Saturday, March 24, 2012

5 Things To Do When Your Hated Rival Advances to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

5. Crack open a Coke, and turn up the Bolton. [Oh, geez.--ed.] Get off me.

4. Swear at the other squad of 21 and 22 year-olds, then hang your head in shame.

3. Ignore the Men's NCAA Tournament, until such time that said hated rival is humiliated.

2. Wonder where unethical Nixon cronies are when you need them.

1. Cry.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Judge me if you like, but I read the dictionary a lot. Well, it's more accurate to say that I look up words on a lot. You might say that my current vocation is reading, so it's bound to happen that I come across a word I've never seen. Even in theology, the words I look up are not the "God-words"; rather, they are regular English words related somehow. Augustine or his translator forced me to look up "droll" yesterday. The GRE word game on the site says I know almost 12,000 words, which I guess is good. But I digress, which means I am departing from the main point of my narrative. They served up 419 words, and I correctly defined 92% percent of them. Being the perfectionist that I am, I was annoyed, surely thinking back to those that would have been correct if I had read the definitions a little more carefully.
Some of you who are vain will mock me for not knowing a simple word like "droll," and all I can say is that many words we have seen, we accept or get used to without ever stopping to define. Even more common is when we think we know a word, and our friend the dictionary quickly informs us that we are mistaken, or at least missing a subtlety (looked that one up for the spelling) that our connotation had missed.
I am very droll. Amusing in an odd way. I thought that's what amusing meant. That's a bit redundant, no? On the other hand, we have things called "amusement parks" that only accidentally involve humor, so perhaps I miss a sublety.
I'm one of those people nostalgic by nature, in that I like old TV shows. I like police procedurals and whodunits, especially. Like "Matlock" and "Murder, She Wrote." And "Columbo." Anyway, it just came to me: I'll bet the character Jessica Fletcher knows a lot of words. She's an author, so it's a reasonable supposition. Do you think you'd find Jessica reading the dictionary? I do. In my youth, I would hear people talking about a "genius" here or there, and the anecdotal evidence they'd bring forward is, "He reads the dictionary." And that amuses me, because my lack of apparent genius is brought to my awareness by the necessity of the dictionary.
5 Uncouth, Humorous Thoughts

5. Since unions eventually ruin every for-profit venture known to man, maybe we should push for the unionization of abortion workers.

4. Ditto the porn industry.

3. I too am upset about the very public sins of Catholic clergy and others, but in the end, the Church is "too big to fail."

2. Um, when is the last time you heard about the ridiculous "golden parachutes" of so-called public servants?

1. At the risk of complaining, I've yet to reap any benefits of this "war on women." In fact, are we sure it's a win if, at the end of all this consequence-free sex, everyone is dead?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Well, I took a test today in pursuit of gainful employment. It was the same test I failed on the 13th. I can't do any better. If I didn't pass, then the work is beyond me. You do what you can. That's all we can ask of ourselves.
I'm trying to do this because I need money, and I need to feel useful. It seems like a good opportunity. What doesn't seem like a good choice for me is politics. It makes me angry. It's not that I feel like I am completely devoid of the patience and good humor needed, but what I do lack is patience for stupid people. The sort of people who can opine for 20 minutes about how much they like the president, how he's getting a raw deal, etc. but can't actually tell you one policy they favor or why. I don't despise liberals; it's "default liberals" that annoy me. More than that, some of these people hate their opponents with a fervor only matched by their complete ignorance. Yes, I believe that most people commonly associated with "the Left" in our country are stupid. Maybe not intentionally so, but true nonetheless. That's still better than being called backward, evil, and racist, which just comes with the territory if you are not a leftist. If you're a Christian, just forget it. You might as well report to the re-education camps now. Unless you are confirmed as the sort who won't raise an inconvenient fuss about human dignity, freedom, and proper constitutional processes, among other outmoded ideas.
You might be thinking to yourself, "Oh, boy, another partisan rant from a Republican lackey" and you'd be wrong. I believe in many things old "progressives" used to fight for: No stupid wars, no death penalty, no corruption and waste in our government. Senator Paul Simon and other Democrats used to shame public officials for wasting our money. What happened to that? Super-liberal types could be counted on to automatically oppose capital punishment, rightly arguing that it was unfairly applied. In short, there used to be anti-authoritarian reasons to believe these things, and they made common cause with right-leaning Americans naturally distrustful of government power.
Well, let me be blunt: I forgive anyone the opinion that our Republican Party exists to make war, and to enforce the cultural prerogatives of a privileged race, because it may well be true. Not that the party of Jefferson fares any better; they exist to make war on our own people, to advocate foreign adventures that never actually occur, and to reflexively oppose those begun by a Republican, though undertaken for the very humanitarian justifications they proferred previously. Their belief in personal autonomy is absolute, unless of course you desire it to extend to the wealth that, by hard work, you have been made a steward. (Or to the defenseless.) As I said, they may permit you to be a "Christian," provided that you don't actually believe it, or you don't oppose any of the State's grand goals on principle. If you had to sum up what the Democratic Party stands for, you might be able to do it in two ideas: social democracy (or worse) and sexual deviance. That's barely worse than the GOP main ideas: empty rhetoric and symbolism. As long as we appear OK, then we are.
You might be thinking to yourself: "Ah, another facile retreat to the 'Pox on both your houses' defense." And I might be guilty of that, it's true. But if I just said that our political class was equal parts corrupt and stupid, I'd bet a lot of folks would agree. But maybe some of my friends are right; I take politics too seriously; I'm too passionate, too immoderate. Sorry; it's just that public affairs has become a talent show with no talent, and I feel like I should say so. I'm neither inclined nor allowed to sacrifice truth or life on the twin altars of politeness or diplomacy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I did a decidedly un-Lenten thing tonight: Extra-large Cecil Whittaker's pizza (pepperoni & sausage) and chicken wings. Hey, it ain't Friday! [I am ashamed of you.--ed.] Why? Isn't this a pagan ritual to you anyway? [I'm ashamed that you think it is of any value.--ed] Meditation on the death of Christ and self-denial has no value? Who knew?
I fixed my bedside clock from the odd power outage the other day. I let it flash at me for far too long. It was a warning-sign of ongoing chronometric ignorance that demanded redress. It is true that I have this desktop computer and my cell phone to give me the correct time; it is also the case that unset electronic clocks remind us of the Fall in ways that other broken time-pieces do not. A broken clock might signify an important moment; it might be a gift from a loved one, or a part of history even when it no longer functions. An unset electronic clock screams, "Can't you see what's going on here?" like a demand for the sons of Adam to put things back in order.
Speaking of missing signs, I used to say, "No regrets" as a person with a well-formed conscience, or when I wanted to do something bold that I wasn't sure would pay off. I can't say it anymore; I do have regrets. I will have them. Or so it would seem. "I missed the point/I missed the signs/So if she's gone, the fault is mine." Sometimes, dropping a cross gets you an even bigger cross. I guess I hope for a joy greater than what has been lost.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The reality of where the creedal orthodoxy minimally held in common by Catholics and Protestants comes from--from the Catholic Church--follows from applying a sound hermeneutical strategy to history itself. Let me put it out there, and then I'll come up with an example. If the ecumenical councils are presumed true (say, Nicea) and we want to know what the nature of that truth is, and what its implications are. As we would naturally do with Scripture, the real-world context is a part of the truth that the author or authors are trying to communicate. How did the council fathers see what they were doing? What was the nature of the decision they would make? If it was definitive, on what basis was it? To be frank about it, the council fathers did not believe they could err. The reason they formed a council in the first place is to definitively settle--and with divine sanction--whatever question was before them. The hermeneutic of suspicion with regard to the councils--most people miss this--can be applied consistently to any determination throughout history. That is, it may not be correct in its conclusions, but it is principled. There are certainly less destructive and more destructive conclusions within any "provisionally authoritative" scheme, but what I must do is ask whether I agree in conclusion and basis with those who formulated the truth we share. If I do, then the basis or ground of that agreement remains, to be used in the future. If I do not, I owe it to the council fathers not to say, "Here is the Creed which bespeaks our unity" when it is not so. For all I know, the church fathers as a whole would have many sympathies with aspects of Protestant doctrine. But what did Jerome do when the authority of the Church conflicted with his own opinion? What did Cyprian do? One bishop was himself an anti-pope, but reconciled himself with his head and the Church as they both gave their lives! The buck has to stop somewhere. Sola Scriptura, whose hidden principle is the absolute primacy of the individual, never allows the buck to stop. If the ecclesiastical authority to which I submit only enjoys that submission provisionally, then its conclusions are thus provisional. The caveat is of course me. Even if I'm not consciously trying to be a Christian of the cafeteria variety, that is exactly what is taking place. In fact, insofar as my definition of "Church" goes beyond the physical boundaries of the ecclesiastical communion I inhabit, to that extent are the assertions of the community relativized. In this way, the invisible mental picture of "Church" is far stronger than whatever the poo-bahs decide. That is to say, this is all the more reason to find the divinely-sanctioned and protected poo-bahs, and submit to them.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

It seems to me that, respectfully, at the heart of this feel-good ecumenism being advocated in some quarters lurks the re-assertion of the same basic ecclesiology advocated by the Reformers. Just because you're nicer about it doesn't make it any less Reformational than the bitterest of days past. We should all celebrate the fact that we are not taking the Lord's own final judgment into our individual hands, speaking kindly to one another, and hoping and praying for the best. But the Catholic Church speaks clearly on the point of apostolic succession, and combined with Petrine primacy, forms the historically situated basis for levelling the charge of schism against the Reformers. That is, that claim of apostolic visible oneness is not accidental to the claim of authority by the Catholic Church; it is the heart. The reason the Catholic Church doesn't join in the missional-ecumenist party, as it were, is because the Church would have to deny one of her inherent marks, which is tantamount to denying her divine origin. None of us Catholics have the right to do this, whether lay or clerical. Across the divide, we mean different things by the four marks of the Church. The heart of becoming Catholic is acknowledging the authority and origin of that Church which has the audacity to resist the re-definition of the words. Part of my error in being Protestant had been the opinion that I, along with my leaders, had the divine sanction and right to re-define the Church, either in what she believes, or in what she is. John, for all his great work, doesn't get this. This visible unity argument isn't a bludgeon in the hands of a misguided, fanatical minority--even an exceedingly gracious one--it is the Catholic-Protestant divide itself. Always has been. I fear I'm being unclear.
But let me ask a few questions: Let's assume for the sake of argument that the visible unity argument is in error, a polemical false start with no basis in reality. What is the principled means for establishing orthodoxy? Does it exist? Even if we were to agree on the means for establishing it (Scripture), what does Scripture say? Who, or what, settles the disputes that surely inevitably would arise? Are we not in the exact place (just within Protestantism) we are today? How could we speak of "orthodoxy" at all? Will John Armstrong be the arbiter of both the orthodoxy and the shape of such a "Church"? Isn't every dispute between Christians really a dispute about the nature of the Church and the content what she believes? The only way we end it is to agree upon the basis, the origin, of our "core orthodoxy." I absolutely agree there is one. The point from our end is that the physical structures of that orthodoxy are crucial to find and declare it, not accidental or even extraneous. I'm Catholic because I traced the content of that core orthodoxy back to the very means God used to establish it: the visible community headed by Peter, maintained in the Holy Spirit by apostolic succession. I can't see any other option. A visible Church with no principium unitatis isn't (or won't stay) visible, and an invisible Church has no discernable orthodoxy, since its boundaries extend beyond the bounds of its common faith.