Around the Web (Part 2)

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

The Compassion Gap by Nicholas Kristof: “There is an income gap in America, but just as important is a compassion gap. Plenty of successful people see a picture of a needy child and their first impulse is not to help but to reproach.”

Arizona’s SB 1062 by Michael Sean Winters: “This law has not been advanced at this moment to remedy a constitutional infirmity. It has been advanced by those who oppose gay marriage and wish to enshrine the right of a baker or a photographer to refuse service to a gay or lesbian couple that is getting married. The text of the law may not target gays. The political intent clearly does. And, that is why it was a mistake for the Arizona bishops to voice their support for it.”

A Letter to My American Sisters by Fawzia Koofi: “The women of my country and I also remain hopeful that the international community, including the United States, will not abandon our country and will help us a little more in fighting extremism, consolidating our gains, moving toward ending violence against women, and achieving something that all women around the world want: equality for both genders and for all.”

The right’s Ayn Rand hypocrisy by Elizabeth Stoker: “Rand’s entire notion of morality is predicated upon the idea that a sacrifice such as Christ’s would be morally wrong, which means all ethics that flow out of her work will contain in them that seed of conflict with the central message of Christianity. Whether conservatives like it or not, to advance a Randian political ethic is to further an ethic that fundamentally denies the goodness of the sacrifice of Christ, and thereby can never be brought to union with any serious Christian ethics.”

Surprisingly, Most Married Families Today Tilt Neo-Traditional by W. Bradford Wilcox, Family Studies: “Public policies and cultural norms related to work and family should be geared toward maximizing flexibility, rather than locking in approaches geared to serving full-time, dual-income families, and toward renewing the employment opportunities of poor and working-class men who have become less “marriageable” in recent years.”

Some Catholic leaders need to follow Pope Francis’ lead by John Gehring, NCR: “Pope Francis has brought an unexpected season of renewal and hope for the Catholic Church not because he is a liberal or a conservative. He is inspiring so many because he acts like a Christian should act. Not a bad starting point for Catholic clergy and anyone who tries to follow in the footsteps of Christ.”

Creating the Peace Corps and Finding a Saint by Jason Welle, SJ, TJP: “The founding director of Peace Corps and the person largely responsible for creating these life-changing possibilities was Sargent Shriver, the president’s brother-in-law. Shriver was a man deeply rooted in his Catholicism, and his faith – especially a commitment to social justice – motivated not only his involvement in the early years in the Peace Corps, but all of his commitments in life.”

The Protection of the Church by William Saletan: “This is what happens in many parts of the world. Even in the midst of religious war, religious institutions provide the moral strength to contain the violence. Faith in transcendent values counters sectarian hatred.”

God or the god of Riches? by Dan Horan: “Ultimately, I believe, the issue is between God and us, between serving the will of God or serving our own will. It is between putting our desires and interests first and putting first the Kingdom of God.”

Ukraine: The Haze of Propaganda by Timothy Snyder: “Whatever course the Russian intervention may take, it is not an attempt to stop a fascist coup, since nothing of the kind has taken place. What has taken place is a popular revolution, with all of the messiness, confusion, and opposition that entails.”

Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

McDonalds’ suggested budget for employees shows just how impossible it is to get by on minimum wage by Robyn Pennacchia: “I don’t want to live in any kind of dog-eat-dog Ayn Rand erotic fantasy. Human beings are worth more than that. Anyone who works 40 hours a week (nevermind 74 hours) ought be able to take care of all the basic necessities in life. Corporations shouldn’t be able to pay their workers nothing, keep all of the profits to themselves, and expect taxpayers to make up the difference with social programs. It’s not fair to the workers, and it’s not fair to any of us.”

The Number One Thing we Need to Stop Doing in the Gay Debate by Sacred Tension: “Until we stop invalidating each other’s integrity, we will never have a productive, life-affirming, and Christ centered dialogue about homosexuality. As long as we create a moral caste system and put our supposed opponents one step below us, the gay debate will never be anything more than a war that destroys the church.”

Teens chase kidnapping suspect on bikes, save 5-year-old girl  by CNN: “Two teenage boys are being hailed as heroes after they chased a car carrying a kidnapped girl — on their bicycles.”

Hazel Hammersley, 2-Year-Old Cancer Patient, Gets The Sweetest Pizza Party Of All Time by Huffington Post: “More Reddit users sent pizzas — over 20 pies arrived! Lauren rushed back to the hospital, and the family invited Hazel’s friends to join the SWEETEST PIZZA PARTY EVER.”

America’s One-Child Policy by Brandy Zadrozny, The Daily Beast: “Right here in the U.S., many working-class women are being forced to give up their larger domestic ambitions due to the crippling costs associated with raising a family with more than one child.”

Tobacco Free College Campuses by Dr. Howard K. Koh: “The Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative, a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the University of Michigan and the American College Health Association, encourages the voluntary adoption of tobacco-free policies at institutions of higher learning across the nation. These policies not only support the many people on college campuses who are trying to quit but also dissuade young adults from starting.”

Dear Jezebel: Real friends don’t count chromosomes by Secular Pro-life: “The solution to people being mistreated is to fight against the mistreatment, not to kill off the people being mistreated.”

Samantha Power, at confirmation hearing, faults U.N. for ‘disgrace’ in Syria by Washington Post: “Samantha Power, the Obama administration’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told a Senate panel Wednesday that the U.N.’s failure to halt mass killing in Syria is a ‘disgrace that history will judge harshly.’”

When profiling is “reasonable,” injustice becomes excusable by Fr. Bryan Massingale, US Catholic: “You don’t have to wear a hoodie or sagging pants to be perceived as a threat. The very presence of a black man in any space that violates the expectations of those in authority can constitute sufficient probable cause for suspicion and danger.  This is why the verdict of ‘not guilty’ has touched a deep well of resentment, sadness, and horror in many African American men (and in those who love us). For I not only know that if I had a son he could look like Trayvon; I know that I could be Trayvon.”

Interesting Conversation with an Atheist about the Moral Law and You Know Who  by Mark Shea, National Catholic Register: “I and others have been attempting to point out that insofar as her moral commitments have any hope of being universal and transcendent moral imperatives binding all human consciences, and not mere expressions of her subjective preference for cheddar over swiss, she will have to abandon her atheism as wholly incapable of accounting for such transcendent moral imperatives.”

Darfur in 2013 Sounds Awfully Familiar by Nicholas Kristof: “The resumption of mass atrocities in Darfur, after a bit of a lull, has led villagers to flee to this refugee camp, Abgadam, in southeast Chad. It is full of Darfuris who have arrived in recent months after Sudanese government-sponsored militias began a new spasm of murder, rape and pillage against two minority ethnic groups.”

Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Florida bishops say use of death penalty ‘sanctions revenge’ by CNS

“Using capital punishment to show that killing is wrong ‘sanctions revenge,’ Florida’s seven Catholic bishops said in a letter to Gov. Rick Scott.”

Eucharist nourishes, sustains and should transform people, pope say by CNS

“In the Eucharist, Jesus makes himself the food that nourishes and sustains Catholics, even when the road gets rough, Pope Francis said before leading a Corpus Christi procession through the streets of Rome.”

I’m Gay, but I’m Not Switching to a Church That Supports Gay Marriage by Eva Tushnet

“For me the call to love takes the form of service to those in need, prayer, and, above all, loving friendship…Renewing this Christian understanding of friendship would help to make the Church a place where gay people have more opportunities for devoted, honored love—not fewer.”

Two-child limit imposed on some Muslims in western Burma by AP

“Authorities in Burma’s western state of Rakhine have imposed a two-child limit for Muslim Rohingya families, a policy that does not apply to Buddhists in the area and comes amid accusations of ethnic cleansing in the aftermath of sectarian violence.”

Pope Francis spotlights social teaching with blunt calls for ethical economy by MSW, NCR

“U.S. Catholics on the front lines of social justice struggles expressed delight at Pope Francis’ frequent references to caring for the poor, his trenchant remarks about ‘savage capitalism,’ and his calls for government intervention to pursue the common good in the face of hostile market forces.”

The church in a land of climate change by Jonathan Merritt, RNS

“In America, climate change is a matter of debate, but in places like Malawi, it’s a matter of life and death.”

One man’s defiance inspires a region to stand up to the Taliban by David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times

“The insurgents here are hardly vanquished. But the Panjwayi revolt is perhaps the most significant of such local rebellions in Afghanistan. It has expanded and — so far — succeeded as a model of Afghan-driven security backed by U.S. combat power.”

Millennials get called out by Pope Francis:


And some wisdom from Pope Francis:

How About a Real Debate on Gay Marriage?

I find that both sides of the same-sex marriage debate most often use stale, simplistic arguments that fail to respond to the critiques of the opposing side.  The lack of nuance and intellectual seriousness, outside of a handful of very thoughtful voices, is almost certainly the result of people simply preaching to their own choir, a choir that cheers slogans and is not particularly interested in anything with intellectual depth.  There is a greater interest in hectoring people into supporting equality or love or human rights or Christianity or tradition or God than in actually convincing people of a position using dialogue and appeals to reason.

The reaction to Jeremy Irons raising the fairly ridiculous possibility of a father-son marriage for tax purposes highlights this poverty of thought (of course, it is not entirely ridiculous given the fact that one of our two major political parties is centered around the minimization of taxes and some people seem willing to do virtually anything to avoid rendering unto Caesar what’s his).  While not providing anything resembling a powerful reason to oppose gay marriage, Irons did highlight a basic flaw in the pro-same-sex marriage side’s case for what they define as marriage equality.

The foundation of their arguments is most typically that prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying is unjust and unconstitutional because same-sex marriage harms no one, there is therefore no state interest in defining marriage as something between a man and a woman, and the principles of equality and justice before the law demand that the government provide equal access to marriage and its benefits to same-sex couples.

Yet the primary foundation of laws against incest is a harm that would not be risked if both individuals were men (or women), namely birth defects in the progeny of the incestuous couple.  Other arguments are typically based on moral judgments of that particular lifestyle.  Often same-sex marriage supporters turn to mockery when questioned about this, evoking marriage to dogs or inanimate objects to make those who bring this up look silly.

In reality, the case for same-sex marriage is often based on one of the following two premises: (1) ‘Traditional marriage’ is an archaic, oppressive institution and it should be destroyed, replaced by equal incentives to support the ‘family life’ of anyone who shares an emotional bond, opening up new forms of family life that reflect the supposed values of the LGBTQQIAAP community.  (2)  The far more common premise is a moral judgment: traditional marriage is often more compatible with human flourishing and the good life, which is why the state should provide incentives to foster and support this particular lifestyle.  Traditional marriage should be preserved—it should remain exclusive, monogamous, permanent, and between two persons—with the only change being allowing same-sex couples to marry in this way.

The problem I see is that this second premise is rarely articulated in a clear, honest way, even when supporters of same-sex marriage must explain why they want to discriminate against the polyamorous (and incestuous gay couples).  On numerous occasions I have seen them turn to mockery because they do not want to simply admit that they think it is morally wrong to live that way or at least for the state to incentivize such living.

But the push for same-sex marriage is supposed to be about the simple application of equal rights for all, the judgment-free application of justice.  It is not.  The mainstream pro-same sex marriage movement is about incentivizing a particular lifestyle and restricting those who do not live that way from access to civil marriage.  That’s fine.  But there is a responsibility to own that, explain why, and stop hiding behind the standard of ‘preventing harm to others.’

The shift in rhetoric from tolerance and lifestyle preferences/choices to “I was born this way” is a step in the right direction.  But instead of just imagining themselves to be the heirs of Dr. King and Selma, supporters should engage in the hard work the heroes of the Civil Rights movement undertook to convince others of the moral righteousness of their cause.  Address and answer the hard questions.  Convince.  Persuade.  There is nothing wrong with appealing to gut reactions, but there is still a need for intellectual coherence.

As for the pro-traditional marriage side, there are direct parallels to this intellectual laziness and/or lack of clarity.  Perhaps the most problematic issue is the failure to explain how if procreation is necessarily at the heart of marriage and central to its proper constitution, sterile couples (including those who lack the body parts required to procreate and the elderly) have fully legitimate marriages and should be free to marry.  Some offer weak responses to this, but most simply dodge the question.  There is a particular cruelty in this, as infertility can be devastating to couples who are desperately trying to have children yet are nonetheless unable.  Making arguments that undermine the legitimacy of their marriage or sexual expressions of love and communion can add salt to the wound.

I want the debate over same-sex marriage to be carried out in a civil way without undue charges of bigotry or malevolence, but beyond that I want to see intellectually deep, coherent arguments made on both sides (assuming they exist).

The supporters of same-sex marriage seem to be winning the argument, so perhaps they see no reason to move beyond slogans.  Maybe opponents will up their game, forcing supporters to do the same.  Then we can have a debate over how marriage should be defined by the state (and why) and what role the state should have in promoting that lifestyle.