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Archive for December, 2010

Conservatives Donate Too Much to Think Tanks and Partisan Orgs

Posted by Tony Listi on December 20, 2010

Conservatives will never actually halt and roll back the uninterrupted statist trend over the past century if conservative donors are not funding movement organizations that actually make American culture more conservative, get conservatives elected, and get conservative legislation passed. Think tanks and partisan organizations don’t do any of these things. The organizations that do accomplish these things focus on grassroots organizing, activism, legal action, media & communication, arts & entertainment, and training.

Think tanks don’t win policy battles. Throwing a policy paper at a politician and hoping he will change his mind is insane. Unless the politician is a true believer (and there are many more on the left than on the right) who is willing to lose an election to further an agenda, organized votes and money (or some really bad publicity) are the only thing that will change his mind.

Think tanks are most effective when conservatives are already in power. Then the policy analysis can be used and quoted by conservatives in power to lend an air of scientific accuracy and credibility to policies that common sense, reason, and basic principles already prove to be true. When conservatives are not in power, the policy papers and eggheads of the political right are ignored. These are the facts of history: the Heritage Foundation was riding high in being listened to during the Reagan years, the Gingrich years, and Republican dominance from 2002-2006. But when the Democrats gained power in 2006 and 2008, they couldn’t have cared less what the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, or American Enterprise Institute thought.

The very fact that the Heritage Foundation has now started Heritage Action, a 501(c)4 proves the limits of the think tank.

Partisan organizations are most effective when conservatives are already the Republican Party nominees. Why are conservatives giving so much money to partisan organs when there is no guarantee that the money will actually support conservative candidates (and when in fact the money has gone to RINOs in the past)? Conservatives should focus their money on primaries, and then the Republican hacks will have to follow.

Basically, 501(c)4s, legal foundations, and PACs of various sorts have the potential to make substantial contributions to the conservative movement because they organize votes, money, and/or legal action. 501(c)3s that focus on mass education do not have this potential and are largely useless, despite the media attention they may get or buy. But 501(c)3s that focus on youth culture, youth education, youth politics, and youth training do well. They sow deep and powerful seeds for the future.

But the budgets of think tanks and partisan organizations are much larger than those of the more effective organizations. Here are the annual budgets of various organizations:

Republican National Committee: $320 million (2008, revenue)

Think Tanks
Focus on the Family: $130.3 million (2009, revenue)
Heritage Foundation: $71.6 million (2009, revenue); $63.6 million (2008, revenue)
Hoover Institution: $36.7 million (2006-7, revenue; endowment worth $437 million)
Cato Institute: $20.4 million (FY 2010, revenue); $20.6 (FY 2009, revenue)
American Enterprise Institute: $20.2 million (2008, revenue)
Family Research Council: $12.1 million (2009, revenue)
Media Research Center: $11.3 million (2008, revenue)
Mercatus Center: $7.9 million (2009, revenue)
Acton Institute: $6.2 million (2008, revenue)
Competitive Enterprise Institute: $4.7 million (2009, revenue)
Claremont Institute: $3.3 million (2009, revenue)
Ludwig von Mises Institute: $2.7 million (2008, revenue)
Independent Institute: $1.9 million (2009, revenue)

Effective Organizations
Alliance Defense Fund
: $30.1 million (2009, revenue)
Institute for Justice: $10.2 million (2009, revenue)
Federalist Society: $9.9 million (2009, revenue)
Americans for Prosperity: $7.5 million (2008, revenue)
Leadership Institute: $7.4 million (2009, revenue)
Institute for Humane Studies: $6.8 million (2009, revenue)
FreedomWorks: $4.2 million (2009, revenue)
National Organization for Marriage: $3 million (2009, revenue)
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education: $2.8 million (2009, revenue)
National Right to Life Committee: $2.6 million (2009, revenue)

And what do you think the left spends its money on? On organizations that mould young minds and that can get money and votes for liberal politicians. The left didn’t even start funding think tanks until recently. The left doesn’t need think tanks; it has colleges and universities! The left supplements the funding it gets from millionaires and billionaires with taxpayer money and union dues.

Here are the annual budgets of some top leftist organizations:

United Nations: $13.9 billion
National Education Association (NEA): $307 million
Service Employees International Union (SEIU): $300 million
Democratic National Committee: $260.1 million
AFL-CIO: $120 million
Planned Parenthood Federation of America: $106.4 million
ACLU: $73.1 million
Center for American Progress: $27 million ($2.5 million of which is devoted to Campus Progress, a youth outreach arm)
Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN): $25 million
Center for Community Change: $17.7 million
Human Rights Campaign Foundation : $9.6 million
People for the American Way Foundation: $8.3 million
Greenpeace Fund: $7.6 million

There’s a ton of small, left-wing community organizing groups nationwide. They are decentralized, effective, and well funded.

Because the education system is largely monopolized by the state, taxpayers fund the left in our schools from kindergarten through college.

Because the arts & entertainment industry is a profitable enterprise, irresponsible parents and young adults are primarily funding the left in its artistic efforts against traditional moral values.

How do conservatives expect to win eventually when we are outspent and not even spending our own resources wisely?!

Posted in American Culture, Culture War, Elections and Campaigns, Government and Politics, Political Activism, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A Catholic Reading of 2 Corinthians

Posted by Tony Listi on December 17, 2010

Often in theological debates, Christians start throwing Scripture verses around from all parts of the Bible. While all Scripture is the Word of God and thus must be consistent in such a way that a coherent, non-contradictory message is present, I think this haphazard cafeteria/smorgasbord style of using Scripture can be very unhelpful, even dangerous at times. This practice also makes it easier for Christians to cherry-pick the verses that they like (often out of context) and that support their denominational beliefs and to avoid verses that they don’t like and that contradict their denominational beliefs.

We Christians cannot forget or deny that human beings, with their own human stylistic traits, emphases, and paradigms, did indeed write the Bible. Thus it seems certain that Christians can more fully understand the written Word by digesting it book by book, carefully examining and taking into account the unique context, tradition, and perspective contained within and historically surrounding each book and author. This method also seems to me an eminently, though perhaps not distinctly, Catholic approach to Scripture and its interpretation. None of the books were written by their authors with the Bible’s compilation in mind.

Thus I’d like to present how a traditional, conservative Catholic reads and interprets Scripture on a book by book basis. In this way, a Protestant may come to know what exactly a Catholic sees, thinks, and feels when he reads the Bible. Perhaps in this way and on this basis of what is our common ground, our common tradition, namely certain books of Scripture, the Body may be made one and whole again as Jesus prayed it would be and intended it to be…. Plus I’m tired of Protestants telling me that I’ve never read the Bible (when I have) and that they are the “champions” of Scripture (when they aren’t).

St. Paul’s  Second Letter to the Corinthians

This is a short and a bit of an odd letter. It primarily focuses upon the relationship between Paul and the Corinthians, not doctrinal teachings. This fact should give pause to Protestants who claim exclusive authority for Scripture, which includes such letters by Paul, rather than the writings of the Church fathers which claim apostolic authority for their teachings. The specifics of the relationship between Paul and the Corinthians are of limited relevance today, but the general character is of great importance.

There are two overarching Catholic doctrinal themes in this letter: apostolic authority and the necessity and ministry of reconciliation. In the face of doubters and false apostles, Paul is forced to reassert his apostolic authority. In dealing with a repentant sinner, Paul exercises his apostolic authority to forgive sins in the person of Christ and to indulge the repentant sinner in comfort rather than require more penance of him, demonstrating the ministry of reconciliation he mentions in the letter.

Paul’s letter does the following things with regard to the Protestant-Catholic divide:

  • Contradicts the heresy of sola Scriptura and upholds the authority of oral apostolic preaching and discipline in person (1:19, 23-24; 2:1, 3-4, 17; 3:2-6; 4:5-7; 5:5; 10:5, 9-11, 16; 12:19; 13:10-11)
  • Affirms apostolic/Church authority over lay believers (1:1, 21-24; 2:1; 6:11-13; 7:15; 10:8; 11:17; 12:14, 19; 13:2-4, 10-11)
  • Contradicts the fallibilism of Protestantism (2:17; 3:4-6, 12; 4:5-7; 5:5, 18-20; 10:5; 11:5-6, 10; 13:3)
  • Affirms the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation (2:5-11; 5:17-20; 13:2)
  • Affirms the necessity of perseverance in obedience and repentance for salvation/to obtain heaven (1:24; 2:11, 15-16; 5:20; 6:1; 7:8-13; 11:3-4; 12:21; 13:2-5)
  • Contradicts certainty of knowledge of others’ or one’s own salvation (1:6-7; 5:20; 6:1; 7:13; 11:3-4; 12:20-21; 13:5)
  • Contradicts sola fide (5:10-11, 15; 7:1, 15; 10:15)
  • Affirms the necessity of the institutional and doctrinal unity of the Church (1:1; 11:2-4, 12-15)
  • Affirms the Catholic view of suffering (1:5-7; 4:9-11; 12:7-9)
  • Affirms the Catholic custom of referring to priests as father (6:13; 12:14)
  • Supports the Catholic doctrine of praying to dead saints (1:11)
  • Supports the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory (12:2-4)

I’m not going to comment on every single verse but rather on the ones relevant to the Protestant-Catholic divide or general conservative Christian doctrine. Very often, I will supplement my commentary with that of St. John Chrysostom (347-407). His was the earliest publicly available complete commentary on this letter that I could find. All emphases are mine. All verses are taken from the Revised Standard Version.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Biblical Exegesis, Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Religion and Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Parental Love Should be God-like Love

Posted by Tony Listi on December 5, 2010

To be a good parent is to love as God loves. There is a reason we call Him Father.

A good parent is married before having children. He or she enters into a faithful, life-long, and loving commitment with an apt partner, laying a foundation of stability and love for future children. The three persons of the Trinity cannot help but be faithful and loving to each other, for they are the same One Being. The Father was ever faithful to the Son. But God too entered into a faithful commitment, a covenant, which would lay the foundation for His children’s well-being, their salvation, the climax of His love in mercy. God was ever faithful even though His children were not. So too should parents be to disobedient and wayward children.

The Father created us generously out of love, loved us before we could love Him, and enables us to love Him. So too do good parents procreate children out of love, love their children before their children can love them, and teach their children how to love. To be married without children is to lack this divine love, the primary purpose for which God ordained marriage.

To love is to suffer and to offer that suffering as a generous sacrifice. Good parents necessarily suffer for the sake of their children. They suffer through the mistakes they must allow their children to make. So too did God suffer for us on the cross for our sins that God allowed us to freely choose. Parents suffer the toils of caring for a totally dependent, self-centered human being who will not truly be able to love them or care for them until a certain age or level of maturity and not without the parents’ help and guidance. We too are totally dependent on God and are self-centered. Parental love, at least for the beginning of the child’s life, is a one-way relationship from parent to child. So is it also between God and man in the beginning. Despite all the suffering, God and good parents remain faithful, generous, and loving.

God’s love is tough love sometimes. So too must a parent’s love be sometimes. Only those with an intimate knowledge of a child and of his or her unique character and needs can know when to show mercy and when to show wrath. God knows us better than we know ourselves. Parents should know their children better than anyone else, well enough to know when to show mercy and when to show wrath. But both the mercy and wrath should spring from love, as with God, not from weakness, indulgence, intemperance, or other vices.

Despite the suffering and wrath, God’s love is also joyful when His children grow and mature in love, obey His commands and teachings, accomplish great things in His name, and share His love with others. So too do good parents take joy and pride in their children when they grow, mature, obey, achieve, and love.

A child will never be able to “repay” the love of his parents in full. Neither will any of us be able to come close to “repaying” the love and generosity God has shown us. God and good parents give generously with this fact in mind, expecting their children to pay it forward to their own children (if called to marriage), their spiritual children (if called to the religious life), and everyone they meet and interact with. For love is meant to be shared and thus expand.

“And yet it is not an equal return, first to be loved, afterwards to love. For even if one were to contribute that which is equal in amount, he is inferior in that he comes to it second.” -St. John Chrysostom

Posted in Moral Philosophy, Religion and Theology, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sex Education: Educate for the Soul, Not Just the Body

Posted by Tony Listi on December 1, 2010

Chastity education and formation (i.e. abstinence until marriage) is the only effective and moral way for children to learn about sex because it is based in truth. To teach children anything else (e.g. the misnamed “safe sex”) would be misleading (if not deceitful), harmful, and immoral.

But before I defend chastity education, I’d like to make two broader big-picture points that will surely get lost in this debate unless someone brings them to the forefront.

First, we wouldn’t be having this debate over sex education to begin with if leftists would actually support school choice and parental control. Under such a system, parents would have the choice of whether they want to send their children to a school that effectively teaches and promotes chastity or one that teaches libertinism and perversion. This controversy over sex ed would then vanish. Conservatives and libertarians find common ground here against the left.

But rather than empower parents and give them freedom of choice, leftists would rather have a public school monopoly where they can more easily indoctrinate kids with their sexual perversity against the wishes of most parents. They would rather impose a financial burden on parents who want to escape the “public option.” They have the arrogance to claim they know better than and should have more control over kids than their own parents! For instance, President Obama’s misnamed “safe school czar,” Kevin Jennings, founded the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which promotes homosexuality, fisting, pederasty, prostitution, public masturbation, child porn, and many other abhorrent practices to school children.

Second, formal sex ed in school is not the sole or even the major determinant of whether a kid will have sex or not before marriage. Education, in the broadest sense of the concept, starts in the home and continues within a community. Do the parents value and teach chastity? What about the kid’s peers and their parents? What kinds of websites, TV, movies, video games, and books is the kid exposed to? What does his church teach?

For example, I went to parochial Catholic schools from kindergarten through high school, which taught chastity. Did every single one or even a majority of my classmates abstain from sex? While I can’t be certain, I find that notion very doubtful. Education at school is only one small piece of the puzzle. It is worthless without family and community support and reinforcement of that education.

Alright, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about chastity, a word which has been purposely obscured and removed from American culture and substituted with “abstinence” in these modern times.

But before I do, a caveat: if you don’t believe that human beings have souls and are more than mere animals, then just stop reading now. I won’t get through to you. Love and morality have no meaning among mere animals.

Chastity should be taught because it undeniably works 100% of the time. No sex = no pregnancy + no STDs. That simple. It never fails. People fail. They fail to exercise discipline and self-control, which is why sex ed should take into account more than just physical well-being.

I think most people can agree that only people who love each other should have sex, which is itself a unique and intimate form of love. But what exactly do we mean by “love”? I think most people can agree that love cannot be divorced from all notions of morality. There is a moral dimension to love for another human being.

Love is a freely chosen commitment to the good of another person for its own sake. Thus sex, as a form of love, is good and should only occur within the context of commitment. It should not be engaged in casually for the sake of one’s own pleasure and ego. STDs and pregnancy aside, the sexual act and its emotional, psychological, and spiritual consequences are permanent and cannot be taken back. Thus permanent consequences demand not just any “committed relationship” but a prior permanent commitment, namely marriage, for the sake of both the man and woman.

Whether one intends it or not, sex is itself a profound promise of fidelity, of commitment, that one soul makes to another. And to make a promise and then break it is wrong; it’s a sin. It causes spiritual trauma and harm. And a serious act like sex is a serious sin outside the context of love, i.e. of marriage. The marriage promise sanctifies the sexual promise.

Women, the more relational sex, seem to understand this truth better than men. They should trust this instinctual need for commitment and demand their boyfriends say “I do” before having sex. Only then, ladies, will you truly know whether he loves you or is just using you to gratify himself, playing you for a fool, and disposing of you when you no longer satisfy him. Take it from someone who knows exactly how men of all kinds think and act when you’re not around. While chastity is crucially important for both sexes, women will benefit the most from a more chaste society. Women have been harmed the most by widespread sexual perversion and yet a lot of the power for virtuous change rests in their hands, as girlfriends, mothers, and teachers. Men are not born lovers.

These are the simple truths about sex that children should be taught at home, in school, and within their local community. Parents have a responsibility to make sure that happens. Government has a responsibility get out of the way, not to hinder parents in any way from informing and forming their children in the virtue of chastity.

Posted in American Culture, Culture War, Government and Politics, Marriage, Moral Philosophy, Sex, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »