Showing posts from 2013

Another Worshiper at the Temple of The Market

Lest one thinks that the worshipers of The Market exist only on CNBC and on Wall Street, here's a devotee from liberal San Francisco.  This individual finds it objectionable that he has to come in contact with homeless people on a regular basis, and is offended that they don't "view themselves as guests" in the "civilized" areas of town, i.e. the parts he lives and works in.

This dude apologized (in classic politician fashion, but nonetheless he apologized), but his friends of Facebook chimed in to cheer on his original thoughts.

Notice the last line of his screed:  "Believe me, if they added the smallest iota of value I'd consider thinking different. . . ."  That's the heart of it right there.  Value to whom?  Value to this guy?  How does one define value?  Certainly not in terms of some inherent human value, that much seems pretty clear.  No, he means economic value.  To what extent is this particular homeless man or woman offering the a…

A Prayer

In the last couple of months, I have stumbled upon the Northumbria Community, an ecumenical group that seeks to recover some elements of Celtic spirituality, particularly those stemming from the famous monastery of Lindisfarne Island (source of the famous, and stunning, Lindisfarne Gospels).  Their Celtic Daily Prayer book is a wonderful resource, and I have been praying it for the last three weeks or so with much good fruit.

I am deeply impressed with the Northumbria Community and its spirituality.  I takes seriously the Celtic legacy while being clearly focused on the Christian message--as opposed to drifting off into historically-dubious fantasies or quasi-paganism.  It also balances a look to the past with a perspective on the here-and-now.

In any event, here is my favorite prayer from Celtic Daily Prayer, taken from the Evening Office.

Lord, You have always given
bread for the coming day;
and though I am poor,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
strength for the coming day;

Voices Crying Out in the Wilderness

Everyone has a religion.  Oh sure, they may not call it a religion.  They might call it a philosophy, or a cause, or a political program.  But, at the end of the day, it is a religion.  It has a set of ideas that are at the heart of how that person views the world.  It has a set of beliefs about what is right and what is wrong.  It has saints and sinners.  It is functionally no different from Judaism, or Christianity, or Buddhism, or whatever.

There is a religion that is very popular in America (and other places, but particularly in America) that, until recently, has flown under the radar as being a religion.  Partially, this is by design--it cloaks itself in other forms that make it hard to discern its true identity.  It is ensconced in university departments and professional schools, where is portrays itself as a "social science"--as if it is simply describing the objective realities of the world, as opposed to advancing a particular vision of the world-as-it-should-be.  O…

Thinking Realistically About Celibacy

Bill Keller of the New York Times, who has been something of an agent provocateur with regard to Catholicism, wrote a column in the Sunday Times about priestly celibacy.  In it, he more or less calls for it to go away.  James Martin, S.J., responded strongly in America magazine in defense of celibacy.  Both pieces are very much worth reading, and I won't rehash them here.  Instead, I'll give my take.  The short version---as much as I like and respect Martin, I think Keller is right.

I suppose I should say first that I am potentially biased here, as I left the Dominicans in part (though not exclusively) because I realized that I did not want to make a lifetime commitment to celibacy.  If I thought celibacy was awesome (at least for me), I very well might still be there.  Nevertheless, contra Martin's critique of Keller, I lived with and observed closely many celibate people, so I feel like I have some leg to stand on beyond my own, singular experience.

Anyway, here's th…

Saint Brigid, Women's Ordination, and Pope Francis

Despite the many things that Pope Francis made clear he was open to in his recent exhortation, he made it equally clear he was not open to the notion of women's ordination.  But he said other things on the topic as well:

The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general. . . .  Its key and axis is not power understood as domination, but the power to administer the sacrament of the Eucharist; this is the origin of its authority, which is always a service to God’s people. This presents a great challenge for pastors and theologians, who are in a position to recognize more fully what this entails with regard to the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life.  (Para. 104)

This, to me, gets to the real engine that drives the debate on wome…

Francis's Letter of Intent

As most people are aware (it is, after all, currently the front page story on the New York Times website), Pope Francis issued yesterday an "apostolic exhortation" entitled Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel).  You can read the whole thing here--it is quite lengthy and I have only read portions in depth and skimmed the rest of it.  Here, however, are my initial thoughts:

1.  I agree with most commentators that this document reads like a mission statement or outline of the Pope's reform agenda--and it is clearly a reform agenda that is more wide-ranging and substantive than shuffling around some folks in the Vatican.

2.  Before getting to what he wants to do, it is worthwhile to mention the two hot-button issues that the document explicitly states are not up for debate--women priests (para. 104) and opposition to abortion (para. 213).  Not only does he single them out for specific discussion, but these mentions come in the context of a document that again and again h…

As the Holidays Approach...

Rachel Held Evans has a helpful chart to determine whether you are  being persecuted for being excited about Christmas.

On Being Weird and "Religious Hipsterism"

Yesterday, the Church of England voted to allow the ordination of female bishops.  This was a significant move in the context of the Anglican world.  While many of the daughter churches of the Church of England (the US Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, for two examples) have had women bishops for some time, many others do not, and have justified their decision on the basis of the fact that the English Church has not made that move.  It also has significant theological importance--like the Catholics and Orthodox, the Anglicans believe that bishops are the direct successors of the Apostles, and so allowing a woman to be ordained as a bishop is a statement that women are (and, on some level, always were) proper successors to that ministry.

It does not come as a great surprise that Catholic conservatives have used this as an opportunity to resume the Old Rivalry and throw stones at the Anglicans.  In particular, folks seem to have gravitated to a comment by one of the pe…

The Great Shame

In the past few weeks, I have returned to something I haven't done since my time with the Dominicans--I have been praying Morning and Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, which is the official daily prayer of the Church.  It is not a massive commitment of time--15 minutes in the morning and 15 or less in the evening--and it has done a nice job of providing a regular practice of marking the day.  It also gives an opportunity to follow along with the Calendar of the Saints.  I have, however, added a little twist by following the Franciscan calendar, which includes some of the less well known saints who were Franciscans.  Since I have been drawn of late to St. Francis, I figured it would be a good way to engage in the Franciscan tradition.

A couple of weeks back (October 23) was the feast of St. John of Capistrano.  Here in America, to the extent he is known at all, he is known for a town in Southern California and the swallows that return to that town every year.  I would i…

Friday Fun--"Smooth Criminal"

Unpopular opinion alert--I think Michael Jackson's seventh album Bad is better than the more famous Thriller.  To be clear, I am not denying the awesomeness of Thriller.  Thriller is a tremendous album, but I like the songs on Bad better.  "Bad," "Man in the Mirror," "The Way You Make Me Feel," "Dirty Diana," "Smooth Criminal"--all of these are really fantastic.  Put aside whatever negative thoughts you might have about Jackson's later life and his improprieties and take a listen to this album.

I went back and forth on which video to include.  My two favorite songs on the album are probably "Dirty Diana" and "The Way You Make Me Feel."  However, the video for "Dirty Diana" is a concert video, and so not that interesting.  "The Way You Make Me Feel" is a great video, and would have been a good choice to include.  Still, it really has nothing on "Smooth Criminal," which might be t…

Finding the Right Voices

To me, the coolest part of Catholicism is the saints.  Note that I didn't say the best part--by definition, the best part is the whole business of God becoming man, dying, and rising from the dead.  That's the best part.  But the saints are the coolest and most interesting part of Catholicism, because they express the diversity of the "catholic" or universal church.  There are people from every part of the world, from every time, and from every situation.

But it is not simply about diversity for diversity's sake.  The diversity means that the saints provide a variety of ways to be a Catholic and to be holy.  While ultimately each of them is talking about the same God, they talk about it in different ways.  These different ways of talking about God mean that different people will find different saints speak to them more than other saints.  That's a feature and not a bug--you don't have to "click" with every saint.

In hindsight, I think one of the…

Let Us Lawyer This Problem Together

A statement came out today from the top guy in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, basically saying that the Church was not going to change anything regarding divorced and remarried people.  Or, at the very least, it is not going to change anything doctrinally. Some took this as an opportunity to rend their garments and declare that Francis is all talk and that this new openness is an illusion.  In turn, the usual suspects took it as an opportunity to throw rotten tomatoes at those who are rending their garments.  And so, the circle of life continues.

I don't think it means much of anything.  First, there was a bit of the infamous "vote of confidence" about the article.  Every time you hear that a sports coach has the "full confidence" of the owner or athletic director, or a CEO has the "full confidence" of the Board of Directors, you can count down the days until that coach or CEO is canned.  There is no policy change until there is a pol…

More On the Moral Theology of the Devil

First off, I have it on good authority that my post "The Moral Theology of the Devil" was discussed during the course of a first date.  It is flattering that someone is reading my writing, but I suspect such a relationship is doomed from the start if that is a relevant topic.  Still, good on you, I guess.

Anyway, two additional thoughts along these lines.  The first one is that the Moral Theology of the Devil plays on human resistance to what I believe is the most difficult teaching of Christianity (and, probably, all of Abrahamic monotheism)--God loves everyone equally.  I remember a lecture from Tom O'Meara, a Dominican theologian, who explained that people want to be convinced that they "have more God" then others.  But no one has more God than anyone else.  God is the creator of everyone, and so everyone is equally loved.

If you look at traditional religions, with their panoply of gods and spirits, the entire purpose of religion is to generate the favor of …

Friday Fun--"Bop 'Til You Drop"

Would you be interested in a mid-80s Rick Springfield video directed by David Fincher?  Of course you would.

It needs to be said up front--this song is beyond terrible.  The video, however, is predictably fascinating.  Here's what I really want to know--did Fincher have this concept primed and ready to go before he was approached about doing a Rick Springfield video?  In other words, did he come up with the idea of a musician leading a revolt of human slaves against their lizard masters on some distant planet, and then waited around until someone approached him with enough money to actually make the video?

It kind of has to be that, because I cannot fathom how Fincher listened to this song and came up with this concept.  I suppose the line "gotta keep working day and night" could lead to the idea of slaves, but where did the lizard aliens come from?  It had to be something Fincher had in the can.

It's worth pointing out how ridiculous the special effects look here.  …

Words Have Consequences

One of the experiences of studying to be a priest is that you get to see priests in their private lives, without the public face on and without the filter on what they say.  Sometimes, this is not a pretty experience.  I remember one such incident on Thanksgiving in Denver, during my novitiate.  As, perhaps unfortunately, tends to happen at such events, the brothers had had a few drinks, and people felt free to speak candidly.  One priest, who was quite elderly (and now deceased, so I will not name him), was beginning to get riled up about how great everything was in Catholicism in the 70s, and how everything had gone to pot since them.  He finished it off, however, with a single comment: "I wish that Turkish guy had finished him (Pope John Paul II) off."  I was horrified, and too stunned to say anything.  But, I should have.  No matter what disagreements one has with someone, it is never, never OK to wish death upon anyone, especially if you are a Christian/Catholic, and es…

Quick Hits

Three quick hits this morning:

1.  A Washington Post article on the discomfort of more conservative Catholics with Pope Francis.

2.  A brilliant and thoughtful piece by Michael Sean Winters in response.

3.  The article in America mentioned by Winters from Bishop McElvoy.  One wonders if Bishop McElvoy would have felt as comfortable writing such a piece eight months ago.

Friday Fun Video--November Rain


This video probably represents the high water mark of the music video as a thing of cultural importance.  Guns and Roses was the biggest band in the world, and they release this nine minute opus, complete with strings, choir, and unnecessary waste of wedding cake.  It's absurdly over-the-top in every conceivable way.

And yet, I love this video.  OK, so the allegory of rain as representing sadness/loss is not exactly subtle, but it kind of works, and it fits into the words of the song (something that many videos fail to do).  The video tells a (mostly) coherent story.  There is not one but two awesome Slash guitar solos.  Axl gets to scream and do Axl things, plus he plays piano (?!?).

Bottom line--embrace the grandiosity, and enjoy an awesome video.

Sister Farley and Rehabilitation

Beginning with the papacy of St. Pius X, Catholic thought was dominated by two core ideas.  The first idea was a rejection of "Modernism," a catch-all term that referred to the "modern" ideas that had come into prominence in the 19th and early 20th Century--democracy, Communism, industrial capitalism, the nation-state, modern scientific developments, etc.  All of this, in Pope Pius X's view, was bad and must be rejected by Catholics in toto.  The other big idea was that of the Scholastic manual--essentially a compendium of Catholic theology and thought that purported to provide comprehensive answers to all of the questions you might want to ask.  Not surprisingly, this era in Catholicism presented a vision of Church that was almost entirely static and unchanging.

After World War II, a group of French and German Catholic thinkers came on the scene and were grouped under the heading of "Nouvelle Theologie" or New Theology.  These thinkers believed that …

The Moral Theology of the Devil

Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk and writer who did most of his work in the 1950s and 1960s (he died in 1968 under somewhat mysterious circumstances--he electrocuted himself in a bathtub).  His most famous book is his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, which talks about his entry into the monastery.  For my money, however, his best work is a short essay that was included in a collection called New Seeds of Contemplation.  The essay is entitled "The Moral Theology of the Devil."  Every word of it is worth reading (reprinted here), but I would particularly like to focus on this section:

The people who listen to this sort of thing, and absorb it, and enjoy it, develop a notion of the spiritual which is a kind of hypnosis of evil. The concepts of sin, suffering, damnation, punishment, the justice of God, retribution, the end of the world and so on, are things over which they smack their lips with unspeakable pleasure. Perhaps this is why they develop a deep, subconscious …

Friday Fun--A Live Video

Sorry for the delay on Friday Fun--an expected work trip brought me out of town.

I think everyone has a special place in their heart for the music that was popular during their "formative years"--let's say from 14 to 22.  For me, that means the music of 1993 to 2000.  There are worse eras to be linked with, I guess, but it does mean that I find myself in the position of defending some bands that probably can't be reasonably defended.  For me, one of those bands is Live.

Live had some great songs (at least, I think they are great) but they were burdened with the need to show that their music was not just 90s alt-rock, but was about Big Ideas and Spirituality and other weighty topics.  I liked that as a 20 year old, but now it just seems ridiculous.  Still, Live takes it to a level that makes it fun, because it is so over the top.

The Live at its most Live-y can be seen in this video.  The song is called Lakini's Juice off their third album Secret Samadhi.

What Might Reform Look Like?

For those who are not familiar with Hans Kung, here is a quick background.  Way back at the time of the Second Vatican Council (1958-1964), Kung, a Swiss priest, was a prominent member of the group of young theologians that was trying to move the Council fathers toward a more expansive and modern interpretation of the teachings of the Catholic Church.  Among even this group, Kung was the youngest and (arguably) the most brilliant, matched only by an obscure Bavarian priest by the name of Josef Ratzinger--the future Pope Benedict XVI.  These Young Turks basically got their way, and their fingerprints are all over the documents of Vatican II.

In the aftermath of the Council, the Young Turks eventually split down the middle over what to do next.  One party, lead in many ways by Ratzinger/Benedict, pulled back from some of the outcomes of the Council and called for some measure of retrenchment.  The other side, led by Kung, called for going farther.  Needless to say, the Ratzinger view …

Archbishop Myers Update

Some time ago, I went on a bit of a rant about Archbishop Myers in Newark.  Today, the Vatican appointed a co-adjutor bishop for the diocese.  To translate that from Catholic-speak, the Vatican appointed a bishop who (1) is guaranteed to take over for Myers when he leaves, and (2) has significant (though not total) authority to do things on behalf of the diocese (as opposed to an auxiliary bishop, who basically works for the main bishop). 

Myers is 72, so he technically does not have to give his resignation for another 3 years.  Nevertheless, with this move the Vatican turned Meyers into a lame duck.  This basically pull the rug out from underneath him, as appointment of a co-adjutor is unusual and, as the article says, is a sign that the bishop "needs significant help in his ministry."  It's hard not to see this as a rebuke.  Is it a rebuke for his handling of sex abuse claims?  Impossible to know, but it sounds likely.

Anyway, more good news coming out of Rome.  The P…

And Now for Something Completely Different

The original idea behind restarting this blog was to talk about a bunch of stuff, not simply things related to religion.  So far, all of the content has had something to do with religion, so I would like to broaden things up a little bit.  Since it's Friday, I figured it's also time to lighten the mood a bit.  Thus, the first of our Friday Fun posts.  The topic (until I get tired of it)?  Classic music videos of the 80s and 90s, and how weird many of them were.

We'll start with one of my favorites--Heaven is a Place on Earth by Belinda Carlisle (1987).

More Thoughts on the Interview

First off, here is the best summary of the significance of the Pope's comments that I have found.  I'll just add a couple of additional thoughts.

If you look at the reaction from the conservative Catholic blogosphere, the most substantive response is to point out that Pope Francis does not signal in the interview that he is about to change any Church teachings.  That's true (though, one is tempted to add the qualification "yet," at least as to some things like divorce and re-marriage).  Pope Francis is not going to issue a decree that abortion on demand is swell.  Nor, it appears, is he going to say that women can be priests (but deacons?...).  But, that's not the point.  The significance of the interview is not about substantive doctrine, nor is it about the amorphous concept of "tone."  My interpretation of the interview is that Francis's vision of the Church is one that meets people where they are and welcomes them in to the fold as they are …

The Jesuit Pope, Part II

Remember how I said that Jesuits like to lob intellectual grenades into the mix to see what happens?  Pope Francis just pulled the pin

I will probably have a couple of posts about this amazing interview, but I have a couple of immediate reactions.  First, particularly if one reads the entire interview, you see the Jesuit-ness of Pope Francis come right to the forefront.  He has a long discussion of how Ignatian spirituality (the ideas of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits) influences his way of leading and thinking.  So, the take away for me is that he is more or less like all of the Jesuits I've met. 

Second, I will be fascinated to see the reaction from the right-wing Catholic blogosphere and conservative Catholic media (EWTN et al.).  The meme that "Francis is speaking off the cuff and is not serious," seems to be unsupportable by even those in the deepest of denial (Update: or perhaps not).  It seems like they are going to have to face facts that …

The Jesuit Pope

When I was exploring the idea of becoming a priest, there were really two groups that immediately resonated with me--the Dominicans and the Jesuits.  I chose the Dominicans, and in hindsight I think that was a mistake.  I am not saying that I would still a priest now if I chose the Jesuits, because ultimately I do not believe I could live celibacy in a healthy way.  But, I think I would have lasted much longer as a Jesuit than I did as a Dominican.  This intuition was confirmed when I spent three years at a Jesuit parish in Philadelphia.  It was, without question, the best parish experience I've had, and I came to respect and love the Jesuits very much.

All of this is a longish way of saying that, while obviously I've never met Pope Francis, I have some sense of his fellow members of the Jesuit order.  If Pope Francis is anything like his brothers, and there is no reason to believe he is not, I think we can conclude a few things about the man.

One constant in all of the Jesui…

I Always Feel Like, Somebody's Watching Me

I live in Columbus, Ohio, and so the big controversy around here in the Catholic world of late was the firing of Carla Hale.  Hale had been a teacher at Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus for 19 years prior to her termination.  In March of this year, Hale's mother died, and the obituary mentioned that Hale was in a partnered relationship with another woman.  The parent of a Bishop Watterson student saw the obituary in the local paper and wrote and anonymous letter to the Diocese of Columbus informing them that Hale was in a gay relationship.  On March 28, Holy Thursday, Bishop Watterson fired Hale.  The matter has since settled out of court, but a condition of that settlement is that Hale will not be teaching at Bishop Watterson.

Consider also the case of Lennon Cihak.   Last November, Cihak, 17, was parishoner at Assumption Catholic Church in Barnesville, Minnesota, along with his parents. Cihak was in parish's Confirmation class, scheduled to be Confirmed some time duri…

NALT Video

As promised, here is the video I have submitted for the NALT project.

Not All Like That

In light of my post on my "conversion" with regard to homosexuality (which sure did get more attention than I was expecting), I wanted to pass on the link to a new project entitled "Not All Like That" (NALT).  It is a project for straight Christians to express their support for LGBT people and their opposition to the currents in Christianity that are often hostile to gay folks and gay rights.  It is modeled after the "It Get's Better" Project started by Dan Savage, who is also behind NALT.  You can see the NALT website here.

I'm planning to make a video this weekend to post on the sight, and I will post it here as well.

A Light Shines In...Whether You Like It or Not

The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox Church bodies in North America.  It comes out the Russian Church, and has a complex and rather interesting history.  But, as with Orthodox Christianity in general on this side of the Atlantic, the OCA mostly kept a low profile in the religious landscape.

In 2006, a blog representing a group called "Orthodox Christians for Accountability" appeared on the internet.  This blog, which was later revealed to be run by an Orthodox Christian lay person named Mark Stokoe, made allegations that senior officials of the OCA had been involved in financial improprieties.  Later, the allegations expanded to include claims that those financial issues were tied in with sexual behavior by high ranking clergy.  The blog did not simply make allegations, however; it included documents that supported the claims.  These allegations ultimately led to the resignation of the head bishop of the OCA and a formal investigation a…

Why I believe--Part II (Faith)

The title of this blog comes from probably my favorite passages from the Hebrew Scriptures, from the story of Elijah the prophet.  As was his way, Elijah had made himself unpopular with the powers that be in the Kingdom of Israel (notably King Ahab and his wife, the original Jezebel), and had fled to Mount Horeb to escape the mob out to kill him.  Elijah had more or less given up on this whole being a prophet of God thing at this point, and tells God this in no uncertain terms.  To which, God says:

"Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by."  Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and we…

An Open Letter to Archbishop Myers of Newark

Dear Archbishop Myers,

I know we have never met, so I think it would be appropriate to introduce myself.  My name is Mike Boyle, and I am a Catholic.  I don't live in your diocese, but I used to live in New Jersey, so I suppose I have some connection to what you are doing.  I also have friends who live in your former see of Peoria, so I have a connection there as well.

I came across the letter you wrote to the priests in your current diocese.  Your letter lashes out at unnamed media figures that have criticized you in connection with your handling a claim of sexual abuse involving Father Thomas Maloney.  While you don't name specific names, I suspect you are angry at this coverage in Commonweal magazine, plus likely the coverage in the Newark Star-Ledger.

In your letter, you say that some of your statements in your deposition (given in 2010 in connection with a lawsuit against the Peoria diocese stemming from that accusations Father Maloney sexually molested an eight year old …

Confessions of a Passive Homophobe

I can't remember for sure when I first became aware of the idea of homosexuality.  It may have been in Junior high, in the form of the incredibly archaic "Family Life" textbook we were given in 8th Grade at San Jose Catholic school.  It didn't say much, but it certainly said that it homosexuality was not OK.  And, for whatever reason, I just accepted that on face value.  Which is a little strange, really--I pushed back on a number of other ideas in that pseudo-sex ed textbook, such as abortion and birth control.  But, not this one.  I think, on some level, it was because homosexuality didn't make sense to me.  I couldn't relate.  Because I couldn't relate, it was easy and costless for me to accept the Church's natural law arguments about homosexuality.  Homosexuals are "intrinsically disordered" because our bodies are designed for procreation?  Sure, why not.  It's not like it would ever affect me in any way.

There were gay people in col…

Why I believe--Part I (First Principles)

If you read any article about religion on a general news website, it is inevitable that there will be a host of comments in the discussion section that are variations on the theme of "religion is stupid, and it would be better if all of these religious people either stop believing or go away."  Now, comment sections on websites are never a place to find respectful and informative discourse on anything, so this is not remotely surprising.  And, of course, you find similar trollish comments from religious conservatives of various flavors.

Still, the idea that religion is useless and only stupid people are believers is a prominent idea.  In one of the recent articles that I read (I believe it was one of Rachel Held Evans's posts of CNN), a commenter suggested that it would be helpful for believers to explain why they believe, in a way that goes beyond the unproductive "read the Bible and you will believe" polemics.

So, here's my attempt, split into a couple o…

The "Quest for the Historical Jesus" and other Pointless Activities

Reza Aslan, whose work I was not previously aware of, has written a book entitled Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.  This book, and Mr. Aslan, has attracted attention as the result of an embarrassing interview conducted by Fox News, in which the interviewer attempted to confront Mr. Aslan with the revelation that he was a Muslim, a fact which was never in question and not particularly relevant to the topic at hand.  However, beyond the controversy, the book is yet another example of the "Quest for the Historical Jesus," which becomes a fashionable topic in the broader culture every few years or so.

I have not read Mr. Aslan's book, but I listened to an extended interview he did with Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks.  Mr. Aslan's thesis, at least based on the interview, is that Jesus must have been a political revolutionary (hence the title "Zealot") because he claimed to be the Messiah, and the Jewish people of Jesus's day interpreted the Me…

The Devil and Michael Boyle

For at least 15 years, and probably longer, I have suffered from depression.  I suppose I am fortunate, in that my depression is not as severe as it is for many people, at least based on some people's accounts that I have heard.  Nevertheless, I truly have it, and it has very real medical symptoms.  When the episodes hit, my appetite goes to nothing--I've gone a week eating only a couple of meals that I forced down through pure willpower.  I've had whole months where I would wake up every morning to prolonged bouts of nausea.  I know when I'm really in for it when, like clockwork, I suddenly snap awake at 3 or 4 in the morning, no matter how tired I am from the previous day's early rising.  So, I know that it is a real, physical condition.  And, fortunately for me, one that has proven responsive to antidepressants.

That's one, completely correct and descriptive way I have of understanding what is going on with me.  But it is not the only way.

People ask me if I…

I'm Having an Affair--No, Not that Kind of Affair

I have a confession to make.  For all of my life, I have been a member of the Catholic Church.  Our relationship has certainly had its ups and downs.  I was once in the priesthood, then I wasn't.  I have been in parishes where I felt a strong connection to the church and to my fellow parishoners, and others where I felt I was going through the motions.  But, through it all, I have stuck with Catholicism.

Right after Easter this year, I felt a strong sense of disconnect from the church, despite the fact that I was very happy with the election of Pope Francis.  I'm not entirely sure the reasons behind this--that's something I hope to figure out in time.  But it was real, and it made it hard to go to church on Sundays.  It felt like I was stuck in neutral, without any way to go anywhere, let alone toward a destination.

For a couple of weeks, I didn't go to church at all.  I figured it was maybe time for a bit of space--a trial separation if you will.  That proved wholly …

Things Are Happening, Maybe

I will disclose my biases up front--I am an unabashed fanboy of Pope Francis.  He has done and said everything I could have reasonably hoped for in the new pope, from his rejection of the over-the-top material trappings of the Papacy to his low-key demeanor to his efforts to reach out to other religions and disaffected groups.  I love all of it.


There are many reasons I decided to restart this blog--need for some kind of outlet to write, desire not to inflict on my friends my trademark email screeds, hope that by writing I would not go insane while studying for the Bar Exam again after five years as a lawyer, etc.  But the immediate reason I decided to dive in is that I was inspired by a blog run by Rachel Held Evans, which can be found here (and also in the blogroll on the side):

She writes thoughtfully and honestly about being a modern day Evangelical Christian, trying to reconcile her faith with her identity as a woman and as an intellectual.  My favorite post of hers is entitled "Holy Week for Doubters" which perfectly captures the idea that sometimes being in church is the loneliest and scariest place that you can possibly be when things are not going well.  I have absolutely been there.

She wrote a book entitled Evolving in Monkey Town about growing up in the same town as the fa…

"I Still Have Many Things to Tell You, But You Cannot Bear them Now"

The little girl in the video above is 11-year old Nada Al-Ahdal.  See lives in Yemen, and her parents attempted to place her in an arranged marriage.  She fled the marriage, and in the video above she passionately and articulately defends her decision.  I am awe-inspired by her bravery.
The cheap move here is to chalk this up as more evidence of the backwardness of the Muslim world.  And that's what it is--a cheap move.  It's not as if Islam is the only religion and culture that has supported child brides.  Warren Jeffs and his FLDS were doing it as late as a few years ago here in the USA.  Age of consent in colonial America under the common law was 12, and the famous English legal commentator Sir Edward Coke noted that marriages often occurred earlier than that.  Gratian, basically the father of Catholic canon law, said that a child could "meaningfully consent" to marriage at the age of 7.

Maybe somebody is trying to say something

Here are two surveys from the Pew Research Center that, taken together, raise some very interesting questions about what is going on in modern Catholicism.

The first survey involves the views of gays and lesbians toward various religious groups.  The specific question asked was "do you view a particular religious group as friendly or unfriendly toward LGBT people?"  Here are the results:

Religion                  % Unfriendly
Islam                                  84
Mormon (LDS)                   83
Catholicism                         79
Evangelical Protestant          73
Judaism                              47
Mainline Protestant              41

I was a little surprised to see that Catholicism was seen as less friendly than the Evangelical churches, and I would have thought that the unfriendly numbers for Judaism and the Mainline would be a bit lower. Nevertheless, the basic results square with straight-forward intuition.  If you define an "unfriendly" attitude as…

U mad, bro?

This is Pastor Jim Standridge of Immanuel Baptist Church in Shiatook, Oklahoma.  As you can see, he is not happy with the state of his congregation.

A couple of questions:

-  Good Lord, what did "Kelly"'s wife and sisters do?

- What exactly does it mean to "Build your kingdom in the video room"?

When the Rubber Meets the Road

I would suspect hat the most frequent criticism of Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, by those in the broader culture is that it is obsessed with sex--who is doing whom, when, and how.  Defenders will loudly protest that this is unfair--there is far more to Christianity than just rules about sex.  On its face, this 100% right; there is indeed far more to Christianity than sex.  But that defense is not really responsive to the challenge.  The question is not whether there are other elements in Christianity than sex.  The question is whether Christian leaders care about anything other than the sex part.

Back in April, the Catholic Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, issued a letter to the members of his diocese.  The topic?  Couples cohabitating before marriage.  It will come as little surprise that the Archbishop is not a fan, but the tone of the letter is especially strident.  In particular, the Archbishop states right from the beginning that people who are cohab…

Restarting the Blog

Hello, all.

I am going to be restarting the blog with a new title and new direction.  More will come soon.