Friday, April 27, 2012

Extra Thoughts--Now with Google Chrome

I have to say that the new Blogger behind-the-scenes look isn't just overly appealing, but I suppose I'll get used to it. More urgent was the fact that Blogger recently decided that IE7 is just too, too ancient and no longer supports it, so I could only blog from Firefox on this site. Do-able (especially after FF fixed the bug whereby links would not go in the proper places on Blogger), but Firefox and my somewhat elderly computer (I've finally decided it is seven or eight years old) don't always get along. Various other IE7 problems were coming up, and I have finally given in and bought a new desktop with Windows 7 and IE9. (In the course of that I lost access to Adblock Pro, which is great for IE 7 but apparently doesn't work with IE9. Rats.) The transition will be somewhat painful, but one compensation: Unlike XP, which often (always?) didn't support Chrome, Windows 7 does. I like it. Super-intuitive, lovely ad blocking software. And Blogger likes it. (Of course.) Not that this means I'll be posting on here particularly more often. But at least I can do it from software that is fully compatible with the blog. Hurrah! Now if I can just get this dad-gummed New Blogger dashboard figured out...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A rant against the Men's Rights attitude

There is an attitude I'm running into occasionally among men, even young men who have not had anything terrible done to them, and I think it's highly, highly unfortunate. It seems to be based on this statistic one hears over and over and over again: "Women initiate x% of divorces." Usually the statistic is 80%.

Now, for some reason, the men who cite this statistic are interpreting it as if it means, "Women initiate 80% of the marital breakups." And even, therefore, "Women initiate 80% of marital breakups for frivolous reason." The idea seems to be that pretty much all women have within them an Inner Buffy who is just waiting for the opportunity to dump her husband one day in fit of hormone-driven pique because he fails to put his socks in the hamper. And then ruin his life, ruin the children's lives, break up his relationship with his children, etc.

So what this turns into is a bitter, misogynistic attitude (and believe me, I don't use the word "misogynistic" lightly) which causes the men who cite this statistic to approach any woman, even the most innocent, wonderful, carefully raised, Christian young woman, with an intention to smoke out her Inner Buffy in order not to be "taken in" and ruined like those many men who have become statistics.

It shouldn't really be too hard to realize that a man can leave his wife for another woman and that his wife may then formally initiate the divorce! In our current no-fault divorce culture, it is quite easy for an erring spouse of either sex to initiate a marital breakup and then put psychological pressure on the other spouse to agree to the subsequent divorce. If the other spouse happens to be the one to file the papers, that doesn't automatically mean the other spouse is the guilty party in the marital breakup. There are, of course, other scenarios as well. In how many of those 80% of cases was the husband using, and unable or unwilling to stop using, p*rn, perhaps even the type which made the wife fear for her own safety and that of her children? How about severe and uncontrolled substance abuse?

Now, am I saying that all of these are definitely reasons for divorce as opposed to separation? No, I'm not saying that. What I am saying is that they are non-trivial and are at least understandable and legitimate reasons for separation. It's also pretty much inevitable in the current cultural milieu where permanent separation isn't taken as an option that this will end up meaning divorce. And in any event, if that is what is happening in many of those 80% of cases, this shouldn't go down in men's minds as proof of the perfidiousness of women. Many of the breakups that go into that 80% statistic may be instances of the perfidiousness of men.

It is just incredibly frivolous and even worryingly bitter-minded to take a statistic about the percent of women who initiate formal divorce proceedings and translate that into, "Women want to break up marriages," "Women are untrustworthy," "Women usually abandon their husbands rather than husbands leaving their wives." Anecdotally, I can't help wondering how many of us find this to be true. I certainly don't. I know personally of quite a few more men who determinedly left their wives than vice versa. If the divorce papers say that the wife "initiated" the divorce (I have no idea) in these cases, that doesn't really matter. I know that it would be ludicrous to put these into the Men's Rights story about all the women out there who deliberately destroy their own marriages.

We're doing a disservice to our young men if we're teaching them to be bitter Fred Reed wannabes. If they really meet a great lady who could be, if they wanted her to be, the Christian woman of their dreams, they may just blow their opportunity if they approach her with a high-handed attitude that assumes she is guilty until proven innocent of harboring an Inner Buffy.

It's certainly true that we want to raise our young ladies, our daughters, to be gracious and loving, not to be feminists, to desire to raise children, to be more than happy to allow their husbands' career to determine where they live, and so forth. But the parallel to this on the other side is that we want to raise young men who honor women, who are grateful for a wife's sacrifices, who are prepared to love and respect a wife. They should therefore begin a relationship with a young woman whom they have reason to believe might be that future wife with the kind of respectful and kind attitude they wouldn't be ashamed to look back on later.

Do both women and men need to be careful? They certainly do. When they don't know one another, they have a lot to find out on both sides. There are all too many men who think using p*rn is perfectly okay and who have already damaged their hearts, minds, and (horrible to realize) sexual tastes by that use. All too many of them even (I fear) among Christians. Young women need to be trying to see whether the man they are getting to know is chaste not only in his actual physical relationships but also in regard to what he deliberately puts into his mind. And of course there are many other things to look for in a prospective husband. Young men are, on their part, perfectly within their rights, when getting to know a young lady, to wonder whether she is chaste as well as loyal, kind, and motherhood-minded. Moreover, it doesn't do for either party to be naive about the number of people out there who meet such a description. But care in relationships is not the same thing as initial anger and arrogance in one's approach to the opposite sex. Let's teach both our girls and our boys to pray earnestly about their possible future spouse and to make their friendships among (what we might call) plausible groups for that purpose, with kindness and hope in their hearts.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Michael D. O'Brien on burdens

"I am a burden to you. I should go away. Please, admit it. I am a burden to you."

"I will not admit such a thing."

"You will not admit it, you say. Such an answer could mean that it is true or untrue."

"You must learn to live with mystery, David."

"My life is nothing but mysteries."

"Then permit me a rabbinical answer. There are burdens, even heavy burdens, that ease the weight of a man's life. And there are burdens that, when they are lifted from a man's life, will crush him."

From Sophia House, by Michael D. O'Brien

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Shaken patriotic faith

If you think America's criminal justice system is blind when the issue of race is involved (ahem) and when defense against attack is involved (ahem), think again. And no, I don't mean what liberals might mean when they said this.

This case
will, I'm sorry to say, shake your faith in the system. Terrifying. God bless Richard DiGuglielmo Jr. and his family.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Happy Easter!

Herewith, Edmund Spenser's Happy Easter sonnet to Elizabeth, to whom he was to be married. Amoretti 68:

Most glorious Lord of life, that on this day,
Didst make thy triumph over death and sin:
And having harrow'd hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin,
And grant that we for whom thou diddest die,
Being with thy dear blood clean wash'd from sin,
May live for ever in felicity.
And that thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love thee for the same again:
And for thy sake, that all like dear didst buy,
With love may one another entertain.
So let us love, dear love, like as we ought,
Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.

A blessed Easter to my friends and readers.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Several more Holy Week collects

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified; Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace, through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O Lord God, whose blessed Son, our Saviour, gave his back to the smiters and hid not his face from shame; Grant us grace to take joyfully the sufferings of the present time, in full assurance of the glory that shall be revealed; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, did institute the Sacrament of his Body and Blood; Mercifully grant that we may thankfully receive the same in remembrance of him, who in these holy mysteries giveth us a pledge of life eternal; the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit ever, one, God, world without end. Amen.
Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed, and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
O merciful God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, nor desirest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live; Have mercy upon all who know thee not as thou art revealed in the Gospel of thy Son. Take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word; and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy fold, that they may be made one flock under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Thy beauty long-desired, Part II

We sang "O Sacred Head" on Palm Sunday in church, with all the verses. In this post several years ago I meditated a bit on this one:

Thy beauty, long-desirèd,
hath vanished from our sight;
thy power is all expirèd,
and quenched the light of light.
Ah me! for whom thou diest,
hide not so far thy grace:
show me, O Love most highest,
the brightness of thy face.

As I sang it most recently, it seemed to me that the phrase about beauty was not particularly problematic (as it has sometimes seemed to me before). In the earlier post, I reflected on the fact that Mary, Jesus' mother, would have remembered his beauty as her child:
She had seen him laughing, running, studying Torah, intent over work with Joseph, asking the questions at the Passover meal, enjoying his food, seen him grow in strength and, yes, in beauty. So even from a purely literal, human, and historical perspective, there was one person at the foot of the cross who would have had a real meaning for the notion that his beauty had "vanished from our sight." That one person would have that contrast in mind--the face battered almost beyond recognition in contrast to the tiny infant face, the laughing boyish face, the young man with a twinkle in his eye, all those images of peace, joy, and relaxation. That human beauty that every mother's son, made in the image of God, has in the eyes of a woman who loves him.
But now I reflected, too: Is that not true of a man's friends as well? Don't his friends also love the details about him? C.S. Lewis said (I'm paraphrasing, as I don't own a copy of the essay in question) that if he loved a man as a friend he would not give up even the details of his mannerisms and dress. This makes sense to me. I can remember meeting with friends after years apart and thinking, with a feeling almost of joy, "Oh, yes, I remember that she would hold her hands in just that way."

So anyone who loved Jesus and saw him on the cross would have felt that his human beauty had been violated. Moreover, that human beauty was united in the minds of his followers with the idea that Jesus was the Messiah. Hence, it was "long-desired." Even though they had not yet understood everything, maybe did not yet understand that he was God Incarnate, they understood, as Peter said, that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. "The Christ" meant the Messiah, the anointed one, the one God had promised to send. So in all their interactions with him they were thinking, "This is the one. This man talking with me, eating with me, telling a parable, healing the blind, or making a joke. He is the Moshiach, the one God has promised to send. These hands, these eyes. This face is the face of the long-awaited One." It must have been an awesome thing to think of for those who were close to him. And now, look at what had been done to him through the malice of his enemies and the cruelty of the Romans.

It occurred to me too: At some level they had understood that Jesus had predicted his own resurrection. This comes up in the talk on the road to Emmaus, and even the chief priests knew it, which is why they asked Pilate for a watch on the tomb. So here the followers were, especially the ones like John and the women who had actually seen Jesus crucified. On the one hand, they had Jesus' own statements that this must happen, that he must suffer and die and rise again. It might seem then that his crucifixion was itself a part of a pattern, a necessary thing, a fulfillment of Jesus' own words. Yet on the other hand, how could it not, emotionally and existentially, seem like the final defeat? Who could stand and watch such a thing, who could literally go with him through his Holy Passion, and not be devastated by it? Crucifixion was not, in the normal course of events, significant of anything but the cruelty of man and the degradation of the victim, perhaps even the (as it was thought) deserved degradation of the victim. Hence the publication of their crimes above their crosses. The Roman soldiers were used to this sort of thing. They nailed him up there, sat down to watch him, and callously decided among themselves how to divide up his clothes. Later the apostles knew that even this cruel detail of the division of his clothing was a fulfillment of prophecy (from Psalm 22), but would any of them have been in emotional shape to think that through at the time? I'm inclined to doubt it. And if they did remember the Psalm, what must that have been like, psychologically? Like being torn in two, I should think--hoping and afraid to hope that this was not simply defeat, not simply the end.

This week, let us stand at the foot of the cross with them at earth's darkest hour. Even as our hearts strain forward to move past Good Friday and celebrate the glorious ending of the story, let us remember that if we suffer we shall also reign with him, if we die with him we shall also live with him.

In thy most bitter passion my heart to share doth cry,
With thee for my salvation upon the cross to die.
Ah, keep my heart thus movèd to stand thy cross beneath,
To mourn thee, well-belovèd, yet thank thee for thy death.