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Saturday, March 09, 2013

Classy

We knew this day would eventually come. Mariano Rivera, the Yankees closer and the greatest of all time, will retire after the upcoming season. Along with 608 saves and a 2.21 ERA, Rivera has saved 42 games in the postseason. And he throws one pitch, a mid-90s cut fastball. Isn't it supposed to help when you know what's coming?

This is a guy who says that God showed him the cutter as he was warming up in the bullpen. It slipped out of his hand or something. He's the quiet leader of the Yankees, even a sort of moral compass. He's the epitome of humility. He's been the best at his position since 1997, and he's still the best on the eve of his final season. He's 43 years old.

They say it's hard to walk away when you're the best. I get the sense that Mariano wants to be the best at something other than baseball. God and family. It's hard to argue when those two cards are played.

The truth is, I haven't seen him play much, but hardly anyone could fail to notice that his name is synonymous with, "You lose." Look at the stats yourself. We're all supposed to hate the Yankees. I get that. But ever since he came, every conversation about it starts, "I hate the Yankees, BUT..." Even if you say, "I hate the Yankees," you mean, "I hate the Yankees, except for Mariano Rivera."

When they wrote all that moral stuff into the Hall of Fame qualifications, they were talking about a guy like this. I completely agree with Wallace Matthews: the vote in 5 years should be unanimous. It won't be, because baseball writers are stupid, but there we are.

Isn't it fitting that this is the guy who will wear Jackie Robinson's number 42 for the last time? Could it be any different? The game still has stories and heroes; don't let anyone tell you differently. I wouldn't mind if he walked off the mound for the last time a champion. Then again, it seems--win or lose--that he'll do just that.

Friday, March 08, 2013

5 Questions

5 Thoughts For You

5. If two men or two women are "married" in the eyes of the State, and the State should recognize that because they "really, really, love each other," then I will marry my dog for the same reason. No, you say? Preposterous, and not consistent with the common good? Looks like you have some explaining to do, not me.

4. Um, if you're so tolerant, why do you swear at me?

3. Yeah, I will eat that Chick-Fil-A. Mockingly. And proudly. But not today. It's Friday in Lent. Some of us aren't governed by unrestrained desire.

2. I have too much to do to sort out all your issues today.

1. I'll pray for you. Over and over. And I'll enjoy it, too.

Offer It Up

I missed a chance yesterday. God was calling me to pray. He knew I was angry. Meanwhile, our friend John is going through some health difficulties of a very serious kind. Other friends took it to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Anyway, it was the perfect chance, even while not being able to make the Holy Hour. And I missed it.

On the one hand, it's stupid to be angry about this. It's over. It's done. And I guess it was my fault. And you can say anything you want about how the words I said really hurt, etc. and how I'm not who you thought (even though that isn't true). But you will never get me to say that I'm a bad person. I can't do it. I know my character. And so, I'm still angry about it.

I think I'm angry in an acceptable way, because I don't wish ill on anyone. Far from it. I hope for everyone the best. Especially if you're here. I really do value whatever time you spend reading my incoherent blatherings. That's truly what they are. Everything I produce on paper concerning God or theology (or anything else) comes by here first. I don't spend a whole lot of time crafting these posts; just what it takes to produce them is all I use. I have self-edited from time to time when I thought something was too caustic or not with a good purpose, but that's as I go.

Anyway, I just thought you should know. On the good side, I didn't miss my chance entirely, because I prayed for John again before I went to sleep. Still, to offer Him my anger and sadness right as I was feeling it would have been better. On yet another hand, I feel it every day, so it's in the offering if I pray even once. I'm sure Jesus loves receiving gifts of anger and frustration, but that's what I have.

I am a person of words. Words are my life. I've given poems as wedding gifts. I would have made a sooner start on writing as a career had I realized it. Honestly, I thought everyone wrote poems and songs when the fancy struck. It doesn't mean you should make it a life. But then, that providential day in the classroom of Dr. Donald Guthrie...He has no idea. We're not Facebook friends, and I didn't tell him. How would I have known? Esther, too, she doesn't know. I digress. [She does now.--ed.]

Words are powerful. Maybe among the most powerful things in the universe. Bob Dylan is a musician. I don't know how good he is (and apparently, people debate this), but I do know he is famous for his words. Reagan? Words. Examples are plentiful. I have hurt others with mine, obviously more than I could realize or understand. I didn't set out to do it, that's the truth. But I have been hurt, too. And in this case, I don't think it's fair that this hurt--my hurt--goes unacknowledged.

O God, I offer You all this--the joy of words, the hurt, the broken friendship, the anger it causes--all for John and his healing. I offer it through Christ, the Prince of Peace, who lives and reigns with You, Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

There Is No Spoon

5 Thoughts For Tonight

5. If I were forced to talk for 13 hours, I would hope it wouldn't be about Barack Obama.

4. Your life and mine in the hands of a squirrely dude named Eric, and a guy that sounds like a holdover from the Johnson Administration. 'Merica.

3. Maybe the Dems are setting up Obama as the beast Rabban, so Hillary can be the "savior" Feyd Rautha.

2. If Rubio wins, I'm totally yelling out, "For he IS the Kwisatz Haderach!"

1. Paul Ryan=Gurney Halleck? [These are all Dune-themed, but the title suggested The Matrix.--ed.] Think trippy Christian-tinged sci-fi.

It's A Weird World Some Days

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Piers Morgan is mind-blowingly stupid.

4. Penn Jillette is my kind of atheist. He's a Leah Libresco-type: honest, unafraid, fair. Which probably means he won't stay an atheist (just like Leah).

3. YOUCAT is awesome. Maybe it should be used for adults. We don't have to tell anyone.

2. The above thought is not meant as a disparagement of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. But this New Evangelization is going to need people to talk in simple words (like YOUCAT).

1. I'm open to hearing more about "distributive justice" as Mother Church means it, but not from smug dudes looking for a justification to vote Democratic.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

What It Means To Be Reformed

I'm Catholic now, in case you haven't figured it out. So my usefulness as any sort of commentator on things Reformed is severely limited. However, there seems to be some debate has to what Reformed theology actually is. Some notable theologians and teachers, like Dr. Anthony Bradley of King's College, New York City, argue that a small band of tribalist Baptists have hijacked the meaning of "Reformed". Offering the pamphlet "What it Means to be Reformed" from Calvin Theological Seminary as an alternative to what he perceives as this tribalism, I read it with interest. I wanted to know if this pamphlet accurately represented what I understood to be Reformed theology. If it does, then it may be used to correct any errors of a more provincial or limited nature with respect to to the scope of Reformed theology. If it does not, then a more credible alternative must be found.

In my opinion, this pamphlet does represent Reformed theology accurately as it was taught to me. This judgment of mine is unaffected by the fact that it was offered by the seminary of another denomination than the one of which I was a part. The Kuyper-influenced Dutch Calvinism represented here was especially resonant in terms of cultural engagement. Moreover, I think it represents accurately other traditions besides its own within Reformed theology. It is not my purpose to critique those who may be responsible for the "hijacking" of Reformed theology. But I thought it might be useful to give my perspective on what I thought the theological problems were with this offering. Obviously, it comes from my current position as a Catholic, and having chosen that ecclesiology over the one I previously held, so it may not be compelling to those in that Reformed tradition. Still, I offer it in charity, and in the hope of eventual reunion.

I have three areas of disagreement with this pamphlet: 1) its ecclesiology; 2) its view of grace; and 3) its view of human freedom.

The ecclesiology of this pamphlet is a restatement of the "branch theory" of ecclesiology. The problem with this is that it must accept the contradictions inherent in affirming each set of de fide doctrines as a part of itself. This in fact weakens each set with respect to the certainty of the dogmas proposed by each, because a person cannot know whether this set of particular dogmas is is in fact true, because the body proposing that set for belief has no more authority than any other body proposing a different set of non-negotiable articles of faith. There is an irreconcilable dilemma in the practice of this ecclesiology, in that the contrary to any dogma currently held can be considered as a valid expression of the faith of the entire "Church" when no one is charged with the task of arbitrating exactly what must be held by the faithful.  In other words, as long as a dogma can be found to have been proposed by another body considered to be within the "family" of the church, that dogma cannot be ruled false. In this way, almost anything can be considered a valid expression of the faith of the "Church," while none is definitive.

Also, if there is an arbiter, it is the individual. Because the ecclesial bodies have been rendered inert by the wider concept of the church that includes all their mutually exclusive opinions, the individual is free to arbitrate precisely what he considers to be the most important and less important aspects of the data proposed for belief.  He does not submit as a matter of course, but provisionally, as the arbiter of the scope and nature of any one body's authority over him. In fact, he is the arbiter of the overall concept to which he allegedly "submits," and in this way, doctrinal variations and their meaning become expressions of the preference of the individual, not disputes to be solved, or outright unacceptable deviations from the faith of the Church of Jesus Christ. All this is the inevitable fruit of Sola Scriptura, and as long as the CRC adheres to it is a principle, then the true nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be known. The reason for this is that the links between the CRC and all other Christians cannot be established with any degree of certainty, nor the faith held in common by all articulated, much less defended. To even attempt this, the CRC would claim an authority that it does not have. By the nature of the case, it has an authority that is derivative and contingent upon the consent of individuals. There is no power for this body to bind anyone to anything it proposes, nor remove from the individual the absolute right to deny what is proposed, and pursuant to that denial, to essentially redefine the "Church," that body's place in it, and the relative value of what it proposes.

Secondly, the pamphlet offers us the Reformed vision of grace. It is the unmerited favor of God, from beginning to end. But what of those who will not accept the gospel, who will not be restored in Christ? Are they not the image of God? They must be. But it cannot be earned, and it is always effectual in bringing about the salvation of the elect. It cannot be refused, because it cannot be accepted. So what is it that demonstrates the dignity of the person and shows the justice of God in judgment of the sinner? Common grace. What's odd about common grace is that it is wholly unrelated to the special grace that saves the elect. It does not potentially issue forth in other graces that lead to salvation; it is not a light or mercy to the damned. It is simply a restraint upon that person who in no way pleases God, in order that God's beloved ones may know that they both were created by God. Among the mysteries here is why this would be called "grace" at all. Of course, because there is no natural goodness in a man, one is constrained within the system to call it "grace." The problem is the conflation of grace and nature in the system, and the third problem, to which we now turn: its view of human freedom.

Frankly, it's appropriate to ask, "What freedom?" Man cannot choose God in this system, and he cannot make himself worthy of help leading to justification. Saving grace, in fact, is not given to everyone. Presumably, the non-elect are damned by their participation in the original sin (and personal sins, which men cannot avoid). We are told that God has mercy on whom he wills, and he hardens whom he wills. But did Christ die for all men? It's pointless to give man back his freedom in sanctification (and not justification) because there is no cost for failing to pursue holiness, if indeed the process of sanctification follows on a true justification, of which man has no part and is rooted in divine election. God cannot threaten terrors on the elect, for he has already pardoned their sins, and cannot undo it. Nor can he punish the same sins twice. Ultimately, they cannot avoid the charge that these views of grace and freedom make God the author of sin.

Other than that, it's a good pamphlet; I wish them luck.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Typing Slow Is Funny

I'm a slow typer. There's a non-JK-is-an-idiot reason for this that you may or may not know. In any case, have you ever been on Facebook when someone posts a status update looking for information? Any reasonable person, even if he doesn't know anything, wants to be helpful. Truthfully, I do this more often than most people, because A) I know lots of stuff about lots of things, and B) I think I do even when I don't.

So there I was, plodding away at my response of middling importance, when suddenly definitive answers came flooding in. And I knew they were right. The most humble thing would be to push the Backspace key on my comment-in-waiting. [But this is you we're talking about.--ed.] Exactly. So I finished what I would have said, and added a humorous aside to the effect that there is no way I'm wasting this effort, no matter how pointless it is. Not to mention that it was The Deb's status, which makes the likelihood of a comment by me a near certainty. After all, no one appreciates self-effacing humorous asides quite like The Deb. [You two could write a book called, "Self-Effacing Humorous Asides For Every Occasion."--ed.] I know, right? We could do an Advanced Self-Deprecation Workbook! Oh, man! I'm getting way too many ideas here!

And another thing, people: When someone gets asked a direct question by someone else in the thread, this is not your time to be Johnny Interruptor, putting your even less relevant two cents in. This just adds annoyance to humiliation for the Slow Typer. Now he has to glance at the 37 comments between the one he saw, and his still not posted response. He's fervently hoping you haven't said anything stupid that will confuse the person with whom he is conversing, or inspired hordes of opinion-jockeys of questionable tact and intelligence.

This is the real reason they allowed us to tag people in posts and comments. It's not so we may be summoned from a faraway place by a pennywhistle and a Zelda cyber-tornado, although that is cool. It's to minimize the damage from stupid people. Think on that.

You never know. Yours truly might be slaving away at greatness, beaten to the punch by some flunkie with faster hands. Oh, well. There are always humorous asides.

I'm Warning You

5 Political Snark-Nuggets For Today

5. It'd be funny if it weren't so sad. Namely, asking yourself, "How will President Obama blame Republicans for his own short-sighted partisan hackery today?"

4. When the Peace President has to go to war with Iran because he's an incompetent negotiator who alienates potential allies in the effort to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, I admit it, my first reaction will be laughter. [You voted for this clown.--ed.] Yeah, well, you couldn't pay me to vote for Senator Happy Trigger from Arizona. Sue me.

3. I wouldn't call the president a socialist. A craven corporatist bribe specialist who pays off his cronies with taxpayer funds? Definitely.

2. Remember when we had a budget?

1. Can we call President Obama the proud head of the Murder Party, or is that too true to be spoken aloud?

Monday, March 04, 2013

Don't Run Into Stuff

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Watch where you are going. No, seriously.

4. Give tax breaks to everyone! That way I don't have to listen to your envious babble on the point.

3. Extortion comes in many forms.

2. I'm not averse to helping people out. Common good, and all that. Isn't it interesting, though? We're getting more starkly utilitarian even as the sanctimonious armies of coerced compassion grow in strength.

1. You know, I'm not a suck-up to the rich and powerful. Money's a tool; you can use it well, or use it badly. But you're right that I admire people who struggle, who've even gone without food for a dream. I don't think we should knock them off the mountaintop when they get there. Just sayin'.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Well, I'm A Feminist Today

Brothers, we need to talk about this. This is what lust is, gentlemen. It's not an innocent little habit, and it's not part of who we are, at least who we are meant to be. I've been guilty of it, lots of times. I get it. I really do understand. Women are beautiful. Most of them, in fact, are pleasing to the eyes. God made us to be drawn to each other as men and women. Sexual sin is about taking for yourself, instead of giving. It's very simple. I'm not going to lecture you, because I know.

I know what it's like to hate yourself somehow, to feel no control. But you want to feel powerful, like you matter. Maybe you're disconnected, like the world has forgotten you. And you want to take something, to have something, anything, that's yours. Believe me, I know this in a special way. So you take. Who will know? It's my mind, and my body. But it's a trap. We'll die. Maybe you're dying right now.

But I realized something in this battle: All I ever wanted was to love, and be loved. I don't really want to be selfish and bitter. God waits to restore us. He gives us His love in Christ no matter what. I'm saying it again: No matter what. That's something we can take and take; He's not stingy. And we will overflow, like it says in Psalm 23. When you live in God's love, you can give of yourself without losing. He shows us that we are special. We are precious. He has never forgotten us. He gave it all for you and me, that we could be His own righteousness, a little reflection of his own character. Do you need a bigger cause than that, fellas?

Remember what it says in Genesis? Adam and Eve were naked, and they were not ashamed. That's what we want: to be totally known, and totally loved. Of course we're sinners. But that same grace of God that leads us out of the darkness calls us into union with a woman in marriage. Or even greater, some other calling, where we have the privilege of knowing and learning the depths of God's love for the sake of others. Again, how's that for a quest? Are you feeling important yet?

After I read the post above, all I wanted to do was cry. I want to say that I'm so sorry for my sins, and all men, my sisters. Pray for us.

It's been really helpful to have friends who are women, even older women, or who are married. People you can feel safe with. They can encourage you, to affirm you without the pressure of sexual desire. They can help you to see that you have something to give. You are not dirt. You are not alone. The goal is to grow in love, in giving.

My sexuality is a gift. It is my most intimate gift of myself. I'm not supposed to give it to myself. It doesn't help, anyway. You probably know that, even if you are struggling to be convinced. You and I don't need "release," we need to give all of ourselves, and know that we have a safe place to be us. That's why sex is for marriage. What good is it, to give our whole selves, including our bodies, and not know whether this person will be there the next day? Isn't that much more frustrating than the sex urge? Well, it is to me. While I wait for what I assume is my vocation to marriage, I want to be a better self, so that when I give myself sexually to my wife, it will be just a part of a really special gift that is me.

By the way, I love to talk to the Blessed Mother about how much I appreciate women. Blessed is she among all women, remember? She understands all these things that draw us men to women. She has all those qualities to the utmost. That's what God's grace did for her, and now she shares! You're right, heathen, Catholic faith is terrible. [sarcasm]

Resistance Is Futile

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Write a song if you feel like it.

4. A letter is better.

3. Play that funky music.

2. "And in that Cheyenne wind, he could still hear her say..."

1. "All the kingdom lights shined, just for me and you."