"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

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Rules are great... for other people.

PHOTO: Edward Snowden, seen here in an interview with The Guardian newspaper, told the newspaper he was the source of a series of leaked documents from the National Security Agency.

I am not much of a news guy. I check the mainstream news every few days for a few minutes. The other day I saw something unique, however, and it captured my attention. All the more because my wife and I are going through the T.V. spy series Alias again. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and sometimes when you think you are suspending too much disbelief for a fictional story, real life outdoes fiction.
 Edward Snowden is the NSA spy who defected to China last week and is spilling the beans on some seriously problematic and tyranical behavior of the U.S. Government.
There it is. That sentence tells all you need to know. Yet if you look at the news, you will find many people denying one of those statements. But he did defect, and our government is behaving like a tyrant. I love my country. But with G.K. Chesterton I say- my country, right or wrong is the same as saying my mother, drunk or sober.

In an article for the Guardian, the same paper Snowden approached to go public, there is an article today which tries to tell us that it is just fine for our mother to be drunk, because hey... she is our mother, not the other guy's ugly drunk mother, but our beautiful drunk mother.

Here are some of his disturbing remarks-
The political implications are grave. Snowden has given Beijing something it couldn't achieve on its own: moral equivalence. Now, China can portray itself as a victim, besieged by America, and simply trying to defend itself.
 But has Snowden given moral equivalence, or has he merely revealed it? The answer is as sad as it is obvious. The U.S. has been berating (rightfully) China for cyber attacks for a long time. Yes, China is bad for doing these things. But the sticky thing about making moral judgements is that they apply universally. Rules aren't just good for other people, and optional for the moral people. On the contrary, following the rules is what makes one moral. The U.S. can't seem to understand this basic truth. Ever since Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, the rules which we want applied to other nations we feel should not apply to us.

But people are bad because they behave badly. Of course there is forgiveness and redemption, and of course in the inner man is often revealed a good heart that seems betrayed as if by a phantom hand by the actions of the outer man. Nevertheless, you are what you do. If you do evil, you are evil. If rules of morality don't apply to everyone, then they aren't rules, but merely norms.

The authors most disturbing statement-
But Beijing does not deserve moral equivalence, given the intensity of its cyber-attacks against America. The key point is that China struck first, developing a pronounced asymmetric advantage.
 Any parent recognizes this "he hit me first" mentality, and it makes as much sense in international relations as it does on the playground. Just because Johnny throws sand in your eye doesn't mean it's OK for you to throw it back. And in fact, throwing it back makes any claim to moral high ground laughable. All sympathy melts away as the other kids in the schoolyard slowly turn their back on your petty little squabble.

This is a great country, and many brave men have died for it. But they didn't die for government clowns to piss on the fourth amendment and then tell the world it's raining. That is not America. Between this current scandal and grievous offenses like the contraceptive/ abortifacient mandate which will take effect soon, it is getting harder to recognize where America is anymore among all B.S. it is pulling.

Monday, June 10, 2013

I Want my 40 Grand for Homeschooling

So in my state (Minnesota) the State spends $10,685 per year, per kid, in the public school (as of July 2012).
The average homeschooling parent spends $500-$600 per year, per kid, for their homeschool costs.

Personally, my wife and I have never spent nearly that much to homeschool our 3 school age daughters, and I suspect the numbers for the homeschooled kids are inflated because so many are first year students. After all, homeschooling is growing seven times faster than public school enrollment, and that makes for a lot of first time homeschooling parents. Not to mention, the public schools themselves now have an online option for homeschooling which is free to the parents. For many, like us, we can reuse materials for the younger kids. So a $200 4th grade writing course isn't $200 for that 4th grader... because her little sister will use it too. You get the idea. In this way we have never spent more than $1,000 on homeschool supplies in a year, and this year, for a kindergartner, second, third, and fifth grader, we will spend around $750 for all 4. And we could have scrimped and spent less. So that is $15-$19 a week, very affordable. By the time our oldest is out of high school, the cost should go down dramatically because we should have most of the materials we need already.

So considering we will have 4 kids in school next year, that would cost the State of Minnesota $42,740 if we sent them to public school. Ouch! In a couple years, I will have 5 school agers, and the State would be paying $53,425 for them to go to school.

The cost for my kids... well let's see... lets get them a laptop and take them on a field trip to get the cost up to $600 per kid... really splurging on 'em. So next year I would be spending a total of $2,400 for extravagant homeschooling. Public school would need $42,740 to put them in a prison with bars and metal detectors and let them be bullied, teach them how to put a condom on a bananna, teach them homosexuality is just fine, and oh, yeah, besides all the moral problems, not teach them accademically as well as we could homeschooling them.

Same kids, same numbers and alphabet, same SAT, but the government spends $42,740 to teach them and I only need $2,400.

They spend 18 times as much to make it 18 times more likely they become:

-less literate,
-morally blind,
-whose last brush with the word 'logic' was from Spock in the recent Star Trek film.

No thanks. I will have smarter, holier, better adjusted, happier kids for 1/18th the cost by homeschooling them.

Oh, and I am waiting for my check in the mail for the $40,340 I saved the State of Minnesota by homeschooling. Or even just the check for $2,400 would be a nice gesture.

Still waiting...

(crickets chirping...)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Natural Fertility: How many kids will a woman have in her lifetime?

If humans are ever put in a zoo by an alien race, and we are left to our own devices with plenty of food, medicine, exercise and safety, and with an ideology that neither shuns children or demands loads of them, how many children would women have?

Well it turns out researchers have been asking this question for a long time.
The Amish

I just read an interesting research paper called Population growth and fertility paterns in an Old Order Amish Settlement. by L. P. Greksa.

It looks at 1,337 Amish wives in the Geauga settlement in Ohio from 1908 - 1993. The Amish are considered an ultra high fertility group (in today's standards) straight out of the 19th century in their breeding habits, yet they use modern medicine. This makes them perfect for studying and looking at what the rest of society would look like if we still had traditional 'pro-fertility' attitudes. The conclusion of the paper says that the women do not attempt to control their fertility either up or down in any major way. To the researchers, this means the group in question is a "natural fertility population", which they desire to define so as to have a benchmark to measure from.

So how many babies do you think these perfect specimen, natural fertility, married Amish women have? Are they all like Michelle Duggar with 19 kids per woman?

Is it more than 19? Does it round down lower to around 10? (that was my guess). Let's see:
The mean number of pregnancies per married woman was 7.7 (SD 3.6). Fifty-two pregnancies terminated  in a stillbirth and 41 women gave birth to one set of twins, four gave birth to two sets of twins, and one woman gave birth to four sets of twins, for a twinning rate of 13.9 per 1000 pregnancies [1.4% -DM] resulting in a live birth. Mean completed marital fertility was 7.7 (SD 3.6) births, ranging from 0 to 17 births. About 3% of these women were childless while 28% had 10 or more births.
The men get married at 22.2 years, women at 21.1 years. The birth of the first child is consistently a year later when the woman is 22.1 years. The second child is consistently born 1.5 years after the first, with subsequent births spaced just under 2 years apart. For the period studied ('08-'93), the age of the last birth has dropped from age 40 to 35, marriage age and first birth age both dropped by one year, and spacing also dropped slightly. The fertility rate also dropped by 1 child during this time.

In this study, the 7.7 children per woman is per married woman, and I am unclear if this study ever actually says what the Total Fertility Rate for the community is. It does give data on sterile couples (3%), stillbirths and twins though. After all that is factored in, the number is still 7.7 per married woman, and of those with children the average is 7.94.

Normal Fertility Rate

So what does this all mean? Almost all of these numbers were different than I expected. I expected them to be marrying younger, having more kids for a longer time, and I expected the natural infertility to be higher. Instead the study shows that

 normal human women have a very reasonable 7.7 kids within a 14 year timespan.

The biggest family of all 1,337 of these women had 17 kids (so even Michelle Duggar would have a big family in this Amish community). And only 28% of families had 10 or more kids, with ony 3% of couples being infertile (way lower than I thought). Another fun fact is that the 7.7 "completed marital fertility rate" is not comparable to the "Total Fertility Rate" we are used to seeing. Total Fertility Rate includes all women of childbearing age, which will include singles who will never have kids such as nuns, the severely disabled, or those who otherwise have a vocation other than marriage.

If 30% of our study population remained unmarried and childless, the Total Fertility Rate would be still be 5.4 children per woman! That is three times the U.S. Total fertility rate!

My take away from this is just how incredibly... normal... and natural all these numbers seem. As a father of 5 myself, who can easily imagine more kids in my home, but find it harder to imagine having 10+ kids, I took comfort that 7 or 8 kids is naturally where fertility will end up (on average) for people in a healthy marriage. It is so easy to believe our culture that says having 3 or 4 kids is "a lot". Well it just isn't. In fact those 3 or 4 kids are 
below the average for where a couple will naturally be.

Our American TFR of 1.9 children per woman is now "well below" the replacement level of 2.1 needed to just keep a population steady. And much of that number is from new immigrants, who quickly adjust their fertility habits in the first and second generation, and anyway the countries who have been sending immigrants are no longer doing so and will soon stop. The American middle class is down to a TFR of 1.6 and falling.

I am not saying couples with zero or 1 or 2 kids should feel second class. Unless they have that few because they have an unhealthy view of children and their place in marriage. Obviously couples can be infertile (even 3% of Amish are), can have vocations or health issues which make it prudent to limit the number of kids, even to zero potentially. But these exceptions prove the rule that families should naturally be much larger than they are in our culture.

The exceptions that prove the rule.
3% infertile couples is... 3%. Get over it! That is a very small amount of couples! Yet if I had a nickel for every time I hear this as a reason why every family I see has only 1 or 2 kids, I could buy my own tropical island. Even factoring in infertility, the normal fertility rate for married women is still 7.7 kids

All parents have mental issues to some degree that having more kids may make worse. But are Amish women with 8 kids going insane by the truckload? I don't think so. Will having child number 4 really push most women over the edge? Or is it more likely that only a small percentage of parents have true psychiatric problems that make it unwise to have more kids? Even if I were generous and assumed that 30% (!!!) of women went clinically insane the day their third child was born, and never had another child, the Normal Married Fertility Rate would only drop by 1.41 kids per woman to 6.29.

Going to college extends time of marriage and first birth.
This is another very valid reason that a woman's fertility might be reduced. And using our Normal Married Fertility Rate of 7.7, with women becoming mothers at age 22.1, we could account for a generous 2 years of post college time to get married and conceive, and then she gives birth at age 24. That is a full six years after high school graduation, plenty of time for a college degree or two. So to account for this lost 2 years from her reproductive clock, lets deduct a full child from every woman in our study. That's right folks, we will assume universal college education from our women! They all lose one child and our average drops to 5.29.

Working outside the home. Some people say that families are so small because women have to work, and no longer have the time to give birth and to properly take care of lots of kids. To this I say... yep that is true. This is on the one hand a valid reason to reduce the number of kids you have, but at the same time is a bad excuse because it should not be happening nearly on the scale it is. Ask any woman to list the most fulfilling aspects of her life. If she has kids, she will have them higher on the list than a career. Yet the same woman will often say that her career is the reason she did not have more children. This makes no sense. If raising good human beings from childhood to adulthood is the most important job on earth, which we all agree that it is, then why do so many women choose something less fulfilling to fill their time? This one is hard to estimate, but my guess that in a healthy society no more than 30% of married women would want to work outside of the home in such a way as to reduce normal fertility. If these 30% each limited themselves to an average of 2 kids each, our average drops to 3.88 kids per married woman.

So assuming all the modern things we blame for our low fertility, we are still left with 3.88 kids per married woman in a healthy society.

Now let's take this society and assume that 20% of the women do not get married and become nuns or run businesses or whatever (20% seems like a lot by the way). After we factor that 20% in, we are still left with 3.1 as our total fertility rate. 3.1 is considered by demographers to be a high growth rate and significantly higher than the replacement rate of 2.1.
You might ask: Where the heck are you going with this you long winded weirdo?
Here is my point:
If we believe what our culture tells us, that it is perfectly fine that families come in all shapes, colors and sizes, and arrangements, with same sex parents or divorced parents, with any number of kids, with either mom or dad (or both) working and sending junior to the public school... if that is really true... and all that is just so *great* for families and we live in such a wonderful new springtime of humanity... then why do all the families I see buying into these modern notions look so much the same, with the same abnormally low number of kids (0-2), with most of the moms working outside the home and still doing the housework**, with 50% divorce rates?

Instead of being progressive and bold, our new culture is homogeneous and boring.

On a basic level using the simplest of math, think about it like this: Not every woman is called to marriage. And of those that do marry, I would argue that most married women will have various trials (described above) that prevent them from having lots of kids.
So if both of these things are true, and the replacement fertility rate is 2.1 children per woman in general, then how can we think that having 2 kids per married woman is healthy? Married people need to be having far more than 2.1 kids for a society to simply replace itself because they need to be having the kids to replace those who will not or cannot have them. As I have shown above, when we see a family with 3.88 kids we should be thinking "that is an average, healthy family size". And considering how conservative I was with my math (20% of women not marrying would be very high), we should consider the 3.88 to be on the low side.

So the next time you see a family with 4 or 5 kids, remember that that is a very average number. And a family with 8 kids should look no stranger to us than a family with only 1. We cannot let our suicidal culture dictate to us what a normal family size is. The simple, scientific fact is that a normal, healthy family size, even in the modern world with all its challenges, will be far larger than is culturally acceptable.

*If we were to translate the 7.7 married fertility rate into a Total Fertiltiy Rate, it can only go down because we are adding in non-breeding women. Let's pretend 10% of all Amish women never marry. If the married fertility is 7.7, then the total fertility would drop to 6.9. Married women would still have their 7.7 kids, but overall, the Total Fertility Rate would drop due to the 1 in 10 of all women that will never reproduce. If the number of unmarrieds rises to 30% of women in this population, the TFR drops to 5.4. If fully half of women in our naturally fertile society never marry and reproduce, then the total fertility rate drops to 3.85. 10-30% of women never marrying and procreating does not seem all that unreasonable. Particularly if marriage is seen as the important vocation it is, to not be entered into lightly. I think one thing that is perhaps not natural with our Amish case study is the high marriage rate, which I suspect is well over 95%. So although their family fertility is "natural", perhaps the number of families is unaturally high due to their anabaptist religion and a lack of vocational choice.

**The studies I read on European demographics last week had hard evidence of this. Unfortunately I cant recall where the data is located. But it was astounding how even in northern Europe, where women are supposedly so advanced in equality, they still do most of the housework.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

71 people were murdured in Massachusetts, not 3.

The bombs at the Boston Marathon killed 3 human beings. Lu Lingzi, a 23-year-old Boston University student from China; 8-year-old Martin Richard; and 29-year-old Krystle Campbell. More than 170 people were injured. (source)

God rest their souls. And I wish nothing but God's comfort to them and their families.

But the frenzy that has surrounded these deaths is outrageous. 68 innocent babies are slaughtered each day in Massachusetts through legal abortion. Think about the 68 other innocent human beings being slaughtered that day of the Boston marathon. Then 68 the next day, then another 68 the next day, then 68 today... and 68 every single day of this year, and every day of next year... all last decade, and all this decade... 68 per day. And those 68 are just in Massachusetts.

Fenway from Legend's Box.jpg

Imagine Boston's Fenway Park filled to 70% capacity (25,000 souls) for a Red Sox game. Suddenly a terrorist blows the place up and all the people die. That is what is happening every year in Massachusetts already. 68 souls per day murdered as they sleep in Massachusetts and not a peep from the media, politicians, or nearly anyone. Even Catholic leaders who have expressed sympathy for the victims of the marathon bombing (the ones I have heard) have generally failed to mention the 68 babies murdered every day.

Where is the outrage on a daily basis for the 1,200,000 people legally murdered every year in the US? That is more lost than were on 9-11 on every day of every year.

More deaths than 9-11 every day of every year in this country!

Where is the outrage?

H. P. Lovecraft: Not skeptical enough.

I was reading some quotes from H.P. Lovecraft, who was a fantasy/sci-fi writer in the 20th century. This was my first brush with him, and at first, I liked what I saw. He seems like the type that when he sees a rock, he wants to look under it, then crack it open and wonder why it isn't filled with chocolate. I like that. And so Lovecraft speaks some truth by accident (so does the devil). But in the end he does not believe in a distinction between truth and falsehood, good and evil, beauty and ugliness.

Truth Goodness and Beauty are the same thing, they are being. Truth is being as seen by the intellect, goodness is being as seen by the will, and beauty is being as seen by the senses. And of course God is being and the source of all being. So when a clown like Lovecraft believes there is no distinction between good and evil (and ironically, makes distinctions to do so), or believes there is no difference between truth and falsehood (proclaiming his opinion to be true), and says beauty is merely in the eye of the beholder (yet strives to write beautiful literature), I get very tired of it.

"If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences." -H.P. Lovecraft And if irreligion were true, it's followers wouldn't teach it to their children... right Mr. Lovecraft? Because something is true because of how those who believe it act? Is that what you believe? -D.M.

So here is my examination of one of this man's statements:
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.

"The most merciful thing in the world,..."

How does he know what mercy is? In relation to what? What is the world? Does it have boundaries? Is it a shared reality that both you, me and this man inhabit? Is it real? What is real? What are the words he wrote with and why can I read them? Why did he assume I would be able to read them? Is there a reality that existed when he wrote the words that he is assuming will still exist when I read them? Why would he assume that?

"I think, ..."

Why did he think this and not some other thought? Perhaps because it is better to have though this thought than other thoughts? And if so, would that not mean that he thinks this thought to be closer to something like the 'truth'? And if so, doesn't that mean there is a distinction between 'truth' and 'not truth'?

"...is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents."

If it is unable to correlate all it's contents, then how can he be sure it is able to know that it is unable to do so? Why not be sceptical and assume it is able to correlate all it's contents? Why does he chose one view over the other? Is it because he believes one to be objectively more true than the other? And if so, hasn't he correlated knowledge to come to that understanding? And if so, doesn't that refute his thesis that knowledge cannot be correlated?

"We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity,..."

The fact that he mentions an island in a black sea of infinity implies a finite arena in which the island exists, with a separation of "island" and "sea", otherwise he would have said "we are a black sea of infinity". therefore the situation he describes with an island is actually one of knowledge, not ignorance. Knowing one is on and island in a sea is actually to know quite a lot. In some ways it is to know everything.

"...and it was not meant that we should voyage far."

Why? I see no reason to believe this statement. And as I said, knowing you are on the island is to already have correlated knowledge and made a very specific statement about not only the island, but about an area that is "infinitely" far away (the black seas of infinity), and even to have gone so far as to claim to know that it is infinite and black is a very bold statement based on knowledge. So this very statement is refuted by the statement itself. By claiming knowledge about the far away thing, it is silly to say you werent meant to go far away to get the knowledge. A tight little circle like a snake eating itself into nothingness.

Skepticism always ends in this hypocrisy. Skeptics are never skeptical enough, but are always selectively skeptical about things. They should be skeptical of their skepticism, but they never are.
There is much we don't understand, but we have the ability to recognize truth, goodness and beauty, and to work towards understanding more of them. The fact we can do this implies we are made in God's image and our goal is union with our creator. We are not on the island he describes, but in a valley. We can reach the mountaintop, but it requires work and a greater understanding of 'being', not a dissolution or blurring of it. We need greater participation in real being, aka- greater participation in the source of being, aka- theosis. Authentic theosis is not the melting of distinctions/knowledge into a black sea of ignorance, but the refining of distinctions/knowledge so we can participate in the love within the Trinity.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Jesus Didn't Write a Book

The only time Jesus is described as writing, we don't know what he wrote.

Jesus didn't write a book.

Think on it people. He could have easily done so. Why didn't he? If you find yourself wishing he had, or wishing perhaps his apostles had written more -in general or on your pet topic- then your paradigm is wrong. Find a paradigm where it make perfect sense for Jesus not to write down his teaching, and not to write it down in such a way that would supposedly clear up misinterpretations of future Christians. You should find that paradigm because that is what happened. Jesus actually didn't write anything down, and his apostles wrote shockingly little. And we don't even know if he told his followers to write anything down, and often it seems they dont expect it to be scripture anyway. Did the apostle John think 3rd John would be scripture? Did Paul know Philemon would be read by people 2000 years later as scripture? And if Jesus had intended the future Church to be guided solely by a book, we should expect the apostles would have written much, much more! would have written on some very basic topics like.. oh... what do we do when we gather on Sunday morning for instance. Yet they apparently didn't think it was necessary to write that down! That makes no sense at all in scripture only Protestantism. Did it skip their mind? Do you find yourself wishing they had spelled things out better on topic X? If so, you may be assuming that the text was meant to explain topic X. But if Christ left everything this Church needs, yet forgot to leave them a way to sort out topic X, then there is a problem. And in the Sola Scriptura paradigm, that is a problem.

But for Catholics, we know he didn't write a book because he sent men. And he told us that if we have a problem to "take it to the Church". We can affirm that the bible consistent with everything we need to know, and that Christ left us with everything we need, but that includes successors of the apostles authorized to rightly interpret scripture.

So if you find yourself wishing more were written down to explain something, or wishing perhaps Jesus had personally written down stuff, you need to change your paradigm. Go to the Church. Those men Jesus commissioned commissioned other men, who in turn did the same, all the way to the present day, and their identity is not mysterious or controversial.

If the bible were meant to be the sole authority in the Church, shouldn't there be a heck of a lot more info in there? And shouldn't it be a heck of a lot clearer so there perhaps would be just a few dozen Protestant interpretations, rather than thousands?

It really is this simple folks.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Orthodox Demographic Winter

Global Orthodoxy will steeply decline in numbers this century. Just my opinion, and I am no expert, but the data seems to point to this outcome.

I asked the guy who knows about this stuff, the very competent Eric Kaufmann, whose book Shall the Religious Inherit The Earth has captured my attention for quite a while, this question on Facebook:

"I am interested in how the demography of Eastern Europe will affect the global Eastern Orthodox population (230 million). 93.2% of Eastern Orthodox live in 20 countries of Eastern Europe and Greece. The average TFR of these 20 countries is 1.37. The top 82% of Orthodoxy is located in Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Greece, Belarus, and Bulgaria, which also have a combined TFR of 1.37. With fully half of the world’s E.O. in Russia (TFR 1.42).

What I am interested in is if there are higher fertility groups of Orthodox within these nations that will outbreed their low fertility neighbors? The data is hard to find though. Orthodoxy seems set for an unusually steep decline in population compared to Catholics, Protestants, or most Muslim groups. Am I right about this?"

Eric Kaufmann:
"Yes, I think that's right. Though I believe Orthodox attenders have, as elsewhere, somewhat higher fertility than seculars or nominals (see Tom Frejka's work[*] on European survey data on this). What they are lacking is a closed, fundamentalist group with high fertility a la Dutch Calvinists or Finnish Laestadian Lutherans or Orthodox Jews."

Eastern Orthodoxy has it's population center of gravity in Eastern Europe (including Russia) and Greece. So the demography of Eastern Europe will affect the global Eastern Orthodox population (230 million) in the future quite heavily. This is of course assuming there are no large sub populations of Orthodox with high fertility rates. I had not heard of any, and Kaufmann seems to confirm that there are not.

And another aspect is that theologically, the Orthodox appear to accept contraception, so even the more religiously conservative Orthodox fertility in these countries, while higher than their secular neighbors, will still be tempered by these factors. If significant sub-groups of high fertility endogenous growth sects of more conservative Orthodox were present in these nations, then these groups would be the future of Orthodoxy in these countries. But it appears there are not.

Of the factors that affect religious population positively the 2 biggest are:

1. Growth from within. Religious populations within countries with high fertility rates due to prolonged demographic transition, eg. Africa and Latin America. In these societies, large, young populations of adherants (even nominal ones) will still have a  much higher fertility rate than their counterparts in countries further into their demographic transition.

2. Endogenous growth sects. These are the groups Eric calls "closed, fundamentalist groups". So this is not only the Amish, Hutterites, and Ultra Orthodox Jews, but less closed (yet still self consciously seperate) groups like the Mormons, Quiverfull type Protestants, and conservative Catholics. Each of these groups is closed to some degree from worldly influence and has intentionally high fertility rates while rejecting contraception.

On the flip side, nations who are far into the demographic transition have very low fertility and high secularization, with aging populations and actual population decline... right now. Not future decline, but right now decline due to people not procreating.

 The other major Christian groups have eggs in all of the above baskets, and have more geographic diversity as well. Orthodox have none. Somehow Eastern Orthodoxy has managed to be most populous in the lowest fertility countries on earth, So while Catholics in Italy (1.4) and Spain (1.48) do have a fertility rate just as bad as in Ukraine (1.29) or Greece (1.39), there is the crucial difference that Catholics are not only in Italy and Spain, while demographically, it can be said  that Orthodox are only in Eastern Europe. Sceptical? Look at my research in this chart:

93.2% of Orthodox live in Eastern Europe and Greece.

That chart is staggering. 93% living in Eastern Europe and Greece?? None of these contries have anywhere near the replacement fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman. Compare with this chart from the Pew Research center of the worlds 1.2 billion Catholics:

 Here are maps showing the same data, although keep in mind they do include Oriental Orthodoxy, which I did not.

The Orthodox:

The Catholics (from Pew Research):

Comparing these charts and maps we see not only a geographic isolation in Orthodoxy, but the countries it is isolated to are among the lowest fertility in the world. Protestantism and Catholicism on the other hand are diverse in geography and fertility.

If 92% of Catholics were located in Italy, Spain and Brasil (TFR 1.82), I would be predicting that there would be a huge plunge in the number of Catholics in this century. But the Catholic Church is spread wider and has a significant presence in high fertility Africa the Phillipines and other high fertility areas of the globe, and looks ready to keep growing significantly alongside Pentecostalism.

It would not be shocking if Eastern Orthodoxy, which is now second in numbers to Catholicism as a "denomination" (for lack of a better word), will be overtaken within a couple generations by an actual denomination: the Assemblies of God. Pentecostalism as a movement (279 million) is already larger than Orthodoxy. But if we nail the Protestant jello to the tree for a moment and count denominations before it falls, we see there are 64 million Assemblies of God members currently. Given their expansion rate and the swift contraction rate for Orthodoxy, they could easily switch places within a generation.

So what does this mean? Just as with historical recurrence we say with confidence with Mark Twain that "history does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme", we can say with equal confidence that demography is not destiny, but it is pregnant. And we can look at the parents and reasonably expect what the child will look like.

We know that religion in general will gain in strength both of numbers and of force in the coming century. The future is one of religious fundamentalists gaining prominence, while the candle of the secular enlightenment is slowly suffocated and extinguished in the early 22nd century. The future of Christianity is going to look Catholic and Pentecostal, while Orthodoxy, sidelined by demographics, will implode alongside secularism until a core of true believers is revealed. Oriental Orthodoxy will grow during this time, thus increasing their percentage of global Orthodoxy. I am not sure what this will mean for Catholic Orthodox reunion efforts, or for Oriental Orthodox reunion efforts with each group. Unfortunatly my suspicion is that once the nominal Orthodox in Eastern Europe have left this earth, having aborted and contracepted  themselves into the grave, the higher fertility attenders who are left will be the ones sending their children to Mount Athos, and thus Orthodoxy will go from being 230 million and willing to discuss reunion, to being 40 million and hardened against it. Who knows. But one thing is certain, and even Eric Kaufmann agreed with me, that Eastern Orthodoxy looks set to decline dramatically compared to other religious groups. It will be interesting to check back in 10 years and see where things are.

*This is the article he is referring to possibly.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Hobbit Movie: My Review

...Well to be more precise, a ditto of a review Devin Rose did and a couple additional thoughts of my own. I am too lazy to do my own review so I though I would just ride on Devin's coattails and blithely puff a bowl of the southfarthings finest longbottom leaf. Here is a comment I left on his blog which sums up my feelings:

My thoughts exactly.

Steven Greydonus, who is the best film reviewer now alive, said:

“There is an early moment in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey that captures the evocative poetry of Tolkien’s songs — something that The Lord of the Rings films, for all their achievements, never did. By the time the credits roll, that moment feels like it belonged in a very different film.”

This film is forgettable. Tolkiens book is anything but forgettable. So Jackson failed. Period. He really should have just left it alone if he wasn't ready to do it well, and I wish he had.
You said it best when you said:

“Hint to Peter Jackson: More of Tolkien’s genius and less of your discombobulation.”

I was excited when I heard he would do the Hobbit. Less so when I heard it would be 2 installments. Then I was very sceptical when I heard it was going to be 3. Can he really credibly claim that it is not about the bling? I understand wanting to stretch them out to include more of the book. Cool. But when much of the “stretching” is stuff not even in the book, and done in a swashbuckling goofy way that is uncharacteristic of the book, it is hard to not think there is some other goal than to just put Tokien’s vision on the screen.

I might watch this again with the kids someday, but it is not like Jackson’s earlier trilogy where I would watch them a few additional times and even wait with baited breath for the extended version.

Also I am sick and tired of adults ruining tales which children should be invited to enjoy also. There is no reason for many of the intense scenes to be in this movie. As The Incredibles showed, adults and kids CAN watch the same movie and enjoy it without needing “mature” material like violence and super scary scenes. I just don't get it
I was pleased to see Kate Blanchett reprise her role as the Virgin Mar... uh... I mean Galadriel.

I am the type to find symbols where there are none in movies, but I can't help but wonder if the moon behind Galadriel was not intentional here. Tolkien was a Catholic, and many things in the LOTR books are very tempting to see as allusions to Catholic spirituality. The Lembas bread as Eucharist is a big one, and Galadriel as Mary is another. The moon is associated with the Mother of God because of Revelation 12 where she has the moon under her feet, and also because she reflects the light of Christ to us in the darkness. I doubt Peter Jackson did this purposely, but did someone on his team?
And of all the odd additions to the film, I really did like Radagast the brown. I thought he was interesting and filled out the picture of who the angel-like 'race' are in the LOTR, who before we only knew of through Saruman and Gandalf. Radagast fills out that picture... interestingly.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Now he will diminish

A German man receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday.

The pope is a mere man, and the Catholic faith has never and never shall teach otherwise. And when the current pope steps down and there is a new holder of the petrine office, this fact will stand in stark relief. When the key of the house of David is passed to another, and yet both men are still living, one having the keys and one having given them up, we will witness this truth of the papacy.

When I heard Benedict XVI was stepping down, I became excited. Not because he is a bad pope, on the contrary he has done a superb job. But this move shows to the world what the Church has always believed and taught: that the bishop of Rome is a bishop just like any other bishop, and a man just like any other man, and that his unique charism is all about who Christ is and the indefectability Christ promised the Church, and most pointedly it is all about the chair the man sits in, and absolutely nothing about who the man is who sits in that chair. The most powerful man on earth does not lift himself by his bootstraps and lord over the people as the kings of the earth do. He receives his power from Another, and is merely a chamberlain to the Emperor, or a Prime Minister to the king. As Isaiah 22, which Jesus himself refers to when choosing Peter as his steward says:

In that day I will call my servant Eli′akim the son of Hilki′ah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house. And they will hang on him the whole weight of his father’s house...
And now, he will hand the keys to another.

He has passed the test. Now he will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Joseph Ratzinger.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Gun Control? Who cares.

I'm sure back in the day a master archer liked to have a good quiver, but he didn't need it. If he found his enemy had stolen it from the camp in the night, or that his enemy wants to ban all quivers, he would simply laugh and offer his enemy his cloak also. He is serene in the knowledge that his effectiveness in battle has very little to do with his quiver, but has everything to do with his skill in archery, his bow, the quality and quantity of his arrows, his bravery, and above all, the quality of his Marshal and his Lord. He wonders why his enemy is so anti-quiver, but shrugs and crosses himself, thanking God for confounding the mind of the enemy to take the quiver and not his precious bow or arrows.

The Apostle Paul
is often depicted with a sword
 St. Paul says,

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty to God unto the pulling down of fortifications, destroying counsels, And every height that exhalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ; And having in readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be fulfilled."

2 Corinthians 10:3-6

Guns are weapons we use to protect our weapons.

They are the archer's quiver. We husbands and fathers are the archer. The bow and the camp are our wives. The arrows are our children, the marshal is the Church, and the Lord is Christ.

Psalm 127 RSVCE (my emphasis)

A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Lo, sons are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the sons of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has
his quiver full of them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

If only Christians would worry less about the evil of gun control and more about the evil of birth control. As the psalm says, the watchman watches in vain unless the Lord watches the city. This means the watchman could have a supply of weapons like the in the Matrix...

with a nuke silo in the back forty and an aircraft carrier battle fleet down at the marina, and he could still be doomed. If the Lord has ceased to watch the city, then all the modern armaments in the world will not stop that city from being overrun. And now for the reality check: Do you seriously think the city is not overrun? Do you seriously think God is watching the gate? Of course He isn't. Why would he? The men of the city are at home playing Xbox and "polishing their swords" by giving their wives contraceptives. And what children they do have are not being equipped to battle against the culture of death surrounding us within the city walls.

 Now I know what many conservative Christian gun guys might say about all this,
 "Yeah, that's all fine and good, our weapons are not carnal and all that... yeah yeah I get it. But what about my AK47!? Big Brother wants to take it away! *sob sob*..."

My response:

Let's focus on the more powerful weapons at our disposal: our own children, first by being open to lots of them, and second by training them for war, and to train their children for war.

When we fully understand that the war we are engaged in is entirely spiritual in nature, I think the whole gun debate will become about as meaningful to us as a presidential debate. I am not saying we should not care about voting for president, I am simply saying it is of very little importance to our lives as Christians. In the same way, many of these distractions we men let ourselves get focused on are the equivalent of a soldier boasting in the town tavern while the war is a mile down the road. Just one single Christian father who allows himself to be seduced by pornography or video games or any other evil that our culture offers is a bigger defeat than if all guns were banned tomorrow in the US. Think about that. Just one father failing his family by giving in to Satan is worse than all guns being banned. We are in a spiritual war, and we need to focus on the true weapons of are warfare.

Lets engage the enemy by being the best husbands and fathers we can be, and mobilizing vast armies of warriors to do the same.

Saint Michael, defend us in battle

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Discussion about Orthodoxy and Catholicism

[What follows is a segment of an email exchange with someone looking into the diferences between the two. These are tough topics for scholars, let alone a biased layamn like me, so cut me some slack]

I highly recommend submitting some of these question to Bryan Cross on Called to Communion. He will give a better answer in every way, and most importantly, he will give an answer that you can trust to be the Catholic answer, and not just Dave’s feelings.

You said:

“Oriental and Eastern who aren't exactly in communion (although I think they have reached some sort of formal agreement) can seem to be so much alike theologically and yet both agree with each other against Roman Catholics on a variety of issues?”

You chose the perfect description when you said “against”. I find that the antipathy both groups (in general) have for Catholicism helps them to overlook big things they disagree with each other about like the dual nature of Christ. The Orientals are non-Calcedonian Monophysites who only accept the first 3 councils. It is great if they are showing signs of wanting to change, but the fact remains the Eastern Orthodox have far more in common doctrinally with Catholics than with them.

Check out the Orthodox doctrine (of not all Orthodox, but some) of “aerial tollhouses”. For some reason they are ok with being in communion with Orthodox who believe the aerial tollhouses theory, but not “purgatory”. Orthodox believe in purgatory. They just have a less defined doctrine of it. Otherwise why would they pray for the dead? Praying for the souls of the dead can only mean one thing… the soul is not known to be in heaven or hell, and the soul still has some journeying left to do. Is there anything else it could possibly mean? But anyway, Orthodox when being polite will insist that even that much cannot be said about the topic, and say it is a mystery, -or- they will just keep insisting on purgatory being heresy while their doctrine (or lack of one), because it is mystery, is just fine. Well as I said, they do have a doctrine (praying for the dead has very specific implications), and what is wrong with one tradition having something more defined or a different nuance than another? Look at the doctrine of the Trinity for instance. The Orthodox developed the essence-energies distinction. The Latin west did not. Therefore we talk past each other on the filioque. In my personal experience, Orthodox folks usually believe the filioque to be a big dividing issue between the 2 sides, yet the same people, in my experience, have never heard that Roman Catholics (the Latin rite) do not have a category for an essence/energy distinction within God. So often the criticism of the Latin rite is criticizing something they have no category to even describe or believe. The fact is, that the Orthodox have a more fully developed doctrine of the Trinity with their essence/energy distinction. It is not necessarily at odds with the Catholic (Latin rite) doctrine, it is just saying thing the Latin rite has left to mystery, simply affirming the unity of God. The Orthodox doctrine says more than the Catholic doctrine, and the Catholic Church is a-ok with that! Catholics just don’t want to be forced to adopt a tradition they do not share without a council or some discussion. And honestly, many Catholics have some reasonable reservations about the essence/energies distinction. Nevertheless, officially, the Catholic Magisterium does not see these differences as something which prevents reunion. Nor does it see a lack of specifics concerning the purgatorial state a barrier. The traditions are not necessarily at odds, they just have different emphases. The Church, even before the schism, has always had different groups within the Church give different emphasis on doctrines and which have different traditions (small t) within the Church, or different schools of theology. What I have found, and something which Timothy Flanders says well, is that Orthodox often want to tell Catholics what the Catholic tradition is and should be. (I am assuming you have read Timothy’s great article on Devin’s blog? http://www.devinrose.heroicvirtuecreations.com/blog/2012/11/26/an-eastern-orthodox-christian-looks-west/) But if a Catholic says that the doctrine of aerial tollhouses is compatible with what he means by purgatory, or that he sees no contradiction with Catholic doctrine with the essence/energy distinction, but prefers to leave more mystery, I think Orthodox should give the benefit of the doubt.

“The fact is, that in matters of ecumenical dialogue, talk of reaching consensus and points of agreement only serves to mask the very real theological differences that separate the Orthodox Churches from Roman Catholicism.”

This saddens me and I couldn’t disagree more! In matters of ecumenical dialogue, talk of reaching consensus and points of agreement… in the Truth, should be what we are constantly doing! Not only between Catholic and Orthodox, but between Christians and non-Christians as well. This “talk of reaching consensus” does not by necessity mask anything. If he truly believes the Orthodox Church to be the true Church, which he no doubt does, how will he ever bring that truth to others who disagree if he does not try to reach a consensus with them? I am always puzzled when I hear this statement from Orthodox. I see it as a straw man view of ecumenism. There is good and bad ecumenism, the bad one wants agreement and unity without unity in the truth. The good kind wants unity and consensus in the truth. This does not “mask” anything.

I must be more of a Catholic partisan than I thought, my appologies for that. because I was pretty frustrated by that Ancient Faith article. Almost every sentence I was saying “wait a minute, that’s not true”. One thing is for sure, I am not the best person to give a full defense of Catholic ecclesiology. And I certainly am no scholar. So I will just touch on a few points that really stood out and make a general comment as well.

First the general comment: Many things he said about Catholic ecclesiology a Catholic would not agree with, or would certainly want stated in a different way, or with more nuance. I will give one example for the sake of brevity:

“…Roman Catholics, however, use the term [catholic] to mean the universal Church, which to their minds, is the Church, proper.”

No, that is not true. As I am accustomed to saying to Protestants, “It is both/and, not either/or”. Catholics also believe what he says, interpreting St. Ignatius as saying “when the people of God gather around their bishop in the same place to celebrate the Eucharist, there is the Catholic Church. There is Christ in all of his fullness. Nothing is lacking.”

Catholics fully believe this! My Archbishop, who sits on the chair (cathedra) in the Cathedral of St. Paul, is the “the image of the father” (as St. Ignatius said) and has the highest office in the Catholic Church, and that where he is, with his priests and deacons and his Eucharist, that there is the Church in its fullness. Nothing is lacking, and if the rest of the world suddenly were destroyed, nothing would be lacking in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to call it the Catholic Church. Not even the pope. Oh, sure, Archbishop Nienstedt would then become the pope, but the pope is just a bishop.

And even as Clarck rightly points out in the article, Orthodox absolutely have a hierarchy of bishops (Bishop, Metropolitan, Patriarch) while at the same time the level of Holy Orders is the same for each*. In a similar way, Catholic hierarchy sees all bishops with equal authority, yet some have different functions based on the prominence of their diocese. I want to ask the author: If it is good for the Orthodox why is it bad for the Catholics? If, for the Orthodox, only a Metropolitan or Patriarch can do certain things within the government of the church, why is that wrong for Catholics? Nevertheless, my main point here is that I think he misstates the Catholic position. And calling our view of the papacy blasphemous is inflammatory. For Catholics, the term “Church” must include both what St. Ignatius says about the local Church, but also the universal “Church” in terms of individual “Churches” who are in communion with each other. The difference is that instead of merely one group of reference points which supposedly determine the “whole”, Catholics have that but also a single reference point which all others must be in communion with. This is very consistent with the fathers of the Church view of the apostolic see. It does not trump the unity of the episcopal college, but it must be present to have such a “whole” or “catholic” unity.

And if the Orthodox do not think in terms of this second “universal” church, as Clark implies, then why do they refer to themselves as “THE Orthodox Church”? I think the Orthodox have a very healthy understanding of a hierarchy of Bishops while at the same time, having no hierarchy. They both are true at the same time, it just depends on what we are talking about. And the Catholic ecclesiology is no different in that respect. Bishops of greater sees can depose or excommunicate those of lesser sees, call councils, vet and approve decisions, and all sorts of things, all while being of the same, (highest office) rank of “Bishop” in another sense. An Orthodox bishop and an Orthodox “Patriarch” are of the same office and are the source of the same Eucharist. Yet they have different authority in matters of Church governance. So if this is a wrong form of ecclesiology for the Catholics, then it should be for the Orthodox as well.

As far as his take on St. Cyprian, I completely disagree with his take. Let me suffice by encouraging you to read this article by Bryan Cross. http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/09/st-cyprian-on-the-unity-of-the-church/

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend checking out Called to Communion. Particularly Bryan Cross. You can even email him privately, and I know he will respond, but feel free to leave comments on old posts and he will respond. I am no theologian! So things I say in this email will be less accurate and far less helpful than someone like Bryan Cross. Honestly, even just emailing or commenting to him with a short list of your top questions, you will not regret it. He will give you the authentic, best elucidated take on things from the Catholic point of view, and in a totally polite way. If you end up not being convinced by the Catholic arguments, please make sure that they are the best arguments--- and that they are arguments made by knowledgeable Catholics, not Orhtodox/Protestant glosses of those doctrines. By all means, read the glosses, but ask a Catholic like Cross “is this what Catholics believe? Or is there something missing?” At least then you can know you are making a totally imformed choice.

One more personal addition to this already long letter. When I found myself up my epistemic creek looking for a paddle, I happened to be looking at all the articles on Called to Communion. So obviously the Catholic take on theings was strongly presented. I knew I needed some balance. So I personally corresponded with Keith Mathison for a while. If you havent heard of him, look him up. But he has the cutting edge Reformed book on sola Scriptura, and is quite qualified to defend the solas. I knew that if he couldn’t defend sola Scriptura, no one could. Of course I also read many books (written by Protestants) on sola Scriptura. This gave me confidence in future decisions knowing I had gone to the best sources. I also did this with Orthodoxy. I read Orthodox literature and talked with Orthodox folks. But again, I am no scholar. The best I can give you is a fireside chat type of discussion/testimony with most likely weak and self-serving proofs. Bryan Cross can cut through the BS and get to the root of stuff. I cannot recommend him enough.

Sorry for the long letter again, peace to you and yours!

*Or perhaps not, because he says a single Orthodox bishop cannot ordain? I didn’t realize the Orthodox believed that. My mind immediately raced to think of what a bishop is lacking in order to ordain? Catholics certainly do not believe that more than one bishop is needed to ordain.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Militant Fecundity

The Duggar Family
"I am not convinced that we are in any very meaningful sense in the midst of a “culture war”; I think it might at best be described as a fracas. I do not say that such a war would not be worth waging. Yet most of us have already unconsciously surrendered to the more
insidious aspects of modernity long before we even contemplate drawing our swords from their scabbards and inspecting them for rust. This is not to say that there are no practical measures for those who wish in earnest for the battle to be joined: homeschooling or private “trivium” academies; the disposal or locking away of televisions; prohibitions on video games and popular music; Greek and Latin; great books; remote places; archaic enthusiasms. It is generally wise to seek to be separate, to be in the world but not of it, to be no more engaged with modernity than were the ancient Christians with the culture of pagan antiquity; and wise also to cultivate in our hearts a generous hatred toward the secular order, and a charitable contempt. Probably the most subversive and effective strategy we might undertake would be one of militant fecundity: abundant, relentless, exuberant, and defiant childbearing. Given the reluctance of modern men and women to be fruitful and multiply, it would not be difficult, surely, for the devout to accomplish — in no more than a generation or two — a demographic revolution. Such a course is quite radical, admittedly, and contrary to the spirit of the age, but that is rather the point, after all. It would mean often forgoing certain material advantages, and forfeiting a great deal of our leisure; it would often prove difficult to sustain a two-career family or to be certain of a lavish retirement. But if it is a war we want, we should not recoil from sacrifice...."

David B. Hart is an Eastern Orthodox theologian

This guy reads like a modern Chesterton. Read the rest here.