Friday, March 31, 2017

Walking through the Desert

Stark lack of blogging activity this month and really the entire year 2017 so far.  Given the variety of tasks set before me, I doubt things will improve markedly any time soon.  Without asking for sympathy (others have it far worse than I) or providing a detailed list of problems, the barrenness and problematic nature of the blogged statement/response has become ever more apparent. Even if there was enough time (and there is not), the question remains: Why persist?

It is not for lack of material.  The 2016 election, the Trump administration's first days/weeks/months, the unceasing "small war" conflict running between Pope Francis and some very vocal and conservative critics--and that's just a start.  There are plenty of things to blog about.  However, it has become apparent that instead of that rich banquet I am seeking a way out of the desert.  Christ Himself spent forty days in the desert, only to confront temptations from Satan upon return.  Only then did the angels tend his needs (Matthew 4:11).  

Ivan Kramskoi, Christ in the Desert (1872); source: Wikipedia

More and more recently this is where I find my own life:  the desert--and wondering about what is to come. And who knows?  The burdens faced today might seem light by comparison tomorrow.  A good friend and mentor reminded me last summer that before resurrection we must experience the cross and then the tomb.  So, really, only God knows what will happen, but I do know that I need to reconfigure my priorities. This blog, like many other nice things in my life, has become part of that load one needs to lighten in order to cross the desert.  I hope to add a post or two every month, but probably no more.  

I ask for your prayers and will remember you in mine.  Meanwhile, here is yet another crisp, ringing video by the evangelization master, Bishop Robert Barron.  

May we stay off the Schleiermacher autobahn and remained focused on Christ.  Only with and through Him shall we see new life.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Self-Immolation 2017-style

fire garbage dumpster dumpster fire trash fire

So a recent post here discussed alt-right gay celeb Milo Yiannapoulos and his unhidden Catholicism.  Well, beware the riches of fame--they come with a price.  In a few short days (February 20 & 21), Milo self-imploded.  An old video (the existence of which, apparently, was known) reemerged on YouTube wherein Yiannapoulos 1) bragged about being sexually abused by a Catholic priest sharpened his own skills as a gay lover; and 2) extolled the virtues of intergenerational sex between older men and younger (i.e., early teenage) boys.

source: Giphy

As one might imagine, the reaction was swift and extreme.  Within hours Milo had lost a prominent book deal, a prime-time speaking engagement at CPAC, and eventually his job at tech editor at Breitbart, the well-known right-wing alt-news outlet.  

Then the fun really started.

Basically, the Catholic social media universe went nuts.  Prominent Catholic blogger-writers such as Mark Shea, Simcha Fischer, and Scott Eric Alt denounced Milo's statements and initial coy refusal to retract any of it.  

And then, as if on cue, the Catholic Milo-defenders sprang up.  Yes, Milo said some awful things but, since he's Catholic, we must defend him.  Or, "the Left hates Milo so we must love and protect Milo."

Shea, Alt, and Fisher, of course, were having none of it.

This British writer pulls back the curtain on the entire Milo entourage, a scary world run by straight white males scarcely out of their teens.  And then they meet real, violent resistance...and soil their shorts. It is a wince-inducing read--but a necessary one.

The entire conflagration blew up at the right time: just before Lent.  The Stream asks the perennial question: Had conservatives sought the world's riches, personified by Milo's gay bombast, at the expense of their souls?  And the honest answer is, well, YES.  A free society, the author reminds us, is a good one first.  Author Joshua Charles:

Conservatism that abandons, explicitly or implicitly, the idea that virtue is necessary, not optional, for a free society, is conservatism that has lost its way and ceased to be conservative. Conservatives who maintain that “moral chains” are not all that important so long as they get in the way of temporary “winning” are not conservatives, but anti-conservatives. They know not what they do. They have forgotten that one can gain the whole world, and yet lose one’s soul.

And in blindly accepting Milo, or another other earthly savior, conservatives eschewed the good for the hard-hitting and powerful.  A house built on sand...

To survive the Trump presidency--or any other secular political reign/regime--requires the Gospel and thus the Church. Both St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI described a Roman Catholic "communion ecclesiology" wherein the bonds of community, seen precisely in the Eucharist, provide the sure pathway to and with Christ.  Chasing after the latest dumpster fire--Milo or anybody else--might provide a sugar-rush, but just as surely there will follow a disastrous crash.

Adjunct Faculty & Catholic Identity: the hidden connections

American higher education's adjunct dilemma is well-known.  Colleges and universities, facing the very real financial bottom-line, hire adjunct faculty to expand instruction.  Thus more courses are available to students. What could be wrong with that?

Well, lots, actually.

There's a justice issue:  adjunct faculty provide more than fifty percent of all instruction in American higher education yet receive exponentially less pay and benefits.  The increased profit margin--get the same instruction for far less money--insures institutions will not break their reliance on adjuncts easily or willingly.  See, for example, this satire here. Let's be clear: sometimes the line dividing full-time from adjunct faculty does involve ability.  Faculty searches are structured, supposedly, to return the best qualified candidate given the institution's parameters.  So, even when institutions seek to fill faculty lines according to categories like race/class/gender, the faculty search is supposed to result in the hiring of the best-qualified person fitting those parameters.  That is an important issue.  It is also important, I think, to acknowledge that institutional bias--where'd you get your degree?--and perspective bias--do you think like us?--exert real influence on faculty searches.  Not every single one, obviously, but those factors do exist.

Students do not benefit, either.  As reliance on adjunct increases, first-year students take increasingly more courses with adjunct faculty. Full-time faculty--the ones who've made it through the extended hiring process--actually teach fewer students.   More and more, adjunct faculty are the first "teachers" students see, and this experience occurs precisely in the foundational courses institutions and major-granting department insist are so important.  In other words, precisely where and when students need quality instruction, they are least likely to obtain it. The result of all this is that student retention sags.
Why keep taking classes when they're all like this?

source:  Giphy

I have taught long enough to know that could be anybody, full-time tenure-track or adjunct faculty.  But the student array--all jammed into an anonymous lecture hall, wondering what the point is--is quite accurate.