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Friday, January 25, 2013

5 Thoughts For Today

5 Thoughts For Today

5. The Braves made a huge mistake, trading Martin Prado to the Diamondbacks for Justin Upton. The Upton brothers are not that good, and you're just doubling the disappointment.

4. At the risk of sounding like the Church Lady again, I don't think Danica Patrick realizes or cares that she's still married in the eyes of God. And fornication is still a sin, even if she wasn't. [Maybe she's not, you know...--ed.] Fat chance. I do suppose all these "remarried" Protestants will eventually pose a problem, a conundrum, if you will. [Well, you can't stop divorced Catholics from "remarrying" and having sex.--ed.] Touche. Lord, have mercy!

3. I think Love moves in small ways. God is like a father beckoning us to get in the pool. He won't let us drown. How stupid is it to run the other way? [You hate water.--ed.] Just go with the metaphor, OK?

2. Hey young evangelicals: If you're so 'prophetic' into this political culture, why are you so predictably liberal? Fine, Christ and Pop Culture, I'm calling you out. #notmoderate #notashamed #Santorum.

1. Just so we're clear, I don't see any conflict in being a proud NRA member and a Christian. Just because I may choose to exercise a right (or not) you think is icky or scary. [You haven't paid dues.--ed.] True. I will later, though.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Brokenness" As Decadence

I called Anne Lamott a "decadent snob," and I didn't feel bad about it. Well, I sort of do. I don't know Anne Lamott. I've only read parts of several of her books. I had to stop "A Severe Mercy," because it seemed...gratuitous. Calvinism has this weird influence on everything; we give each other spiritual points for being more messed up. It's supposed to make God seem greater. After all, he did say, "He who has been forgiven little loves little, but he who has been forgiven much, loves much." On the other hand, isn't God glorified by our obedience and our transformation into Him?

The people who blather on publicly about how "broken" they are [Warning: I'm about to generalize, probably unfairly.] have either A) figured out that it gains them some currency to do it; or B) are burned out from trying so hard. The first group is presumptuous, and the second is proud. The whole cursed thing is Pelagian. And that's ironic.

 The glorious thing about auricular confession is that only Christ (essentially) hears how stupid you are. That real guy on the other end may cause me to shrink back in shame, but upon reflection, I'm just as likely to hide from myself as I would him. A benefit is not having to construct a cottage industry of excessive self-deprecation.

I'd probably relax and tip a few more back too, if I knew (or believed) God saw Christ instead of me. On the other hand, if I believed that justification was entirely the work of God to the exclusion of myself, while sanctification was under my power (though not exclusively), that would be terrifying, especially in the absence of efficacious signs. I'd give up, in light of the fact that God's warnings are an empty threat, if this is true. Pursuing sanctification in this way is like going on a scavenger hunt at night in a rainstorm for something you already have.

I guess that is to say I have sympathy with the Reformed libertines; they see the implications of monergism most clearly, and apply them consistently.

Which is not to say that I'm sypathetic to libertinism. But it is to say that a theology of sanctification that respects both reality and reason leads out of Reformed theology and into the Catholic Church.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Leonard Cohen & "Hallelujah"

In one sense, I love the song. It's a song written by a real guy living a real life. Like the Incarnation itself, it's as if the spiritual sensibilities of the song quietly invade a very broken life. What good is redemption if we don't the see the depth of our need?

Moreover, we're not going to win any prizes pretending to be spiritual when we're not, or at least pretending to be better than we are. Cohen doesn't waste any time attempting to convince he's the pope.

And there is some mysterious relation between sex and God that deserves exploration, not sweeping under a rug. The reason Billy Joel says, "I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints/The sinners are much more fun" is that it's kinda true. It's not actual saints that are boring, it's that we all have the fear that loving God will be quite a boring affair, and the things of this world have an allure. If they didn't, they wouldn't be good. The rest of the world tells us, "Lighten up!" and for a few of us, they have a point.

Stop hyper-spiritualizing everything, jackwagon.

BUT...I hate this song. Every hipster and moody, artsy-fartsy melancholic from here to UC-Berkeley uses this song as proof that they are Serious and Spiritual and Deep when they are nothing of the sort. And remember how we talked about domesticating God earlier this week? Another way to do it is to imagine he hangs out in coffee bars and went to NYU and is obviously cool. Wait, isn't God the Judge of the entire universe? Um, I won't presume I have a ticket to the heavenly city, but I know the things that won't get us there. Like fornication and lust and drunkenness, and spending your extra cash on Jeff Buckley albums when people need your help. I repeat myself, and I digress.

The thing about pop culture and celebrity culture is that it worships at an altar called Real or Gritty or something, but no one involved has any idea what that is. As long as you're notable for something, apparently we should listen to you. Did you notice how it lionizes people who die, no matter how they died? You could be an uber-selfish narcissist who destroyed your family and self with drugs and who knows what else, but as long as some critic thinks you're "groundbreaking," it's cool. WHAT?! No. If I sound like the Church Lady, I don't care. This life matters. God is certainly Love and Mercy, but he doesn't miss anything. A lot of good having the Greatest Album Ever will do you if you are in Hell.

It sorta makes me want to watch Rick Santorum speeches while drinking craft beer.

I Dreamed A Dream

I keep having the same dream. A dream about reconciliation. [You mean Reconciliation?--ed.] No. Besides, that's an ever-present reality. I dream that one day, a wound will be healed. It must be a powerful desire, because this is the sixth time I've had the dream.

As if by some divine comedic coincidence, the theme for this day is reconciliation and reunification. I pray that it will occur. Though I cannot say for certain that I feel ready, and filled with enough grace to facilitate it, I pray for this, also.

That Barrett guy is at it again. We were colleagues at seminary for a brief time, and I've become a friend of the family. I envy him, the clear way that he thinks and the dispassionate way he makes an argument. You can get under my skin. I think less clearly when I'm angry or upset. Turner? Good luck. He's like a Vulcan or something.

What I find most insidious about the prevailing flavor of the Protestant hermeneutical paradigm (HP) is that there are no "barriers" to be overcome at all. Our visible separations from one another are a curiosity, not a scandal. A far cry from even Barth, who had a rare moment of lucidity in rejecting this nonsense as the relativism it is.

If ecumenism is to be productive, relativism in all its forms must be rejected. We must move beyond appreciation of theological particulars we do not share, we must move beyond warm affirmations, as though these are the end we seek. I myself and the Catholic Church generally already believes that the Holy Spirit is powerfully at work in those separated from the Church. By baptism, these Christians have a real but imperfect communion with the Church. No one has ever said that no one outside the confines of the Church has said anything true concerning the gospel. Were that the case, we would have very little to talk about. I'm getting off the track.

If we reject the relativistic conception of the Protestant HP, a question arises within the paradigm: by what means do I ascertain the truth about God? Exactly what purpose does ecclesiastical authority serve? We agree together that the church's authority is not absolute, nor free from error. But we also agree that my interpretation of the Bible is similarly provisional. That is not to say of course that the processes employed have no value. But it is problematic on the face of it for figuring out why, or rather, how, we believe what we do.

Adding in the scads of other communities doing the same thing, laboring under the same terms with the same questions, and you have a full-blown crisis, if anyone cares to notice. People are dropping out of church everywhere. Either wherever they are doesn't "work for them," or they are disgusted, because no one cares about the truth.

If you would like to shoot the messenger because I'm Catholic, fine. But I'm an idiot; if I saw the problem, I won't be the last. I don't necessarily need or want to convince you that the Catholic HP is better at this time. If I had but one apologetic point to make, it would be that, if I had a choice between knowing nothing, and knowing what the Catholic Church teaches, I'll be Catholic. Ultimately, we're talking about nihilism versus Christianity, not about particulars, in the end. On the other hand, if we want to know what those particulars are, and how to find them, well, "Vizzini told me to go back to the beginning..." Ahem.

If denominations are simply social clubs that codify personal theological preference, then I suggest we have done a horrible thing to the world. But if they are instead communities of people committed in each case to the truth of the gospel as they understand it, and as it has been transmitted to them, then the authority and ability of those communities to define and transmit truth necessarily comes under scrutiny. This is precisely why history is of such vital importance.

But it goes without saying that we cannot long for unity, and actively prevent it at the same time. Certainly we should reject any ecumenism that does not aim at reunion. Those who do not even desire visible unity cheapen the convictions of those who separated in the first place, and the convictions of those who remain separate from one another in conscience. Because those communities were formed to guard truth, not to add color. It's time to kill the false ecumenism, no matter how good it sounds. On the other hand, how can one guard the sacred deposit without divine protection?

To look at history and inquire concerning legitimate authority is actually to ask, "Are my convictions well-founded? Are we the faithful continuance of the Church Christ founded?"

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Your Kiss Is On My List

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Write a song.

4. Pray a prayer.

3. Listen to Beethoven for 3 hours just to be hardcore.

2. Eat spaghetti with sauce, and some with only butter, in case someone says you shouldn't.

1. Stop killing your children.

I'm Not A Libertarian

I'm announcing it, in case there was a doubt. Andrew Preslar has given me some things to think about via Ed Feser. I'll keep it basic, because I have a basic brain. Not everything the state does is theft. Indeed, the very notion of constitutionally-limited government presupposes that within those limits is the government's legitimate function. To what end? The common good. And what is that? It is at least the conditions necessary for each person to attain his end, first natural, then supernatural.

I realized what was happening in my thinking over these past years when I thought of the welfare state itself, how it began as a great spasm of compassion for the less fortunate, how its very existence is the measure of self-worth for the progressive. And the great insight, the great truth that emerges from its creation and reflection upon this creation is that the government exists for the people. Yet we are individuals; we are self-aware as individuals; something of those inalienable dignities--that unique dignity--becomes real only in the individual.

One of our great sins in our work of compassion is that we haven't cared whether our great concepts of justice and equality are realized in the individual. It is enough that they are held up as desirable. We dare not even look at those policies in action, these monuments to failure. For too long, they have been nothing more than expressions of our own self-regard. Medicare and Social Security are hailed as great successes, but if we fail to address what is mainly a demographic problem and a problem of misaligned incentives because it is easier to attack those who point out the problem as monsters who hate the weak and needy, we are unworthy of our grand vision. What sort of liberals are we if we allow disaster to happen to spite our political adversaries?

I realize that I'm not the kind of conservative that wants to re-make society. I just want someone to acknowledge reality. As they say, something that can't go on forever, won't. We are not a country without a safety net, nor should we be. But anything that does not serve the cause of self-determination--for those in need, or the rest of us--needs radical reforming or to be discarded.

If we believe there is genius and real innovation in the American people, let them take some part of what the government takes from them in Social Security taxes, (as one example) and see what they can do. We certainly can't do worse. Do we believe in self-determination, or buying votes?

That's what this whole thing is about: self-determination. "Free markets" and "smaller government" are just cheap slogans if we don't subordinate them to our real end, and explain why it matters. Some of us have been drawn to philosophies of radical autonomy because the government is such an overbearing threat to our self-determination. Indeed, it is so omnipresent that its influence is courted and bought by the largest firms in every industry and sector of the American economy. At once it thwarts meaningful economic participation for those at the margins, and distorts and even destroys mutually beneficial economic partnerships already formed. And prevents new partnerships from forming. This is not free enterprise; it is corporatism. And the vile philosophy of socialism feeds off the injustice it creates.

And economic freedom is an expression and a means to achieve holistic self-determination. We must reject everything that is rooted in radical autonomy or collectivism. We have ends greater than ourselves, but neither do they terminate in the State.

Monday, January 21, 2013

This God-Talk Is Creeping Me Out

Sports is and always has been fertile ground for exaggeration and ill-considered sentiment, but we have hit a wall. Last night, Ray Lewis said when asked about the Baltimore Ravens' shocking victory over the Borg Collective also known as the New England Patriots, "No weapon formed against this team shall prosper." Later he exclaimed, "God is amazing!" I agree. But would he be less amazing if they had lost? Please tell us how your team winning is obviously fundamental to the saving purposes of God in Jesus Christ.

What should the losing teams say? Are they forsaken? You know, what's truly insidious about our culture and our nation is that we're very spiritual after a fashion, but it bears no relation to reality. Religosity is an affectation, like a piece of jewlery. The reason I don't want to fight in the War On Christmas is that I don't want God any further domesticated than he is, or rather, I don't want to participate in our feeble attempts to do so.

America's god endorses whatever you want to do anyway. America's god doesn't ask anything of you. America's god is pleased with the killing of children, whether in the womb or out of it. America's god exists to make you happy. America's god makes no judgments, unless you do.

I don't care anymore. Or I don't want to.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Stan The Man

You probably have heard that Stan has gone to his rest now. You can look up his dizzying statistics if it suits you; there is no need for me to do that here. The chase is this: Musial is one of the 5 best to ever play the game of baseball.

But I want to tell you about the time I met Stan. I was 12 years old. He came to a park near my house. Of course the autographs were free. He smiled at me, shook my hand, and signed my ball in blue pen. Being a baseball fan is a lot like being Catholic; there's a great Tradition that you become aware of, names you speak in reverence, and a whole host of other things. But if someone else gave it to you, you take it for granted. I took that day for granted. Wherever that ball is, it reminds me to slow down, to understand, to live the moments again. So many things become greater upon reflection.

I never will erase that smile from my memory. Everything that has been said about him as a man must be true, because the smile lingers in my head. You don't run into people often who truly enjoy living as much as he must have. I can only imagine that he smiles even bigger now, savoring eternal joy befitting a life well lived.

It seems weird, when you come to your first Cardinals game, and kids all of 10 years old are talking about a guy who played in the big leagues as a rookie in 1941. But you have to understand us here in the Gateway City; baseball is more than just our favorite sport; it binds us together in ways that trouble our pastors. It does have an oddly religious character here. We tell each other stories of men we never saw, because the ones we do see simply carry forward what was done before. Our joy is theirs, we owe it to them not to forget.

Stan understood from the beginning what it was like here. The connection between the team and its fans in this place, I still say, is different. He lived his life as a player, as a man, and an ambassador for baseball in such a way that we knew he understood.

Some people say that the movie "Field Of Dreams" is too sentimental, too reverential to fallible men who play and watch this game. There have always been dark secrets hiding in the closets of this game and the people who make it, they tell us. Well and good.

But Stan was the living refutation of all that. He was a living monument "to all that once was good, and could be again." And he knew the weight of that, the responsibility, and he bore it easily, with joy. He was the embodiment of the past we strive to remember. When they came out with the, "Play Like A Cardinal" tag line, it means, "Play like Musial." And when you're done, remember that this is more than a game to us. Treat it with respect. Treat us with respect.

Say what you will about the free agent departure of Albert Pujols; he understood. Only he knows what the money meant, and if it was necessary. But he knew he had to shoot down all the "El Hombre" talk as quickly as possible. There can only be one in this town who is "The Man." Maybe that was it. Either he knew he couldn't fill such lofty shoes, or it was wrong to try.

There were those who hit more home runs, who had a higher batting average, and so on. But Stan gave us permission to love the game, to enjoy it, and to do it without hesitation. There are still heroes in baseball, and he set about proving it long after his last game in 1963. That's why he's Stan The Man.