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Saturday, August 04, 2012

To Peter Leithart and others, let me take the risk of being rude and say that I'm crying crocodile tears that you judge me in schism from the personal mental phantasm you call "the Church." When you come anywhere close to figuring out what your ragtag band believes to be the most essential doctrines (and agree among yourselves that you're not going to hell, at a minimum) you let me know. I'm super gratified that despite your vehement disagreements with the Church of Rome, many of you consider me part a true "branch" of your mental phantasm, but oddly enough, opinions on that vary almost as numerously as the thousands of separate visible communities in which you have gathered yourselves.

I suppose that an open communion table is a worthy goal among you, but doing this indicates of itself that those doctrinal particularities have been relegated to a sphere of secondary importance, a statement contradicted by both your visible separations, and the vehemence of your ongoing discussions.

Mother Church of course has always held the same Eucharistic doctrine from the beginning until now, and reminds the lot of you that your eucharistic celebrations are invalid, owing to the lack of episcopal succession from the Apostles. The earnest attempt to find the apostolic faith from the Scriptures alone--which had never been done in the history of the Church, ever--obviously turned into a fiasco, as I pointed out above.

And I'm sorry, Anglicans. Close, but no cigar. Someone went with Thomas Cranmer for the block a while back, and circle most definitely does not get the square. But if you come back, Papa said you could keep your liturgy. How cool is that? [You just compared the Anglican/Catholic split to a game of 'Hollywood Squares.' I'm not sure how much more of this I can take.--ed.] That I did. But the point is made.

The Pope is kind of like Admiral Adama. There are commanders on other ships, and he doesn't tell them how to run those ships, day-to-day. But for something that affects everyone, or when the Cylons attack, (Satan and his minions) he's running the show. And that makes sense. Captain of the flagship battlestar, and our only real hope to make it home. [Battlestar Galactica now? You know that guy was a Mormon?--ed.] Look, I'm making analogies, not writing a textbook. And isn't that perilously close to an ad hominem? [Mayhaps.--ed.] Not you too! Bah!

Friday, August 03, 2012

I'm sitting here again with nothing to say. I had a blast at Chick-Fil-A with...everyone. Since I'm not an idiot, I don't walk around worrying about how my actions affect some "community" or other, as if every person that might fit the category thinks and acts a certain way. The problem with people like Rachel Held Evans is that they want to hide the fact that they don't really stand for anything in particular. Does the Bible teach against homosexual practice? It's a simple question. Do you believe in those things? How to say something is a different consideration than whether it should be said. We could flagellate ourselves all day long about failures to show respect, love, or what-have-you, but at the end of the day, we're going to offend someone. If we tell the truth in Christ with love, people WILL hate us. And we need to have a real conversation about whether that's our fault, or theirs. Be willing to say, "I did all I could to respect this person; it's on them, now."

I'm all for conversation, discussion, meeting people where they're at, etc. But the question needs to be asked: Have we equivocated on the word "church" so much that we don't even know what we're talking about? Or who we is? Dialogue is not an end in itself. Neither is ecumenism. You do both to arrive at the truth. Are you so caught up in coming across nice that you can't think of anything you'd be willing to be hated for? If I'm a "bigot" for saying that gay "marriage" is a contradiction in terms, so be it. I don't think eating a chicken sandwich to say so (and to stick up for those who said so) is offensive in the least. Maybe you could convince me that the whole affair--staged ostensibly by a politician of one party--could pose a problem for the witness to Jesus Christ, who knows no party. But I think the real tragedy of the thing is that more people from both sides didn't denounce this badgering of a kind man who was asked what he thought. He didn't say anything hateful or malicious at all. He not only has the right to say what he said, but by the commands of the gospel under which he labors, he kept the peace for which we Christians are known.

So the rest of it is just sneering at the bourgeois in one's comfortable anti-capitalist perch, while absolutizing your prudential judgment that it was a bad idea. No one's making you go. And a note to the perpetually offended: it's not like you didn't know about Chick-Fil-A before; practicing Christians have known, and that's why we go. So save the faux-outrage for someone who cares.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Riddle me this one, you Zwinglian Gnostic masquerading as a minister of Christ: If the New Covenant--the full revelation of God's love to all people, including the Gentiles--is in effect, why would it be less sacrificial than the Old? It makes no sense. You're gonna get bent out of shape about some candles and incense? Really? Moses would be furious. You just called him a Gnostic in your rush to give Jesus all the glory. Did Moses sin against God by doing what the LORD himself said? Stop being a moron, and do some covenant theology, for pete's sake. There's plenty new about the New Covenant, but here's a hint: it isn't what you think. Offer your bodies as living sacrifices. Pretty sure I read that...IN THE NEW COVENANT!

So what you're saying is, the glory of the New Covenant--greater than that of Moses--culminates in no actual sacrifice, no priests, and ugly churches with nothing in them? You're so bad off, I almost want to send you to Dr. Luther to get straightened out.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Straight-up brilliance from Andrew Preslar:


"This is me chiming in on CFA and the American unclean, or at least not exactly urbane, bourgeois masses who have been making their way to that most excellent fast-food restaurant on this day:

As long as there have been what can properly be called human societies, people have been in the habit of congregating together and celebrating what they hold dear. In the case at hand, folks are gathering at...
CFA, primarily in the South where the majority of those restaurants are located, to celebrate the institution of marriage. It bears remembering that "those people" are not buying CFA sandwiches and then going to gay bars to shove the sandwiches in the faces of other people. They are going to CFA and eating there, together, as people who love and support the institution of marriage, and who love and support persons who are not afraid to publicly affirm marriage, in a positive way, without lapsing into hate speech or in any way attacking homosexual persons or other persons who mistakenly believe that the institution of marriage can be realized by homosexual unions.

(Click the following link to read what CFA president Dan Cathy actually said about marriage: http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=38271.)

If some CFA supporters do in fact hate homosexuals, then shame on them. But shame also on those, like some would-be-trendy sniffers at the bourgeois patrons of CFA, who cannot tell the difference between supporting marriage and attacking the enemies of marriage. Shame on the silly and shallow thinkers who think that every celebration is no more than a fear-fueled reaction, an exercise in bigotry. Make no mistake about it: There is often an element of defensiveness mingled in cultural movements. The case at hand is a case in point. Those who would have the state redefine marriage are in fact enemies of marriage, and in that way enemies of God who instituted marriage, and enemies of Christ who hallowed marriage by his presence and wonder-working at the marriage celebration in Cana, who elevated this natural institution to become a sacrament of the New Covenant, by which baptized Christians receive the grace of God in their lives together--unto salvation. If you agree with this, and you care at all about humanity, and God, and Jesus, then you are bound to be a bit defensive over the current debate regarding marriage. And you should be.

But, no, we must not hate the enemies of marriage. It will never do to hate those who are made in the image of God, particularly when they are our fellow citizens. We must love them, and seek to counter their errors by means of testimony, including public testimony, to the truth. This is a form of love, even if the result is that you look a little silly, and your urbane neighbors despise you as some sort of relic, or worse, as a moral majority conservative (major loss of cool points). Sometimes, this testimony takes the form of soccer moms in suburbia toting their youngsters to a chicken restaurant. Sometimes it takes other forms. Every form involving a human being is a little bit absurd, and compromised, and not exactly to everyone's taste, and sometimes it has something to do with capitalistic ventures and maybe just wanting some food and decent service and being a little bit encouraged that not every big business in America publicly opposes marriage.

I did not go to CFA today, but this is not because I was remaining aloof. I just did not feel obliged to do so; after all, its not the Feast of the Immaculate Conception or anything like that. Plus, I don't like eating out on my day off, and I don't like crowds. (Going to Mass on Sunday is always a little bit of a challenge, for that very reason.) But I love the fact that so many people did turn out and turn into a crowd and a kind of community on this one day. Let the suave and the self-righteous and the postmodern proponents of smoothly ironic and culturally disengaged Christianity remain aloof from the CFA masses if they will. But the Gospel is for the masses. The Gospel has nothing to do with the self-righteously aloof despisers of popular piety. Otherwise, Jesus would have simply stayed in heaven, or else he would have been a lot cooler, a lot less moralistic, and a lot less, you know, populist, when he came to earth--holing up with Sanhedrin instead of receiving the kinderfolk, feeding the multitudes, and blessing marriage.
 
The cultural attack on marriage began long ago (as measured by the life-span of the USA), and this beginning had nothing to do with homosexual persons. Doubtless, many of those who support traditional marriage in the context of the current crises are themselves deeply implicated in the tragic demise of that institution. Let him who has no sin cast the first stone. Just don't mistake eating a chicken sandwich for throwing a rock."
Free trade! WOOOO!!!
I didn't say a thing yesterday. Odd. Just couldn't muster it. Anyway, we are in the midst today of the Great Chick-Fil-A War of 2012, and I might think it preposterous and slightly manipulative to organize a counter-protest that involves enriching the bottom line of but one firm that provides tasty, life-shortening fried food, but A) I like it, and B) there are some serious freedom of speech concerns that need a forceful response from all freedom-loving people.

There has been no shortage of whines to the effect of, "This is much ado about nothing" (false) and, "We need a loving response to the gay community." To which I can only reply, "Please grow a spine, and learn about liberty while you're at it." You can talk about specific ways to reach out to the fallen-away and non-Christian AFTER you've said 2 things absolutely clearly: "Friend, marriage is between a man and a woman, while homosexual practice is beneath your human dignity" AND that it is inappropriate to even posture as an elected official that you will use your office to reward or punish viewpoints that are no concern of the government. At the least, I appreciate Rachel Held Evans's articulation of those aspects. While the balance of the post is a mixture of the results of collapsing Protestant ecclesiology/dogmatic priciple and the failure to recognize natural law, I think we can all appreciate compassion and listening, so I definitely affirm that (even if I'm not good at it).

I'm going, and I'm happy to do it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

They could say of me that I was an emotionally abusive swine, a selfish, insecure egomaniac with the maturity of a 2-year-old. I could very well be a deeply-wounded man who takes out my anger on the entire world.

There's a lot you could say, actually. Most of it is probably true. But I sleep well knowing at least this: I have NEVER been a flatterer. I mean everything I say. Even when I shouldn't.

Forgive me those things I deserve scorn for, and consider letting go of those things which cannot possibly be true. Peace.

Monday, July 30, 2012

I'm sitting here listening to Whitney Houston and wondering if I want to watch the Olympic coverage. Then again, I'm a writer, and writers write. It's the middle of the day. So here we are.

I wanted to talk about anger today. Being a man, I have lots of opportunities to think about it. We're used to offering the stock evangelical trope about anger: "Well, Jesus got angry, so there's non-sinful anger!" And then, that's it. I don't recall a discussion that went past this, ever. I'm just being honest. I was some kind of Reformed evangelical for 13 years. I've been Catholic for just a shade over a year. I'd probably qualify as a Catholic evangelical if that was anything other than a nonsense phrase. But I am looking forward to thinking more deeply about it.

The way to make me really angry is not to listen. I get angry when I'm not being heard. I get angry at injustice in general. I get angry when people don't say what they mean. Willful stupidity makes me mad, too. Generally speaking, I've had to do very little apologizing for these kinds of anger.

But all of us get frustrated at times. I'm bad about being rude when I'm really hungry. This almost never happens, but it does happen sometimes. These little things, little annoyances, are the proof to me of my need for growth and God's grace. Not the big things. I may come back and apologize for raising my voice or leaving someone with a doubt in a tense exchange about whether I love them. But if I get that angry, there's something really wrong, and I like to think it wasn't on my end. If I'm wrong, then I'm wrong about that.

But I've been spitting, screaming, swearing mad a few times. And I think that when anger gets here, it's dangerous. It's sinful. You forget the good you've had with that person; you forget that he is a person. Don't get here; you're beyond reason. You're not able to control the words you say. If you get here too many times with the same person--absent some serious grace and healing--it does harm that might never be fixed.

I'm certainly not speaking from acute experience in saying all this; it just seemed good to say. I was talking to Dr. Hebrew Catholic Woody Allen about some matter unrelated to me, and he said that one of the first rules of wisdom is, "Never make a major decision while you're angry." I see the goodness in that.

I hope that all of you out there have never done anything like that. The heat of the moment is a really bad time to do things that have far-reaching consequences. Love and peace to all of you today.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I admit it, I find this really funny. Well, no. It's not a mocking laughter. It's pure astonishment. How can you be surprised that your doctrinal standards are ignored? You're committed to the notion that Christ's Church is fundamentally invisible; of course people will be provisional and selective in their submission to the product of the visible ecclesiastical expression! That's what this ecclesiology does. That's what it teaches men to do. The very same rationale that marched Luther and the Reformers out of the Catholic Church shatters Protestant communites now: "Well, yes indeed, this is an impressive edifice. But the true gospel is X, and we're preserving it over here." Ecclesial Nestorianism. Could be a good reason, could be a bad reason, but the individual decides the extent of the authority over him. The only legitimate points y'all can score against "me and my Bible" amount to a charge of historical ignorance. The monuments themselves, the means by which that authority functions as an authority, have been divested of their true significance.

I can know with full confidence that the dogmas of the Catholic Church are true, because the means by which they come to me are the organs through which the gift of infallibility is exercised. It's not a surrender of reason to do this; it is a recognition that I cannot and was never meant to be my own interpretive authority. (Tim nods.) But if the visible church is a true mediating authority, then it and only it has the trump card. The Church cannot be an immaterial concept whose true size and shape are determined by me, even if I don't realize I'm doing it! How many times, on social media, have you seen a link to a news story about suffering, or some outlandish statement by a fundie, followed by someone saying, "The Church should say/do something!" Are you asking me? Am I asking myself? A LOT. And it's annoying, precisely because no one I've ever known defines precisely what they are talking about, whether they mean "Nebulous immaterial mental concept defined by me" Church or "my ecclesial community" church. The worst part of trying to be a Protestant was the realization that these two realities had no necessary connection to each other. But they were both very real and present to me. Something had to give.

There are literally millions of ordinary evangelical Protestants in the US alone who wouldn't dare question the doctrinal pronouncements of those in authority over them. They believe those people sent by God, and gifted to declare truth when challenged. But it is at this point that the history-based critique from the Catholic Church has its greatest power. "Were they in fact sent by God?" says Holy Mother Church.

Others see no problem with a concept that has no referent in the physical world. They're just reading the Bible maybe, loving Jesus, and loving people. Most often, to be honest, I've found these people to be ones who don't like to think too hard. When the God of grace moves them out of this warm complacency, it's because they don't recognize the Jesus someone is offering. They end up in the previous paragraph. And then, God willing, they come Home.

Perhaps some element of the historical data fails to make the point for you that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Jesus Christ. I understand that, and respect that. The data only serves to make the claim very plausible, not absolutely certain. But one cannot escape the realities I have laid out above. It is at bottom unreasonable to believe any particular set of doctrine X under these conditions over against another set Y under the same conditions. I was more open to the Catholic claims when I saw this.
I spent the balance of the evening with the great Timothy Butler. We talked a little politics, some inside baseball about ecclesial politics, and most importantly, women. Praying and hoping for the best, we are.

My brother is totally Rico Suave, so I passed on the highlights of what he said to me. Then we mulled clerical celibacy. Not our cup of tea. Moreover, I think the sacramental nature of the priesthood from where I sit adds a whole other element that many of us while Protestant didn't see. Since Tim gets to have his cake and eat it too, as it were, as a member of the separated brethren, (ahem) he has a special difficulty in being ordained clergy and seeking the vocation of marriage. I told him how even deacons in the Catholic Church must remain celibate if they are ordained while unmarried. He agreed that it might be wiser that way. I would hate to be ministering and be attracted to someone I serve when a romantic relationship is not automatically ruled out. If I were married to someone else or celibate and succumbed to that attraction, my shame is deserved. But if it were licit and still could harm my ministry, I could think of little worse.

I still have great hope for love. To be honest, other than God's love--which I sense I cannot get away from--the two things that move me deeply are writing, and finding that other someone. If I truly sensed that I had a greater calling to religious life or the priesthood, it would grip me like nothing else. Those passions we all have, though strong, would thus mean little. But it seems much deeper. Like some part of me is waiting on the other side of marriage. Not that she is holding it, but that I am not me, entirely. I'm not discontented. I just feel...incomplete. I can't explain it.

I've grown since last April, when I entered the Church. I was downright frustrated, and maybe even angry. I needed marriage and sex like a drug. But this is different. Very. None of us is free from those powerful appetites. But I really want to give. I want to be that missing piece of the puzzle. A bunch of snobby evangelicals liked making fun of the "You complete me" speech in Jerry McGuire, but isn't it true, in some sense? Jerry pointed out that it should have been the greatest moment of his life, but it wasn't, because his wife wasn't there to share it. I totally get that. Billy Chappell said the same thing in For Love Of The Game. Don't all spouses essentially say to each other, "I was great before, but this Me and You thing is way better"?

By the way, "Big Daddy" needs to avail himself of a copy of the latter film, because it's better than good. Just watch it with "Mama," leave the kids out. There's some swearing. I can't watch it too often, because it moves me more than I like to be moved. It's a great romance wrapped in an epic sports movie, and it works. I don't get why, but it does. It's littered with lines you stop and think about, humor, sadness, reflection, and joy. Kevin Costner plays Billy, and he may have done better than Field of Dreams, and that was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.