Thursday, October 1, 2009

Barack Obama, "Safe Schools" Czar's Oopsie, and Prayer

The Obama administration's "safe schools czar" got in the news recently. What's interesting is what hasn't, by and large, gotten in the news.

People, and the Policies They Promote: Not the Same Thing

I don't hate President Barack Obama. I've even defended one of his controversial strategies in Afghanistan. But that certainly doesn't mean that I'm "for" the current president.

Back in June, in another blog, I explained that although I'm not "for" Barack Obama, I'm not "against" him, either. Then, a month ago, I quoted myself in this blog. (September 1, 2009) I've read that quoting oneself is a vanity, but I'll risk that.
"...I Must Support Barack Obama, Right?

"Wrong. I'm not 'against' the American president, either.

"On examination, some of President Obama's policies appear to be prudent. I support these. Other policies of the current administration are unacceptable to me. I do not support those.

"As for President Barack Obama, I pray for him - and suggest that others do, too. (May 24, 2009, in A Catholic Citizen in America)..."
("June 21, 2009 Another War-on-Terror Blog)

"Should Obama be killed?", Gay and Lesbian Education, Condoms, and Getting a Grip

An excerpt from an op-ed in The New York Times:
"...What kind of madness is it that someone would create a poll on Facebook asking respondents, 'Should Obama be killed?' The choices were: 'No, Maybe, Yes, and Yes if he cuts my health care.' The Secret Service is now investigating. I hope they put the jerk in jail and throw away the key because this is exactly what was being done to Rabin.

"Even if you are not worried that someone might draw from these vitriolic attacks a license to try to hurt the president, you have to be worried about what is happening to American politics more broadly.

"Our leaders, even the president, can no longer utter the word 'we' with a straight face...."
("Where Did 'We' Go?")
Well, "the jerk" turns out to be a juvenile. (AP) Pobably to the chagrin of Obamaphiles across the world - he won't be charged. Neither will his parents.
"...After Secret Service agents met with the child and the child's parents, they determined there was no intent to harm the president...."
Me? I suspect that was a good idea.

Not because I hate Barack Obama: but because kids sometimes do monumentally stupid things - without realizing how serious or dangerous their actions are.
Being Nice
I think, all other matters being equal, it's nice to be nice. And it's even nicer if one can be nice in a nice way.

That's nice.

But I don't think "being nice" is the highest virtue. Certainly not the way the term is often used in American English.

I reject the notion that the highest good is to be "nice" - to openly or tacitly agree with whatever the other person is saying (provided that it conforms to the current intellectual fashion), offer no rebuttal to any 'sophisticated' ideas voiced. Unless, of course, it is to say "although personally opposed to...."

On the other hand, I reject the notion that it's right to scream down anybody who doesn't agree with you - or doesn't agree in the right way.
The Awkward Circumstance of Having Standards - That Aren't Fashionable
"...Our leaders, even the president, can no longer utter the word 'we' with a straight face...." I think a large part of the reason for that inability to say "we" is that many Americans are - rather late in the game - starting to realize just how weird the core beliefs of our betters are.

For example, although I haven't studied the matter closely, the phrase "gay and lesbian" seems to appear in the resume of a disproportionate number of the current administration's officials.

Most recently, it's the 'safe schools czar' - poor fellow, those nasty conservatives are picking on him. According to the Los Angeles Times, anyway. And, apparently, just because he "mishandled" advice he gave to a high school student.
"...Kevin Jennings, the founder of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, was teaching high school in Concord, Mass., in 1988 when the boy, a sophomore, confessed an involvement with a man he had met in a bus station bathroom in Boston. Jennings has written that he told the boy, 'I hope you knew to use a condom.'..."
A detail of the story that's in the FOXNews writeup, that I didn't find elsewhere, was Mr. Jennings' "I hope you knew to use a condom" remark. I'm not at all surprised that he said it - 'everybody' in some American subcultures knows (or, rather, believes) that condoms are terribly important - that not using a condom is irresponsible - and that counseling others to not use condoms is "immoral." (March 17, 2009)

What does surprise me is that Mr. Jennings' advocacy of such an 'obviously' correct behavior isn't used by papers like The Los Angeles Times to highlight how essentially caring and reasonable he is - in contrast with his detractors.

Maybe more Americans are starting to question the wisdom of the sixties.

I can see why people steeped in contemporary American culture see the Catholic Church as a globe-spanning wet blanket: determined to keep everybody from having fun.

It's true: the Church has rules about quite a few things, including human sexuality. These rules are not based on the idea that sex is dirty, or that Catholics are supposed to be too "spiritual" to enjoy sex.

Let's put it this way: Article 6 of the Catechism, which deals with human sexuality, has that "be fruitful and multiply" directive in the third sentence. Sexuality is built into us, we're supposed to be sexual creatures, and those of us who are married are expected to do something about it. And there's nothing in there about 'closing your eyes and thinking of England.' Which is an entirely different topic.

On the other hand, the Church does teach that we're supposed to follow a few rules when we participate in the ongoing process of creation. Big surprise. Nuclear power plants have rules too: break those, you get Chernobyl. And yeah, you're right: I've used that line recently. (September 26, 2009)

That's where condoms come in. I know: we're all supposed to use condoms; anybody who doesn't is icky; the pope is immoral to say 'don't use condoms;' 'everybody knows' that condoms prevent AIDS, STDs, and - indirectly - global warming. I'm not kidding on that last point: one of the things condoms actually are occasionally successful at is preventing people from having children. And, since the intellectual fashion of the day is that humans=pollution=bad, condoms will - in the long run - free Mother Earth of most of the pesky old human race. Which, in some circles, is seen as a good thing. Which, again, is another topic.

Okay: we know that the Catholic Church is (boo! hiss!) against using condoms. That's not because the pope wants everybody to get loathsome diseases. It's because condoms - and artificial contraceptives in general - get in the way of the union of man and woman.
A Brief Digression
One of the steps to my conversion was my determined effort to find a loophole in Catholic teaching about condoms. I was raised in America, and had absorbed the condom=good ethic.

The nature of the physical aspect of nature was covered in an encyclical letter called Humanae Vitae - which has been translated into English, among other languages. The word "condom" doesn't appear in the letter - but it does discuss what married love is, what it isn't, and how it's supposed to be handled.

By the time I was finished reading, I decided that I could reject the Church's stand on artificial contraception - but that I'd have to scrap too many other beliefs I had to do so.
Catholics, Sex, and Married Love
"...In the light of these facts the characteristic features and exigencies of married love are clearly indicated, and it is of the highest importance to evaluate them exactly.

"This love is above all fully human, a compound of sense and spirit. It is not, then, merely a question of natural instinct or emotional drive. It is also, and above all, an act of the free will, whose trust is such that it is meant not only to survive the joys and sorrows of daily life, but also to grow, so that husband and wife become in a way one heart and one soul, and together attain their human fulfillment...."
(Humanae Vitae)
Simplistic? Naive? The work of 'poor, uneducated, easily led' minds? Maybe: but I don't think so. But then, I assumed that human beings had minds, and free will, before I became a Catholic. Not everybody sees the world that way.

The Catholic view of what we're supposed to do with human sexuality - and what married love is - is very different from contemporary American culture's. But I'm not at all sure that the Catholic view is all that different from some core values held by many Americans before this country lost the sexual revolution.
Catholics, Condoms, and "You're Gonna Have a WHAT?!"
One of the points that impressed me about Humanae Vitae was the idea that the sexual union was - quite literally - two becoming one. If I put a barrier between me and my wife, I'm withholding something from her. Sure, contemporary culture makes it sound noble and groovy - but the bottom line is that I'd be saying by my actions 'I want my fun, but if you want kids: forget it!' Or, 'let's have whoopee without diapers,' or whatever.

Catholic couples aren't expected to be irresponsible - quite the opposite. But we're supposed to unite - not act like a couple of crazed gerbils.

Okay: The Catholic Church says that people can't have sex with members of the same sex, or animals, or anything other than their marriage partner. I know: that's strongly counter-cultural. But that's what the Church teaches. We frown on cannibalism and genocide, too: but that's not so controversial, these days.

On the other hand, we've got specific orders to love and respect people who do weird things with members of the same sex, dead bodies, horses, - anybody or anything besides the person they're married to. The same goes for people who see marriage as an 'until the going gets rough' affair. Mind you, we don't approve of what they do, but we have to love the people. (March 13, 2009)

That includes President Obama. No matter what policies he promotes, or who he puts in charge of making our schools, ah, "safe."

Let's Pray for America's Leaders

I've been over this before. (July 2, 2009) A few months ago, I put together lists of American government leaders: This is just a suggestion: But I think it would be a very good idea to pray forPresident Obama, and every other person who is in a position or responsibility in this country. Not necessarily pray that they be successful in whatever strange agenda they're pushing - but pray for their souls, and that they gain some measure of wisdom and insight.

If you don't feel like praying for individuals: Think about praying for 'America's leaders' in general. You don't have to, of course: but I can't see how it would hurt.

Related posts: News and views: Background:
A tip of the hat to sicilianlover, on Twitter, for the heads up on "Where Did 'We' Go?"

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.