In Defense of Poor Barry

     By the time you read this, Barry Bonds of the San 
Francisco Giants will have made baseball history by 
breaking Hank Aaron's career homerun record.

     And you will have heard many pundits deploring 
Bonds's obvious use of head-swelling steroids.

     Okay. We all admire, say, the honest, lovable Cal 
Ripken more than this dubious and surly superstar. But 
how about a little sense of proportion? In essence, Bonds 
corked his bat; he's Sammy Sosa writ large. He cheated 
for glory; but he didn't try to hurt anyone.

     I'm from Detroit, where the truly detestable Ty Cobb 
became a baseball immortal (.367 lifetime batting 
average, 12 batting crowns, 4,191 hits, 978 stolen bases) 
while actually trying to injure his opponents, many of 
whom hated him the rest of their lives.

     Has Bonds ever done that?

     Or think of the many mound "heroes" -- some of them 
Hall-of-Famers -- who threw fastballs at batters' heads. 
Has Bonds done anything remotely comparable? (If you want 
a real baseball hero, read Jane Leavey's wonderful 
biography of Sandy Koufax. Granted, she lays it on a mite 
thick: The book might have been titled O COME, LET US 
ADORE HIM. But you can't blame Sandy for that.)

     And think of sports whose very purpose is to do 
bodily harm to opponents, with spectators reveling in the 

     If it weren't for the vanity of statistics, Bonds 
would be remembered simply as one of the most thrilling 
baseball players of all time.

     I repeat, we need some sense of proportion about 
this. As I joked to my best pal, "I'm going to write 
Bonds a letter. And it's going to be even nastier than 
the one I wrote to Aaron when he broke Babe Ruth's 

Pardon My Popery

     A sweet Bible Christian of my acquaintance -- that 
is, one who thinks the Holy Spirit let the Church use the 
wrong Bible until 1517 or so -- got furious with me last 
year for sending her husband, one of my oldest friends, a 
prayer to St. Therese. How terribly Popish of me!

     More recently, she has taunted me for having 
illegitimate grandchildren. After checking chapter 19 of 
St. Matthew's Gospel, I find that Jesus, just as I 
recalled, welcomes the wee ones, without qualification.

     I've already written enough about Christopher 
Hitchens's truly obtuse atheist tract GOD IS NOT GREAT, 
but I can't drop the subject without mentioning Tom 
Piatak's amazing review on Taki's Top Drawer. I'd rather 
be mauled by a lion than deserve such a notice.

     Incidentally, one of the evils Hitchens blames on 
religion, especially Christianity, is "sexism."

     This is a real howl. Does anyone think pagan savages 
practiced sexual equality back in the State of Nature?

     It was the Church, in fact, that first exalted woman 
to a degree never before imagined, simply by recognizing 
her spiritual dignity.

A Deed without a Name

     For years I have tried to think of a name both 
accurate and fair for one of the great evils of the 
modern world, something sensitive people are well aware 
of but hardly dare discuss publicly. It has been the ruin 
of many; it has bred war and persecution.

     I propose to call it "secular Semitism." It is 
neither Judaism nor Jews as a race; many of its most 
thoughtful critics and determined enemies, in fact, are 
religious and ethnic Jews.

     But to criticize it is to court charges of being 
either an "anti-Semite" or a "self-hating Jew." The dread 
of being slandered with false charges of anti-Semitism 
has warped American journalism and politics for a long 
time now; an astute foreign observer has noted that 
public discussion of Jewish matters in this country is 
"extraordinarily guarded." (Yes, that was our friend 
Mr. Hitchens, many years ago!)

     The New Testament recounts that the early Christians 
had to take evasive action, again and again, "for fear of 
the Jews."

     Of course "the Jews" is only an approximation, the 
first disciples themselves being strictly religious =and= 
genuinely ethnic Jews.

     Secular Semitism has expressed itself in Zionism, 
liberalism, hatred of Christianity, and blaming the 
Church for anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, and every other 
evil, real and imaginary.

     Without a Christian morality of natural law, why on 
earth would anyone but Jews think anti-Semitism was a 
moral evil? Most men assume we should hate our enemies.

     Put it this way: Does President Bush, a nominal 
Christian, pray fervently for the Iranians?


     What does Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation 
League, have in common with his bete noire, Mel Gibson?

     Give up? He's a baptized Catholic! As a small child 
in Europe during the Hitler era, Abe was taken in at 
great risk by a Catholic family, who had him baptized.

     Not that he seems very grateful. And I must confess 
I have to keep reminding myself that Abe is still 
technically a member of the Mystical Body of Christ. You 
could easily get the wrong impression, eh, Mel?


     Does anyone still remember the enormous media to-do 
about Don Imus only last April? He was on the cover of 
TIME for blurting three words!

     Amazing how fast these moralistic seizures blow 
over. Can a Hitler pass into oblivion in the space of 
less than four months?

                                        --- Joseph Sobran


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