Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Red or Blue, It's Still Kool-Aid

It has been 8 years since President Obama's election. The election that promised a lot and delivered, well, whatever you believe it delivered. Plenty of friends of enemies of the 44th President have either polished or tarnished his legacy. A legacy which will take years to truly define like any other president before him.

I am not interested in discussing that here. This is a look at the atmosphere in 2008 and the current atmosphere now.

Here is a bizarre and, in retrospect, embarrassing article from 2008 about Obama's spiritual wisdom. If you want to save time, taste the following:

"Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul." - Mark Morford
Mr. Morford was not alone in his bromance with the newly elected wunderkind.
The Nobel Prize committee made the following observations before Obama had even served for a whole year.
We honor Obama for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."
"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," the committee said.

These are but two examples that are inline with dozens of similar nonsensical remarks I heard from left-leaning friends. Conservatives pointed out, "We are talking about the same first term Senator who was buddies with the Illinois Governor soon to be sent to prison, trained in the traditionally most corrupt city in the country (where his close friend is now mayor), preached to by the virulent Reverend Wright, and inspired by the radical Saul Alinsky, right?"

The fact was too many people got caught up "drinking the kool aid" - blindly following someone or something. (Reference to the mass suicide in Jonestown in 1978) You would think we would have learned our lesson...

Fast forward eight years and another unbelievable election cycle and we have come full circle. Donald Trump won a convincing Electoral College and we are hearing the same kind of quotes again.

"Our country's hit the tipping point. We're paying out more than is coming in, and we need a businessman," said disillusioned real estate agent Terri Brennan.

"He didn't get to where he is by being a lone ranger," said Ireland-born Alice Butler-Short, 72, a retired paralegal who moved to the United States in the 1980s. "He will have the right people around to advise him."
As for Trump, "he's a statesman. That's the way our country started, statespeople," Terri Brennan added, referring to America's founding fathers who took time from their careers to serve the public.
My social media feed has been inundated with celebratory quips from Trumpsters. Trump love is only barely eclipsed by the infantile Trump hate seen in college protests and Hollywood elitist rancor. I want to shout, "He is just a man!" Like Obama before him, he is just a man. 
Make America Great Again
Does Trump know how to make America great? I don't know, I'll give him a chance, but one man who knew how society would best function was Pope Leo XIII who released the epic encyclical Rerum Novarum on May 15, 1891. The original manuscript is quite a reading but this digest boils it down to 7 core principles written by Barbara Lanari. 
1) The dignity of the human person, as mentioned above, comes from the fact that man is created in the image and likeness of God. Each person has God's life, law and love deeply imprinted on his very nature. God, each person has the ability and desire to both give and receive life, law and love to others. The ability of man to practice virtues in regard to God and his fellow man gives him a value much higher than any other earthly creature
2) The common good, according to RN, is truly more about making man virtuous than granting man material comforts. Pope Leo XIII believed that the highest good a society could have was virtue. For if everyone in society was virtuous, then there would be just and fair laws, and no one would be without the means to live fairly well because Christian charity would cause others to provide for those who were needy. Rightly understood, the "common good" does not mean what is most materially good for the most number of people. Rather it means the good that is shared by all, which they hold in common. It is really more the moral and spiritual good that all members of society hold in common.
3) Subsidiarity is a very important principle in Catholic social doctrine. While RNdoes not use this term specifically, it refers to the basic principle. Subsidiarity is the principle that governments should not intervene in matters that can be taken care of or resolved by families or communities. States or governments should not replace the rights and responsibilities of families. Rather, those in authority in government should see themselves in a fatherly role of guidance and protection. They should only intervene when a family or community is unable or unwilling to fulfill their rights and duties in regard to its members. Government should be at the service of the family, not vice versa.
4) Participation is the principle that every person in a society should participate in building up society, while keeping in mind God's plan for the human person individually and communally. This principle is based on the belief that every person has been given gifts and talents by God to grow in virtue themselves and to aid others in growing in virtue. By using one's gifts and abilities, one can achieve his highest good and intended end, as well as help others to do the same. God wants man to participate in the world in which he lives.
5) Solidarity is the principle that all members of society have a responsibility to help the other members of their family, community or country with the needs and problems that they cannot remedy themselves. This includes protecting and caring for those who are weak, injured or unable to provide for themselves for one reason or another. States have a duty to prevent abuses of basic human rights and punish abuses when families and communities are unable or unwilling to take care of abuses on their own. 
6) The right of private property is explained extensively in RN. Pope Leo XIII states that private property represents the wages that one has rightfully earned, and that one needs private property to provide for the needs of one's family. This was especially true in 1891 when many grew food, raised animals for food or sale, or produced a marketable crop on their property. Pope Leo XIII rightly predicted that if private property was stolen from rightful owners and given to a state in the name of distributing the wealth more equitably, workers and the poor would suffer the most. 
7) Universal destination of goods is the principle that God made the goods of the earth for the use of all men so that all would be fed, clothed and sheltered. RNstates that Christian living should lead to temporal prosperity for all; not necessarily great temporal wealth for all, but adequate food and shelter for all. In order for this to be a reality, man must share the goods of the earth with all. Property rights and the right of free trade are only instruments for respecting the greater principle of the universal destination of goods. For example, private property can be taxed to assist in providing goods and services that are at the service of all, like police protection, the building of roads and public libraries, for example.

Has President Elect Trump read Rerum Novarum or will he? We can only hope.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Subsidiarity and St. Aquinas

If you abandoned the unending stream of political rancor too soon you would have missed the contents of a particular alarming email sent between high ranking Clinton Campaign insiders. Before you close this blog in fear of running into partisan rhetoric that will make you retch, be not afraid. Any mention of politicos will be solely for reference. So what is is this scandalous email then?

John Halpin, a former Democrat strategist was writing to Clinton Campaign Manager John Podesta and Clinton Director of Communications Jennifer Palmeiri when he said in reference to Catholics:

"They can throw around "Thomistic" thought and "subsidiarity" and sound sophisticated because no one knows what the hell they're talking about."


My gut reaction was to be angry, but then I realized I had no idea what I should be angry about. I knew Thomistic thought referred to Thomas Aquinas, but I didn't really know what that was, and don't even get me started on the subsidiarity. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

This person was apparently mocking Catholics but I was too ignorant to be fully offended. So I hit the "interwebs" for answers.

First, the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, which is so rich and voluminous that Dr. Taylor Marshall takes a quick look at the Saint in a free book that is a short 50 pages! I downloaded it but time constraints only allowed me to go to wikipedia for an even more condensed approach. Although not 50 pages worth of material, an encyclopedia type examination of Thomistic philosophy was a lot to chew on. One take home point that stuck with me was that Aquinas held that faith and reason go hand in hand. Not only that, but that the existence of the almighty can be shown through reason even if faith remains a gift. I won't go through the "Five Ways", but you can contemplate them here.

As a person who holds a degree in Math and one in Chemistry, I have often been asked by my non-believing friends how I can believe in God. The supposition being reason and faith are mortal enemies. I never believed it. Now I know I have a great friend and advocate in St. Thomas.

Second, and more easily understood, comes the concept of subsidiarity. More than just a ten cent word, I found upon googling it, that my outlook on life actually had a single word that specifically described it, outside of "Catholic".

Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. 

Yes, this, a lot of this. Individuals make things happen. My gut tells me that when hard work needs to be done, those in the trenches are who gets it done. Don't get me wrong. There is something be said for leadership, especially leadership which inspires. Leadership which demonstrates an example to those who need an exemplary path to follow, but then the work needs to be done, and it is done by those closest to its effect. 

Why would a trio of Democrat strategists (could easily have been Republican) be complaining about Catholics and their subsidiarity? The answer is clear. Imagine what would happen if Catholics started living out our discipleship. If every Catholic, every Christian, every citizen spent an hour a day and a fraction more of their resources to make an improvement in the lives of our neighbors, what would we need from Big Brother? The answer is very little, if anything. This entire ruling class of elitists who think their Utopian world would come to pass if we (ignorant and backwards Catholics) would just progress out of the Dark Ages.

If you have some time, read up on St. Thomas, but if you don't have time like most us, claw out opportunities to make the world better around you, because that is actually how things get done, even if politicians wished it was otherwise.