that doesn't make it hurt any less sometimes. That being said, you have to be ready to let people go, because there will be more people out there that either share your values or won't judge you for them. Why be miserable when you can be happy with people who will be supportive and genuine? Now if you're in a roommate situation where that happens, that could be tough, and you may need your R.A. to intervene on your behalf. And if that "friend" makes you look like a horrible person, and if your college doesn't support you, there are places to turn to for help, especially if you're being bullied. Organizations such the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) are there to support you when your First Amendment rights are being violated, and they have a lot of resources that can help you.
The purpose of the university is to bring together people from all walks of life to engage in intellectual endeavors and to discover truths about life and the world. That hasn't changed, in its ideal, but it has in practice, so as you head toward college, be realistic and open. Embrace the experience of college, but don't fool yourself into thinking that every professor is right or that every student is there to learn. I know this sounds a bit cynical, but it's the best way to protect yourself and have the best year you can.
**I wrote this a couple of years ago, but with the issue back in the news, I thought I should republish it today, keeping in mind Mark Steyn's recent testimony before the Senate related to science and academia.
** Note: Strong use of snark might cause heavy breathing, which could then lead to increased carbon dioxide in the air, which would then lead to global warming. You have been warned...
So this is what global warming "intellectuals" think. If you are a "climate denier," these qualities certainly describe you. What other reality can there be? Isn't the debate closed now (in spite of the scientific method, which would never close any debate on a scientific theory, in order to preserve the purity of the science and keep it safe from any political or financial interference)? I believe that Al Gore made that clear to us ages ago, so why don't these people listen?
Oh yes. Climate deniers are stupid. Why didn't I think of that? Oh yes, because I am apparently stupid. I keep forgetting. Stupid of me, isn't it? Never mind that I pay attention to reports of growing polar ice caps and growing polar bear populations and RSS satellite reports showing that there hasn't been any global warming for 17 years.
But wait. The debate is over, so any of this recent evidence apparently is meaningless. Al Gore has spoken, and we must listen. After all, he stands to lose billions of dollars if we disregard his alarmist crap, and that would be unfair. He already lost the Presidency, so there's no way he's gonna lose this one.
Let's look at the term: climate denier. Climate DENIER. DENIER. Hmm...sound like another term about deniers? Think that was some coincidence? I seriously doubt it.
So if I'm a climate denier, does that mean I deny there is a climate? No, that can't be, though that is literally what the term seems to represent. I suspect there's a bit more to it than that. What causes adherence to a scientific theory to result in character assassination and an almost blind, narrow-minded point of view? And I'm talking about the adults in the room, not the kids who have been spoon-fed global warming since they could say ga-ga.
I don't want to get into the science of this, because I'm no more a scientist than is Jon Stewart or Al Gore or Sir Paul McCartney or George Clooney or Leo di Caprio (who flies to environmental events in a private jet). Instead, I'd like to look at this through the lens of psychology and culture, keeping in mind that we live in a media and celebrity saturated society. That is key, and no major political movement these days stands much chance of success without the endorsement of a celebrity. Climate change or global warming or whatever it's called now, is a perfect example.
In 1943, Abraham Maslow studied a series of basic human needs, ranging from the physiological to the the higher, more spiritual needs. A bit part of this was the need for love and belonging, having a sense of community and connection to those around them. Connected to that is the need for the respect of others, the desire to be seen as knowledgeable, confident, and capable. What has this to do with global warming?
Quite a lot, actually. There's an odd irony within this culture, though I don't know that it's anything new. Pretty much everyone I've ever talked to have a basic understanding that addiction to media and technology are destructive realities, and that this culture of celebrity is shallow and insipid. So if most people know this, why do we tend to pay extra attention to a cause when Rihanna or Oprah or Matt Damon speak out? Why do we allow celebrities dictate what we wear and how we view our bodies and what's cool and who is an idiot? Are we hypocritical or just weak?
Personally, I think Maslow was on to something. Celebrities are rich, beautiful, famous (duh), well-connected. They have a lot of power, but this power comes from our own permission. It has nothing to do with actual talent or moral virtue or anything else. A celebrity can be an ignorant sonofab***h, but wait, he's standing up there with George Clooney at a rally to save the environment from the evil Koch Brothers and Rick Perry, and suddenly, the S.O.B. is today's hero. He's smart. He's informed. He's no climate denier. Let's join him!
So if you dare to question human caused climate change, despite powerful scientific evidence, along with other evidence to show that much of global warming data is politically compromised, you might be a traitor! In a recent interview, Robert Kennedy, Jr. had this to say: "I wish there were a law you could punish [climate deniers] with." I bet he wasn't so interested in laws punishing people with prison back in 1983, when he was arrested for heroin (luckily, he's a Kennedy, so he only got probation). But that was a long time ago, and if he's gotten his life back together, good for him.
His words in this interview sound extreme, and they are, yet just because they are on the extremist fringe doesn't mean that a lot of people don't agree with him. Look again at the infographic at the top of this page if you doubt me. Look at that Jon Stewart segment on my Reviews and Culture page. If you deny the human cause of global warming, you are beneath contempt, an enemy of the environment, pawn of the Koch Brothers...a REPUBLICAN. You probably watch Fox News, too. You probably think Obama is a communist native of Kenya, and you definitely cannot make a single move without consulting with Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity.
It doesn't matter that you are educated or that you read many news sources and that you keep up with scientific progress. You are a climate denier, worthy of prison and shunning. It's almost like living back in Puritan society, where if you break the smallest rule, you are fined and whipped and publicly cast out for your audacity to differ from what has been pronounced from above.
So take heart, climate deniers, and stay strong. Don't stop reading the science, always ask questions, and never for moment cave in and accept that the debate is over. It's only just getting started, and as long as certain committed scientists manage to survive the constant scrutiny, we might just get at an answer that doesn't bow down to politics or money on any side.
RFK, Jr. will just have to deal with it.
For further reading: Maslow's original 1943 article
Happy New Year, everyone!
2016 was certainly an interesting year, wasn't it? It was sort of ironic, in the sense that on the one hand, we celebrated the Year of Mercy, and yet there was so much chaos and discord. Of course, maybe that's why we needed the Year of Mercy, to get us through the chaos in one piece.
It looks like we all survived pretty well, so we can only hope that 2017 will bring us new and better things. One thing I'm really looking forward to is the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima. How exciting it will be as we head toward May 13! HERE+ is a beautiful site put together by EWTN in anticipation of the celebration, and I hope you give yourself a chance to look it through. It's very thorough, and the graphics are great!
All of this makes me think a bit about this coming year and how I should conduct myself as the year moves forward. I know I want to be healthier, both in body and in mind. I want to be a better friend, a better daughter, a better Catholic. I want to pray more, pray better, be more generous and kind to others. I want to blog more, too! I've been sort of an infrequent blogger here, and I sometimes get so caught up in my regular job that I forget to add to this blog! Silly me!
I pray for all of you, too, and I really hope that you all have a beautiful, peaceful, holy, wonderful 2017. I want you to prosper, to befriend, to develop your minds and souls, and to be happy. I'm so grateful for your readership, and I hope that I'll continue to bring things that are interesting and thought provoking. I've been really political these days, and I want to use this year to find other things to talk about, too. After all, politics are only one sector of life, and while they are important, there are much more important things to focus on.
And the Holy Father.
And so many other things.
So have a very happy 2017, and let us all pray to Bl. Jacinta and Bl. Francisco, and of course to our Blessed Mother, that this year will be fruitful, just, and beautiful.
See you soon!
There are currently about 2.75 million Palestinians living under military occupation in the West Bank, most of them in Areas A and B – 40 percent of the West Bank – where they have limited autonomy. They are restricted in their daily movements by a web of checkpoints and unable to travel into or out of the West Bank without a permit from the Israelis. So if there is only one state, you would have millions of Palestinians permanently living in segregated enclaves in the middle of the West Bank, with no real political rights, separate legal, education, and transportation systems, vast income disparities, under a permanent military occupation that deprives them of the most basic freedoms.
Note the word "occupation," a buzzword for sympathizers of the BDS (Boycott - Divest - Sanction) movement. The moment I heard Kerry say that word, I knew exactly where he stood. On top of that, so much of what he said was either untrue or exaggerated.
In fact, there are many things about the State of Israel that everyone should know, and there is a lot of myth-busting that needs to happen so that people will stop thinking of Israel as another apartheid state. To list a few things:
In the end, Kerry's speech is just further evidence that some individuals simply cannot bring themselves to be honest about the Israel-Palestine conflict. They will not accept that a lot of Palestine's problems are self-inflicted, and they will not admit that much of what Israel does is to protect its citizens, including its Arab citizens.
While I'm no fan of President-Elect Trump, as you may know, I hope that he will live up to his words to the people of Israel and show true friendship to Israel. They are the only real democracy in the region, and one of our greatest friends and allies. I can only hope that after January 20, the anti-Israel rhetoric from Washington will cease, and that we will once again partner with Israel to promote real peace in a region that is bloodied and tattered and in desperate need for relief from violence and chaos and terror.
Here we go again.
I already wrote about crappy Church music a while back, so I won't go there again (at least not today). But what happens when the music choices are actually good, but the performance of these songs stinks?
What happens when the cantor stumbles over the words because he or she hasn't prepared? What happens when the cantor sings like a soloist at a concert rather than as a leader of a congregation? What happens when the organist and the cantor don't coordinate their efforts, or when the organist plays like one of the DMV Sloths from Zootopia? Does slower mean holier? Does every last syllable of music need to be dragged out?
Liturgical music (good music, that is) is written to lead the people into prayer and to focus our attention on the substance of the Mass. Therefore, the way that this music is presented should be to enhance that mission and never to distract from it. When my mother was a choirmaster back in the day, she would tell us how difficult it was sometimes to work with organists. She said she had to make it clear to them that their job was to support the singers but not to overpower them or drown them out. I would add to that organists have an obligation to set the tempo of the music and to help the singers and the congregation maintain a good, singable tempo so that no one is rushing through but also, so that no one is dragging out the music.
Why so slow? I hear this sometimes in prayer services, and it drives me crazy! Recently I was at a prayer service at a local church, and the lady leading it pronounced each and EV-ER-Y SYL-LA-BLE the entire time. It was so slow and dragged out that it became a distraction and I found myself unable to focus on prayer. The same is true with liturgical music. I attended a Mass recently, and it was the same thing--music way too slow, too unrehearsed, and the cantor putting his own style into the music so that it was impossible to follow along.
I do sing in a Latin Mass choir, but I don't consider myself a musician by any means. I do have a pretty good musical sense, however, and I know enough to understand what's appropriate and what's not for a Mass. Here's my list of do's and don'ts for those in music ministry:
St. Augustine famously said that "he who sings prays twice." So let's be sure that the music we use AND how it's presented can either make that prayer possible or rob people of that opportunity to pray.
In this crazy political year, it's become pretty common for opponents of conservative candidates to drop the "r-word." No, not that one...the other one.
The most recent person to drop the "r-word" was Hillary Clinton, with her "basket of deplorables" comment about supporters of Donald Trump. Just to refresh your memory, here's what she said:
"You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that."
Sure, some of Trump's supporters fall into those categories, but half? Seriously? What she did in this truly offensive quote was to make a vastly unfair generalization about people she is incapable of understanding. In my own personal experience, I've come to realize that many liberals have no idea what a conservative is or what a conservative wants. Much of the time, liberals tend to characterize conservatives as cold-hearted, greedy, unsympathetic, and closed-minded who fear gays, hate Muslims and women, and don't care about the poor.
This may sound like I'm applying a broad brush here, but to be honest, that simply is not the case. I have found it very difficult to find even a moderately liberal person who doesn't share this opinion of conservatives.
For my part, as a conservative, I do care about the poor and the marginalized, I don't hate anyone (except the San Francisco Giants and USC, and that's only "sports hate," which is temporary), and I value hard work and personal responsibility. Like most conservatives, I want to see the market kick in and take care of the major problems our society faces. I want to be able to give more to charity rather than to see my taxes go toward institutions that don't serve the poor and the disenfranchised as they should. I want to see less regulation of business so that the job market can include more people, which would thus take people off the public dole.
That does not make me a racist, nor does it make any conservative a racist.
I think the "racist" epithet is a very serious charge, and should be used sparingly because it's an attack on someone's character without any attempt to understand that person. I don't like Donald Trump, but I'm not going to call him Hitler, nor am I going to throw the "r-word" at him. If he really is the Second Coming of David Duke or Tom Metzger, then his actions and decisions will bear that out. The notion of building a wall is not inherently a racist statement, nor is the desire to take strong action against Islamic terrorism.
"Racist" is an easy term to throw around, and like all ad hominem attacks, it means that no explanation is required. I say you're a racist, so now you have to prove you're not. I don't like the way you address a certain population, so rather than actually engaging you in debate about it, I just slam you with the "racist" label and then scamper off to hide behind my self-righteous, snobby friends.
There are people out there who genuinely are racist, and I'm sure that some of them support Donald Trump. There are also people who believe that killing an unborn child is just a "choice," and many of them support Clinton. Clinton herself praised Margaret Sanger, someone who truly was racist and wanted to see people of color exterminated from the face of the earth. She said:
"I admire Margaret Sanger enormously, her courage, her tenacity, her vision ... And when I think about what she did all those years ago in Brooklyn, taking on archetypes, taking on attitudes and accusations flowing from all directions, I am really in awe of her."
When called on it a while later, Clinton tried to walk her comments back to some point, but her hypocrisy is clear. I don't think this makes Clinton a racist, despite some on the right who tried to characterize her in that way. At the same time, we must consider that she surrounds herself with those who traffic in human body parts, does business with nations who torture gays and women, and who defended her sex-obsessed, pathetic excuse for a husband while at the same time reminding us that anyone who cries rape must be believed.
In the long run, therefore, I'd like to suggest that we all refrain from using the "r-word," and look more deeply at those who are running for office. Let's not go for the easy out of labeling others and instead, find substantive reasons for why we either support or don't support a candidate.
And if they are racist, hell with 'em!
As a tried and true tech-y nerd, I was so excited about the new Weebly feature where you can put video in your website header. So I DID IT!!! I'm completely over the moon! You can be sure I'll be abusing this feature quite a lot, so get ready.
And maybe one day I'll actually write a new blog!
Life is a little crazy ATM, so please forgive me. I keep coming up with ideas and then not writing about them, but I hope that one day very soon, I'll actually take some time and do it.
In the meantime, happy Autumn and many blessings to you!
There's a lot to dislike about Donald Trump, but one of the big things his detractors point out is the ugly things he says about people. He's insulted women, the disabled, Latinos, along with many others. People have rightly criticized the cruelty of many of his remarks, and the shallow values he supports through these remarks.
On Thursday afternoon, I chanced to turn on the local Pacifica station, KPFK--Pacifica stations are unapologetic for their very liberal stances on just about anything. That's their right, of course, and it's good to have a diversity of opinions on the radio.
What struck me, however, was the way in which the two hosts were talking about conservative figures, specifically TV personality John Stossel and Republican pollster Frank Luntz. The KPFK hosts ripped into both men's sexuality, insulted their appearance, joked about their supposed inability to get laid, and so on. This is the station that celebrates diversity and routinely slams the Right for being too vanilla. They promote the notion that people should be judged for their ideas and values, not for their appearance, yet here were two righteous social justice warriors doing exactly what Trump does.
This is in no way a defense of Donald Trump--I find him to be a thoroughly detestable, inconsistent, and patronizing huckster. This is merely a look at the hypocrisy of some of his critics. You're not supposed to insult someone's appearance or their disabilities or anything else that can't be helped. That's what's called ad hominem, taking on an opponent by going after the person's character or behavior or appearance rather than their ideas. It's a cheap shot, a low blow, something that solves nothing and makes the critic look like a jerk. Alexander Pope wrote about this in his "Epistle to Arbuthnot" way back in the 18th century:
Curs'd be the verse, how well soe'er it flow,
In a way, this exchange on the radio helped me understand Trump's appeal to many voters, but it also made me see why so many cringe at Trump's insults and mean Tweets. Some people like his brashness because it's not rehearsed and because he doesn't use the typical political sweet-talk. He pretty much shoots from the hip and sorts out the bodies later.
But don't we all do that to some extent? How many of those who are so quick to point out Trump's nasty tongue, are guilty of the exact same thing? If it's bad to insult Megyn Kelly for being a woman, isn't it also bad to insult Frank Luntz for not being Brad Pitt? Who's to say that he doesn't get any action just because of his appearance? And who's business is that anyway? How many of us trash someone we dislike or disagree with by insulting their looks or their sexual prowess or their intelligence? That makes us just the same as Trump--it makes us just as ugly, just as nasty, just as vile. Sure, he's running for President and we're not, but that's not an excuse to engage in ad hominem, and it proves that at least in that regard, we're not much better than he.
Trump's flaws are on display because he's in the public eye, but isn't he just an ugly mirror of our own flaws? Jesus said:
Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam in thy own eye, and then shalt thou see to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
"You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord
Who abide in His shadow for life
Say to the Lord
"My refuge, my rock in whom I trust!"
And He will raise you up on eagles' wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of His hand."
Thus begins "On Eagles' Wings," by Fr. Michael Joncas. Many of you have sung this hymn for years at Mass, and it is beloved by Catholics and other Christians all around the nation. This song has been criticized for a very long time, but its defenders point out that it's a good song because it's scriptural, based on Psalm 91 and Isaiah 40. So what's wrong with this hymn? Why does it get so much grief?
It's a very pretty song, to be sure, with a nice melody that is memorable, so nothing wrong there. But take a careful look at the lyrics (I've linked the whole song), you'll notice the dominant pronoun is YOU, in reference to the congregation or to the self. It's easy to find this same sort of narcissistic bent in many contemporary hymns. Take for example "We Remember," by Marty Haugen:
We remember how you loved us to your death,
Again, as with "On Eagles' Wings," look at the pronouns: we, us, we, us, we, we, we, we, we. See a pattern there? While it's true that we are fully dependent on God and that His great desire is to love us entirely and let Him live through us, that's not exactly the purpose of liturgical music.
Vatican II specifically points out that, "By sacred music is understood that which, being created for the celebration of divine worship, is endowed with a certain holy sincerity of form." The Catechism of the Catholic Church points out that, "Adoration is the first act of the virtue of religion. To adore God is to acknowledge him as God, as the Creator and Savior, the Lord and Master of everything that exists, as infinite and merciful Love. "You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve," says Jesus, citing Deuteronomy." That acknowledgement must be apparent in all aspects of the Mass, from the words and gestures of the priest to the attitude of the lectors and ministers, along with the mindset and active presence on the part of the people.
Unfortunately, many of us have witnessed Church music become more of a show than an act of worship. Personally, I'm a big fan of Christian rock, but I would never want to hear a choir belt out Third Day's "Cry Out to Jesus" for the post-Communion hymn, even if it's a great song. Some liturgists will defend their choices by saying that they want the music to be "relatable" to the person in the pew, presumably to keep them from getting bored and thus not returning to Mass. You hear that a lot in schools, too, where campus ministers want to keep it fun so the kids can get into it.
Then there's the post-Communion performance--it's supposed to be a meditation, but all too often, it's a vehicle for a choir or cantor to show off their skills, to thunderous applause sometimes (or we cringe under the oppression of bad singing). People afterward will talk about how great so-and-so sounded, or how awful they were, but not about how the song lifted their soul toward God. I realize I'm generalizing here, but this is something I witness a lot. Sure, there are many choirs and cantors that are sincere, including the showy ones. The problem is a deeper one than just the music, and it points to the damage that our secular culture has done to our very souls.
I think there are a couple of important things that we must do to remedy this problem. First, we really have to think about what the Mass really is and why we're there. If it's just that we're there because we're told to, then little will change. It's only when Catholic parents take charge of the spiritual lives of their families and really instruct their children that we can start to see a change, because then, the whole attitude among the congregation will be much more positive. But that means that parents need to educate themselves--unfortunately, a lot of parents these days were not given good instruction by their parents or religion teachers. They even may have encountered what I did in high school, where religion class consisted of "how do you feel about that?"
Along the same lines, parents should stop giving their children a choice of whether to attend Mass. That's part of a larger, permissive aspect of our culture that is resulting in the current issue of millennials being "offended" or needing "trigger warnings" because they're so oppressed by supposed micro-aggressions. That kind of stuff is fostered when mom and dad say, "OK, Dakota, do you want to come to church with mommy and daddy today?" Of course not! Little Dakota wants to sleep in! Little Dakota needs to learn that fostering a spiritual life takes commitment and sacrifice, which is trained from a young age.
The second thing has to come from music ministers and from the clergy working together with the shared purpose of using music to increase the level of worship and not just entertaining the congregation. Vatican II instructs music ministers to give "pride of place" to the organ, along with Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony. Other instruments may be used, but only if they're appropriate. Musicam Sacram makes an important point, that "those instruments which are, by common opinion and use, suitable for secular music only, are to be altogether prohibited from every liturgical celebration and from popular devotions." I believe drums fall into that category, at least in North American culture.
Also, these instruments (including the organ) "should not so overwhelm the voices that it is difficult to make out the text." Musicam Sacram also goes on to say:
In selecting the kind of sacred music to be used, whether it be for the choir or for the people, the capacities of those who are to sing the music must be taken into account. No kind of sacred music is prohibited from liturgical actions by the Church as long as it corresponds to the spirit of the liturgical celebration itself and the nature of its individual parts, and does not hinder the active participation of the people...
That means that the choir and cantor have a sacred duty to lead the people in a way that promotes this worship. If a choir or cantor can't sing or properly lead people, then they should be disbanded and new, more competent people brought in.
What all this comes down to is that music has the power to drive the heart and mind upward to the heavens, so we shouldn't be satisfied with the sentimental slop that we've been given for the last 40 years. We as faithful Catholics shouldn't be satisfied with substandard music or singing. We shouldn't allow ourselves to be bombarded with drums that bash the spirituality straight out of us. We shouldn't allow ourselves to be oppressed with music that creates chaos within us, or that robs us of those quiet moments that we all need, especially in something as delicate as the Holy Mass. We need to demand more from our ministers and priests and not let them cheat us out of that worship that we want to be able to give to God during the Mass.
"On Eagles' Wings" or "Anthem" or secular songs like "Morning Has Broken" (made popular by a non Christian, but written by Eleanor Farjeon in 1931) aren't good enough, and it's time that we start to demand more.
**EDIT: I mistakenly identified "Morning Has Broken" as being written by a non Christian. It was made popular in the 1970's by Cat Stephens, who converted to Islam. It was written by Eleanor Farjeon about 20 years before she converted to Catholicism. HERE's the Wikipedia article on her.
Witty; cunning; crafty
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