Saturday, December 27, 2008

Fighting the leftist nominalists every step of the way

Kudos and more kudos to my cyber-friend Jeff Culbreath for taking a firm stand against the evil attack on marriage from homosexual activists. Jeff has asked a homosexual commentator never again to refer to another man as his "husband" in Jeff's comboxes. Says Jeff, "That's one piece of fiction I'll not be a party to."

In this post, my co-blogger Zippy Catholic suggested that the re-definition of "parent" by the U.S. Census Bureau (to make illegitimacy rates in the black community appear lower than they really are) is an example of nominalism. One commentator questioned this diagnosis, arguing that someone could believe that there really is an essence to being a parent but that traditional definitions don't cut it. Naturally, this led directly to a discussion of homosexual pretend "marriage."

I'm more than a bit worried about what is going to happen to all of my good Christian friends if and when homosexual "marriage" is put into place (with or without the will of the people) in their parts of the country. It seems to me not implausible that some of them will simply start referring to same-sex couples as "married," to the partners in such so-called "marriages" as each others' "husbands" or "spouses" or "wives" and excuse doing so by saying, "Well, no matter what you think, it really is the law that they are married." They might even think in some confused way that they, even in private conversation, are obligated to "obey the law" by using this terminology. In fact, I suspect that any employer in such a state or any businessman who sells any goods or services to the public and refuses to go along in conversation with the "marital" status of a homosexual employee or customer will face lawsuit. And the comments of this hard-core leftist commentator suggest that conservatives will be told exactly this: "Shut up. Homosexual marriage is now a legal fact. That is what you are being asked to acknowledge. Whatever you may think about the matter, you cannot deny the legal facts now in place. Just refer to those and keep the rest of your opinions to yourself." (Notice, among other things, his reference to "refusing to accept a plain legal fact.") (See also this story about the ostensibly Christian Condoleeza Rice, though some might well question whether Rice is a conservative in any sense worth mentioning. The homosexual pair did not even have any pretense of legal "marriage," but Rice went out of her way to call the one man's mother the other man's "mother-in-law" nonetheless.)

Whether or not arguments about the homosexual agenda usually involve nominalism, that argument (about our using the word in this way because "now that's true legally") is nominalism pure and simple. The idea is that a positive law can simply create a legal reality regarding marriage--however crazy that new "reality" is--and that we can and should now refer to this new reality in our own usage, regardless of "what we think," as though the fact that a man literally cannot be married to another man is a mere matter of opinion. This is all very bad indeed.

I say that all conservatives, Christian and otherwise, who know perfectly well that two men or two women literally cannot be married must resist this usage to their last gasp. Fight it every step of the way. Do not give in to this specious argument about a legal reality. In using this terminology without some qualifier such as "so-called" or scare quotes, you are, whether you like it or not, both caving in to and furthering the homosexual agenda and the erosion of marriage. Just say no.

It's hard to know what arguments would convince a conservative friend who says he's "just referring to the legal facts." Perhaps you could try a few reductios: If the courts or the legislature were to declare that Barack Obama is a god, would we then be merely referring to a legal reality and doing nothing objectionable and contrary to our Christian faith if we went about saying, "Our god, Barack Obama"? If the courts declared that a man could be legally married to a dog, would we not be promoting insanity if we went about referring to his dog as his husband? If the courts declared that a gorilla is a person, would we then merely be referring to a legal reality and doing nothing to further an anti-human agenda if we spoke of "gorillas and other people"?

But I don't know. People get scared. And people adapt with frightening swiftness. I predict, but hope I'm wrong, that when homosexual "marriage" comes to your town, you will find a solid majority of your conservative, Christian friends going about referring to the people involved as "spouses" or "husbands" or "wives" and telling you, "There is nothing I can do about it. Whatever we may think, it's the law now. I'm just telling the truth about their legal status."

But I stand with Jeff. And I hope some others do, too, and never, never, never give in.

P.S. I am not interested in debating "same-sex marriage" here. This is my personal blog, and I'm more draconian here than elsewhere. I welcome comments on the specific issue raised in this post but have no intention of debating the larger issues with homosexual or homosexual-sympathizing commentators. I would love to hear from my conservative readers as to what they think, predict, and intend to do about the terminological matter I raise here.

Friday, December 26, 2008

December 26--Pray for the persecuted church

Today happens to be the Feast of Stephen, immortalized in "Good King Wenceslas."

Stephen was the first martyr, and it seems appropriate for us to remember the persecuted church today. Especially on my mind are the members of a Christian family who are victims of Islamic persecution in Egypt. According to the story, they have been stopped from leaving the country and are all in prison, including the two little boys, ages 2 and 4, who are being starved (partially starved?) to pressure their Christian mother, Martha Samuel, to re-convert to Islam. The story states that she has also been raped and tortured to try to secure the same result. The father is in prison, too. Their crimes are simply that Martha converted to Christianity five years ago and that the family recently tried to leave the country to escape persecution. I never knew Egypt was a Soviet-style prison country. Perhaps only to people who have had the temerity to leave Islam. Ironically, they were trying to go to Russia to get away from Egypt.

We should pray for them.

Crossposted at What's Wrong with the World

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Almighty God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin; Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jeuss Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Unabashedly, I say that Christmas is a holy day and a holy festival. I have some Christian friends who, most unfortunately, refuse to celebrate Christmas, because they don't want to recognize any day as "holy." But what was meant by the term "holy" in both the Old Testament and New? It was that a thing, person, or day was set aside for a special, divine purpose. And Christmas is, and should be, a day (twelve days, actually) set aside to remember and to celebrate the glory of the Incarnation. God came down among us.

We as Christians do most surely believe and avow that God the Son was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the virgin Mary and was made man. He came down from heaven. Without that great event, no salvation. Without that great event, no peace with God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Without that, no remission of sins. God did not, and could not, sit in His heaven and forgive the sins of man "just because." No, He had to come down here and reveal Himself to us in the person of a man, a man who took upon himself our human nature, a man who could suffer and die and thus take upon Himself, in his death, our sins.

Thanks be to God.

And so to all my readers I wish a most hearty Merry Christmas. May Our Lord richly bless you during this, the feast of His Incarnation!

P.S. Image credit to Frank Ordaz, the illustrator of this beautiful and really neat Christmas book, which I heartily recommend. The text is by historian Paul Maier. (The "look inside" function at Amazon is incorrect. It is linked to an entirely different book by Dr. Maier with a similar title.)

Thanks also to Frank for stopping by "Extra Thoughts."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Less well-known Christmas things

I'll probably have only a couple of posts directly related to Christmas. I'm enjoying everybody else's Christmas stuff so much. But here are a couple of things that may be a little less familiar to people for Christmas.

First, Charles Dickens's novella "The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain." Here is a Google books edition in the public domain. This story deserves, in my opinion, to be made into at least one really good movie, just like "A Christmas Carol" (which I also love). I won't give away too much of the plot, but it concerns a chemistry professor who comes to believe, in his pride and bitterness, that people would all be happier if they could lose their memories of sorrow, wrong, and trouble. He is offered the opportunity to give up his own such memories, and he accepts the bargain. But he is given yet further the power of spreading this forgetfulness to other people by his presence. Eventually, as you can well imagine, he comes to regret his decision and still more to regret horribly his ability to bestow this "gift" on other people without their knowledge or consent. The entire story takes place at Christmas time, and the hero of the story is a young married woman named Milly who has been saddened by the death of her only child in infancy.

I tried to find a youtube or other recording of the unfamiliar but lovely Christmas carol "Here Betwixt Ass and Oxen Mild," but unfortunately I can't even find a cyberhymnal midi version. If you have a copy of the Episcopal 1940 hymnal, be sure to look it up. It's well worth it.

Here are the words and music to "Sing, O Sing, This Blessed Morn," a Christmas carol I'd never heard before becoming familiar with Anglican hymns. (The tune is also sometimes sung with the words to "For the Beauty of the Earth.") These words are truly great. Verse 4 is especially excellent:

God comes down that man may rise
Lifted by him to the skies.
Christ is Son of Man that we
Sons of God in him may be.
Sing, O sing, this blessed morn,
Jesus Christ today is born.

And finally, here is a high school choir singing Bach's "Break Forth, O Beauteous, Heavenly Light." Great parts.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Slightly dark humor

This is amusing, in a grim sort of way. (By putting up this grim post now, I am committing myself to posting something else before Christmas, come what may. I can't have this up at the top of the page on Christmas!)

Lawrence Auster has been talking about a gruesome story out of the UK that no one else seems to want to talk much about: A 63-year-old man named Patrick McGee was murdered and beheaded outside his home, his head thrown in a trash bin. The news stories (such as we have) have said bizarre things to the effect that he was "decapitated after a dispute about noise" by a neighbor "said to be suffering from mental illness." Say, what? You know, you've gotta watch this business of asking your neighbors to turn down the radio (or playing yours too loudly). If you're not careful, you might just enrage the poor fellows to the point where they cut off your head. I swear, it is impossible to satirize the UK anymore. Every story out of there is self-satire.

But here's the darkly amusing part. In his search for more information about this (as in, what is the name of the suspect whom police have arrested?), Auster turned up a story from the Scotsman that had as the headline "Tribute to 'Gentle' Victim." Not, mind you, "Elderly Man Decapitated: Nation in Shock." (I also note that people, including people in the media, simply do not know how to use scare quotes. The headline would give the impression that maybe he wasn't really gentle, even though that obviously isn't what the author intended. But that's a hobbyhorse for a different day.) Says Auster:

The fact that the man was murdered and beheaded is placed in a subordinate clause, while the "real" news, the news in the main clause, is that the man was kind and gentle. Wow. A man was kind and gentle. These people really have an instinct for news, don't they? If they were reporting the news on the day in 1453 when Constaninople fell to the Moslems and the city's population was slaughtered, their headline and lead would have been something like this:

Lovely City Remembered
May 29--Constantinople, which was conquered and sacked by the Ottomans yesterday, with many thousands of its Christian inhabitants slaughtered and others sold into slavery, was described by survivors as a place of many wonderful memories.

I have to admit, that made me laugh out loud.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Secret Agent Penguin

Alas, what with one thing and another I've had no time this week for liturgical blogging on this site, or even clever blogging or funny blogging. I do have a post up at W4 on teaching children about evil and a follow-up on teaching ourselves about evil and the custody of the mind.

On a much, much lighter note (before I go off to do other stuff) here is a new Christmas song (new to me). Eldest Daughter just introduced me to it this week: Brad Paisley's "Penguin, James Penguin." It's about a little black-and-white guy with satellite uplinks in his cuff links who helps Santa out by telling him when you've been good or bad. He also outfitted the sleigh with GPS. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Bible Sunday

The collect for Advent II

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The collect for this week alludes to Paul's words in Romans 15: "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." I've never realized before just how many biblical words the collect contains. (It was written by Cranmer himself, not translated.) Cranmer is a genius at working biblical phrases into his collects.

It's hard to tell in the context in Romans exactly what comforting aspects of Scripture Paul has in mind, especially since he doesn't, as one might expect, begin talking about heaven. Instead, he emphasizes the fact that Jesus Christ was sent to confirm the promises of God that the Gentiles also would be invited to be part of the people of God.

One of today's hymns did, however, remind me also of the hope we have in Jesus' coming. The best line is "And for the everlasting right/The silent stars are strong." The hymn reminds me that it is not some new thing for Christians in 2008 to need some encouragement and to feel that we are in the middle of the slow watches of the night.

Thy kingdom come! on bended knee
The passing ages pray;
And faithful souls have yearned to see
On earth that kingdom’s day.

But the slow watches of the night
Not less to God belong;
And for the everlasting right
The silent stars are strong.

And lo, already on the hills
The flags of dawn appear;
Gird up your loins, ye prophet souls,
Proclaim the day is near.

The day in whose clear shining light
All wrong shall stand revealed,
When justice shall be throned in might,
And every hurt be healed.

When knowledge, hand in hand with peace,
Shall walk the earth abroad;
The day of perfect righteousness,
The promised day of God.

We sing it at my church to the tune given here for a different song. The tune is called "St. Flavian."

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Christendom Review

There's a new e-journal launched: The Christendom Review. I have an article in it on the naked public square thesis--the idea, basically, that we shouldn't allow our religious beliefs to influence our political actions. (I'm agin' it.) There is also a wonderful memoir by my friend and former (and hopefully future) W4 colleague Bill Luse of his old writing teacher, Smith Kirkpatrick, and a poem about his daughter that I won't even try to describe. Go read it.