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Gerson, Hitchens & God

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Michael Gerson appears simultaneously intrigued and baffled by Christopher Hitchens. He has come to recognize that Hitch is a personal tour de force, a profoundly moralistic man who achieved his morality without help from any faith. Gerson’s essay, however, makes me less intrigued and more baffled about its author than its subject.

Gerson writes, “Of course we can be good without God, but why the hell bother?” You need not stray far from the self to attain most moral convictions: It is better not to steal than to steal, it is better not to cheat on one’s wife and risk the marriage than it is to seek gratifications away from the marital bed, being kind to another makes both the giver and the receiver of the kindness feel warm inside. So what? A possum cares for its newborns. My three dogs, who are each from different rescues and unrelated, are insanely devoted to each other and quite defensive of each other too.

Election Time: The Lay of the Land

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Sometimes, midterm elections are a big yawn and, sad to say, for most Americans they still are. It is safe to assume that a minority of those able to vote will actually make it to the polls on November 2 to help decide the direction of the nation. It remains one of the most inexcusable facts of our political life that elections are not held on a Sunday, or that Election Day is a holiday, or that the entire nation has not shifted to mail-in voting to increase turnout. It is an even more inexcusable fact of American society that so few Americans see politics as important enough to get interested, get involved and make a difference. But, there it is.

\"God in America\" - Part III

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The PBS documentary, "God in America," ended last night. Like the first two installments, it was very well done. The price of admission was worthwhile in this last episode just to see the video of a young Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking to the camera in Montgomery, Alabama, his personal magnetism still shining through the medium and through the years. I confess I am a blubberer, and when the show got to King's assassination, I wept. There was a great American and we Americans have not seen his equal since.

CathlicVote.org Gets Spanked in Scranton

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From the category: Don't take my word for it. Earlier today, I commented on the article by Thomas Peters who is the "blogger-in-residence" at CatholicVote.org, taking him to task for ridiculous claims surrounding the closure of Catholic hospitals in Scranton, which he blamed on Obamacare.

Well, the local newspaper in Scranton ran an editorial on the same subject today under the headline "Health care can't cure bald-faced lies."

CNS. NCR. The Scranton Times-Tribune. Three strikes.

Q & A: Christiana Peppard

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The USCCB's publication of a new book, Pope Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on his Papacy, has been the occasion for two weeks of discussion here at Q & A about Pope Benedict and his contributions to the Church.

This week we are hearing from the young theologians who participated in the Fordham Conversation Project, a gathering of under-40, untenured Catholic theology professors from around the country.

On these last two days of the series we get to hear from a husband and wife team, Christiana and Michael Peppard. It is a measure of the uniqueness of the times in which we live that the phrase "husband and wife team" has not, in previous generations, been applied to theologians!

Christiana Peppard is a doctoral candidate at Yale University, a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Ethics Education at Fordham University, and the Scholar in Residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.

Score One for O'Donnell

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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.

Election Time: The Catholic Vote

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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.

God in America: Part II

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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?

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August 29-September 11, 2014

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