The revised edition of the book Who Are You? What is Your Faith? America’s 21st Century Alt-Right and Catholic Social Doctrine will be released this month. It will be available in paperback and ebook editions.
“Progress in our nation happens when everyday Americans get involved and come together to chart our country’s course. It’s that uniquely American character—enhanced by a rich diversity of beliefs and a deep reservoir of ideas—that has always propelled us forward. As long as citizens of every party, every background, and every walk of life continue speaking out on the issues that matter to them and working toward the future we know is possible, our best days will always lie ahead . . . You have my very best” – Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States. Dated October 5, 2017.
Houston, we’ve had a problem (James A. Lovell).
Ask and you shall receive (Mt 7:7).
On April 11, 1970, the seventh manned mission in the US space program, Apollo 13, was launched from the John F. Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida (Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, 2016). The astronauts on board the mission were James A. Lovell, jr., Commander; Fred W. Haise, jr., pilot of the lunar module, Aquarius; and John L. Swigert, jr., pilot of the command module, Odyssey (National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA], 2009). The mission was intended to be the third lunar landing attempt and Apollo 13 was set to land in the Frau Mora highlands of the moon (US Congress, 2010). But the unexpected took place.
Two days into the mission, which had been characterized by uneventfulness and being “bored to tears” (NASA, 2009) as reported by the capsule communicator, John Kerwin, the second oxygen tank on board the service module exploded after it had been stirred as part of routine maintenance procedures. The explosion resulted in the failure of the first oxygen tank. The mission of Apollo 13 became crippled.
Critical supplies of electricity, light, and water were lost aboard the spaceship. The oxygen supply started being vented out into space in an uncontrollable manner at a high rate per second and the fuel cells started to die. The entire Sector Four panel of the service module had been blasted away by the explosion and wreckage was hanging out. Aquarius became a ‘lifeboat’ for the crew, despite having been designed to hold no more than two men for just two days (The New York Times, 1970). The astronauts were 200,000 miles away from the earth. Continue reading “Chapter 10: The return”
Does Protecting the Nation Serve America?
The bow was wedged in and could not be moved, but the stern began to break up under the pounding . . . Once we reached safety, we learned that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us extraordinary hospitality; they lit a fire and welcomed all of us because it had begun to rain and was cold (Saint Paul).
The Executive Order 13769 titled Protecting the Nation and its revised version, Executive Order 13780 with the same title, were enacted by President Trump and his administration to ostensibly protect the American people from terrorism (Salama & Caldwell, 2017) “because you don’t know who’s who . . . We can’t allow people coming into this country who have this hatred of the United States” (Jarrett, 2017). According to the President, “hundreds of refugees are under federal investigation for terrorism and related reasons . . . We’re talking about the safety of our nation, the safety and security of our people” (Trump, 2017g). Prima facie, the intent behind these two Orders seems good – but is it?
At this time of writing, at the level of law, six courts (and counting) have struck down the two Executive Orders as violating both the letter and the spirit of the US Constitution. Some courts have found that there is no probable cause for the Orders in terms of specific evidence and that taken in the context of their construction, they represent nothing more than codified religious animosity toward a different people and a group of territories.
At the level of Christianity and the moral law, President Trump has been known more than once to pray with evangelical leaders, even in public, and it has been reported that he has a longtime spiritual advisor, the megachurch pastor and televangelist Paula White (Timm, 2017). The President has admitted that “we all are made by the same God” (Trump, 2017g). But this public declaration as well as the no-less-equal and public manifestations of faith, taken in context of the design, construction, rollout, and implementation of Executive Order 13769 as shown in the first chapter and Executive Order 13780, beg the question: Are we really all made by the same God? Continue reading “Chapter 9: Does “Protecting the Nation” serve America?”
The new law of love embraces the entire human family and knows no limits, since the proclamation of the salvation wrought by Christ extends to the ends of the earth (Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace).
The human person was proclaimed by God the Creator in Sacred Scripture as having been “made in our image, after our likeness” (Gn 1:26; cf 5:1-3; 9:6), so that s/he could live in communion with God the Holy Trinity and one another, while progressing on the path of deification (Saint Irenaeus, Adv. Haer.) and becoming a partaker of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4; Pope Paul VI, 1965a; Saint Athanasius, De Inc.; Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol.). The human person is considered to be “the only creature on earth which God willed for itself” (Pope Paul VI, 1965a) and who was given the divine commission to:
“Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth. See, I give you every seed-bearing plant on all the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the wild animals, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the earth, I give all the green plants for food” (Gn 1:28-30).
The human person is thus “not a lost atom in a random universe: he is God’s creature, whom God chose to endow with an immortal soul and whom He has always loved” (Pope Benedict XVI, 2009a). S/he has been granted a dignity and rights that are inviolable by any system in and of the world, because “his sovereignty within the cosmos, his capacity for social existence, and his knowledge and love of the Creator – all are rooted in man’s being made in the image of God” (International Theological Commission, 2004).
The Dignity of the Human Person
Constitutional limits should be set to the powers of government, in order that there may be no encroachment on the rightful freedom of the person and of associations (Pope Paul VI).
The inherent dignity of the human person has been described by Saint John Paul II (1988) as “manifested in all its radiance when the person’s origin and destiny are considered, created by God in His image and likeness as well as redeemed by the most precious Blood of Christ.” The Spirit had testified to this in the Old Testament through the psalmist who said, “You are gods, offspring of the Most High, all of you” (Ps 82:6) and “You have made man little less than the angels, you have crowned him with glory and honor” (Ps 8:6). Jesus Christ witnessed to this in the New Testament with the words, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods?”’ (Jn 10:34). God, therefore,
“Who has fatherly concern for everyone, has willed that all men should constitute one family and treat one another in a spirit of brotherhood. For having been created in the image of God, Who ‘from one man has created the whole human race and made them live all over the face of the earth’ (Acts 17:26). For this reason, love for God and neighbor is the first and greatest commandment . . . [and] love of God cannot be separated from love of neighbor . . . because all men are called to one and the same goal, namely God Himself (Pope Paul VI, 1965a).”
In consequence, “every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offense against the Creator of the individual” (Saint John Paul II, 1988). The saint continued,
“In virtue of a personal dignity, the human being is always a value as an individual, and as such demands being considered and treated as a person and never, on the contrary, considered and treated as an object to be used or as a means or as a thing.
“The dignity of the person constitutes the foundation of the equality of all people among themselves . . . All forms of discrimination are totally unacceptable especially those forms which unfortunately continue to divide and degrade the human family: from those based on race or economics to those social and cultural, from political to geographic. Each discrimination constitutes an absolutely intolerable injustice, not so much for the tensions and the conflicts that can be generated in the social sphere, as much as for the dishonor inflicted on the dignity of the person: not only to the dignity of the individual who is the victim of the injustice, but still more to the one who commits the injustice” (ibid.). Continue reading “Chapter 8: Human persons in Christianity and Catholic Social Doctrine”
The American Alt-Right
All are brothers and all are children of God (Pope Francis).
The American alt-right has been defined as a broad group of people or movement who tend to ascribe to far-right ideologies that include “preserving and protecting the White race . . . in addition to, or over, other traditional conservative positions such as limited government, low taxes, and strict law-and-order” (Daniszewski, 2016). The movement has been considered to be “an offshoot of conservatism” (ibid.) that is characterized by the confluence of racism, White nationalism, and populism (SPLC, 2016b). It has also been critical of “multiculturalism, and more rights for non-Whites, women, Jews, Muslims, gays, immigrants, and other minorities” (Daniszewski, 2016).
Several individuals who ascribe to alt-right mentality, whether declared or undeclared, tend to reject the fundamental right that all human persons are equal under the law irrespective of creed, ethnicity, gender, or race. The core belief held in alt-right mentality is that “‘White identity’ is under attack by multicultural forces using ‘political correctness’ and ‘social justice,’ to undermine White people and their civilization” (SPLC, 2016b).
The original alt-right. The term alt-right was first coined in 2008 by Richard B. Spencer, the now 39-year-old president of The National Policy Institute (NPI; Wallace-Wells, 2016). The NPI is a far-right think tank in Arlington, Virginia, that is involved with the ideology of White nationalism and the preservation of Western civilization. The motto of NPI (2017) is “For our people, our culture, our future.”
White nationalism has been defined as “the belief that national identity should be built around White ethnicity, and that White people should maintain both a demographic majority and dominance of the nation’s culture and public life . . . [thus] maintaining political and economic dominance, not just a numerical majority or cultural hegemony” (Kaufmann, in Taub, 2016). Western civilization has been defined as “a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems, and specific artifacts and technologies that have some origin or association with Europe” (Wikipedia, 2017a). Populism has been defined as a Manichean-based “thin-centered ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogenous and antagonistic groups, ‘the pure people’ versus ‘the corrupt elite’ (Mudde, 2004; Mudde & Kaltwasser, 2013). The goal of populism is to unite the “uncorrupt and unsophisticated ‘little man’ against the corrupt and dominant elites (usually the established politicians) and their camp of followers (usually the rich and the intellectuals;” Wikipedia, 2017b).
According to Spencer, the alt-right was defined by
“A break with establishment conservatism that favors experimentation with the ideas of the French New Right; libertarian thought as exemplified by former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul; anarcho-capitalism, which advocates individual sovereignty and open markets in place of an organized state; Catholic traditionalism, which seeks a return to Roman Catholicism before the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council; and other ideologies” (SPLC, 2016b).
Two revealing examples of alt-right thought are shown below: Continue reading “Chapter 7: The new American alt-right population / A presidency of hatred?”