Showing posts from March, 2016

Thinking Through the Creed, Part 6

[I believe in] the holy catholic and apostolic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,

"The church is 200 years behind the times. Why doesn't it stir? Are we afraid? Is it fear rather than courage? In any event, the faith is the foundation of the church. Faith, trust, courage. I'm old and sick, and I depend on the help of others. Good people around me make me feel their love. This love is stronger than the sentiment of distrust that I feel every now and then with regard to the church in Europe. Only love defeats exhaustion. God is love. 
Now I have a question for you: What can you do for the church?"--Cardinal Carlo Martini, S.J. (1927-2012).

I am a bad Catholic.  To put a fine point on it--at Easter Vigil two days ago, seven people at my parish who were coming into the Catholic faith publicly stated that they "believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church teaches, believes and proclaims to be revealed by God."  Insofar as "the ho…

Thinking Through the Creed, Part 5

On the third day [Jesus] rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead. . . .

[I believe in] the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting. Amen.

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.  (1 Corinthians 15:13-19).

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and …

Coming to Grips with the Copernican Revolution

Those things which I am saying now may be obscure, yet they will be made clearer in their proper place.  --Nicolaus Copernicus.

Sometime in the next couple of weeks, Pope Francis will bring to an end his Synod on the Family, in the form of an exhortation.  Much of the talk connected to this exhortation deals with whether, and to what degree, he is going to relax the rules about divorced people obtaining communion.  Some, perhaps more optimistic, folks hold out hope that he will say something nice about LGBT folks.  We shall see.

None of this, though, is remotely sufficient to move the needle in a real way.  The Synod on the Family was called by the Pope "to reflect on the reality of the family."  (Final Report of the Synod, paragraph 3).  The Bishops, while perhaps making a good faith effort to do so, clearly failed in their task.  They failed because they failed to come to grips with the fact that the concept of family, as understood by a large segment of the members of the…

Thinking Through the Creed, Part 4

[Jesus] suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell.

There’’s nothing like a little redemptive violence to bring us all together. So is this the way God works? Is this God’’s plan, to become a human being and die, so that God won’’t have to kill us instead? Is it God’’s prescription to have Jesus suffer for sins he did not commit so God can forgive the sins we do commit? That’’s the wrong side of the razor’s edge. Jesus was already preaching the forgiveness of sins and forgiving sins before he died. He did not have to wait until after the resurrection to do that. Blood is not acceptable to God as a means of uniting human community or reconciling with God. Christ sheds his own blood to end that way of trying to mend our divisions. Jesus’ death isn’’t necessary because God has to have innocent blood to solve the guilt equation. Redemptive violence is our equation. Jesus didn’’t volunteer to get into God'’s justice machine. God volunteered …

'Talking Bout a Revolution

I don't usually write about politics here.  In large part, this is a function of the fact that my time writing this blog coincides with the low ebb of my interest in politics.  Well, that low ebb is coming to an end here in 2016, mostly as a result of the fact that the country of my birth appears to be in danger of spiraling completely out of control and into a very scary place.  I will say up front that I don't have any solutions to provide or profound insight to offer.  This is going to be scatter shot and disorganized--some observations and thoughts that may not make much sense.

1.  Legacy.  It's really hard to talk about politics outside of your own circumstances, which is in large measure determined by where you come from.  So, here's where I come from.  My father comes from Northeastern Pennsylvania, in a town half-way between the small cities of Scranton (which became famous as the setting for the comedy show The Office) and Wilkes-Barre.  It is a coal mining …

Friday Fun: Boss Top Ten, #1--"The Rising"

"The Rising" (off of The Rising (2002))
Concert Footage: Sao Paulo (Brazil), 2013

To understand why "The Rising" is the #1 Springsteen song for me, I have to tell you a story.  In the summer of 2002, I took a trip.  The primary purpose of the trip was a family reunion for my mother's side of the family in New Jersey, and I was joined by my mom and my sisters.  After that, the four of us took a memorable trip to Boston to look at colleges for my sister Katie.  I then put my family on a plane back to Florida, and took the train into New York City to see my friend Adam.  Adam and I went to college together, and we were (and are) good friends.  Among his rather diverse skill-set, Adam has a television production background, and at the time he was working for a company that was documenting on video the recovery/clean up efforts at the site of the World Trade Center.

And so, on an absolutely perfect July day, he and I went to the site where the World Trade Center once…

Thinking Through the Creed, Part 3.2

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,

Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.  (John 14:8-10).

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also oug…

Thinking Through the Creed, Part 3.1

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,

"The Christian of the future will be a mystic, or he will not exist at all."--Karl Rahner, S.J. (1904-84).

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Evangelical Christianity gets many things wrong, at least from my perspective.  But there is one thing that they are absolutely correct to insist on, and it is something that the more hierarchical and liturgical churches need to recover.  Heck, it is something that the evangelical churches themselves often lose sight of, and need to remind themselves of their own core commitments.

What evangelical Christianity gets right is that, at its most basic level, Christianity is not about doctrine (let alone any particular doctrine) and it is not about church (however church is understood) and it…

Friday Fun: Boss Top Ten, #2--"Atlantic City"

"Atlantic City" (original version off of Nebraska (1982), E Street Band Version [shown] first released on Live in New York City (2001))
Concert Footage:  Hyde Park, London (U.K.), 2013

Well they blew up the Chicken Man in Philly last night
Now they blew up his house, too.

I maintain that the best opening to any song the opening to the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood"---"I once had a girl/or, should I say, she once had me."  That's John Lennon at his songwriting best--men have a tendency to reflexively talk about "their" girl, when in many, many cases the shoe is on the other foot, and Lennon communicates this in his trademark economy of words.

The second best opening to any song, in my opinion, is "Atlantic City."  It is like a punch to the face--you can't hear "they blew up the Chicken Man in Philly last night, now they blew up his house, too," and be indifferent to what is coming next.  The name "the Chicken Man"…

Thinking Through the Creed, Part 2

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

“Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” James Baldwin.

One of the real tragedies of the whole brouhaha over Creationism is that it turns the first chapter of the Book of Genesis from something beautiful and profound into something boring and meaningless.  It is not so much that interpreting Genesis 1 to mean that the world was created in six 24-hour units is wrong (though, I do think it is wrong) as it is missing the point.  Genesis 1 is a beautiful poem that is packed with profound theological ideas, ideas that get lost completely in the shuffle of arguing over the timing of the various events.

We should start in the beginning.  The first word of Genesis is "bereishit," which literally means "at the head of," but is usually translated as "in the beginning."  The very notion that there was a beginning or a head is it…