Archive for the ‘Humor/Satire’ Category
The Cornerstone Forum Once Again Refuses to be Confused by Facts, Alternative Opinions, Data, Evidence, Documentation, Reliable Information, or Scientific Studies.June 13, 2012
“I must ask anyone entering the house never to contradict me or differ from me in any way, as it interferes with the functioning of my gastric juices and prevents my sleeping at night.” — Sir George Sitwell, English Eccentric
Since its inception, Gil Bailie’s Facebook page for The Cornerstone Forum has sought to interpret and respond to contemporary culture “from a Catholic perspective and in fidelity to the social teachings of the Church.” This is because Bailie sees Catholic faith and practice as increasingly caught “in the crossfire,” as he puts it. And he is a faithful son of the church.
But Bailie’s use of the “crossfire” metaphor is a mite disingenuous. It implicitly casts the Church in the role of an innocent bystander or a disinterested third party—despite all indications that it is not and has never been either of these. Just in recent months, Catholic institutions have sued the U.S. government over the HHS contraceptive coverage mandate, thrown their full weight behind anti-same-sex-marriage initiatives, chastised nuns for focusing on poverty and hunger rather than abortion and homosexuality, bullied the girl scouts over including a 7-year-old transgendered girl, excommunicated doctors and nuns for saving lives, and joined Republican efforts to restrict women’s access to abortions at the state level. Over the years, Church institutions have lied about contraceptives to poor Africans, obstructed patient access to accurate information and services in secular hospitals, and purged scholars who attempted to build bridges to other faiths. (For details on several of these points, see “8 Ugly Sins of the Catholic Church,” by Valerie Tarico on Alternet.)
There can no longer be any doubt either that the Church has a horse in the race or, in the case of Gil Bailie’s unfortunate metaphor, that the king has no clothes: the Church is not “caught in the crossfire.” It is firing mortars at its enemies.
Bailie’s attempt to propagate an essentially hermetic and authoritarian ideology via the Internet was a tricky proposition from the start. The Internet is by design an open, expansive, inclusive, and anti-authoritarian medium—a “real” forum, unlike the “gated” one Bailie would like to cordon off within it. People come and go, expressing all kinds of opinions willy-nilly, in a real marketplace of ideas. It’s like a Turkish souk alive with chatter and dissension. You can buy anything there, but you’ll have to negotiate—sometimes loudly.
So, The Cornerstone Forum has indeed had visitors from all kinds of people from all parts of the world—England, Austria, China, Italy, and Australia, to name a few—and, surprise!—not all of them have expressed views that perfectly match Bailie’s own. Some of their voices have been more strident than his. Some of them have been highly articulate and even argumentative, as if they had no idea of the gravitas of The Cornerstone Forum’s founder or the unassailability of his views.
A large part of the disputation at The Cornerstone Forum has concerned issues of truth. The thread I have reproduced below is typical: Bailie informs his readers that the earth’s population is in precipitous freefall, and then he seems genuinely offended that they don’t buy it. (Well, actually, some do.) At that point, facts and logical arguments are offered—always by readers, virtually never by Bailie—and he ignores or dismisses them with smug little retorts like, “We’ll see.” A few weeks later, he puts up another post informing his readers that the earth’s population is in precipitous freefall.
This has been the pattern during the many years that I have visited The Cornerstone Forum’s pages, where we’ve learned that climate change is a hoax, homosexuality is gravely disordered, same-sex marriage will cause civilizational collapse, religious freedom is under attack, the Obama presidency is precipitating totalitarianism, the Muslims are taking over Europe, and secularism is to blame for everything that is wrong with the world.
About a month ago, Bailie reacted to the growing chorus of dissent by issuing a warning similar to the one you will find in the thread below. When it was not heeded, he issued a second one and expelled one of the most insightful and articulate of his critics, George Dunn. All traces of Dunn immediately disappeared, and dozens of threads no longer made sense without his voice. If you’ve ever seen photos of Stalin’s politburo with purged officials airbrushed out, you’ll get the picture.
Today, Bailie issued a third warning. This time, the one expelled was I. Here is the conversation:
I am currently researching the worldwide demographic decline and its enormous consequences. The evidence for the decline is overwhelming, but so are the studies that trace it and the data confirming the researchers’ conclusions. I cannot claim to have a complete grasp of the problem, but I have arrived at a preliminary hypothesis:
Whereas some animals don’t breed when in captivity, humans apparently don’t breed when in metaphysical despondency, regardless of how unacknowledged and embedded in material prosperity that despondency might be.
There is no “worldwide demographic decline.” However, there are declining birth rates in certain countries, such as Japan and some countries of Europe. The world’s population, now slightly over 7 billion, is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. That’s really rapid growth, so rest assured there’s no lack of breeding going on.
I’m not sure how you measure “metaphysical despondency” or whether there is in fact such a thing. But surely people in certain high-growth societies (e.g., in parts of Africa and East Asia) have much more reason to experience metaphysical despair than Europeans and Japanese, and it is not slowing them down.
Birth rates in Europe and Japan are falling because women are now better educated and have more options. And yes, low birth rates can pose social challenges, but so can high ones, as we discussed earlier. See my article about this on The Bent Angle.
This seems like an impossible argument to make. I echo Doughlas, given that every human belongs to some demographic and earth’s human population is in fact growing rather than declining, the claim that we’re experiencing some kind of “global demographic decline” is false.
@Darrick: I’m surprised The Cornerstone Forum is again making this bizarre claim after the earlier discussion we had, where so many facts were laid out. And these facts are incontrovertible. Population growth, fertility rates, and youth/elder bubbles can all be measured. We’re talking hard data here.
It’s like one of those strange experiences where somebody points up to the blue sky and tells you it is green. You say, “No, it is blue, and my spectrograph will back me up on that.” And they say, “No, to me it’s green. And what’s a spectrograph?”
The Economist recently published a book called Megachange, the world in 2050. I’m currently reading the chapter on demography. Mr Remy’s numbers fit with data in the book.
This said, we must ask ourselves why so much of Europe has such a low fertility rate – I think it’s about 1.3 in Spain and Italy. This is quite a problem for policy makers to deal with. My intuition is that in modern western societies the freedoms normally associated with men are seen as more desirable. A lot of feminist movements fight for equal rights with regards to salary, women in high profile jobs, etc. As a whole, our society seems to have stripped away all pride in motherhood.
@ Patrick, it sounds like you think mothers have to be second-class citizens. In my opinion, motherhood and fatherhood are both consistent w/ equality, and any definition that necessarily subordinates one to the other is wrong. To suggest that our society doesn’t take pride is wrong, too. I think this kind of talk has more to do with white male dominance than motherhood…the kind of thinking that says a woman’s place is in the home, in the kitchen, and a man’s place is king.
By the way, birthrates in Spain have increased every year for the last 12 years.
@Patrick. In connection with your final sentence, about society stripping away all pride in motherhood, here is an interesting opinion from Gail Collins of the NYT:
If you look back on what’s happened to women over the last half-century – how the world has opened up for them to have adventures, pursue careers, make choices about the kind of lives they want to live – it all goes back to effective contraception. Before the birth control pill came along, a woman who wanted to pursue a life that involved a lot of education, or a long climb up a career ladder, pretty much had to be willing to devote herself to perpetual celibacy. That’s what contraception means to women.
So, maybe other life paths are simply more attractive to women. Motherhood, after all, is damned hard work, it’s unpaid and under-appreciated, and raising a child is more expensive than ever. Yearly tuition at state universities in Washington State, where I live, is now over $12,000.
In the face of all these obstacles, we have in this country a political party that wants to cut nearly a billion dollars of food and other aid to low-income pregnant women, mothers, babies, and kids. These cuts are part of a larger proposal to cut social services block grants to the tune of $17 billion over ten years. These grants support Meals on Wheels, child welfare, and day care for children. State legislatures are also unable to raise revenues in the face of anti-tax initiatives.
Child-bearing may also about to become riskier to women if hospitals are allowed to let a woman die rather than perform an abortion necessary to save her life.
Because of the work that I do, I’ve had countless more-or-less unstructured conversations with Japanese mid-career professionals over the years, and we always talk about Japan’s birth dearth. They say raising a child is just too expensive. They value quality education and would feel shamed if they couldn’t give their children access to one.
I think there are ways women can be incentivized to have children, but governments like our own seem intent on disincentivizing them. Banning contraception is not, of course, an option, and it shouldn’t be. Women’s need for choice in these matters is paramount. The demographic problems will take care of themselves as we begin to think creatively about them.
This is not a bulletin board or campus kiosk. It is a Cornerstone Forum page, and its purpose is that of the Forum, namely: to encourage and, with God’s grace, occasionally to inspire, those who share our vision and concern. The Forum and this Page exist to give an account of the contemporary cultural and moral crisis from a Catholic perspective and in fidelity to Magisterium and the social teachings of the Church, and to do so, when appropriate, by drawing on the extraordinary anthropological insights of René Girard and the theological riches of Benedict XVI, Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar and others. It is also our purpose here to bring these perspectives to bear on the sundry cultural and moral issues we now face, paying special attention to what we regard as the gravest moral and civil rights issue of our age – abortion – and the gravest anthropological blunder – the evisceration of the meaning of marriage and the demise of the traditional family.
We are not surprised to find that many do not share these concerns, and we offer our best wishes to those who don’t, but we will no longer allow this Facebook page to become an outlet for points of view that are wearily familiar to us, the refutation of which would be as tedious an exercise for us as it would be entirely unconvincing to our naysayers.
To those more sympathetic to our efforts, we are grateful for your interest, and we will continue to try to be as useful and encouraging as possible. If we occasionally point to certain unhappy developments in our cultural life, it will only be for the purpose of encouraging resistance to them for the sake of our children’s children.
Gil, I think your only option may be to “de-friend” those who do not share your point of view, as you did to George Dunn about a month ago. The Cornerstone Forum will no longer be an open forum, but at least you will have an echo chamber where you can get validation from your supporters and carry out your mission of channeling the church’s (and dare I say, the GOP’s) talking points on issues of the day. I hope you will be fair with your visitors, however: Let them know up front that they will be de-friended if their opinions diverge too much from your own.
As I said in an article on my own blogsite, it’s obvious you don’t value the time and thought that your readers devote to responding to your posts. That is a shame, and it is why I hope to provide a truly open forum on The Bent Angle for some of the issues that you raise. As you will notice, I have already begun to port some of the discussions over there, for fear they will suddenly disappear from TCF. So far, the idea hasn’t caught on with your visitors, and it may not, but I’ll continue the mirroring effort, as I think it is important.
I continue to maintain that truth is important and that none of us has a lock on it, or exclusive rights to it. We reach the truth through dialog.
Read the story here.
From Crooks and Liars, Michele Bachmann’s new public health message.
It looks like political analyst Andy Ostroy got his Main Chance, the big scoop, the interview of a lifetime.
At last week’s prayer rally in Houston, ironically named “The Response,” Texas Governor Rick Perry spoke publicly to God and got…no response. Not a murmur, not a whisper, not even a slight gust of wind or a tremor in Reliant Stadium, where the rally was held. Speculation was rife among the Born-Again that God was not in fact present at the rally, and scriptural literalists claimed this might have been because Jesus preached against public displays of piety, especially public prayers.
We now have confirmation that none of the heavenly family were present at the event. Andy Ostroy landed an interview with Jesus and transcribed the entire conversation. Here is the reference to the prayer rally:
Ostroy: What about Rick Perry’s ‘prayer rally’ in Texas on Saturday? He was talking to you. Told you “you are our only hope.” Were you listening to him? Did you say anything back?
Jesus: First off, let me say neither I or anyone in my family was at that event. That’s not my kind of prayer rally. As for me being the only hope, that’s quite sad. Perhaps Mr. Perry would be better served to look in the mirror and judge his own narrow-minded, divisive behavior. How he and his conservative brethren prey on the weak, the meek, the needy. Remember Proverbs 14:31…He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
Aha! Just as we suspected…
The American Family Association (AFA), classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, financed a prayer rally held yesterday at Houston’s Reliant Stadium. The event drew more than 8000 visitors and was televised live to about a thousand churches across the U.S. It was hosted by Texas Governor Rick Perry, who spoke directly to God from the podium, addressing Him as “Father.”
Though the event was named “The Response,” there was no audible response by God to Perry’s prayers. This has led to speculation that God was not in fact present at the rally. Numerous biblical literalists who viewed the broadcast believe God may ignore prayers that are delivered publicly. They cite Matthew 6:5-7, where Jesus tells his disciples,
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Many Christians who insist on a strict and literal reading of scripture claim to have found abundant support for their belief that God does not favor public displays of piety. They believe there may in fact be an inverse correlation between the size of the audience and the responsiveness of the deity. Others hold that God is completely deaf to public prayers and that the pious are simply wasting their breath. There is in fact no evidence that God responds in any way to public prayers, with many Christians speculating that He may in fact react perversely to prayers that are not delivered in the prescribed form. They cite Governor Perry’s call to Texans, last April, to pray for rain for their drought-stricken state. Four months later, the state is still in the grips of the worst drought in its history, and meteorologists do not expect any relief until September at the earliest.
For more about The Response, view Rachel Maddow’s segment on Rick Perry’s prayer partners, and the Texas Observer’s article about Rick Perry’s “Army of God.” Right Wing Watch also has a “Fact Sheet on Governor Rick Perry’s Extremist Allies.”
I was unable to discover who created these images, but my thanks go to the artists—and to my friend Dean for sending their work my way.
There is probably no one who hasn’t had the experience of being the undetected outsider in a hostile group. Sometimes the best advice under such circumstances is to keep one’s mouth shut and try to look inconspicuous. (Or not, depending on one’s objectives and personality type). I remember how exposed and vulnerable I used to feel, even as an adult, when accompanying my parents to fundamentalist church services during my visits to their home in Texas. There I was, a homosexual and an atheist, sitting in the pews and smiling benignly at good Christians who would probably have treated me as a sick and godless criminal deviant if they had only known. That was the era of AIDS hysteria, and I might have found a social cordon sanitaire erected around me in a heart-beat.
I wasn’t “out” to my parents at the time, but I had made my secularist views quite clear to them, though usually in measured doses. Nevertheless, they considered me officially “saved” because I had supposedly “accepted Jesus as my personal savior” at age 12. (The truth was that I had caved to pressure to “walk the aisle.”) So they just humored me when I expressed any skepticism about faith. (“It’s okay, he’s in the bag. He’s going to heaven,” they probably thought, sucking in their breath.) And so I tagged along to church, where they knew they could count on me not to embarass them. Thus one becomes a master at the art of keeping a low profile, adopting the protective coloration of one’s surroundings. Surviving.
What would I do now that I am an out-and-proud, in-your-face gay man and an aggressive confrontational, take-no-prisoners atheist?
I dunno. It depends. I invite suggestions from anyone who is interested in this kind of ethical dilemma.