Showing posts from December, 2015

What Are We Fighting About?, Part III--Evangelicals, the Bible, and Clarity

Phyllis Tickle (who passed away in September--God rest her soul) wrote a book called The Great Emergenceabout the future of Protestantism.  I have problems with significant parts of her thesis in that book, but she does a good job of framing the basic Protestant project.  In its most elementary form, the Protestant Reformation was a challenge to the authority of the Papacy, and by extension the ordained priesthood, to define and articulate the Christian faith and the structure of the Christian church.  We don't need these institutional mediators, said the Protestant Reformers, because we can figure out what the Christian faith is about and how to organize the church by consulting directly with the Bible.  Said another way, the Protestant Reformation replaced a person (or people) who serves as a clearly defined leader and spokesperson (and is thus exclusive and controlled) with a book which is in principle accessible to everyone.

Implicit within this move is the assumption that the…

What Are We Fighting About?, Part II--Anglicans, Establishment, and Non-Negotiables

People who grow up in the United States, such as myself, have a very difficult time wrapping their heads around the idea of an established church.  Every November, we get together to eat turkey ostensibly in remembrance of folks who fled England to get away from the grasp of the established church.  People who agree on nothing about the meaning of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution agree that it means that the government cannot establish a church as the official church of the country.  The basic story we get is that an established church is bad because it puts the power of the state behind efforts of that particular church to enforce orthodoxy, leading to religious wars and conflict.  In addition, an established church is bad for that church, because the church will be "captured" and subject to the agenda of the state, compromising its freedom and witness.  And, certainly, there is support for both of those theses in the history of the established Church of England…

Friday Fun: Boss Top Ten, Honorable Mention--"Living Proof"/"Human Touch"

The last Friday Fun series went pretty well--I enjoyed it at least.  So, for this series, I am going to try the impossible and come up with a list of my top ten Springsteen songs.  The impossibility of the task is demonstrated by the fact that I couldn't keep to ten and had to add these two honorable mentions.  I am also not going to include two songs I have already talked about, "Reason to Believe" and "Land of Hope and Dreams."  I don't want to rehash what I said previously, which is why I am not including them in this list, but they are both certainly among my ten favorite Springsteen songs, and "Land of Hope and Dreams" is either #1 or at a minimum #2.

As far as the song clips go, I am going to go exclusively with live concert footage, because that it is the only way to fully appreciate the Springsteen experience.  I've seen him twice (once in DC in 2012 and once in Columbus in 2014, which is the source of a number of the clips I am going…

What Are We Fighting About?, Part I--Catholics, Grace, and Reality

I had a conversation the other day that really made me think.  A friend of mine and I were talking about politics in general, and we some how got onto the topic of LGBT rights.  In a very casual way, she asked me "so, why exactly do religious conservatives have a problem with gay rights?"  After probing around a little bit, it dawned on me that many folks who engage with religious issues on the internet assume that everyone understands (at least on some level) the theological stakes, but that assumption is often very wrong.  Many people have no idea what the arguments for and against LGBT rights are, other than that lots of religious people are again' em, as they say.

In that light, I figured it was worth while to try to set out some of the big questions that I see on this issue.  In doing so, I make no claims to breaking any new ground or advancing innovative ideas or solutions.  Instead, I am going to try to present the questions as honestly as possible, through the le…

Quick Hitter on Christian Realism

I've talked before about the idea of "Christian Realism." The premise here is that Christianity, properly understood, describes the world as it actually is.  As a result, if there is some empirical claim made on behalf of Christianity, and that claim proves to be wrong, then our understanding of Christianity is flawed.  The solution is not to reject Christianity, nor to put our fingers in our ears and pretend that we don't hear the fact that is inconsistent with our empirical claim; the solution is to go back to the drawing board and rethink our empirical presuppositions.  After all, as Aquinas said,“[a]ll that is true, by whomsoever it has been said, has its origin in the Spirit.”

Christian Realism is a real problem with regard to Catholicism and sexual issues.  A good example of the problem can be seen in this piece by Lisa Duffy.  Here's the key quote:

When sex is experienced outside of marriage, there is no freedom or innocence; it’s all about receiving pleas…

Friday Fun: My Top Ten 90s Songs, #1

#1: "One" by U2 (off of Achtung, Baby (1991)

The first album I ever owned was The Joshua Tree, on cassette tape.  I pulled out my CD collection the other day and realized I own ten U2 albums, which includes a couple of greatest hits collections.  That's partially a function of U2's enormous longevity, and partially a function of how much I like U2.  Even after the bad albums and weird marketing moves and Bono overexposure, I always come back to U2.  It's pretty much my musical first love.

Upon (extensive) reflection, I think Achtung, Baby is their best work.  The Joshua Tree (1987) begins with three songs ("Where the Streets Have No Name," "I Still Haven't Found What I Am Looking For," and "With or Without You") that even non-U2 fans know and instantly recognize, and has a deeply underrated deep-cut ("In God's Country").  It is a tremendous album, and it made U2 immortals.

That was followed by the album and documen…

On Band-Aids

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today,
I wish, I wish he'd go away...

When I came home last night at three,
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall,
I couldn't see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don't you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don't slam the door...

Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn't there,
He wasn't there again today
Oh, how I wish he'd go away...

--  "Antigonish" by Hughes Mearns (1899).

1.   There is a bit of conventional wisdom that says that the legacy of a leader lasts twice as long as the time the leader was in power.  In other words, George W. Bush was President of the United States for eight years, but the effects of his presidency will last for sixteen years after he left office in 2008, through to 2024.  And that seems about right--we are certainly in the middle of working through all of the consequences of his time…