Brian Keaney

Tag: blogging

A Truly Catholic Political Dialogue

Originally posted at Millennial.

ImageThe presidential election has shown us just how deeply our house is divided.  I dare you to find a card-carrying Republican who has anything good to say about President Obama, or a registered Democrat who is willing to utter a nicety about Governor Romney.  This great political schism has been growing for years and, unfortunately, I don’t see an end in sight.

Consider the Cardinal Newman Society, which does some excellent work around the issue of Catholic identity on college campuses.  They have been near-fixated on the issue of the Health and Human Services contraception mandate largely.  This is not, I suspect, because it has a direct impact on the implementation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, but rather stems from a general conservative bias against the president.

When On All Of Our Shoulders was released earlier this month, the Society attacked it on the grounds that the lengthy list of Catholic thinkers who signed it were “distorting Church teaching in favor of left-leaning politics to take political shots at vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.”

Put aside, for a moment, that the statement begins by explicitly saying that they “do not write to oppose Ryan’s candidacy or to argue there are not legitimate reasons for Catholics to vote for him.”  Let’s also ignore the fact that this is only tangentially related to issues of Catholic higher education in that several of the signatories teach at Catholic colleges.  Instead, let’s take a look at all the places where the Cardinal Newman Society has shown that the statement distorted Church teaching.

Sorry, I can’t find any.

They do not, in fact, cite a single instance where the statement strays from Catholic teaching.  Instead, the Society makes an ad hominem attack on one of the signatories who, in all fairness, appears to have his own issues with dissent from some fundamental teachings of the Church.  Lacking any substantive complaints about the document itself, they attack the credibility of one of the dozens of people who signed it, and in so doing hope to discredit the entire statement.

Like so much of our political commentary today, the Society’s response appears to simply be a Pavlovian reaction by a conservative Catholic organization to a statement critical of a fellow conservative Catholic.  They are attacking our guy, so clearly they are wrong.

I would have much preferred to have read a thoughtful response, something that moved the ball forward instead of just circling the wagons.  Lest you think such a discussion is impossible in today’s hyper-partisan atmosphere, I will instead point you towards a conversation taking place on what Anna Williams at First Things has called A Truly Catholic Economy.

George Weigel began with a thoughtful essay on how a “robust economy makes possible the empowerment of the underprivileged—the true “preferential option for the poor” in Catholic social doctrine, according to John Paul’s 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus—even as it helps conserve public resources by making the resort to welfare less necessary.”

It is a good start but, as David Cloutier explains, it is missing several important considerations.

Mr. Weigel presents a romanticized view of the work world as it presently exists. We need to take seriously our dependence on exploited, low-wage labor, which we manage to do without too much social chaos only because of a number of subsidies. I’m not saying here that people need to have “cushy” jobs. I’m saying that people who work erratic hours at the local supercenter still need health care and rent, and it’s pretty hard to imagine them raising a child and doing all that without the subsidies. Let’s get real about just wages, and then we can talk about the dignity of work and the need to reduce welfare spending.

Cloutier then engages even further on an informed comment left by a reader.  This is the type of exchange of ideas that we as a nation can benefit from, and I hope other bloggers pick up on the thoughts presented by Weigel and Cloutier and run with them.

There are no simple answers to the problems that we will have to confront in the next four years, and I don’t propose to have any of them.  What I do know, however, is that we are much less likely to find them when what passes for dialogue consists mainly of pointing fingers and calling names.  What we need is a reasoned, rational debate that is all too rare today.

As Americans, we should rise above the current dismal state of political discourse.  As Catholics, this is precisely what we are called to do.

Advertisements

I’m dreaming of a complete blog post

When I said the other day that I usually have a first draft of blog posts completely written out in my head before I ever sit down at the computer, I wasn’t kidding.  Sometimes, in fact, I have them written out before I even get out of bed.

I usually only get five or six hours of sleep a night.  Once I’m up I’m good to go for the day – no coffee needed – but it does usually take hitting the snooze button two or three times before I’ll actually get out of bed.  I don’t know what I was dreaming about, but this morning when I hit the snooze for the first time I started writing something before I fell back asleep again.  All I remember, and indeed all I probably had, was this:

There is much you can say about my mother, and calling her a saint for putting up with me for all these years is probably a good place to start.  At scarcely five feet tall, however, intimidating is not an adjective most would use.

I have no idea where I was going with this, but I think it had something to do with the alarm clock itself.  I’ve been trying to remember all day, and I just can’t.  I think it might have been explanatory, though I have no idea what I would have been trying to explain.  When I learn a new or difficult concept for the first time, I’ll often try an teach it to a fictional other in my head.

It’s one of the reasons I thought I’d make a good educator.  I don’t have a classroom, or usually even anyone who would be remotely interested in a lot of the things I read to talk to about it, but I turn it into a lesson anyway.  I find that if I can do that then I can be sure I understand it myself.

Social media as a marketing and campaign tool

Today at the 2.0 Life, David says that he is “a serial early-adopter” of social media.  I’m most certainly not, for a few reasons.  Most importantly, it’s  for the very reason David says he quits most of them:  “Most of the time, social networks don’t have any real value unless everyone you know is using them, and most don’t have any value even if everyone is.”

Like most people I know, I’m a busy person and I have neither the time nor the inclination to try every new fad that comes down the pike.  If I am going to invest in a technology, I want it to have a proven value.  This is often the advice I give to clients.  Many feel they should be everywhere at once.  I disagree, and counsel that rather than trying to do too much at once, they should focus on a few that 1) they (or I, under their name) can do well, and 2) give you the most bang for the buck.

Facebook is an obvious choice, simply because it is so ubiquitous.  It is the place, as David says, where everyone you know (and many you would like to know) is already.  It doesn’t take much to set up a fan page or group, and, once you let a few friends know about it, then it can spread like wildfire.  Each time someone joins your group a notification is sent out letting their friends know they support a candidate, or enjoy shopping at a particular store.   If the friend also join up, a notification is sent out again to all their friends, and so on.  Even if they don’t join, simply seeing the notification is a free endorsement.

Twitter grows in popularity each day, but can be slightly tougher to do well.  It requires more work than Facebook, but the payoff can be even bigger.  At b.good (disclaimer: I am the winner of a contest there), they know how to “tweet” effectively.  b.good has an interesting marketing strategy.  Disdaining things like newspaper ads, they will tape coupons for free burgers and fries to objects in the neighborhood of their restaurants.   When they do, a tweet will go out  to their followers alerting them, often with a photo showing you where you can find them.  It’s a great way to get people in the doors who might not otherwise.

For the professional set, blogging is probably your best bet.  Of the three social media mentioned here it takes the most amount of work, but there is no better way for you (or me) to showcase your talents.  This morning Jay Donahue posted to his real estate agency’s blog the do’s and don’t’s for holiday decorating while trying to sell your home.

No one will want to buy the cow if you give away all the milk, but supermarkets know that by giving out samples they can entice you to buy.   The same is true with blogging.  If you are a tax professional, you don’t want to provide step-by-step instructions on how to file your tax return.  However, you can use it to alert your clients (and potential clients) of a change to the federal tax code that could affect them.  In doing so you can establish yourself as an expert on the topic.

All three formats mentioned here, plus many others out there, provide a very cost-effective way to expand your base of clients, customers, and constituents.   And, as they are social medias,  you might even find yourself making a few friends along the way.