Friday, May 2, 2014

Friday thoughts: the uses of moral argument

1. "Morally reprehensible."

That's what she said. She was speaking of an affair a woman she knew was having. I never met the woman she was speaking of until much later. I've often wondered whether this other woman really had the affair she was criticized for. What I did learn for certain some time later was that my friend, the one who spoke of another woman's affair as "morally reprehensible", was herself having an affair even as she spoke those words in a censorious tone.

I never confronted her about it. You don't in those circumstances. I don't anyway.

Ever since I've always wondered what the person I hear someone condemn someone else's sexual conduct is up to themselves.

What good is your morality doesn't actually help you do right and stop doing wrong?

Why even have a morality?

2. Spring

This is the season with the highest suicide rate.

People with bipolar syndrome are most likely to commit suicide when they are coming out of a depression.

The same mechanism is at work in both cases. Yes, the snow is melting and the sun is shining but that is a curse if all that is happening is the beginning of another cycle.

3. Parody

One of my first jobs I was production manager for the student newspaper. The production manager was the one responsible that there actually was a newspaper published every week. Every one else on staff was having a good time.

The most tedious time of the year was the preparation for the first edition for April because that was the parody edition. Every year they'd have a meeting to decide what to parody. The National Enquirer was a popular suggestion. It took them a while but the kids would eventually figure out that it couldn't be done. The problem is that you can only parody something you admire. Otherwise, you will produce something like this.

4. The religious left 

Someone named Francis J Butler at the National Catholic Reporter thinks more lay people, and fewer clerics, should be canonized. It's not a bad point. NCR, however, cuts the ground out from underneath it by running a picture of Sargent Shriver speaking to Peace Corps volunteers that makes it painfully clear that, in their view, canonization is a political project.

5. The religious left again

You may have heard that the Brookings Institute has a paper out suggesting that the religious left is poised for a come back. I hadn't noticed it had gone away myself.

I mean that quite seriously. I spend a lot of time in religious circles and the inescapable truth about such circles is how liberal-left they are. Bishops are overwhelmingly left wing, so are most priests, so are most religious educators and so are most of the support staff who work in church offices. These people never went away. What happened is that the media stopped paying attention to them.

The report inadvertently underlines this point. It tells us that the real left is, at best, ambiguous, about the participation of the religious left. And then it gives them marching orders:
We began our convening in December with a discussion of economic justice: what does it mean; where are the tensions in the concept; and how do we move through the practical difficulties of achieving it?
That's paragraph one of part one. Notice what's missing? 

Think of it this way: imagine your boss invites you in to talk about your future and then immediately outlines his goals without mentioning you at all.

And when do the poor religious left actually get mention.
Our initial focus was on the challenge of building a cohesive and sustainable religious movement for economic justice, given sharply divergent definitions of its purposes.
Message: Our interest in you is limited to your usefulness to us.

6. Even more religious left

The Brookings guys are enthusiastic about Pope Francis.
At the same time, he has suggested that the issues linked to the politics of the culture wars have been allowed to displace other concerns. "We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods," he has said. "this is not possible."
Basic writing lesson: the first sentence is supposed to set up the second. It is supposed to explain the context in which the statement is made. It is not supposed to create a new context that will alter the basic meaning of the quote. How do you think they did by that standard?

1 comment:

  1. "And when do the poor religious left actually get mention."

    Indeed. The effect on me of endless talk of economic and social justice at our well-to-do ACC parish has been the formulation of a question: What do all those poor, widowed, orphaned and otherwise downtrodden folk talk and pray about when THEY go to church? And the follow-up: Can I go to church with them?