Tuesday, December 30, 2003
UC PRESS E-TEXTS NOW ONLINE
Great news for bibliophiles: The California Digital Library has now made a wide selection of University of California Press books available for free online at eScholarship Editions. Some of the books are unfortunately accessible only by faculty, staff, and students of the UC system, but many others are available to the public at large.
There are some really great titles there, based just on my relatively limited perusal . I was happy to see Victor Davis Hanson's Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece and The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization (both, alas for most of you, UC access only). One that I just recently finished and recommend, and is publicly accessible, is Jenny Franchot's Roads to Rome: The Antebellum Protestant Encounter with Catholicism. It explores antebellum Protestant views of and reactions to Catholicism in America, ranging from the fantastical "Maria Monk" type of breathless exposés to the tensions and self-criticism engendered by increasing exposure to a form of Christianity considered a rival to those envisioned as part and parcel of Americanness. I'm sure you'll find plenty more titles to match your own interests too.
Monday, December 29, 2003
WICCA'S SUSPECT HISTORY
The questionable basis for the claimed history of Wicca is probably old news for most of you, but there is a very good extended exploration of the issue here: The Scholars and the Goddess. It shows how the claims of Wicca as having its origins in a prehistoric Mother-Goddess worshipping matriarchy simply do not stand up to the historical facts, resulting more from advocacy scholarship than a rigorous examination of the evidence.
As the article points out, however, these facts really should not have much significance for the typical Wiccan believer. Wicca's eschewing of dogma and any true theology, combined with the basic irrelevance of historicity to its beliefs, renders it largely impervious to any damage similar claims might have to other religions. After all, Wicca is mainly about ritual experiences and an easy-going ethics rather than a serious, all-encompassing dedication to metaphysical Truth:
It's interesting to speculate how the latter may be partially a response to Protestantism's largely thorough rejection of sacramentality and occasional uneasiness with the full implications of the Incarnation. The claims of rabid anti-Catholics that the Sacraments are "pagan rituals" are in one sense not so far off in that both are addressing the human need for tangible expression of spirituality and the engaging of both mind and body in belief. Wicca thus may be in part a reaction to malnourishment of this need in later Protestant culture. Add in a post-1960s mentality and you get a turning toward esoterica and occultism instead of toward Catholicism or Orthodoxy to fill it.
STALIN & THE "JEWISH DOCTORS' PLOT"
Here's an interesting review of a new book on the "Doctors' Plot" in Stalin's Russia, entitled Stalin's Last Crime: The Plot Against the Jewish Doctors, 1948-1953. The incident involved claims by the Party that there existed a conspiracy among Jewish doctors to medically assassinate prominent Kremlin leaders:
What is new in this book is that it goes beyond the usual interpretation of this incident simply being a dramatic instance of Soviet anti-Semitism to claim that it was an initial step in a broader political machination conceived by Stalin:
All in all, the article is yet more evidence that in the History's Worst Criminal Pageant it is indeed Stalin, and not Hitler, who deserves the crown.
Friday, December 19, 2003
CAMPUS GRAFFITI WATCH
Doing Our Part to Bust the Budget!
Last week a rash of anti-Schwarzenegger graffiti broke out on campus. Included were such gems as "Defend Your Education -- Stop Arnold!", "Stop Budget Cuts!", and "Don't Let Your Education Get Terminated!" Of course, it seems to not have occurred to our brave poseurs that cleaning up after them is yet another loss of money for the university! That, and the fact that vandalizing school property is an awfully strange way to demonstrate how much you value your education.
Sociology majors, definitely.
CONSERVATISM AND EDMUND BURKE
The American Conservative (which I don't usually like) has an excellent essay on how Edmund Burke illustrates what conservatism means. An excerpt:
As longtime readers will know, I was absolutely blown away by Burke's Reflections, finding (a la Chesterton) line after line of insight that resonated with my developing viewpoint. Burke not only expresses the heart of the conservative vision but also the truths that leave utopian revolutions condemned to metamorphose into the bloody depredations of the Great Terror. If you have not yet read the Reflections yet, do so; if you are trying to convince someone else to, passing along this article would be a good first step.
MORE BLOGROLL ADDITIONS
Last time I forgot to add the blog of WorldNetDaily's Vox Day, Vox Popoli, and Kathy Shaidle's Relapsed Catholic.
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
OF CARDINALS, DICTATORS, AND SCHISMS
By now you've no doubt noticed that the blogosphere is abuzz over Cardinal Renato Martino's complaints about Saddam's post-capture treatment. The Cardinal's comments were wrong and stupid. Wrong, because Saddam was not subjected to anything exceptionally humiliating, and over the long term the publicity of the capture might reduce future wrongdoing. Stupid, because by appearing to be more concerned with Saddam than his victims, he tarnishes our Church's reputation and destroys its ability to credibly voice legitimate concerns on these issues.
That said, it is true that, as Mark Shea points out, there is still a grain of truth in the Cardinal's foolish statement. Despite his crimes, Hussein is still a human being and should be treated as such, whether deservedly by worldly standards or not. Justice, after all, is subverted not only by exempting the guilty from earned punishment but from also depriving them of the protections due any man by the simple fact of his humanity.
Deus Hoc Vult?
This incident brings to mind the puzzlement I sometimes feel over the pro-war blogosphere's reactions to the Church's negative statements about the war. I support the war wholeheartedly, and think that some of these statements have been foolish and misguided, but I cannot fault the basic motive here. As Mark says:
For what exactly is it that the Hawks would like the Church to say instead? Perhaps "Go forth with Our blessing to slaughter the infidel! God wills it!" would be nice? A return to the rhetoric of, say, the 11th Century? Or of today's Wahhabi imams? It is the Church's job to say instead: "Do not rush into violence. Be cautious and introspective. Do not let rage rule you. Be sure your cause is just, and if it is, do not arrogantly take that as justification for doing whatever you please in the tasks required. Above all, lose neither your humanity nor your respect for the humanity of your foe." That is a voice that any decent civilization will want in its ranks. Does the Catholic Church meet this ideal unfailingly, in each and every one of its spokesmen? Of course not. But I cannot condemn genuine attempts to do so on principle, even if they be done foolishly and ineptly.
On Schism As Solution
I pointed out Mark Shea's posts on this to Porphyrogenitus after reading his thoughts here. Regarding Porphy's comment "I will say that Catholics might start consider[ing] an old fashioned schism," I playfully responded "You are thinking like a Protestant and not a Catholic/Eastern Orthodox on that one!" to which he replied here. He makes some very good points, but it seems we had in mind different conceptions of "schism." Rather than a process of Reformation and Counter-Reformation, I had in mind more the later Protestant tendency to split off and form one's own denomination as a "solution" to disagreements, in contrast to the higher premium that the Catholics (and Orthodox, though perhaps less so) place on continued unity. The latter does tend to promote a "muddling through" situation, but practically and especially theologically is usually the more defensible path.
That is not to say schism cannot have positive effects, though they are not so beneficial as to justify the division of Christianity. Needed reforms in the Catholic Church did occur due to the catalyst of Luther. It can also be argued that the birth of Protestant denominations, with their accessible evangelical faith and easily "portable" style of religion that increasingly needed less and less of a support system, led to Christianity becoming more widespread than it might have otherwise. But keep in mind that this came at the cost of blood on both sides, a major loss of resources both human (talent, insight, intellect) and material for the Catholics, and a thoroughgoing abandonment of 1500 years of Christian heritage and increasing factionalism for Protestants.
As for the Catholic Church making the changes it needs at the moment, I see the eventual solution coming. It's not in Porphy's type of schism but rather a housecleaning of sorts through a largely voluntary attrition and exodus of liberal elements (the beholden-to-the-UN types) in Western Europe and the US combined with the continued rise to prominence of the traditionalist clergy of the Southern Hemisphere. I see it as essentially a less messy version of what is currently going on in the Anglican Communion. Perhaps expecting that is wildly optimistic on my part, but it would certainly be a better path to revitalization than the more destructive possibilities.
Monday, December 15, 2003
Newly added are Ghost of a Flea, Bad Eagle, Conservative English Major, and the hilarious Blame Bush. Check them out!
INDEED, I STILL LIVE...
...and should be blogging again soon. After all, what better way to rest after having dug oneself out from under a major writing project than writing some more!