Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The New Morality Ain't That New


The New Morality Venerable Pope Pius refers to is "situation ethics", the teaching that there are no universal moral principles, but that moral behavior is relative to each given "situation".

Pope Pius XII: "Against the ‘ethics of situation,’ We set up three considerations, or maxims. The first: We grant that God wants, first and always, a right intention. But this is not enough. He also wants the good work. A second principle is that it is not permitted to do evil that good may result (Rom. 3:8). Now this new ethic, perhaps, without being aware of it, acts according to the principles that the end justifies the means. A Christian cannot be unaware of the fact that he must sacrifice everything, even his life, in order to save his soul. Of this we are reminded by all the martyrs. Martyrs are very numerous, even in our own time…. Maria Goretti, and thousands of others, men and women, whom the Church venerates—did they, in the face of the ‘situation’ in which they found themselves, uselessly or even mistakenly incur a bloody death? No, certainly not, and in their blood they are the most explicit witnesses to the truth against the ‘new morality.’ (“Moral Law and the New Morality,” April 18, 1952).

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Moral Theology for Serious Thinkers


My take on this: I say if you're going to dissent from the magisterium, don't dissent on torture or lying, dissent on sex. You'll have more fun. We need to learn from the liberals on this issue.

Some of you have read Peter Kreeft's article on this, in which takes a surprising position. His argument that our moral common sense is almost always right was dealt with by me before he made it (see answer to number eight) . The fact is, as Dr. Kreeft admits, "our moral common sense is not infallible". The teaching of the magisterium on matters of faith and morals, however, is.

Well, I hope to move on to a new subject this coming week. Thanks for all your comments.

Oh, my friend Mark Shea covers this issue comprehensively here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

An Answer to Objection Number Nine


I've discovered another one. Objection Number Nine - Scripture, especially the Old Testament, condones lying.

Here's my reply, also in the form of a letter to a well-meaning friend.

***

There is no question that we need to stand united and strong with those who have the guts to fight abortion. The problem is, as with the torture issue, that if we begin to adapt the techniques of the enemy, we become the enemy. The devil is the father of lies, and was a liar from the beginning. God is Truth. The Way, the Truth and the Life. We must live conformed to Him and His mind.

This does not necessarily mean that you are less than Catholic if you support Live Action - though honestly, it might. For if the Church teaches (as she does) that lying is intrinsically evil, and if the Live Action actors are lying (the prima facie evidence is that they are), then if we continue to support them, we are supporting them from a Consequentialist position (the end justifies the means), which is condemned by the Church.

My point all along has not been that Lila and James are necessarily lying (I think they are, but it's debatable). My point has been that when a person says, "Well, I don't care what the Church teaches on this issue; I'm going to ignore it," then that person is at that point not in full communion with the Church - or you might say, "less than Catholic".

My latest post addresses this more fully.

As to Scripture. A few points.

1. God never tells anyone to lie in the Old Testament.

2. Jacob, the father of the Israelites, was a liar and a thief. David, the precursor of Jesus, was a murderer and an adulterer. St. Paul, a prideful persecutor of the Church. Are these heroes of the Bible celebrated because of their vices or because of their virtues?

3. The Old Testament is not the fullness of revelation. We can not look to the tales it tells - almost all of them full of blood, gore and sexual sin - as exhibiting the fullness of revelation concerning morality.

4. With that in mind, when did Jesus ever lie? When would He ever lie? When did any of the martyrs lie to save their skin rather than die in honesty? When Peter lied it was the worst moment of his life. How easy when the emperor says, "Renounce Jesus Christ or die," to simply lie and say, "I renounce Him!" But the martyrs never did that. And the lie of Judas and the lie of Peter were equally destructive of their souls - until Peter repented.

You know me well enough to know that I am NOT against effective action opposing the horrors of abortion. The problem is the devil tempts us with a compromise - look away from the inconvenience of Church teaching, don't pick up that cross, just keep your eyes on me and I'll get you there a lot quicker.

And if we take that bargain ... we are lost, despite our good intentions.

Moral Theology? Bah! Humbug!


Yesterday I posted what ended up being my most controversial post in two years on Facebook. It was simply a quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:


“A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny [slander], good or just. The end does not justify the means” (CCC 1753).


In less than 24 hours, this post has generated 138 comments. Some of them from conservative Catholics who are angry at what the Church teaches.


Now, seeing that, and knowing what a firestorm we're in on the internet over this issue, I would like to summarize a few things and then make a new point.


The issue has arisen over the undercover video sting techniques of James O'Keefe and Lila Rose, aimed at exposing Planned Parenthood for the monsters they are. This is a highly charged issue, as it appears to many people that Lila and James are being attacked or judged; it appears as if the voices of caution are standing in the way of the laudable goal of exposing Planned Parenthood; and it appears that the Catholic Church must be wrong in its moral teachings.


In fact, a number of typical defenses have arisen from those who are seeking to answer the moral theologians.


1. The consequentialist defense. The end justifies the means, so whatever means these journalists using are good, since their goal is good. (Answer: no, the Church is very clear that the end can never justify the means).


2. The warfare defense: all's fair in love and war and this is war; or at least this is a situation akin to war. (Answer: all is not fair in love and war; neither doing evil nor using bad means for a good end is justified in war; though there may be something more to this defense if pursued).


3. The double effect defense. The journalists are not intending to deceive. The deception is a side-effect of what they're doing. (Answer: on the surface this doesn't hold water, but again there may be more to this line of arguing).


4. The ad hominem defense: you are a Lila hater and a judgmental bigot. (Answer: I know James O'Keefe and I admire the intentions of both him and Lila Rose. But if they're doing wrong, we must be clear about that.)


5. The Protestant defense: "we are not bound by what the Catechism teaches" or "the Catechism is not magisterial, or at least it is only provisionally so, thus it may be ignored". (Answer: there are a LOT of Protestants in the closet in conservative Catholic circles.)


6. The equivocation defense: equivocaton is not exactly virtuous, therefore direct lying is good. (Answer: I personally say that equivocation is less than virtuous because it is close to lying. It is the taint of falsehood that makes equivocation smell bad. If equivocation is bad, it's because lying is worse.)


7. The nature of the act defense: what the journalists in these cases do is not lying. (Answer: this is possibly true and the best defense of the lot, though I'm quite skeptical.)


8. The anti-intellectual defense: those examining this issue from the perspective of moral theology are Pharisees - splitting hairs, wringing their hands, counting angels on the head of a pin, and mentally fiddling while Rome is burning and children are dying. (Answer: see below.)


To answer number eight, I sent this to a friend of mine who made that objection (an admirable objection, as it says, "This is stupid. Get off your butt and save babies.")


***


My friend,


Here's why it's not Pharisaical to split hairs on this issue.


To liberal dissenting Catholics, common sense tells them that masturbation does no harm; pornography is victimless; contraception is a private matter, and so forth. They see NFP as a Pharisaical way around the prohibition on artificial contraception. They see no evils in any of these below the waist activities. And indeed, without the mind of the Church, a person infused with the secular spirit would see no evils in these activities. How bizarre and over-reaching St. Thomas Aquinas' conclusion must be that fornication is less evil than masturbation, for at least fornication is not a perversion of nature. This is a shocking thing to hear. "Do you mean if I have sex with a woman, it's less wrong then jerking off!" - well, according to Aquinas, yes, it's not as wrong. Is this because Aquninas is a hair splitting Pharisee? No, it's because he's thinking with the mind of the Church, and he is seeing Sex in its most broad context, one that encompases the law of love and the law of nature. Once you try to think with the mind of the Church, you see that individual situations are being fretted over in order to place them in the larger context.


I myself fretted over the birth control issue once I became Catholic, and was very tempted to pull an Americanist "the Church must be wrong here". Why would NFP be allowable but artificial contraception not? We aren't Christian Scientists, or tree huggers. What makes "natural" contraception different from "artifcial" contraception? Is the intent and the act not the same?


Finally it dawned on me that Natural Family Planning is "periodic continence". In other words, the Church says, "If you don't want babies, don't have sex." And this applies to the few days per month when a woman is fertile. Continence is allowed; it may even be a virtue at times, and thus it is the only form of contraception allowable, not because it's "natural", but because it's not really contraception. It's abstinence.


This is why focusing on this issue and getting the moral theology right is crucial. It is not hair-splitting. What is the nature of the act? Deacon Jim Russell has just written to me saying that in some situations a person can have no expectation of being told the truth - this applies to games, theatrics, warfare, and, he says, businesses that are built upon lies and murder. This is an interesting point and worthy of further pursuit.


You see I'm not saying that we need to wring our hands. We need to wring our minds and understand what it is we're doing or condoning. This is the point, not the angels on the head of a pin, but the pinning down of many heads so that we begin to think like angels.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Orthodox Catholics Abandoning Ship


We begin with this: the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that lying is intrinsically evil and can never be justified.


Now then. There is lighting up across the internet a discussion on the morality of undercover journalism, a la Lila Rose and her videos that show Planned Parenthood workers willing to support underage prostitution.


First, it seems odd that we need to be shocked at lesser evils in order to combat greater evils. The fact is if you're willing to kill babies, you're willing to do anything. Did the troops fighting the Nazis need a headline reading FILM OF HITLER STEALING APPLES! in order to appreciate the character of a man who made no secret of his devotion to evil?


But beyond that is what orthodox Catholics, to their shame, are revealing about themselves in this debate.


As my friend Joe Grabowski points out, there are two possible answers to the use of deception in sting videos.


1. Since the lying is being done for a greater good, one may claim that the end justifies the means. This is mere consequentialism, poison to any individual or society, a despicable position to take, but one that answers our emotions and appeals to our desire for effective action.


or


2. One may claim that the actors in these videos are not "lying", that their acts are of a different nature than that.


In fact, this is a claim I first advanced in my early defense of James O'Keefe, Lila Rose's partner in many of these videos, the "Undercover Journalist as Guerilla Theater Actor" defense. And while something can be said for this position, I'm no longer satisfied with it, and in fact I ended up publicly criticizing James O'Keefe here, here, and here. A much more thorough and philosophically grounded criticism of lying and role playing in undercover journalism has been penned by Professor Christopher O. Tollefsen at Public Discourse.


I will concede, however, that while position number one above, CONSEQUENTIALISM, is despicable, a case can be made for position number two - AN ATTEMPT TO DEFINE THE NATURE OF THE ACT IN QUESTION.


What surprises me, however, is not that the dozens of orthodox Catholics I've discussed this with on the internet are trying to deny that undercover journalism is lying; or that such people are quite sincere in their conviction that in life or death issues, such as opposing abortion, the end justifies the means - taking the position that consequentialism is licit. I can understand and sympathize with both positions.


What really shocks me is this - what is, in effect, position number three that Catholics take on this issue - and that is that THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH CAN BE IGNORED.


It seems that the opposition to magisterial teaching is not at all confined to liberals who hope to excuse contraception, make room for fornication and sodomy, and make excuses for abortion. The opposition to magisterial teaching is - surprise! - rampant among conservative Catholics when what it teaches goes against their political beliefs. This was true during the torture debate, but it was less obvious then, as the Catechism says a lot less about torture than it does about lying. Then torture defenders relied upon slippery definitions and not Catechism bashing. Now it's Catechism bashing.


The fact is that not only is the Catechism of the Catholic Church a magisterial document, it is a magisterial document of very high order, and (as I understand it) carries more authority than Papal Encyclicals. But conservative Catholics (I can't call them "orthodox Catholics") are telling me again and again these past few days that, to quote one, "we are not bound by what the Catechism teaches".


And we wonder why the Church at times appears to be moribund in this country? Neither the left nor the right have put their faith in anything other than their own desires, I'm sorry to say. The right may have better intentions than the left, but in either case, their Gods are their bellies.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The New Journalism

Joe Grabowski brings up the really central point of the YouTube-Journalist-in-Disguise cases (James O'Keefe and Lila Rose):

"The aim of Live Action in the use of these tactics calls the whole matter into doubt for me because of the object immateriality of the issue. They're trying to expose Planned Parenthood's lesser evils when the plain fact is that Planned Parenthood is engaged in cold-blooded murder daily. It's bad argument, morality aside: it's ad hominem circumstantial. The fact is we live in a relativistic age and a stupid age. Abortion is murder, and even if it seems a lost cause trying to get that fact recognized, I still think we're barking up the wrong tree trying to do anything else."

ADDENDUM:

But Timothy Quigley responds to Joe on Facebook:

"I don't agree with you, Joe, that pointing out PP's law-breaking procedures that are the subject of the more recent videos are beside the point. I see a broader and more important implication here that an organization that stands firmly behind contraception as a virtue and a woman's choice to kill her children as a right will necessarily evolve into an organization that truly doesn't have the best at heart for women. I think it is vital for people to see that PP's willingness to protect these prostitution rings and subvert the law is not an isolated side issue, but rather just another one of many problems that organically grow from such a rotten foundation."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Test for Business and Personal Relationships


Here's a test I just wrote.

It's on failed friendships. And bad hires.

You ready? Get a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Remember, you can use this to determine what friends to make and keep and what employees to hire or fire. Here we go!

Regarding your friend or employee ...

1. Does this person have trouble with his family because of a major dysfunctional issue? If yes, write down the number 1.

2. Does this person have a serious issue with God? Either atheist, pagan, or uber-hateful religious in a sick way that's all about self and not really about God? If yes, write down the number 2.

3. Does this person have a history of healthy relationships with the opposite sex? If no, write down the number 3.

4. Does this person have an active addiction to alcohol, drugs, sex, food, the computer, or anything similar? If so, write down the number 4.

5. Is this person unable to hold down a regular job for more than three years? Does this person have a history of being discontented with his or her career or employer? Is this person chronically unemployed or underemployed? If yes, write down the number 5.

6. Is this person either an ALIEN or a VAMPIRE (as described in my previous posts)? If so, write down the number 20.

Total your numbers.

Under 5 - This will be a good, healthy friend or worker. Green flag.

6 to 10 - If this is the best you can do, fine; but there's trouble in paradise. Yellow flag.

Over 10 - Stay away! Red flag.

NOTE: Some Facebook friends said, "You can't ask an employee about his religion." Obviously. You also can't ask an employee about his dysfunctional family background and you can't ask him if he's a vampire or an alien. I'm just saying that in either business or personal relations, these are indicia (that's right indicia) of trouble. And I've weighed them accordingly. Messed up religion only scores a 2. That's because almost everybody has a messed up religion, and it's not as serious an indicator of a messed up personality, as is, say, addiction or chronic underemployment. I'm not saying you can ask about these things in an interview, nor am I saying you can legally apply this test as an employer. Just for fun, you see? Kind of like a horoscope. Only this is based on emperical data and experience.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Murder Mysteries and Getting Murdered


Only three times in twenty years of performing dinner theater shows with my company Upstage Productions have I ever feared for my safety because of audience members. Tonight was one of them.

The first time was fifteen years ago or so, at the Lemp Mansion.

Now, my murder mystery dinner theater shows are not only funny, but they deliver to the audience a kind of hilarity and joy that I myself used to get only from Marx Brothers movies. The shows are a blast to do, and the audiences love them. That’s why we’ve been doing them full time (200 performances a year) for about twenty years, and that’s how I’ve supported a wife, two kids and two mortgages over that time. Not to mention my secret family in the hills of Idaho that my wife Karen knows nothing about, and they’re expensive.

Oh, sorry. Everything from this point on is serious and I’m not making any of it up.

We’ve learned over the years that beer drunks get belligerent and wine drunks get happy. Beer drunks want to fight, and wine drunks want to laugh. We perform these days almost exclusively at mom and pop wineries across the county, to audiences that are usually only tipsy and not drunk, and when some of them do get drunk, it’s a happy drunk, as they’re drinking wine. We perform without a stage, in and out amongst the tables, using the winery room as our performance space, amid the audience, among them, seated at tables, in our interactive shows.


Dine and Dash



But at the Lemp Mansion (not a winery), where we performed from 1994 to 1997, we’d get a lot of beer drunks. One night a table of four, including a gigantic 6’2, 250 pound North St. Louis Irishman, were sitting at a corner table, drunk and loud and annoying. In the midst of Act One, I made an exit, and during my quick change, asked the bus boy to try to quiet them down. As soon as he said something to them, they got even madder. When I entered again, they went out of their way to be as loud as possible (just to show us), making it impossible for the actors to continue. I stopped the show and announced that we would take a break (mid-act) and be back when the situation improved. This made the big Irishman mad, and he stood up and came at me. I dashed into the kitchen and weaved my way between the cook and the stove and made it out the back door safely. He was big and pretty drunk, and I was a lot quicker than he was.

Paul Pointer, the owner, calmed the guy down, and said, “I’ll give you your money back, and I need you and your party to leave.” He gave him in cash the price of four dinner theater tickets, which at that time was $35 per person, and the big guy and his friends, all four of them, left. Paul’s mother then looked at Paul and said, “What did you just do?”

“I gave them their money back and told them to leave.”

“Paul!” she cried. “They haven’t paid yet!”

He dashed out to the parking lot, but they were long gone, $140 richer.


The Civil Wars of Nashville



I did our first and only show for a winery in Nashville, Illinois about six years ago with Linda Spall, one of my most fun actresses. The winery sold tickets for two back-to-back performances in the same night. The first started at 6:00 and included dinner. The second started at 9:00 with snacks only.

The first crowd was great. The second crowd had been drinking elsewhere in Nashville all night long before they showed up at the winery. Drinking beer. They all knew each other. It seemed the whole town was present. And it seemed some people in Nashville didn’t like other people in Nashville.

I cut the show very short because the crowd was so drunk and unruly and they were getting angry at one another. Linda and I were changing clothes behind two partitions in the corner of the winery, no doors or windows near us, which is where our changing area had been all night. But when the show had ended, as we were gathering our stuff behind the partition, and beginning to get back in our civvies, we realized that things were getting really ugly on the other side. A riot was brewing. Guys were standing up and yelling, “F you!” to other guys across the room. “Sit down, you MF and shut your F’ing face!” came the reply.

Linda looked at me. “This is going to turn into a bar fight,” she said. “And I’ve been in bar fights. And we’re cornered. There’s no way out. Those people are between us and the exit. Let’s gather our stuff and run.” So we didn’t use our check lists to mark off our costumes and props, we didn’t even take off the costumes we still had on, we just threw everything into suitcases and garment bags, I grabbed my keys and we made a B-line for the door, the crowd still shouting at one another.

But as we passed hurriedly by them, the all gave us a hand! The drunks applauded us on the way out, and then went back to swearing at one another. We don’t know if the police were called. We made it out before it got any worse.


When You Gotta Go, You Gotta Go.


(me as Gilligan in Gilligan's Island of Death)

Tonight we were at one of our very favorite wineries. I won’t mention the name, as we’ve been there ten years and I don’t want people to think this kind of thing happens there regularly. It never happens. The crowds are great and we love performing there. It’s in Kansas, and we have a strong following of regulars who have been coming to every show, six times a year for about ten years.

But tonight when Maria and I showed up, we noticed a table was already seated, half an hour before the house is officially open. They were quite drunk, even then. Our dressing room is a bathroom hidden in a corner, which is closed to the public whenever we perform. The drunk table was right next to this changing room / bathroom. There was no way to get into or out of our changing room, without going past them - which is to say there is no way to make exits and entrances during the performance without them being right in our way (there are many quick changes for me in each act, as I play five characters in this show and I’m constantly darting in and out of the changing room), and so it’s not a good thing to have a drunk table right by where you have to go throughout the evening. And the guys at this table were being rude to us and saying stupid drunk stuff even when we arrived in our civvies before any one else was seated for the show. I knew we would have trouble. It turns out they had shown up drunk at the winery, after a brewery tour. Beer drunks.

Act One began and they started mouthing off early. Three minutes into Act One, one of the really drunk guys stood up and said WOOOOOO! at the top of his lungs. Out of nowhere. For no reason. People were disturbed (people had been disturbed by this table even before the show started, I discovered, while I was mingling and handing out character parts to the audience before the show began). So after this WOOOO, I said, in character, “Hang on, now. We have a hundred people in this room and we don’t want to ruin the show for everybody else because of a table of eight drunken a**holes!” This sort of thing usually does the trick. As a comedian, I can say whatever I want to people, if I say it right, and they will laugh. And they did laugh, and the whole room laughed, the situation was defused and a point was made, and had they been somewhat less drunk, they would have gotten the point and kept quiet, realizing you can’t resist 92 other people who are in league against you, as well as the two actors who are performing, one of whom is more than willing to ridicule you publicly. But it was a lesson they did not learn.

Three minutes later, this same guy stood up and said WOOOOO! again, right in the middle of a scene.

I stopped the show, and said (out of character), “I’m serious. You need to keep quiet.” I then went over and pulled the owner of the winery into the room, pointed the table out to her, and she said, in a very nice, tactful and sweet way, “Everyone needs to be quiet, or the actors can’t be heard.”

Well, that was a dash of cold water for the whole room, and it was tough getting laughs for a while. But after my first exit and costume change, the show was going fine. Our drunks were intimidated into behaving for fifteen minutes or so, but were mouthing off toward the end of the act, though not very loudly.

Dinner break came. Maria and I retreated to our bathroom / changing room, the one beside the drunk table, with no doors or windows, just two stalls and all our costumes and props. The caterer brought us our food. As I was eating, I could hear the drunks outside the bathroom door getting loud and saying nasty things about me. You see, I knew what was happening. You can’t embarrass belligerent beer drunks, you can’t publicly scold them, you can’t bring Mommy over to talk to them, in front of everybody, without them wanting to kill you.

The things they were saying were getting nastier. I reached up and locked the door. “Maria,” I said, “If I have to leave the room for some reason during the dinner break, lock the door behind me and do not open it without finding out who wants to get in. But I don’t plan on leaving.” She looked alarmed. “They probably won’t try to get in,” I told her.

Five minutes later, someone was vigorously shaking the locked door knob. Then, BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG! Loud bangs on the door. “Who is it?”we both said. BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG! came the reply. The sign on the door clearly indicates it’s the actor’s dressing room, and we knew who was banging. “Maria,” I said, “We’re going to go into Emergency Lock Down Plan B Mode. We are trapped in here, and it’s not safe.” Oh, and I was physically assaulted at one of our venues years ago, and my nose was broken, not by an audience member, but that’s another story. At any rate, I take safety seriously.

I continued. “We’re going to move all of our costumes outside to my car. I will make all the exits and entrances for Act Two in and out the side door of the winery, and not from here. That way I will be nowhere near their table. It’s dark outside, and muddy from the melting show, and if they come out there to find me, they’ll never see me, they’ll never be able to walk, and if worse comes to worse I’ll keep my keys handy and I’ll drive off. When the show is over, you hang out in the winery by all the sober people, pick up the check from the owner, and meet me in the car.”

“OK,” Maria replied, a bit nervously.

So we made our tactical retreat. We dashed out of the bathroom, past the drunks, and made straight for the side door. The owner followed us. “Are you leaving? Aren’t you going to finish the show?” she asked, seeing us carrying out all of our costumes and props.

I told her we would finish the show, and I would change in the safety of my car. “Oh, they’re not that bad,” she said.

“They want to kill me,” I said. “One of the guys was banging on the dressing room door. I’ve been in this situation before” – (I felt like Linda Spall, “I’ve been in bar fights!”) – “and I don’t want to be anywhere near them. They’re not mad at you, but they’re mad at me for embarrassing them. These guys are supremely drunk and ticked off and I need to stay away from them.”

The owner returned to the winery. A guest came up, complaining about the drunk table. It seems that the drunkest guy had wet himself. The owner then asked them all to leave. Luckily one of the eight of them was a designated driver, but I watched closely from my car as they stumbled to their vehicle and the driver drove them away.

My friend Lois Richard, a physician, has told me before that incontinence in a drunk is a sign of alcohol poisoning, so I hope they made it to a hospital, or at least home safely.

Oh, and one more thing.

As the drunks got up and as they were walking out, the audience cheered.

It was the highlight of the show.

Aliens are Real


In an earlier post I wrote about vampires. In this post I am writing about aliens.

You see, not every danger to a business is an employee who sucks you dry and then gets angry when the blood runs out. Sometimes you’ll hire employees who don’t suck at all! But they can be even more dangerous than vampires.

We had an actress who began to sell for us and she was actually rather productive in sales. Unlike the example I gave in my last post, her intent was not to use us and drain us and leave us an empty hollowed out hulk of a company, which she kicked on the way out, a fat tick angry that the dog was no longer pumping delicious blood. Her intent was not that at all. Her intent was to invade us, co-opt us, and make our business hers.

It began by her refusing to sell in the ways we told her to. It morphed into her criticizing the way we were running things on every level, and then deciding she would promise clients not the things we actually did, but the things she thought we should be doing. She would get huffy when I would instruct her on our policy or tell her how things had to run. For instance, if she thought it was unreasonable for us not to promise a client a specific actor in a show, she would tell the clients that we would indeed guarantee a specific actor, or if we wouldn’t, that we certainly ought to.

She eventually stopped selling for us. Years later, she began selling for an agency in town, and she called and asked if the agency could represent us and our shows. I saw no harm in that – until she began to sell our shows via the agency the way she was selling them when working directly for us, which means not just selling for us at a distance, but attempting to manage our company at a distance. “She’s trying to take over our business and she doesn’t even work for us anymore!” I said to my wife.

There’s another former employee out there, who was productive and not parasitic, but who decided that after a week or two on the job, he knew how to run things a lot better than we did.  He always worked hard for us, but if he were still working for us, he would have taken over our business from the inside and would be the de facto owner-operator.



And we have the liberalists in the Church. They want not so much to suck the Church dead and kill it, they want to hollow it out and replace it with their own thing, keeping a form that retains nothing of its old substance. During the occupation, France was still France even though it had been invaded by and was being run by Germans. This is what invaders do, they don’t kill the thing they invade, they take it over and make it their own. As Father Mike says to a visitor in my play “Faith of our Father”, speaking of the techniques of the liberalists, “It’s just like a turkey. First you hollow it out, then you stuff it. Either way that bird is dead.”



So I’ve decided that these types should be called Aliens. The word “alien” just means “other” or “stranger”, and does not in itself imply invasion. But we know from science fiction movies that space aliens always invade and conquer. Sometimes they take over earthlings and are indistinguishable from them, like in the creepy 1960s series, The Invaders. And we know that illegal aliens (contrary to the political incorrectness such a statement involves), in effect invade a country and begin to possess it, even by means of squatter’s rights (this is in effect what happens, even though such illegal aliens are often victimized by the employers who take advantage of their services).

And so Aliens seems to be the proper term for what I'm describing.

I now have two types: Vampires and Aliens. And so my taxonomy continues.

If you have other types you’ve noticed in the business or ecclesiastical or personal world, please let us know via the combox.













Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Vampires are Real


There are people in this world who will suck you dry. And then get mad at you when the blood runs out.

And the problem is if you're an employer, you will eventually hire a vampire. They won't look on your business and their job as an opportunity to work and be productive; they will look on your business and their job as a giant "teat" on which to latch themselves.

And the longer you pay them, the less they'll do, and the more harm they'll cause, to cash flow, morale, and the business system.

And the great irony is that every single time ... every single time ... when you try to correct this behavior or eventually put an end to it, the vampire will tell you, with exquisite confidence and smug self-righteousness that it was ALL YOUR FAULT.

Then they will suck off the government teat for as long as they can. They will drain every penny from unemployment and COBRA and if you run into them months or years later, they will tell you how happy they are now that they have moved on with their lives and you are no longer a source of negativity for them.

These people are also generally substance abusers, I've noticed. They can be very charming and pleasant, and if you hire them to do sales, just realize that the only selling they'll ever do for you is the selling it takes to land the job.

Vampires are real.

Monday, February 7, 2011

An Agnostic's Prayer (written by a former atheist)



A Christian friend of mine requested that I write a prayer she could pray with her agnostic husband. He is, like almost everyone we meet in the world today, turned off by the self-righteousness of many Christians who see Faith as an elite club they've joined, a club they can use to beat other people over the head with. He is, like almost everyone we meet in the world today, pretty sure that "something's out there" but not sure what that something is or if anyone has figured that something out fully.


This is a very reasonable and potentially responsive position and one that calls for prayer; a prayer whose effectiveness Our Lord has guaranteed.


I have bracketed the first section, as only an agnostic can pray this provisionally. A Christian can pray the rest of the prayer with any agnostic, as we must all admit our belief is not yet full or perfect. If you pray this with an agnostic friend, you can pray the exact same thing, only your prayer will eliminate the proviso.


Here's the prayer.



An Agnostic's Prayer - To the Unknown God

Dear God,


[If you are there and if you answer prayer, please answer mine.]


Although I do not know you perfectly, I trust that my mind has not been created in vain, and that at least a limited knowledge and awareness of you is possible for all people. I also know that Jesus Christ said, “Seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.” This is a great promise, and so I ask for your help in seeking you and in knocking on the door of the great mystery that is the universe.


I do not desire that I shall ever know you in a way that gives me over-confidence, that makes me judgmental of others, or that makes me despise my fellow man. May the knowledge you give me of yourself open my heart as well as my head and come with humility and not with pride.


Jesus Christ also said, “All things, whatever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive”. Of course I do not believe fully, and as far as I know I may never fully believe; but I ask fervently for at least some belief - belief not in a myth but in what is real - for Jesus Christ said that faith "as small as a mustard seed" can move mountains. So I ask you this in prayer, not yet fully believing, and I ask for the grace to believe, for the grace to hope that you will give me whatever I need to understand you and approach you as much as I am able, and for the grace to love.


As the father of the sick child called out to Christ, “Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief.”


Dear God of the universe, reveal yourself to me and give me the grace not to resist your revelation.


Amen.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bad Acting and Working Out our own Salvation


We've been talking much lately about "intentional disciples" and of the need for parishes to foster "true discipleship", to encourage the formation of capital D Disciples and not just neo-pagan lukewarm modernists disguised as Christians. The problem is Wormwood pulls up a pew and says to us, in his cloying and flattering tone, "According to most pastors, only five percent of all their parishioners are serious about following Christ. You're one of those. You're a capital-D Disciple. You're an intentional Disciple. You're a true Disciple. These fat church ladies with their pot luck dinners and their parish picnics, they're not even Christians in any meaningful sense of the word. Look at that chubby grocer in the pew beside you. He nods off during the homilies. He's not a True Disciple. Look at that pierced kid at the Teen Mass, with glowing hair and a condom in his pocket. He's not a True Disciple. But you are! You may be the only one here who is. God knows your pastor isn't! If he were, he'd kick these hypocritical sinners out of here. But you're for real! You're one of the remnant! You must feel so lonely! So special! "



Illustrations from the Stage and from Life



Here are two stories that are about theology, and are about the same thing that Wormwood is wont to whisper to us:


First, my atheist 20-something actor on tour with us keeps tormenting himself after each performance. "I just wasn't very good. I just didn't feel it. That wasn't my best show. I was horrible." "No," I tell him, "that was as good as it always is - could have been better, could have been worse. Your performance is actually pretty consistent from night to night, and it's not as if there's anything else you need to do. You know your lines and your blocking. Just go with it. You're doing fine. Let the Spirit and the other actors move you. It's not all about effort, or straining to make it happen."


Second, a friend on Facebook, a good Catholic housewife, starts railing against Valentine's Day. "Why do we need one day a year to celebrate love? Shouldn't we be loving each other every day? What do candy and roses and Hallmark cards have to do with St. Valentine and self-giving love?" I point out to her that old man Scrooge used to say, "Why do we need one day a year to celebrate Christ? Shouldn't we celebrate him every day? What do presents and carols and Christmas trees have to do with Jesus Christ and self-giving love?" And I point out how those Puritans who hate Halloween have a laundry list of the evils of dealing with death and honoring saints by dressing in costumes and having fun. Sure, I hate stupid Hallmark cards and having my wife get mad at me when I tell her I don't want to show my self-giving love by going out to dinner on February 14 and waiting a half hour for a table. But our Faith is incarnational, sacramental. As Chesterton said, "There is in all good things a perpetual desire for expression and concrete embodiment; and though the attempt to embody it is always inadequate, the attempt is always made.” Holidays will always tend to degenerate into empty secular and materialistic rituals, for holy days are attempts to incarnate the divine, an attempt made by and among fallen human men, thus an attempt "that is always inadequate".


For that matter the life of Faith will always tend to degenerate into secular and empty things. Perhaps you've noticed that. It happens to each of us personally and it happens to the Church corporately.


Now, what are we to do about that? We can spend our time kicking ourselves for our day to day bad performance as Christians, but really it's not about us. It's about learning our lines and blocking and showing up and going on stage and being open to what happens - to the grace of God working within us - to the Holy Spirit. A lack of effort on our part will doom it - but no amount of effort on our part can make it happen.


And we can spend our time getting mad at the automatic non-thinking participation in rituals and the dumbing down of the most precious gift in the universe and the stupid fat church ladies and the screechy cantor in her jumpsuit and the effeminate organist and the bully-lady DRE and the ineffectual pastor, and ... and Valentine's Day and Christmas and Halloween and the next thing you know, we see, as a commenter on one of my recent posts did, a deep conspiracy behind even my writings because I'm not man enough to criticize Vatican II and those evil modernists John Paul II and Benedict XVI (in fairness, he only said that my failure to condemn Vatican II was "Strange. Very strange.")


Yes, we need to be "good actors." No, we can't force ourselves to be "good actors". We can learn our lines and show up. We can be bad actors by lack of effort; we can't be good actors with the best of efforts.


Yes, holy days have become secularized and misdirected. No, the answer to that is not a Puritanical reaction against the particular. We can ruin holidays by our lack of understand of the real meaning of them; but both the "holy" and the "day" are gifts, and "holi-days" are not to be shunned without taking the grave danger of finding ourselves walking around dressed in black in churches with bare walls as we outlaw Christmas and forbid the Christmas goose.


Yes, the Church needs True Disciples. No, we can not Make Disciples. We can learn our faith, learn our lines, learn our blocking, and show up - and stop trying to wall out our neighbors. We must learn our blocking so that we can stop the "blocking" - the blocking out of our sinful neighbors who just don't get it the way we do.



The Philosophy of Acting



I have said elsewhere that acting on stage or on film is similar to "losing your life to gain it". You must do very hard work - character work, memorization, rehearsing - and then you must be willing to sacrifice this work, to abandon it at the moment of each performance. If you clutch on to "working" your part, you will strangulate it. Only by losing your work do you gain its fruits. Only by forgetting yourself can you be open to inspiration. I am told that musicians and athletes and soldiers deal with much the same thing - intense and fierce preparation that is internalized and then abandoned in performance or at the moment of battle. Read Zen and the Art of Archery. (Now that will make the mad trads even madder!)



The Author Brings the Point Home for Those who are Still Reading



What am I trying to say here, with these stories, these metaphors, these illustrations? What am I trying to say? It's very simple and it all comes down to this.


I'm trying to say that Joe Grabowski is always right.


Who is Joe Grabowski? Joe Grabowski is a Chestertonian and member of the Chester-Belloc Drinking and Debating Club, who says that if you want an answer to this issue, the answer is in First Corinthians.


The answer, I would say, is in St. Paul in general. Not so much in his writings as in his person, his witness. For in First Corinthians, in everything he wrote, and in his life and death, St. Paul stood for two things:


1. An unflagging zeal for Christ.
2. An unwavering awareness that it was not about him, but about Christ.


Take a look at this amazing little statement, from First Corinthians 15:10. Paul says, "I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me." In context, he is saying, "I, Paul, who am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle because I persecuted the Church of Christ, have yet worked harder than all of the other apostles." In other words, he was a profoundly Intentional Disciple.


But what does this, the "Hardest Working Man in the Church" tell us about what it means to be an "intentional disciple"? He says that all of his work was not his work, but was the grace of God with him. He says that God chooses the weak and foolish in the world to do His work so that the weak and foolish may not boast; or if they boast, may boast in Christ.


The great temptation for those of us who desire a more profound love of Our Lord and a more sincere service of him is to forget this simple humility. No parish program does it. "Making Disciples" (registered trademark) will not do it. Preaching won't do it. The grace of God does it.


Of course the grace of God will be fruitless without our cooperation. God has given us the great dignity of participating in our own salvation and in the redemption of the world. He wants us to plant and water so that He may give the increase - and reap the harvest. That's what Our Lady is all about - that's what all the saints are all about. Cooperation with God's grace brings to bear sanctification, whose fruit is eternal life (see Paul again, Rom. 6:22). But in any case the engine behind all of this, and really the work itself, is "not I, but the grace of God that is with me."


This is the element that is left out in all this discussion of super-disciples. By the grace of God may each of us become a super-disciple, but lest we forget, the Kingdom of God is still among us. The Jews kept thinking that their Messiah would be a political leader, rich and powerful. They could not bear to think of him as poor and weak and picked on. But that's what He was. And He told us then that the Kingdom of God was among us. And He tells us that know.


And the Kingdom is like the King. We keep expecting, as the Jews did, that the Kingdom will be perfect, pristine, angelic - for that is what the Kingdom ultimately is. But for now the Body of Christ resembles Christ, weak, persecuted, ineffectual, at times simply dead. For this Kingdom that is among us is filled with sinners: fat church ladies, effeminate organists, bully-DREs. In short, it's filled with people like us! And its holidays have become secularized and ludicrous - materialistic orgies at Christmas, Hallmark specials at St. Valentine's Day, Sunday brunches with obnoxious relatives on Easter. But, my friends, the Kingdom of God is among us, and if we reject the discipleship of the sinners among us - the heretical, poorly catechized, confused and fleshy sinners among us - we forget that our own sinful discipleship is not much better, despite our better catechesis, our deeper knowledge of the faith, our orthodoxy, our efforts to ward off heresy - for all of the advantages we have - every last one of them - is a gift of God. And everything we do, every effort at prayer, evangelism, or at Making Disciples - every single thing is not us, but the grace of God in us and with us.


So take a moment and realize that this mess that we find at our parishes - which always needs reform and correction - is the Kingdom of God, and as prostitutes and publicans entered the Kingdom before the self-righteous Pharisees, so might that fat Church Lady, so might the bully-DRE (who misguided though she is, is doing her hampered best to follow Christ) and so might all those bad actors who think it's all about them.