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The Metaphysics and Morality of Racism

by Cole DeSantis

 

On October 24, 2018, a man by the name of Gregory Alan Bush tried to break into the First Baptist Church in Jeffersontown, just outside of Louisville, Kentucky.  Upon realizing that the church was closed and the doors were locked, he then left. Ten to fifteen minutes later, he went to Kroger Marketplace, a supermarket chain that had a franchise nearby. He then opened fire on the store, killing a 69-year-old man named Maurice Stallard. As he fled, he shot a 67-year old woman name Vickie Jones. [1]

 

Many suspect that the act was more specifically a hate crime, and is currently being investigated as such. While shooting up the store, Bush specifically targeted Stallard, an African-American man, shooting him in the head, and then shooting him several more times. Both Stallard and Jones (who was also African-American) had several gunshot wounds. As he was being arrested, he said, “Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites.” Further, the church he tried to enter into was a predominantly African-American congregation. [2]

 

A few days later, on Saturday, October 27, 2018, another tragedy occurred. A man named Robert Bowers barged into the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh, and went on a 20-minute long rampage in which he attacked a group of people worshiping at the synagogue while shouting anti-Semitic slogans. Bowers, who worked as a truck-driver, was known for frequenting the website Gab, which was popular among white nationalists. In various internet posts, he wrote of several anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, including that the Jewish human rights group HIAS (the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) was attempting to bring immigrants into this country to try to displace the native white population. He also claimed that he did not vote for President Trump because he did not “hard enough” on Jews. [3] He also wrote in one internet comment, “[J]ews are the children of Satan.” [4] There were a total of 11 victims. At the moment in which he opened fire, he yelled, “All Jews must die!’ [5]

 

Anyone who hears of these stories will feel shock or disgust, which will then lead to a sense of moral outrage. And rightly so. Yet, why is this? It is taken as a given within our society that racism – and murder or hate crimes more generally – are wrong. The acceptance of certain values which people treat as axiomatic is necessary for the creation of stable societies. Yet, unless we can show whether or not these values are in line with what is objectively good and evil, we will always run the risk of falling into one of two pitfalls: either taking any moral principle or value to be merely an arbitrary phenomena contingent on evolution or social constructs; or, on the other end, not rationally examining the truth or falsehood of any moral value, and accepting as true or good anything we are told. Both can lead to immense evil.

 

And that is what I hope to do here: demonstrate why it is we as a society take racism to be evil. It is no mere moralizing sentiment. Here, I will be drawing mainly on the tradition of Christian anthropology, especially the metaphysical and anthropological viewpoints of St. Thomas Aquinas.

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Rules For Apologetics

by Cole DeSantis

 

In today’s world of multiculturalism, ideological and religious pluralism, and widespread secularism, Catholics need to be able to take part in rationally coherent and persuasive apologetics. The term “apologetics” comes from the Latin term apologeticus, which means “defense,” which in turn is derived from the Greek term apologeisthai, which means “to speak in one’s own defense.” Apologetics is a field of theology  centered on trying to find ways to defend one’s beliefs and convince others of them. Here are some suggestions for how to best prepare oneself for the task of apologetics.

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Peterson vs. Christianity: On Being, Suffering and Meaning

by Cole DeSantis

For anyone who has spent enough time on the internet, one name that will come up is Dr. Jordan Peterson. A pop intellectual of sorts, he has, over the course of the past two years become an internet superstar in his own right. Dr. Peterson is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, who gained popularity in 2016 for his critique of a Canadian law which threatened to impose fines on those who refused to use the proper gender pronouns of transgender/transsexual individuals, if such misgendering was believed to have been done maliciously, and thus could be classified as hate speech. Peterson claimed that this law could easily be abused to censor speech concerning the nature of gender and sexuality which members of the transgender/transsexual community disagree with or find offensive, and thus could shut down honest or authentic dialogue or debate. [1] He has also claimed that such measures bring about a forced or contrived development in how the larger language and culture speaks of sexuality and gender identity. While open to future changes, he has claimed that such changes need to occur as the result of organic developments within the language and culture. [2]

 

Since then, Peterson has developed a larger social view centered on an anti-political correctness and an anti-SJW worldview – and, by extension, an anti-post-modernist worldview, since Peterson sees post-modernism as the main culprit in the rise of political correctness and the radical ideologies surrounding it. His consistent view is that proponents of this ideology thrive off of considering themselves as “victims” fighting against what they perceive as an “oppressor,” and desire sympathy and intervention from the government and larger society as the main means of resolving their issues. This runs counter to the attitude he promotes, namely one of taking responsibility for ones actions and trying ones best to cope with the problems of life. [3] Peterson has thus gained a reputation as a self-help guru of sorts, which can be seen in his most recent book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.

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The Profit of Doom: Finding Comfort in the Book of Job

by Katherine Titus

 

Few books of the Hebrew Scriptures are as unsettling as that of Job. Even the meaning of the name “Job” causes disquiet, since in Hebrew “Job” (‘iyyob) can be taken to mean “persecuted.” Not only is this man plagued by losing his property, his children, and his health, but he is also tormented by the knowledge that he was innocent when these terrible events occurred, challenging faith in a God who “protects the ways of those loyal to Him.” (Prov. 2:8) As Michael Coogan starkly states in his commentary, “The Book of Job denies the inevitability of rewards for living an upright life and decisively refutes the idea that human suffering is always deserved.”[i] It would seem that Job offers biblical proof that this life is unfair.

So why would such a story be in the scriptures as a subject for meditation? To find out, one should look at what the writers intended this story to be. It is clear in the book of Job, the ancient authors were wrestling with the problem of suffering in this world, and trying to understand how their good and all-powerful God related to unjust human suffering. Scholars indicate that the opening and closing chapters of Job that were written in prose (chapters 1-2 and 42:7-17) were used as “bookends” to the grieving poetry in the middle. It was thought to be written in the aftermath of the exile, perhaps in an effort to understand how God’s chosen people could be conquered by a foreign power.

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City of Shame

by Joseph Catalfamo

 

As is well-known, the last book in the Bible – Revelation – was far from written in a vacuum. Not only the Jewish background of the author, but also the concrete, day-to-day realities of first-century CE Asia Minor saturate the work. (1) From parodies of cult theatrics to the niceties of the dress of prostitutes, John is notorious for his cultural and political allusions. (2) Yet, despite an effusion of historically sensitive literature within scholarly circles, little to none has been published regarding the function of honor and shame in the work. (3) The present study seeks to rectify the dearth of intention in this area. In order to accomplish this task, the role of honor and shame in the Apocalypse will be investigated by means of their interplay with imperial motifs.

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Liturgy Wars: Gregorian chant versus Contemporary Music

by Melissa Scott

 

When Catholics attend Sunday Mass, they are likely to hear some form of music accompanying the liturgy. While the music might be aesthetically pleasing, it also makes the Mass longer. On a college campus, students are busy studying and attending all of their extra-curricular activities and are therefore pressed for time in their busy schedules. This can lead one to ask if music is a necessary component of the liturgy or if it may be eliminated altogether. The question also arises whether any genre of music is appropriate or a particular kind of music is more suitable. At the college I attend, the traditional hymns and Gregorian chant that the Schola Cantorum sings at the 4:30 pm Mass are not nearly as popular among the students as the contemporary Christian music that accompanies the 10:30 pm Mass. In fact, many students admit that if they attend Mass on campus, they prefer the 10:30 Mass, because the atmosphere created by the music is more appealing. Is this simply a difference in taste, or is one type of music preferable to the other, particularly when it comes to evangelizing the youth? Theologians have debated this topic for ages, and the Church has produced many documents on the importance of music in the liturgy and the preference given to particular types of music. While Church documents allow some adaptations based on pastoral considerations, there are limitations to inculturation in regards to the kind of music appropriate for the liturgy in order to maintain the sacredness of the Mass. Many Catholics don’t realize that the Church continues to uphold an ideal model of sacred music in Gregorian chant, given its first priority of worshiping God and sanctifying the faithful.

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The Holy Spirit: A Guide for Interreligious Dialogue

by Christina Corvese

The Plurality of Religions: Is Mere Tolerance Sufficient?

When examining how to approach interreligious dialogue, the concept of tolerance must be analyzed. Does tolerance ease tensions among various religious groups, or does tolerance only provide a passive-aggressive solution? Today, tolerance appears to have been adopted as a method of “just getting by” while living in the vicinity of those who are disliked. This type of tolerance is mediocre, and will not act as the most beneficial resolution for interreligious conflicts. Catholics are called to reach beyond this version of tolerance because they have one of the richest spiritual guides of all: the Holy Spirit. If Catholics choose to invoke the Holy Spirit while engaging in interreligious dialogue, they could gain insight into God providentially at work within all religions.

Without respect, tolerance becomes like a Band-Aid solution for the root causes of tension. In his book Rekindling the Christic Imagination, author Robert P. Imbelli describes how anything that causes strife (fear, tension, discrimination, etc.) tends to distort the relationship between God and His people as well as the relationships between different groups of people, through “mistrust and disobedience.”1 Temporary solutions for religious tensions will only fuel a false sense of security, and will inevitably result in an increase of mistrust for the future. Therefore, Catholics should take Imbelli’s advice that tensions and fears must be dealt with at their “very root.”2 A more adequate and complete understanding of the term “tolerance” is needed in order to show Catholics how to act and proceed within interreligious dialogue.

In “Christ Among the Religions,” Cardinal Avery Dulles describes what tolerance is not. He writes, “Tolerance is not the same thing as approval. We tolerate things that we find less than acceptable because we find ourselves unable to suppress them or because the suppression would be too burdensome or morally evil.”3 His view indicates that people become tolerant towards others when full agreement does not seem possible. Thus, people resort to tolerance as a temporary solution when there seems to be no other morally acceptable option for living among those with different religious and cultural backgrounds.

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