Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Odds and Ends from the Season (with a long comment thread on torture)

I hope all your Christmases were everything you hoped for. There's something circular about that sentence. Mine was a mixed blessing. You’d think just knowing the Savior came into the world at a certain point in history would make it a completely non-mixed blessing, but I ain’t that good a Christian yet. I want things my way. It began Christmas morning with a phone call from Elizabeth from way up in the snowbound north. She hadn’t been able to get enough days off work to make coming home worthwhile. Her mother had to hand me the phone after about a minute because she started crying and couldn’t stop. It was Ebe’s first Christmas away from home – ever. May it be the last.

Here she is at home last year. If you look real close (enlargeable, twice over) you can see the imp in her eyes:

















But we did have Bern with us on whom to lavish much attention, and her dog, Cedar, who may have gotten even more, and three kinds of pies (blueberry, pumpkin, mince), Mary of Puddin’ Hill pecan fruitcake (from Texas, I think), homemade pumpkin bread, a sweetly evil concoction called poppycock, a tin full of three kinds of popcorn, and I’ve been munching away ever since and haven’t gained a pound. Perhaps most important was my Dad’s homemade eggnog. It didn’t last long. And Mary Helyn made a sweet potato pie that I can’t stop eating. I hate sweet potatoes. You serve them to me as a regular dish and I’ll dig in the dirt for grubs before I touch them. But this stuff…I’m going to write a children’s book called ‘Yam I Am.’

If it’s becoming obvious I don’t have much to say, well, hang in there; I’m just getting started.

I’ve been averse to sitting down at the computer. Don’t know why. Christmas does that to me. Oh, I remember something I ought to say. Those of you waiting for chapter 7 will have it before the holidays are out. Those of you who don’t know what chapter 7 is probably let a lot of good things in life pass you by.

But even if I have nothing to say, this is not true of others, like Jeff Culbreath in anticipation of Christmas. And Zippy, who hates divorce, which he calls a "heinous, evil, wicked crime," and which we call justifiable redundancide; and Kevin Jones, who found himself referenced by Reuters; and Peony, who is, shall we say, profound in her silence. All that white space? Pay no attention. There’s something behind it.

Anybody know anything about this place? I see it on my sitemeter pages and it links to me way down in the left margin under "random". Figures.

Bernadette went to church one Sunday in Naples a few weeks ago, and ended up sitting in the crippled folks section. Actually, it was labeled "Disabled Seating." The church was full when she arrived but there were plenty of seats in the crippled section and she didn’t want to stand all service and besides she had a non-Cath friend with her. So she entered the section and all the old crippled people looked at her like (in her words) "they hated me for being young and healthy." They took a seat anyway. An usher came running up and told her this was the disabled section. She said she knew, and would get out of the way if any more cripples showed up. When it was time for communion, she tried to lower the kneeler to, uh, kneel, but some old guy at the end of the pew had his foot on it. She looked at him, but the old fart waved her off with a "fuggedaboudit" gesture. So she knelt on the cold hard floor. When she tried to get up to take Communion, the usher came running over again to tell her she had to take it where she was. Okay. When the eucharistic minister stopped by, she practically tried to shove the host down Bern’s non-Cath friend’s throat, requiring Bern to physically intervene. After the disabled old crippled folks had received, they got up and spryly hightailed it out of there before the recessional had even started. Ah, American Catholic fellowship. No wonder we’re bursting at the seams with converts.

I’ll tell you what. Let’s do some in-depth movie reviews:
- The March of the Penguins - Worth seeing. You can marvel at the cinematography; revel in the narration by Morgan Freeman, whose voice, in its ubiquity, must be on loan from God; and trouble your head about how a bird that can’t fly (though in the water it’s the ocean’s swallow) chose to live out its reproductive cycle by taking 70 mile hikes into the most inhospitable place on earth, where the average year round temperature is 58 degrees below zero. If you have trouble coming up with an answer, just take the easy way out and say "evolution." That’s what my students do when I read them "The Spider and the Wasp." What’s "The Spider and the Wasp"? you ask. Some other time.
- The Island - Skip it. The storyline’s old (cf. Logan’s Run, THX1136). Cloned humans in a futuristic society gain the capacity for independent thought, rebel, and run away. One subject their independent thinking discovers is sex. And do they indulge it? What a stupid question. (No graphic nudity, however. Which is a good thing, is what I meant to say). And does it affect the innocence of their previous friendship? Of course not. It’s just sex. In the immortal words of Scarlett Johanssen, "Why haven’t we done this before?"
- Serenity - Worthwhile fun. Some language, no sex that I remember. But then my memory ain’t what it used to be. Just kidding. I’d remember it if I saw it. If it was any good, that is.
- The Forty Year Old Virgin - rented it but for some reason never got it into the DVD player. So you tell me.
- Dark Water - A well-done supernatural thriller up until the end, which I can make no logical or spiritual sense of.
- The Exorcism of Emily Rose - When Hollywood prefaces one of its spookytaculars with the advisory that "This film is based on a true story," it means they’re about to falsify as convenience demands. Where it’s falsified I don’t know and neither do I care. In spite of the fact that this movie gave my children nightmares, causing them to wake up at 3 A.M. sharp (the significance of which would be clear had you seen the film, which you’re not going to do), I cannot convey how simply awful it is. Emily Rose does go through some contortions that would arouse envy among a Cirque du Soleil troupe, but unfortunately she has less personality than that of her demonic interloper.

And that’s it for the movies. Your idea of ‘in-depth’ might be different than mine.

- Oh, yeah, I saw a snippet (but probably the crucial one) of John McCain being interviewed by George Stephanapopalopulous concerning his (McCain’s) anti-torture bill. Those of you who don’t like torture will be glad to know that the bill’s mostly against it. Those of you who are in favor of torture will be glad to know that, when the pinch is on, that is to say, when we have in our possession a fellow whose brain needs emptying because we know that if we know what he knows a lot of lives will be saved, then the bill allows it. That’s what I thought I heard, anyway, which sounds like the hard case exception to me and, given what we know of slippery slopes, could amount to having no bill at all. Of course, I don’t know whatall’s actually in the bill, because I haven’t read it and never will (sometimes I like to rhyme in mid-sentence), but I’m willing to bet Zippy won’t like it. I’d really like to be tougher on torture. I also really don’t like the people who are trying to kill us, so if someone roughs them up a bit (as long as he swears he doesn’t like his work), I have trouble getting my moral outrage in a knot. But I’m working on it. Really.

Oh, I’ll have an article in the upcoming Touchstone. Some of you might remember it from long ago, but it won’t kill you to read it again, and then to deluge the editor with effusively appreciative emails. And, happy coincidence, Paul Cella has a review in the same issue.

And, oh yes. I watched the Christmas Eve Papal Mass from Rome. Almost all of it. I especially liked the parts that were in English (and Latin, Mr. Culbreath). And the architecture was splendid (which is sort of like saying that Michaelangelo could paint). Sure makes the place I attend look a mite barren. Some cute kids representing every ethnicity on the planet came forward bearing gifts or something for the Pope, and they brought a smile to his face that lingered. Didn’t see any (in John Cahill’s helpful phrase) ‘girl altar boys’. I kept wondering if St. Peter’s bones really reposed beneath the altar. It doesn’t matter, of course, but I like thinking about it.

I’ll tell you what. Speaking of rhymes, how ‘bout I post a Christmas ditty that should have been up on that day’s Eve but which laziness prevented? You can read it to your kids. If you don’t have any kids you can pretend to be one and read it to yourself. Maybe someone can think of a title for it:


Of the many places on earth I’ve been,
Each served as home its appointed time;
I’d like one day to go back again,
To the sea to swim, and the mountain, climb –

Like the nearby peaks in New Mexico
Where the snowfall quelled the desert dust;
But soon from there it was time to go
Though a child had given his heart in trust.

We drove by car to Maryland
From whence we likewise took our leave
After autumn burned its colored band,
And the snow fell once on Christmas Eve.

In Carolina I roamed the hills
And tramped through the woods like Daniel Boone,
Saw serpents skate among the rills,
Then camped out under an August moon.

By boat we sailed to Germany,
The deep forest boughs were bent with snow;
The boy choir made fine harmony,
And from there I wished we’d never go –

"But Father," I asked, "when will we stay?"
"Don’t know," he said. "Till my work is done,
Each home is an inn along the way
To shelter us ere this race be run."

I returned in youth to Maryland,
Learned a little of love, a lot of sin,
But I thank that girl who took my hand
For, in grief, I was never to see her again.

I hiked through the snow to find my love,
Leaving my family on Christmas night,
Then remembered all gifts are strewn from above
As the snowflakes fell in the streetlamp’s light.

Though in all the places on earth I’ve been
The heart found a home on Christmas day –
Don’t think I’ll be going back again
To the wayfarers’ inns along the way.

The Christ child, too, in a place was born -
Who would be among men as one of them –
From where, in His mother’s arms, forlorn,
He fled His home in Bethlehem.

Our houses are built in a foreign land,
You sleep within beneath changing skies,
Till the Christ Child takes at last your hand
And bids you Wake, and then, Arise.

49 comments:

alicia said...

merry christmas to you too, bill
post a little more often?

zippy said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Bill.

Two comments:

Q: Why is divorce so expensive?

A: Because it is worth it.


Second, one of the reasons I argue as uncompromisingly on the torture issue as I do is because of the immense pleasure it brings my mind to even consider pulling the fingernails out of an Al Qaeda operative with a pair of pliers. You can infer what you will about other topics that I discuss. >:-)

j.s.kern said...

Merry Christmas, Bill—missed the 25th but, to the Real Christian, isn't every day Christmas?

Yup!

And have a Happy New Year, too. And you will (see above).

Hey, this torture controversy is a load of old hag spittle. Judicious use of torture is necessary during wartime (and should be permissible, IMHO, if the cops KNOW the perp knows where the kidnapped girl is buried alive—ala Dirty Harry). It is only wrong when applied solely for sadistic gratification (no way to avoid attracting sadists to the job but they must be tightly controlled). Did you ever read that article in Atlantic Monthly about this issue? It was written by Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down. Here’s the link: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200310/bowden...a primer of sorts?

Uhm? Right…oh yeah…

Bill, take care, God Bless and I’ll see you on the next calendar.

zippy said...

Judicious use of torture is necessary during wartime...

Every bit as much as judicious use of contraception and abortion are necessary during a population explosion or an AIDS epidemic. Apparently the Catholic faith, and in general the principle that we may not do evil in order that good may come of it, is "a load of hag spittle".

j.s.kern said...

I think you’ve mischaracterized the argument somewhat, Zippy old cock. You’ve assumed, not proven, that torture is "doing evil", no?

Well, I hear YOU saying it is but does that make it so? I contend that, in certain cases, it is doing good in order to frustrate evil...y'know? Like when soldiers kill enemy combatants or cops shoot criminals. (And if you think THAT's doing evil, too, then, well, God help you; you’ve swallowed a camel, philosophy-wise, and your tortured guts are putting a cramp in your logic-gland.)

Right...oh, and for the record, I'm not speaking for the Catholic faith, just me. (Btw, did I hear you imply that having marital sex for pleasure instead of for procreation is wrong? Were you equating contraception with abortion? With torture? Pal, you gotta talk to more women....)

And Zippy, although I like a good old argument as much as the next fulminating ego-maniac, if you want to continue this, perhaps we should do it on your blog, on mine or by email? Let's give Bill a break (and give me time to hone my axe).

Send me a gauntlet! Ciao for now.

zippy said...

You’ve assumed, not proven, that torture is "doing evil", no?

I have stated it, because it is the teaching of the Catholic Church.

Btw, did I hear you imply that having marital sex for pleasure instead of for procreation is wrong?

If by instead of you mean intentionally ruling out the possibility of, then yes, you did indeed hear me say that.

j.s.kern said...

I have stated it, because it is the teaching of the Catholic Church.

Well that's simple enough, Zippy. The Catholic Church teaches it, so there's no need for you or anyone else to examine the issue any further. Wonderful. No conflict of conscience, no possibility of error—Papal Infallibility. All those Big Brains & Honest Souls milling about the solemn halls of the Vatican have ticked that particular box for you, eh? Cool. We all know they’ve never been wrong before.

Yep. And I remember all those passages in The Word where the Lord tells his rebellious disciples NOT to think for themselves....

You enjoy your psycho-spiritual prison, Zippy, but if you don’t mind, go fondle the controls on your circuitous train of thought somewhere by yourself; the grown-ups want to talk.

Oh, but take this random nugget of wisdom with you before you go: Just because the Catholic Church teaches it is NOT proof that a thing is so. It has the heavy weight of religious authority, but it isn’t PROOF.

As for: If by instead of you mean intentionally ruling out the possibility of, then yes, you did indeed hear me say that.

You’ve just consigned every Catholic couple to either a sexless marriage after the woman reaches menopause, or Hell.

Nice one. Enjoy the Sapphire ‘Nads.

Ciao for now.

zippy said...

Actually, I am commenting in this thread because Professor Luse links to my blog several times in the post. I considered that sufficient invitation to comment (and in any case I don't need an invitation in order to wish Professor Luse a happy new year).

You are of course welcome to follow those links and comment - civilly, of course - on my blog if you like. My specific response to you was an observation that when you say that the proposition that torture is always evil is "a load of old hag spittle" you are referring to an authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church as a load of old hag spittle. Maybe you intend that very thing, but if so my comment at least clarifies the matter.

It wasn't my intent to say everything that could be said about torture, or the Catholic faith, or the relation between reason and doctrine, or any of those sorts of things. (I would think that was obvious, but then sometimes the obvious must be spelled out).

You’ve just consigned every Catholic couple to either a sexless marriage after the woman reaches menopause, or Hell.

Not at all. Naturally infertile sex acts are not morally identical to sex acts modified to gratify while being rendered intentionally infertile. This is sexual morality 101, at least for Catholics.

j.s.kern said...

Yeah, true enough...no invitation necessary...and not my place to suggest otherwise, really—if that’s what I did.

Well, of course I did. Yup, I was rude and belligerent and probably even uncivil, Zippy, and I’ve got to stop that. Soon. But I probably can’t; the rot might be just too deep.

Anyway, for the sheer randy hell of it, I’ll follow those links and see if I can bathe in your enlightened flow long enough to wise up so as not to need so many obvious points spelled out for me...and if I comment, I’ll make a Himalayan effort to stop from spraying bile all over your table.

Ah, but one last parting shot here on the good Professor’s comment page—yeah, you’re right, I NEED to get the last word in...but I’m working on that too.

My original post was that the torture CONTROVERSY in general was a load of old hag spittle, not the position of the Catholic Church in particular. The Church is against war too, but that doesn’t negate the need for nations to engage in it now and again—like when they’re attacked. If Her teachings dovetail with those of the deluded and unrealistic Left, it’s not my fault.

In wartime we NEED to torture—there’s no other way to extract the information from the unwilling. To find this controversial is to find going to war controversial; or finding the NEED to use force when confronting evil controversial. Those who are against the U.S. government using physical coercion to gain information from captured enemy combatants in the WOT are naïve at best; at worst, they are aiding and abetting the terrorists.

And, as for Catholic Sexual Morality 101, what can I say? I missed those classes (I was out in the smoking area selling beer for a dollar a bottle) and your last post was clearer than your earlier ones (there’s my simple-minded requirement for things to be spelled out again. Dang!).

But, who cares? If you’re comfortable with the idea that the Lord is so censorious & small-minded that He’s aghast at the idea of a couple using birth-control just so they can enjoy sex without producing another child, well, good for you. Of course, that’s for you and Him to work out after you’re mamms skyward. But my Lord loves it when my wife and I have sex for fun, pleasure & to strengthen our relationship—in fact, since I got the snip, she can actually ENJOY all those other aspects of it much more fully because of the lack of worry over getting pregnant.

So again, Zippy, enjoy those azure beans (as I’m sure a Catholic gentleman such as yourself—yoicks, you’re not a Priest are you? Though that would explain a lot—wouldn’t ask his wife to stay permanently pregnant just so he could enjoy himself AND stay true to his Faith.). I’ll see you on your blog. Well, as soon as I brush up on a few scrabble words...and after seeing what the wife is up to.

zippy said...

The Church is against war too, ...

The Church's position on war is quite different from her position on torture, though. There is no "just torture" doctrine, whereas there is a just war doctrine.

If Her teachings dovetail with those of the deluded and unrealistic Left, it’s not my fault.

Whether it is your fault for thinking so and speaking that thought publicly when it is not the case is of course between you and God.

Of course, that’s for you and Him to work out after you’re mamms skyward.

No doubt; and you too, my bombastic friend.

William Luse said...

I've been away from the computer for a couple days. Merry Christmas to you too, Alicia. Would like to post more often but can't because of that other thing I'm doing which you know about.

And merry Christmas to you, James, the goodwill of which season I'd like to see more in evidence when you respond to Zippy. He is a serious and fairminded man of good will who deserves your respect, and will be more likely to respond if you give it to him. He may have mistakenly assumed that you shared with him the Catholic faith, but as I recall you're Protestant, and so an appeal to her teaching authority would not automatically gain your assent or shame you into giving it. But on these moral issues (e.g. torture, contraception) she does not claim that her authority alone is sufficient to resolve the debate (save for a Catholic who already concedes it), but rather that any man, using his reason aright, will come to the same conclusion. As evidence, I would point out that on many issues you do in fact come to the same conclusion.

Now on this torture thing I'm going with Zippy unless you can establish the following (which I think you are inclined to do):
1. that the pain and suffering inflicted on another - in this case a terrorist prisoner - and which would ordinarily be considered an evil, is in fact an act of self-defense, and also that the means used is not disproportionate to the end to be achieved.
2. that it is self-defense because, and only because, the prisoner remains a de facto combatant and not a prisoner at all, properly speaking. The difficulty here is that Christian moral tradition in war declares a man a non-combatant once he has been rendered hors de combat. Although you may take the position that a captured Zarqawi is capable of inflicting continued harm by virtue of what he knows, it is not he who will inflict the harm. In order to declare war on a nation, or a man, a degree of moral certainty is required. How do you know that he knows? You can see the problems here in deciding who is to be tortured and who not.
3. that what constitutes permissible torture is defined in such a way that some forms of duress meet the definition and others do not. For example, I would have difficulty cutting off Zarqawi's fingers until he told me what I wanted to know, but would have no problem depriving him of sleep for days at a time. It is that line-drawing problem I have dealt with before, and which allows a man to know the difference between night and day.
4.and that you accomplish all this without using the end to justify the means. I appeal here to the Just War tradition, which is a set of moral principles governing the use of violence to which all of Christendom at one time subscribed.

I am also going to stay with Zippy on the contraception issue, and not only because of Church teaching. I had made up my mind before becoming Catholic. You ask Zippy a question: "Were you equating contraception with abortion?" You well know that some forms of contraception are in fact abortions. Others are not. But all forms have in common with abortion the desire to control birth. That some forms are murderous and others not does not change the root mentality which makes both such indispensable modern "necessities." All forms also allow couples to indulge their appetite for "pleasure" at their convenience, pleasure being a euphemism for the satisfaction of lust, which is always a sin. Only if the possibility of conception is not "intentionally ruled out" can lust be brought under the discipline of love.

In this regard I find your example of a couple in which the woman is menopausal to be fallacious (and, I might add, disingenuous, for I believe you are arguing for the right of everyone to conception-free sex, not only those afflicted with a hard-case exception). For example, if a couple marries, has one child, and then discovers that, through no fault of their own, but rather some defect of nature, they can have no more, are we then to deny them the 'pleasure' of the marriage bed because one half of the one-flesh union can no longer be fulfilled? The answer lies in: through no fault of their own. The defect is in their physical nature, not in their will, whereas the use of contraception always requires consent. We hold simply that pleasure, being an intrinsic effect of the act, cannot be the reason for it - I should say, the sole reason. Many (most today) would maintain that the desire to give each other pleasure is an expression of marital love, but I tend to doubt it. Such an infertile exchange can transpire between any two people, while their love is unique to the vow they took. Any pleasure in their lives should be subsumed by that vow.

William Luse said...

I see that while composing my comment three were posted between the two of you, my remonstrance with James' decorum becoming somewhat superfluous thereby. I'll only add, James, that based on previous encounters I had always considered you a traditional Christian with a small 't', and that, since neither Catholic nor Protestant prior to the first 3rd of the 20th century had ever seen contraception as anything but sin, I've been rather surprised by your thoroughly modernist take on the matter.

Anonymous said...

Zippy writes:

Second, one of the reasons I argue as uncompromisingly on the torture issue as I do is because of the immense pleasure it brings my mind to even consider pulling the fingernails out of an Al Qaeda operative with a pair of pliers. You can infer what you will about other topics that I discuss.

Now that's revelatory. Because for a lot of Christians it's exactly the opposite.

I'm also chagrined to learn there are actually husbands out there getting sex from post-menopausal spouses.

j.s.kern said...

Not sulking; just preparing for New Year's...in about 2 hours time it'll be midnight here in Auckland. A Happy New Year to all!

Zippy, no hard feelings. I apologize if I was overly disrespectful. I was a trifle more cantankerous than usual today and felt like sounding off for no good reason at all...I'll still visit those links, though. You're not getting off that easy.

Bill, I suspected early that I'd slither into unseemly, indecorous language and tried to move sites before offending you and your visitors. So, my apologies—and rest assured I’ve taken your remonstrations to heart.

As to your “challenge” on the torture issue and surprise about my modernist stance vis-à-vis birth control, I’d like to comment fully when I have more time. Although I will say you’ve pretty much nailed my stance on torture. And I admit my opinions have changed considerably on birth control (and marriage, Faith, the Lord, etc) over the last 18 months.

Right. Talk to you next year. God Bless.

zippy said...

Anonymous wrote:
Now that's revelatory. Because for a lot of Christians it's exactly the opposite.

I rather doubt it. There are few experiences more attractive than feeling the crack of an enemy's bones beneath the skillful ministrations of one's knuckles (though admittedly in a fair fight). This is true for me at any rate, and I doubt that my own conscupiscience is so radically different from that of other men. Indeed the popularity of entertainment from Keefer Sutherland seems to indicate that the Hollywood conscupiscience-feeding machine also sees this as a basic part of the (male) human condition (though why they choose such a whiner to feed it is a bit beyond me; Hollywood used to be smarter than that). There are exceptions no doubt, better men than I, but I expect I am the rule in this regard rather than the exception.

And Happy New Year everyone (you too JS :-).

William Luse said...

And I admit my opinions have changed considerably on birth control (and marriage, Faith, the Lord, etc) over the last 18 months.
On the face of it, this worries me, though I would like to hear what happened. Happy New Year to all.

alicia said...

I, for one, am always astounded that any Christian would consider intentional self-mutilation (sterilization) to be an acceptable action. It seems to me to be a rejection of a God given gift, that of fertility. I have also seen that for many women, sterilization acts to destroy their sex drive - even though there is no physiological reason why that should be so. It is almost as if the body recognizes that one of the two biological reasons for sexual intercourse (the other being bonding so that babies will be properly cared for) is gone.
I wish that some of you could sit in my office and examining rooms and LISTEN to the sadness and sorrow of so many women - women who truly do not want another child and yet had no clue that being sterile would affect them so deeply.

Jeff Culbreath said...

For the poem I propose:

The Wayfarer's Christ

Thank you, Bill. I enjoyed it. And Happy New Year.

William Luse said...

Alicia, "intentional self-mutilation" is a jarring but accurate characterization. It will enlighten some, anger others; either open their eyes or close them. But that's the way it goes. Am I wrong in feeling that fertile sex is sexier, and that, because it must be parsed out in a more disciplined fashion, also more fun?

Jeff: finally, someone who liked the poem. And I will take the title suggestion to heart. Give my best to LeXuan, who never communicates anymore except via the occasional email warning me to leave you alone. Tell her I do it only out of love.

William Luse said...

Also, Alicia, though as a rule I don't like anonymous comments, the above personage has a point when he claims to be "chagrined to learn there are actually husbands out there getting sex from post-menopausal spouses." There is an argument to be made for letting go after a certain point, that the focus might turn to an increase in virtue in preparation for a life in which this particular pleasure has no place. It is a separate argument from that with which we were dealing, but can be derived from it.

Michael Brendan Dougherty said...

Avoiding war and other talk- I'll give you my opinion of the 40 year old Virgin.

Not that good. Oddly ends with a happy moral of "waiting until marriage". Also by turning up the volume on general promiscuity - it almost makes us shout "turn it off!" - as we experience the asolute sexual decadence of its secondary character: disease, the pains of infidelity - etc etc. But the movie always pulls back from actually inflicting damage on promiscuity in its parody of it. Almost as if it were saying "Yeah, look how rediculous we look, it's kinda funny (not sad or tragic) if you think about it."

I've said too much already.

Christmas was great- hope everyone's was too. Although yesterday I had three uncles and two cousins all debating me at once about this war on Christmas stuff. One of my littlest cousins - told my girlfriend "Michael's smart - but they're loud".

I've also discovered to my great dismay that in conversations with my family on politics I'm incredibly slow-wittted.

William Luse said...

better to be smart than loud. And you've actually made me want to see the movie.

Paul Cella said...

As a Protestant I will say confidently that the Catholic Church is absolutely right in her condemnation of birth control; that fertile sex is indeed sexier (the most cursory reflection will reveal that, for men, it is precisely fertility that is sexy); and that the notion, insinuated by Mr. Kern, that to oppose contracepted sex is to despise sex, is manifest nonsense.

It is a peculiar derangement of the modern mind which allows men to imagine that by abjuring the unnatural corruptions of something good, we must also adjure the thing in its natural form as well.

Paul Cella said...

I liked the poem as well, Bill. Happy New Year to you and yours, my friend.

William Luse said...

"the most cursory reflection will reveal that, for men, it is precisely fertility that is sexy." For women too, I hope? Problem is, how do I research the subject?

Good to hear from you, Paul. Looking forward to reading your Touchstone piece.

Paul Cella said...

I'll leave that research to your sagacity, Bill. For myself, I must confess to being a bit mystified as to why women find men attractive.

Kevin Jones said...

You know that Serenity is based on the cancelled Firefly TV series? It is out on DVD. I think most of the episodes, which emphasize more the Western elements, are better than the movie itself.

I was disappointed with the lack of an introduction to Emily Rose's character. Do you think a few more pre-possession scenes could have made her more sympathetic? The movie itself actually benefits from having lots of emotional teenagers in the audience.

William Luse said...

I'm not sure they do, Paul. But they apparently find us useful in certain respects. As technology advances, that too may pass.

Kevin, I did know that about Serenity, but couldn't get my wife interested in watching Firefly. So I'll have to do it when she ain't around. In the movie, Ron Glass's character hardly gets an introduction before he's killed. (Readers might remember Glass from the old 'Barney Miller' TV show.) So I'm hoping he has more of a part in the Firefly version.

Do you think a few more pre-possession scenes could have made her more sympathetic? Heh-heh. Not with That Voice roaring out of her.

William Luse said...

Oh, pre-possession. Sure, but that requires an exploration of character, which doesn't interest Hollywood because the modern audience would find it plodding.

TS said...

For women too, I hope?

I've heard that studies show that women are most desirous of sex during their most fertile time of cycle.

William Luse said...

Well, TS, not being one, I'll take your word for it. It would be nice if one of 'em would chime in and tell us.

j.s.kern said...

Well now…things have developed here rather nicely in my absence haven’t they?

Right. Let’s get this hit-back-and-run rolling....

First off, to Alicia. I assume you were referring to me but if not, well, my point will still stand.

If I can wax pedantic, I’d suggest the term “intentional sexual mutilation” rather than “intentional self-mutilation” since, in my case, I can assure you I didn’t do the cutting myself.

As for your being “astounded that any Christian would consider [this] to be an acceptable action”; get over it. For both my wife and I this is a second marriage in our early 40’s after having kids by our Ex’s. Also, while it’s clearly not our wish, if my vasectomy is ever naturally reversed (not sure of the likelihood of this but it’s apparently quite common) and my wife does get pregnant, we will both gladly become parents again. Perhaps it is a mental defect of ours but we don’t see contraception as “pre-conception abortion”.

As for you, Paul, what can I say? First you put words in my mouth when I’m not looking and then slap my face for saying them! To wit:

...and that the notion, insinuated by Mr. Kern, that to oppose contracepted (sic) sex is to despise sex, is manifest nonsense.

It is a peculiar derangement of the modern mind which allows men to imagine that by abjuring the unnatural corruptions of something good, we must also adjure the thing in its natural form as well.


Well, well. I think the batteries in your extrapolator are over-charged. The only thing I insinuated about married men who oppose contraception was that, out of concern for their wives, they will have sex less often. Which, judging by several responses here, seems to be the case.

Now, as to this idea that fertility is sexy; I can’t see it. How do men tell which women are fertile and which aren’t? Do they wear signs nowadays?

Anecdotally it would seem men are more attracted to the more outwardly attractive woman, period. Porn ain’t raking in billions a year showing women holding ovulation meters.

Right. Ciao for now.

zippy said...

Porn ain’t raking in billions a year showing women holding ovulation meters.

Am I the only one who is rather chagrined at a Christian claiming that widespread use of pornography represents an archetype of sexuality properly ordered? I suppose if JS's main point is that disordered sexuality is quite pervasive in the modern world that would be difficult to gainsay.

JS, I don't think anyone here has claimed that sexual perverts (to be blunt) aren't attracted to inentionally sterile sex. I think the point is that attraction to intentionally sterile sex is morally perverted sexuality. And while all morally perverted sexualities are not equivalent to abortion, abortion is the central sacrament of morally perverted sexuality.

TS said...

Ironically, heard this report on ABC this morn:

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/OnCall/story?id=1469078

William Luse said...

No, Zippy, you're not the only one, though I'm hoping he was using it only as an analogy to show that physical attractiveness is an equal, if not greater, incitement to sexual activity, and provides an equal if not greater level of satisfaction. My position would be that this may true initially - as in the early stages of romance, or especially of a fleeting encounter where infertility is essential to irresponsibility - but not over time when the wholeness of a woman's sexuality must be dealt with. Contraception doesn't preserve that wholeness, but rather severs it. Nothing can be proved by the porn analogy anyway, since such encounters are not real but phantasms of the mind.

J.S., your preference for 'sexual' over 'self' mutilation is a distinction without a difference, as though your self's consent were not involved. Keep in mind that no one here wants anything but the best for you. We just don't think that what's best for any man is perpetually available sex, which is what contraception facilitates. You said your thoughts had changed on the subject, and I'd still like to know why.

TS, I'll check out that link.

William Luse said...

Ok, TS, what the article establishes is that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak - original sin. But what it doesn't tell me is whether any of these women were using birth control, because it is my suspicion (meaning I can't prove it) that chemical forms of it suppress sexual desire to some degree.

j.s.kern said...

Okay—hold everything!

“Am I the only one who is rather chagrined at a Christian claiming that widespread use of pornography represents an archetype of sexuality properly ordered?”

Zippy, I’d be chagrined at all that muck too. But nowhere did you here me claim any such thing. You are inferring things about me because of what you imagine my argument to be. Hell, I’m barely arguing at all—I just didn’t see how you tied torture in with abortion (btw, from reading your blog I understand more fully where you’re coming from, but still disagree with the idea that anyone would be consigned to Hell by committing an act that you—and the Catholic Church—decree is evil WHEN in his mind he genuinely believed he was acting for the best.)

I do NOT want to, nor will I, become the spokesman for perverts, self-mutilators & whores. The point about porn was a simple(-minded?) one: What is sexually attractive to men is the female form. Men are visual. I wasn’t discounting the spiritual, philosophical, religious or intellectual aspects of men that find other things attractive (like fertility); just underlining what I believe is the initial attraction.

As far as sexual relations are concerned, let me say here and now that I AGREE with all of you on the ideal—attraction, marriage, children, with sexual respect throughout. I believe that abortion is wrong, sating lust (and purposely seeking the means to facilitate this) is wrong and that divorce is wrong. But wrong only if done with malign intent

However the consequences (and I agree there are always consequences from doing “wrong”—and right, too) for the soul of the person committing or facilitating any of these wrongs will depend on his conscious and unconscious motivation; it is more the “why” than the “what”. And, yes, the Lord alone knows the full nature of the motivation of any man.

Again, I am NOT pimping FOR abortion, torture, pornography, contraception, bestiality, murder, theft, nuking the Vatican, lust, desecration of holy relics, phrenology, astrology, wrath, gynecology, Palestinian right of return, greed, tattooing, barbarism, table-tennis, Ewing’s tumor, envy, John, Paul, George or Ringo!

Peace, God bless & Arohanui.

William Luse said...

I think Zippy introduced the abortion-contraception thing into the torture thread only by way of comparison, ie., to give other examples of how evil means are used to get to a good end.

"I believe that abortion is wrong, etc., But wrong only if done with malign intent"... I think Zippy's current post (at his place) might interest you. Focuses on war but can be carried into other areas.

zippy said...

...but still disagree with the idea that anyone would be consigned to Hell by committing an act that you—and the Catholic Church—decree is evil WHEN in his mind he genuinely believed he was acting for the best.

I make no claims whatsoever about anyone in particular being consigned to Hell. But acts have objective content independent of the self-delusion (personally culpable or otherwise), or lack thereof, of the actors. That objective dimension interests me a great deal.

Shalom,
Z

alicia said...

the ends never justify the means. period. paragraph.

moral theologians carry out tortured analyses for the hard cases involved here (ectopic pregnancy is the one with which I am most familiar).

Mutilation is mutilation - the 'can't stomach the thought of another pregnancy so I'll pay to have my fertility cut out of me' attitude is incredibly pervasive. What I have found amazing is how many women, after being sterilized, suddenly have zero sex drive. There is no easy physiological explanation. I have a psychological one but it is but a theory - that fertility is such a key part of one's self identity that destroying it affects the libido.
I don't think that it necessarily affects men the same way, but then I don't get to hear the anguished complaints of post-vasectomy men (if indeed there are many of them).
Men and women are different - no? Men can have sex all the time and never worry about getting pregnant. Some men will worry about getting some one else pregnant, but since the 'sexual revolution' (women lost), if a woman gets pregnant, it obviously wasn't any responsibility of the guy.
OK - I've rambled on enough here.
BTW - Mr. Kern - if you are still reading this thread - please read the book Sterilazation Reversal. http://www.omsoul.com/item385.Sterilization-Reversal-A-Generous-Act-of-Love.html
I'll send you my copy if you don't want to pay for it. You might get an insight into why I use the term mutilation. And I'm not speaking from total ignorance or innocence - in my history I've actually held the tools while surgeons sterilized both men and women (something I deeply regret now).

zippy said...

What is sexually attractive to men is the female form.

This isn't an area I've researched personally, but my understanding is that what is sexually attractive to (normal, healthy, morally sound) men is women who have the appearance of being fertile, healthy, and good mates for the rearing of children. I would discuss it in more detail, but I've already admitted to my overzealous conscupiscience.

William Luse said...

I feel your, um, pain, Zippy. TSO does too. I'm willing to speak for him.

Ok, JS, what does Arohanui mean? Is that Maori for happy New Year maybe? Or something worse?

j.s.kern said...

Arohanui is literally "Big Love", but it's used idiomatically as a sort of mix of "all the best" & "lot's of love".

Paul Cella said...

what is sexually attractive to (normal, healthy, morally sound) men is women who have the appearance of being fertile, healthy, and good mates for the rearing of children.

Well said, Zippy. The female form that most excites men is precisely the form that suggests to them fertility.

Paul Cella said...

J.S.: I apologize if I put words in your mouth that didn't belong there, but I do have some difficulty agreeing that my extrapolation from this passage was inappropriate:

If you’re comfortable with the idea that the Lord is so censorious & small-minded that He’s aghast at the idea of a couple using birth-control just so they can enjoy sex without producing another child, well, good for you. Of course, that’s for you and Him to work out after you’re mamms skyward. But my Lord loves it when my wife and I have sex for fun, pleasure & to strengthen our relationship — in fact, since I got the snip, she can actually ENJOY all those other aspects of it much more fully because of the lack of worry over getting pregnant.

Are you not at least implying an opposition between sex for "fun, pleasure and to strengthen [a couple's] relationship" with sex open to procreation -- the latter being the product of a "censorious & small-minded" mentality which looks askance upon pleasure?

TS said...

Yes I do feel Zippy's pain. And by the way, I do have personal knowledge of a female who reports greater sexual desire during ovulation.

j.s.kern said...

Paul,

Actually, I was admittedly a tad presumptuous in that reply to Zippy; not being familiar enough with his thinking and general assumptions. I was scoffing at something he didn't actually say--that, since my wife and I cannot now reproduce because of my vasectomy, the Lord Almighty Himself would be so censorious and small-minded as to consider all our future love-making to be damnable.

I was not implying that sex for pleasure was "better" than procreating sex or that being anti-contraception is censorious & small-minded. I was saying that I personally do not consider it sinful in and of itself. And I was implying that anyone who does think this is indeed censorious & small-minded and, if a believer, must therefore project this characteristic onto their idea of God.

My apologies, but I am oversensitive to the holier-than-thou stance that many Christians take—especially those with a habit of referring to their particular sect’s pronouncements or tenets as though they were indisputable authority—and, if I get an inkling that someone is so disposed, I bark. Occasionally I am mistaken and end up barking too soon, too loud and too long.

Woof, woo....

William Luse said...

...I personally do not consider it [sex for pleasure] sinful in and of itself. And I was implying that anyone who does think this is indeed censorious & small-minded and, if a believer, must therefore project this characteristic onto their [sic] idea of God. And an example of the latter phenomenon is this: But my Lord loves it when my wife and I have sex for fun, pleasure & to strengthen our relationship... Peace James. You'll come around eventually. You're too smart not to.

TSO, if I asked what female that might be, would your wife get mad at me?

TS said...

I could tell you but then I'd have to kill you. Say, 48 (now 49) comments on this post. Impressive!