Weekend Bullet Points: Argument, Music at Mass, etc.

A. Arguing with me – putting Meekly Confronting the Beast and I Came Here for a Good Argument together, the ultimate irony or schizophrenia or disconnect: I’ll try to stay out of it, then, finally, when I decide to go for it, I come across as an attack dog. It is a matter of honor and respect to argue with vigor, and, conversely, a sign of contempt and condescension to go easy on an argument, as if your interlocutor were not worthy of your best shot. I must seem like I dropped in from another planet to most people, rude and mean or, at best, clueless. Add on top of that cultural differences – Latin Americans, Southerners and New Yawkers definitely do not argue the same way, nor see the same set of behaviors as rude or polite. I’m going to get even more reticent in real life if I think about this any more. Thank goodness I have a blog to vent on!

B. Today – oh, the humanity! – the little children were directed to come up to the sanctuary (if, in fact, one may correctly call, in this wreckovated building, the ill-defined “space” in which the altar resides a “sanctuary”) and sing a song as a communion meditation.  “Sing a song” turned out to mean, as is most often the case, mumbling along with a recording of some insipid piece it’s an insult to children to call childish, while some adult cajoles them. All was met with polite applause upon conclusion. God’s opinion was not solicited.

I can only imagine what this feels like for the kids. Do they enjoy it? It is so absolutely clear that they are being marched up and put on display so everybody can go ‘aaaw!’ and applaud. No part of this is an attempt to help them give glory to God, or to learn to sing or pray or to enhance their participation in the Mass. I imagine I would have passively gone along with it – I was a good little boy – but can’t imagine I’d have enjoyed it.

Further, the Mass is decreased whenever we lard it with things it is not – how could it be otherwise? People will inevitably lose sight of its true nature as the Eucharist – the Thanksgiving – and the Sacrifice, the source and summit of our worship and indeed salvation, if it is routinely turned into yet another ‘look at me!’ moment for the kids. That all the people involved are nice and well-intentioned doesn’t quite ameliorate it.

C. We also had a moment where our pastor, a good man, could not bring himself to say, during the Gospel, that Jesus told Peter he would be a fisher of men. Instead, Peter is envisioned as a fisher of humanity. Apart from the whole Lutheranish ‘I will make Scripture say what it should say’ vibe, there is, as my wife pointed out, an utter change in focus: if you said ‘fisher of people’, that, at least, has one fishing among human beings – among the species Man, one might even say. But ‘Humanity’ is another sort of noun altogether. Humanity is a trait shared, one fervently hopes, by men of all sexes and ages, and, perhaps by intelligent life on other planets, if they inhabit out moral universe. But it is only mankind metaphorically. Oh well, I’ve seen worse.

D. Was thinking of a distinction someone once made, probably John C Wright or someone in his comm boxes, about how it is characteristic for Liberals to want to be judged on the purity and rightness of their ideas, while Conservatives strive to develop ideas as conclusions reached by observing what actually happens. I don’t know if this observation can be accurately applied to all issues, but at least on a couple subjects, this description seems valid: Communism and health care.

Someone else observed that when modern Americans call themselves communists(1), they think of their college roommate or some admired professor or hard-working union organizer. When anti-communists say they hate communism, they’re thinking of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. It’s theoretical communist loved for the rightness of their ideals versus real communists despised for their murder and deceit.

Similarly, even questioning Obamacare got one labeled some sort of hater of poor people, so much so that I, for one, began to preface any remarks on the subject with ‘of course, I want everyone to have healthcare’ before launching into my doubts about how Obamacare, specifically, was supposed to work. But my ploy never worked – supports felt devotion to the *idea* of universal healthcare, so much so that questioning any one attempt at implementation of that idea was equal, in their minds, with opposing the whole idea in concept. The counter-argument, insofar as I ever got one, was always along the line of ‘it works great in Sweden!’ which is implicitly asserting that all universal healthcare plans are the same and work the same.  Then, after some research, I discovered that about 3/4 of the finance ministers in the EU believe that their country’s healthcare plans are not financially viable in the long run. Something about aging populations, no young people, spiraling costs. I would bet that the other 1/4 think this as well, but do not find it politically prudent to express those doubts out loud. Thus, the assertion that I should look to Europe to see how it is supposed to work backfired.

The point, however, is that none of this matters, if one is judging solely by purity of ideas. That those ideas don’t work, or don’t work in any simple, automatic(2) way, is just noise to the true believer.

  1. This is not an argument, just an observation: I don’t know, either personally or by reputation, and communists or sympathizers who are living happy, calm lives. Like Marx himself, every single one of them has a personal life that is chaotic and frankly miserable. Since misery isn’t all that attractive, the promise of revenge is the thinly-veiled hook. It is all somebody else’s fault, after all – capitalists, patriarchy, racists, something. All that personal misery couldn’t be due to personal failures, right?
  2. The most striking characteristic of Marx’s program to me was how automatic, even magical, it was supposed to be – History just makes it happen! We don’t need any discussion about *how* it works out, it just does! His followers, notably Gramsci  & Alinsky, were more pragmatic.



Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

2 thoughts on “Weekend Bullet Points: Argument, Music at Mass, etc.”

  1. “It is all somebody else’s fault, after all – capitalists, patriarchy, racists, something. All that personal misery couldn’t be due to personal failures, right?”

    I remember M. Scott Peck writing that most mental illness boils down to either character defects or neuroses. The basic difference between them is that people with character defects blame anyone or anything but themselves for their problems, whereas people with neuroses blame themselves for other people’s problems. Neurotics are much easier for a psychiatrist to work with since they will at least take responsibility for their actions; too much responsibility, if anything. Whereas it’s very difficult to get people with character defects to own up to their own role in their misfortunes.

    It seems that communism would have an intrinsic appeal to people with character defects.

  2. Right. Peck is a good read.

    I also think it has to do with certain habits of mind, inculcated through classroom indoctrination and peer pressure. (Then again, I over-intellectualize just about everything.) There is a certain appeal to grand theories that explain everything, especially when such theories only have uncomfortable implications for other people. If we were to inculcate the habit of actual critical thinking (not the knee-jerk conformity that the term is used for today, per Orwell. War is peace.) then perhaps kids would mistrust such theories, or at least seek validation for them beyond their teachers’ and peers’ enthusiasm.

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