Category Archives: Uncategorized

101 Things in 1001 Days

A friend of mine from Bible study came to the end of a project – do 101 things in 1,001 days. The idea is to give oneself a generous time limit to get a whole bunch of things you’ve wanted to do done. I decided to try this myself, and my 1,001 days starts today. I won’t post the exhaustive list, but around 15 of the items may be found below. It should be fun.

  • Write 45 blog posts: I’ve been miserable about updating this blog. Part of that might be due to the fact that my attempts at apologetics pale in comparison to the wonderful Shameless Popery blog. Expect to see some more gun posts (about half my list is firearms-related) and computer game related posts. There will still be some apologetics attempts, some theology book reviews, and general blogging about being Catholic.
  • Shoot 10,000 rounds in a calendar year: I started hand loading ammunition late last year, and I want to become a competent rifle and pistol shooter. This might be a tough goal to hit – it works out to 200 rounds a weekend, almost every weekend – but it should be doable. Probably.
  • Go to another Latin Mass: Some of my Catholic friends invited me to St. Stephen’s in Sacramento, an FSSP parish. The 1962 Mass was beautiful, complex, and hard to follow. While I think the SSPX are kind of nuts with the New-Mass-Is-Evil shtick, I also think we definitely lost something with the 1970 reforms. Hopefully the Reform of the Reform of the Roman Rite will bring back the reverence and silence of the older rite.
  • Learn some Latin: See above. Also, I’ve got a Latin textbook I bought when thinking about learning the old language years ago. Latin is cool, I should pick it up.
  • Take a Udacity course: I’ve been signed up for the free online university for quite some time. While I’ve heard great things about their courses, I procrastinate. So now I’m going to make myself take one, probably the Python course.
  • Go to 5 Theology On Tap talks: I went to one ToT talk, probably two years ago. I really enjoyed it, but didn’t have the opportunity to go to more. A few months ago, I found a ToT venue in Sacramento, so I’ll be heading out that way.
  • Shoot the Yolo Sportsman’s CMP Match: It’s not quite a CMP match – all the targets are at 100 yards – but participating gets you the certificate you need to order firearms through the Civilian Marksmanship Program. Entry is cheap, and pretty much an semiautomatic centerfire rifle with iron sights will do. Hopefully by the time the next match rolls around I’ll have replaced my MBUS with some real iron sights…
  • Get an M1 Garand (and load 30’06 for it): It’s a great rifle, and I want one.
  • Read the Summa Theologica: I cheated and broke this into five items, both for morale purposes (“I’m totally sort of making progress!”) and because it’s so bloody long.
  • Publish a first author paper: Long overdue, and will be fulfilled early this year, with any luck. Also on the list: Get a PhD.
  • Go to Alaska (in the winter): My girlfriend’s family lives in Alaska, and she wants to live there someday. I think the idea of relatively constitutional gun laws and no income or sales tax. Less keen on the forty-below springtimes and probability of being eaten by a bear. If I make it back, I’ll report on the frozen tundra.
  • Write a simple (but complete) video game: I took three courses in game development at Grove City College, and loved every sleep-deprived credit hour of it. I haven’t managed to make a single game since then, mostly because of over-ambitious ideals. I’ve been reading about the Bullet Physics engine, so I’m resolving to write a simple game (probably 2D) using it. The goal is something small, but finished and polished. Something that doesn’t look like a half-baked beta.
  • Do the “Total Consecration to Mary” thing: I’m fairly Marian in theology, and less so in practice. This particular devotion has been strongly recommended by many, including the ever-entertaining Bad Catholic.
  • Read The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin: I tried to read this once back when I was Reformed, and again after I reverted to the Catholic Faith. The appeals to ridicule in the place of argument wore very thin, but some parts were valuable, and I’ve been told it gets better.
  • Follow the Dominicana Revelation study: The Dominican (go figure) monks over at Dominicana put together a study guide for Revelation. My only prolonged/in-depth exposure to the book was during my time at the fundamentalist high school, so I’m eager for a slightly more traditional perspective.

 

 

A Reply to Dr. Mohler on Contraception

Earlier today, Dr. Mohler published an article entitled “Can Christians Use Birth Control?” attempting to deal with the question of whether or not the use of artificial contraceptives was permissible. The good doctor rightly condemns the ‘contraceptive mentality,’ drawing on the Catholic arguments re-presented by Paul VI in Humanae Vitae. However, he dismisses the absolute prohibition on artificial contraceptives, arguing that “The focus on “each and every act” of sexual intercourse within a faithful marriage that is open to the gift of children goes beyond the biblical demand.”

Unfortunately, this rather common evangelical argument is methodologically flawed. The proposition is that a couple can live a life which is on the whole open to life without leaving each and every conjugal act open to life. However, the broader sense of one’s life is composed of individual acts. If one generally remains chaste, but occasionally engages in fornication, one is not living a chaste life, even in this “broader sense.” Or similarly, one cannot be a pacifist in any sense if one kills people – even if one lives peaceably in a “broader sense.” Certainly Christians can fail and sin, and repent and try again, but we must recognize that actions that contradict a right moral attitude must be wrong, no matter how rarely they are undertaken. Fundamentally, the act of contraception is directly opposed to being “truly open to the gift of children.”

Furthermore, strict biblical exegesis should not be considered the exclusive guide to morality. While the pages of scripture hold much moral knowledge, the Bible is not meant to be a complete compendium of the moral law. For example, the New Testament never explicitly condemns slavery, but no Christian can pretend that (with the possible exception of penal servitude imposed by the State as a punishment for crimes) slavery can somehow be morally permissible. God has given us the gift of reason, and the gift of wise forbears, the Fathers of the Church (who opposed contraception, by the way). We would be foolish to discard these.

Nevertheless, Dr. Mohler’s article represents a larger and very positive moral development within Protestantism, a trend which we should pray reaches its logical and necessary conclusion.

Why I Care About Abortion and not Gay Marriage

Essentially, Emily Stimpson of CatholicVote says it all. Civil marriage, with its misdirected focus on the individuals rather than the family formed, looks nothing like what scripture or even history describes. No-fault divorce and the “contraceptive mentality” that marriage is solely directed to the happiness of the individuals and happens to involve one man and one women characterize civil marriage. Christian marriage is a lifelong union of one man and one woman for the purpose of forming a family, to generate and educate the next generation of the Church. Every aspect of Christian marriage, from the components of the institution to its indissolubility to the Catholic prohibitions on artificial contraception is directed to the good of the family.

The pro-marriage advocates would have me believe that civil marriage need not reflect Christian marriage to be worthy of my support. However, I’m really not seeing any significant similarities between the two aside from composition. To argue that allowing “gay marriages” amounts to a redefinition of traditional marriage might be technically sound. But at this point, the gulf between the legal definition of marriage and the objectively true definition is so vast it is really hard to summon any enthusiasm for its defense. It’s not good and evil, it’s twisted and completely twisted.

On the other hand, the abortion abolition movement is about white and black, good and evil, light and darkness, literally life and death. If we had a Second Civil War to decide the issue (God forbid), this is a cause I would gladly die for. Preventing tweaks to an already ravaged definition of marriage? Not so much.

Campus Shootings and False Security

Monday, a little after 10 in the morning, seven people were killed and three wounded at a Northern California college. CNN described the killings as “execution-style” and said that the shooter ordered victims to line up against a wall. Police Chief Jordan referred to the tragedy as “unprecedented” – a demonstrably false claim. Rather, this shooting is part of a larger trend of mass shootings that occur on college campuses.

Police believe the suspect fled after shooting his victims because he did not want a confrontation with police. Other mass shooters has killed themselves rather than face the police. The common thread is the ability of the shooter to kill a large number of persons who are incapable of resisting, and then attempting to avoid armed confrontation with police by either fleeing or committing suicide. College campuses attract this sort of behavior because college and sometimes government policies often guarantee that the only firearm in play will be in the possession of the shooter. The only security provided by such policies is psychological.

To get a glimpse inside the reasoning behind such policies, we turn to a recent Huffington Post article praising a ban of concealed firearms on campus in Oregon. The author’s thrust is that it would require a majority of students on campus to be armed in order to prevent such events, and that the fewer firearms on campus there are, the better. Further, the author asserts (probably correctly) that most people are not qualified to carry firearms. This reasoning fails on multiple points, most of which can be demonstrated via an analysis of my own situation.

I am a graduate student at the University of California at Davis, and I am a gun owner. I legally possess a Springfield XD9611 chambered in .45ACP. I do not have a concealed carry permit, nor am I allowed to carry a weapon on campus. Being a law-abiding citizen, I do not carry my firearm on campus or in public. However, assuming that if I am not permitted to carry on campus, I will be prevented from carrying on campus is foolish. I prevent myself from carrying my firearm on campus, not the law. There are no metal detectors or checkpoints around UC Davis. Nothing, nothing, save the fact that I think I should obey the law, prevents me from tossing my .45 in my laptop bag and biking (it’s Davis, after all) onto campus. If an individual were determined to take out his woes on students here, my firearm would lie undisturbed in its resting place roughly five miles from my lab. The hypothetical shooter, having already committed to breaking statutes on murder, would surely not be deterred by a little sign reminding him that this is a “gun free zone.” Only individuals already disposed to keeping the law will be affected by carry restrictions.

Now, suppose that California were a free state, with reasonable gun laws. Most individuals would still be unqualified to carry a firearm. However, those people also by and large simply would not want to carry a firearm. Three groups of people would: the peace officers, the crazed or criminal, and responsible firearm owners such as myself. Let us suppose that I am the only individual in my building who carries a firearm. Since it’s a free state, every morning I bike to work with my 😄 loaded with nineteen (free state!) rounds and secured in my IWB holster. One of those mornings, a troubled individual with a gun decides to shoot up my building. Certainly, I won’t be able to save the first few victims, unless the shooter is grossly incompetent. Neither will the police, or anyone else. In fact, even if everyone were armed, those first few would probably die anyway – it takes several seconds to draw a firearm. I might confront the shooter and be killed immediately, allowing him to continue his spree. In this case, nothing was really lost, and nothing gained, by allowing me to carry my firearm. I might also take the shooter by surprise, killing or capturing him before he kills any more people. Confronted with a firearm, he might surrender – the best possible outcome at this point. Alternatively, I might end up engaging the shooter for a prolonged period of time (in which case that CA-banned high-capacity magazine shows its legitimate purpose). This would delay his rampage, regardless of the outcome of the firefight, allowing more people to escape and giving the police more time to arrive. It is possible that inaccurate fire by myself or the shooter would strike bystanders. I practice at the range to avoid exactly this sort of thing, but it could happen. If it does, it’s tragic, but at least the gunman can’t be using that time to put aimed shots on unarmed people.

Laws restricting the carry of firearms by citizens do not protect us. Such laws create an environment in which armed criminals or mentally ill individuals have every advantage. Gun control enables mass murder.

Roaring 20s is now Waypoint!

So, last night, the multi-denominational Bible study held at the Guys House (where I live in Davis) on Wednesday nights voted to change the name from the Roaring 20s to Waypoint, a name which was chosen over Forge, Cambium, and The Branch after two rounds of voting.

With our name worked out, we’ve finally gotten our group blog up, feel free to head over and check it out.

The Catholic Educational Crisis

The Obama Administration’s “compromise” – an accounting trick to hide the payments for contraceptives – was soundly rejected by the US Catholic Bishops. And rightfully so – claiming that religious providers would not have to pay for contraceptives, but that all insurance providers would have to cover them is an insultingly thin smokescreen. Nothing has changed. The Catholic leadership clearly recognizes this and is rallying. Many conservative Catholics have happily and publicly opposed this latest overreach of the administration, and even some stalwart Catholic supporters of Obama have decided that this is too much – Chris Matthews among them. Protestants, too, have closed ranks with the Catholic Faithful in opposition to this grievous crime. Sadly enough, these Protestants show a greater grasp of the issue at hand than some of our own.

In defense of the contraception mandate in health care, a misguided young Catholic wrote this response. The author is a student at the Catholic University of America, was baptized and confirmed in the Church, and “attended weekly catechism classes and received a Jesuit education.” And yet she says “[n]ever once did the opinion of the church on a person’s use of contraceptives surface.” The only conclusion I can draw is that the weekly catechism classes never made it to CCC2360-2400, and that Jesuit education never even gave a summary of Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae. My much-less-impressive education in Catholic teaching was no better – none of my confirmation classes touched on the subject, and the fundamentalist Protestant Christian school I attended certainly had no use for Paul VI or the rest of the Catholic magisterium. My mother was Catholic and my father Protestant, so the compromise on theology at home seemed to be “lay out basic Christianity, and let him figure out the rest” – which actually strikes me as the best possible under the circumstances. In fact, my years-long adventures in Protestantism (fundamentalist/pseudo-Catholic->confused->Calvinist) laid a better foundation for me than any previous teaching. It was more through the questions of close Protestant friends (and my ensuing research) than the teaching of Catholics that I came by my own scant knowledge of Catholic teaching, and eventually reverted to Catholicism.

Pia de Solenni has it exactly right: we have a failure of Catholic eduction. The author of the article shows deep ignorance of Catholic teaching – as well as the contraceptive mandate issue at hand – in nearly every sentence of the article. And I fear this sort of shortcoming is endemic. Political correctness should never keep the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church from teaching the full and authentic truth at any level, no matter how low. It doesn’t matter if the uncomfortable topic is Hell or sex: teachers, parents, and priests need to inculcate their charges with the full truth of Catholic teaching. It’s an evil and nasty world, a world at war, and we send in young Catholics (myself included) who don’t know which end of the Sword of the Spirit to hold (not the pointy end). Needlessly sending untrained men to battle is akin to murder; tossing untrained souls into spiritual war is far worse.

Goodreads

A friend of mine alerted me to goodreads.com, a sort of social networking/reading list management site. You can list your books, sort them into shelves, rate them, review them, organize swaps among friends, and see what your friends are reading and what they think (that last part can be frustrating). I’ve added what I’ve read recently and transferred my current queue there. The most recent one is Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, which was excellent.

You can find my page here.

New Name

“Dead and Back Again” was just supposed to be a placeholder name. Anyway, I procrastinated on coming up with one, so the blog launched with a moniker ripped from the title of Bilbo’s book.

I’m (half) Dutch, I’m Catholic, and I get Dune references. Google doesn’t turn up any others, so welcome to Orange Catholic’s blog.