Friday, December 14, 2012

Another Tragedy

It was 3:30 when I saw it. If my jovial post on Facebook struck you wrong, all I can say is, "I didn't see it." This guy came into a school full of little ones with a rifle and started killing people. He killed 26 others, including his parents, and then himself.

I hear people saying, "I hope he burns in Hell," and while I understand the anger people are feeling, (and I certainly want some justice) I can't hope for this. Hell is Hell. It makes the most horrible scene you can fathom seem like a minor inconvenience. I can't think of a person that I've known I'd consign to such a fate. Please don't say such stupid things. The Lord will judge, and it is just. But I tremble at the thought of it.

O God, our Father, have mercy. Have mercy on us for our evil words and actions, which stir up violence in the hearts of people. Be near to these little ones, and to those who had charge of them who were also lost. Please comfort those in sorrow, beyond words we are able to speak. All you saints, our brothers and sisters, pray for us, so we will not also be lost, beyond the grasp of Love. I pray this through Christ Our Lord, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

JK: The Music

Yesterday, I was obsessed with James Morrison. Today, I felt like Michael Bolton. Yes, that Michael Bolton. Irving Berlin or whoever was talking mess because the vocals are expressive/passionate/soulful or dare we say it, loud, he's free to be excused.

Look, I get it: He's easy to make fun of, what, with his long hair, pretty voice, and sensitive manner. Maybe dudes were just jealous because they knew that if Michael lived in their town, their wives would be tempted with adultery. Anyway, I know what I like.

I can remember that I was 9 years old when I heard Bolton for the first time. "What was that? I want to hear more of that." Was I supposed to care that he sang "sissy" music or whatever people said? Oops. Pretty much any notable song of his makes me say, "He sang the mess out of that song." Isn't that what you want? Music is supposed to be memorable. I think it's fair to say that our pop music is vocally-driven. Anywhere Michael Bolton wants to drive the Music Bus, I'm cool with that.

Deb's right: I like listening to music more than I would enjoy the arduous task of creating it. Mostly. I've written a couple songs here and there. I'd like to have had training in music, I suppose. But I would fear becoming an insufferable snob who looked down on others with "simpler" taste. I've said this before. More than that, some people make a sport of liking the most strange, obscure music and celebrating themselves on their snobby musical island. [They're called 'hipsters.'--ed.] Good point.

That doesn't mean I don't like new things. It made me really happy last week when Jacob said that my Spotify was 'crazy'--that is, eclectic. Of course it is. My musical taste is as varied as all the information in my head.

It's also a mistake to ignore popular music as culture-influencing and even creating. If you can't be holy while doing it, don't do it. Don't hear what I'm not saying. But I still hear people say this or that is the "soundtrack to my life," trite as that may sound. I get that. I totally do. John Mayer's "Room For Squares" still freaks me out. It made me say, "This is exactly what being a twenty-something dude right now is like." I don't care if you think it's horrible. I'm just telling you. [So you like club-hopping and fornication?--ed.] Not exactly.

Hard to believe that was nearly 13 years ago. And I understand that he doesn't have the best reputation as a human being. But there's a special trust between artist and audience, and at least for me, if you gain it, it's not easily lost, even if I don't like everything an artist does professionally (or personally, for that matter).

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Is the Church Flawed?

It seems to me that this is the real question behind Protestant-Catholic disputes. The fact of human sin constitutes the open and shut proof against the Catholic notion of holiness, which is really indefectibility. We are the members of the Body of Christ; we are flawed; therefore, the Church is flawed, or so it goes.

But hold on a minute. Setting aside the difference in ascertaining the content of divine truth--Sacred Scripture* vs. Sacred Scripture and Tradition--it seems like we're owed an answer as to where unsullied dogma comes from. If we can't trust the visible institutional church made up of sinners, somehow we are supposed to trust one person who himself is a sinner? The Holy Spirit protects a man, but not a whole group of them?

Even if we were to ignore the "Church" part of this question, upon what basis would we hold any one of our opinions as a result of the hermeneutical process, given rival claims flowing from the same process? Adding "Church" back in, it cannot both be visible and invisible at the same time. Protestants are supposed to place a nearly absolute trust in the ecclesiastical determinations of a very visible community, while claiming that the real "Church" is invisible, especially when confronted with the dogmatic contradictions of those communities in dialogue!

This reality is exactly what we're talking about when we say that the ecclesiology is "collapsing." It's only as strong as the individual's "suspension of disbelief" as it were in regard to this inescapable truth: He is the arbiter--and he alone--of the real content of revelation, and the extent of the community's external authority. Indeed, it's not external at all, if its juridical decisions are presumed as provisional as his doctrinal conclusions.

Something has to give. Either you presume your hermeneutical process is infallible--which eliminates the need for the church to moderate the excesses of individualism--or the community is infallible. The community can't be infallible in the Protestant paradigm, because it was fallibility that provided the justification for the new communities in the first place. Even if it were asserted in contravention of the Protestant principles themselves, the historical anachronism of discontinuity poses a problem for each community in that regard.

Here's the crazy part: Whichever part you eliminate--whether the fallible church, or the fallibility of the hermeneutical process, we can't escape this: What's different from what we see, and how do we address it?

The Catholic Church's claim to be the Church Christ founded has this going for it, at least: It doesn't deny any of the data that pertains to things held in common. Put it this way: There is no principled reason to accept the first two ecumenical councils while rejecting the others. If we agree that they constitute orthodoxy, they constitute it on the terms offered by the councils themselves. On the other hand, if we consistently apply the idea that councils may err, we have no reason to suppose that Nicene or Chalcedonian Christology is the mark of true Christianity at all.

We are fooling ourselves if we think that interpreting the Bible by the methods we know leads inoxerably and inevitably to that Christological orthodoxy, as history and present experience surely show.

Brothers, if we cannot accept the Catholic Church's authority on the terms with which we engage the gospel at present, we owe it to ourselves to ask whether our terms with Christ are the right ones. Suppose we engage the Catholic claims on their own terms. If we find we have lost nothing of what we know now, the claims have the ring of likely truth, no? Suppose the accretions were added by us?

*Note: The Catholic Church has a larger canon of Sacred Scripture: 73 books, as opposed to the Protestant canon of 66 books. 


5 Thoughts For Today

5. Is God playing dominoes?

4. There was a hurricane relief show I was too busy to watch.

3. The other numbers feel discriminated against. I blame Obama.

2. I wonder if Mittens did anything weird today.

1. 07/07/07 was the last time this happened.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

We Wish You A Merry List-Mas

5 Thoughts For Today

5. There are a ton of issues the Bible doesn't directly address for which Christians need answers.

4. It's not my fault your ecclesiology is collapsing faster than the Houston Texans.

3. Primacy of Peter, apostolic succession, Eucharist. If I were going to shout, wave my arms, and pointlessly pound the table in a futile attempt to bring the Christian world Home, this is what I would say. [So, pretty much a normal day.--ed.]

2. "What did the Fathers know, and when did they know it?" Bishop-gate? Schism-gate? Luther-gate? Hmmmmm.

1. I'll see your two ecumenical councils, and raise you 19 more. I'd fold, if it were my hand.

Monday, December 10, 2012


5 Thoughts On The New England Patriots

5. 10-3, after a sluggish start. Yes, you read that right.

4. Wes Welker had a bad game.

3. It was 42-14, and yet I think the Patriots feel their offense was sluggish.

2. Darth Hoodie will not be pleased with the four consecutive punts.

1. Brady has help from the defense. Look out.

Sunday, December 09, 2012


I enjoyed the party. Thanks to George Capps for inviting me. Our first game was Taboo, and believe me, I was thrilled to find out that the buzzer was broken. It makes a more obnoxious noise than evangelical leaders talking about economics. I digress. The boys won, 21-18. Our next game was called Encore. You get a card with a word on it, and the goal is to sing a phrase from a song with the word (or the idea) in it. 6 little words is all you need. DO NOT play this game competitively in a large group; there will never be a winner. You'd be surprised how well everyone does.

I was called, "a country music legend" by one person I didn't know, and Jacob Torbeck said that there'd be no way any team with me on it would lose the game. That was before we started. I guess I helped make it a stalemate. I'm pretty sure Randy Jackson of American Idol fame knows more songs than me. And I'll bet "The Deb" does, as well. But I do know a ton of songs. It's in my nature.

Yesterday was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Or is that a solemnity? Either way, it's awesome. I'm no great theologian, but I had a few thoughts. It's really a celebration of Jesus that Mary was preserved from all stain of original sin. It's for him that she was given this gift, and it's through Christ that we have the gift of her. If the prayer of a righteous man (or woman) avails much, how much does the prayer of a quintessentially righteous person avail us? And God would always answer those prayers. I asked her to pray for humility on my behalf. I sensed right away that I had received what I asked. He doesn't need to do that, but he did.

They say that we have an inordinate focus on Mary. I remember thinking that. All I can ask is, "With respect to what?" It's not fair to compare bad Catholics to good Protestants, to start. So if we compare apples to apples, one thing becomes clear: Catholics are obsessed with Jesus. I'm serious. He's everything. Other Catholics may not understand the fullness of the treasures of the Church through Christ, but it doesn't mean they aren't there.

Someone recently asked me why I almost always say "Mother Church" instead of just "Church." I say it because I am no longer in dissent. I am no longer a rebellious son. I say it in honor of St. Cyprian, who is right. God is our Father, and the Church is our mother. And so is Mary. Happy feast, everybody.