"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history." -Cardinal Francis George

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bryan Cross on the origins of gay marriage

Bryan Cross has a comment I just can't bear to see buried in a comment box. In "Two questions about marriage and the civil law", he brings much clarity to the whole gay marriage debacle. But in this comment, I think he really gets down to it. I hope he doesn't mind that I am reprinting his entire comment. Please read the whole article yourself and perhaps chime in as well, as I have and even my friend Bob B. has.

How did we get into this situation, culturally, and how do we move forward? The root problem is the conceptual separation of sex and procreation, such that procreation is no longer recognized as intrinsic to the meaning of the sexual act. Emily Stimpson argues this in “Why We’re Losing the Marriage Question.” Catholics and Protestants both bear responsibility here — Protestants, for formally rejecting the Tradition concerning contraception, and Catholics, for failing both to teach and to live the Church’s own Tradition concerning contraception, spelled out very clearly in Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.

In her article Stimpson links to Andrew Sullivan’s 2003 article titled “Unnatural Law” and subtitled “We’re all sodomists now.” Sullivan is quite right on that point, namely, that the culture as a whole has disassociated sex and procreation. Endorsing contraceptive sex undermines any principled opposition to sodomy. (Nota bene, Sullivan makes some reasoning mistakes in that article, based on, among other things, a failure to distinguish between per se and per accidens, but his thesis is correct that if sex need not be intrinsically ordered to procreation, then there is no basis for the immorality of sodomy.) Mark Driscoll’s popular endorsement of heterosexual sodomy within marriage only drives home Sullivan’s point. Pounding the pulpit and quoting Leviticus 18:22, while giving the green light for husbands to have anal sex with their wives, is a moral voluntarism that collapses, as Pope Benedict showed in his Regensburg Address, under the weight of intellectual scrutiny seeking to reconcile faith and reason. But so does pounding the pulpit with Leviticus 18:22 while promoting or ignoring the practice of contraception.

How do we move forward? To address the internal problem first, we need Catholic bishops and priests to catechize the faithful on this subject, and not absolve those who have no intention to stop using contraceptives. Likewise, Protestants need to be humble enough to realize and admit that they made a mistake in going along with the sexual ‘liberalizing’ culture in the middle of the twentieth century on this issue of contraceptives. Protestantism needs to replace its moral theological deficiency concerning this subject with the resources provided by the broader Tradition (summed up well in the Theology of the Body), and a recognition of that Tradition’s authority. Otherwise, if it becomes illegal to publicly oppose same-sex ‘marriage’ (which is quite possible, given that such opposition can easily be construed as hate-speech), we will have only ourselves to blame for having promoted a conception of sexuality that made such an outcome all but inevitable.

In my experience (David here again), Protestants are not ready to concede on the issue of contraception. Although I did reject contraceptive use while still a Protestant, I think that was a bit out of the norm. And even then, I wouldnt have dreamed of seeing contraception as the grave evil that it is. As long as this is the attitude, I fear Protestants will continue down this dark path. I hope they wake up and join us though.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Thomas Storck on censorship

"It never hurts to order our thoughts correctly, even if we cannot just now put them into practice."

One area where I believe many Christians cave to the culture around us is in our view of what freedom is. We often are too ready to allow evil a place at the table so that we might not lose our seat. But I believe this accommodating attitude is in itself evil. Whether they are evil actions or words, they affect us all, and therefore government has a duty to stop them.

And the problem with that is what? I wish it was 100% And so do you.

In his 1996 article titled "A Case for Censorship", Thomas Storck makes a convincing case for government censorship. And as the above quote implies, of course this seems to be an out of place discussion in our libertine society that is so eyerollingly "beyond" censorship. We are so proud of the fact that we would never dare allow our government to censor anything (Which of course is bunk. We all approve of censorship already in many ways). But censorship is necessary to a properly ordered society.
Stork makes great points about how the degenerate rich (think Marquis De Sade) take advantage of the poor and working classes through their influence, which destroys society. It is governments job to promote the common good and not allow this abuse of power.
My first thought was to apply this to Wal-Mart. For instance, I think it would be an excellent use of government to ban television ads by Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart destroys communities for money. So government should destroy Wal-Mart to protect communities.
Government should also imprison all executives of credit card companies and confiscate every nickel of their "profits" which are gained through usury.
If only we had a hero with the will to do this.
If only we had a government that would protect us instead of killing us through abortion and objectifying us through an economic system that encourages us to be consumer/slaves.
In the name of freedom evil is allowed to reign.
We are like the do-nothing galactic senate in Star Wars who is frozen in bureaucracy and cannot act even to do something blatantly good and in the interest of all.

Instead of freedom to serve God and do good, our culture sees freedom as the freedom from responsibility and the "freedom" to do evil. In an Orwellian way we have reversed the meaning of  the word 180°.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"You Can Farm" Book Review

Upon finishing You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise by Joel Salatin my first thought was that this book needs the word Can in the title italicized. Yes, folks: You can Farm, ...but it is hard.

In a word this book was bittersweet. On the one hand Salatin absolutely proves the title of his book. He not only shows how he has succeeded in a small family farming endeavour, but he has a wealth of ideas and advice on how others can do the same, even when doing things different from his chosen path. This is not a formulaic book by any means. On the other hand, he does not shy away from driving home the bitter truth to us "wannabes". There are hard facts that a first generation homesteader will have to face.

Of Salatin's constant warnings in the book the top two are getting into debt and lack of experience. Most of his warnings trace back to these two. For instance, he warns those who would have exotic animals and particularly horses. He rightly points out that you are feeding an animal who produces nothing for your farm. You cant eat a horse. You cant sell its fur. You cant milk it. So why do those who are new to farming want to have a horse? If you love horses, they should be seen as a luxury to perhaps have once you succeed. Salatin also says he is afraid of horses, which I find funny. Throuout the book he has many amusing stories and quirky takes on things. He pounds away at his conviction that it can be a huge mistake for a beginner to buy land, particularly when combined with the lack of experience of a first gen homesteader. What happens often is that the farmer must work in town at a job to pay the mortgage on his dream hobby farm. Salatin points out that many in this situation could have perhaps rented or bought some cheaper land and throw a used trailer home on it and perhaps make a success of it without the need for an outside job. He sees this desire for "land" as a key failure of newbies. He recounts how even his own father never truly saw the fruit of the Salatin farm. Only now in the second and third generation is Salatin's farm really making it. And Joel sees this as to be expected. A bit depressing perhaps, but Salatin tempers this news with ways to make steps in the right direction, such as the idea of renting land and settling for a used trailer home.

Salatin with his "eggmobile" in background and what I think is a water cart.
Throughout the book he drives home the concept of "value adding" and avoiding monoculture in any form. If your farm "needs" something, try to solve the problem with something free that you already have. If you need electric fence stakes, spend a rainy day making them yourself instead of buying them. If you need a building, try to make it multi-purpose. Salatin builds many of his structures with rot resistant pine logs from his own land. He improves his forested areas while at the same time getting free lumber. Win-win. His "pigaerator" system is amazing. He winters his cows in a feeding area where he lays layer upon layer of carbonaceous material (like sawdust from cutting his own lumber!) along with some corncobs on their manure as it builds up. There is no smell. And as an aside, Salatin says that if you smell a foul smell on a farm, the farmer has failed. He says that there should NEVER be foul odors on a farm. So next time you hear a farmer say something like "smells like money", you can think to yourself "smells like wasted money". Those odors are the smell of nitrogen and other beneficial fertilizer type stuff evaporating into thin air! Anyway, when spring comes and the cattle are out of the shelter and onto the pasture, in come the pigs! Here is where the corncobs come in, because they root and root to get to those cobs way deep down. In the process, the pigs do all the work of churning up the compost. Now instead of a labor intensive spring chore of digging out compacted manure, Salatin can just go in and scoop out the newly mixed compost and bring it out to the pasture. Every part of the process is happy: Cows don't sit in their own filth and get more disease from the increased level of parasites. Humans don't have to smell foul odors and get an easier time dealing with the manure. Pigs get put to work doing what they love by rooting around for stuff, the pasture gets what it needs by getting top notch compost, which makes for better grass, which animals like, which makes tastier animal products. Everybody wins. Focus on any one of these elements (pig, cow, fertilizer, food, labor, instinctive behavior) and you will see that is is being used for multiple purposes at once, which gives it added value. Take the pigs for example. Instead of being penned up in a shed with food shoveled in one end and noxious manure shoveled out the other end, the pig is actually a laborer on the farm! And he loves to do it!
In the mainstream model, everything is based on inputs. Input chemical fertilizers to the soil to grow corn that requires lots of inputs from machinery($) (tilling, planting, spraying, harvesting). Feed corn to cattle ($). Use machinery ($) to deal with disgusting piles of smelly manure which has lost much of its fertilizing ability ($) from lack of composting. Conditions are good for the spread of disease in filthy cattle area so antibiotics ($) and perhaps vets must be used. Production must now continue year round to pay for these costs, which means a huge amount of inputs ($) in the off season, and means the farmer now has to work right through the winter. Salatin sadly points out the vicious cycle, which he has seen many times. In the end, many farmers opt to increase this dysfunctional operation to compensate for these increased costs. Of coarse this just means more work, more inputs, and more stress.
Salatin is careful to warn that his model will only work well on a small scale. As soon as you enlarge it to the point of needing expensive equipment and/or employees it fails. If you take a loan to buy specialized equipment, then you are really just working to pay a loan at that point. And the worst part is that you are now stuck doing that specialized thing. What if your specialized thing doesn't sell well next year? Now you have all this equipment that is not making you money but you will still be paying the loan on it. RAW DEAL! Salatin sums up this situation by pointing out a key warning sign. When asked what you do, if you say I am a _____ farmer, then there is a problem. Whether that _____ is filled in with "corn", "dairy", "chicken", or whatever, if you identify with a single thing and bankroll your future with that one thing, you are entering dangerous territory. This "monoculture" mentality is the essense of modern farming though.
Keeping things simple, small, varied and multi-use is the key for Salatin.
Perhaps instead of spending X dollars on a building you could opt for spending less on a small, portable bandsaw mill to make your own lumber and make your own building out of your own wood. Now instead of having a building and a maybe even a loan, you have a building and a tool (think Distributism) you can use again for MANY different purposes. Again with the value adding. Very wise. Instead of a building, how about a hoop house or a movable shelter? Instead of scooping chicken manure and spreading it, how about just moving the animals around on the pasture in mobile pens? This reduces disease from continuous use areas (where parasites thrive) while giving the chickens access to what they love: bugs, grass, and sunshine. These pens can even follow the grazing cattle and will eat fly larvae from the cattle manure and eat grass and bugs that the cows won't. All while reducing labor for the farmer. Win-win.

Salatin kickin it.
Probably on one of the many winter days where he works for only an hour or two a day. 
The sceptic in me keeps coming back to the fact that Salatin is not a first gen farmer. So it is tempting to say "yeah of course YOU can farm buddy, you were given a farm and lots of experience!" But after reading this book, I realize that this man has had many opportunities to fail miserably. And there are countless thousands of farmers who have been handed a farm from their parents just like Salatin was and have failed badly by using the modern industrialized model. Reminds me of the lottery winners who are broke after a few years. In the end, we have to use wisdom to succeed. And in that sense, Joel Salatin deserves 100% credit for his success. And because wisdom is the basis of his success, he is able to articulate it and hand it on to others in this book. And if success in getting our families back to the land and homesteading is our goal, then this wisdom is what we need to seek. We can buy the best land, move near the ideal neighbors, and we can even succeed in making a living on a homestead. But if that success is more from just luck, and does not flow from principles derived from wisdom, then the next generation will have no basis for their success.
In You Can Farm, Joel Salatin has enough down to earth wisdom that to a dreamer like me he seems to be saying You Can Farm, but. Yet overall, I think he presents a realistic and encouraging picture of how, if you truly want to, You Can Farm. Whether you want to eventually get onto a farm or not, this book will show you something you will appreciate.