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Showing posts from May, 2017

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…

The Intervention that Failed

I have a friend who is going through a tough time.  Her sister is an alcoholic, and she and the rest of the family are trying to get the sister into treatment.  I am very fortunate that I have never experienced alcoholism or addiction in my family or friends, so I have no direct experience of what my friend is going through.  But in listening to my friend talk about the difficulties she and her family were having, I was struck by the parallels with something that I have experience with--mental illness.

The biggest difficulty in talking with people who are in the grip of mental illness is that you can't rationally convince them that what they are doing is illogical or self-destructive.  That's because, as I have said before, the nature of mental illness is that it creates a filter through which everything is seen and experienced.  You can't convince people that what they are doing is illogical, because as seen through their distorted lens, everything they are doing is perfe…

The Exodus

I found this poem this morning, in the Twitter feed of Rev. Jordan Haynie Ware, an Episcopal priest in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (who, as an aside, wrote a really cool book, The Ultimate Quest, which explains the Liturgy and theology of the Episcopal Church in terms of Star Wars and Dungeons & Dragons, which could not possibly be more in my wheel-house).  The poem is by Dave Barnhart, a United Methodist Church pastor in Birmingham, Alabama.

The poem has haunted me all day--I can't get it out of my mind.  It says in the clearest possible way the things I was trying to say in my post from last week about how things have changed.  Rev. Barnhart zeroes in on something that I think many of us haven't really had the courage to say, but we need to say in these days--as he says in the poem "I have seen your christ, and he is my antichrist."  There is a fear, a reasonable fear, of becoming every bit as judgmental and narrow and performatively-apocalyptic as the po…

Remembering a Story

It's funny how you remember stories from your past.  You can forget something for years and years, and all of the sudden it comes back to you.  I am not a neuroscientist or cognitive researcher, but I have a theory as to why that is.  The stories are all there in the enormous filing system that is your brain, but you can't really access it because there is no context or significance attached to the story.  But then something happens that puts a significance onto that story, and the story gets flagged and comes to the surface.  The story becomes prominent in your memory because you understand it to be important to the story of your life, and how you see the world.

Here's an example of a story like that, one that I hadn't thought about in a long time.

My 8th grade year was really, really lousy.  I get that Middle School is tough for most people--maybe everyone--but my 8th grade year was one weird and dislocating event after another.  In September, my youngest sister was …

The Shape of Progressive Theology, Epilogue

I hope the Holy Spirit descends on you like fire. I hope it for all of us. Come, Lord Jesus. — Preston Yancey (@prestonyancey) May 4, 2017
Something has changed in the last six months.  Can you feel it?  Because I can.

See, here's how it worked prior to the coming of Trump.  There were people that called themselves progressive Christians, who voted for more or less progressive parties in political elections (which, in the United States, means the Democratic Party).  They often shook their heads at some of their co-religionists, at some of the political and social positions they took, and tried to do what they could to limit or mitigate the damage they saw those positions causing.  But, at the end of the day, these progressive Christian folks believed in a "big tent," and in the slow and steady approach to getting their co-religionist to come around.

Then you had the conservatives.  Often, perhaps regularly, they would say that the progressive Christians were not really …

The Shape of Progressive Theology, Part 6--Christian Realism

After going through five previous ideas ("Experiental Priority," "Contextual Theology,""Rejecting the Salvation Industrial Complex,""Franciscan Hermaneutics," and "Christ versus Empire") we come to the last one, "Christian Realism."  "Christian Realism" is, to the best of my knowledge, a term that I made up.  But it reflects an idea that is fundamental, if often unspoken, to the way you approach everything you might encounter when talking about religion, and in particular the way that theology interacts with the rest of the world (which, basically, is everything).  In its simplest terms, makes the claim that the physical world is (1) intelligible; (2) real [as opposed to the product of our imaginations]; and (3) ultimately the creation of God.  The theological touchstone for Christian Realism is a well-known quote by the great medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas--"all that is true, by whomsoever it has been said…