Showing posts from June, 2016

Quick Hitter: The Problem of Ambivalence

I've recently made a great discovery in the form of the blog of Morgan Guyton, a United Methodist Minister in New Orleans.  He had a post from a few weeks ago on the limitations of N.T. Wright that was great, and said in a more compact way what I was trying to get at in talking about originalism.  Today I found another post of his that is equally thought-provoking, on the idea of "ambivalence" in contemporary Christianity (Mainline Protestantism in the article, but it could apply equally well to Catholicism as well).

Guyton's core point, as I see it, is that parents will have an extremely difficult time passing on their faith to their children if the parents are ambivalent about the faith that they are attempting to pass on.  Kids can sniff out the half-way in, half-way out situation of parents with regard to faith, and it gets translated into "this religion stuff is not that important."  And that, in turn, opens the door to those same kids walking out the …

A Tale of Two Bishops

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

On his way home from Armenia, Pope Francis gave one of his now-customary impromptu press conferences, with a now-customary set of bombshells.  Maybe the most amazing statement was what Pope Francis said about Martin Luther, which was essentially "his heart was in the right place, and after all the late medieval Catholic Church really was a cesspool, but he went a little too far in the end."  But the statement that got the most play--and which is the focus of this post--is his comments about LGBT people.  Francis was asked about comments made by Cardinal Reinhardt Marx of Munich that Church should apologize to LGBT people for its behavior toward them, and he basically endorsed Marx's position:

"[Gay people] should not be discriminated against. They should be respected, accompanied pastorally.

I think that the Church not only should apologise … to a gay person whom it offended but it must also apologise to the poor …

Standing In Between Earth and Sky

1.  No one will mistake Ohio for Colorado or the Alps, but neither is it the same as the seemingly endless table-like flatness of the center of North America.  No, the most accurate description of Ohio is that it rolls, almost like a wave in the ocean that has been stopped in time.  And nowhere can this be seen better than taking Interstate 71, the highway that bisects the state on a diagonal from the northeast to the Southwest, connecting the three biggest cities of Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati.  If you drive on I-71, especially the part between Cleveland and Columbus, it almost feels like you are riding on a rollercoaster than has been stretched out, as you roll along the modest but noticeable undulations.

I took that trip this weekend, back and forth to Cleveland under a picture-postcard worthy summer sky.  With the rolling terrain and low-lying whispy clouds, I had a sense of being firmly rooted in place, comfortably situated between earth and sky.  It was comfy, but not co…

Friday Fun, Songs from Before My Birth, #6

"Ring of Fire," by Johnny Cash (1963)

Here's my experience with the music of Johnny Cash, and several people have told me pretty much the same story about their own encounter with Cash's music.  I'm going along, minding my own business, not thinking much one way or the other about Cash or his music.  He's a country guy, I guess?  And then, one day, for reasons I can't really remember I start listening to his stuff.  And that experience is a complete revelation, and I realize that he is one of the all time greats.  In particular, I come to realize there is a level of. . . "emotion"?  "depth?"  There is a level of something running underneath his music that transcends any sort of genre conventions or time a place.  You don't have to like blues or rockabilly to appreciate Cash.  It is almost like the only requirement is you have to be a person--it's like he is saying something universal, but you are just getting it for the first t…

A Post-Script to Yesterday's Post

Last night, reports surfaced that the shooter in Orlando had patronized the club several times prior to the shooting, and had an account on at least one dating app for gay men.  Some suggested that this represented a long-running "scouting" operation, where the shooter wanted to get intelligence prior to committing his massacre.  However, if the reports are true, I think it is far, far more likely that the shooter was gay or bisexual, deep in the closet, and deeply conflicted about his sexual orientation.

It is becoming almost an iron law of history--the most vocally and demonstrably anti-gay zealots often turn out to be closeted gay men who channel their confusion and fear into lashing out against those who are willing to accept who they are.  We have example after example, from George Alan Rekers, to Larry Craig, to Ted Haggard, to dozens more.  We are coming to the point where when we hear some public figure foam at the mouth about the "gay agenda," we can start…

A Time of Testing

1.  There is nobility in compromise.  Two groups of people with different ideas, finding a way to bridge their differences, or at least find a way to co-exist within their differences--that is something that a healthy society, on whatever scale, needs in order to function.  We need more people willing to do the hard and at times humbling work of compromise, and I think most people in the United States believe we have far too few of these people.  Everything seems to be polarized unnecessarily, and people call out for those willing to roll up their sleeves and find that magical middle ground.  And rightfully so.

But, here's the thing.  Compromise and mediation is good until it is not.  There are times, times we might call the times of testing, when the time for finding the middle ground comes to an end.  In those times, attempts at compromise are pointless, and even counter-productive, as compromise often becomes a cover to justify failing to stand up for what is right.  People who…

Friday Fun, Songs from Before My Birth, #7

"The Way You Look Tonight" by Tony Bennett et al.

They calls songs like this "the Great American Songbook."  It turns out that this song was first recorded by Fred Astaire, as part of the soundtrack for the movie Swingtime.  It won the Academy Award in 1936.  Everyone and their brother has covered it.  As a result, a song like this can almost fade into the background, to the point you wouldn't really notice it.

For whatever reason, though, this song has always stuck with me, and in particular the Tony Bennett version.  I think what I love about the song is its minimalism.  There are plenty of love songs out there that make grandiose declarations about the attributes of the beloved--he or she is the most beautiful, the most charming, the most whatever.  As flattering as such declarations no doubt are, exaggerating the attributes of the beloved suggests that only those with such enhanced attributes are worthy of love.  "I love you because you are such and ex…

Friday Fun, Songs from Before My Birth, #8

"Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" by Marvin Gaye (1969)

Here's a way to figure out if someone is a great musician.  Listen to all of their cover songs, or songs that have been also done by someone else.  If having done that, you find yourself thinking "wow, it's not just that this person's version of some songs are the best version, but his version of every song is the best version," then you have found a great musician.

We might call this the "Marvin Gaye" test, because Gaye's version of all of those Motown classics is almost always the best version--sorry Smokey, but he has the definitive version of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine."  And then on top of being the standards king, he produced a ton of his own unique and original music as well.

People tend to divide Gaye's catalog into three phases: the early Motown phase, the middle, political phase (the era of "What's Goin' On?" and "Trouble Man")…

The Colonial Williamsburg Mass

It's kind of amazing to find someone whom you disagree about everything, but Fr. Dwight Longenecker is coming rather close to that point for me.  His recent post on Crux is less offensive than other things he has written, but I wanted to write about it because it hits a very specific pet peeve of mine.  Here, Longenecker defends the "new" translation of the Catholic Mass that was imposed on the English speaking world five years ago.

I should say two things before I get to the meat of my objection.  First, Longenecker doesn't really defend the idea that the new translation is good because it is more like the Latin original, except for a throw away line about "accuracy and doctrinal faithfulness."  That's another rant, and I would encourage you to check out Questions from a Ewe's blog where she breaks down the supposed "accuracy" of the new translation.  The second point is that Longenecker suggests that this recent translation is what Rome…