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Why There is No Middle Ground

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Rev. Jordan Haynie Ware's twitter feed directed my attention to this excellent article, written by Jem Bloomfield.  Ms. Bloomfield is a British academic, and she makes three points that I think are critical in thinking and talking about the interaction between Christianity, the broader "secular" culture, and in particular the younger slice of that culture.  But it also interacts in a way with people who are searching for some sort of "third way" on the contested issues of sexuality, most recently in the form of Fr. Jim Martin's book Building a Bridge, which was based on a talk he gave last fall and which I talked about here.

Before turning to the article, it's worthwhile to get the "whatabout"-ist objections out the way (some of which can be seen in the comments section of the post).  Yes, "secular culture" is not a monolithic entity, and neither are Millennials/young people.  There are quite a number of young people who are very tra…

Reflections on Original Blessing, Part 3

I've taken a while to get out this post, the final one in a series talking about Rev. Shroyer's book Original Blessing (first two posts here and here), because I've changed my mind about the book in the interim.  Well, that's not quite right.  It's less that I no longer have the concerns about some parts of the book that I had when I first read it and more that I increasingly think that those concerns are not all that important to the overall narrative of the book and the questions it is trying to answer.  The more I think about and reflect on the book and what it is trying to do, the more I think the places where I agree with it are far, far more significant than the ways that I would frame some things differently.

In that light, let me (finally) cut the chase and talk about the part of the book that gave me pause.  In the book, Rev. Shroyer calls us to make a decisive move away from the Augustine formulation sketched out in the first post and to replace it with, …

What Happens When People Get Bored Waiting for God

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.” They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel. (Exodus 32:1-6).

I have a theory,…

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…