Reflections on Original Blessing, Part 2

In his introduction to Christianity series Jesus the Forgiving Victim (and probably before that, but this was where I first encountered it), James Alison begins with a discussion of what he calls "the Social Other." (you can see him talk about it in a short video here).  Alison defines "the Social Other" as "everything that is other than us on the social level--the people, geography, buildings, politics, weather, climate, food--everything that is."  Except, critically, for God--God is the "Other Other," and represents the only outside force that influences us that is not part of the Social Other.  Alison insists that the Social Other is both prior to us (it existed before we existed, and is thus not "created" by us in any sense) and is in every sense constitutive of us.  Our very sense of self is created by the Social Other, as we grow and develop and interact with the outside world.  And yet, we are not merely passive receptors of the…

Reflections on Original Blessing, Part 1

I have spent the last two weeks working on this post, in which I hope to say something about Rev. Danielle Shroyer's book Original Blessing.  I say "hope," because this post has gone through a series of drafts, none of which I have liked very much.  I know, in a big picture sense, what I think of the book--it is an easy, enjoyable read, well worth your time, that shows all of the promise and problems of a certain kind of progressive Christian theology and the way it avoids (or tries to avoid) the problems of classical theology.  But I never quite could get that into a written form that worked--it either came across as more negative about the book than I actually felt, or never really explained the places where I had problems with the book, or just otherwise never really fit together.

So, I am going to approach this from another direction, and talk about Augustine.  This direction was spurred by an article I was linked to today in Elizabeth Bruenig's twitter timeline…

Truth in Advertising

As many, perhaps most, of you know, the UK had a rather consequential election last Thursday.  Theresa May and her Conservative Party got a pretty good kicking, as the Brits would say, especially in light of the fact that when she called the election on April 18th the consensus opinion was she was going to win in a landslide.  [As an aside, I cannot possibly express how jealous I am of my UK and Canadian friends that a "long election season" is something like 10 weeks, as compared to the 18 month Bataan Death March that is US elections].  Anyway, May and the Conservatives fell short of a majority in Parliament, and so in order to form a government, she had to look around for coalition partners.  And it appears she found them, in the form of the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland.

Now, it is very likely that forming a coalition with the DUP will have severe negative consequences for peace in Northern Ireland, and at the end of the day that is the most important thi…

On Why We Should Look at Human Nature Like Chemistry and Not Geometry

I had a long drive this weekend to and from Chicago.  Worth it, without question--I got to see some friends that I haven't seen since about a year ago at this time at Neil and Mike's wedding.  But, long nevertheless, and so by the end of the trip back, I found myself flipping through the satellite radio channels.  In the end, I found myself of EWTN, the conservative Catholic channel.  Usually their material is awful, and this was sort of awful as well, but in the course of listening to what the speaker had to say, something clicked into place in a way it hadn't really clicked into place before.

The interviewee was giving a run-down of why Catholics are right about contraception and gay issues.  The core of his argument was that all Catholic positions flow from "reason," and that "reason" establishes that there is certain content to "human nature."  If that is true, then to act in a manner inconsistent with human nature is per se unreasonable, …

A Reply to Fr. Longenecker

@mboyle78 Or you could address the argument... — Dwight Longenecker (@dlongenecker1) May 30, 2017
Challenge accepted.

The basic thesis offered by Longenecker is that prevalence of birth control is the reason why there is a lack of vocations to the Catholic priesthood (the focus here appears to be on the guys, as opposed to women's vocations).  First, he says:

[I]f a family has ten kids it is more likely that they are going to be happy for a few of them to pursue the priesthood or religious life. Mothers will quite happily send a few off to the seminary or monastery. If she has ten she can spare a few.

I have called out before the way that conservative Catholicism instrumentalizes, and thus dehumanizes, children, but I can't recalling seeing it expressed this transparently.  The casual assertion that children are some sort of currency that parents can assign to various roles (with no consideration for the desires of the boy in question) is appalling.  The old custom that the 2nd s…

Who Is Speaking?: Review of What is the Bible?

The danger with asking complicated questions is that you sometimes forget to ask the simpler, foundational questions.  Rob Bell's new book, entitled What is the Bible?,asks a simple question, but in so asking it exposes a truly fundamental issue about how one approaches religion.  In asking "what is the Bible?", Bell asks the reader to consider the question of how we understand what these sacred texts are and what they are supposed to represent.  If you don't get that right, then you will inevitably lost in the weeds.

Let's look at this from might seem like a strange place--a comparative look at the three great monotheistic faiths.  The name for the holy text of Islam is al-Quran, which translates to something like "the Recitation."  According to Islamic theology (as I understand it), the angel Gabriel appeared to the Prophet Muhammad and recited (hence the name) the Quranic text to him, and Muhammad in turn wrote in down into the form we have today.  M…

The Two Kinds of Pro-Lifers

Something of a recurring theme on this blog is my war stories from Catholic middle school and high school, as seen hereand hereand here and also here.  In doing so, I know I am presenting that experience in the worst possible light.  I got a very solid education during those six years, and I know I would not be where I am, and who I am, without the middle school and especially high school experience I had.  So, when I tell negative stories about that experience, there should be an unspoken caveat that, on balance, my experience was very positive.

With that necessary caveat out of the way, I have another high school story, one that relates to a story in the news.  Maddi Runkles is an 18 year old senior at Heritage Academy in Hagerstown, Maryland.  Runkles is also pregnant, and as a result of her pregnancy, she was not allowed (or will not be allowed--it's not clear from the story when graduation will be) to participate in graduation ceremonies.  I have seen some commentary suggesti…