Christine O'Donnell and Chris Coons squared off for a debate last night in Delaware and neither scored either a slam dunk or a career-ending gaffe. But, the bar was so low for O'Donnell, her calm demeanor and ability to articulate the her beliefs belied the image of her as a crazy, witchcraft-dabbling, ranter. Additionally, Coons did not help himself by being so condescending. Repeatedly, after O'Donnell spoke, he began his replies by saying "Where do I start, Wolf?" appearing too chummy with a consummate Washington insider like host Wolf Blitzer and making it seem like it was some unreasonable burden to confront O'Donnell's words. Yes, O'Donnell strings together cliches and platitudes and confused them with a coherent worldview, but watching Coons last night, two words kept rummaging through my mind: Martha Coakely.
Yesterday, Catholic University’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies had a panel at the National Press Club, examining the Catholic vote and the upcoming midterm elections. The panel included CUA politics professor Matthew Green, who addressed the electoral landscape this year, Public Religion Research Institute’s CEO Robert Jones, who presented the results of a new survey his organization conducted, and Greg Smith, who discussed the polling data from Pew surveys this year and how those surveys compared to previous years. The panel was moderated by Mark Rozell of George Mason University.
The price of admission was met when the PBS special dealt with Lincoln and how the experience of the Civil War altered his religious convictions from a basic Deism to a belief in a providential, and loving, God.
They noted that you only have to listen to the lyrics of the Battle Hymn of the Republic to know that "God is entering history." They focused on the uniquely theological content of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, which remains the ur-text for American civic religion.
I wish they had focused more - or will focus in subsequent segments - on how paradigmatic Lincoln's experience was. It is suffering that moves us to embrace the God who suffered.
Before the face of evil, be it the war dead of Antietam and Gettysburg or the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, who can pray to any God other than the God who did not spare His own Son?
This from then-Cardinal Ratzinger's book with Habermas. Food for thought for anyone who tries to think John Courtney Murray, still less Mario Cuomo, solved it all.
The Holy Father spoke to this issue during his speech at Westminster Hall. It remains an enormous quandry.
We continue the discussion with young theologians who participated in the Fordham Conversation Project as they discuss the contributions made by Pope Benedict. The discussion is intended to complement the publication, recently released by the USCCB, Pope Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on His Papacy. Today, we hear from Beth Haile of Boston College.
The question: What is one of Pope Benedict's contributions to the life of the Church?
Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana said the President's decision to lift the moratorium on off-shore drilling was "a step in the right direction." I believe it was a step in the wrong direction both on the merits and politically.
Yesterday, while speaking at the Synod in Rome, Pope Benedict denounced the “false divinities” that litter our culture, and he listed the usual suspects of terrorism, drug abuse and violence. But, he added a new false god to the list: “anonymous capital.” Here is the key part of the text: “…let us remember the anonymous capital that enslaves man, which is no longer in man’s possession, but is an anonymous power served by men, by which men are tormented and even killed. It is a destructive power, that threatens the world.”
UPDATE (10/25): Not a lot of movement in this race. It is still rated as a Toss-up at both Real Clear Politics and Cook Political Report. Fivethirtyeight.com gives Republican Mark Kirk a 64% chance of winning the seat once held by President Obama.
Both candidates are, in a sense, running against the national type this year: the Republican Mark Kirk is an experienced member of Congress running as a moderate and Alexi Gianoullias is the former businessman with no DC resume. Charges and counter-charges dominated the debates, but there were no knockouts. The RCP poll average has Kirk up by 2.7 percent, which is within the margin of error. This race will be decided by turnout.
Earlier today, I quoted from the public discussion then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had with Jurgen Habermas.
Here is another quote from that same event. I am especially struck by his invocation of the Church Fathers.
Too often, mainstream views of religion think everything before the Enlightenment was dark and bestial, but that is a mis-characterization of history. The Enlightenment followed, and was in part spawned by, the Renaissance which, like the ressourcement theology that shaped Vatican II, involved a retrieval of wisdom from the past.
From the future pope:
PBS began its four-part documentary, “God in America,” last night and it was better than I expected. Oftentimes, the mainstream media takes on religion in a very superficial way, considering religion as “the Easter Bunny with real estate” as a journalist friend once said, but the producers of the show went beyond the surface. The rest of the series will air each of the next three nights and, hopefully, will maintain the standard established last night.
One of the best parts of last night’s show was that the experts they lined up explained how America’s individualism was not derived exclusively from the Enlightenment, but was born of the religious, and specifically Protestant, impulses of the colonial culture. They used the example of Anne Hutchinson’s challenge to the Puritan establishment of John Winthrop to demonstrate the tension that exists in American Protestantism between its devotion to the individual’s direct access to the Scripture and the conformity to established norms derived by the dominant culture from those same Scriptures. The issues may have changed, but the debate itself was at the heart of the contemporary debate about health care reform.