Thursday, December 18, 2003

THE WAR ON EXCESSIVE SYMPATHY. I see that Professor Reynolds and his mob-not-a-pack have been working overtime to denounce a Catholic Cardinal for showing "excessive sympathy for Saddam" in statements such as this:
Seeing him like this, a man in his tragedy, despite all the heavy blame he bears, I had a sense of compassion for him.

Cardinal Martino spoke in officio on behalf of the Catholic Church, an organization based on the teachings of one Jesus of Nazareth, whose "turn the other cheek" and "whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me" philosophy is really what exercises this mob.

As a Catholic apostate, I am not generally in sympathy with the old Church, but I retain a lingering affection for Jesus. And one of the few enduring nobilities of the Church is that it sometimes speaks for the despised even when it is unpopular, simply because Jesus bade them do so.

I have to admire that, at least. Even most Christians, as bitter experience has shown, will freely indulge their vengefulness and wrathfulness without stopping to think whether the Prince of Peace would approve.

Reynolds et alia don't lean heavily on Christian credentials, though, so I wouldn't say they were being hypocritical (though the Professor's inept attempt to parse theology in support of his own killer Christianity is, let us say, up to his usual standards). In fact, when you look at the broad panoply of their conservatarian beliefs -- Darwinian capitalism plus imperialism -- it in many ways seems an utter repudiation of Christian ethics.

Like I said, I left the Church, but I haven't picked up another one, and if I were to do so, I hope it would be less creepy that the one attended (and, for all I know, run) by Lee Harris, whose weird tract, "The Uses of Compassion" (approved by Reynolds) distinguishes between "moral instincts" and "moral imagination" to explain why we shouldn't feel sorry for bad people. Some of it makes sense, sure. But it reminds me of the right-wing sex paper I spoke about in a previous post: it uses the language of a sociology report to explain the human condition.

I find Harris' techno-rationalism (and Morse's techno-irrationalism) less compelling than the Sermon on the Mount. But I'm old fashioned that way. The new breed doubtless has an algorithm for a spiffy, cost-efficient moral calculus, and based on this some nanotechnologic chip may be developed that can shut our sympathies on and off as mandated by political realities.

The moral utopia: it's just a click away. I'll pass. I saw what technology did to music (crisper sound, shittier product!), and I would rather not look at what it will do for religion.

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