Showing posts from April, 2014

The Problem Is, I Think They're Right

In 1930, the Lambeth Conference--the international gathering of bishops and other leaders of the Church of England and its daughter churches (such as the US Episcopal Church)--issued Resolution 15, which states as follows:

Where there is clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, the method must be decided on Christian principles. The primary and obvious method is complete abstinence from intercourse (as far as may be necessary) in a life of discipline and self-control lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless in those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principles. The Conference records its strong condemnation of the use of any methods of conception control from motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience.


Some Things You Can't Unsee

The Second Sunday after Easter (i.e., the Sunday after Easter) always has the same Gospel reading--John 20:19-31.  It's a pretty famous section of the Gospel--it tells the story of "Doubting Thomas," who would not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he was able to place his fingers in the nail marks on Jesus's hands.  Most priests preach something about that part of the story.

But Doubting Thomas is in the second part of the reading.  This Sunday I was totally focused on the first part of the reading--John 20:19-23.  Here's what it says.

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he h…


Watch this clip of a speech given by Sarah Palin yesterday:

I am pleased to see Andrew Sullivan call this for what it is--blasphemy.  To hold that intentionally placing a person on the line between life and drowning is "baptism" is to mock everything that Jesus Christ stood for.  The religion that Sarah Palin is preaching here is not Christianity--it is a fascistic death cult.

With the exception of Sullivan and Rod Dreher, I have seen very little reaction to this in the Christian/Catholic blogosphere and media.  Where are they?  I suppose they are too busy identifying made-up threats to religious freedom from the Gay Agenda, Obama, et al.  Shameful.

God Save Us From Great Men

Pope John Paul II will be officially made a saint on Sunday, along with Pope John XXIII.  As I mentioned in my last post, I have reservations about the legacy of John Paul II.  I think he drove a stake into the Catholic intellectual Golden Age of the middle 20th Century (which, in turn, came after a 200 year or so period of intellectual stasis and fossilization) when he and Benedict XVI nee Josef Ratzinger cracked down on "dissident" Catholic thinkers like Hans Kung and the Liberation Theology crowd.  I think he failed to understand (or really try to understand) many of his flock in the West were coming from, and so set the institutional Church against its own members, such as women and gays and lesbians.  He also failed totally to properly address the priest sex abuse crisis, leaving a horrible mess for Benedict (and Francis, and probably Francis's successor) to attempt to clean up.

As I think about these problems, I think there is a more fundamental problem with John P…

13 Things That Make Me a Lousy Catholic

I stumbled upon a old post by Rachel Held Evans entitled "13 Things that Make Me a Lousy Evangelical."  It is a nice mix of theological and cultural issues where she departs from standard conservative Christian talking points.  Along the same lines, here are my 13 things that make me a bad Catholic, at least for certain values of "Catholic."

1.  I find saying the Rosary to be extremely tedious, so I almost never do it.

2.  I've read all of Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body lectures.  I think there are mostly incomprehensible, and the parts that are understandable are cartoonishly misogynistic.

3.  I think priests and bishops who wear the old-fashioned clerical garb, like Cardinal Burke in this picture, look ridiculous.  Plus, and I want to say this delicately, I think Liberace would find an outfit like this to be somewhat over the top.

4.  I think Medjugorje is basically a scam.  I have serious doubts about Fatima and maybe even Lourdes, too.

5.  I a…

Holy Week 2014--Easter Vigil

I don't want to be a jerk and demean other forms of Christianity, but I think non-liturgical churches are really missing out on something fundamental.  Without liturgy, you are left with various forms of talking--preaching and singing.  And talking means you are left with a religion of ideas.  The problem is, I don't think Christianity is religion of ideas.  At least not at it's heart.

Instead, I see Christianity as a religion of encounter.  Ultimately, it is a story of a transcendent creator reaching down to interact with His creation, which culminates in Jesus's life, death, and resurrection.  In turn, we are invited into that encounter.  Encounters can be described, but that description is going to be a pale substitute for being drawn into the encounter to experience it for yourself.

Liturgy is, or at least can be, the gateway to that encounter.  I find that when I am the most confused intellectually about my faith, experiencing liturgy is the route out of the mor…

Holy Week 2014--Good Friday

The sermon I heard today asked "what does the cross mean to you?"

For me, it is a symbol of suffering and humiliation.  To die that way--in pain, slowly, in the sight of everyone--is one of the worst ways I can think of to die.  Perhaps there are ways that are as bad, but I have hard time coming up with something worse.

But it is not simply the brutality of the death, though it is brutal.  It is also the humiliating way that it was carried out.  Pilate placed "The King of the Jews" on top of the cross not as a confession of faith but as a sign of contempt for an oppressed people under his rule--if your "king" would die in this lowly way, think how low the rest of you are.  His own people scorned and mocked him.  His Apostles ran away.  The only people that were present to witness His death were women, who were worth little at that time.

And yet, Jesus picked that way to die.  He could have come at a different time, and suffered a different death.  He cou…

Holy Week 2014--Holy Thursday

There is a segment of non-religious people who take the position that being a religious believer is a crutch.  According to this theory, religion is a way to avoid the difficult questions of the meaning of life and a person's place in the universe by putting one's trust in God or some other transcendent reality.  It's easier to believe in these "stories," these folks will tell you, than to rely on yourself.

I can't say for sure whether this is true--I've never tried not being a believer.  But I can say that I have not experienced being a believer as a particularly easy road.  I don't know what kinds of existential crises a non-believer experiences, but I have found that believing is not a get-out-of-jail free card for existential crises.  Saying you believe is not the same thing as meaning it, which is not the same thing as feeling it.

In the Gospel reading for Holy Thursday, Jesus tells Peter "What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you…

Holy Week 2014--Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday could be called Drama Sunday.  It starts with Jesus's entry into Jerusalem, with the crowds lining the streets waving palms.  We then follow on to the Passion Gospel (Matthew this year), with Judas's betrayal, Peter's denial, the condemnation of the Scribes and the Pharisees, and, of course, the crucifixion of Christ.  These are events of high drama.

The sermon I heard today encouraged us to find our place in the Holy Week story.  In other words, we should try to identify the player in the drama that resonated with where we were at the present time.  Perhaps ironically, during a day of high drama, I was drawn immediately to the least dramatic part of the story--the end.

After the crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Jesus and buried it in the tomb, while Mary Magdelene and the other Mary (which Matthew describes as "the mother of James and Joseph") went to the tomb to keep watch.  In Matthew's account, we are given no indication of th…

A Decisive Moment?

I tried, before I accidentally deleted it, to write about the World Vision controversy.  In brief, a well known multi-denominational Christian charity that focused on supporting poor children announced that it would allow married gay couples to work for them if their particular denominations approved same sex marriage.  The broader evangelical world freaked out, and within two days World Vision did a 180.

Rachel Held Evans has written passionately on this topic.  As someone who sees herself as a gay-affirming evangelical, the backlash to brief window of tolerance has clearly hurt her very deeply.  She has recently declared a hiatus from blogging, which is unfortunate for those of us who enjoy her work but hard to begrudge her for.  If you read what she has written, and the comments afterwords from many others, it's hard not to see that many people have reached a breaking point, in a way that was not the case ten, five, or even two years ago.  It's also notable that similar th…

Natural Law, Part II--The Problem of Truthiness

Stephen Colbert famously coined (or, at least, popularized) the word "truthiness" early-on in his Colbert Report program.  "Truthiness" is an assertion that something is true based not on facts, but on one's own subjective sense of what is correct.  Importantly, a statement is not "truthy" if is it incapable of being proven or disproven by objective criteria--"I love you" cannot be demonstrated to be true or false according to any kind of objective criteria, but that doesn't make it truthy.  Instead, truthiness comes where a claim can be judged by objective criteria, but the person making the statement simply chooses to ignore those criteria and assert it anyway.  So, while "I love you" is not truthy, "I am capable of hitting a Major League fastball" is certain truthy in my case, in light of my mediocre eyesight and lack of discernible hand-eye coordination.  No amount of believing I can do it changes the fact that I…