Louder Fenn

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

I have no time for this, but my two cents on keeping back from the collection plate: My thoughts are related to this post at Amy Welborn's site. In it, the writer calls for a slow regeneration of the Church, over a generation or more.

This may be the way it will go, but revolutionary change is not un-Catholic per se, though perhaps not the rule. I remember Chesterton said something about the problem with the women's rights revolution was not its existence but that it did not end -- it continued to revolt long after it was useful.

I think that it is sound policy to hold back every single dime from the diocese and every parish around. This is our chance for a limited revolution: not to change the rule of celibacy or rewrite the liturgy, but to tell bishops simply one thing: Stop the molesters. Certainly more faithfulness would cure this problem, but it is also amenable to worldly solutions like strict policies regarding molesters and seminaries.

For all the worldliness that the bishops have manifested, it seems a solid policy to hit them in their worldly soft middle. We can strike while the iron is hot, effect a true change, and then let the leaven of a more faithful, etc., etc. generation work even more good in the Church. Certain bishops seem almost immune to pleas for decency, so why not appeal to their more corrupt nature?

The momentum is on the side of the laity; if we lose it, the change may indeed come over a generation, but with much sorrow in the meantime.

-Jimmy Tomato

Monday, April 29, 2002

I am still alive. I've been very busy with the Some Stuff I mentioned a few days ago. So much so, that I'm not really able to post at all; except, that is, for a brief announcement that I am, indeed, still alive, and will return.

Saturday, April 27, 2002

Hokiepundit has an amusing quote about pre-marital sex. Highlights the reason that the proper terminology is "extra-marital sex" not "pre-marital sex." Or, that, at the very least, even if both terms can be used, you run afoul of at least one of them no matter how you slice it.

- Jimmy Tomato

Friday, April 26, 2002

Okay, Louder told me how to post a link: here is the latest on guitars from Bryan

And here is my last shot on the topic (Louder is right -- you just have to stop sometime, although it goes against my grain to ever shut up when arguing):

I thought Bryan had already gotten rough, but apparently the rogue comments about Catholicism weren't enough -- now he accuses me of being a lawyer! (Actually, I am, which I alluded to in one of my posts). I really have just a few things left to say; hopefully, they are less smart sounding and more substantive.

Frankly, I ignored your Romans post because it did not seem all that relevant to me. Romans 14, to my mind, is discussing judging that another is committing a sin by doing something that is not actually prohibited by God. That is not what I am doing. I never said that it is a sin nor could I care less if someone wants to play a hymn on his guitar or his kazoo (I believe that in my first post I positively commended the sanctification of everyday music). Nor have I ever said it is sinful even to do it in church.

Paul did not say that you cannot ever make distinctions about what is a better practice over another practice (he said celibacy is better than marriage but, hey, marriage is good, too, if you can't be celibate). So, I am making a judgment in the sense of saying X is better than Y, but I am not judging that Y is therefore a sin or that anyone doing Y is a sinner.

Again, if you really want to debate Catholic stuff, I can do that. But it is not fair to throw out multiple Catholic doctrines and Protestant objections that are generally irrelevant to the debate. You complain that I sound smart but have no substance and on top of it throw out willy-nilly objections to saints and so on. I tried to deflect these statements with a little levity, and lo and behold, you still come up with another one -- Church or Bible? I know I started the whole thing with the sewage comment, and I apologize if I offended. But I could have some complaints of my own about your debating technique . . .

Finally, it comes down to this, I think: not the Bible, not the merits of guitar music, but that "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." You seem to deny that art is susceptible to even a little bit of objective judgment. I keep thinking I can sum it all up, but here is another attempt: I do not believe that churches should be splintered -- I believe that church should be unifying, on many levels -- therefore, I believe that we should seek the universal -- one of those universals is music. I do not claim that there is a Platonic "Church Music" which is eternally perfect for all ages and in all situations. But I think that we should try to cobble the best music we have. Just because there are disputes about what the best music is doesn't mean that we cannot find a tolerable consensus or should not try. (I am reminded of the ancient Greek philosopher, whose name escapes me, who believed that there was no truth because every "truth" was disputed by someone. He made the erroneous leap of judgment that because every proposition is disputed, then every proposition is disputable.)

Finally, you also seem to deny that there is any spirit inherent in music. The spirit of music may be less concrete than that in, say, the visual arts (a nice painting of a landscape vs. a Mapplethorpe photo), but it is there. Is it somber, joyful, despairing, etc., etc.? I believe music does have a spirit to it, and certainly not all spirits are appropriate for church (e.g., despairing music), therefore, not all music is appropriate for church.

-Jimmy Tomato

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Well, it looks like I am the point man in the war against guitar music in church. If I knew how to link to the post at junkyardblog, I would . . .

I would quibble with your quibbles, Bryan, except that I can't merely quibble: I think you have fundamentally misunderstood a lot of my statement.

First, my statement about "three thousand year old harp music" was not meant to mean only harp music. Obviously, the Psalm mentions a lot of other instruments -- it was a metaphor for everything mentioned in the Psalm. Let me put it this way: there have been a lot of changes in music in three thousand years, and I do not believe that the Psalm can be read to bless every single form of music as long as it is loud. Perhaps we can agree that there probably should not be death speed metal in church (even with Christian lyrics)? If so, then we are on the path to agreement that we must make some, even if just a teeny tiny bit, reasoned judgments about the music in church even when using the Psalms as a guide.

Second, I did not say that the Psalm was inappropriate to direct our choice. I said, perhaps in too opaque terms, that it was insufficient.

Two of the points that you make are actually mine, and I am not sure how you think that they support your case. Yes, guitars were not invented when the Psalm was written. Yes, church was different in Old Testament times. And this hurts my case how?

If guitars were not invented and church is different now than in OT times, doesn't it stand to reason that the Psalm does not directly or clearly or definitively answer the question of whether guitars should be played at modern church services? It seems only reasonable that David wrote and commented upon what he knew. We can try to extract universal principles from his writings, but we cannot directly apply his writings to our changed circumstances, at least not without a little thought and discernment.

Is it at least possible that David could both bless harp and timbrel music for OT worship, yet say, "But, you know, modern worship is slightly different. It calls for some different rules here and there, a tweak here, a twist there, and given all the changes in music and worship I think x,y, and z are appropriate, but e,f anf g are not." He didn't know about guitar music, he didn't know about hip hop, he didn't know about classical music, he didn't know about jazz. He was working with one genre. We have so many different forms of music, it seems only reasonable to me that we use some discernment and that David would not object.

And, frankly, you are making a bit of a leap (as I said before, there are many steps from the Psalms to modern guitar music). You assume that the music that David was talking about is the equivalent of today's rockabilly or maybe folk or whatever. Maybe it is the equivalent of jazz and only jazz should be played? Maybe it is the equivalent of classical and only classical should be played? I am not positing any of these as the true answer, all I am saying is that there are a lot of questions that call for lots of thought that cannot be answered with a simple citation to the Psalms and nothing more.

Indeed, you obviously are not taking the Psalm ultra-literally, or else you would stick with the harp and the timbrel. So what have you done? You have extracted a principle from the Psalm and applied it to modern times. I am saying that your extrapolation is erroneous.

Apparently the "clear-cut command" comment set off some sort of booby trap for unsuspecting Catholics. If you would like to discuss things like the saints, we can do that. (For the record, I make a special effort to clearly distinguish God from the saints: I keep my saint statutes well below my crucifix and just to the right of my Golden Calf and Neptune statues.) But otherwise, I do not understand your complaint. I was objecting to your argument, not the clarity of scriptures; you were relying on the Psalms as a more or less clear-cut authority, and I object to your use of the Psalms in that fashion because I do not think that they clearly settle the issue.

All I am saying is that if the Bible does not command X, then, well, it doesn't command X. I am not saying that the Psalms have nothing to say on the topic, but you threw them down and said, "There, my guitar stays!" And I said, well, wait a minute, I can discern some stuff from the psalms, but I cannot discern a carte blanche directive to play or even permit guitars in church.

Anyway, I have never had a problem with a lack of clear-cut commands in scripture on any given topic. As a Catholic, I have other, secret sources . . . (some say they are hidden -- sequestered, even! -- deep in a city in Italy, but I have it on good authority that at least one of these authorities breaks out every so often, spending significant time jetting about the world on a private, gold-plated jet).

I don't assume a Biblical mandate for anything I have said. On the contrary, as I said before, I am simply making an artistic judgment. I mean, boiled down, all I am really saying is (with nose in the air and without all the polite language that I used about the sewage), "You people have no taste." It's no different than someone trying to nurse someone back from an addiction to R&B -- I may fail, but I am not conflating this with a great doctrinal dispute.

Obviously, we disagree on what we have to offer God. But you missed the key word in my statement: universal (and, in addition, public). I am positing that in church we should offer him not the best that any given person has to offer, but the best that mankind has to offer as a whole, because church is a public prayer. To do that we must first figure out what the best stuff is.

-Jimmy Tomato

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

I won't be posting very heavily for a week or so. I've got Some Stuff to do. I promise (seriously and completely) to wrap up my children's fantasy essay as soon as I return in full force. Conveniently, my brother seems to be in a blogging mode, so this blog should not become boring in the coming days. But you know how blogging goes: sometimes it goes; sometimes it doesn't; and considering the unreliability of BlogSpot these days, it may all be moot...
The Spare Midge
Modicum 22

The stutter in the lace had never ended. Even out in Nomads Field, I had felt it: the sort of noise, a kind of ache, that you soon ignore. As we neared the palace, the stutter worsened.

And then, in the palace, I could hear the wail.

I wondered if Egg's viruses were taking hold. Egg said they might not, not right away. They were sneaking into the co-Am on the minions but they still had to work through the co-Am's guts. Besides, every minion carried only a probability of the viruses. "Heck," Egg had said, shrugging, "it's in the nature of the lace to carry Midge's data — and Ursula's co-Am happens to, um, mesh with that nature — but the viruses are unnatural, as far as the lace is concerned. They're an imposition, and interquantic imposition is not exactly determinate. It'll take time — and tons of minions — for the probabilities to maximize."

Midge, still tranquil, walked ahead of me.

Since visitors to Rock might arrive at any time and might leave within an hour, the palace was always open, and even now, early in the fake morning, there was a line of mourners. Midge joined it and let it take her along. This was, of course, the best way to get as near as possible to Ursula, and to be near her as long as possible, without appearing suspicious.

I was not beside my sister. Egg had told us to separate ourselves, to put maybe fifty people between us. We had to give the minions room to get confused. Making the gap was a little tricky, though, since I had to wait behind, out of the line, counting mourners, ten, twenty, thirty, and not look like I was waiting. Pardon me, Miss, but what are you waiting for? I doubt that the tree-laced mercenaries and robot cannon really cared about some quiet little thirteen-year-old girl, who was surely waiting for her parents or older sister; but I knew what I was doing, I knew I was a kind of threat, and so I didn't want to seem a threat.

Thirty, thirty five, forty. Of course we didn't have to be exact. But after a while, the counting was a game. By counting mourners I wasn't merely the Other Half of the lace's singularity. I was participating in this act. My sister and I were up to something.

Forty one, forty two.

We were playing.

Forty three, forty four.

Midge was closer to Ursula. The clarity of the co-Am was painful now. So many minions were confused. I pleaded with the viruses to finish. To distract myself I counted more intently. Forty five, forty six, forty seven. Midge's tranquility helped against the pain.

As did her words.

By the lace she was chatting with me. She didn't usually chat by the lace, even if she was out of earshot. Midge had never wanted the lace to think that it belonged in her life. She might take advantage of it, now and then, to throw me a comment or two, but she would never dignify it with extended monologues. Except, that is, when she didn't want Mother to hear her. But now, in the atrium of Portia's Third Palace, Midge wasn't griping or scheming or lamenting things. She was pointing out the people around us, their hats, their shorts, their bags, their faces, their dirt, their glow, not to mock them, no, but just because, well, there they were, you know, and, wow, weren't they something?

Forty eight. Forty nine.

Midge turned to look at me through the crowd. I saw myself still back there, waiting, and suddenly she grinned and waved at me, deep in her contentment I saw her lightly wave, while, by the lace, I heard her call out to me, Hey, sis, are we having fun yet? — and, through the crowd, I saw the bewilderment in my eyes, for she had never called me sis before.

Then everything ended.

Ó 2002 Louder Fenn

I forgot to finish my thought on federalism: However, given the state of the Commerce Clause, we should not be afraid to enact a mere law to ban cloning simply because a proper constitutional scheme would not allow it. There are so many trivial laws proposed and passed based on Commerce Clause authority, that it would be an abdication to not enact an important bill because of theoretical objections. The federalism objection --while fair, given the conservative position on the issue -- is really just a weapon wielded by cloning proponents to put anti-cloners off balance. It should be given a respectful nod and brief response, followed by extended anti-cloning rhetoric.

-Jimmy Tomato

Federalism and cloning: Louder is right that cloning is of sufficient moral import that we should have a national policy (also because if one state allows cloning, all the research facilities will move there, undermining the point of a ban). As to the constitutionality, I do not know what grant of power the proposed ban relies upon -- the Commerce Clause, presumably. If so, the problem is with Supreme Court precedent that mangles the Commerce Clause into something just short of a grant of full police power to the feds. Therefore, the Supreme Court should overrule its Commerce Clause jurisprudence and restore some sanity to the balance between the federal government and the states. Then, we should enact a constitutional amendment banning cloning -- because the theory of federalism should not stand in our way, but the text of the Constitution, as it stands, probably should stand in our way but does not because of wacko Supreme Court precedent. Unless someone can come up with some other clause in the Constitution besides the Commerce Clause on which to hang a ban?
HokiePundit wishes that I would provide an e-mail address and/or a way for readers to post comments. Sorry, Hokie. I deliberately forwent both because I already spend too much time reading my favorite blogs (like Hokie's) and posting to my own blog. If I had to read and respond to e-mails and comments, too...! Because I know I would never do it, I didn't want to implicitly promise I would.

Maybe someday I'll provide an e-mail link, if I can think of a polite way of declaring: You can write if you want but don't expect a response.

Bryan over at JunkYardBlog pointed out this article on cloning by Charles Krauthammer. I'm kind of pleased that Krauthammer ultimately uses -- as his strongest objection to cloning -- the argument that manfacturing humans for disposal is dangerous.
Creating a human embryo just so it can be used and then destroyed undermines the very foundation of the moral prudence that informs the entire enterprise of genetic research: the idea that, while a human embryo may not be a person, it is not nothing. Because if it is nothing, then everything is permitted. And if everything is permitted, then there are no fences, no safeguards, no bottom.
Since I have often made this point about "manufacture of humans," I'm tempted to say advantage Fenn! -- but, really, I'm much too humble.

Now, obviously I don't agree with Krauthammer that the embryo is merely "not nothing." Still, it is good that his voice is substantially with us. And did you know that Krauthammer is a member of the President's Council on Bioethics? In other words, he is a Minion of the Dark Lord Leon Kass. Yes indeed, that Council is nothing but a gaggle of unthinking Luddites.

P.S. I told myself I'd never say "advantage Fenn." It does lack humility. Still, it is so fun to say!

Hmph. I did not realize how long my half-response to Bryan would be. Guess that explains why a full response was going to take so long.

-Jimmy Tomato

Monday, April 22, 2002

Instapundit excerpts his own article, saying that by seeking a national solution (i.e., a ban) on cloning, Bush is being a "fair-weather Federalist." While Reynolds' general point is valid -- not everything is a Federal issue -- it seems to me that cloning is of sufficient depth and import that a Federal solution is called for. Would Reynolds object to the national banning of slavery? Or would he leave that up to the states? He might reply: "Well, at least they made an amendment to the Consitution." Fair enough. So if we who oppose cloning seek such an amendment, will the "fair-weather Federalist" argument end? I myself don't think that an amendment is called for: To a large extent, the original Consitution tolerated slavery and would therefore have required amendment prior to any national banning of slavery; unless one is going to start talking "penumbras," I don't think the current Constitution has much to say about cloning...
You bloggers are crazy. I tried writing a comprehensive response to Bryan's post about guitars in church, but was stymied by the amount of time it was obviously going to take. The partners at my firm will fire me without a second thought if I submit my billable hours with twelve percent devoted to some client called "Blog." So, while it goes against my grain to offer only half a response, here goes:

Using the Psalms to justify guitar music is a bit of an overreach. There are a lot of steps from three-thousand year old harp music to Innagoddadavidda. No mention of "outside church": true, but no mention of in church. No mention of guitars. Maybe we should only be using harps? Maybe only playing three-thousand year old cymbals? Etc., etc.

The simple fact is that absent a more clear-cut command to use guitars in church from the Psalms, I do not believe that God intended for us to suspend our judgment regarding music and art and cut loose with some rockabilly in church because David wrote about praising God on the timbrel.

I am not foreclosing different forms of music -- I'll try a mass with Arvo Part any day. I simply and graphically stated that the guitar music one hears in church today is bad music. This is an opinion, but only insofar as all judgment about art is opinion. Some artistic judgment is valid or else we are left blessing the recent "art" exhibit that made the news rounds that consists of cadavers cut open and manipulated into various positions by the "artist."

Now, I also said that guitars as such should not be in church, and I will stick with that, too. There is a spirit to different sorts of music, there is a spirit to different instruments. And I am saying the spirit of the guitar is not suitable for church. It is like the traditional "Queen of the May" song that Catholics would sing at the May crowning of a statute of the Blessed Virgin Mary: I like the song, but it is sounds remarkably like an old Irish bar song. Fine song, not right for church. Guitar sounds good -- not right for church.

Finally, I do not believe that we should all find the church that suits us, per se. I believe that church should universalize -- take the best that mankind has to offer and offer it, so that we may pray as one. Church is a public prayer -- it should seek the highest common denominator. It should not splinter into little churches, each offering what a tiny and discrete minority enjoy. While it does not keep me up at night that some people use guitar music in church (or other things I believe to be problematic), I also do not believe that it is proper that everyone just find what suits them and let 'er rip.

-Jimmy Tomato

The Spare Midge
Modicum 21

Although Egg had run simulations in the ship's Am, the only real test of his plan was to do it for real. Of course he wanted to know how it went. He was tempted to tap us both through subdermal monitors, but he was afraid of being detected. We were taking enough risks as it was. So he told us we had to come back, to tell him if everything worked.

We told him we would. Midge was even sincere.

Lin asked us if we really wanted to go through with all this nonsense. I don't think she was having second thoughts, not as such. She had faith in Egg's contrivances. And by then I think she had convinced herself that our intentions were pure enough to merit Portia's mercy, should something go wrong. And as she had said, several times already, who was she to stop the foolishness of youth? But she had to try to dissuade us, at least a little. She was a mother, after all.

Midge, however, was ready to go through with anything. She wasn't cautious to begin with — and the fractional Am had made her far from anxious. As for me, I was determined to go through with this.

Lin wished us well. Egg did, too.

We never saw them again. I don't think they ever got in trouble because of us. I never heard, though, one way or the other.

• • •

We walked back to the train station.

Once or twice, Midge was disoriented. She wasn't sure what to do with herself. The smear with the Am had diverted her. She had no inclination to be herself.

We didn't bother with breakfast. We didn't return to the hotel, change our clothes, see the monkey, plan our day.

We took the train to Ursula.

Midge and I sat beside each other. The seat was a narrow bench, only large enough for us, really, but a small man with square glasses had taken the aisle, Midge in the middle, I at the window. Midge used to think that she could turn the eye of any man, but this man was indifferent. He was taken instead with the scrolling words on his paper loop and probably hadn't noticed Midge's leg against his. To him, I suppose, we were nothing more than the usual morning cargo.

Midge was indifferent, too — and not only because the man was limp in his suit and tie. Men, boys, all of that and every toxic excess, were nothing to her now. She was oddly tranquil. She stared at the fabric of the bench in front of her, at the chrome trim, at the Amjacks and the bright, insistent commercial patches, and enjoyed the slowness of her own breathing. She knew, I knew, that the fractional Am had modified her. Her tranquility was no less real. Egg, I think, had identified our problem well. To save Ursula's co-Am he hadn't defined happiness as cheer or joy. Happiness, for our needs, was peace.


I was not so content. Back in the Sling, when Midge and I had first left for Rock, I had felt the promise of a far place. Now I felt it again, an unspecific hope, a rising of sorts, no name to it but there. I was excited. Oh, yes, Mother thought me dull. Midge thought me dull. Everyone did. I did. I was dull. I was never a fervent child. Yet in a corner of my heart lived the Battle Queen of Midge's wishes, a fancy that had never died but slowly condensed, becoming a pearl, a burning coal, a misplaced heat...

I did not expect anything to come of our adventure with Ursula's co-Am. We would end its wailing and then — and then, I didn't know. But we were doing a favor to Ursula herself, she who had collapsed Rigel, tricked a worldrot, snared the interstatial armies of the Paavaka Usurper, shifted the asteroid ring of the Neo-Anarchists two seconds into the past (and out of the present), suffused the buildings of Gollidor with an Am-twisted, aether-borne hatred of people (causing them to de-mortar themselves and crush the Gollidorian rebels), surrendered her own hand as ransom for the Prince of Falwick (only to use it later as a pummel on the Regent), lured the Sixth, Ninth, Eleventh, and Twenty-Fourth Fleets of Kawai Ellowean between the double pulsars of Qent (creating a mass-threaded wormhole that swept the Jaca refugees to safety) — done all these things, done more, done more than I or Midge could ever have done; but at least my sister and I could do this, walk into Portia's Third Palace and evade all the defenses and give Ursula Kato a touch of our adoration, a favor if not exactly to her then to her intimate servant, her co-Am, the last living piece of the Goddess.

Midge and I could finally, truly join the Tale of the Glorious Axe.

Ó 2002 Louder Fenn

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