November 2007


“When the time comes, as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the Final Judgment, I’ve often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates, you are there alone, standing before God—and a terror will rip your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there will be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world… They will say to God: ‘spare him, because he loved us.’ And God will look at us and say not, ‘did you succeed?’ but, ‘did you try?’”

-Congressman Henry Hyde

Pray for the repose of the soul of Congressman Hyde. I don’t doubt that chorus of voices was present at his particular judgment before God!! He was a hero in so many ways.

My Constitutional Law professor was always drilling that same message into our heads. It’s not about succeeding, it’s about trying. I think too often we’re afraid to do anything — or too lazy to do anything — and we rationalize it by telling ourselves it’s a lost cause anyway. But it’s not about winning, it’s about fighting.

I think Jefferson Smith would like Henry Hyde, don’t you? ; )

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The Indiana Right to Life came out and clarified that while the National Right to Life has chosen to support Thompson, the Indiana Right to Life has not made any such endorsement. This was my letter to their director.

I was troubled when I heard the National Right to Life had decided to back Fred Thompson. Thompson made his views clear on Meet the Press, and it was clear his views are not good enough. With lives on the line, we need more action and less wishy-washy talk.
If we Americans continue to constantly “settle” for candidates, we will never
get the president this country needs. We should not be forced to settle for the lowest common denominator. If a candidate like Mike Huckabee is vocal about his unconditional pro-life stance, what message are we sending if we ignore him and settle for a lower candidate? Why should anyone listen to the voice speaking out for the unborn if that voice repeatedly gives in?
We must force the Republican Party to remember its values. Giving in to lowest common denominator candidates is an egregious error.
I am a proud Hoosier. Please continue to make me proud by backing the correct candidate, a candidate that is unabashedly prolife and proAmerican.

We’ll see what his response is.

I made the long trek this weekend to watch my beloved Fighting Irish lose again. It was a good weekend, despite the loss, and I was surprised that the mood on campus was as upbeat as it was. While spirits were muted, crowds were down, and the old men around me were voicing their displeasure freely throughout the entire game, there was still that feeling on campus that’s always present before a football game.

We are ND. It sounds cheezy, I know, but anyone who has experienced the pre-game traditions on Notre Dame campus knows what I’m talking about. Sure, we’re having a wretched season. Sure, we were expecting to lose to the United States Air Force Academy. But there’s still that pride, that recognition that Notre Dame, Indiana is a special place. It’s a special school. It’s a special football team.

We made all the usual pre-game stops, even more so this week since I brought two friends with me, neither of whom had been on campus. While we were listening to the band (the oldest college band) play their Concert on the Steps (90 minutes before kickoff, every game), I reflected on the song they chose to open the concert. Maybe they’ve done this before, but I certainly don’t remember it.

They began with a beautiful arrangement of the Minstrel Boy. Perhaps it was just a nice, recognizable Irish song to play. Perhaps I’m reading into it too much … but I like to read into things.

I think the band playing the Minstrel Boy really sent a message. For those of you unaware of the lyrics, in the song the minstrel boy goes into war, into the “ranks of death” … and dies. Before dying, however, he rips the strings out of his harp, saying the harp was made for freedom and will never play in slavery. Okay, so the comparisons can only go so far. But a main message of the songs is the inability of defeat to kill faith and loyalty. The minstrel boy appears to have failed, but he knows his loyalty is more important. The Minstrel fell! but the foeman’s chain could not bring that proud soul under!

When the band first started playing the song, I started laughing. Did they realize they were playing a song about losing?? Then I realized it was fitting. Notre Dame’s football season is over. Instead of going to the game expecting to win, I was expecting to lose. I’ve never been so pessimistic before, despite Notre Dame’s other recent bleak seasons. But the band wasn’t saying “we’re giving up, we’ve lost heart.” Instead, they were looking to the imminent battle and acknowledging that we may lose, but we’re still Notre Dame. We are staying. We are standing behind our players, because they’re still showing up to play. So we’ll show up to cheer. Loyalty is more important than victory.

I was impressed with the number of Notre Dame fans that stuck around until the bitter end. There were some that left early, the grumpy fat men who have never picked up a football in their lives but feel they know more about the game than any coach or player. But most of us stuck around until the band played the Alma Mater. Most importantly, the students stayed. I was disappointed to see gaps in the sophomore area, but I didn’t see any gaps in the senior section. They know what’s important. You stand there and support your classmates who are still fighting on the field (and boy, was that defense still fighting). You stand there and sing the Alma Mater with them when they come to stand in front of you and salute you with their helmets.

A silly man behind us complained when Weis led the players over to salute Air Force at the end of the game. “Worry about winning before you worry about what you do on the field afterwards,” was his complaint. That’s not the attitude that will win you games, and thank heavens that’s not the attitude of Weis. Worry about winning before sportsmanship? Before class? Before showing your gratitude to the young men and women sacrificing their lives for us? I don’t think so.

Loyalty is more important than victory. I hope that’s a lesson Notre Dame is learning.

I had a different post in mind this morning, but yesterday I decided I’ve been too negative lately. I guess soapboxes are rarely positive, which is kind of sad. We’re all eager to yell about what makes us angry, but few people are willing to be vocal about what makes them happy. When was the last time you heard someone speaking passionately about something happy that just happened? It happens occasionally, but not very often.

But today is Fall. And that makes me happy. I was walking across campus the other day, bundled in my Fall coat (it’s too early to be wearing winter coats, people!) with my cheap pashmina scarf around my neck, and I was marveling at the seasons. Only a few weeks ago, we found ourselves in unseasonably warm weather, sans-coat. Now it’s the edge of winter, and the leaves barely have time to change and escape before the snow comes. I love the seasons. And you know what? God does too.

I think the seasons give us a perfect opportunity to see the goodness of God. He can take drastically different circumstances and make them absolutely beautiful. Whether it’s a budding tree, a hot sunny day, a sugar maple shining in its vibrant orange glory, or a soft, quiet snowfall, God makes it beautiful. Think of those gloomy January days, the bright Christmas times long gone, the bitter cold descending upon us… and God sends a sweet blanket of snow to cover the dead, grumpy landscape. Suddenly, the ugliness is now magical Narnia, where – if we adults had any child left in us – we would swear Mr Tumnus was going to come out from behind that tree. Or the rainy April weeks, when we are ready to go buy some gopher wood and start on that ark… and God lets the rains break for a bit and gives us a rainbow against the dark sky. Your surroundings take on that eerie after-rain glow, and suddenly the trees seem a little greener, the flowers seem a little perkier, and the air smells a little fresher.

If God can do that with the weather and our exterior surroundings, how much more can He do it to our interior? How much more can he make a horrible day, when everything is going not-quite-right, when we feel rushed and overworked and pulled and stretched… suddenly come to a little stop. We sigh a little sigh, whisper a little prayer, and know that the day isn’t that bad. Because He’s there, even if we’ve forgotten.

I had an interesting discussion with my mom the other day — which is nothing new. We were discussing the crisis in modern higher education and the benefits of good, rock-solid schools like Christendom College. I’ll start off by admitting that I’m biased towards Christendom, although having done my research on other Catholic colleges, I do have support for my bias. But this post isn’t going to be solely about Christendom — I’m going to attempt to speak generally.

I won’t try to dance around the opinion I’m about to present. Going to a solid Catholic college is worth it.

I’m not going to condemn kids who choose to go to secular institutions of higher education. It’s not my place to judge. There are perfectly good reasons for attending a private secular or state school. I’m also not going to go into all the benefits of attending a Catholic college. That is material for ten or twelve posts. (I will say, however, that going to a solid Catholic college meant that the phrase “being sexiled from your room” was not in my vocabulary at college. It may not be a new term, but I just recently heard it, and thought of all my friends who have found themselves in that uncomfortable situation… and I thanked God that my roommate issues were never quite like that…) This post, rather, will merely touch on one of the biggest objections I hear about Catholic higher education: We can’t afford it.

Again, I’m not condemning anyone who says this. Everyone knows their situation in life and everyone knows what they can or cannot afford. I was blessed to be in the situation where my family could afford it. However, I think the cost issue needs to be seen in clearer light.

I think that state discounts, family and friends discounts, etc, mask the reality of how much college actually costs. Obviously, state schools receiving government aid are going to be able to offer much lower prices. A private school, not willing to accept government aid — and the government intervention that comes with it — is going to have to charge much more for tuition. In addition, what a school charges for tuition is much lower than the true cost of the education, which means private schools have to rely heavily on alumni support and other generous donors — just to keep the lights on and the heat going.

The low cost of a government-funded education at a state school (especially for state residents) makes the cost of tuition at other schools seem exorbitant, when really it isn’t even enough to really pay for the education provided.

So you can go to college for a lot less than what you would pay for a Catholic education. But let’s remember what we’re paying for with this money… is it a loaf of bread, that I can either get at either the corner bakery or at Wal-Mart for significantly cheaper? An oil change for my car that’s cheaper with this coupon? A plane-ticket that’s part of an airline’s summer deal? Papertowels, that are cheaper when I buy three rolls instead of one?

No! This isn’t an item to buy for the best deal, at the lowest seller. This is an education!

I remember being really proud of myself for buying a sweater from a low-end retailer. I patted myself on the back for saving so much money. The first time I washed it, the thing shrank in some places, stretched in others, and pilled up all over. Suddenly, the great buy I was so proud of was money down the drain.

Often, the same people who say they Catholic education is too expensive are the people who complain when they have to listen to garbage in class. When they waste class time on group therapy sessions about how reading some gay-porn novel made them feel. When they are given bad grades because they write objective truths in their papers. When they have to constantly question what they’re learning. When they are ridiculed by their professors for belief in God.

Well, you paid for it. You paid for that ridicule. You paid for that uncertainty in what you were learning. You paid for that unjust grade. You paid to read that gay-porn novel

Most — not all, but most– institutions of higher education are not spending time and money to educate you. More often than not, they’re agenda-pushing. I’ve heard countless stories of professors standing up in class and spouting off liberal rhetoric under the guise of “teaching.” That is, if you’re lucky to have a professor. Many college students don’t lay eyes on the prestigious, high-paid tenured professors until they’ve had their fill of TAs. Why are the professors being paid if it’s not to spend quality time with you (or your son or daughter) in the classroom, truly caring about your intellectual pursuits and desires?

And why are you paying tuition for this? Why are you paying for an education you don’t want? Wouldn’t you rather pay a little more and get the exact opposite? Wouldn’t you rather be edified in the classroom, rather than frustrated? Wouldn’t you rather hear the truth rather than a platform? Wouldn’t you rather have a professor who cares about you instead of one that doesn’t know you exist?

Perhaps this is when I should qualify my statements from the broad “Catholic school” to the narrower “Christendom College.” I cannot speak for the educational substance and challenge of other schools, nor can I say for certain that you will get professors that are willing to talk about Aristotle over lunch at other solid Catholic schools. But I’d being willing to bet on it.

As the quote goes, If you think education is expensive, try ignorance. You can go to college for cheap… but don’t come to me, complaining about the quality.

I’m currently listening to Fred Thompson on Meet the Press.  I’ll admit right now that I haven’t followed Thompson much.  I was initially very interested in the ’08 race, and while I still find myself on my knees about the event next year, I haven’t had much time recently to continually research the multitude of candidates.  That being qualified, I was surprised and disappointed by many of his answers to Tim Russert.

I was happy to hear him make it quite clear that he believes abortion is morally wrong.  A few years ago, he said that he didn’t know if life began at conception, and since he wasn’t sure of it, he didn’t want to pass laws assuming it did, and therefore impose his shaky beliefs on others.  Many things can be said in response to that– it seems obvious to me that if we don’t know if life begins at conception, we should probably play it safe and assume it does.  If you were about to blow up a building and didn’t know for sure if someone was in the building, you would probably play it safe and not blow it up.  So if we don’t know if a human life is present at conception (which is a bunch of hooey, by the way), shouldn’t we assume it is, rather than play the odds and chance killing a human life?  Anyway, I will give him kudos for his response when questioned about that today — he said that his position since then has changed, especially after seeing the sonogram of his own child.  After he saw that sonogram, he realized it was his child and that his child was alive.  Since then, he has held that life begins at conception.

Okay, so he has that going for him.  But then I began to get disappointed.  While he thinks abortion is the taking of a human life, and he wants to see Roe v Wade overturned, he does not think that there should be a law passed by the national government to outlaw abortion, nor does he even believe there should be a statement that affirms the 14th Amendment should be applied to the unborn.   He believes the abortion issue should be left up to the states, and the states should be free to make pro-abortion laws.  Usually, I’m all for putting things back to the states.  As Thompson just said in the interview, “The less government, the better.”  I agree.  But in this issue, I don’t know how you can reconcile in your head that abortion is killing a human life (which Thompson just said he believes) and at the same time, agree that the states should be allowed to pass pro-abortion laws.  Yes, in former days, our country was more of a confederation of independent states with their own governments, all united by a weaker central government.  Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.  Some issues are too grave, too dangerous to the common good, and, given the way our government has evolved, should be defined by the national government.  Slavery was left up to the individual states, and look where that got us (that is a subject for a future post).  Although I am a firm believer in states’ rights, I believe with the way our government is now organized, and because the abortion issue is a danger to our society, the Courts must make a definite statement against abortion.  No one objects today to the 13th Amendment, which the US Congress passed to abolish slavery.  I don’t think we need an additional amendment to abolish abortion.  I believe the Constitution already prohibits abortion,  and if the Supreme Court will affirm that, overturning Roe v Wade, then abortion will be prohibited across the country.  States can not be free to make abortion laws for themselves, because such laws would be unconstitutional.

Thompson said that he thinks abortion is morally wrong, but does not think it is good legal practice to pass a law that makes it a criminal act.  I am not sure if he is against the idea of state laws outlawing abortion, or only a broad national law.  He did speak contemptuously of the idea of jailing young women who, finding themselves in bad situations, procure abortions.  Yes, it is a horrible thought.  But we must be willing to help these women.  They are not being helped — they are being abused.  The cycle of abuse continues as they are fed contraceptives and easy abortions to attempt to solve problems.  We can’t just look at the prohibition of abortion as leading to the jailing of women.  Instead, we must realize that it would force our society to help them, to reach out to their needs, and  to not just use abortion as band-aid for grave social ills.  We can’t refuse to pass laws against murder because young people who already find themselves in bad situations would go to jail for it.  Thankfully, our country doesn’t have a problem jailing young men who beat their wives, even if they find themselves in bad situations.  People should be punished for transgressions and be helped to overcome these issues.  I don’t see how the answer to any crime is to ignore it.

Thompson also said that the government should not have gotten involved with the Terri Shiavo case.  I don’t have time to get into this now, but I will say this… while I am a firm believer that less government is better, I do believe that the purpose of the government is to serve the common good according to the principles of justice. (Read Plato.)  That being said, I think the state of Florida had every right to step in to save an innocent woman’s life.  The problem with our society is that we recognize the rights of some individuals, but completely disregard others’ rights.  Michael Schiavo apparently had the right to kill his wife, but his wife did not have the right to live.

That’s all I’ll say about that, before I get off on some tangent more than I already have.  I find many of Fred Thompson’s views troubling.  I am looking for a candidate that can reconcile hard, objective truth with good legal practice.  It was clear from his interview that he is seeking solid legal ground, and I’m happy with that.  I’m not asking for someone to pass virtuous laws that are bad laws.  One of the biggest problems with Roe v Wade, except for the obvious moral problems, is that it is simply a bad law.  It is a decision with holes so big, any competent lawyer can walk through them.  I want good, solid laws.  I want a candidate who knows the Constitution and listens to it.  However, it was also clear from his interview that he was unsettled over how to reconcile his moral beliefs with legal practice.  And that I find troubling in a presidential candidate.

I watched a wonderful movie last night – Mr Smith Goes to Washington. There have been countless people before me to comment on its worth, but that doesn’t stop me from musing. I won’t comment on it qua film, but I do want to comment on its message.

Someone told me that Ronald Reagan said every politican should watch Mr. Smith before they start working in D.C. I have to whole-heartedly agree, although my cynical side says that by the time they reach the national level, most of them are beyond help. But Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart) wouldn’t say that. He wouldn’t be so cynical.

Modern film critics would probably poo-poo the movie for being too didactic, but I think there are some priceless lines within it — lines that we need to be hit over the head with these days. One of my favorites comes at the end of the film. Smith is addressing a fellow senator, a seasoned senator that has lost his idealism (if he ever posessed it) and has submitted to the corruption in the government. Smith gently reminds him of a message he once believed. “I guess this is just another lost cause, Mr. Paine. [to the other senators] All you people don’t know about the lost causes. Mr. Paine does. He said once that they were the only causes worth fighting for. And he fought for them once, for the only reason that any man ever fights for them. Because of just one plain simple rule:’Love thy neighbor.’ And in this world today, full of hatred, a man who knows that one rule has a great trust. You know that rule, Mr. Paine. … And you know that you fight for the lost causes harder than for any others. Yes, you even die for them.”

As I watched the end of the movie, I couldn’t help but wonder how our country would be different if we followed that rule. Love thy neighbor. Sure, everyone talks about love. We’re supposed to love people who live or think or dress or act differently than us. Love has become synonmous with tolerance. But that’s not what Jefferson Smith was talking about. He was quoting a God Who is banned from public places like the US Senate. He was referring to a love that means doing the right thing, the true thing. Sticking up for what is objectively good and true and beautiful- no matter what. Jefferson Smith was not satisfied with tolerance, nor was he satisfied with submitting when the fight appeared lost.

I read a few reviews of the movie that described Smith as “naive.” Was he naive of the corruption in government? Sure. But was he simple-minded or gullible? No. He arrived in Washington in awe of his surroundings. But it wasn’t the big city that impressed him — it was the men that city honored. He came with the proper disposition towards the men who founded this country, who wrote our Constitution, and who fought to keep it free. He pleads with the jaded senators, “Just get up off the ground, that’s all I ask. Get up there with that lady that’s up on top of this Capitol dome, that lady that stands for liberty. Take a look at this country through her eyes if you really want to see something. And you won’t just see scenery; you’ll see the whole parade of what man’s carved out for himself, after centuries of fighting. Fighting for something better than just jungle law, fight so he can stand on his own two feet, free and decent, like he was created, no matter what his race, color, or creed. That’s what you’d see.”

I don’t think that hints of any naivete. He knew what America should be. He knew what was expected of him as an American senator. Of all the men in that chamber, he was the one who showed the most wisdom.

The other criticism is that he was idealistic. People call me idealistic… and say it like’s a dirty word. I take it as a compliment. Yes, Smith was idealistic. So am I. Being an idealist (an I’m not speaking of philosophy here) means standing up for that lost cause. In the eyes of our jaded world, idealists are wasting their time. But really, it’s just that we’re not content with mediocrity. We know things could be better, and we aren’t going to be content until they are. Sure, maybe we’re impractical at times. Maybe we get lost in our quixotic ways. But with the world we live in, I’d rather get lost in another one occasionally. Our founding fathers were idealistic. Who the heck thinks it’s very practical for a ragtag crew of farmers and statesmen to pick on the most powerful country in the world? But they had their beliefs, and they had their causes, and they had their principles. They had an ideal that they weren’t willing to forfeit. And no matter how lost their cause looked, they were going to fight.

Because it’s better to fight and lose than to never fight at all.  Sometimes you might just win.

That’s why I’m sick of people who say we have to settle.  Politicians are greedy and liars and fakers.  But that’s the way life is.  Honest politicians don’t have a chance because they don’t have the money and they don’t have the support of the media.  So go ahead and support the candidate who will do the least amount of evil.

Ugh.  Is this really how far we’ve come?  Settling for the lowest common denominator?  I don’t think Jefferson Smith would agree.