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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Why I Still Love Reformed University Fellowship

I'm a Catholic, if that isn't obvious. I'm a real Catholic, too, by the way. Not a person who's understanding of the faith is limited, though of course, any of us could stand to deepen our understanding. This means for our purposes here that I actually believe the Council of Trent was and is correct. And despite what you may have heard, the Second Vatican Council is not in essence any different from Trent. Our popes and Councils like to use a phrase "of happy memory" to refer to a predecessor who did something important, and that council is no exception. A good Catholic loves and affirms all the ecumenical councils. Not only is that an obligation we have, but we rejoice to do so. I belabor the point because if any non-Catholic Christians harbor hopes that some teaching of the Church on faith and morals will change, because they have been in dialogue with a Catholic who has a defective morality, faith, or ecclesiology, they stand a good chance of being deceived.

But if you've been paying even a modicum of attention here at Safe Haven, you know that we keep an eye on the ideas that impact the lives of Christians, separated or not, and we like to affirm whatever we can, and discuss the rest. So let's get to it, shall we?

Reformed University Fellowship changed my life. They nurtured my new faith at a time when it could have been destroyed. Most of the people I count as my closest friends, I met through RUF. I wouldn't trade that time for anything, unless Jesus asked me to. I have to say it that strongly. I cannot affirm Reformed theology on the whole; I think some of it is even actively harmful to communion with God. But I'm not messing with you when I say that God used it, and He's using it right now. Lumen Gentium, 8 is not a concession; it is not a grudging acknowledgment; it is in fact a recognition of the power of Christ. If those elements of sanctification and truth outside the Catholic and apostolic Church were not real, there would be little point in hoping that we all were impelled toward greater unity. Truth binds and unites; He demands that those who find Him do the same, pouring themselves out in the effort. It is not opposed to the teaching of the Church and its claim to be the true home for the children of God; indeed, if there is but one God, the self-understanding of His own Church could not oppose Him.

I love RUF. I love it because it gives every person the tools to love God with all that he or she is. As I said, they don't have all the tools that exist; any one thought you may hear might be contrary to the truth in Christ, but what they have, they give. More than this, there has been much thought about what serves to give people a real encounter with Christ, and largely, they do those things.

The three main elements that make it work are:

1. Small group Bible studies--If you want to make disciples, put the Bible in front of them and make them read it. Jim Gaffigan made a joke about not needing to read the Bible, because he's Catholic. It was hilarious. It was also sadly true. Which is stupid, because...IT'S OUR BIBLE!!! That's right, I said it. Because it's true. We have to restore the place of the Scriptures in the hearts and lives of Catholics. There's more of the Bible in our liturgies than in other communities, anyway. The whole thing is truly bizarre.

2. Student leadership--We had a campus minister, but most things were student-led. Just naturally, this makes people take ownership of their faith, whether they learned it at home or not.

3. Singing--I still can't get the songs out of my head and heart. I happily defer to the Church if theological adjustments need to be made, but to a generation buffeted by the theological dumbing-down of the evangelical subculture, RUF's conscious choice to draw content from older hymns while splitting the middle musically changed me forever. It was a gateway to traditional music; when I heard traditional music in church married to the content I already knew, my attitude on what was proper changed irrevocably. Those of you for whom "Marty Haugen" is a swear-word need to get over yourselves. First of all, he's an actual person that God loves! Oops, forgot that, eh? Don't hear what I'm not saying, as Captain Jack would say. Just because it's not proper for Mass doesn't mean we can't use it somehow. If you need to re-write it, do it. Tell the young people we're going to be a little "traditional" and split the middle anyway. IT WORKS! If you do it right, they'll be lovers of Gregorian chant (like we're supposed to be) without being snobbish about it.

Bonus: I don't remember much in particular about what those men said, but who they were, we remembered. You need to find people, clerical or lay, who know they live by God's mercy and grace, but who are nonetheless worthy of being emulated. I'm sure FOCUS does everything I've said already, but just in case, here you go.

P.S. Our Bible studies had been segregated by sex. I can understand why a person would view that as puritanical and unhealthy, but it helped me feel safe and comfortable. There are some things you don't want the "other side" to know. Just trust me on this.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Geez, That Fred Guy

...is kind of a pain. Get out of here with your alarmingly sensible papist reasonings from the Scriptures! Dude, I was kind of like a young woman, who finds that young man "kind of annoying," but her friends know she's in denial. I could see that all the Scriptures made sense with what Trent was basically saying,--I know, try not to die--but I fought it. I fought in stages:

1. "You're wrong!" Phase: I was utterly thwarted by two things: 1) I am in fact not the end-all, be-all, know-it-all from the Scriptures, talented as I may be, which necessitates a reasonably humble person to ask his community, which led to the second problem, which was 2) these obnoxious papists dared to say that my community did not have authority in the first place! Actually, the first problem blended with the second problem, because the hermeneutical pluralism in evidence should convince even the proudest fool that he doesn't have the hermeneutical magic bullet that everyone else trying their best somehow missed. The Noltie Conundrum, indeed. In other words, most Protestant theologies retain a plausibility that choosing between them with anything stronger than personal preference is a fool's errand. Once you feel the force of this, I don't blame you if you're tempted with atheism.

2. "We're all united in what actually matters" Phase: This one I spent the shortest time in, because I bloody knew this wasn't actually true. The passion with which a Protestant of any flavor can argue with another Protestant of any flavor--and in good will, most times--will cure you of this feeble defense. We're not united. We never were. Let's give our respective forefathers that much: We don't get that passionate about floral arrangements. But if you believe God said a thing, (and not another thing) I don't blame you for getting passionate.

3. "I don't know why I believe what I believe, but I know I believe it" Phase: You can't spend long here, unless you are a lazy fideist. Christian faith has reasons; it always has. Particular iterations of Christian faith have reasons, too. But of course, I can't guarantee that every iteration has good reasons.

4. "Alright, cards on the table" Phase: This is the comparison phase. Asking whomever, "Why this, not that?" Frankly, most people can't even do this part. All of us have those emotional attachments that at least have the potential to make any decisions completely irrational. If Aunt Dorothy taught you the Bible when you were 3, you might get touchy about someone saying Aunt Dorothy is doing it wrong, as it were. But you've got to remind yourself that there is only one God, and it's to Him you owe ultimate allegiance.

5. "Swear-words, this actually makes sense" Phase: You can see why a person might actually believe this  Catholic stuff, and not in a smarmy, Protestant, "Well, they just haven't heard the gospel" way, either.

6. "If I don't do it, I'm betraying myself and God" Phase: If you get down here, just do it. Luther was right about one thing: Going against conscience is never right, or safe. At least we know he was paying attention in Moral Theology class. It is actually a mercy from God to have doubts about something false.

I had two basic presumptions, all the way through: The Presumption of Continuity, AKA God's Faithfulness, that is, there has to be a way to discern truth from falsehood, and marks of God's footprints that were not arbitrary, self-serving, or random. And secondly, The Presumption of Return. Or, "Tie Goes To Rome." That is, if Protestants and Catholics agree, or I'm not utterly convinced of the opposite position, it would not be reasonable to be separate on a coin-flip. The most interesting fruit from the first presumption is discovering the visible Church. The fruit of the second, I almost hate to say, is that the biblical evidence for Sola Fide is, at best, a coin-flip. I hate it when that happens.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

TD Jakes Is An Anomaly...But An Inevitable One

Sure, he didn't fully embrace "historic" Christological orthodoxy, but he's just doing what a good Protestant should do: Wondering aloud just what is so "historic" about that particular interpretation. He's not bound to it, any more than you have bound yourself to the dogmatic conclusions of the Council of Trent. Oops. I'm seriously not messing with you when I say things like, "There is an irreconcilable conflict between the fundamental principle of the Reformation, and the imposition of ecclesiastical authority." If you want an "historic" faith, you are bound to those means by which it became the historic, true, and universal faith. When it's all said and done, you're either an atheist, or a child of the Catholic Church. Man alive, that is scary business! But it's enlivening, too.

Love Your Children

From the "Why Isn't This Obvious?" Department.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

5 Thoughts For Today

5. It's really the illegal wars that are galling, sir, not your peacenik rhetoric.

4. Once more, it doesn't bother me per se that Hagel is "anti-Israel"; it bothers me more that he is too cowardly to defend views he clearly holds.

3. Yes, I called a veteran a coward; deal with it.

2. We do actually deserve the truth about Benghazi.

1. President Obama has made several mistakes in personnel; Samantha Power is not one of them.

I'm Sorry, But...

5. The Office just isn't funny.

4. Actually, NBC in general isn't funny.

3. I have to like the characters who make me laugh. I don't know who decided Awkward Funny was the way to go, but he was wrong.

2. Jim Gaffigan is funny. Notice how similar he is to Cosby in subject matter.

1. Every time you say, "faith alone," a kitten dies.

[Rant] I have to believe that absurd characters we like to make fun of is a reflection of being very damaged, and reaching out for someone worse off than we are. We don't want anyone to know that is us. We're "ironic" because being real would hurt too much, or so we think. You forget that suffering and joy aren't very far apart. The deeper you cry, the deeper you laugh. Have you ever wondered why Robin Williams is so funny? I don't wonder; I know. He has suffered and endured. This is why he started doing serious films and family films, and it's worked so brilliantly.

The love of God makes us free to laugh at ourselves; the love of self makes us laugh at others.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Define Your Terms, Part 9000

Politics is about power. We need to frankly acknowledge this. This sphere of human life is about the acquisition of power for oneself or others. It need not be a negative; it may often be necessary, and depending on the ends and the means, even conducive to the good of all. If you align yourself with a political movement, you align yourself not only with the ends of that movement, but with the means of its achievement.

Feminism is a political movement. It has transparently secular ends, for one thing. And what is the end of feminism or feminisms? The replacement of a perceived patriarchy with a matriarchy. It is women in power over men. It isn't hard to find or see. If we forget that all political movements are about power, we can easily delude ourselves, aligning ourselves with various secondary effects, or in opposition to numerous injustices against women. But if we say we are feminists, we get more than we likely intend. There is no doubt of it.

Don't say, "I'm a feminist" when you mean, "I intend to affirm the full personhood and dignity of women, in opposition to x, y, and z." Feminism does not aim to achieve harmony or balance; it aims to achieve power and dominance over men. This is the frank reason why heterosexual feminist women struggle to find husbands, or whatever we are calling it now. And this is why the men of those feminists are weak; it's a power relationship, and they've chosen to submit. Submission is not inherently bad, but if one submits to a poor leader, or for an end that is degrading to one's dignity, it's obvious. And that's why women who are not entirely intent on dominating men end up resenting those men.

Camille Paglia is on her way to being something other than a feminist, if she hasn't been exiled already, because she is beginning to see that its goals are not desirable. Would it be that we all did!

Mr. Lim, For The Win!

I hate it when that happens.

Pro-Life.

That's my kind of liberalism, brethren.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Dude, It's Cold

5. Stay inside!

4. The precipitation may not be too bad, but look out, New England! This monster is coming for you!

3. I will happily teach Catechism in the Bahamas, Father.

2. Speaking of New England, Tom Brady is so hot right now. Tom Brady.

1. Alright, I'm coming out of my Patriots closet: I root for the Patriots when the Rams aren't involved. Sue me. Excursus to follow. Camera 3. [turns]

[Rant] Look, people. I get it. The Patriots are evil. They've been consistently great since 2001, and it's obnoxious. They won 3 Super Bowls, and lost in 2 others. Then, they cheated by videotaping other teams when they practice. That didn't help the rep. Fair enough. But I love what they do. They collect players other teams gave up on, and they turn them into champions. Even the year they missed the playoffs by some stupid fluke, they won 11 of their 16 games, without Tom Brady, who'd blown out his knee. Are you seeing this? Do you remember when they were the underdogs in 2001? I do. I'm from St. Louis; how could I forget? I was so upset about it, I named my fantasy team "Death to the Patriots!" But I know excellence when I see it.

On the other hand, they are not sentimental; they are ruthless in personnel decisions; if you become a star playing for New England, you will not be rewarded. They believe they can replace any player, and they've done it, over and over. It's really hard not to admire what they do. I'm supposed to hate them? Why? Because they win? I wish other teams feared the Rams; we had a good 3 year run there, but we caught lightning in a bottle; it's not a culture of excellence yet. Not like the Patriots. Maybe they will fall off when Brady or Coach Belichick retire, but I wouldn't bet on it. I know what it's like when whole generations of fans get used to winning; like I said, I'm from St. Louis. Once it happens, it changes a whole sports city. Boston and surrounding locales will never again watch a dreadfully bad Patriots team, unless it were to fall into the hands of buffoons. A bad year here or there? Maybe. The butt of jokes? Not on your life.

I'm a contrarian; if you tell me that all decent people do x, I'm going to wonder what the decent people are missing out on. I like the Patriots; I'm sorry. But not.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

5 More Piquant Thoughts

5. It's not hard. Freedom means being able to do what you will within the commands of the gospel. If my weaker brother asks me not to eat or drink for his sake, his needs are greater than my freedom. I've done this a million times. If you struggle with a sin in some area, you are not as free as the man who doesn't. You are bound by the chains of the gospel, even if another finds your self-imposed restrictions limiting for him. He cannot tell you to adopt his standard if this would harm you, and you can't judge him for his, either. We've got to back each other up in our mutual pursuit of holiness. This is charity, and this is what St. Paul was getting at. I think some of you in regard to drinking give cautions to other Christians in order to protect weaker brothers, but the truth is, you actually are that weaker brother. If you believe a brother or sister has sinned, tell him or her. There is no need for general "cautions." The strong Christian worries about himself, primarily, and not what others might do. (And I do not like to make subjective anecdotal statements relating to the alleged superiority of Catholicism, but if I did, food and drink would be at the top of that list. We're just healthier about these things; we don't bother people about those judgment call kind of things.

4. The Catechism is for all of us, of course, but did you know it was envisioned as kind of like Cliff's Notes for the bishops? Maybe some American bishops are not as good as they could be simply because they have not read it consistently, or they think they're too good for the basics. Pope Francis is who he is because he's never thought he was too good to go back to the beginning. Maybe the life of continual conversion is really just getting better and better at the basics. Whoa. Stew on that for awhile.

3. Yes, in fact, I unreservedly love Pope Francis. Let the books be written long after he has left us. We can see he loves Christ and the Church; let us remember that we have endured far worse, despite whatever quibbles we might have. I'll take "Borgia Popes" for $1000, Alex.

2. You might want to properly define semi-Pelagianism before you go tossing it around. I have no trouble at least imagining that the Catholic view of salvation ascribes too much to human ability; it is not the fact of co-operation that makes Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism false; it is rather the basic contention that man is able to make the first move on the supernatural level without grace. There is a 92.4% chance you've gotten this wrong if you are a Calvinist. I did it, too. Everyone together: "The Catholic Church believes salvation is ever and always by God's grace." You don't have to like the system, but there ain't Pelagius anywhere in it. Trust me, I looked.

1. No, seriously. Someone stole our antiphons, and it's no longer amusing.