Friday, April 15, 2005

Dialogue and Perspective

Just to clarify, it's not as if we held an editorial board meeting to determine what comments would stay or go. Standard rules of engagement apply. I wouldn't remove any comments that make a substantive point unless they go off into utter obscenity or completely unedifying villification.

Tlaloc enjoys being a gadfly. I imagine that any readers digging his comments are probably busily scanning the Democratic Underground. I'm still waiting for Tlalocblog so we can get a more full perspective on our resident critic's thoughts and dreams.

A Cautionary Tale

The Reform Club is an open-minded place; although its host authors have worldviews with very large fields of overlap, our policy is not to censor the Comments section, except in very extreme cases of bad taste. As the Dean of the Yeshiva I attended was wont to say: "The only people we expel are those who are experiencing prophecy."

Yet, the comment by Tlaloc below, offering 'perspective' for the 9/11 murderers, seeing them as an inexcusable yet understandable response to this nation's oppressive policies abroad, stands well beyond the pale of civilized discourse and by right should be excised.

The decision to leave it was not based on 'allowing that view to be heard in the arena of intellectual debate'; rather, it is there as a demonstration of the absolute horror that can emerge from a mind that is not moored in bedrock values.

Cultural Changes and Their Causes

Mike D'Virgilio of MDV Outlook has referred to this author's Washington Examiner article on religion in popular culture, in his excellent blog. MDV points out,

"Christians have always had an ambivalent relationship to culture. Throughout the history of the Church you can see the way Christians in the variety of traditions sought to relate to the culture they lived in. The classic study of this is “Christ and Culture” by H. Richard Neibuhr. This is required reading if you are interested in this sort of thing."

As it happens, I read Christ and Culture a while ago, on Mike's recommendation. It is indeed an excellent book. Though I do not fully agree with all of the author's conclusions, I think it a brilliantly insightful and knowledgable book and an excellent analysis of how people relate to their surrounding culture.

Mike believes that a prominent cause of the changes some of us see in American culture was 9/11:

"At the top of my list would be 9/11. As problematic as the idea of evil is, when we look into the face of it we cannot deny it exists. And if evil exists so does good, and if good and evil exist there is probably more to the universe than matter-plus-time-plus chance. Madilyn Murray O’Hare, the infamous atheist who disappeared some years ago, groomed her son to take over the crusade, but something happened on the way to this atheistic nirvana. The son became a Christian. The reason, he said, was because he saw in his mother evil (she was not a pleasant women, in case you don’t know the story), and if evil really did exist, so did good and so did God. As Augustine said, evil is the absence of Good, the privation of goodness."

(Regarding the O'Hair case, I acknowledge, of course, that many people who claim to be Christians have lived evil lives, and that atheists can be quite benevolent. What Mike is pointing out is what one particular person saw and how he reacted.)

I have written elsewhere that "Even an event as riveting as the September 11 atrocities, however, can only do so much to change underlying social attitudes, and one would be wise to expect any changes based solely on such a phenomenon to have a very limited shelf life, however intense the immediate effects." I perceive that there has been a gradual change in the American culture, and that people are only now really beginning to notice it. However, I think that Mike may be correct in observing that 9/11 accelerated or added some definition to the process.

Mike points out that 9/11 made the existence of evil quite vivid:

"So Americans after that horrific day were forced to confront a reality that had been easily ignored."

That seems to me quite true.

There can be no question that most Americans saw the 9/11 attacks and their perpetrators as evil. Most social changes, however, have multiple, intertwining causes, as Mike notes. And as I wrote in the aftemath of that event, "
If they are to last, however, such changes must have a solid foundation in the nation's values and ideals. Fortunately, there is positive news here, too. As author Colleen Carroll noted in the December 3, 2001, issue of The Weekly Standard, 'evidence abounds that a growing interest in religion-especially traditional religion-among the young antedates September 11 by several years. It seems to be a trend that springs from deeper roots and thus may prove to be enduring.' Her observations accord with other poll information and cultural evidence, suggesting a possible base for a sustained social reformation."

Hence, "
The heroes of September 11 were there on September 10, but it took a crisis to call them forth. Just so, the American people may well have been calling for a new culture that would reflect their essential decency, and there are distinct signs that artists, producers, and the like are beginning to listen. The new million dollar question is whether this process will continue. But one thing is clear. If there is to be a real cultural change in the wake of September 11, it will be because there was already one in progress before that."

I believe that these changes are indeed real and likely to last. As Mike points out in his article, however, the nature of our culture depends on how we choose to engage it. And sometimes our actions have unexpected consequences.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Lost Project of Reclaiming Liberalism

The good Mr. Karnick dreams of reclaiming the word "liberal" for people with opinions like his own. He is right to want to do so because at one time men like him and even Ronald Reagan would have easily qualified for the label.

Writing for The Weekly Standard, Joel Engel takes yet another shot at explaining why today's "liberals" don't deserve the appellation they now own. Here's a sampling:

Depicting Condoleezza Rice in editorial cartoons as a big-lipped mammy who speaks Ebonics to her massa is many things (offensive, sickening), but it is not liberal.

and a bit more . . .

Referring to illegals as "undocumented workers," and to those who'd like to enforce immigration laws as evil and racist, is many things (self-destructive, short-sighted), but it is not liberal.

Joking about Charlton Heston's Alzheimer's because you don't abide his politics is many things (cold-hearted, intolerant, sophomoric), but it is far from liberal.

Enjoy Lacrosse!

A nice article in the Daily Southtown, a newspaper based in subarban Chicago, explores the increasing popularity of lacrosse around the nation. Lacrosse is the fastest-growing sport in the country, in terms of participation at the K-12 level. It has long been popular among young people on the East Coast and is now spreading rapidly across the nation, though it has not yet achieved true mass popularity or awareness.

In addition, today's issue of USA Today includes a story on Gary Gait, one of the greatest lacrosse players of all time, who is retiring at the end of this season. Gait has correctly been called the Michael Jordan of lacrosse, for his competitiveness, his amazing leaping ability, and the great and innovative scoring touch brought to the game.

In a college game for Syracuse, Gait leaped forward from behind the goal (which is surrounded by a circle that offensive players may not enter), extended his stick, and shot the ball into the net. No one had ever done it before. It was like the sport's first slam dunk. (The move is now illegal.) In addition, Gait and his twin brother, Paul, spiced up the sport with no-look passes, airborne between-the-legs shots, and other such impressively athletic moves.

Gait will become a coach in the professional outdoor lacrosse leage this summer.

The author of the Southtown article describes lacrosse as follows: "this is a sport that essentially combines the toughness of hockey and soccer, and revolves around a rock-hard rubber ball that blasts like a closed fist from a shooter's stick to the back of the net."

I would say that lacrosse is the roughest outdoor team sport with the probably exception of football alone. (Rugby is about is rough as lacrosse.) Lacrosse is great fun to watch. The action is continuous, the players hit hard and often, and the scoring happens much more often than in soccer, hockey, baseball, and football. When played by young ladies, the sport is not nearly so rough as the boys' game, but the finesse part can be even more interesting.

It is important to recognize that the ball does not naturally remain in a player's crosse, the net part of the stick; one has to "cradle" the ball in the crosse (twist the stick rapidly to create centrifugal force) in order to run with the ball. Opposing players are allowed to strike the stick of the player carrying the ball, in order to dislodge it. These efforts often miss, which means that the player carrying the ball is often hit repeatedly about the head and shoulders with other players' sticks. Hence, a player dodging through traffic to score a goal is doing something very difficult indeed.

Lacrosse is my second-favorite sport, close behind football, which is the greatest sport ever invented, in my view.

Lacrosse was recently shown on network televsion for the very first time, as ABC telecast the National Lacrosse League All-Star Game. (The NLL is the major professional indoor lacrosse league. Major League Lacrosse is the major professional outdoor league. Indoor is a slightly faster game with lots of hitting and a bit more scoring, but the outdoor game has a real beauty to it in the way the offensive and defensive strategies play out.)

A rapidly increasing number of lacrosse games is being shown on cable stations as well. MLL games are shown on ESPN during the warm months, and NLL games are shown on several Fox Sports Net channels, Comcast Sports Net channels, and the like, during winter and early spring. Games are now being shown in the New York City area (on Fox Sports NY) and other major markets. Denver's Altitude Sports Network is very strong on lacrosse coverage. In addition, numerous college games are shown on College Sports Television, ESPNU, the BYU network, and many local sports cable stations.

For more information on this great and growing sport, visit the U.S. Lacrosse site at

More on Paul Henning

An article on satirist Paul Henning (an expansion of thoughts that have appeared on this site) is available at National Review Online today.

Dole Pines For Big Apple?

If you get a chance in your market to see a rebroadcast of Charlie Rose's interview this morning with Bob Dole, or you can buy a copy, by all means avail yourself. This is something absolutely out of this world. I stumbled on it "by accident", i.e. the Good Lord was kind enough to open this door for my edification and education.

This is no politician's evasive interview, no New York ingroup ego-fest; it is frank and revealing but never treacly.

Asked to define his legacy, he answered: "If they could put on my little marker 'Honor. Duty. Country. God Bless America', that's good enough for me.

Three's A Charm

It becomes awkward after a time to keep marching out here to tout my columns as they appear in a variety of publications. Today marks a third consecutive day with a published essay, the writerly equivalent of of a "dynasty".

The good news is that I write in different tones and modes, so you never know for sure what you will get on a particular day. Today's piece, in Jewish World Review, covers the flinging of flan at conservative speakers - well, pies anyway. A topic like this calls for lots of humor, so I try to rise to the occasion with at least one joke in every line.

Some are subtle, though. As a sample, when I say that David Horowitz "cussed hard" about the pie that struck him, I am making a pun on custard pie.

Okay. Go. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Where the Heck Is Hunter Baker?

I know. I know. It's the question being asked all over the internet. A couple of days pass without postings from me and a feverish electronic search takes place spontaneously.

The little family and I are moving to a new world headquarters. Once we hired a moving company I decided I should hurry up and find a place to put the furniture. Be patient. Like the great MacArthur, I shall return.

The place has been found and legally obligated, so I'll now visit with old political friends in Georgia (the state where HQ will be located) and will renew old alliances. In case you haven't noticed, Georgia has gone red-state down to the state legislature and gubernatorial level and the social conservatives are getting some nice bills passed. For the premier group doing good policy thinking and acting, check out my former employer Georgia Family Council. If you look at their publications, you can read "The Family Manifesto," which was one of my earlier works from before I became a magazine writer.

Revelations About Culture

My article in today's issue of The Washington Examiner newspaper explores the current treatment of religion in American popular culture, in particular television:

"In the new TV series 'Revelations,' an unreligious man of science is visited by a determined Christian seeking to transform his worldview. That premise could serve as an apt description of American life and culture today. . . .

"Religion is big box office in America these days, and 'Revelations' is only one of many signs of the times, if not the 'end times' the series purports to illustrate. . . . [R]religion now suffuses American culture more strongly than at any time since the late 1940s and perhaps since the 1910s."

The article looks at some likely reasons for this, noting in particular the ironic effect of evangelicals' attempt to set up an alternative, Christian culture in the past decade and the role of modern marketing techniques.

Jay Again? Land Sakes!

Getting columns published on consecutive days is heady stuff. Getting the lead column of the day at any magazine is headier. So instead of linking to my article at The American Spectator today, I will link to their home page, so you can behold me in my glory, sitting atop the crew of fine scriveners that make TAS a crisp and yummy daily read. Then you can read the article with the proper reverence.

Today I explain to the uninitiated the facts about Ma'ale Adumim, the expansion of which the President chose to criticize publicly yesterday. Additionally, I sneak in a great story about Menachem Begin, not widely known, an interesting fact about Lauren Bacall, not widely known, and the occasional witticism.

And how about this line?

My eyes bugged out so far that my wingtips looked like incoming missiles.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Being Defensive

Once again, I seem to have slipped into humble mode and neglected to plug my latest article. Well, it's still April 12 for another two hours, so the oversight is not entirely beyond rectification.

My article in today's American Spectator traced the origin of the principle of self-defense in law from the Bible through the Talmud and all the way to Maimonides and his prime commentators. I also point out a distinction between Good Samaritan imtervention on behalf of a potential victim and the victim's right to strike back himself.

Dog the Bounty Hunter

I haven't seen the A&E Network reality show Dog the Bounty Hunter, but Catherine Seipp's insightful review on National Review Online today almost persuades me to do so. Almost. Her central thought is quite interesting and liberal-minded:

"Dog and his motley crew of Hawaii-based bounty hunters (most of whom are related to him in one way or another) do look rather disreputable, with their mullet haircuts and all that leather. But the charm of the reality series is the juxtaposition of this with their determined, straight-arrow decency."

I have noticed the same thing in regard to the Discovery Channel program American Chopper, which follows the adventures of a family that designs and builds custom motorcycles. The central characters look like a bunch of mugs, but they work hard and are clearly quite creative.

We human beings have a tendency to equate appearance with goodness, and Seipp's observation usefully reminds us that looks can be deceiving. Perhaps I shall take a look at this program sometime after all.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Theologically Liberal and Influential . . .

Question for the readers: Who is the most influential theological liberal in the United States? We can easily reel off the influential theological conservatives like Dobson, Colson, and Neuhaus, who are explicity religious and polito-cultural at the same time. Who is that person or persons among theological liberals? My thesis is that we can't find anyone to compete. Love to see any names you provide.

Military Attache?

Capitol Police were wise to tackle a man who brought two suitcases to visit Congress. You always need to watch out when they bring Samsonite among the Philistines - sounds like the signature of a suicide bomber.

Center for Naturalism Round-up

Mega-blogger Joe Carter at The Evangelical Outpost put together a collection of blog postings about the new Center for Naturalism, which officially outs the point of view as a particular perspective rather than THE WAY THINGS ARE.

Apparently, the director of the new center took Carter to task for excessive harshness. Good point. However, he couched his plea for tolerance in a rhetoric of equivalent treatment for Jews, Muslims, etc. Again, the point is made. We've been looking for that sort of equality for a long time WITH NATURALISM in the public square.

Check out the collection here. Note: Carter includes comments from Reform Club.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

What's In An Aim?

Things are not always as they appear.

Cardinal Sin, the Phillipine prelate in the 1980s, was a good guy who helped to unseat Marcos and his kleptocratic government.

Cardinal Law, on the other hand, turned out to have been a bad guy, covering up in his Boston diocese for a number of abuser priests.

I guess it all depends on what's in your heart.