Rank Calumny Posing as Journalism
It’s not often you see a review of a book review, but Christopher Beiting’s review of Karl Keating’s book The New Geocentrists (Jul.-Aug.) deserves not only a review but a thorough excoriation. It’s been a long time since I have seen such malicious writing from someone hailing the Christian banner. Keating’s book is bad enough, which is why I wrote A Critical Analysis of Karl Keating and His New Book “The New Geocentrists” (available at Amazon). Keating’s book and Beiting’s review are both filled with an assortment of half-truths, slanderous innuendos, filthy gossip, and downright fabrications against fellow Catholics, not to mention bad science. Ironically, for all of Keating’s muscle-flexing, in 2015 his own patrons encouraged him to debate me on the issues, and when I accepted, he declined.
Keating and Beiting are typical of today’s secularized Catholics who are filled with vitriol against us traditional Catholics who cling to our time-honored understanding of the Bible and science. But this new breed of Catholics can’t just disagree; they must belittle with name-calling and personal attacks so as to incite readers’ prejudice before they ever examine the evidence. For example, Beiting claims that we at Stellar Motion Pictures “falsely interviewed or deceived” and gave “fraudulent or misleading information” to physicist Lawrence Krauss. This is a total lie. Krauss made those accusations without ever seeing the movie and didn’t even remember the interview we gave him! We exposed Krauss’s lies on national television as we showed the releases he and all the participants signed that explained the film’s content. Nobody has heard from Krauss since. No surprise there.
Beiting then cites Kate Mulgrew’s press statement, but in the end we also exposed her duplicity. We showed clips of our interview with her before the movie’s release in which she said, “I couldn’t have done the narration without knowing what the movie was about.” But after the press attacked us a year later and wanted a statement from her, she said, “I was misled and had no idea what the movie was about.” Beiting knows these results but failed to report them.
Beiting then tries to make me into some kind of wacko conspiracy nut who believes everything from NASA making crop circles to Oswald not being JFK’s assassin — all flavored, of course, with the typical Jew-baiting. Except for 9/11, I don’t even entertain such questions today, much less have a definitive position on them. But it’s certainly good for the soundbites Beiting needs for his demagoguery.
In reality, this rank calumny posing itself as journalism shows how frightened Beiting and Keating are of the new cosmological information we are bringing to the public. We want to bring the Church back to her traditional moorings — God knows she needs it more than ever! — and finally exonerate her from the alleged “error” against Galileo that has hobbled her for four centuries. Catholic modernists despise us for doing so, especially those from Beiting’s former employer, Notre Dame. They have lived comfortably, rubbing shoulders with the secular elites, and are fighting like hell to keep their place. Hence, no traditionalist is allowed to the party to remind them of their prior commitments.
At the end of his review, Beiting says, “Get your science right, you idiots. You’re making the rest of us look bad in front of unbelievers.” The reality is that people like Beiting are the very ones who don’t know the science! For example, every major physicist we investigated admits that there are two possible scientific views: (A) the earth rotates in a fixed universe, or (B) the universe rotates around a fixed earth. They then admit that their preference for A is made from philosophical bias, not scientific proof, and that they reject B because a fixed earth in the center of the universe leaves no room for their agnosticism or atheism.
Allow me to quote from some of the more famous:
– George Ellis: “I can construct for you a spherically symmetrical universe with Earth at its center, and you cannot disprove it based on observations. You can only exclude it on philosophical grounds” (1995).
– Stephen Hawking: “Although it is not uncommon for people to say that Copernicus proved Ptolemy wrong, that is not true…. One can use either picture as a model of the universe, for our observations of the heavens can be explained by assuming either the earth or the sun to be at rest” (2010).
– Albert Einstein: “Either coordinate system could be used with equal justification. The two sentences: ‘the sun is at rest and the Earth moves,’ or ‘the sun moves and the Earth is at rest,’ would simply mean two different conventions concerning two different coordinate systems” (1938).
– Isaac Newton: “And thus celestial bodies can move round the Earth at rest, as in the Tychonic system” (Proposition 43; 1667).
– Henri Poincaré: “A great deal of research has been carried out concerning the influence of the Earth’s movement. The results were always negative” (1904).
– Julian Barbour: “Thus, even now, three and a half centuries after Galileo’s condemnation by the Inquisition, it is still remarkably difficult to say categorically whether the Earth moves” (1989).
– Lincoln Barnett: “No physical experiment has ever proved that the Earth actually is in motion” (1957).
And some even admit that the evidence leans to geocentrism, including Krauss!
– Hendrik Lorentz: “Briefly, everything occurs as if the Earth were at rest” (1886).
– Bernard Jaffe: “The data were almost unbelievable…. There was only one other possible conclusion to draw — that the Earth was at rest” (1960).
– Krauss: “When you look at the CMB map you also see that the structure is…correlated with the plane of the Earth around the sun…. That would say we are truly the center of the universe” (2006).
Trust me, I wouldn’t have even dipped my toe into this pool unless the science supported it. Our movies are The Principle (released October 2014 in AMC and Regal Cinemas) and our follow-up DVD, Journey to the Center of the Universe (see theprinciplemovie.com). See them before you are tempted to succumb to Keating and Beiting’s hate-mongering. As Solomon said, “He who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Prov. 18:17).
Chairman, Stellar Motion Pictures, and Executive Producer, and
West Hollywood, California
I was more than a little disturbed by historian Christopher Beiting’s review of The New Geocentrists. A review as inflammatory and insulting as this should have either done a better job of clarifying Keating’s purpose in writing it — Beiting alludes to it but then takes off on his own condemnation of the purveyors of the geocentrism movement — or taken up a more serious discussion of the scientific questions that motivate the movement itself. Blistering attacks against people like Robert Sungenis do not necessarily make for good science or a good book review.
As a historian myself, I have spent a great deal of time reading Sungenis’s works for my history of science lectures, and I have availed myself of the diverse filmography on geocentrism and creation science. I do not claim any credentialed expertise in science and would probably fall into the category of curious pop-science buff. I do, however, know a flimsy argument when I see one, and the entire construct of modern heliocentric cosmology is — upon close inspection — highly flimsy. Calling people kooks and idiots, gratifying though it may be, does not change the fact that even the great heroes of modern physics and astronomy (men like Einstein, Hawking, Edwin Hubble, and George Ellis, to name only a few) claim, as lucidly if not as polemically as Sungenis does, that there really is no hard scientific proof for the Copernican theory. Where one chooses to go with this fact seems more determined by one’s philosophy, temperament, or ideology than by one’s commitment to objective certainty based on evidence.
I confess that I have not read Keating’s book, and I know no more about it than Beiting has reported in his review. But Beiting’s reference to Keating’s decision not to ask “whether their [geocentrists’] arguments are right or wrong but whether they have any credibility to make their arguments in the first place” is highly revealing. This is nothing more than a strategic gambit, one usually used by evasive politicians. In this particular case, when it is reproduced and amplified by Beiting himself, it allows a scientific argument to be taken over by self-justifying rhetoricians.
As a historian, I have no certainties to profess regarding cosmology, but — again — I know what an ad hoc argument is and what an ad hominem argument is, and our science and medicine are as full of them as are our liberal arts and politics. Beiting has, unfortunately, provided a review of no substance and great injury, and I’m surprised the NOR published it. If neo-geocentrism is an issue that runs afoul of truth-seeking conservative Catholicism, it should be taken up in the pages of the NOR in a more comprehensive and balanced fashion. I, for one, would not find it a scandal to learn that the Hebrews and Greeks had it right when it came to cosmology.
As far as Beiting’s closing remarks are concerned (“Get your science right, you idiots. You’re making the rest of us look bad in front of unbelievers”), I would point out that he doesn’t pose a single serious challenge to the science of geocentrism in his review. As for looking bad in front of unbelievers, it seems that this was the last thing that would have bothered our Lord. If it’s a question of looking bad in front of unbelievers or refusing to ask questions that offend the brokers of the dominant secular ideology, I’ll opt for looking bad. Moreover, if there is any “new gnosticism” we need to be wary of, it’s the old gnosticism of the political-scientific community that continues to claim an infallible knowledge of the workings of the cosmos without providing unassailable scientific evidence.
On the bright side, if we could just learn how to perfect our faith in the unseen that modern cosmologists have, we would all be better Christians.
Chairman, Stellar Motion Pictures, and Executive Producer, and
In his review of The New Geocentrists, Christopher Beiting casts justifiable scorn on the views of Robert Sungenis, including his belief that humans and dinosaurs could not have co-existed. Actually, I think they could and did.
In the vast graveyards in Siberia of millions of skeletons of animals that obviously died at once (as a result of Noah’s flood?) there are to be found the remains of humans and dinosaurs. In a Texas riverbed there are the footprints of dinosaurs, trilobites, and humans superimposed on one another. Did some primitive tribe live in those unpleasant, smoky caves (probably with narrow entrances) so as to get a good night’s sleep, free from the attention of large beasts?
In the Old Testament, there are more than 20 references to “dragons” — in one case, there is even a “place of dragons.” So, what were these “dragons”? I suggest that they were leftover dinosaurs in the process of becoming extinct, and only about 5,000 years ago! (Incidentally, this fatally damages the theory of evolution.) In the catacombs of St. Callixtus in Rome, the Christians down there were very fond of the story of Jonah and drew pictures on the walls in which Jonah is “spewed out” — not by a fish or a whale but by what we would today call a dragon, evidently a creature with which they were familiar.
From where do we get our modern idea of the appearance of dragons? In Job 40 there is a description of “Behemoth,” including some details of its appearance: “His strength is in his loins and…he moveth this tail like a cedar” (vv. 11-12). Here we have a huge lizard-like animal (the word dinosaur was coined in the 19th century and means “terrible lizard”). In Job 41 there is a description of “Leviathan,” whose teeth are “terrible round about” and whose “scales are shut up together as with a closed seal” (vv. 5, 6). Could this be a giant marine dinosaur? There is no such creature in the sea today, so on what was the author of Job basing his description?
Regarding the Galileo affair, also mentioned in Beiting’s review, I think it would clarify things to say that, while Galileo was right on his purely mathematical theory, he was quite wrong spiritually; the earth is the center of the universe because God deigned to become incarnate in it. The Catholic hierarchy, whose main concern is the good of souls and not science, was right to be alarmed and at first resisted Galileo, fearing that souls would be destabilized by having the neat, comfortable cosmology of Dante suddenly taken away from them.
No, I do not believe in a flat earth.
Dept. of History, Gonzaga University
KARL KEATING COMMENTS:
Robert Sungenis writes, “Trust me, I wouldn’t have even dipped my toe into this pool unless the science supported it.” Not only does the science not support him but, despite the massive length of his pro-geocentrism books, he demonstrates that he doesn’t understand the science.
His thesis is that the earth not only is placed at the physical center of the universe but that it is locally motionless and doesn’t rotate. How then, for example, do geostationary satellites float above one point on the equator?
Sungenis serves up contradictory ideas of how that might occur (magnetism or gravity from the stars — with none of the math working out) while persistently confusing Global Positioning System satellites with geostationary satellites. He imagines, furthermore, that your mobile phone’s GPS sends signals to GPS satellites. It doesn’t and can’t.
In The New Geocentrists I point out many such misunderstandings, both his and those of other geocentrists, Catholic and Protestant. I argue that impressionable people shouldn’t give credence to writers such as Sungenis because they repeatedly have shown themselves to be unreliable.
Sungenis says that Christopher Beiting “tries to make me into some kind of wacko conspiracy nut who believes everything from NASA making crop circles to Oswald not being JFK’s assassin.” Sungenis indeed has claimed that NASA made crop circles, by firing lasers from space, in order to take people’s minds off God and religion. He says that the only (!) alternative explanation, that crop circles were made by extraterrestrials, is “more bizarre and dangerous” than his notion.
Sungenis says that the sinking of the Titanic — in 1912 — was a long-range blueprint for 9/11, which, he insists, was planned by Jews, not Muslims. He believes that dinosaurs co-existed with humans. He holds that “any intelligent person who has studied the issue is going to have doubts whether the United States had the capability to put a man on the Moon in 1969.” He thinks Pope John Paul I was murdered and that “Woodrow Wilson’s cabinet was completely run by Jews.” (In fact, not one of the 20 people who served in Wilson’s cabinet was a Jew.)
In his letter to the NOR, Sungenis says, “Except for 9/11, I don’t even entertain such questions today.” Elsewhere, he has said that he no longer wishes to discuss the conspiracy theories he used to push so avidly. It’s not that he has had a change of heart about them. He hasn’t. He hasn’t said that he was wrong about any of them. It’s just that they divert attention from his geocentrism project.
Sungenis scrubbed his anti-Semitic writings and many of his conspiratorial writings from his websites in anticipation of the release of his film, The Principle. But many of them can still be found at www.geocentrismdebunked.org or by searching Google or web.archive.org (popularly known as the Wayback Machine).
As for Eric Cunningham, who writes, “I confess I have not read Keating’s book,” I suggest he take a few evenings to go through my book carefully. After that, he could extend his study by reading the many articles at www.geocentrismdebunked.org, where Sungenis’s complete incapacity to do even the most basic math and physics has been demonstrated repeatedly.
Cunningham says, “I do, however, know a flimsy argument when I see one.” I wonder, since he seems to have accepted Sungenis’s claims with alacrity.
Mary Ann Novak
CHRISTOPHER BEITING REPLIES:
Karl Keating has said most of what needs to be said, but I’d like to add the following.
On the issue of the co-existence of humans with dinosaurs, while I am willing to entertain the theory that human beings are a great deal older than anthropologists currently believe, there simply isn’t enough evidence to conclude that we, as a species, are that old, or that any dinosaurs have survived, Lost World-fashion, into human times. The large number of fossilized dinosaur bones worldwide is, to me, sufficient explanation of the ubiquity of “dragon” legends in most human cultures.
Prof. Cunningham complains that Keating’s book is little more than a glorified ad hominem argument and that Keating doesn’t deal with the science of geocentrism. Actually, Keating does cover the science at various points in his book (see, for example, his comments in his letter about Sungenis’s inability to understand the difference between geosynchronous and geostationary satellites). Moreover, it is most emphatically not an ad hominem attack to ask, before considering the substance of a person’s theories, whether said person is competent enough to advance these theories in the first place. Case in point: Before dealing with the content of the book Émile, I do not think it is in any way unreasonable to inquire about the educational credentials of Jean Jacques Rousseau. When we do so, we discover that he had almost no experience as a teacher, wasn’t very good at it when he did, and didn’t even like children very much. Therefore, I think it is perfectly reasonable to ask whether we should consider Rousseau an educational guru in the first place.
Keating is at least honest enough to present his own credentials in his work: He was a math major at the University of San Diego, and while there, he also studied physics and the history of science — the latter involving a lot of detailed mathematical exercises designed to check the accuracy of the Ptolemaic and Tychonian heliocentric models. One can certainly understand the frustration of someone who can and has done the math (Keating) with someone who cannot and has not (Sungenis).
Although I am only a book reviewer, I can claim the following: I did a mini-post doctorate in 1998 on the relationship between Christianity and the history of science, I have taught the history of science at the collegiate level, and I once worked for the Space Science and Exploration division of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. I freely admit that I do not have Keating’s math chops and cannot, therefore, point out the flaws in Ptolemy’s Almagest on my own, but I do know enough to have no patience with the kind of people who can’t be bothered to look up the definition of the term stellar parallax. (C’mon, people, it’s after 1838, and we’ve got plenty of photos of stars in different positions in January and July — you don’t even need be able to calculate the trigonometry equations to realize that stars couldn’t do that if the earth were standing still.)
Sungenis’s letter, I think, exemplifies every critique Keating has made: A bunch of quotations taken out of context to try to establish a (faulty) appeal to authority? Check. Selective misrepresentation of those authorities to make them appear to say things contrary to what they actually believed? Check. Outright denial of having said some of the things he is on record as having said? Check. Complaining about ad hominem attacks while launching an ad hominem attack? Check. Being totally ignorant about the people he’s attacking? Check. I’ve been accused of a lot of things in my life, but being a “secularized Catholic” is a first! Gosh, what gave me away? Was it all the articles and book reviews I’ve written for the NOR over the years? My almost 30-year membership in the Secular Franciscan Order? The Oath of Fidelity to the Magisterium that I swore before the bishop of Lansing in 2000? What could it have been?
I close with two things. The first is an admonition, to everyone, to get a copy of St. Augustine’s On the Literal Meaning of Genesis and give it a thorough reading (Grove City Press offers a nice edition, available as On Genesis). It’s one of the great doctor’s lesser-read works, and it shouldn’t be. Rather than just a work of Scripture commentary, it’s a careful statement against scriptural literalism, particularly treating as statements of fact passages that are meant to be taken symbolically, especially in the face of discoveries by the natural sciences about the natural world. The unbelievers are already going to hate us Christians over the big things, notes the good bishop, so there’s no need to give them more ammunition by being cranks about the little things when there’s scientific evidence to the contrary.
The second is the typical response of my Egyptologist father-in-law who, after having carefully presented the facts, still gets confronted by people who insist that space aliens built the pyramids or that Cleopatra was black. To such people, he can only throw up his hands and say, “I can’t argue with fantasy.” Neither can I.
Baylor Institute for Studies in Religion, Baylor University
Greater than Our Small Memories
I commend David D. Jividen for his fascinating article, “A Panoramic View of the Real Pulcheria” (Jul.-Aug.). Not only is his subject out of sight and mind to us Catholics, but he has accomplished a thorough and detailed review of this forgotten and underestimated saint. Though an amateur student of Byzantium since childhood, I too had overlooked Pulcheria’s worth, honor, and glory, and had accepted the numerous brush-offs and innuendos about her lust for power as true, so I am in Jividen’s debt.
Sandwiched between Theodosius the Great and Justinian, Pulcheria may indeed seem pale in comparison. However, in the colorful history of Byzantium and the fall of Rome in the Eastern Empire, Pulcheria was the first woman to rule the Roman Empire, and that for decades. As even John Julius Norwich begrudgingly points out in his Byzantium: The Early Centuries (1989), “The power behind the throne [was] the Emperor’s own sister, the princess Pulcheria; and with this faintly awesome figure there is inaugurated a period of 36 years — the remainder of her brother’s reign — during which virtually all the effective influence in the state was concentrated in female hands.” He then essentially dismisses her as “strong and determined, with a love of power for its own sake; but she was also excessively, extravagantly pious” — and he wastes hardly a word on her thereafter.
But Pulcheria figures in the history and life of the fifth century at every point in Christianity’s critical development in that period, as Jividen shows us, and as the dominant power in the empire and society. In both religious and secular states, she shines as a bright light of morality, uprightness, and charity in a place and time usually and fairly described as the most decadent the world has ever known. In the Church, her unwavering loyalty to the pope was instrumental in promoting the final supremacy of the Western see over the rivals in her dominion. Honored by both sides, the foundations of the Great Schism between the Eastern and Western Churches were already laid when she ruled. As Jividen explains in detail, her influence in the councils at Ephesus and Chalcedon to turn back virulent heresies and establish primary doctrines of the Western Church assured her of the esteem of her contemporaries in the Church and her own bishop, who inscribed her as a saint on the local calendar, the method at that time of so proclaiming saints (a function not assumed by the pope until 1153).
Pulcheria’s prudent charity and goodness were of the first order during her lifetime and afterwards, for, as Norwich puts it, she left “her immense wealth to the poor at her death, a bequest which [her husband and co-ruler] Marcian, to his eternal credit, faithfully carried out.” Her known work was enough then and in succeeding ages to confirm her saintliness. In this regard, she obtained the crown of sainthood by popular acclaim, just as Pope St. John Paul II achieved it in our time, however much she has receded in our small memories and histories since then. We owe a great thanks to David D. Jividen for resuscitating Pulcheria’s vivid and inspiring life story.
David Lyle Jeffrey, Senior Fellow
Dept. of English, University of Ottawa
The Wishfulness of Freudianists
Bishop Robert Barron (“The Curse of Total Sexual Freedom,” June) appears to use the terms Freud and Freudianism interchangeably. But I think the two should be differentiated.
Sigmund Freud did indeed propound that certain psychological or psychiatric problems have suppressed sexual feelings as their root cause. Bear in mind here that Freud included all sensual feelings under the heading sexual. But he never said or wrote that such aforementioned problems could be corrected by uninhibited indulgence in sexual activity, though that might be what some people (Freudianists?) wish to understand from what he said. This and other incorrect ideas have been described in a book published some 50 years ago, titled What Freud Really Said: An Introduction to His Life and Thought by Dr. David Stafford-Clark, a British psychiatrist.
Some of the ideas Freud entertained at times were rather off the wall, but on balance, regardless of Freudianism being out of fashion, he remains a great contributor to psychiatric knowledge.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
THE ASSOCIATE EDITOR COMMENTS:
We’ve never heard of or read the book by Stafford-Clark recommended by Mr. Bardon; thus, we cannot verify the recommendation as a sound one. But we would like to point out that much more has come to light about Sigmund Freud and his pseudo-scientific theories over the past 50-plus years. Freud (the man and not his followers) was little more than a crank philosopher posing as a man of science. His “psychologism” did little more than reduce philosophy to scientific materialism. As Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain pointed out in his article “Freudianism and Psychoanalysis” (in the book Cross Currents of Psychiatry and Catholic Morality, 1964), Freud had a deep hatred of reason, an unrealistic view of human beings, and an unscientific denial of man’s spiritual dimension; he rejected guilt as a neurotic disease, reduced free will to instinctive drives, thumbed his nose at the natural law, and concocted a mythology to prop up his pseudo-scientific theories that have been used to dismiss religion, morality, and even art.
It is difficult to take an honest look back at Freud’s life and work and conclude that either the man or his theories were “on balance.” It is quite easy, in fact, to make the case that he was “off balance” and laid the foundation for his disciples and their followers to do and act in the ways they have. Consider some of these statements made by Freud:
– “Religion is nothing but an obsessive-compulsive neurosis.”
– “Religious doctrines…are all illusions. They do not admit of proof, and no one can be compelled to consider them as true or to believe in them.”
– “The virtuous man contents himself with dreaming that which the wicked man does in actual life.”
– “Men are not gentle creatures who want to be loved…. Their neighbor is for them not only a potential helper or sexual object, but also someone who tempts them to satisfy their aggressiveness on him, to exploit his capacity for work without compensation, to use him sexually without his consent, to seize his possessions, to humiliate him, to cause him pain, to torture and to kill him.”
– “How comes it about that none of the godly ever devised psychoanalysis and that one had to wait for a Godless Jew?”
– “If the gods above are of no use to me, then I’ll move all hell.”
By and large, Sigmund Freud has been discredited as a scientist, disregarded as a psychologist, and dismissed as a philosopher. That, of course, does not stay his intellectual influence. His disciples and their followers associate him with sexual liberation, the logical endpoint (other than suicide) of his theories. To better understand Freud’s theories, his inspirations, and his many delusions, we recommend the chapter on Freud in Architects of the Culture of Death by Donald DeMarco and Benjamin Wiker (Ignatius Press, 2004). According to DeMarco and Wiker, “Freud’s rejection of religion, distrust of fatherhood, suspicion of morality, and reduction of love to sex have unleashed a plague of problems that has produced widespread and adverse effects.”
A Very Catholic Double View
In his concise reading of Shakespeare’s The Tempest (“When No Man Was His Own,” Jul.-Aug.), Ian Hunter sees in it both political allegory (a corrective theory of the state), and a moral allegory (a psychopharmicon for the sorry spiritual state of fallen man). This very Catholic double view in Shakespeare reminds us, in a timely way, how political power pursued as an end in itself invariably traduces the paradise it promises, failing not merely to achieve Utopia but, save a grace that reveals itself in self-effacing wisdom, hurtles the ship of the state into irremediable chaos. In such a time as this, indeed, our “ending is despair,” unless we be “relieved by prayer.” Orate, fratres.
Thank you, Prospero. We are glad that you saved some of your best books.
Cedar Creek, Texas
Ian Hunter’s perceptive and wise analysis of Shakespeare’s The Tempest is instructive, enlightening, and witty by turns — an article that approaches the master’s last play with genuine engagement, an exposition that makes the great play live again for readers. Hunter nicely spices his commentary with asides on our contemporary world, but the focus remains on his appreciation of the true magic and miracle of the Bard at his best. I was reminded again by his article of much that I love in The Tempest, edified by Hunter’s modestly expressed criticism, and wholly entertained. Hunter’s article is that rare critical piece that responds to one of the greatest of our literary works in commensurate measure.
Words Will Never Hurt Me?
I have been an NOR subscriber for some time, off and on and currently; things change in life. At one time, I thought that all I needed was my rosary, Bible, and prayer book, along with the sacraments. Alas! My desire for intelligent discourse keeps me coming back. I shall not drop my subscription.
Bravo, Bishop Robert Barron! One of the prominent ideals of a good, Catholic education has always been communication skills (“Permanent Irresolution & the Art of Making a Public Argument,” Jul.-Aug.). One of the symptoms of our sick American culture is the childish fear of confronting people with nouns, verbs, and adjectives. It seems so much easier to hide and roil about like a frightened child and call foul against anything that contradicts our precious, vapid, self-centered ideas.
I am considering starting a forum for parish men wherein we could discuss anything pertaining to Catholic gentlemanly subjects. And we’ll let the heretics come along and discuss their ideas too.
Oak Ridge, Tennessee
A Mixed-Up Mess
Following the terrorist attacks in Brussels this March, in which 32 people were killed and over 300 injured, President Obama said that the Islamic State (ISIS) is a threat to the entire civilized world. Note that he said ISIS is a threat, not Islam, because this reflects his liberal, politically correct point of view that Islam is a peaceful religion and, therefore, ISIS doesn’t represent Islam. In contrast, conservatives contend that Islam has always been a war-like religion and that ISIS does accurately represent Islam; therefore, the West is contending with Islam, not just ISIS. Both points of view are flawed.
The liberal, politically correct point of view is flawed because Muhammad was not only a spiritual leader but a successful military leader. He led the early Muslims to many victories in battle, set the pattern for the incredibly rapid spread of Islam following his death, and continues to be an inspiration for Islamic militants in the modern world.
While the conservative view of Islam is more accurate, it is hypocritical. Conservatives tend to forget the somewhat less than peaceful history of Western civilization: the murder, rape, enslavement, and robbery — indeed, the annihilation — of native cultures in the Western hemisphere in “the name of Christ.” Meanwhile, conservatives themselves decry the secularization and disintegration of Western civilization and then wonder why Muslims also have a problem with Western civilization. The problems Muslims see and react to are often the same ones put forward by conservatives themselves.
Western civilization is disintegrating because it has trashed the foundations on which it was built — Christianity, the philosophical and political principles of Greco-Roman civilization, plus English common law — while worshiping science, technology, evolution, wealth, and progress. Western civilization currently is a mixed-up mess, so it is not surprising that the West’s view of Islam is mixed up as well.
Frederick W. Marks
Forest Hills, New York
THE ASSOCIATE EDITOR COMMENTS:
Thanks, Mr. Wysong, for setting the record straight by dividing the entire Western world into “liberals” and “conservatives,” and by using the either/or fallacy to separate us all into one of two camps based on our beliefs about Islam and Muslims — as if no other options exist.
To NOR readers who would like a more in-depth analysis than Mr. Wysong’s four brief paragraphs are able to provide, we recommend browsing through the three dozen articles we’ve published since 2010 on the subject, which are available in the Topical Dossiers section of our website under the header “Islam” (www.newoxfordreview.org/dossier.jsp?did=dossier-islam).
For those looking to pursue the subject even further, we highly recommend the following books: Onward Muslim Soldiers, The Myth of Islamic Tolerance, and Religion of Peace: Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t by Robert Spencer; Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics by Daniel Ali; Infidel and Heretic: Why Islam Needs Reformation Now by Ayaan Hirsi Ali; and Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America by Brigitte Gabriel.
As predicted in your New Oxford Note “Terror at the Disco: Why the Experts Always Come Up Empty” (Jul.-Aug.), the ACLU’s lawyers are blaming the “Christian right” for jihadi Omar Mateen’s ISIS-inspired mass-murder attack at Orlando Pulse, a gay nightclub. The Left’s hatred for Christianity stems from Christians’ refusal to celebrate sexual behavior they view as aberrant. Since Islam is the enemy of Christianity, so the thinking goes, and the Left is the enemy of Christianity, then Islam must be a friend of the Left.
Enter the truth: When confronted with the evidence that radical Islam is an actual code red, lights flashing, alarms blaring threat to the Left, the liberal ACLU just digs in its heels, plugs its ears, and sings “la-la-la-la.” This behavior is especially perplexing now that it’s blindingly evident that Islam is actively hunting gays, who typically congregate on the port side of the ship politic. If the Left, especially the gay community, would just come up for a breath of truth, they’d realize that Christians want to save their souls (how awful!) but radical Islamists want to see them cold, stiff, and quite dead.
Why No Criticism of Conservative "Solutions"?
Your New Oxford Note “Terror at the Disco: Why the Experts Always Come Up Empty” engages in the usual excoriation of the liberal media and the Democrats, not because they caused the tragedy that resulted in the killing and wounding of over 100 innocent people in Orlando, showed a lack of compassion for the victims, or made excuses for the perpetrator, but because they voiced different opinions as to causes and solutions than the conservative media and the Republicans. What this country has done well in the past, thanks to freedom of speech and of the press, is express different opinions respectfully, which results in conversation, compromise, and, in the best of worlds, solutions.
What I want from the media, first and foremost, is accurate facts: what was said, what was done, etc. From what I could see, the “liberal media,” like The New York Times and NBC, and the “conservative media,” like The Wall Street Journal and Fox News, reported essentially the same facts. Then they expressed different editorial opinions (and yes, both liberal and conservative media mix opinion into news stories). Intelligent readers and listeners can sort through this.
The NOR editors see a liberal Democrat suggestion or solution of stricter gun-control laws as naïve and “empty.” But they offer absolutely no criticism of conservative or Republican suggestions or solutions, which range from excluding all Muslims and immigrants fleeing persecution in Syria to reinstituting “waterboarding.” While both liberals and conservatives can hold extreme views, I am beginning to think that opinion that promotes hatred of firearms is less detrimental to this country than opinion that promotes hatred of certain groups of human beings.
There is no doubt that the NOR is now a conservative political journal — which is all well and good — but her founders and editorial board indicate an intention to be a Christian publication. One might expect a little less of the popular conservative media’s divisive name-calling in the pages of the NOR, even if a more balanced approach is not possible.
Arthur R. Ahrens
THE ASSOCIATE EDITOR REPLIES:
Well, we beg to differ. In fact, we wonder if Janice Hicks is actually responding to our New Oxford Note or if she’s just using this as an opportunity to present a straw-man argument against so-called conservatives whom she believes are hate-mongers. Those readers willing to go back and read the New Oxford Note in question will find that, contrary to Hicks’s interpretive claim, we make no mention of Democrats or Republicans or their differing approaches to the subject of Islamic terrorism.
The New Oxford Note was indeed critical of the mainstream media’s response to Omar Mateen’s act of terrorism. The main question we asked, however, was this: Why did President Obama and most of the mainstream media fail to make a connection between the Mateen’s terrorist attack and radical Islam? Why did they scratch their heads, even after Mateen explained his motivation and his commitment to ISIS, a radical Islamic terror group? And why did they dismiss Mateen’s own words (and the testimony of his former colleagues who turned him in to the FBI) and instead blame the gun-control lobby and conservative Christians, both of whom had nothing to do with this terrorist attack?
We did not, and do not, take issue with people having differences of political opinions and solutions to any issue, including the issue of Islamic terrorism. We do find fault when policymakers (and those who report on them) refuse to acknowledge the evidence that’s right in front of them.
Although Hicks asks what solutions the NOR has (assuming we have none), she fails to see that we’ve given the blueprint for the only possible beginning of any solution. In order to solve a problem — any problem — one must first acknowledge that there is a problem. If those forming policy in our country do not recognize a problem, how can they even begin to consider solutions to it? Where’s the honesty in questioning gun control or Christianity’s views of sexuality rather than dealing with the actual issue, which in this case is Islamic terrorism?
The Wrong Focus
I don’t know of anyone who wasn’t revolted by the recent massacre of patrons at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. But after reading what the NOR had to say about the incident (“Terror at the Disco: Why the Experts Always Come Up Empty”), I wondered why the Catholic press in general, and the NOR in particular, focused on the aspect of terror, rather than on the four last things: death, judgment, Heaven, and Hell. Little, if any, attention was paid to the likelihood that the vast majority of gays who perished in the bloodbath were sodomites. It is possible, of course, for a gay to be chaste, in which case, he is not a sodomite. But what are the odds that such a person will advertise himself as gay and belong to a gay club? The Catholic Church sponsors a mutual support group, Courage, that ministers to homosexuals who wish to live chastely. But I am not aware that a single member of Courage was killed by Omar Mateen.
Needless to say, I do not condone mass murder. But if it is not presumptuous to assume that most, if not all, of the gays Mateen killed were sodomites, should this not color our reaction to the shooting by raising the question of motive? We are living in a time when priests and rabbis, along with imams, face the possibility of being driven from the pulpit and forced to go underground for speaking timeless truths.
The expression “hate the sin and love the sinner” has been on many lips of late, and rightly so. But what does the word love mean in this context? Surely, it does not mean “like.” Just as surely, it does not require us to dine with someone who is notoriously and unrepentantly sinful, whether he be a murderer, a serial rapist, an anti-Semite, or a sodomite. The meaning of love in this instance may be simply stated: We are obliged to pray for the sinner’s conversion.
Some may bristle at the thought of equating sodomy with murder and rape since unnatural sex is consensual, for the most part. But if you were to ask me which of the three sins is most heinous in God’s eyes, I would challenge you to name a single instance in which a man is struck dead by the Lord for committing murder or rape. Was Cain dispatched for doing away with Abel? Or Shechem for violating Dinah (Gen. 34:2)? We all know the answer. But for sodomy, entire cities were destroyed. And if you don’t believe the Bible, check it out with the geologists. They discovered an area of burned-out oil and asphalt at the southern end of the Dead Sea. A layer of rock salt lies beneath Mount Sodom on the west shore of the sea, and the salt is covered with a stratum of marl which, in turn, is overlaid with free sulfur (brimstone) in a very pure state. When the gases given off by oil and asphalt catch fire, an explosion occurs that can send red-hot salt and sulfur high into the air.
There are those who argue that Sodom was incinerated for a breach of hospitality. But where is the evidence? Moses required capital punishment for many things, including sodomy, but failure to open one’s house to strangers is not one of them. Similarly, Onan was struck dead for “wasting his seed,” rather than for unwillingness to raise up issue to his dead brother (Gen. 38:8-10). The Mosaic sanction for failure to raise up issue to a deceased brother was mild by comparison with what befell Onan (Deut. 25:5-10).
The reason why the Jewish people regarded deliberate, cold-blooded wasting of seed as a capital offense is that, as the world’s first pro-lifers, they understood that human life, made in the image and likeness of God, is sacred; and from this they drew two conclusions: (1) the act that produces human life is sacred and, as such, may not be adulterated, and (2) marriage, as the institution ordained by God to protect and nourish human life, is also sacred. This is why Moses would not allow fornication, sterilization, or adultery, and why the prophet Malachi wrote that God hates divorce (2:16).
Turning to the New Testament, we have Paul’s warning that sodomites will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven (1 Cor. 6:9-10), as well as Jude’s extraordinary statement that those who angered God at Sodom and Gomorrah are in Hell (v. 7). The only other sinners whose current location is known with certainty are the fallen angels!
Scripture is useful in this connection because it is widely respected and, at the same time, crystal clear. But one can grasp the seriousness of sodomy, in comparison with other kinds of sin, without going to the Bible. Its practitioners are to be pitied, first of all, for their sky-high rates of promiscuity and infidelity. Homes are broken, souls are seared, and the children raised under such circumstances may face custody battles, along with other difficulties associated with a single-parent home. And the young are not the only ones who suffer. All of us pay a price when additional burdens are laid on the back of the welfare state.
Which brings us, full circle, to the question of motive in the Orlando slayings. What is our world coming to when florists, bakers, and photographers of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim persuasion are forced by sodomites to serve “gay weddings”? Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky, was expected to issue a “same-sex marriage” license in spite of her allegiance to Christian values. Moses tells a story that rings truer today than ever before (Gen. 19). The men of Sodom, not content to go their way on a “live and let live” basis, demanded that Lot turn over his male house guests to them so they could satisfy their lustful desire.
I grew up believing that conscientious objection to military service on the part of Quakers and Jehovah’s Witnesses was worthy of respect — so much so that I was prepared to die in their stead on the battlefield. We are not asking sodomites to risk their lives for us, only to allow bakers, florists, photographers, and government officials to live by the light of their conscience.
It is easy to forget, in dealing with these matters, that misplaced pride is a capital sin. What other class of sinners marches in self-justification? Have you ever seen prostitutes on parade? Or adulterers? Or the slothful? Since when does an alleged chemical predisposition serve as a valid excuse for immoral conduct? I tell people that I was born with an inordinate love of ice cream. As a young adult, I would wolf down a half-gallon daily. Eventually, I had to say, “Whoa! No more ice cream!” Members of Alcoholics Anonymous routinely put the cork on another primal urge. We are all born, it would seem, with an inclination toward one sin or another, and for most of us, the leaning is toward many sins. But what of it? The same God who gave us the wherewithal to discern the difference between vice and virtue gave us the willpower to obey His dictates; and He never turns down a request for spiritual assistance, provided it is sincere — “Ask and you shall receive” (Mt. 7:7).
I hasten to add that no one has a call to be anything other than polite and considerate toward sinners of every stripe since we ourselves are sinners. As Christians, we will befriend anyone who seeks to live chastely, regardless of inclination. But a person who is unchaste, who calls me a homophobe, who seeks to deprive me of my religious liberty, and who parades his sin in front of me as I stroll down Fifth Avenue is anything but a friend. Social discrimination based solely on sexual orientation is utterly wrong. Discrimination, however, that is based on the pride taken by an individual in mortal sin is not only right, it is mandatory for everyone who wishes to be taken seriously as a Christian, Jew, or Muslim. On the one hand, we are not to judge others; God alone judges (Mt. 7:1). On the other, Christ made it very clear that those among us who sin openly and persistently are to be warned, and if they refuse to heed our warning, they are to be shunned (Mt. 18:15-17).
Granted, Our Lord dined with sinners. But some of them, such as Zacchaeus, were not so much sinners as social outcasts, while others, like Mary Magdalene, had most likely repented by the time they made contact with the Master. Jesus, moreover, dined as a preacher in His preaching capacity. There is no indication whatever that He engaged in small talk. He is cited, rather, as having lectured both host and fellow guests for social lapses (Lk. 7:36-49; 14:1-14).
St. Paul, who holds that it is “shameful even to mention” the things done by sinners in secret (Eph. 5:12), writes, just as plainly, that we are not to associate with brethren who are immoral, foul-mouthed, greedy, or drunkards. “Drive out the wicked person from among you,” he counsels, because “evil companionships corrupt good morals” (1 Cor. 5:9-13; 15:33). In like vein, he advises Timothy, “Men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant…ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good…. Avoid such persons” (2 Tim. 3:2-5). We know that the man from Tarsus was steeped in Hebrew Scripture. And so he must have been familiar with the following passage: “Whoever touches pitch will be defiled, and whoever associates with a proud man will become like him” (Sir. 13:1).
This being the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Catholics should be meditating on what the Church calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In so doing, they will discover that the first three works on the spiritual list are counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, and admonish sinners.
More than ever, in this year set apart from others, our mission must be threefold in dealing with sin, especially one that cries out to God for vengeance, since we are obliged to seek the salvation of all. As the Lord told Ezekiel: “If I say to the wicked man, ‘you shall surely die’; and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his wicked conduct so that he may live, that wicked man shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death” (3:18). Imagine Ezekiel alive today and writing about Orlando. How likely is it that he would drop the ball as a spiritual advisor by allowing a golden opportunity for the education of the faithful to go begging?
Exposing the Devastation
The NOR has been a great source of inspiration and information for many years. As an example, I recently referred a colleague to the brilliant article by Ronald G. Lee exposing the devastation of homosexuality in those who act on their same-sex attraction (“The Truth About the Homosexual Rights Movement,” Feb. 2006). She has a son who recently “came out,” and, as a Lutheran, she buys into “celebrating his lifestyle” (justified, in part, by her belief in sola fide). In her heart she knows something isn’t right, but in an effort to support her son, she now questions Scripture — especially the “harsh” sayings in the Old Testament, with its condemnation of sin with the call to “stone the sinner.” I gave her Mr. Lee’s article to try to show her the perverse irony of the term gay and to encourage her to pray and fast for her son’s soul, rather than hit him over the head with an obvious scriptural barrage of proof texts.
Mr. Lee’s article has helped me see the need for those of us who have loved ones with same-sex attraction to pray and fast, as this particular disorder requires effective spiritual combat for the salvation of our loved ones. This article is one of the hundreds the NOR makes available to inform and motivate those of us who love the Church and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Please keep up the good work.
Ed. Note: Ronald G. Lee’s article, a perennial favorite, is available at our website: www.newoxfordreview.org/article.jsp?did=0206-lee. Online subscribers have full access to this and the thousands of other archived articles, letters, columns, editorials, book reviews, etc., that have appeared in the NOR since 1990. (We’re currently working on expanding our online archives and hope to announce soon the uploading of issues from the 1980s.) Nonsubscribers can access this and any other archived NOR article for a small fee. To browse our online archives, go to: www.newoxfordreview.org/archives.jsp.
Mr. Lee’s article is part of an ongoing project at our website, where we’re compiling dossiers of articles devoted to a single topic that have appeared in the NOR over the years, in this issue, and into the future. Mr. Lee’s article is one entry in our dossier on “Homosexuality & Gay Pride,” which currently features over 60 entries. There are, as of now, 57 dossiers devoted to such diverse topics as universal salvation, sacred music, neoconservatism, Dorothy Day, pop culture, literary criticism, biotechnology, the Legionaries of Christ, the Jesus Seminar, Pope Francis, Pope Pius XII, Thomism, the Anglican Communion, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Robert Coles’s “Harvard Diary,” Islam, the priest sex-abuse scandal, and fanatical feminism. To browse our dossiers, go to: www.newoxfordreview.org/dossiers.jsp.
Those readers who don’t have Internet access, or who simply prefer the print edition, may obtain a copy of Mr. Lee’s article by sending $6 to: NOR, Back Issues Dept., 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley CA 94706. Be sure to indicate that you want to purchase a copy of the February 2006 issue.
Why Is the NOR Promoting Perversion?
The lead item in The News You May Have Missed for June (“Noshes for Nudists”) was absolutely disgusting. It is unbelievable to me that a Catholic periodical would highlight the perversity of society and laugh at how sick it is. Since you have chosen to promote the perversions going on at the Bunyadi restaurant in London, I will be deleting the NOR from the list of periodicals I read. I would have expected such a thing from a non-Catholic or even a modernist publication, but not from you. Satan himself must be confused as well. Who knows how many unsuspecting, weak souls have sinned due to your promotion of this perversion. May God have mercy on your souls for leading others into sin.
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
Our correspondent must have missed the editorial sidebar that also appeared in our June issue (“Mirth, Madness & The News You May Have Missed”), in which we briefly explained the purpose of the News column. Though the column does occasionally deal with bawdy subject matter, it does not “promote the perversions” of the human condition, as our correspondent evidently believes. Rather, the column’s “ultimate purpose,” we wrote, is to “provide a series of snapshots that capture the folly of a fallen world that’s forgotten God, and the absurdity of modern man alienated from his true self.” We felt that “Noshes for Nudists” did just that, which is why we selected it to lead off that month’s column.
By doing so, did we lead others into sin? Let’s have a show of hands: How many of you are “unsuspecting, weak souls” who were lured into visiting London in order to patronize Bunyadi after reading the June News column? Ah, as we suspected. None of you. Our correspondent not only underestimates the moral integrity of our readership, he overestimates the influence the NOR exerts in the world.
He is, however, right about one thing: We do laugh at the sicknesses of society. We laugh, as the old cliché goes, to keep from crying. We ended the June editorial sidebar with a quote of G.K. Chesterton, which our scolding correspondent would have done well to consider: “You can be a great deal too solemn about Christianity to be a good Christian…. You must have mirth. If you do not have mirth you will surely have madness.”
Cleverly Exposing Lunacy
It is a shame that readers are canceling their subscriptions over hair-splitting issues. While there have been times in which I have respectfully parted company with the NOR’s opinion, they are far outnumbered by the areas in which we see eye to eye, and I do not believe in letting minor philosophical disagreements stand in the way of our mutual long-term goals. The News You May Have Missed is a clever way of exposing the lunacy of the times in which we live, and it adds a nice touch of wry humor to your publication. Keep up the good work for the One True Faith!
Ed. Note: We’ve said the following many times in the past, and now is as good a time as any to say so again: We don’t expect readers to agree with every proposition set forth in the pages of the NOR, no matter how vigorously stated. Our mission is to promote the exploration of ideas within the framework of orthodox Catholicism, not enforce ideological conformity.
You May Also Enjoy
Reviews of Husband and Wife: The Joys, Sorrows and Glories of Married Life... A Student's Guide to Liberal Learning... A Student's Guide to the Core Curriculum...
Reviews of The New Republic Reader... Dictatorship of Virtue... Catholic Universities in Church and Society... The Challenge and Promise of a Catholic University... Our Greatest Gift: A Meditation on Dying and Caring... To Hunt, to Shoot, to Entertain: Clericalism and the Catholic Laity... ...
All the rules and regulations of Catholic life are a map that's been corrected and refined by traveler after traveler for hundreds and hundreds of years.