politics and culture: September 2004 Archives

paradigm shift

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I was making post-partum rounds the other day on a young mom. We were chatting about her future plans - the FOB (father of the baby) bailed out on her at the onset of the pregnancy (very common in my patient population), and she was getting her support from her family. I strongly support these mom's decisions to choose abstinence from sexual involvement as their 'family planning' method. So I was kind of joking around that I probably wouldn't be seeing her for her next baby until she met and married the right guy. And then she said something that made me really think about how differently our culture views sexuality and procreation. She said, "Or not", meaning that she might get married and still choose not to get pregnant. I realized that marriage has an entirely different meaning to the majority of the people living in our culture than what it meant 50 years ago.
Fifty years ago, it was still pretty generally recognized that sex leads to pregnancy and that pregnancy leads to parenthood. Yes, there were contraceptive methods out there, and there was also the early stages of awareness of the natural rhythms of female fertility, but generally it was accepted that if you got married you would have children, and probably several children. The culture frowned upon non-marital sexual relations, and if a young couple became pregnant through illicit relations, it was expected that they would marry and that their families would help them to make the best of it. Failing that, the young woman would leave her community to give birth, placing her baby for adoption. Abortion was considered a risky and immoral event, even in the situations of rape etc. There were undercurrents of the sexual revolution, but for the most part the generally accepted values connected marriage, sexual activity, and procreation. The idea of a voluntarily childless marriage was foreign to the general consciousness. "If you don't want children, why get married?", seems to be what I remember hearing as a child. Women with serious medical conditions were not advised to use contraception so much as they were advised to never marry.
Somewhere, somehow, it all changed. Now we have a culture that considers childbearing as entirely voluntary and sexual activity to be as necessary as eating. Marriage is all the relationship between the adults, and the kids are so much excess baggage - or parenthood is about the kids and the other partner is so much excess baggage. We are way out of balance here, folks. The more I observe the culture in which we live, the more worried I get. I read the Didache, and the early church fathers. I see that they were concerned that Christians not become part of their surrounding culture, where divorce was easy, where children were disposed of before or after birth at the whim of the parents, where the wealthy were slaves to their bodily lusts and the poor were kept enslaved by 'bread and circuses'. Then I look at what is going on in our world today and I become very much afraid.

Quote of the week

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From G.K. Chesterton:
Now we do talk first about the disease in cases of bodily breakdown; and that for an excellent reason. Because, though there may be doubt about the way in which the body broke down, there is no doubt at all about the shape in which it should be built up again. No doctor proposes to produce a new kind of man, with a new arrangement of eyes or limbs. The hospital, by necessity, may send a man home with one leg less: but it will not (in a creative rapture) send him home with one leg extra. Medical science is content with the normal human body, and only seeks to restore it. (My comment,"I only wish this were still true!")
(much later in the book)
Of course, I mean that Catholicism was not tried; plenty of Catholics were tried, and found guilty. My point is that the world did not tire of the church's ideal, but of its reality. Monasteries were impugned not for the chastity of monks, but for the unchastity of monks. Christianity was unpopular not because of the humility, but of the arrogance of Christians. Certainly, if the church failed it was largely through the churchmen. But at the same time hostile elements had certainly begun to end it long before it could have done its work. In the nature of things it needed a common scheme of life and thought in Europe. Yet the mediaeval system began to be broken to pieces intellectually, long before it showed the slightest hint of falling to pieces morally. The huge early heresies, like the Albigenses, had not the faintest excuse in moral superiority. And it is actually true that the Reformation began to tear Europe apart before the Catholic Church had had time to pull it together. The Prussians, for instance, were not converted to Christianity at all until quite close to the Reformation. The poor creatures hardly had time to become Catholics before they were told to become Protestants. This explains a great deal of their subsequent conduct. But I have only taken this as the first and most evident case of the general truth: that the great ideals of the past failed not by being outlived (which must mean over-lived), but by not being lived enough. Mankind has not passed through the Middle Ages. Rather mankind has retreated from the Middle Ages in reaction and rout. The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.
What's Wrong with the World,
Thanks to Bob for finding the ebook!

for my friends


The Distributist Review is a 3 author blog focussed on the economic theory of distributism. I thought that some of you might be interested.

Eight Core Christian values

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from the Evangelical Alliance Election Site
Grace – a subversive value! Giving people more than they deserve.
Hope – not a guarantee of immunity from harm but a conviction that God is always present
Faith - the means to real depth in relationships of all kinds
Love – means to love the unlovely
Justice – for all (not ‘just-me’). A concept biased in favour of the disadvantaged.
Joy – impossible to legislate for this but an essential social value
Service – meaning is found in service rather than self-centredness
Peace– not just the absence of fighting but positive well-being

what do you think?

Says what he means, and well


Beslan story of hope


Girl clutching cross in photo and what she is doing now.

a british take on multiculturalism


Reader, She Married Him--Alas by Theodore Dalrymple
I also deal with a large immigrant and multicultural population. There is a lot of truth in what he says. There are some wonderful values to be found in some of our immigrant families, but there are also values that most of us would find horrifying.

What is a NeoCon anyhow?

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My friend Bene Diction asked me to invite any pundits who read my blog (probably no one but one never knows) to contribute to this discussion.
I was listening to EWTN's The World Over (a rerun of the Sept 10,2004 show) and heard Patrick Buchanan give an interesting definition of NeoCon - he was more than a little disparaging in his use of the term. I don't remember the details, and the show isn't archived yet (when it is you can find it here and click on "Listen to past programs"). But it was something along the lines of NeoCons being Great Society/New Deal Democrats who became disappointed and changing their stripes.

I am not really fond of labels. One of the things I remember about this morning's homily was a plea to forget the labels and pay attention to the person inside. What Father didn't tell me was how to deal with those who demand that they be known and treated according to their labels rather than their humanity.

Anyhow, if you want to contribute to this discussion, please bop over to Bene's blog. Thanks!

news coverage

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John Kerry at Steubenville
I was interested in listening to the radio coverage (NPR) because I knew there would be protesters - the protesters got no air coverage. I am contemplating writing to the NPR ombudsman to ask why the protesters at the RNC got so much air time but the protesters in Steubenville got nada. Maybe it was because they were neatly dressed and well-behaved?

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the politics and culture category from September 2004.

politics and culture: August 2004 is the previous archive.

politics and culture: October 2004 is the next archive.

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