Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"That makes sense, but...."

I've heard it a lot in the past few months:

"That makes sense, but...."  

I didn't really notice it at first, but it's frequent enough now that it's got my attention. Looking back, I repeated the very same sentiment when I first encountered what I now understand to be objective truth. Perhaps it's a universal reaction to a brush with God.

Here's how it goes:

We encounter a moral truth presented clearly and joyfully. It is a beautiful vision, and it resonates in our heart. It is simple, elegant and even transcendent. It speaks to our human dignity, and we are compelled, even delighted by it. It makes sense. However, for any number of reasons specific to the hearer, it is not immediately embraced. It is admired from afar, praised as a captivating ideal, but....

"That makes sense, but...."

That's when I want to burst out with, Wait! Stop! Just stop right after the "that makes sense" and forget the "but"! 

We moderns love to overcomplicate things, which is a shame.   Now, I'll grant you that circumstances are often complicated, emotions are often complicated, people are often complicated. But core principles, pure ideals and objective truth? Not complicated. While they are infinitely deep, sublime and profound, they are -- in essence -- quite simple.

A saint once said something that's become my motto: "Truth comes with graces attached." That would be actual grace, knocking on the door to our heart, stirring our soul. God Himself tells us that He speaks not in the fire nor in the earthquake, but in a gentle whisper. When something makes beautiful sense, take notice.

I'll close with a friendly challenge, which comes from my own life experience: If you hear yourself saying, "That makes sense," try following it up with "Okay, what now?" instead of "but...." Do that, and you might be amazed where you'll find yourself this time next year.  :)

78 comments:

  1. Very wise. Thank you and God bless!

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  2. I'm so glad you wrote that. It makes sense! You say things so well.

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  3. That makes sense, but...

    Just kidding! Right on, Leila! So true for all of us!

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  4. I love this...I wish I were at home so that I could link it up on facebook!

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  5. Thank you I enjoyed this! Just yesterday I sent that 1 King's verse to someone (after the fire came a gentle whisper). Beautiful verse. And also a favorite of the Carthusian monks

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  6. "in a gentle whisper." that spoke to me! Thank you for that. It really brought me peace.

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  7. Can't wait to find out if any lefties take you up on your challenge! :)

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  8. What is "truth"?
    Who determines "truth"?
    How can you know what is or is not "truth"?
    How do you know objective morals exist?

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  9. how can we really know what absolute truth is when our perception of reality is controlled by how our brain functions? everything we see does not actually look that way, and no two people perceive things in the same way. our brain filters incoming sensory data and ignores all except that which is relevant. it's not only our eyes that this happens with. it happens to every other sense as well that receives more sensations than our brain can process. if this was not true, we would be overwhelmed by sensory information; most of which are irrelevant for our actions. you seem to think that many things in life are simple when in reality, they are rather complex or are difficult to understand or explain

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  10. But so much of this one "Truth" idea doesn't make sense....it doesn't make sense that a person who is attracted to people of the same sex should have to live their life completely void of preferred sexual experience. It doesn't make sense to tell two committed, same sex partners who have children that they cannot legally be married so that in an emergency situation, custody of children is immediately recognized with the partner. It doesn't make sense to tell this couple they are living in sin and refuse to go to any commitment ceremony/marriage ceremony they may have. And it doesn't make sense that there should be only ONE religion that's actually "true" when so many people come from different histories, backgrounds, and spiritual beliefs. It doesn't make sense that we should teach children to be ashamed of their sexual urges and feel guilty about their bodies and themselves for masturbation. It doesn't make sense that everything we do on this earth should be only for the purposes of getting to a superior place after death and that our political decisions and opinions should be directed by this notion of living better after death.

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  11. Oh boy, clearly Anonymous hasn't read your entire post about "Truth" and its subsequent commments.

    But was anyone else struck by how much he/she sounded like Pilate?!

    Great post, Leila, you're doing an excellent job here.

    And by the way, Anon, MY political decisions and opinions are directed by the notion of LIVING, period.

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  12. Anon at 2:03 PM (please give yourselves names, anonymous commenters), for those answers on truth, please go to my post here:

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2010/10/pilate-said-to-him-what-is-truth.html

    And for really, really in-depth treatment of truth, go here:

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15073a.htm

    To the second anonymous comment (please give yourself a name), I will break that down for you as soon as I can (going to dinner with the hubby, yay!!!). So, stay tuned.

    And MB, I'll get back to you, too.

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  13. I spent a lot of years in "That makes sense, but..." and the end of that sentence was, "I don't trust God enough to do it." I'm so glad I got over that. :)

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  14. Anon...I´ll tell you what doesn´t make sense:

    It doesn´t make sense that the entire structure of civil society must shift to accommodate the
    sexual proclivities of a small minority of the population, or that we must tear down massive scale long-standing paradigms because a small group of people find the opposite sex revolting even though their bodies are genetically designed to "merge" with that other sex, whether they like it or not, or get aroused by it or not. It doesn´t make sense that we should make these sweeping changes within a span of forty years based on some mushy, pink candy heart "all U need is LUV" notion of tolerance without a long hard consideration of how it will effect the human race over generations. It doesn´t make sense that, being that a child is only able to be created by a heterosexual union that that child must is test-tubed or turkey basted into existence and raised to the utter exclusion of the other half of his or her genetic heritage and lineal identity just so a couple of lezzie life partners can "do the baby thing". It doesn´t make sense that anyone who disagrees with this rapid catastrophic deconstruction is immediately labeled a "bigot" and has their livelihood or reputation threatened, is dragged in front of Human Rights Tribunals for Badthink and forced to pay thousands in legal fees.

    It doesn´t make sense that a two-thousand year old religion, founded on the extraordinary life of a human incarnation of the ultimate who died and was raised from the dead. This enormous, monumental thing that has stood the test of time, has weathered every scandal and attack, has gathered a massive collection of learning touching on every field of human endeavor including art, literature, philosophy, and the sciences, has literally taken the long and deep view of every element of what it means to be human, has asked and pondered every big question that can be asked from "how do I become a better person" to "why am I here", a religion so inclusive that every person in it, analytical types, mystical types, skeptical types, finds a way to be fully Catholic and fully themselves...has to share space with every other whacknut psuedo-religion out there invented by some guy in his basement who ingested too many shrooms and thought he saw God in the fishtank, all in the name of "tolerance". That a religion who believes in the sacredness of the body has to share space with religions who hate the body. That a religion whose followers are taught to turn the other cheek and love your enemies has to share space with one that believes that infidels must be killed or conquered. All in the name of mushy multi culti "tolerance".

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  15. the truth comes knocking at our door and we say go away! we're looking for the truth... and it does. how strange.

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  16. "it doesn't make sense that a person who is attracted to people of the same sex should have to live their life completely void of preferred sexual experience"

    This argument always irritates me. It doesn't make sense that a person becomes impotent due to illness or injury and can't enjoy sex at all.

    And using this argument, one could say, "It doesn't make sense that a person who is attracted to children has to lie their life completely void of preferred sexual experience." In fact, I'm sure that some have used this argument.

    Life is not fair. Children get cancer and die. And some people will not be able to enjoy sex like they want to.

    You summed it up well, Leila: "We moderns love to overcomplicate things, which is a shame. Now, I'll grant you that circumstances are often complicated, emotions are often complicated, people are often complicated. But core principles, pure ideals and objective truth? Not complicated. While they are infinitely deep, sublime and profound, they are -- in essence -- quite simple."

    S-AC

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  17. MB, I never claimed we can know everything with certitude (that would be impossible, obviously), but you make it sound as if we cannot know anything at all. I reject that idea.

    You said: you seem to think that many things in life are simple when in reality, they are rather complex or are difficult to understand or explain

    Actually, I said that many things in life are complex (circumstances, emotions, people, etc.). However, I said that principles, ideals and moral truths (virtue) are essentially very simple.

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  18. Does it make sense to say that order arose from chaos? apparently it must have, that, or there never ever was chaos, or this all still is chaos. Does it make sense to say our knowledge is limited, veiled in shadow, lost in confusion, doubt and shadow, and misunderstanding it must be, since we either know or ask, and we asks. (yes my precious... gollum, gollum...) But if there is some objective truth, that we assume must be true, since we ourselves are now separate enough from chaos and have become objective enough to ask, "what is truth?". Is the truth about existence knowable by limited creatures that proceed from it? Are we separate *enough* from existence, whatever that is, to be objective in our observations of it? and if so, are we complete in our facilities to understand what it is?

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  19. Whoops, if any of you got that last comment in your email, I left out the Chesterton quote, so I am trying again!!

    Barbara and S-AC have said some of what I would say to anonymous, but here goes my attempt to explain, point by point:

    it doesn't make sense that a person who is attracted to people of the same sex should have to live their life completely void of preferred sexual experience.

    Then you have to apply this to those who have other types of sexual attraction, too. Otherwise, you are not being consistent, and thus not making sense. If having sex and getting married is only about the fact that "I am attracted to this person and want to fulfill an urge" then you need to be fair and let all people do whatever they'd like, sexually. Otherwise, you are telling them to live their life void of their "preferred sexual experience." But we Catholics (and most people until recently) believe that sex and marriage isn't just about "a preferred sexual experience."

    It doesn't make sense to tell two committed, same sex partners who have children that they cannot legally be married so that in an emergency situation, custody of children is immediately recognized with the partner.

    Actually, there are domestic partnership laws and other legal recourse that can address this without changing the definition, meaning and purpose of marriage. Changing thousands of years of the cultural understanding of marriage in order to accommodate the above concerns does not make sense.

    It doesn't make sense to tell this couple they are living in sin and refuse to go to any commitment ceremony/marriage ceremony they may have.

    Why doesn't it makes sense that a Catholic would not go to "celebrate" something he believes to be a grave sin and harmful to the people doing it? I mean, would you go celebrate and party and bring a gift to a ceremony for something you consider to be terribly harmful to your friends and deeply wrong? If you did go against your integrity like that, that's what wouldn't make sense.

    And it doesn't make sense that there should be only ONE religion that's actually "true" when so many people come from different histories, backgrounds, and spiritual beliefs.

    I will let Chesterton answer this one:

    The modern habit of saying “Every man has a different philosophy; this is my philosophy and it suits me”—the habit of saying this is mere weak-mindedness. A cosmic philosophy is not constructed to fit a man; a cosmic philosophy is constructed to fit a cosmos. A man can no more possess a private religion than he can possess a private sun and moon.

    Our religion (which we do believe is the fullness of Truth, and revealed by God) is called "Catholic" because "catholic" means universal. The Church is for all ages, all people, all cultures, all nations, all times. It is not exclusive and everyone is welcome! Have you ever seen the Pope saying mass in Africa, or Asia, or Europe, or South America, or everywhere? The diversity is beautiful! And the unity is Catholic.


    to be continued...

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  20. It doesn't make sense that we should teach children to be ashamed of their sexual urges and feel guilty about their bodies and themselves for masturbation.

    I've studied Catholicism extensively, and I know there is no directive children should be "ashamed of their sexual urges" any more than they should be "ashamed of their dietary urges". What we teach children is to be the master of their urges, passions and drives, and to use them in rightly ordered ways, thus achieving true joy and peace. We teach children the truth that sex is soooooo special and holy that it is all about love and life (it is "other"-oriented), and is too beautiful for solitary play. To tell a child that there is an order and beauty to sexuality is what makes sense.

    It doesn't make sense that everything we do on this earth should be only for the purposes of getting to a superior place after death and that our political decisions and opinions should be directed by this notion of living better after death.

    If there is no God, and no Heaven, and no purpose and no ultimate meaning and if we are random chance, flukes, mistakes of an unfeeling, uncaring universe, waiting to one day go "poof", then you are right that virtue, holiness, working for union with God, loving as an act of the will not an emotion -- all of that would make no sense. But since I do believe in a God who created us because He loves us, then striving for goodness and striving for Heaven is a beautiful thing, and makes me a better citizen here on the earth that the Lord has given us. I believe a world of love and responsibility is a world I want to live in now. And I believe that every human soul -- unborn, elderly, disabled, imprisoned, poverty-stricken -- all of them have human dignity. I will vote my conscience on that, just as you are free to vote yours. We should bring our ideals and beliefs and principles into the voting booth. Anything else wouldn't make sense.

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  21. Anonymous, I'll tell you what makes no sense. This makes no sense:

    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/british-court-says-christian-couple-cant-adopt-due-to-beliefs/

    And yet it's exactly what we can expect as we go forward. Sigh. As always, it's the children who suffer.

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  22. Hi Leila, your question in the OP made me think. "it makes sense" is the head-end boundary, the farthest intellect can take you. What I mean is, people who say this have reached the conclusion that intellectually, rationally, you are probably right, however they still have yet to cross over the gap that separates head and heart. As soon as you even contemplate making that jump, you are swarmed by a thousand prejudices that have built up inside of you for years, these prejudices say things exactly like Anon...Hate gays, hate sex, hate women, hate progress, don´t wanna be like those pro-lifers who kill abortion doctors and terrorize women outside of clinics with their rosaries. Don´t wanna be the enemy...It´s the hardest journey to take.

    It was also one I´ve taken, and you do survive. I don´t know if you´ve read my conversion story, I know you mentioned on my blog you wanted to read it. I´ve been posting it in small chapters and vignettes because its so hard to put the massiveness of it in order,but I do talk about this idea there. It´s

    http://intimategeography.wordpress.com/my-conversion-story/

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  23. Barbara, I think you are exactly right! The heart = "compassion". We don't want to be unkind, we don't want to make people feel bad, we don't want to cause suffering. Every objection to what "makes sense" in sexuality and Catholic moral teaching is about emotions.

    I've been thinking that is the difference: One side bases morality on principle, the other side bases morality on emotion. If anyone can show me otherwise, I am open to hearing it. I will listen.

    This struck me the other day as being so true:

    ‎"The Church is intolerant in principle because she believes; she is tolerant in practice because she loves. The enemies of the Church are tolerant in principle because they do not believe; they are intolerant in practice because they do not love." -- Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP (born 1877)

    I want to expand on that in a whole post of its own.

    I cannot wait to read your conversion story (I'm sure it's incredible!), and then I will link it to my blog. Thank you!

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  24. Leila your posts have really helped me understand how and why liberals and conservatives (or whatever u want to call the two groups) really will never be able to settle anything.

    I personally get alot out of some of your posts, because I would like to start strengthening my relationship with God. I'm not a catholic nor do I want to become one. But I try as best I can to understand where you're coming from so I can have a better understanding of your religion.

    I have said "that makes sense, but :) " And the reason I have said that because I think a lot of what you say does make sense if you are catholic. A lot of what you say however makes absolutely no sense, however, if you are not catholic. This works very well when you are addressing a Christian audience and not very well when you propose that your suggestions should be implemented on a society-wide scale.

    I understand part of being a Christian or any religion means understanding your interpretation of truth as THE truth, and interpreting your God as THE God. I agree that there can only be one God and only be one truth. While I do believe in your God, I cannot dismiss other people who believe the exact same thing about their God, making it very difficult to tell them to do something just because a God they don’t recognize commands it.

    Sex as immoral before marriage and homosexuality as immoral is a Catholic thing (maybe a Christian thing). Many people arguably very moral people do not believe consensual sex is a moral issue AT ALL. So they don't rebuke your ideas of waiting until marriage because they think its too difficult but because they don't think its IDEAL. Just like you don't want your children taught about contraceptives in school because it goes against your beliefs many parents don't want their children taught that unmarried sex, homosexuality, contraceptives, masterbation, is wrong....

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  25. Leila, the link you posted to your post about truth is not working. I just wanted to let you know because I am curious to see it!

    I've been following your blog for a few weeks now and it has been great to read your posts and all the comments. I am currently going through RCIA and in April will receive the sacraments! It is a very exciting time for me and discovering your blog has helped me to learn even more about our faith.

    God Bless

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  26. Hi college student!

    I do appreciate what you are saying. But I want you to go back before the 1960's (which actually wasn't that long ago) and realize that pretty much everyone, culturally, believed that sex was for marriage (even if they didn't live up to it... we are all sinners), and that homosexuality was not a moral option. And yes, that contraception would break down marriage...

    From a Washington Post editorial (a secular newspaper) in 1931, after the Anglicans became the first Christian church to approve some contraception:

    Carried to its logical conclusion, the committee’s report, if carried into effect, would sound the death knell of marriage as a holy institution by establishing degrading practices which would encourage indiscriminate immorality. The suggestion that the use of legalized contraceptives would be ‘ careful and restrained’ is preposterous.

    You see, everyone, not just the Catholic Church, saw what was coming.

    And it's not only Catholicism or Christianity that believed that truth, it was all major religions. This was not a "Christian" thing only. Even atheists subscribed to a Natural Law understanding of marriage and sex.

    You are young, and you don't remember any other way of life other than the post-sexual revolution life (me either, actually). But I promise you, this "free sex" attitude is pretty new, and it has not strengthened families, marriages, or society. It has definitely harmed children, and I'm not just talking about the 50 million dead unborn casualties of "free love". I'm talking about the children of divorce, of single moms with live-in boyfriends (ever read about child abuse cases?), epidemic teen pregnancy and disease, victims of pedophilia, etc. Horrible stuff.

    You can know something by its fruits. The fruit of the sexual revolution has been devastating.

    So they don't rebuke your ideas of waiting until marriage because they think its too difficult but because they don't think its IDEAL.

    Remember the letter from the sex educator that I posted? She admitted that marriage is ideal. But her excuse for not promoting the ideal was that she didn't want to "offend" kids who grew up in broken, neglected, drug-infested homes. I give that a great big, UGH. Poor kids.

    It's always, always, always the children who are most hurt when the adults hold to lesser standards, especially in sexuality. Won't you be an adult who has the courage to say what is best for children and society? We so need courageous voices!

    I absolutely applaud and admire your journey to get closer to God! He will honor that wish and He will bring you close to His heart! Pray and he will be with you. It is a glorious thing to know the Beloved. Nothing compares to the romance between a soul and God (ask St. Teresa of Avila...wow).

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  27. Hi Kat! I just tried the link a couple of times and it's working for me, so I'm not sure what's going on. If it still won't work for you, please try this instead:

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2010/10/pilate-said-to-him-what-is-truth.html

    I am so excited for you!! I never miss an Easter Vigil mass (it's the highest, greatest mass of the liturgical year!), and I will be praying for you!! I would love to hear your conversion story! :)

    Oh, and since you are going to be a Catholic, I'll throw in this post too, since even most Catholics don't know or understand it:

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2010/09/catholics-you-must-understand-this.html

    God bless you as you prepare for the sacraments!

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  28. Hi Leila,

    They are both working thank you! I'll make sure to read them later on today.

    I will try to post my conversion story sometime soon, where would be the best place to do that? Just in the comments section?

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  29. Kat, I just realized you don't have a blog to link to.... If you want to email me your conversion story, at littlecatholicbubble@gmail.com, that would be great and I will link it by making a page. Thanks!

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  30. The thousand years of tradition thing is something I have issue with. For thousands of years, women were second class. For thousands of years the children and wives were property of the husbands. For thousands of years (and still today in some parts of the world), slavery was OK. For thousands of years, certain groups of people were burned. For centuries, those with darker skin were not human. The past should not define us...
    Since I know this is going to be a response, might as well add that the things I just said goes against loving everyone, not killing, and I am sure a few other virtues.

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  31. Chabella (Chelsea), I like your new icon!

    You have named many of those sinful practices that Christianity liberated people from. You are right when you say that those terrible things go against love, and against the virtues -- so thank goodness we live in Western civilization where those things are rejected because of Christian teaching. In many, many culutres, those things still occur, to this very day.

    It's true that sinful acts (the things you describe) go back many thousands of years. Sin has been around since the beginning, actually. But clearly, when we defend the tradition of marriage (which has been around for thousands of years that has served us well), we are not defending sin (which has been around for thousands of years and has NOT served us well).

    So, you don't want to make the mistake of implying that sin is a "tradition" that Catholics are trying to defend or protect. We hate sin, after all.

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  32. Leila said: "But I promise you, this "free sex" attitude is pretty new, and it has not strengthened families, marriages, or society. It has definitely harmed children..."

    I, just today, spent the entire morning at a summit on marriage and family. I saw the very startling statistics reflecting exactly Leila's comment. Those who try to defend non-traditional marriage would benefit from doing some research on the effects of same-sex parents, cohabitation, divorce, single-parenthood, and even step-parenthood.

    Without exception, every graph/chart I saw showed that levels of poverty, abuse, neglect, poor education, and so on rose when the family was not intact with a mother and father.

    It's what liberals don't want you to know, but the statistics don't lie.

    And honestly, do we really even need statistics to know this?? Poverty levels, abortions, and child abuse cases are sky-high, as are divorce rates and same-sex unions. Yet back 50 years and more, the norm was heterosexual intact marriages and all of those stats were far lower. It's not rocket science. "Free love" isn't working.

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  33. What about free will. You once mentioned that Catholics believe in free will. Even if someone does or agrees with something you do not agree with. Those of the same sex that marry are only affecting themselves.

    I think that forcing those who are homosexual not to do the things that those who are straight can do, is forcing them to become seccond class citizens. America is about equality.

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  34. Can I see the ones about gay couples Nicole. I have never seen any statistics proving the Gay couples cannot make great parents also. The ones I know are.

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  35. Chelsea, Yes, free will is a sacred gift from God. People are free to choose evil or good, and we make those decisions every day of our lives. But society does not have to condone every choice that people make. Every law on the books restricts someone's freedom, right? Societies choose which values they want to be promoted, and which are to be discouraged (or even made illegal). If people decide to break laws (with their free will) they are subject to fines or jail (sometimes justly, sometimes unjustly, depending on whether or not the laws of that land are just). On another level, people are free to choose sin or choose virtue. There are always consequences, sometimes eternal, for choosing sin. We can use our free will for the love of others and the sanctification of our souls, or we can use it to harm others and harm our own soul. We are not robots, and God did not make us robots. He wanted us to choose to love Him freely, or it's not true love.

    Same sex marriage does not affect only the same sex couples. It affects the entire definition of marriage, and the foundation of our society. Whatever we do to weaken marriage is harmful to children. Marriage has to mean what it always has meant, or it means nothing.

    America is not about "equality" in the sense you mean. If you are talking about a numbers (quota) game, then no. If you are talking about "equality of outcome" then no. America is about freedom of opportunity and that all of us are created equal - in dignity. It doesn't mean that everyone gets to marry whomever they please, or else you'd better allow polygamy, incest and a few other deviations that I don't even want to mention. That is the only way to have sexual "equity".

    But if I am misunderstanding what you mean by "America is about equality" then please let me know.

    More in a bit....

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  36. Beautiful post and so true! Thanks for posting.

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  37. Chelsea, good question and I'm glad you asked it. If homosexuals simply wanted some form of legal, state-recognized union, it shouldn't matter if it's called "marriage" or not. Unfortunately that is not their end game. And it is already happening.

    Gays are pushing for a re-definition of marriage to, essentially, bring down the Christian church. They want to brand anyone who disagrees with them or speaks (even in their own private church from their own private pulpit) about homosexuality as sinful as hate-mongers. They want us...Christians...to be silenced. How's that for "tolerance."

    If you think I'm being alarmist, research Catholic Charities of Boston. They, based on religious principle, would not adopt to gay couples. One gay couple complained, even though they had plenty of other agencies that would adopt to them (they even ended up adopting 3 children!), and Catholic Charities is now out of the adoption business. http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/191kgwgh.asp

    That's an assault on our first amendment.

    There are many others... (more to come)

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  38. A young Christian photographer was reported to the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission, tried, found guilty, and ordered to pay nearly $7,000 in attorneys’ fees after she respectfully declined to photograph the "commitment ceremony" of a same-sex couple – despite the fact that neither same-sex "marriage" nor "civil unions" are legal in New Mexico.

    A Methodist camp meeting association in New Jersey, which politely refused a request to host a same-sex couple’s “civil union ceremony” in its worship pavilion, now faces charges before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights – charges that could force this religious organization to host these ceremonies, even though they directly conflict with its religious faith.

    A licensed counselor in Georgia was fired after following her professional ethics and referring to a colleague a person seeking counsel for a same-sex relationship.

    A church in Montana had to go to federal court to stop state persecution after it allowed citizens to circulate petitions for a state constitutional amendment that would define marriage to be between one man and one woman.

    Make no mistake - THIS is their endgame.

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  39. Chelsea, yes, I'll get my hands on that presentation and get you the stats.

    But the real issue isn't "good parents." It's about the CHILDREN. They never really "fit in" and often grow up confused, ashamed, and end up having a lot of emotional problems.

    (sorry if this posted twice...I think I lost it the first time)

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  40. Chelsea, I once had a friendly debate with a gay friend from college. I'll reprint for you what I said to him:

    Okay, so here is my basic problem when debating the topic of "gay marriage":

    I have an issue with the whole premise of redefining language. If a word means something, then redefining it seems to me a manipulation. For example, if the whole of the English speaking world has understood the meaning of the word "chair" to mean "chair" then I think it is wrong that a small group could start insisting that we understand "chair" to mean "chair and table". It distorts language and clouds understanding, till words become meaningless.

    In my mind, the same thing happened with the word "gay". It was co-opted and now means something completely different from what it used to. Young people hear the words of a Christmas song, "merry and gay" and they have no idea how that fits, or perhaps they giggle. Women named Gay had to change their names. Gay suddenly lost its true meaning. That is manipulation of language that I think is political in nature and has nothing to do with the *organic* growth of language. (Would you agree?)

    So, essentially, I can't debate "gay marriage" since "marriage" has always been known as one thing (male/female). If we want to call it something other than "marriage", then let's do that. How about "unions" "relationships" or even a new name altogether. But marriage has already been defined for centuries (more, if you leave English for ancient language equivalents of "marriage"), and I just have a philosophical opposition to manipulation of language. I believe language must mean something.

    Someone said: "All social engineering begins with language engineering" and I think that is true.

    So, that is why I don't believe in "gay marriage" ... because it cannot, by definition, exist.

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  41. Nicole, yes! The idea that a lovely word like "choice" has been engineered to mean killing the child in the womb is so ... unreal.

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  42. Chelsea, and anyone else. To get a sense of how Same Sex marriage will affect society at large I totally recommend this talk by Jennifer Roback Morse. It's a bit long, but it's a clear eyed, forward thinking analysis which is what we need more of these days.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osCnn-ATrcI&feature=player_embedded

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  43. And here is a quote from Chesterton which I think is so relevant to the push to redefine marriage:

    "Don't ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up."

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  44. Here's another one by Margaret Somerville who I've mentioned on here before. What amazes me about her is that she is an academic ethicist who came to these conclusions through the pure exercise of reason. As far as I know she is not a Catholic nor affiliated with any Christian Church, her point of view is simply a product of her taking that long, deep look at the full implications of the issues beyond the personal desires of one generation.

    http://www.marriageinstitute.ca/images/somerville.pdf

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  45. But Leila, the meanings of words do change, often for the better. The word "voter" meant something very different in 1850 than it does today. We're all glad for that.

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  46. Can we question this assumption that everything is going to hell in a handbasket today? The poverty level is way lower than it was in the 1950s (when it was at 22.4%), teen pregnancies reached historic lows this decade, divorce rates have dropped fairly steadily for thirty years, and I just read today that teen sex has been declining since the late 1980s.

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  47. Hi Pedro! I'm not sure I said that everything is going to hell in a handbasket, but our sexual morals sure are. And I think our fiscal health is, too....

    But back to words and their meaning: "Voter" has always meant "one who votes". The definition of "voter" has not changed one iota. Woman, man, black, white, big, small, fat, thin, married, straight, gay, single.... if they "vote" they are a "voter." I am sure that women were "voters" in other ways before the Suffrage. For example, maybe they voted in committees at their church, school, home. Maybe they voted on the best Easter Bonnet at the fair.

    To repeat:
    Voter has always meant, and always means, "one who votes".

    If the word "voter" is changed to mean "one who fishes", then we lose the meaning of the word "voter".

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  48. "...but our sexual morals sure are..."

    But what makes you say that? I know we have different definitions of "sexual morals," but even by your standards, the indicators are mostly positive, and have been improving for at least 20 years. The one exception is out-of-wedlock births, admittedly a big one. But teen sex, teen pregnancies, abortions, rape--all down.

    Re: words. Fine. Change "voter" with "citizen." The meaning of the word "citizen" has changed quite a bit throughout US history, and we're all glad of that.

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  49. Pedro, the meaning of "citizen" has not changed. We are talking about words' meanings.

    Sexual mores. Well, what I mean is this: There was a time when every segment of American society understood that sex was a privilege of marriage. Rich, poor, black, white, immigrant, native born, young, old, educated, non-educated, women, men, etc., etc. Were there sins and slip ups and immorality? YES. But the standard was uniform: Sex was a privilege of marriage. Sex before marriage was not normalized.

    Today? Well, I just want you to look around. See what's being taught in schools, see what is being taught in the arts, in Hollywood, see what is on TV (aimed for children), see what happens if we say that sex is for marriage and that marriage is for man and woman. You can get sued for that now! Do you think that our sexual morals are strong in America? I don't get it. We've gone from sex is sacred and holy, to sex is a recreational activity (free play).

    I just feel really sorry for kids today. It's always kids who suffer when adults abdicate their roles to be moral teachers and role models. It actually breaks my heart.

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  50. Hi, Leila.

    The 14th Amendment starts "All persons born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

    That's a definitional statement. It says what citizens *are* in the United States; in other words, it says what the word "citizens" means in the US. Hopefully we don't have to get into a Clintonian debate over the meaning of "to be" verbs. :)

    That definition was different than what came before it. Look, for example, at the Dred Scott decision: the whole thing hinges on the *meaning* of the word citizen. Justice Taney finally decides, "The court is of the opinion that, upon the facts stated in the plea in abatement, Dred Scott was not a citizen of Missouri within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States..." Notice the wording: the *meaning* of the word "citizen" in the Constitution. That position was untenable after 1868, because the *meaning* of the word was explicitly changed by the 14th Amendment.

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  51. Regarding "kids today," I'd say don't look at Gossip Girl or Jersey Shore for a fair sampling; look at the statistics. They show pretty clearly that, by your standards, kids are behaving more morally than they were 20 or 30 years ago.

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  52. Pedro, the word "citizen" has one universal meaning. Now, I guess you could say that governments get to decide whodo have the right to declare who is or isn't a citizen. Even if you think it's wrong. For example, I think it's wrong that only Muslims can be citizens of Mecca. I think that is pathetic, but you know what? It doesn't change what we all understand to be the definition of a "citizen." I hope you understand what I mean, and if not, I will try again.

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  53. Whoa, a whole chunk of my comment was lost!!! Here's what it should have said in the middle:

    Now, I guess you could say that governments get to decide WHO is a citizen of their nation, or town, etc. What they cannot do morally is to decide who is a "person" and who is not. That is the essence of the problem with Dred Scott. Slaves were not considered to be "persons" under the law, as with the unborn today. "Personhood" should never been under the jurisdiction of any government! ALL humans are people.

    But, like it or not, governments DO have the right to declare who is or is not a citizen...

    (and the rest is there...)

    Sorry for the confusion!

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  54. Pedro, about the kids today. I love teens, I really do. I have a bunch. But the sad thing is with most teens today... they have no clue about moral reasoning. They have been conditioned to believe that as long as they aren't "hurting anyone" then they should do as they please. I think it's a real lack of a moral compass, and I think a lot of these kids are aimless and restless and have no idea who they are or why they are here. They have their "values" but they have never heard of "virtue".

    Anyway, that may be a post for another day. I am thrilled to see the teen sex rate go down a bit. I wonder if it could ever get back to where it was decades ago when things were a lot more innocent in that regard. I just don't think it can, as the adults these days seem more sex-obsessed and juvenile than the kids.

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  55. Not to beat a dead horse (okay, maybe), but let's go over this again, to be crystal clear:

    You said: The 14th Amendment starts "All persons born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

    That's a definitional statement.


    No, it's not. It's a designational statement. It's stating who is a citizen, not what "citizen" means. Big, big distinction.

    You continued: It says what citizens *are* in the United States

    No, it doesn't. It says who qualifies as a citizen. All nations do that. But the definition of the word "citizen" remains the same -- i.e., "someone who is a legal resident of a state or nation." So the definition of the word citizen is exactly the same, whether in America, China or Antarctica. Some people have citizenship (and thus are citizens) and other people don't. Each nation or state has different qualifications and standards for citizenship. It doesn't change the fact that if a man tells me he is a citizen of Denmark, I know what that means. And if a woman tells me she is a citizen of Brazil, I know what she means. And if a man tells me he is a citizen of Mecca, I know what he means. And if a woman tells me she is NOT a citizen of Russia, I know what she means.

    See, we all understand the word citizen.

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  56. Pedro, I think it's important to remember the long view of history. You're correct that rates of teen pregnancy have decreased in the past 20 years or so, but that's only because they skyrocked after the Sexual Revolution. Prior to the 1960s and 1970s, it was considered tragic and shameful (by everyone, not just religious people) for a girl or woman to become pregnant out of wedlock. Clearly, it still happened, but was not socially acceptable, much less glorified or glamorized (ie shows like Teen Mom, Sixteen and Pregnant, etc).

    I know it seems like we Catholics often idealize the world before the 1960s; it annoys me sometimes too. After all, in the 1950s and before, we hardly lived in a perfect world. Misogyny was rampant, and there certainly was infidelity, abortion, divorce, etc. However, before the sexual revolution such things were not accepted as normal or even desirable.

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  57. “someone who is a legal resident of a state or nation.”

    Okay, but that’s not the definition of a citizen. There are lots of legal residents of the US who are not citizens. You live in Arizona, right? I bet you wouldn’t have to look far to find one.

    But let’s push towards the broader definition of “citizen” that you want. You say that if a woman tells you she’s a citizen of Peru, you know what she means.

    What does she mean?

    Was she born there? You don’t know.

    Does she live there? Not necessarily.

    Is her family from Peru? Maybe, maybe not. You don’t know for sure.

    What rights is she entitled to? Maybe you’re an expert on the Peruvian constitution; otherwise, you don’t know.

    In essence, if a woman tells you she’s a citizen of Peru, you know nothing except that the nation of Peru has granted her citizenship. That’s circular. Or a tautology, or something. In any event, the phrase “she’s a citizen” is meaningless unless you know the particulars of Peruvian citizenship law.

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  58. Maggie: infidelity was not accepted as normal before the sexual revolution? Remember, take the long view.

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  59. Pedro, this is the type of thing that makes me think we are talking about the definition of "is".

    By they way you are "defining" the word citizen, you would have to say that "citizen" means nothing, because "citizen" would have to be redefined in every single country and municipality on earth, and even in outer space.

    We can speak of citizens and know what we are talking about, even if someone in a science fiction movie says he is a citizen of Mars. Does that mean we need to know every law of every land, and know the particular civil code and constitution of every city and nation?

    Because according to you, unless we know all that, we cannot know what the word "citizen" really means, and we can not use it to communicate an idea (because words are merely symbols for ideas).

    So, are you really saying that the word "citizen" cannot be known unless we know all the laws and requirements of every land?

    Please, I'm dying to know if you really believe that.

    Thanks!

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  60. Pedro, it's like if I said I was "member" of a club. Are you telling me that we can't use that language until and unless we can define precisely what a "membership" requires for each and every club on earth? Or, can you admit that "member" has a general meaning that we can all understand?

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  61. In essence, if a woman tells you she’s a citizen of Peru, you know nothing except that the nation of Peru has granted her citizenship. That’s circular. Or a tautology, or something. In any event, the phrase “she’s a citizen” is meaningless unless you know the particulars of Peruvian citizenship law.

    You realize that you are saying that we can't use the word "citizen" unless we know all the particulars of Peruvian citizenship, right? You do know that that's what you are arguing here? That saying one is a Peruvian citizen is, according to your argument, meaningless, unless the person speaking and the person listening can both define and enumerate the legislation and regulation behind the word "citizen" for Peru. You get that, right?

    Wow. Just wow. Imagine if we did that for other words. Like, "lunch". If I tell you, "I just had lunch." Would you have to investigate what I ate before you could understand what I mean by "lunch"? Or could we agree that some words have an inherent understanding and definition that we don't need to analyze before going forward with the next sentence?

    And, my apologies for that definition I gave of "citizen". I was too rushed to actually look up a definition, so I gave something off the top of my head.

    Here are two actual definitions of citizen:

    1. A native or naturalized member of a state or other political community

    2. A resident of a city or town, especially one entitled to vote and enjoy other privileges there.

    3. A native, inhabitant, or denizen of a particular place: "We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community" (Franklin D. Roosevelt).

    I think my definition fits in okay, but next time I will be sure to use an official dictionary. :)

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  62. Pedro, I'm reading your comments and I'm not sure what your point is. Sure sometimes the meanings of words change. That words change is not an argument that a word "should" change.

    If you are talking about marriage, it's not enough to say the meaning of marriage can change; therefore, it should. That's silly.

    You have to make the case for why it should. We would argue it from natural law. You may not, in which case we'd ask you, "Why not?"

    Arguing from natural law makes sense for marriage since marriage has a natural purpose. It is the bonding of man and woman to raise a family, or if it's just the two of them, to be a family. If you don't argue it from natural law, but some other "this is what I think" perspective then you'd need to start with explaining what you even think marriage means in the first place. Why can't a man marry his car? Or group marriage? Of how about marrying the air and being one with it? Stuff like that.

    Often people who don't look at the real and natural world and who just make stuff up have very poor arguments because they are not grounded in any reality.

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  63. Stacy:

    “Sure sometimes the meanings of words change. “

    Thank you! Leila’s denying it right now. Maybe you can help me out: do you agree that the meaning of “citizen” was different in 1850s than it is now?

    “If you are talking about marriage, it's not enough to say the meaning of marriage can change; therefore, it should. That's silly.”

    I’m pretty sure I’ve never said that. I’ve been busy making the first part of the argument, pointing out that the meanings of words can change, and it’s not necessarily bad. That doesn’t mean there aren’t good reasons to make the change. Just haven’t gotten around to that yet.

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  64. Thank you! Leila’s denying it right now {that words change meaning}. Maybe you can help me out: do you agree that the meaning of “citizen” was different in 1850s than it is now?

    Oh my goodness, Pedro!! The criterion in America for who can become a citizen has changed! Not the meaning of the word "citizen" which is applied to all countries and even outer space!

    You know if you can't see that, then I think you may have just won yourself a blog post, starring you and your words.

    (And, sometimes words do change, like "gay" and like "queer". Sometimes the changes are organic over time, and sometimes they are forced by a political movement which manipulates language unnaturally.)

    I still can't get over that you can't see the difference between "citizen" as an idea (like "member") and the criteria for who can be a citizen of any particular place.

    Please, please tell me you see the distinction, or it's a blog post starring you! :)

    PS: If you could answer my points? Because according to you, "citizen" has so many definitions that you couldn't even fit them in one dictionary.

    Do you really mean that?

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  65. No, Pedro, the meaning of the word "citizen" dates back much further to the romance called "Guy of Warwick" in the thirteenth century. It's a literary drama, but the word means, as Leila said, "An inhabitant of a city or of a town; esp. one possessing civic rights and privileges." (OED)

    Yes, it changes in ways but it still basically means the same thing.

    Now, why should we change the meaning of the word "marriage." You were going to make an argument why that would be good.

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  66. Awesome. Bring on the blog post. But first:

    “I still can't get over that you can't see the difference between "citizen" as an idea (like "member") and the criteria for who can be a citizen of any particular place. “

    I see the difference. There’s a dictionary definition that’s broad enough to apply to 1857 Missouri, 1930s USSR, and 2011 Arizona. Duh. That definition, according to the dictionary entries you posted, basically says that a citizen is whoever a state says and is entitled to whatever the state says. Those are vague words, and they have vague meaning, but they allow you to tell the lady from Peru you know what she “means” when she says she’s a citizen of Peru. And this is what you know: she’s a citizen because Peru says she’s a citizen and she’s entitled to whatever rights Peru says its citizens get.

    Then, there’s the definition that varies from country to country and era to era. Part of it is what you're calling the “criteria,” but it is a definition—the word “definition” comes from the Latin for “to set limits.” Stacy can check the etymology. This definition gives you actual, useful knowledge about what it means to be a citizen. In the US, the definition of “citizen” comes from the limits set out in the 14th Amendment and the rights outlined in the rest of the Constitution.

    I doubt even you (or Stacy) would disagree with anything in the previous two paragraphs. So to answer your question:

    “So, are you really saying that the word "citizen" cannot be known unless we know all the laws and requirements of every land? ”

    I’m saying that if someone tells us she’s a citizen of Peru, our knowledge of what that means is very incomplete. Again, I doubt you disagree. Maybe you wouldn’t say “very.”

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  67. Pedro, oh my. What word couldn't you say the same thing about?

    Let me use your words (minus the "very"):

    If I say I had "lunch," your knowledge of what that means is incomplete. If I say I am a "member" of a club, your knowledge of what that means is incomplete.
    If I say that man is the "president" of a company, your knowledge of what that means is incomplete.
    If am sick and I say that I have a "virus", your knowledge of what that means is incomplete.
    If your wife says she is going "shopping", your knowledge of what that means is incomplete.
    If your son says he is "happy", your knowledge of what that means is incomplete.
    If I say that the bench is "red", your knowledge of what that means is incomplete.
    If I say that man is "tall", your knowledge of what that means is incomplete.
    If you tell me you drive a "truck", my knowledge of what that means is incomplete.
    If my child tells me he is "tired", my knowledge of what that means is incomplete.
    If my husband tells me he bought a new "watch", my knowledge of what that means is incomplete.

    And of course, if Gloria tells me she is a "citizen" of Peru, my knowledge of what that means is incomplete.

    So, I guess if we cannot understand language without "complete" knowledge (whatever that means), then we cannot speak at all.

    I contend, however, that we can communicate and understand each other by using words such as "citizen" and "president" and "lunch" and all the others I used above. I contend that use of those words (even without "complete" knowledge) is what allows us to have a conversation. If we needed to have "complete" knowledge every time we spoke, we could never, ever get through a sentence. Can you imagine it?

    Gloria: I am a citizen of Peru.

    Me: I'm sorry, I don't know what you mean by that.

    Gloria: Excuse me?

    Me: I mean, I don't have enough information about what you mean when you say you are a "citizen" of Peru. Could you fill me in so that I can understand?

    Gloria: What are you talking about?

    Me: I'm sorry, I guess we are not communicating well. I need to know more information about what you mean when you say you are a "citizen".

    Gloria: You don't know what the word "citizen" means?

    Me: It means different things everywhere, so no, I don't know what it means. Could you give me more information? Otherwise, we simply cannot understand each other. We are unable to communicate ideas properly and clearly.

    Gloria: {runs away screaming}

    Me: Hmmmm, she must be upset about something.

    Pedro: What do you mean by the word "upset"? I need more complete information.


    :)

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  68. Pedro, please at least tell me that you think my little dialogue at the end was a little bit funny? I tried for some humor!! :)

    But I hope you get my point. We agree now, don't we?

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  69. Hi Leila,
    I really need to email you for some advice but when I click on the link to email you it sends me to a program I don't have set up on my computer. This is a matter of life (or death) and would love your help. I am pro-life but need your insight on a situation. Please email me so that we can chat.
    lgarcia57@yahoo.com
    Thanks, Laura

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  70. Leila: Yeah, the bit at the end gave me a chuckle. ☺

    Actually, I want to change something. Because what caused you to say you “know what citizenship means” wasn’t your awareness of the dictionary definition. In fact, you didn’t know the dictionary definition until yesterday. Instead, you extrapolated from your experience with the word citizenship. You made generalizations. That’s fine—as you rightly point out, generalizations are the first step to knowledge, and without them we couldn’t communicate.

    But knowledge also means knowing the limitations of generalizations. They’re not the same thing as universals, and when we confuse the two we’re making assumptions that are often unwarranted.

    Yesterday you “knew” that the definition of citizen was “a legal resident of a state or nation.” Of course, that definition was demonstrably wrong, but it was a reasonable generalization based on what most of us understand about citizenship. It just doesn’t work as a universal definition.

    You’re right to point out that my approach to knowledge makes it difficult to be certain about things. But that’s good—it’s what causes us to learn, and it allows us to adjust our knowledge when our assumptions turn out to be wrong.
    With that in mind, here’s my edited version of your dialogue:

    Gloria: Hi, Leila! Hi, Pedro! I am a citizen of Peru.

    Leila: Awesome! I know what you mean by that! [exits stage right]

    Pedro: Interesting. So you’re from Peru? Where? Cuzco?

    Gloria: No, actually, I was born here in the United States. But my parents are both Peruvian citizens, and under Peruvian law, that makes me eligible for dual citizenship. In fact, I haven’t been to Peru since I was a child, and I’ve never lived there.

    Pedro: Huh. What a pleasure talking with you! Now I know more about you and about Peruvian citizenship law.

    Gloria: And it was a pleasure talking to you, too, Pedro!

    Later, at a party…

    Leila: Hi, guys! Let me introduce you to Gloria. She lives in Peru!

    Gloria: [sighs]

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  71. Pedro, that is a nice try! :) (How do you make those smiley faces?)

    But of course, being a legal resident of a state or nation is not a "demonstrably wrong" definition. It was simply how I thought of it in two seconds off the top of my head when the baby was destroying my bookshelf and unplugging things around my feet. But, people would still understand what I was saying, thank goodness. (Thus further proving that we don't need every nuance of information to communicate.)

    That would be a great dialogue except for one thing.... No one believes that "citizenship" somewhere means that without exception, the person lives in that place.

    My daughter is in Italy. She is living there for three months. She is not a "citizen" of Italy. No one would think that just because she is living in Italy as a student, that she is a citizen of Italy. You see, that general knowledge is good enough to communicate.

    I some of my friends have dual citizenship (Ireland and America), and my relatives (Lebanon and America), but I was never confused about it, because when talking about citizenship, normal people explain if they have dual citizenship. And a dictionary definition covers that situation, since "citizenship" is not exclusive to one place.

    I think it's ironic that you mentioned the Clintonian road that (supposedly) I was going down, in parsing words, when it is you who has done just that. Liberals do that a lot, but are you that kind of liberal? No, say it isn't so!

    Liberals are very "fuzzy" and "unclear" about what certain words mean. They make it seem as if we can't really "understand" the "full meaning and nuance" of anything. Everything is subject to further investigation and parsing, supposedly because they are so "wise" and "deep" and "thoughtful" and "intelligent", but in reality, they simply make no sense and cannot speak clearly with others. (Sometimes that's because they have no concrete values or ideas, and don't subscribe to any idea of "truth" or "clarity", and sometimes because they want to save their sorry butt -- like Clinton.)

    Anyway, this exchange has really made me think, and cleared up a lot of suppositions and theories I have had, so thank you!

    (And thought it was frustrating to me, it was also fun!)

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  72. Now that I have had breakfast, I want to add something:

    Being a "citizen" of a country does not imply that one is physically living there. There are citizens of almost every nation in the world living here in America, for example, and everyone understands that. "Living" somewhere implies a "physical" presence there. Citizenship implies a legal status.

    This to me seems like common knowledge. Most folks above a certain age understand this distinction. Please tell me you do, too.

    And please tell me how to make that smiley face!

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