Saturday, October 25, 2003

I read the first eight chapters of Ezekiel. Wow. You see a lot of idolatry today that goes unpunished, but not unnoticed. God's mercy in wrath is pretty evident as well, as he commands Ezekiel warn those he preaches to that they should repent. He really does want to show mercy, and it seems there God will stay his hand at the smallest obedience. That should not be lost as you read of the Lord's wrath. Also see Habakkuk 3:2.
Speaking of Glenn Reynolds, go to Instapundit. You'll find engaging commentary on all the issues of the day, replete with links to the actual articles. You'll find Instapundit among my links on the right of this page. If you find generally libertarian thought repulsive, (like you're a socialist liberal hippie) you won't like him. But everybody else likes him. And you should too!

Friday, October 24, 2003

Phil, your believer's bias is showing, but I love you for it. What great fun that was. We'll see if Miser Callahan likes this one better than the last. As Glenn Reynolds would say, read the whole thing.
Here's what I've been working on in its unabridged form:

Philip Jenkins’ work is a compelling starting point for studying the crisis in the Catholic Church. The book does an excellent job showing the social construction of the problem, giving a sloppy and uncritical media a central role in that construction. However, Jenkins has failed to demonstrate the relevance of the “anti-Catholic” or anticlerical tradition. There two reasons why this is so: One’s classification of anti-Catholic is entirely dependent on perspective. One would have to hold the position of the conservative bishops consistently and unwaveringly to make the charge stick. Secondly, the generally positive portrayal of Catholic religious practices and clergy in the mid-20th century until the emergence of the scandal in the 70s and 80s makes the claim that anti-Catholicism is on the rise tenuous, as this gives powerful evidence of assimilation. Thus, revising Jenkins on this point leaves us with an even better picture of the story than he painted.
The most striking fact about the criticism of the Catholic Church in the face of sex abuse is that most of the coordinated and influential indictments of the church have come from Catholics. From Faithful Voice, to Voice of the Faithful, to the National Catholic Reporter, the outrage from within was deafening. The reaction of bishops and the Vatican proves that the anti-clerical, anti-Catholic rhetoric is a sideshow for certain elements (like Greeley and the media) and had little significant impact on the actions of leadership. As Jenkins admits on page 53,

Although the [media] coverage may appear reflect to popular anti-Catholic
and anticlerical sentiment, in reality it owed far more to the political
interests of the activists and groups who used the media to project
their particular interpretations of the putative crisis.

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a sweeping, tougher plan for dealing with abusive priests that was in turn approved by the Vatican. The conference in 2003 was carried on EWTN (a Catholic cable network). The fact that the position of lay ministers was on the agenda shows how far those lay groups had come to being an active agent of accountability. It would be hard for even the most conservative elements to claim that all those lay Catholics were disloyal, especially since they used the media (rather than being used). It might be legitimate in the past to claim Catholics were misled by a biased media, but those laypersons wielded the media weapon very effectively. Many of these Catholic lay groups also framed their calls for reform in religious terms, claiming and reaffirming their position in the Catholic Church by appealing to the church as the body of Christ, and positioning themselves as loyal members of that body. In so doing, they could diffuse any claim that the criticism was from without, by an ignorant enemy. The increasing power of Catholic laity could be described as a revolt, one that conservative bishops could not quell by blaming popular anti-Catholicism. The vast array of people demanding change were by no means monolithic, and so those demands reached critical mass. If the demand for change came from within, what is the relevance of anti-Catholic history?
The relatively calm period between 1930 through the mid-1970s seems to downplay the importance of anti-Catholicism as a force in the sex abuse situation. Favorable movies and books appeared, which Jenkins contextualized, and crystallized this way:

Before the 1970s, American cinema seldom portrayed a priest
in anything other than a heroic or saintly guise….[which] cul-
minated with John Ford’s The Fugitive….(58)

Also in this period, the Catholic Church had considerable authority to ban those things in popular culture it found objectionable, as evidenced by this boast:

There were in the course of the year sporadic slurs upon
the Catholic church across the country. In at least one
instance the offending publication was a secular college
paper. The Government found it necessary to ban certain
issues of these publications from the mails. (59)

The proliferation of positive representation, and the power to censor bad representation can be summarized in one word: assimilation. The assimilation of Catholics into mainstream society is a big factor in proving a dilution and irrelevance of anti-Catholicism in the debate about sexual abuse. Why? Because the emergence of the scandal occurred post-assimilation. Since non-assimilation fuels bigotry of this sort, how can we blame anti-Catholicism as a serious factor in the scandal’s salience? Somewhat defensively, Jenkins turns to the discussion of the scandals involving other denominations at the end of chapter three, weakening his case by speaking approvingly of Greeley’s statistics on the matter. He criticizes the media for not blowing up the scandal in the same manner as was done with the Catholic Church, ignoring the possibility that decentralized power, and an already powerful laity might help most Protestants in keeping scandals out of the media gaze. Indeed, if his distinction between “sin” and “crime” is valid, it might explain why Protestant churches felt less tension with society at large. Decentralized power means a willingness to interact with civil authorities. Part of the media’s involvement was a result of Catholic reticence to deal with civil authorities. Therefore, his church-sect and sin-crime formulations negate his points dealing with anti-Catholicism.
In conclusion, Jenkins’ analysis grossly overstates anti-Catholicism and anticlericalism. The media propagates those falsehoods out of sloppiness, not anti-Catholic bias. And by Jenkins’ own admission, the Catholic laity wielded the media very powerfully in stating its case. All the laity cannot be dismissed as having an agenda wholly antithetical to the hierarchy. Thus, with the impetus for change coming from within, this dilutes the anti-Catholic claim. The increasing power of Catholic laity was the prime mover in getting Church concessions, and the reason why the bishops could not rely on the long history of anti-Catholicism to resist change. Catholic assimilation into the larger society casts more doubt on the relevance of anti-Catholicism in the contemporary debate, since the scandal came to light after assimilation, by and large. By failing to account for an enormously powerful laity in most Protestant cases, Jenkins falls back on the history of anti-Catholicism to account for lack of media interest. Another aspect of the Protestant avoidance of media scrutiny was their openness to civil authorities, something that is relatively new for Catholicism, and mitigates claims of anti-Catholic bias. Even so, his work is a good starting point for this compelling issue.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Just so everyone understands, we did not study God's Word this past Wednesday, in light of Cubs-Marlins Game 7. Wholehearted sympathies go out to our own Cubs fan Brian Miller, and millions of his compatriots worldwide. I do think the Marlins represent the National League's best chance to win. Also, I do not have questions for the first five verses of Colossians 2. I was on a vacation of sorts, and my compatriot Christopher Yee composed the questions for that week. I'll simply post his questions. Fear not, loyal Safe Haven reader, you are in capable hands. I know there's only one of you, and you're teetering on the edge of leaving anyway. I wouldn't read this blog. Jason Kettinger's not all that interesting. He's probably choking on a mix of Coke, (the Best Soda Ever) and belligerent comments. Yes, he owns a bit of a temper, but some people deserve it, he says. For example, why would you build any political philosophy trusting a two-bit OPEC kingpin over the US President? EVER? Give me back the adulterous, dishonest, slimy Bill Clinton every single day, and twice on Sunday over some sheik who wants to make our gas prices 17 bucks a gallon. Oh, the poor sheiks don't like our "unilateralism"! Too stinkin' bad, I say. You get international peace acclaim by facilitating the decline of your nation, I guess. (Jimmy Carter, looking in your hapless, ill-informed direction.) If a head of state (who just ordered a beheading 'cause some guy tried to watch "The Price is Right") doesn't like my foreign policy, I've done a good deed. I hope Omar Im-kinda-Evil is nervous, too. I'm not going to stop by for tea, that's for sure. This Christian blog just got strangely political. Sorry. And don't call me a neoconservative.
Welcome to another week of Colossians. Here’s 2:6-23.

How do we receive Christ?

What does it mean for us to walk in him? (Christ) What kind of life will we lead?

What is the meaning of verse 7?

What is significant about the phrase, “just as you were taught”?

Why might philosophy, or certain kinds of philosophy, be a threat to the gospel?

What sort of human tradition is Paul criticizing here?

What does verse 9 say about Jesus? (See 1:19)

What does verse 10 say about Jesus’ position?

Who takes care of all our needs?

Why does Paul say we were circumcised by Christ? What was circumcision? (Gen. 17:1-8, 11)

What is the sign of the New Covenant? Note: Testament and covenant mean the same thing. (Romans 6:3-6)

What was our condition before we were believers? (Ephesians 2:5)

What does it mean that we are buried with him, and raised with him?

Why do we have a “record of debt”? What happens if you don’t pay the bills?

Who “paid the bill” for us?

Do we live to pay it again?

OK, OK: Bulger is pretty stinkin' good. We're not a Super Bowl team yet, but there is hope. Bulger rebounded from two early interceptions to throw 3 touchdown passes with over 200 yards. He's really mobile; even as the pass protection breaks down, he can get away to make plays. That's what makes the Rams dangerous. Their most glaring weakness isn't really hurting them (or most importantly, Bulger). If they block well in the running game, they could have Faulk, or Lamar Gordon, or my Uncle Steve taking handoffs, and it won't matter.