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Friday, July 27, 2012

Jason Loves The Pope, Reason #4, 233. If they made a movie about this, it'd be called, "The Empire Strikes Back." Only this time, Luke is a total tool that everyone with good sense hates. [You have likened the Catholic Church to the Borg Collective, and now the Empire, and you think you're helping?--ed.] Who knows?

I know some people who seem completely enamored with the idea with suffering horribly under persecution here in the US. And we might. Sooner or later, we have to choose. God, give me strength for that day. But so long as the sun of freedom shines upon us, let's labor to do the good we can. And there is no reason whatever to be dour about it. Jesus is risen! Alleluia!!!

I'm gonna watch some TV for a spell; see what time the opening ceremonies are.
The Olympic Games start today. I'm pumped. It's great TV, every time. I say that Bob Costas should be The Anchor For Anything Important in sports. Munich in 1972 is on my mind today, as is my school-boy crush on Nastia Liukin. No man, she was totally an adult at the last Games; I am shame-free. [How can you say something meaningful and something crass in the same sentence?--ed.] I don't know.

I read one of those articles about how the Olympic Village always turns into a giant sex party, and after the initial wave of "that'd be nice," I must confess some disappointment. No one goes to church? Or actually listens to their pastor/believes the Bible? Or maybe they do, and somehow missed the memo about fornication. Fine, I'm an old fuddy-duddy. 32. I believe sex is about love. Real love.

Anyway, I'll be watching gymnastics, boxing, swimming, tennis, basketball, and track with especially keen interest.
My bathroom always stinks. And not for the usual reasons. There must be a leak someplace. There has to be some pool of water or the effects of it somewhere. I need stronger air freshener. Frankly, I need a wife. Women make things smell better just by being present, it seems.

I'm chaste. More than this, I'm not even remotely frustrated, in that sense. It's just that a man hits a wall in friendship with women--a woman--where sexual intimacy is seemingly the only way to express the love that he wants to share. And so it is. It's probably not even the biggest part of marriage. Not that I'd know. But it comes right along with the friendship. For a man to deny this part of himself, or try to deny that his body has a role in a true expression of his love, is stupid. You can be married and not have sex, even. Hopefully it's a good reason. But if people decide within marriage to do what married people (typically) do, they do a good thing. I've never heard Mother Church say otherwise, despite what you may have heard.

I still sense that I'd function better in all sorts of ways if there was an 'Eve' around. Am I nuts? I don't know. I'm me, I'm doing well, my days are productive (usually) and stuff. But I cannot escape or deny the feeling that something is missing. That something. Family something. Like I'm not quite yet who I should be.

I could just be a lonely single guy droning on. But I don't think so. Not this time.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

First things first. If I ever said that Celine Dion sucked, I was wrong. I'm sorry. I made a list for my oddball friend who doesn't listen to pop. I was just trying to be thorough; I can't very well leave out Celine in a survey of pop from the last 30 years, I reasoned. Well, I made it so well, I can't stop listening to it!

Which leads me to my next thought, I think. I should have joined the glee club in high school. No one enjoys pop music or singing without provocation to random strangers more than me. Yes, I'm a total diva. I'm OK with that. [Wow. Just wow.--ed.] Shut up, all right?

And because I'm too lazy to go back to the combox, I'm going to answer right here. It might be permissible to desire open communion with brothers in Christ, assuming to do it would not be a sin, BUT THE WHOLE POINT of Protestant conviction on that score is to say that Catholic piety is a sin. You ought not desire the Catholic Eucharist in such a case, a blindingly obvious point entirely missed by the typically sharp Peter Leithart some weeks ago. So even if we utterly ignored the Catholic ecclesiological claims here, it's still inconsistent. And if you are willing to share the Supper with those outside your faith tradition, to use Al Gore's gloriously condescending phrase, you have in fact rendered whatever your community says in its particularity entirely superfluous as a dogmatic issue, whether you see it or not. [Isn't everything Al Gore says gloriously condescending?--ed.] Good point.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

5 Rude Thoughts For Today

5. I'm sorry, how does me saying "You don't have the foggiest idea what you're talking about" inspire you to offer a book on social psychology that says I'm crazy?

4. If atheism is so great, (reasonable) why can you only argue for it with snarky comics on the internet?

3. With due respect, I don't care what the New York Times says about anything. We don't say, "All the News That's Fit to Ignore" for no reason.

2. Muddle-headed and stubborn. Nice combination.

1. I'm honest. I never said I was balanced.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Well-struck, sir. I think this grudging tone may ease a bit, but I certainly understand it. I didn't want to be Catholic. I liked being Reformed. I liked the idea of being a pastor. I loved preaching. Preaching is where faith and love meet people, and I like a lot of all three.

I should say Protestant preaching. I don't know who or what is training these priests and deacons, but something is wrong. I've heard really good homilies--a few. And thankfully, the fullness of faith reflected in the liturgy has kept me from dissecting every single one. But I do know one thing: your ability to move someone to do or believe something is directly proportionate to how much you yourself do and believe. That is, holiness is the engine of good preaching. And holiness comes by prayer and repentance. Or, if you happen to like a more Catholic turn of phrase, conversion. I'm not here to say that Catholic preaching should be like Protestant preaching, especially not in doctrinal content. But we know as Catholics that Holy Mother Church gives us all we could ever want in terms of opportunities for communion with God. Preach from that.

It seems to this opinionated wind-bag that a lot of time gets wasted by eager young men eager to share the doctrine of God travelling down side-streets that have nothing to do with the destination, as it were. Let me be frank: the thing I spent the least amount of time on was precise crafting of my actual words. I spent the most time in prayer and reading. You've got to get out of your own way. It's not about you. Easy to say, I know.

My first lesson in homiletics would go like this: "OK, gentlemen. Everyone in your audience is going to die within the hour. Half of them are in mortal sin right now. A quarter just come here out of habit, and the other quarter are faithful, but needing encouragement. You each have exactly 15 minutes to change the world. Now preach."
Alright, I can't stop myself. I am officially jazzed about the new changes on American Idol. It does lead me to fear that the ratings are slipping. The fame of the celebrity judges is increasing. Why would you do that unless you had to?

I know that Tim likes The Voice, and I like elements of it. But Christina Aguilera reminds me why a pretty face (and body) is not enough. She's so annoying. She must know that her career has been something of a disappointment. A voice like that should put her in "The Conversation" (best female singer in my lifetime) with Whitney, Mariah, and Celine. But she isn't. Maybe it's how she started (child star). And she hasn't really had a signature hit, or a series of them, to make us think anything other than, "Really hot, in a shameful, guilt-inducing sort of way" or, "Used to be a Mouseketeer." [Karen Carpenter was briefly alive in your lifetime.--ed.] Yeah, but she did most of her work in the two decades prior. Did you know she was a world-class jazz drummer on the side? Yeah, if I made her eligible for "The Conversation," she'd win. I can listen to her sing for hours.

I digress. I hope they still do Mariah Week on Idol. Don't even act like you don't love that week. Considering that she's only had one legitimate solid album from beginning to end (Daydream) and is known as a singles artist, and wrestled for creative control, and musically got lost in the woods, her stature is impressive, and even a bit surprising. [Dude, she's hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 18 times. She's the best-selling artist of the 1990s. What are you talking about?--ed.] She could have been even bigger, too.

But whatever we could whine about the deleterious effects of AI on our culture, I love the show. It reminds me why I love pop music. I wonder who will fill the other judge chair? How about this guy? Nobody who watches the show has any doubt the last two years who the funniest guest/mentor has been. Just sayin'.

Monday, July 23, 2012

I remember this one song we used to sing toward the end of the service where I used to attend church. It was called "We Are The Body Of Christ." I can't decide if I think the melody and lyrics are truly hideous, or if it just sounded like we were trying to convince ourselves of a lie.

There is a direct and irreconcilable conflict between believing the Church is fundamentally invisible, and yet that these convictions, this faith, is that which Christ died to give. Something has to give. Barth gave his answer: "Now, if believers can pray together, they should also be able to take Communion together. For then doctrinal differences can be only of a secondary nature." (Prayer, 5) Whatever one thinks of the Catholic denial of the Eucharist to non-Catholics, we can see that the Catholic Church does not regard those differences as ones of a secondary nature. In fact, I wasn't offended by this denial; I felt respected. If eating this Eucharist means that I accept the Catholic Church's teachings and authority, I wouldn't want to eat it without intending to say this. When I believed that the Catholic teaching on the Supper was wrong, it would make no sense to desire it. It was our dissent from those beliefs that brought our Protestant communities into being. The only reason to be upset about it (short of being in denial about what one wants) is to hold some mistaken belief that the sacraments have no reference to our visible communities which give them to us. But this is a lie; we wouldn't hold a particular belief unless we thought it was worth holding. But it's this ecclesiology that severed the link between dogma and the visible church. It's what the visible community does and believes that matters, because you don't get invisible sacraments; you don't sing and pray with invisible people; you don't do invisible good works. You get the point. But to say that Christ's true Church is outside of us, is greater than us, is to cast doubt on the very ministrations done on our behalf and through us. Christ's Church must be visible. Why isn't this obvious?
To say that some collection of doctrines X is the faith once delivered is to automatically make the statement that this community--and only this one--is the Church. To do otherwise is to claim that God has not bothered to care about that which makes us distinct. And again, no one seriously believes this. Take your pick: Make your visible community utterly irrelevant (since what we believe is only a shadow of the true faith and Church) or consider the possibility that you are not in the Church.
Well, the scratchy throat has become something worse. Color me unshocked, but still annoyed. I wonder if there is something else I should do. I took some Children's Tylenol because that's what I had. Didn't help. Medicine shouldn't be used until you really need it, though. Everything tastes funny, and you can almost feel the stuff damaging your liver or other vital organs.

I am going to go and shave. I let it go two extra days. But there's no reason to look like a wild animal, even though you feel like one. I never did watch the Star Trek movie the other night; I went to bed fairly quickly.

My Final Thought: Never leave the things you need to say unsaid. Even if it makes for a harder road.

P.S. Happy Belated Birthday, 'Lucy.'

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Being a Christian is about Jesus Christ; we ask and discover who he is in order to discover what he'd like us to do, in general and in the particular. As I have said many times, the two most important questions you will ever ask--to yourself or anyone else--are, "Who is Jesus Christ?" and, "What is the Church?" Once you realize that whatever answer you give to the second question is awfully ad hoc and presumptuous, that question becomes, "Where is the Church?"

It seems rather obvious to me now, to realize that the denomination I had been a part of had no connection whatsoever of a necessary kind to that insvisible notion of "Church" we held so dear. That is, to separate from that body was no grave crime, and it may well not have been a crime at all. To play the trump card all Protestants have but never acknowledge using is one of the more dangerous and liberating things a person can do. My church, my denomination, could be wrong. To say otherwise, to invest said leaders with anything more than the provisional authority which they hold would be to invite the very historical scrutiny which any Protestant community cannot survive. So, having willingly and by neccessity chosen to conceive of the "Church" as the invisible group of all the elect, one faces two obvious problems: 1. explaining why one has the ability to define "the Church" in the first place, and 2. explaining what this far-flung, disconnected group of people not only believes, but must believe by necessity in order to attain salvation. The funny part is, you can't answer the second without answering the first. In all that, I wish you luck. None of this has anything whatever to do with the Catholic Church: its claims upon our lives, or the fact that I am now her loyal son.
So don't distract from the issues. Answer the question(s). Even if by exegesis you could attempt an answer to the second question, the real answer to the first is a question: "Who asked me?" Since denominations or families of denominations exist to promote and preserve one interpretation of the Scriptures, the obvious question--especially in light of opposing ecclesiastical assemblies with their disparate views quite in evidence--is why any one of them can be held correct. It is not reasonable to believe that my imperfect, fallible, reading of the Scriptures--by a mere invocation of the Holy Spirit--is any more or less plausible than the next man's. Is it any more reasonable to assume that our collective reading of those same Scriptures, as one denomination or family of them, escapes the problem? To the extent that one conceives that the Body of Christ extends outside the community one inhabits, to even those who disagree on fundamental points while remaining full members, to that extent must one be uncertain about what the Body of Christ believes. Ecclesiology and dogma are inextricably linked. More than that, there are as many ecclesiologies as there are interpretations of the sacred text. And that makes sense, since the individual determines not only what is most important to believe, but also the shape of that spiritual communion of those who hold it.

There is nowhere near this level of uncertainty in the Catholic paradigm, by the way. Looking at the paradigms themselves, there is no doubt which one is superior on those terms. It only remains to see if there is evidence in history to support the notion that this Catholic Church is that which enjoys the divine charism of infallibility.

If these guys come to your door and start arguing that you aren't even reading your New Testament correctly, can you appeal to any act of Holy Mother Church to back you up, knowing that you do not do so in a principled fashion? I'm just asking. This very truth drove me to discover the bases of what I did hold, and this led inoxerably to the Catholic Church.