A Quick Reply to Dr. Peters About the Scouts

My thanks to Ed Peters for the link and comment to my post about the Boy Scouts lifting the ban on openly gay scouts. Dr. Peters had this to say about what I wrote:

Update, 29 May 2013: But for one sentence, I basically agree with Tom McDonald’s take on the Boy Scout matter. The one sentence that stands out–nay leaps out–but is completely unsupported by everything else McDonald wrote, is this: “The shift in policy shows that the BSA is willing to concede moral high ground.” Huh? How? Where? Please point to where the BSA did anything such thing.

Anyway, pace that lone line, the rest of McDonald’s essay, imo, reads well and usefully.

I can see where that’s confusing, because I shifted to talking about process when I’d been talking about the policy itself, so let me clarify.

I don’t believe the BSA really needed to address the issue at all. The standing policy was largely effective for over a century, and the issue was only forced by the grotesque political and social theater of the activists and their obsession with the sex lives of children. If not for the addition of two powerful executives–Randall Stephenson and James Turley–to the BSA board, the issue would have simply been left as is, with councils making common sense decisions on individual cases.

Several contrived instances of scouts being dismissed for sexuality, however, were whipped into a media frenzy in order to force the hand of the BSA. Nothing substantial is different about the content of a Scout’s moral being  in 2013 than it was 1910. We adapt to the accidents of modern life in certain ways, but the Forms (if you will) of boyhood and manhood should remain constant. That was the whole point of Scouting: to the shape the boy with timeless values.

The BSA allowed itself to be forced into action, and their efforts in reaching a compromise have been fumbling and often disturbing. Early proposals suggested that they were willing to abandon the ban on adult leaders as long as it was limited to the local level. Considering that the BSA had once said they’d hold the line on admission of openly gay Scouts and adult leaders, this was a pretty major concession of core Scout values. When they now claim they’ll “hold the line” on gay leaders, can we really believe them any more? They already indicated it was a one possible solution to the issue.

Let that sink in a little: the organization that argued the Dale case all the way to the Supreme Court (and won) was debating a local concession on the issue at the heart of that case.

The BSA conceded on a point they once (rightly) said they didn’t need to address. Social, legal, internal, financial, and political pressure forced them to address it. That’s what I meant by “conceding the moral high ground.” I think the policy is in keeping with Catholic teaching and the values of scouting. However, I think the process of reaching this policy tainted the Scouts, and puts a crack in the edifice through which other compromises may, in time, force themselves.

Pressure them enough (this episodes suggests) and the Scouts will concede. Their concession, in this case, took a form that was compatible with their values and ours. Will the next one? As Bishop Guglielmone told me: “The leadership of the BSA has made it very clear that they intend to hold the line on adult leaders, but they also said they would hold the line on this issue, so where this could go, I don’t know.”

Are These Beams From the First Temple?

Reused for millennia, discarded, forgotten, left in a padlocked storage space: these rough chunks of wood hewn from cedar, cypress, and oak up to 3000 years ago may once have been part of the First Temple.

Building materials routinely were recycled throughout ancient times, but these are important because they were removed from the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount during renovations. They were never really subjected to tests until 1984, when a dendochronologist interested in their age and type analyzed the tree rings and used carbon-14 dating:

Some of the wood was from the early Muslim period. One of the cedars, for example, was about 1,340 years old, or roughly the same age as Al-Aqsa. (The margin of error for the rather inexact dating process was 250 years.)

But others were older, dating to Byzantine times, and still others dated to Roman times, around the era of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

Even more striking were her findings regarding one of the cypress beams. The age of the beam “was found to be 2,600 years,” she wrote, with a margin of error of 180 years. That placed it near 630 B.C.E. — around 50 years before the destruction of the First Temple.

This month, an article in Biblical Archaeology Review revisits the artifacts, raising concerns that improper storage places them in danger. Archaeologist Peretz Reuven looked at the beams, and writes in BAS that “indentations on the underside of a beam with Herodian/Roman-period decorations suggest that it rested on column capitals in an earlier structure. The indentations are spaced at a similar interval to columns at Herod’s Royal Stoa.”

That’s pretty huge.

But wait, it gets better. The dendochronologist who did the original tests believes that the beams also may have been used in the Nea Ekklesia of the Theotokos: Byzantine Emperor Justinian I’s long-lost masterpiece built to emulate … the First Temple.

I’m still geeking out about that one.

The more they’re studied, the more these beams keep giving up little gems like this:

One beam at the Rockefeller Museum, for example, bears the Greek words, “In the time of the most holy archbishop and patriarch Peter and the most God-beloved this whole house of St. Thomas was erected.” The Peter in question was patriarch of Jerusalem in the mid-500s C.E., and the beam must have been used in a Byzantine church of the time.

All of them need to be collected, preserved, and analyzed. Like so many building materials in the ancient world, they can tell us not just one story of one structure, but dozens of stories spread over thousands of years.


A Small Gift For You Today

We live in uncertain times. It can be difficult to know what’s true and false. Doubt reigns over so much that we hear and read and even experience.

Thus, my gift to you today is the gift of certainty. It will be at least one thing you read today that you will know is true without any doubt, and it is this:

This man is not Jesus.

Not Jesus

A man claiming to be Jesus is gaining followers and causing concern among cult experts in Australia.

Former IT specialist Alan John Miller, or AJ as he prefers to be known, runs a religious movement known as the Divine Truth from his home near the small town of Kingaroy in the state of Queensland.

Mr Miller claims that not only is he Christ, but his partner, Australian Mary Luck, is in fact Mary Magdalene, who according to the Bible was present at the crucifixion.

He told Sky News: “I have very clear memories of the crucifixion, but it wasn’t as harrowing for me as it was for others like Mary who was present.

Mr Miller holds seminars near his home in Kingaroy, Queensland

“When you are one with God you are not in a state of fear, and you have quite good control over your body’s sensations and the level of pain that you absorb from your body.”

Mr Miller holds seminars near his home and also travels around the world teaching people how to have a personal relationship with God, often by delving deep into their emotions.

Dozens of his followers are understood to have bought properties in the area to be closer to him.

After his crucifixion the Australian claims he entered the spirit world where he met Plato, Socrates, popes and presidents.

He also says he remembers performing miracles.

He said: “I did resurrect quite a number of people … including a friend of mine Lazarus, who most people know is mentioned in the Bible.” [Okay, now tell me the names of all the others you raised.]

Whilst critics dismiss his claims the seminars attract large groups of people, up to 150 a time.

British woman Louise “Luli” Faver, 39, is a former neuroscientist who has given up her career to be closer to the couple.

So there you go: the NotJesus.

The Boy Scouts: Caught in the Culture Wars

I tend to draw the stories on scouting for the National Catholic Register, so I’ve been watching as the BSA tried to revise their policies for dealing with boys who publicly proclaim same sex attraction. It’s important to note that the BSA does not ask about sexual preference, operating on an unofficial “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” that quite reasonably kept the private sexual habits of people–particularly minors–out of the organization.

The gay lobby and their allies, however, have made it clear that this is no longer an option. Sexuality, long a province of the private sphere–must now be dragged into the sunlight to be celebrated. People who would attempt to demur, or decline to admit same sex relationships on equal footing with opposite sex relationships, must be labelled bigots, targeted, and beaten into submission.

The gays have been pursuing the Scouts for years. Ever since homosexual activist James Dale argued all the way to the Supreme Court for his right to go camping with 14-year-old boys (and rightfully lost based on the BSA’s right to freedom of association), the Scouts have been chased from public buildings, seen their funding attacked, and come under a withering media onslaught. They weathered it well, stuck to their values, and continued on their merry way trying to form boys in civic virtue and manhood without obsessing over-much on gay sex, which is so low on the list of things that concern reasonable Americans as to be invisible.

By the way, it’s also a youth organization that has chastity as required virtue, so scouts aren’t supposed to be engaged in sexual conduct anyway, gay or straight. If you try to hit the combox with arguments that homosexuality is about love not sex, please save yourself the effort. Homosexuality minus sexual attraction is friendship. I object to the current trend of people declaring their sexual habits as they would declare their race or religion, because it shifts homosexuality from behavioral to ontological. “Gay” becomes your identity: your very being.

It’s as though we suddenly find ourselves in a world where people approach you and are compelled to say, “I’m left handed.” And you’re supposed to respond, “That’s awesome! Let’s have a parade!”

And the idea of “gay teens” is particularly problematic. There are, quite obviously, same-sex attracted teens, but the idea that teenagers, who can’t even settle on a hairstyle or a musical preference, can declare a fixed lifetime sexual identity is absurd. Adolescence is a time of flux and experimentation. The emotional and sexual tsunami of teen years is trying enough when we’re just dealing with the behavior and its ramifications.

When we attach ontology to the mix (making these desires central to being), we just make everything more confusing. A teen with same-sex attraction is now a “Gay Teen.” It’s like joining a club you can never leave. There really isn’t a lot I believed or desired at 15 that I believe or desire now. (And the same people who say that gay isn’t a choice also say that sexuality is fluid. I really wish they’d make up their minds. )

In short, most adult homosexuals experience their first same-sex attraction as teens, but not all teens with same-sex attraction grow up to be adult homosexuals.

Setting that “identity” in amber with the current trend of “out teens” ignores the complex psychological, social, situational, and developmental issues that swirl around a lifetime of sexual behavior. There have always been young men (including Boy Scouts) who engage in same-sex sexual behavior without it being central to their identity, or even repeated. Most just grow out of it. Labeling and politicizing this behavior–the ontological shift–is a new phenomena.

The Boy Scouts knew this. They sought to keep sexuality out of their organization. But society–meaning the elite, the media, the politicians, and the activists–has decided sexuality must be everywhere, always, open, and in-your-face.

Their goal–which they will continue to pursue–is to lift the ban on gay scouts and adult leaders. That’s a non-starter for the same reason the Girl Scouts wouldn’t let me overnight with 16-year-old girls.

And can I just add: “Duh.”

The Scouts have already had abuse scandals. Can you imagine what will happen when (not if) an openly gay leader has sex (“consensual” or otherwise) with a Scout?

The initial plan was to kick the decision for allowing openly gay scouts and adult leaders back to the councils and the units. This would have allowed units chartered to a religious organization (which comprise 70% of all units) to set their own policy.

Both gay activists and religious groups argued this was incoherent and would create a patchwork of rules, leading to chaos for regional and national events.

The compromise was to add a sentence to the requirements for being a Scout that explicitly said no Scout would be rejected for reasons of sexual preference alone. It seems fairly clear that the National Catholic Committee on Scouting gave tacit approval to this compromise to prevent a full lifting of the ban.

Bishop Robert Guglielmone, the USCCB episcopal liaison for the National Catholic Committee on Scouting (NCCS), told me that the Church can “live with” this compromise.

“I kind of expected that this is the way the vote would go,” Bishop Guglielmone told the Register. “I’m not particularly encouraged by it, but I knew it would happen eventually. As the policy change is right now promoted, we can live with it. Unfortunately, there are many people who are interpreting this policy to go much further than it actually does, particularly in the secular press.”

“My concern is that we have well over half a million young people in the program,” he said, “and most of those kids are going to stay no matter what happens. We have a real obligation to stay in dialogue and to stay connected to the program.”

Added the bishop, “The leadership of the BSA has made it very clear that they intend to hold the line on adult leaders, but they also said they would hold the line on this issue, so where this could go, I don’t know. That’s why I feel it’s imperative for the Church to continue to be involved. And if it gets to the point where some of our basic issues are threatened — such as being able to pick leaders for Catholic chartered groups or in diminishing the role of religion and God — then we will have to re-evaluate our participation in the program at that time.”

The wording of the resolution seems almost custom-made to appeal to Catholics, separating as it does being and behavior. On that level I don’t object to it. The idea of a boy being removed from a fraternal organization devoted to cultivating character and morals at a time when he’s struggling with sexual identity seems cruel and contrary to the principles of scouting.

It’s certainly not Catholic to “kick people out” because of an inclination to sin. We don’t even kick people out for sinning. We’re supposed to be the hospital for sinners. We’re the people who separate being and behavior–sinner and sin–because we know that a person is not their sin.

Activists are pushing these boys to “come out.” They’re being used as shock troops to advance an agenda, when in fact most would probably rather just go about their own struggles and deal with their desires without getting a giant rainbow “I’m gay!” banner tied to them. The number of boys dismissed from the Scouts for homosexual inclination is vanishingly small for a very simple reason: the BSA doesn’t ask. A “gay Boy Scout” might as well be a unicorn.

On the other hand, I understand that Catholic families may head for the hills in the wake of the decision. The shift in policy shows that the BSA is willing to concede moral high ground. It’s a victory for the gay lobby, which has already declared that they’re unhappy with the compromise and will continue to pester, sue, and otherwise harass the BSA until openly gay adult leaders are approved. That time will come, either sooner or later, because the idea of the primacy of conscience, freedom of association, and freedom of religion have been destroyed in the modern era.

When they win that victory, the BSA will cease to exist as anything but a shadow of its former glory. No reasonable parent will send a child or teen off with an adult leader who may desire sex with him. That’s insanity.

The problem is that the policy, while reasonable, is also incoherent. Scouting is a lifetime commitment for most. The rule essentially banishes men from the Scouting leadership once they turn 18.

It also raises countless practical questions. If a boy declines to share a two-person tent at summer camp with a gay scout, will he be subjected to criticism and complaint? Putting two gay scouts together in those tents doesn’t solve the problem: you wouldn’t put a heterosexual teenage boy and a heterosexual teenage girl in the same tent, would you?

I don’t envy the position the Scouts are in. They are an honorable group being used for the culture wars, and it ill suits them. They just wanted to help boys be men. They wanted to stand by their values, which are the same always and everywhere, and not subject to the shifting winds of moral relativism. That was the mission and the vision of Lord Baden-Powell. In a world where manhood is demeaned and degraded more with each passing year, they are more essential than ever.

And at just the point when they are most needed, they are distracted, pummeled, weakened.

Kicking out Scouts for publicly proclaiming a desire was never optimal. In most cases, the units and councils rolled with these things and dealt with them privately and sensibly. Activists, however, engineered some very public cases in order to force the issue, and left the BSA struggling for a response. The response pleased no one, however, and the battle is far from over.

Meanwhile, the boys who need them–including boys struggling with same-sex attraction–will become just more causalities of the culture war.

Who Was Tom Collins?: Internet Trolls Before the Internet

It’s been a rough week here at Casa McD, so last night I settled in with an Adult Beverage and a couple episodes of Archer (these two things go together like peanut butter and jelly) and decided to look up a man who brought so much happiness to my life: Mr. Tom Collins.

Turns out he didn’t exist, but was just an early example of pre-net trolling:

In 1874, people in New York, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere in the United States would start a conversation with “Have you seen Tom Collins?” After the listener predictably reacts by explaining that they did not know a Tom Collins, the speaker would assert that Tom Collins was talking about the listener to others and that Tom Collins was “just around the corner”, “in a [local] bar,” or somewhere else near. The conversation about the nonexistent Tom Collins was a proven hoax of exposure. In The Great Tom Collins hoax of 1874, as it became known, the speaker would encourage the listener to act foolishly by reacting to patent nonsense that the hoaxer deliberately presents as reality. In particular, the speaker desired the listener to become agitated at the idea of someone talking about them to others such that the listener would rush off to find the purportedly nearby Tom Collins.

A short time later, someone called someone else Hitler, and another person responded to a thorough explanation by saying “TL/DR.” No one at the time understood what this meant, even the person saying it, but it seemed important.

Further proof that trolling has deep roots in human  behavior.

PS: He’s also a Catholic Bishop.


Boy Gets Printed Trachea

The list of human body parts successfully being replaced with 3D printed analogs is growing longer:

In a medical first, doctors used plastic particles and a 3-D laser printer to create an airway splint to save the life of a baby boy who used to stop breathing nearly every day.

In the case of Kaiba (KEYE’-buh) Gionfriddo, doctors didn’t have a moment to spare. Because of a birth defect, the little Ohio boy’s airway kept collapsing, causing his breathing to stop and often his heart, too. Doctors in Michigan had been researching artificial airway splints but had not implanted one in a patient yet.

In a single day, they “printed out” 100 tiny tubes, using computer-guided lasers to stack and fuse thin layers of plastic instead of paper and ink to form various shapes and sizes. The next day, with special permission from the Food and Drug Administration, they implanted one of these tubes in Kaiba, the first time this has been done.

Suddenly, a baby that doctors had said would probably not leave the hospital alive could breathe normally for the first time. He was 3 months old when the operation was done last year and is nearly 19 months old now. He is about to have his tracheotomy tube removed; it was placed when he was a couple months old and needed a breathing machine. And he has not had a single breathing crisis since coming home a year ago.

“He’s a pretty healthy kid right now,” said Dr. Glenn Green, a pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where the operation was done. It’s described in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.
Independent experts praised the work and the potential for 3-D printing to create more body parts to solve unmet medical needs.

“It’s the wave of the future,” said Dr. Robert Weatherly, a pediatric specialist at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. “I’m impressed by what they were able to accomplish.”

So far, only a few adults have had trachea, or windpipe transplants, usually to replace ones destroyed by cancer. The windpipes came from dead donors or were lab-made, sometimes using stem cells. Last month, a 2-year-old girl born without a windpipe received one grown from her own stem cells onto a plastic scaffold at a hospital in Peoria, Ill.

Kaiba had a different problem — an incompletely formed bronchus, one of the two airways that branch off the windpipe like pant legs to the lungs. About 2,000 babies are born with such defects each year in the United States and most outgrow them by age 2 or 3, as more tissue develops.

Verbum Prepares a Massive Patristic Collection

You don’t spend any time in deep study of the Church Fathers without coming across some reference to the Patrologiae Cursus Completus of Fr. Jacques Paul Migne. Fr. Migne’s goal was truly epic: create a cheap series of books collecting the complete writings of the Church Fathers, Greek and Latin.

His editions were massive and done with some haste, so they’ve been subjected to criticism over the years, but they remain the single largest source of patristic writing ever compiled. The English translations from Philip Schaff, which are in wide use on the internet and within the Verbum Bible Software, were based on Migne’s originals, but do not represent the complete corpus, which has never been rendered in English in its entirety.

Over the years, better, more academic texts and translations have replaced individual works from the Patrologiae, but there is no single source like it.

Verbum is bringing this treasure of the Church to their software in two editions: Patrologiae Latina (221 volumes of Western Fathers) Patrilogiae Graeca (167 volumes of Eastern Fathers). Each of these is currently on pre-publication sale for $250, which is a flat-out steal for academics and theology students. They’re also publishing  a set that includes Patrologia Syriaca (2 volumes) and Orientalis (17 volumes). These supplements were created by Rene Graffin to fill in the gaps of Migne’s work with writings from the Syriac Church Fathers as well as texts in Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic, Greek, Georgian, and Slavonic.

The editions are full of introductions, critical and supplementary material, and are fully adapted to the Verbum/Logos format. This means they are cross-linked the Schaff editions in English, which means you can spot check Schaff against the originals.

“But Tom,” I hear you saying. “I don’t read Latin or Greek! What’s a body to do?!”

Look, my Latin is wretched. I was a C-student, and time hasn’t improved it all that much despite my occasional forays into Wheelock. As for my Greek? A-ho-ho-he-he-ha! You know what Ben Jonson said about Shakespeare? “Small Latin and less Greek.” It’s like that, but worse. Here’s a picture from my desk:

Sad, isn’t it? I still need to count on my fingers, too.

But that’s the beauty of Verbum. Their language tools provide a sturdy crutch for the Latin/Greek challenged. You can pick your way through the text with the help of various dictionaries and word-study aids. It’s a beautiful thing.

This will be one of the jewels in Verbum’s crown for the serious academic. Order early to lock in a good price, because it’s not going to be $250 forever.

The Missio App

The new Missio app, launched last week, is being touted as the “first official app from the Vatican” is some quarters. That’s not quite right, since The Pope App from the Pontificium Consilium de Communicationibus Socialibus is pretty dang official.

I’m not sure what the long-term plans are for Missio, but right now it’s a pretty simple news aggregator app with the kind of clean and appealing interface I’d expect from Little i Apps, the folks behind the excellent Confession app.

CNS has a charming story about Pope Francis launching the app:

With the touch of an iPad, Pope Francis became the first pontiff to unlock a new smartphone application and expanded the Church’s footprint in the digital world.

“I was quite anxious that we were going to get the signal and it was all going to work. Because this isn’t made up, these folks are actually waiting for the Holy Father to hit this button before it works,” said Father Andrew Small in a May 17 CNA interview.

The launch of the MISSIO App took place May 17 in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall during a meeting of the Pope and the 120 national directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

The mission society’s application for mobile devices and smartphones collects news from Rome, stories and photos from the missions and other material and makes it available to the world.

The actual unlocking of the app was simple.

Fr. Small, the U.S. national director, presented his iPad to the Pope, who asked, “I push here?”

“As soon as the Holy Father hit the button, a little notice came across the top – what they call a ‘push notice’ – and it said, ‘Pope Francis has unlocked the MISSIO App.’

“And he sort of looked a little bit surprised,” Fr. Small recalled.

The button was labeled “Evangelizantur,” which means, “that they be evangelized” in Latin.

This is kind of footprint the church needs in the digital realm. I’m pretty well wired into these resources already, so I just don’t use standalone news apps like this, but it’s important to have this kind of presence on mobile devices. When people do app searches for “Catholic” or “mission” or related terms, we need to be there and be present in a professional and engaging way.

While I appreciate the zen-like simplicity of the two button “News” and “Donate” design, some better sorting options would be welcome. Media type, source, and search fields are needed to beef this one up a bit. Also, either I’m nuts or this thing is locked into landscape mode for iPad, and portrait mode for iPhone. That’s just weird.

Missio is an important reminder that we are, once more, primarily a missionary church. Everywhere is mission territory in the modern world. That means the Pontifical Mission Societies will only grow in importance in the upcoming years, and this app will be there to grow with them.

Prayers for Lawrence Charles McClarey

The son of American Catholic’s Donald McClarey passed away overnight. Please keep him in your prayers.

My beloved son, Lawrence Charles McClarey, passed away of a seizure last night.  I found him this morning at 6:15 AM when I attempted to rouse him for the “Daddy Readings” that he and I had done daily since he was a small boy.  Larry had autism, an infectious smile, and was a continual joy to all who knew him.  Once he attained puberty he began having seizures, not uncommon in autism, and I gave him seizure medication daily.  He lived for 21 years on this earth and he was the light of this world for myself and his mother, my bride.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

God be with his family on this tragic day, and through the mercy and grace of God, on this birthday of the Church, may he be born into heaven.

#FitchtheHomeless: “Does he think this is a zoo?”

My post on the “Fitch the Homeless” video got a lot of shares and more than the usual amount of comments, most of them disagreeing with me, and a fair number of them calling me bad names in unprintable language. I don’t really have much to add, but one commenter who works with the homeless also posted on the topic, and I think her post is worth highlighting.

She showed the video to the people she worked with, and wrote down their reactions. Here are a few, but do read the whole thing:

“Why the hell would he pass out clothes to us that he said date rapists wear?!”

“Why did he just give that large man those tiny pants? I thought he just said they don’t make those sizes? That doesn’t seem very helpful at all.”

“He’s not even asking if he can film them, does he think this is a zoo?”

“Why would we want our ‘own brand of clothing?’ Especially clothing he said douche bags wear.”

“We may be homeless, but that doesn’t mean we want to wear ‘douchey’ clothes to prove a point — what purpose would that serve, to dehumanize us even more than we already have been??”

“If someone walked up to me to take a picture of me to put on the internet I would be really pissed off.”

And so on. You get the point.

I’m willing to cut the video guy some slack, since he probably thinks he’s doing a good thing. Clothing, however, is hardly the biggest thing the poor need. It’s plentiful. Everyone dumps their old clothes on charities and thrift stores, so there’s no shortage. It’s labor-intensive to process them all, and a lot of the stuff dropped off in plastic bags at the Goodwill dumpster are little better than rags.

As I pointed out in the comboxes, I’ve worked with St. Vincent de Paul and other ministries, and the top five things they need are:

  • 1. Money
  • 2. Volunteers
  • 3. Food
  • 4. Some more money would be nice
  • 5. And, yeah, a little more money

Money is fungible. It does everything. It’s light. It solves the largest range of problems. A good ministry such as SVDP puts 100% of their cash right back to use paying rent and utilities and other things.

At a local level, food donations are also good, and anything that gets used up (toothpaste and tissues, for instance).

The thing they need the most, however, is you: your time, your sweat, and your willingness to be a human face for people in need.

One commenter who disagreed with me unwittingly hit the heart of the problem when he said “people get to feel like they’ve accomplished something” in doing this.

They may well “feel like” they’ve accomplished something, but have they? Or are they just looking for cheap grace?

Sorry, but you don’t get to lay claim to helping others if the sum total of your efforts is dumping your castoffs onto the less fortunate. Hell, the most callous member of the nobility did more than that.

Actual works of mercy take time and effort, and they rarely dovetail with making your closet cleaner, looking cool to your friends, or striking a blow against corporate America. That’s not charity: that’s posturing.

I honestly don’t care one whit about Abercrombie & Fitch. A brand run by and for monied, materialistic, image-conscious jerks means nothing to me. I think their policies are stupid and offensive, but they affect me not at all. I haven’t even stepped foot in a shopping mall in years and wouldn’t wear corporate-branded clothing even if it was free. I’m not a billboard.

As a successful company providing thousands of manufacturing, shipping, administrative, and retail jobs in a bad economy, they are, in the end, a net-plus even if they do suck. (A&F alone has almost 100,000 full- and part-time employees.) The uncomfortable fact of the matter is this: as ugly as their policies are, by way of tax revenue and employment they provide vastly more succor to the needy than the guy flinging ill-fitting “date-rapist” clothing (which he himself would never wear) at random strangers.

UPDATE: Another, more nuanced opinion from someone with first-hand experience. She sees the problems with the video but thinks it’s a positive thing, and offers more constructive ways to help. I can’t disagree with her conclusion: even for those of us bothered by the video and the attitude underlying it, the issue is important and people talking about it is a good thing.