Monday, December 1, 2008

Challenging the Conventional Wisdom, Part III

In Part I, we saw that there were reasons to question the conventional wisdom that homosexuality is innate, but that funding for research for an alternative explanation is not likely to flood the academies soon. In Part II, we saw that homosexuality, innate or not, can still be classified a sexual dysfunction because it channels the reproductive urge into a non-reproductive channel; if it isn’t innate, then it can (and should) be treated like any other dysfunction.

The foundation of my argument—that sex exists solely for procreation—was deliberately cast as a Darwinian argument; Catholicism doesn’t teach such a strict position. Indeed, the Church insists on the combination of both the unitive and procreative aspects of married love. I note with some amusement that the celibate St. Paul, that old puritan, counseled married couples to give in to one another, allowing for short breaks of mutually-consented restraint (1 Cor 7:5).

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Challenging the Conventional Wisdom, Part II

In the last post, I talked about the conventional wisdom about homosexuality and the obscure evidence that it needn’t be a lifelong orientation. Of course, there’s a list of mental health professional associations whose members strongly object to the idea that homosexuality can be “cured”—nay, that it even needs curing. Since many of these people are in positions to determine who gets research funding and who doesn’t, it’s safe to say that proposals to research alternative explanations will ordinarily find their way to the bottom of the priority lists … if they ever get added to such lists.

How can we be sure that homosexuality is dysfunctional? After all, the reparative therapists may simply be finding precisely what their Christianity tells them to find, to give their narrow-minded bigotry an electroplating of respectable science, just like the scientists who backed the racial theories of the Ku Klux Klan and Adolf Hitler in times past.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Challenging the Conventional Wisdom, Part I

I used to have a good friend who, among his other traits, was gay. My standards for fellowship were, and still are, fairly low: If you make me laugh, I’ll hang out with you. And Sean definitely had a sense of humor … most of the “fag” jokes I ever knew were ones he’d told me.

Which is not to say that he wasn’t capable of taking his sexual identity seriously. From him I first heard the word “Catholic” used to describe someone who pretends acceptance of homosexuality. When I asked him, quietly and non-threateningly, if he’d ever considered chastity as an alternative, he gave me what I take to be the rationale behind much dysfunctional sexuality: “I can’t live without love.”

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Slice of Humble Pie

Having waited a few weeks for the shame and humiliation to pass, I hereby take this opportunity to remove myself forever from the game of political forecasting. McCain beat Obama!? What was I drinking!?

At the time that I predicted the presidential contest was Sen. John McCain’s to lose, I was confident of a couple of things that, in retrospect, were little more than fantasies. Sure, Barack Obama’s choice of Sen. Joe Biden could have easily backfired because of the latter’s unpredictable tendency to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. And McCain’s choice of Gov. Sarah Palin gave us a national sweetheart for the balance of the contest; it would have been pure brilliance, had McCain been ten years younger and with a few less bouts with cancer under his belt.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Invest With Harrah's

I spoke to a customer, in my role as a customer service rep for a major home lender, who was extremely irate. You see, the web site wouldn’t allow him to make a payment because it asked him why his payment was late. The answers it permitted didn’t include as an option the response: “Your f——g company caused the whole g———d economy to go into a f——g tailspin, and I lost most of my d——d money due to the fluctuations of the g———d stock market because of it!”

Because my professionalism (and my tenure) depends on my not making caustic replies to overheated emotional vomit, I couldn’t respond, “Sir, if you really attribute the current economic problems to my company’s investment in subprime home loans, you should probably leave stock investment to the professionals. No matter what the President said, it’s just not that simple.”

Friday, September 26, 2008

Tu quoque, Mr. Hitchens

Atheists like to talk of the hypocrisy of believers as it were practically impossible to find someone who lived their faith to the fullest. Moreover, they proclaim it as if they were under no demand of intellectual honesty or scientific rigor to prove the near-universality of the flaw. And in one sense, they don’t; when there are no well-policed borders between the merely inconsistent and the duplicitous, even the best-intentioned efforts to deal with an often messy reality can be portrayed as two-faced.

(Case in point: Gov. Sarah Palin’s support for her pregnant teenaged daughter. If she had thrown the young baggage out on the curb for her bad judgment, the governor would have been cited for her un-Christian self-righteousness and lack of mercy. Not having done so, she’s taken to task for supposedly giving an implicit OK to teen pregnancy at odds with the rest of her political message. Having hummed a few bars, I’m sure you can fake the rest of the song.)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Postcard From Spamalot

Catholic e-journalist Mark Shea recently wrote an amusing piece for his site,, titled “Behold the Spam of God!” In the article, Shea, a former Evangelical (there’s a lot of them now blogging for the Church!), issues a tongue-in-cheek jeremiad against Evangelicals who send him e-mails pointing him to the Bible as if he’d never cracked it open in his life as a Protestant. He also details the response he got from other former Evangelicals who have received similar “Godspam”, spoofing the most common anti-Catholic assumptions.

Lo and behold, not too long after his faithful readers began posting, an ex-Catholic named Lauren sent in her response:

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Catholic Youth As the New Counterculture

Sorry for the interruption ….

The summer doldrums have hit the presidential race as scheduled. In fact, with the nation paying more attention to dropped batons, underaged gymnasts and a new Olympic demigod who’s half sturgeon, half giant and all heart, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) couldn’t pick a better time to not know how many homes he has.

However, with the approach of the conventions, interest will soon re-emerge. I was within an ace of finishing this installment when Olympic coverage was interrupted by Sen. Barack Obama’s press conference revealing his running mate: Sen. Joseph Biden (D-RI). The reasoning? Biden would connect with blue-collar workers and relentlessly attack McCain.

Within hours, the McCain campaign had a TV ad ready to roll, which showed clips of Biden the erstwhile primary candidate criticizing Obama and praising McCain. Before the sun set on his first official day as vice-presidential candidate, Biden’s tendency to talk before thinking came back to bite him on the butt.

From this moment, I’m almost 100% positive: The election is McCain’s to lose.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Compassion As Emotional Blackmail

One day last week, as I drove home from work, I tuned in to “Catholic Answers Live” on the local Catholic radio station (KATH, AM 91). It must have been Tuesday (July 1), because it was an “open forum” night; the guest, if I be not mistaken, was Tim Staples, a convert from an Evangelical background. (He has a CD set about his conversion which has a most intriguing title: Jimmy Swaggart Made Me Catholic! It almost sounds like a Watchtower headline.)

A mother handed her ten-year-old wannabe skeptic daughter’s question over to Staples to answer: “If two people love each other, and one goes to heaven and the other goes to hell, how can the person who goes to heaven be happy there?” Staples confessed that there was no set answer to the question. “Some people believe that being in the Presence of God is so wonderful that we just forget about the loved ones in hell.”

Monday, June 30, 2008

America's Calling, Harry Truman

There’s another chain e-mail floating around, the “message” type that puts things in the simplest manner possible so that issues can be misunderstood by everyone. This one isn’t too offensive. It simply asks you, “Don’t you miss Ronald Reagan?” by quoting some of his better lines—some humorous (“The most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’”) and some pretty stirring (“No arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women).

I dont know that I can agree that we need another Reagan. Certainly we could use someone with his optimism, his humor and his simplicity. But more than that, we need someone who can be both optimistic and honest to the point of bluntness, someone who can simple without being simplistic.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Making Adultery Naïve

Dear CBS:

This is in regards to your “new hit series” Swingtown.

Certainly, after a mere sixty years of television broadcasting, I can understand that new concepts are harder to come by. Eventually, the “reality series” well, which never really succeeded in bringing anything “real” to the air, had to start running dry, which in turn meant that all the writers would actually have to begin writing dialogue again. And certainly, you’ve had to do your best to end-run the rules against full-frontal nudity and the Seven Words You Can’t Say On (Network) TV so your shows could compete against the more pornographic, foulmouthed offerings on premium cable channels.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The "New" Atheism: The Same Old Story

The cover of the November 2006 Wired issue boldly proclaimed “The New Atheism: No Heaven. No Hell. Just Science.” However, as the article’s author, Gary Wolf, readily admitted early on, atheism doesn’t have any new arguments to offer. Even the sarcastic abuse is stale.

The only thing really “new” about the New Atheism is a missionary zeal. No longer are atheists content simply to sit around university clubrooms feeling contemptuous of the ignorant, superstitious masses; they’re now on a mission from no-God to free the minds of others.