Book Review: C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength – The Real of Religion

that-hideous-strengthThat Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis opens with a grumbling wife and goes onto weave in realities of marriage, science, the supernatural, morality, magic, politics, violence and animals, all under the auspices of exploring, through story, what a well-lived life looks like. The answer it settles on is surprisingly warm and domestic.

This was the first of the Space Trilogy (which began with Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra), which grabbed me from the beginning and pulled me right through the pages; it is far more character-driven and less allegorical than the others, while equally thoughtful. It is one of those life books that encompasses so many experiences, states in life and realities that it is grand and revelatory such that every page seems to reveal more to me of own soul. Another book I have read like this was The Once and Future King by T.H. White, which was my book of the year for 2015. I loved it so much I couldn’t decide what to write about it, so I never wrote anything, a tragedy.

Anyway, the themes addressed in That Hideous Strength were manifold, though very pointed and specific, such that I wouldn’t be surprised if many readers did not connect with this book because it does feel located in a very concrete time and place, with very precise philosophical concerns–those of C.S. Lewis–a small university in a quiet, English town and the rising onslaught of scientific materialism. While I find the academic setting relatable and generalizable, not all readers might agree.

Here is a short list of themes worth noting; their breadth is the pleasure of the novel: Continue reading

Freelance Repost: Mrs. Clinton’s Religion Problem

I wrote this article before the election but never posted it here:

This is why I am truly glad that Mrs. Clinton did not win. However, it is hard to be happy about a Trump win, and there are so many other causes for concern with his behavior. People keep reassuring me that he won’t actually do any of the things he proposes, but that’s a different topic.

http://truthandcharityforum.org/mrs-clintons-religion-problem/

Leaders of black churches have questioned Mrs. Clinton specifically about concerns for their own religious liberty. In an open letter signed by twenty-six pastors and leaders of African-American churches, including Jacqueline Rivers of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies in Boston, they called attention to the CAGC comments by John Podesta;

“Key players on your staff have sought to subvert Catholic teaching on sexuality by planting externally funded groups in the church to advance a politically correct agenda,” they noted. “What would you do as president to guarantee that religious freedoms are balanced against civil rights rather than being trumped by them?”

They show respect for their fellow faith communities and go on to explain the central role their religious beliefs play in their ministry, particularly in poor communities, where the church is only institution well-placed to access the population, both spiritually and materially. In Christianity, beliefs are not meant as cudgels with which to bludgeon opponents; beliefs are guides to goodness, to recognizing the inherent dignity of our fellows, of striving to live well both today and forever, individually and as a society.

While Christians can and do fall short of our ideals, we seek freedom of conscience for the sake of authenticity, not hatred. Religion, despite its present unpopularity in elite circles, was once an uncontroversially protected category of conscience and identity. The drafters of the Bill of Rights thought as much.

Full article here:

 

Article Round Up II: Medicine and Healthcare Policy

Here is another round up of articles I’ve found interesting and telling about modern medicine and Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare. As I ponder the ACA, potential changes I hope the new president will make and especially the new politicization of healthcare and the all-encompassing ethics associated with that (such as conscience protection and service for the poor), these are some of things I’m thinking about.

The Atlantic – Medical Problems: Patient Responsive Happiness. problems with ACA

“Joshua Fenton, a University of California, Davis, professor who conducted the study, said these results could reflect that doctors who are reimbursed according to patient satisfaction scores may be less inclined to talk patients out of treatments they request or to raise concerns about smoking, substance abuse, or mental-health issues. By attempting to satisfy patients, healthcare providers unintentionally might not be looking out for their best interests.”

This takes some background. Pieces of the ACA reward hospitals for higher patient satisfaction, but patient satisfaction surveys don’t correlate with better outcomes. This is why we see hospitals now with brand new furniture and state of the art entertainment. Granted, we patients matters. There are a lot of cogs going into healthcare now as the government works to incentivize the practice of medicine, as they do with the tax code, and we are starting to see some glaring distortions.

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/04/the-problem-with-satisfied-patients/390684/

The Atlantic – The Erosion of the Dr/Patient Relationship

“Today’s physicians, he tells us, see themselves not as the “pillars of any community” but as “technicians on an assembly line,” or “pawn[s] in a money-making game for hospital administrators.” According to a 2012 survey, nearly eight out of 10 physicians are “somewhat pessimistic or very pessimistic about the future of the medical profession.” In 1973, 85 percent of physicians said they had no doubts about their career choice. In 2008, only 6 percent “described their morale as positive,” Jauhar reports.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/11/doctors-tell-all-and-its-bad/380785/

Carrie Kovarik, M.D. in the Washington Post, Defending her Trump Vote in Academia

“Putting insurance in the hands of people in this country is a small part of the equation that leads to increasing access to care. Once they have access, the bottleneck to care is moved down the line we don’t have more doctors, specialists or hospitals so we need to plan for innovative solutions that will help to provide them care….

Right now, this is not happening to a significant degree so when my counterparts look at me with disdain, I say, “Why not give change a chance?””

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2016/11/17/its-a-lonely-place-a-conservative-ivy-league-professor-counters-faculty-calls-for-trump-to-denounce-attack/?wpisrc=nl_highered&wpmm=1

Mother Jones – Trump Care Likely to be more Confusing and Costlier

“According to the state [Kentucky], most of those savings would come from people dropping out of the program because they couldn’t manage the premiums and complexity—18,000 people in just the first year.”

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/11/trumpcare-likely-be-more-costly-less-efficient-and-more-annoying-obamacare

This analysis strikes me as largely true–some reforms will probably be aimed at making requirements too complicated so that lower-income people drop out. That is a problem.

There are also however other problems such as a legitimate scarcity of resources that the ACA deals with currently by having enormous (such as $13,000.00) deductibles on the low-premium plans which effectively leave people uninsured. Another glaring problem are the bureaucratic and reporting requirements such as online patient portals and the electronization of medical records. These have some good sides, but doctors’ non-clinical duties have increased substantially, as have the number of administrative work required in offices, which has bloated costs immeasurably. Colleges have entire majors now dedicated to Health Care Administration–not medicine, not nursing, but medical office work.

 

Your thoughts and direction towards other resources are always appreciated!

 

Article Round Up I

Well, Happy Thanksgiving! And welcome to a round of articles that I have found thoughtful and worthwhile over the past few months. It’s really things that I want to save for potential future use or citation.  (Note–unlike re-posts of my freelance work, these are not by me).

On Voting’s Significance (I know the time frame is sort of done on this one)

“I don’t plan to tell you how to vote, but I do want to establish a few basic principles:

  1. No well-formed Catholic should feel comfortable with Trump or Clinton;
  2. Thus, voters face a difficult decision this fall;
  3. The Church gives some guidance on this, but this guidance is limited;
  4. You, as a potential voter, have the final decision to make as to who to vote and who to support;  and
  5. Your salvation could well hang in the balance.”

http://shamelesspopery.com/worth-more-than-your-vote/

Why We Can’t Just Get Along— a disagreement, often unseen, on first principles, renders modern/faithful disagreement unsolvable

In Paradise Lost,

“Satan and Adam begin alike from a point of ignorance—they know nothing prior to (the precise word is “before”) the perspective they currently occupy; and the direction each then takes from this acknowledged limitation follows with equal logic or illogic. Adam reasons, since I don’t remember how I got here, I must have been made by someone. Satan reasons, since I don’t know how I got here, I must have made myself, or as we might say today, I must have just emerged from the primeval slime.

In neither case does the conclusion follow necessarily from the observed fact of imperfect knowledge. In both cases something is missing, a first premise, and in both cases reasoning can’t get started until a first premise is put in place. What’s more, since the first premise is what is missing, it cannot be derived from anything in the visible scene; it is what must be imported—on no evidentiary basis whatsoever—so that the visible scene, the things of this world, can acquire the meaning and significance they will now have. There is no opposition here between knowledge by reason and knowledge by faith because Satan and Adam are committed to both simultaneously. Each performs an act of faith—the one in God and the other in materialism—and then each begins to reason in ways dictated by the content of his faith.”

https://www.firstthings.com/article/1996/02/001-why-we-cant-all-just-get-along?utm_source=First+Things+Subscribers&utm_campaign=639cc6d14a-Sunday_Spotlight_Two_Essays_on_Gifts&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28bf775c26-639cc6d14a-180480817

David Brooks on Modern Toughness

“In short, emotional fragility is not only caused by overprotective parenting. It’s also caused by anything that makes it harder for people to find their telos.” (a Greek word meaning “end ” or  “purpose” in moral philosophy).

 

The End of Identity Liberalism

A good diagnosis I think of what went wrong for progressives in the election:

“In recent years, American liberalism has slipped into a type of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.”

So, that’s it, readers. Enjoy and as always, feel free to send any thoughts!

 

Mr. Trump’s Language Problem, and Mrs. Clinton’s Worse One – Lying

Two unacceptable candidates for presidential office will be on the main-party ballots in a just a day or so. A quick look at how the two of them speak clarifies the troubling nature of Mr. Trump’s  views, but also why Mrs. Clinton’s history of lying is an even more severe abuse that undermines authentic communication itself.

The Purposes and Functions of Language

Two basic functions of language are discussing ideas and speaking to one another.

This first purpose, the formal use of language is the language of law, of documents like the Constitution, of logic, of philosophy and academics. It uses specific vocabulary and concepts in an effort to name truths such that we can all understand them and converse about them. The second purpose is basic interpersonal communication and often uses the casual register. It is more colloquial, relying on shared understandings and implications. The vocabulary is much smaller and is non-specific. These two overlap of course, especially in high level conversation such as debates. (I draw these two basic categories: formal and casual, from the five registers discussed in Ruby K. Payne’s A Framework for Understanding Poverty.)

Trump’s Triumphs and Tribulations from Casual Speech

A point of distinction for Mr. Trump is his use the casual register, even in debates. He calls things “tremendous” and “great” or “messes” and “disasters” without further specification and expects to be understood. Meanwhile, the moderator, his opponent, and much of his audience are left with their jaws hanging wondering why he failed to answer the question. He exemplifies the non-specific language of the casual register which functions on shared understandings and implications.

Trump’s casual speech opens him to easy lampooning in the media, but is has also allowed him to connect with a deep well of untapped support from the working class. When asked if he would accept the results of the election in the third debate, Mr. Trump replied that “I’ll keep you in suspense,” which is a vague answer intended to tap into a shared understanding that the election process is somewhat suspect. All he likely meant is that he might sue, as Al Gore did in 2000, and that he might otherwise sulk in his penthouse.

But his comment met with media consternation and uproar about undermining the foundations of our democracy which rest on the peaceful transfer of power. Many commentators construed Trump’s comment as seditious because they do not share the implication that his speech relied upon. To them, “accepting election results,” means accepting the foundations of the rule of law and legal proceedings that govern America. The two assumptions undergirding the question missed each other and led to miscommunication, a danger often present in casual speech. This line bothered the media, but was likely less problematic than many assumed.

Mr. Trump’s Unrespectable Views

Unfortunately, many of Trump’s casual, off-hand remarks are actually as problematic as left-leaning writers say they are because of the the shared understandings that he relies upon do tend to be discriminatory and disrespectful. Mr. Trump’s comments on women are a uncontroversial example

Leaving aside his outrageous 2005 recording, in August 2015 Trump dismissed journalist Megyn Kelly, wondering aloud whether she had “blood coming out of her wherever.” The reference to her menstruating accessed the stereotype that due to the hormones accompanying this bodily process, women are not rational during it. In so speaking, Mr. Trump claims power to dismiss Ms. Kelly’s comments as potentially non-rational. Because menstruation is private, this logically extends to all women being dismissable all the times. Trump’s comments about a judge of Hispanic descent being unable to try an immigration case fairly functioned similarly, as did his comments about imposing a religious test for people coming into America.

Mr. Trump’s temper and reliance on harmful stereotypes pervade his campaign and leaves us with a candidate who holds severely problematic views against a majority of Americans (since non-whites and females together constitute a majority of citizens), attributes which are hardly fitting for someone who is campaigning to lead all these different groups.

Clinton Promulgates Lies

In contrast to Mr. Trump’s blatant sexism and racism, Hillary Clinton appears to occupy a moral high ground. She has command of the formal register, that specific speech we use to explain reality, and she trounced Mr. Trump in debate. But Mrs. Clinton abuses language by unaccountable lying and in doing so, she turns formal speech into propaganda, undermining the end of truthful communication. Continue reading

3 Modes of Impartiality/Personal Engagement

Reading and reflecting recently on how people talk to one another, here are some recent observations of mine on how people share and address the impartiality/personal aspect of conversation. Most of David Brooks’ people of character, from his new book The Road to Character, likely fall into the “Quiet” category of mine.

The academic gold-standard is impartiality– to appear impersonal and objective, presenting only the facts. But this is not the mode that most of us interact in, which is perfectly reasonable.

Most of us are affected by and drawn to personal stories, things that resonate with our own experiences. In books, these are novels and memoirs.

I’ve noticed that there are (seem to be) three ways most of us deal with impartiality/personal when speaking, and I think most of us shift between each one though one may tend to dominate.

  1. The Know it All – Impartial as attempt to impress, appear objective and knowledgeable
    1. This is so evident in young people, especially ambitious young people (I can get pretty embarrassed when I think about how often I’ve here) who will happily prattle on about all the things he or she knows or has done or plans to accomplish.
    2. Other times, this surfaces through excessive criticism.
    3. The goal, often unconscious, is to appear learned and accomplished from an objective point of view while hiding the inner self.
    4. Ironically, it stems from a place of insecurity, of wanting very badly to be liked and appear well before others.  Older and mature people see through it right away, but are often very charitable and encouraging.
    5. That being said, the insights and criticisms can be very accurate, though not always.
    6. The Know-It-All is less a fault than a stepping stone in a path of growth.
  2. The Personal – When we becoming willing to show our selves
    1. At some point, most of us become willing to share our true selves, our actual opinions and experience without overt regard to its appearance to others.
    2. Here or elsewhere, we realize that even objective information is filtered through our own experience, so even when we try to be impersonal, it is often more revealing and personal than we realize.
    3. This is how we share with those close to us. Sometimes, public figures will share in this way. But most often, actors and politicians will keep it to the Know-it-All or be a totally the closed-book.
    4. Sometimes, this personal share loses an appropriateness filter and we can ramble on and on about ourselves and our experiences without enough regard to the actual subject of the conversation
    5. This is a normal mode, at least sometimes, in most people. It can be both deeply illuminating or shallow and myopic.
  3. The Quiet – Speaks when necessary
    1. The quiet person has learned that wrongly-placed or careless speech can be incredibly damaging.
    2. This person weighs the entire situation: the participants, their temperaments, the social setting, before adding his or her voice
    3. This quiet one is no longer concerned with the approval of others and uses his or her speech to clarify necessities, put others at ease, or add something edifying without regard for getting credit for it
    4. The quiet person may actually speak quite a lot if it is called for in the situation, but it will always be in balance.

Continue reading

I’m Voting 3rd Party: Conscience Is Not A Luxury, But An Imperative

evan-mcmullen.sized-770x415xc.jpg

“It’s wasting your vote”

“We can’t afford your protest this time–it’s too important.”

How many times have we heard the admonitions that voting for a third party is either futile or downright dangerous. Well, I’m voting third party this time around, and I encourage anyone who isn’t totally for Clinton or Trump to do so as well.

Joe Heschmeyer at Shameless Popery has described it succinctly: The two candidates are “awful”:

“As for Clinton, while she has been evasive about certain late-term abortions, her overall support for the legalized killing of unborn children is  unambiguous. Indeed, she’s only gotten worse with age: she went from arguing that abortions should be “safe, legal, and rare” (adding, “and I mean rare“) to arguing that they should simply be “safe and legal” (the “rare” language is also conspicuously absent from prepared campaign materials, so this wasn’t an innocent oversight). Indeed, it’s not enough for there to be a constitutional right to abortion: she’s pointed to the need to change religious beliefs to favor abortion, and the Democratic Party is in the process of including new language in its platform to encourage federal funding for abortion (breaking the Hyde Amendment truce).”

“Trump has called for torture as a tool for winning the war on terror, as well as “taking out” the families of terrorists (he later denied that this necessarily meant murdering the families). As for waterboarding, he’s said:

‘They asked me, what do you think about waterboarding, Mr. Trump. I said I love it. I love it. And I said the only thing is, we should make it much tougher than waterboarding, and if you don’t think it works, folks, you’re wrong.’ “

Now add to his support for torture and general disregard for religious and ethnic minorities, his disgusting comments from 2005 about how he (as a married man) chases married women, “when you’re a star, they let you do it.

These are simple facts about the candidates;  those who are motivated by concern about one or the other candidate cajole me to vote for the opponent.

Still, I hear reassurances that the wrongs of the candidates aren’t that bad, and I simply must support the “lesser of two evils.”

We’ve all been voting the lesser of two evils for too long. It has led to this–the two most disliked candidates since voter opinions have been measured.

So it’s time to do something different–vote your conscience. Continue reading

Freelance: First Child Euthanized in Belgium-The Slippery Slope Morphs into Cliff

My full article at: http://truthandcharityforum.org/first-belgian-child-euthanized-slippery-slope-morphs-into-cliff/

“With these examples of non-terminal patients choosing death, and–startlingly–of children having death chosen for them, the protections around human life appear near to non-existent. Admittedly, the suffering involved is severe enough to give us pause, but as the slope of preferring death to life becomes steeper, I worry that the philosophical grounds undergirding these cases create more of cliff than a slope, a cliff that actually has no basis for affirming the value of life at all.”

In many countries today, terminal conditions are a requirement of the past in order to warrant euthanasia. In the Netherlands, “The suffering need not be related to a terminal illness and is not limited to physical suffering such as pain. It can include, for example, the prospect of loss of personal dignity or increasing personal deterioration, or the fear of suffocation.”

With these subjective guidelines, there are no longer functional, legal protections on any state of life in many states and nations. A person with severe Depression, for example, suffers great emotional anguish that he or she feels can only be resolved by death. There is nothing in principle to formally disqualify such a person from euthanasia. This actually happened to a woman only identified as Eva in Alexander Decommere’s documentaryEnd Credits.

If we cannot in principle rule out death for the physically sound, on what grounds do we have to argue for that any life is worth living?

I think we need to think very hard about what it is that makes life worth living even in the face of pain. Is a good human life really a life devoid of suffering? If not, what role does suffering play in human development?

Freelance: Mother Teresa, New Saint, Championed NFP

motherteresa_clinton

From my Truth and Charity Forum piece

She testified to the effectiveness of NFP, though it involves a break from Western reliance on artificial intervention: “So clear – those people in the street, those beggars – and I think that if our people can do like that how much more you and all the others who can know the ways and means without destroying the life that God has created in us.” There is no excuse for westerners, she proposes.

Further, NFP is consistent with the Church’s teachings on chastity and the importance of self-mastery: “The other day one of them came to thank and said: You people who have vowed chastity you are the best people to teach us family planning. Because it is nothing more than self-control out of love for each other.”

Mother Teresa’s remarks place natural family planning abstinence in continuity with the celibacy vows of priests and religious sisters and brothers. The Church calls all people to chastity, to integrate their desires with appropriate love of self and others.

Seen in the light of a consistent call to self-giving, her excoriation of abortion is not a “dogmatic” scourge upon women that her ideological detractors claim it to be, but a call to see the value of the person in a places, at all times, even within the womb. It is perhaps surprising that the nun renowned for caring for the aged and dying used her fame to speak for the other side of life, those still being made inside their mothers.

She saw the West as suffering from its own type of poverty, a poverty that could not see the value of human life. Her work and her words in their own ways testified to great worth she saw in each person, and she instructed those who would listen to do the same: “I want you to find the poor here, right in your own home first. And begin love there” (1979).

More at: http://truthandcharityforum.org/though-criticized-mother-teresa-chastised-politicians-championed-nfp/

What do you think of Mother Teresa’s critics?

Local Book Places #5 Busboys and Poets/ Politics and Prose

  I did something so hopelessly cliche it makes me laugh, but it was fun and that’s what matters: a book-signing at Busboys and Poets. I had begun reading Lit by Mary Karr with the Contemporary Catholic Writers reading group … Continue reading