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Ben Finiti Thinks Small (?)

I see my friend Mr. Ben Finiti has a couple of new posts up on his site (benfiniti.com).

One is called “Three Small Thoughts with no Connection,” and he’s right about their unconnectedness.  One is a humorous quote from Don Quixote.  Another is a reflection on the modern world’s loss of an sense of sin (in ourselves, that is: we have no trouble finding it in others). 

The third is a historical exercise in comparative religion. He asks “what’s new” in Judeo-Christian religion.  He is confronting the widespread modern belief that all religions are basically the same.  But he argues that only the Bible (Moses and Jesus, for short) value humility over pride, the poor over the rich, and the weak over the poor.  (Not really such a ‘small thought’, Ben.)

I don’t know if he is right about this. He correctly cites Greek-Roman paganism. But he doesn’t mention Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, or Zoroastrianism.  And I don’t know enough about them to argue either way.

Anyway, it is an interesting read, and I recommend it.

He also posts another rant against the present pope, entitled “Grow up, Francis!”  He certainly makes a good point (and a new one, for me).  “His (PF”s) modernism reeks of stale 1960’s clichés and poses, like ‘Make a Mess’ and ‘Shake off the past!'”  He (Ben) concludes that “He (PF) and the Church and the West are all getting too old for such cheap teenage rebellion.”

Worth a read.

 

Prole Models: Charles Murray’s Brilliant Forecast From 2001

[This essay by Charles Murray is more relevant today than when it first appeared in the 2/6/2001 Wall Street Journal. It is still around thanks to OrthodoxyToday.org. (So, thank you, Orthodoxy Today!) 

I was reminded of it while reading “In the Image of Slob”, an essay in today’s Crisis Magazine lamenting the sloppy dress often seen at church these days. Murray puts the issue in the larger framework of societal collapse.]


Prole Models: America’s elites take their cues from the underclass

by Charles Murray

Scholar Charles Murray writes that a major reason for the coarsening of American life is that the creative minority has devolved into competing cultural elites. Instead of guarding the moral, intellectual, and artistic heritage of society, they follow baser artists.

That American life has coarsened over the past several decades is not much argued, but the nature of the beast is still in question. Gertrude Himmelfarb sees it as a struggle between competing elites, in which the left originated a counterculture that the right failed to hold back. Daniel Patrick Moynihan has given us the phrase “defining deviancy down,” to describe a process in which we change the meaning of moral to fit what we are doing anyway. I wish to add a third voice to the mix, that of the late historian Arnold Toynbee, who would find our recent history no mystery at all: We are witnessing the proletarianization of the dominant minority.

The language and thought are drawn from a chapter of “A Study of History,” entitled “Schism in the Soul,” in which Toynbee discusses the disintegration of civilizations. He observes that one of the consistent symptoms of disintegration is that the elites–Toynbee’s “dominant minority”–begin to imitate those at the bottom of society. His argument goes like this: Continue reading ‘Prole Models: Charles Murray’s Brilliant Forecast From 2001′

Truman’s Cheek

[Now here is something to see.  My Catholic friend Ben Finiti (at benfiniti.com) has written a historical essay in rebuttal to a Catholic cleric’s historical interview. Don’t these guys have enough theology to talk about?  Hasn’t the Pope said something outrageous in an airplane press conference? Shouldn’t they be fighting over that?

Anyway, here are BF’s thoughts on a monsignor’s thoughts on Hiroshima and dear Harry.  Enjoy. (I wrote most of it myself, if truth be known.)]

 

Hindsight from the High Ground

by Ben Finiti

On August 6, the terrible anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, I was listening to the indispensable Catholic media outlet Relevant Radio, and I heard a curious interview with Msgr. Stuart Swetland on the subject of the day.

It made me think of Calvin Coolidge who is credited with many laconic (and probably apocryphal) anecdotes; my favorite is his supposed comment on returning from church one Sunday. Asked what the preacher spoke on, he answered: “Sin.” Further asked: “What did he say about it?”, Cal responded: “He was against it.”

It would be unjust and uncharitable to summarize the monsignor’s take on Hiroshima in so many words. He acknowledged the difficult situation and the tough decisions that faced those engaged in what was unquestionably a just war. But his conclusion was as straightforward as Coolidge’s: It was a sin, and Truman should not have done it.

The monsignor argued from Catholic doctrine, which appears to have recently reached the same conclusion. And he offered some historical “facts” in support. But the facts are questionable, and the arguments seem confused.

I am certainly not qualified to argue theology with any monsignor (though I will try, later.) But facts are facts, and assumptions are not.

There are many points to consider. Monsignor Swetland stated, with varying degrees of certitude, the following “facts”. The Japanese government was about to surrender anyway. The Russians were about to tell Truman about a Japanese peace proposal. Invasion of the Japanese homeland would not have been necessary. The invasion’s half-million US casualties anticipated by US military planners would not have occurred.

These things are nice to know. I bet Truman would have liked to know them with the certainty that his posthumous critics know them.

Now, some of these facts fall into the category of 20/20 hindsight (the Japanese/Russian peace proposal.) Others are in the realm of counterfactuals, the history that never happened (the invasion was unnecessary, since the Japanese already knew they were beaten.)

But my main objection to such thinking is that it side-steps the one all-important question, the only question that matters, from a moral standpoint. What should Truman have done?

The moral high ground is the position which allows those far from the decision to boldly affirm what should NOT have been done. But the moral high ground does not allow consideration of the real question facing the real decision-maker. The only way the moral-high-grounder can address the real question is with hindsight and counterfactuals.

Well, here are some counter-counterfactuals.

1. The Japanese government probably knew they were beaten by 1943; they fought on. From their early offensive high-water, they were steadily pushed back on every front. After Midway, they never again struck in the eastern Pacific. After Guadalcanal, they were in constant retreat throughout the Pacific. And yet, as the tides of war rolled against them, the death tolls rapidly accelerated. The bloodiest battles, on land and sea, occurred in the last 6 months of the war – long after the Japanese government knew what the outcome would be. The death toll on Okinawa, the closest island to the Japanese homeland, was 12,520 US soldiers, 110,000 Japanese soldiers, and over 100,000 Japanese civilians, many by suicide. Continue reading ‘Truman’s Cheek’

More from Ben

My friend Ben Finiti has a new post up on his excellent blog benfiniti.com.  It is about the reality of divorce in our society, and the inadequate (and now getting even worse) position of the Roman Catholic Church on the issue.

He quotes Thomas Aquinas (where does he find this stuff?), and finds that not all marriages (and therefore divorces) are equally weighty.  He says divorce of a childless couple can be anything from trivial (Nicolas Cage?) to tragic. But divorce with children is a species of child abuse.

Whistling in the wind, I suppose. But still good reading.

Update on Me

Sorry I haven’t been writing much lately.  I keep getting distracted.  The guy next door got wind chimes.  (Credit Stephen Wright for that joke.)

At any rate, my friend Ben Finiti has re-surfaced, and seems to be on a roll.  His latest, My Sin of Snobbery, just went up.  It’s about what he calls his “first-world problems at church.”

I can confirm that he is indeed a snob, though mostly in good ways.

Anyway, check him out over at benfiniti.com.

Ben is Back

I see that my philosophical friend Ben Finiti has re-surfaced.  He has become a Catholic convert.

And while we all know how tedious such converts can be, I have higher hopes for Ben.

Check him out here.

 

The late, lamented Commandante Castro

As you ponder the mystery of whether God chooses to act directly on human affairs, the case of Fidel Castro presents a challenging question: Why would God allow Castro to live 90 years, oppressing and brutalizing the Cuban people for 57 of those years?

The Cuban people may find a degree of liberation soon, or they may have to wait even longer.  But one thing is clear: there would be no relief while Castro lived and ruled.  There was only a steady escalation of tyranny in the old Soviet Union until Stalin died; the same with Mao Tse-tung and other totalitarian beasts and butchers.

JFK was very clear in his opinion of Fidel Castro. So were LBJ, Nixon, and Ford.  Carter was, of course, an exception: he never met a totalitarian dictator he didn’t embrace. But then Reagan and Bush and Clinton renewed and maintained the bipartisan agreement that Fidel was a first-class bastard. Continue reading ‘The late, lamented Commandante Castro’


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