A Physician’s Tribute: “Thank You Fr. Roman”

by James M. Kushiner

Dr. Dan Hinshaw has written this moving tribute to Fr. Roman Braga, who fell asleep in the Lord on April 28 in Michigan. Part of the story of Fr. Roman’s life is told in this Fr.RomanB 150x150 A Physicians Tribute: Thank You Fr. Romaninterview I did with him in 2011 for Salvo.

Fr. Roman was actually a fan of Salvo magazine, and asked about its welfare the last time I saw him in 2013, even after he knew he was dying from cancer. He even donated regularly to help support Salvo, which he told me, with a smile, was “a scary magazine!” If you’d like to add your support to his, your gift made here will also be doubled by a generous donor who is offering us a $50,000 matching grant.

I will miss Father Roman. Memory eternal!

Feeling Trans

Smith’s Transgender Delusion
The women’s college unwittingly undermines the ‘transgender moment.’

by Jonathan V. Last, The Weekly Standard
For the better part of a year, Smith College has been telegraphing that it would soon accept transgender student applications. On Monday, the women’s college flung open the curtain on its new admissions policy. And whether it realizes it or not, Smith has inadvertently done a great deal of damage to the idea of transgenderism. Indeed, Smith’s new official transgender policy suggests that, at least in some cases, the “trans” idea is merely make-believe.

I recommend this article to you that dissects the policy of Smith College regarding admissions. Last does a great job breaking down the logic of it all. But that’s just the trouble, the debate on these issues will not be “won” by logic or sound argument or appeals to reason. This debate rests entirely with feelings and vague ideas of fairness and rights.

As Regis Nicoll pointed out in his article Hooked on a Feeling Is Gender Just a State of Mind? for an early issue of Salvo:
By invoking the term “rights,” the lifestyle Left has elevated the unfettered exercise of expression over the physical safety of women, clearing the way for absurd and dangerous outcomes like the MTA decision. Did I mention that this all began in reaction to women’s exploitation?
The next issue of Salvo is in production. Stay tuned!

Kim Kardashian, Real Housewives, and RFRA

by Peter Johnson

A friend of mine—who happens to be gay—has refrained from commenting on the Indiana RFRA. That is, until last night, when he couldn’t help himself and tweeted this: “No self-respecting gay man would serve pizza at his wedding.” I think this tweet pretty much sums up this latest tempest in a teapot.

In a former life, I spent two years in rural Paraguay teaching beekeeping to subsistence farmers. I had no phone, no access to the Internet. About once a month I would ride 9 hours by bus to the capital to do emails, catch up on the latest American news. Could you imagine what I might think about the US, were this still how I got my news? Let me paint a picture of the headlines I might be reading:

Look, I get it. Clickbait pays. Internet traffic is as good as money your pocket these days. In my day job, I raise money for a conservative think tank and often use stats on our organization’s Internet traffic to make a case for support.

Not too long ago I took an op-ed writing class from Sam Ryan, a WSJ reporter turned entrepreneur who now runs a well-respected full-service PR firm in Washington DC that places thousands of op-eds a year for clients. Best memory from this class was trying to shoehorn the name “Kim Kardashian” into an op-ed headline. Sam explained that based on the title alone, an editor oftentimes chooses the top three or four editorials from dozens or hundreds received every day. Putting “Kim Kardashian” (or another degenerate national obsession, ie #RHWBH) in the headline would ensure that our op-ed made the initial cut.

So, again, I get it. None of us are immune from the demands of an oversaturated media market. Ambitious reporters are sent on missions to find bigots—and when they can’t find any—they’ll just manufacture one. Organizations (like the one I work for) who have long been staunch—though measured—advocates for religious liberty are being crowded out by fly-by-night operations that post poorly researched articles with outrageous headlines in order ride the wave of publicity. So, in response, normally restrained organizations like mine up the ante: They post pieces like the one that makes that case that one tweet from a dummy is evidence of burgeoning genocidal tendencies in our society.

Of course, there are the exceptions. The Federalist recently ran a piece that asked both advocates and opponents of gay marriage to write about what most troubles them about their positions. In an age of take-no-prisoners polemics, this was a very refreshing way to treat a subject that continues to be a divisive issue in our country.

So in that tradition, here is my response to the ongoing controversy in Indiana: Freedom of conscience—of which religious liberty is inextricably linked—is perhaps the most important freedom that we possess in this country. I think most people would agree that this is probably the defining characteristic of our great country. Because of this, I think anything that challenges this freedom should be taken seriously. Freedom of conscious is the wellspring of good citizenship and legal protections for free association and freedom of conscience are, in my estimation, foundational for a virtuous citizenry.

That being said, I think that people who share my opinion need to reduce the temperature on the rhetoric about the “attacks on religion.” As someone whose great-grand parents were German Jews who actually lived through Kristallnacht, I would hope we would reserve the holocaust analogies for when there is real violence happening (like, maybe, the sort of stuff happening to Christians in Iraq and Syria). Anti-RFRA tweets don’t tempt Kristallnacht any more than the RFRA itself tempts hate crimes on homosexuals, right?

Experience tells me that in America homosexuals are at greater risk for discrimination, bullying, and violence than devout Christians. I don’t need stats to back this up (though I’m sure someone is keeping tally out there). Anyone who has gone to an American public school in the 50 years knows this is true. While kids going to school today are less likely to bully a gay classmate than they were, say, 20 years ago, I still think it is much more likely that a gay student is bullied than a devout Christian. And it is this truth about our culture that gives me pause when I advocate for laws like RFRA.

Peter Johnson is a graduate of New York University where he studied English and philosophy. After graduation, he lived and worked in Africa and in South America, where he taught beekeeping to rural subsistence farmers. Before joining the Development team at Acton, he held various positions with the National Capital Area Council, Boy Scouts of America. Peter is married to Ashley, a teacher, and has three children.

Indiana’s HIV crisis

Indiana is dealing with an incredible HIV outbreak, centralized in Scott County. The HIV outbreak has been directly tied to needle use for opiate drug users. The Governor has called it a public health crisis, and while normally an opponent to needle exchanges, he is allowing for a 30-day needle exchange to curb the outbreak of HIV.

To give you a sense of the numbers, typically Scott County will see about five new cases of HIV in a year. They saw 26 new cases between mid-December and the beginning of March, and the count is up to 72 cases as of March 26.

The cause of the cases has been traced to intravenous drug use of a liquid form of Opana, a prescription painkiller. Doctors in the area report that the drug addiction problem, like many other places in the US, has been going on for at least the last ten years, with increasing incidences of other blood-borne diseases from needle sharing and deaths due to overdose.

Scott County is struggling against poverty as well as addiction. However, opiate drug addiction is a problem that is spanning all demographics across the US. My article in Salvo Issue 31 looks at nationwide statistics of opiate drug addiction from both prescription pain medicine and heroin use and the underlying causes.

Typically, people start with prescription pain medicines. It can even be from their own prescription that they obtained legitimately for a hurt back or a tooth extraction or any number of reasons that physicians dole out prescriptions for hydrocodone. One guy, mentioned in my article, got hooked on fentanyl after receiving it as an anesthetic for a colonoscopy. He was already abusing alcohol and other substances in an effort to cope with depression over a break-up. Fentanyl, indeed, served as a pain reliever in more ways than one.

Not everyone becomes addicted to opiate drugs when they take pain medicines, but with chronic use, many people do become addicted. And, unfortunately, it is a very difficult addiction to break. Once you’ve tickled those paths in your brain, the tracks that usually take naturally produced endorphins (named for endogenous morphine), you wear a neurological path that is VERY difficult to undo. Unlike endorphins, which our bodies administer through a sophisticated regulatory process that ensures you are receiving the right amounts, opiate drugs stand in as stronger, more potent endorphin replacements.

On a short-term, temporary basis, opiate drugs, like hydrocodone, are supposed to decrease pain, and many of them, when in pill form, are time-released. When our bodies experience pain, endorphins help to quell the effects; however, the endorphins are not enough for injury or sickness, so people take pain medicine. Sometimes people will experience some physical withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking pain medicine if they have been taking them for a while, but physical withdrawal does not necessarily mean the person is addicted. Even physical tolerance is not the full picture of addiction. Addiction has to do with seeking out a high, and in an effort to do so, the person becomes consumed with overcoming physical tolerance to the point that he or she may grind pills and take them intravenously or turn to heroin which is cheaper and sometimes easier to obtain. Scott County is seeing the effects of people sharing needles for opiate drug use.

My article gets into both the neuroscience as well as the cultural and psychological factors that lead to addiction. Suffice it to say that one of the problems is accessibility to a substance that is too potent and too addictive to be administered for trivial reasons (such as tooth aches or minor aches and pains).

Prior to 1990, opioids were not typically prescribed as painkillers except for cancer patients. But in 1990, that all changed. Doctors wanted a solution to patients’ chronic pain,  patients were desperate for relief, and big pharma was ready to profit from the situation. Fast forward to now. The CDC reports that in 2014, physicians wrote 259 million painkiller prescriptions in a single year, the equivalent of one bottle of pills per American. They have seen a four-fold increase in overdose deaths since 2000.

At the end of the Washington Post article reporting on Scott County’s crisis, Dr. William Cooke points out that this issue is not unique to Scott County, Indiana. They are the canary in the coal mine.

Thoughts from Kierkegaard and Nietzsche

Dr. Russell D. Moore shared this image on Facebook recently–a quote from Kierkegaard :

This brought to mind a short piece from the new issue of Salvo. Capital Losses: Nietzsche on Losing English Morality by Cameron Wybrow. After quoting Nietzsche at length, Wybrow writes:

Nietzsche perceives that the ingrained moral habits of a culture can outlast the original religious impulse that produced them. The English intelligentsia, he says, have stopped thinking like Christians, but still feel and act like Christians, by a kind of moral inertia. This characterization remained true long after Nietzsche’s death. The agnosticism of many Britons and North Americans from the 1880s through to about 1945 usually went with a morality that was more or less Christian. Secular humanism in that era was secular in theory but often unwittingly Christian in spirit.

Nietzsche and Kierkegaard are describing the same thing. This is the culture that you and I find ourselves in today–about 100 years further down the road from the place Nietzsche described.