Monday, September 08, 2008

Theological Disputes

I turned on my car radio yesterday morning and was treated to a theological discussion related to the presidential election. A reporter inerviewing the Dems' vice-presidential candidate, Joe Biden, asked him when he believes human life begins. Biden, a Catholic, gave a Catholic answer ("at conception"), adding that he didn't feel he had a right to impose his beliefs pertaining to abortion on other people.

Such is the State of the Union in 2008, when more voters are apparently concerned with the theological debate over the rights of Fetus-Americans than with things which have an impact on all our lives every day, such as, for example, all our wealth disappearing as the American economy unravels, or the Fed's weekend takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Citzens of the late Roman Empire were just like that. As the enemies Rome had created during her expansion grew stronger and began hacking off large chunks of the Empire, the consequent loss of revenue began to suck the capital city and the Empire's core dry. However, in spite of the barbarians at the gates, the question Roman citizens were most preoccupied with during this time was whether the Father and Son were of the same substance, or similar substance. The first Christian emperor, Constantine, convened the Conference of Nicea in 325 to settle the dispute, but even afterward this theological divide, at times nearly verging on civil war, remained hot, despite the official orthodoxy of "same substance" established by the bishops at Nicea.

In 476 the last emperor of Rome was swept aside effortlessly by Odoacer, the first barbarian king of Italy, and all that was left of the Roman Empire in the west was its religion, headed by the Pope in Rome.

Over the weekend the Fed announced it's taking over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We don't know what the long term consequences of a government bailout of these insolvent monstrosities will be. Together they own or guarantee some five trillions in mortgage loans, and I suppose the effect on the value of the dollar depends on just how many billions the Fed has to manufacture to keep them afloat. The relentlessly pessemistic James Howard Kunstler asks in his weekly blogpost at Clusterfuck Nation:

Why do the big deals always happen over the weekends? So the big boyz in government and finance can take off their neckties when they bargain with each other? So the markets will be closed and unable to register a response one way or another? So the shrinking fraction of the US public that pays attention to anything besides Nascar and pornography won't catch the news Saturday evening?

That's a little harsh, Jim. Besides its interest in Nascar and pornography, the U.S. public wants to know when God has decreed that a human is invested with its humanity: when it's conceived, or when it enters embryohood, or when it becomes a fetus, or when it becomes viable? You seem to think we're a bunch of lightweights, for Chrissake.

It's true that not many of us have the time or inclination to think about the consequences of the mortgage meltdown, or the energy crunch, or which candidate we think is better equipped to deal with those crises, or even how we're going to deal with the consequences of those catastrophes in our own lives. Those are complicated questions, and becoming informed about them requires study, discipline, and a rational, as opposed to an emotional approach to politics and daily living.

Better to concentrate on the stuff we know about -- the fact that Sarah Palin is a plucky, average Jill who's not intimidated by the big shots, and that God, in his infinite wisdom, knows exactly, precisely when our conjoined seeds become human, even if not all of us do.


Joe said...

Another response to empire is that OPEC says it is cutting production to try to keep prices high.

Theological disputes are a practice with relatively low real life risk that people can partake in to satisfy an aggressive drive people tend to have.

Joe said...

They talk about victory in war. I could understand such a way of thinking in a war brought on by a direct military attack.