Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Problem With Protestantism, Part 6

I'm sorry; I said that this part would be about resources, but I'm not ready yet. In addition to everything I've said, let me talk briefly about encountering the Catholic claims, and what that was like. In fairness, I had despaired of finding the hermeneutical magic bullets to tell me what I should believe via Sola Scriptura. I was mad that no one had ever seen the gaping holes in our prevailing ecclesiology. I was stunned to find that every interpretation of Scripture potentially came with its own ecclesiology. Strip away all the mediating ecclesial institutions; what you find is the same: people deciding for themselves what the Bible says, and so, what they as individuals mean by "the Church." But unity even in faith if not in government requires consent, and is assumed today rather than achieved. So I chased down the Catholic Church out of an urgent desire to know the will of God, and do it. You can look back here on this very blog if you need proof. This is not some quest for a mythical "certitude" that is inappropriate for Christians "this side of Heaven" to desire! I'm tempted to punch the next person who says this. The doctrine of God is part of asking, "Who is God?" We know what the Scriptures say: "You shall love the Lord your God..." You finish it.

So take your pick: Infallible church, or infallible hermeneutical process. Claiming the second causes the Noltie Conundrum; claiming the first is disallowed by Sola Scriptura. So you cannot know what God has in fact said (or at least what He meant) about anything, save for the barest of creedal essentials (which can be conveniently edited to taste, or eliminated) and that hardly justifies the separation.

I digress. I'd like to have been able to "live with the tension" and rest in the comforting dogma that "hermeneutics is messy," but only an idiot sees the rising spectre of agnosticism and relativism and stays silent out of politeness or comfort.

So I could see that Catholicism had a very stable body of truth and a means of knowing it more deeply, but was it true? One of the things that liberated me from hectoring the Catholic Church with various scriptural interpretations was the realization that each interpretation of Scripture (or denomination, which is like a hermeneutical insurance policy, or a class-action lawsuit...never mind; this is getting weird) agrees and disagrees with the Catholic Church at divergent points. Ironically, it was my respect for each of those interpretations in their own right which led me to open the door of my heart to see another option. To put it this way, my brothers: "We (Protestants) can't all be right." At least not in the same way at the same time. The Law of Non-Contradiction.

But I began to see in history that the heroes of the faith talked, believed, and did things that can only be described as Catholic. In crude terms, if the test of continuity is, "Do they sound Protestant or Catholic to you?" the Catholic wins easily. That in itself means nothing. But I was taught from my earliest days as a Christian that continuity marks the faith in history. There is only a certain level of discontinuity that faith allows, that reason dictates is plausible, given God's promises, especially to the Church.

I've read a good chunk of Origen's commentary on Romans, one of the earliest extant copies of anything Scripture-related on Earth. One of the other important things to happen for me was to see this consistent strand of co-operation in salvation by Man. We're talking 3rd century, here. Augustine about a century later was also a synergist, though a few of his mistaken opinions could be marshalled to defend a nascent Calvinism. And I can say that St. Thomas could be plucked from his century into ours with little trouble. That is to say, I doubt he'd have much gripe with Vatican II properly understood. And that means free will is real, and Calvinism is a heresy. (And so identified.)

That was important. Because it is right to say that the Reformation happened because of a misunderstanding of grace. I hate to ruin it for you Arminians out there, but the Reformation doctrinally was a Calvinist (apologies to Luther for the anachronism) revolt, a denial of the proper understanding of human freedom with respect to the will.

One of the important things to happen--aside from the frighteningly unanimous testimony of the Fathers on what we now call "transubstantiation"--was to realize that a Real Presence in the Catholic sense does not necessitate that all signification is destroyed, a point frustratingly missed by Mathison and certainly many others. When I realized that it need not be an "either/or" on that point, the Protestant objections to the Eucharist lost all force, and I could let my suspicion/desire/faith run free. (Celebrating even an invalid Supper weekly for many years makes you less Protestant on the point.) I can appreciate the desire behind the attempts to nuance the theology away from a strict memorialism; nevertheless, anything short of total change does not do justice to the Fathers, and the Catholic teaching into the present. Catholic theology is more than flexible enough for nuance, provided that what must be held is held.

It was that unique confluence of sacramental theology and authority that led me to realize that my deeply attractive, reverently historical, Chestertonian kind of Protestantism was an aberration. Sometimes, it is an "either/or." I'm either living a sacramental life, which makes the Church a sacrament, her signs efficacious, and any claim to speak in her name subject to the most rigorous scrutiny (apostolic succession), or I am with the Reformers. Any middle positions can be ascribed to both historical ignorance, and a lack of precision. You are reading a man who realized that he ran out of reasons to protest. If the Reformers and their theology in its simplicity and starkness is too passe to be defended, if you are not willing to bite its many bullets, then you have a problem. Better still, if those commitments do not comport with what prayer and experience show, it is long past time to revisit those commitments. But let us kill this "missional-ecumenist" nonsense now, before all theology is consumed in ignorance and sentiment.

5 Is Not A Serious Number

5 Thoughts For Today

5. If I saw the girl with one arm from this season of The Bachelor, I would be tempted to ask her out. But then I would say, "Oh, wait, you were on The Bachelor. Never mind." Which prompts us all to ask why we watch it, if we wouldn't get in their faces and tell these people that they disrespect themselves and the Sacrament of Matrimony (yeah, I went there) by doing this.

4. Why do we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway? No, seriously, I'd like an answer to this question.

3. Speaking of parking, there is no actual rule for a pot to be awarded in Monopoly when one lands on Free Parking. Even though every single person I've ever known plays this way. #sensusfidelium #tradition.

2. I'd like to think I'm pretty tough. But put a cat or kitten in the room..."KITTY!!!" The rule applies to dogs as well. You've been warned.

1. "I never thought that I'd love someone/That was someone else's dream..."

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Problem With Protestantism, Part 5

The goal of every Christian is to know the will of God and do it. It is the harmony of faith and action that is called holiness. Why would we believe anything that obscures the truth about God and is contrary to His will: "that they may be one"? Even today, Christians fail to maintain the unity we are called to. My challenge is not simply to hold the Catholic Church up as some kind of paragon. Rather, it is to ask all Christians to re-examine those principles which make reunion impossible. Sola Scriptura and the rest of the Reformation-era principles are just such principles.

Let's cut the mess: All the chatter about, "We could attain unity, if only the Catholic Church wasn't so separatist" is just nonsense. If you dress the dissent of the 16th century up in gentler words, you're still asking most Christians in the world to accept a new ecclesiology and new doctrine just to get your preferred schismatic off the hook. And it's an ecclesiology when applied consistently that makes for no dogma at all. Who holds the keys? If your denomination called you a heretic, does that mean, "You're out of accord with the doctrine of this particular branch of the body of Christ" or, "You have no part with Christ at all"? Who's to say? Me? And why should I care, if they don't even bother to claim infallibility?

It's also quite possible I could simply be mistaken about the doctrine of Christ indavertently; then my error would be overlooked. But why should I even bother with a system that cannot know, and for the sake of muting the cognitive dissonance caused by the lack of consensus, now says, "We don't care to know, Kumbaya" or, if you like, "Hakuna Matata"?

But I don't have to. Because I knew that what I had already known in basic terms had not been lost. Idiot Question: Whence did the truths I know indisputably come? What if those means were normative, and not presumed fallible? [From the Bible.--ed.] Yes, the Bible. From whence did that come? Who gave it to us? Obvious Follow-Up: What do I do, and what do I say, if my "biblical" doctrine is assuredly the product of an ecclesiastical authority I have rejected? Am I not the most arrogant of individualists to pick and choose when I will submit to that authority? Even if I have lots of friends who do the same? Conclusion: The ecumenical councils are the most solemn invocations of the Catholic Church's authority. Nicea and Chalcedon are 2. Trent is another. The orthodox Christology of these 2 Councils is a treasure of the Catholic Church. It only prevailed because of that divinely-appointed ecclesiastical authority. Who am I to say it was wrong, in any century? Why did Luther and the others not ask that same question?

Is not the common truth, freed from the biases of factions and their founders, impelling us toward unity? Isn't it at least possible that I must set aside cherished "truths" that prevent it? When I ended my protest, I gained truth in a real sense. That which I already had was more greatly adorned, and it made sense. It was not an ad hoc patchwork of truth from authorities whose standing to speak was never established, whose continuity with the Church was a mirage, or a throw-away line. And so, I left the Reformation. Next time is about resources.

5 Valentine's Day Thoughts

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Grey's: Seriously, I don't like this company buying the hospital. My "common good" alarm is going off. And I hate my "common good" alarm. And Dr. Hunt: Why would you divorce your wife and continue to have sex with her? Is this the cool new thing? Are you trying to go to Hell?

4. Grey's, ctd: This entire cast is a bunch of fornicating perverts, adulterers, and general scumbags. On the other hand, I am the Church Lady, and Kepner still manages to seem like an uptight freak. Grace, anyone? God is Love? Anything? You work at Seattle Grace Hospital, for pete's sake!

3. No, actually, I asked Mary for a wife. I asked St. Valentine for courage. [Do you ask your natural mother to set you up?--ed.] Um, no. But I'm remembering something...Oh, yeah, Mary is PERFECT, and always gets what she prays for. [Sure she is.--ed.] Fine; denounce the Church Fathers; they'll pray for you. [Bah!--ed.]

2. I was reading the Gospel for today, and it appeared once again that the New American Bible was translated by monkeys, specifically Luke 9:25. "Lose himself"? So I looked it up. You win this time, NAB! (Your study edition still sucks, and should not be consulted by anyone, anywhere.)

1. I hope that your love is pure, and that if you don't have a love (eros) that you refrained from breaking someone's face, or vomiting all over your friends.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Problem With Protestantism, Part 4

To ask about history, competing paradigms, and other assorted issues can be summed up in one word: authority. Evangelicalism can fret about the problem of individualism until Kermit the Frog turns purple, but until the individual is not the arbiter of what Scripture says via the principle of Sola Scriptura, there will be no way to determine what Christian faith actually is, the basis for theology and ethics, for starters.

If I were Satan, I could not devise a more brilliant strategy to take back the world: Don't attack the Christian authorities; multiply them. They'll fight for a few centuries, but most people will give up and suppose that if it were that important, smart people would agree. But that's the sick thing about Sola Scriptura: agreement is impossible, because the Bible doesn't answer back. Certain discussions only go so far. Protestant ecumenism today consists in either pretending that disagreements of major consequence (like sacramental theology) are really adiaphora, and/or that 'Mere Christianity' exists outside all the physical communities where Christians live, or is the sum total of them in some way.

In that scenario, we are almost begging to be reduced to slogans and kitschy cultural markers. Subjectivism and personal preference. Isn't this what we see? You may be dismayed by the dangerous confluence of religion and politics, but are you not responsible for it? When the 'Christian' answer to any question is as varied as the sand on the seashore, the cultural power of the Christian witness is diluted, and is replaced by the State, which takes advantage of the vacuum.

We end up with lowest common denominator theology (because we can't know much within our communities, and can't bind anyone outside them) and we thus become as communities political instruments that curry favor with the authorities, or at least arenas to re-fight the political battles of the day. Said 'liberal church' or 'right-wing church' lately? Are you sure you know what you mean by them? Can you say for certain that we're all making the distinctions?

But I was surprised at how conspicuous the features of today's Catholic life were present in the Fathers. It was jarring. "The Three Things"--Petrine primacy, apostolic succession, Eucharist--very early. Early enough to upset even the most nuanced version of "The Church fouled up the gospel" that I endeavored to tell. Where? When? And how would I know? What did early Christians understand to be the rule of faith? Did it continue? Does it continue today? It was different enough from anything recognizably Protestant that giving the Fathers five centuries or even two before they started cluttering it up with Catholic things is excessively generous. Obvious Conclusion: The Fathers have a different rule of faith than I do. It's false to say that Reformational faith is the faith of the early Church. I will readily grant that it is not wholly other, and I defer to the proper authorities for the details of that, and for the consequences to the fullness of our communion.

As I read history forward, paying special attention to the Church's own marks (let the reader understand) it became more difficult to distinguish the Catholic Church from the Church in history, because there was no obvious hijacking I could point to, no obvious rupture that cried out for the Reformation. Now, that is not to say that there was no immorality; quite the contrary. But I began to ask this question: Could this theology be true, irrespective of various failures to embody it in a Christ-like way? Because the Reformation on the whole--and the children of it--have never coherently answered whether it was a moral protest or a theological one. If moral, then why new doctrine? If theological, why would God change His mind, and hide it for so long? But we had been content to answer that question which has one answer with "yes," and if you will pardon me, damn the consequences, to both our knowledge of God personally, and to humanity. To put it starkly, a Pope's illegitimate children has no obvious connection to which view of the Eucharist I should hold. To use another analogy, if a profoundly moral man tells me that 2+2=5, he's wrong. If an evil man tells me the right answer, I don't get a second opinion.

I don't really get bent out of shape about "Constantinianism," because most people who worry about this misunderstand what they see: It was a time when the truth of the gospel was important enough to shape the path of nations. God made a promise to his Church; in spite of imprudence on the part of his servants (or even great evil) the "Church shall never perish, her dear Lord to defend." The nations can only hope to be found in Him, not the other way around.

We'll have at least one more part. Come back!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lenten Levity

5 Tacky Things To Do On Ash Wednesday

5. Show up to Mass on a day when it's totally optional, and skip Mass on Sunday when it isn't.

4. Leave after receiving the Eucharist. Seriously, I don't get this. This is reason 3b why Protestants think we are going to Hell.

3. Park in a disabled space for no reason at all.

2. Eat a piece of bacon at 12:00 AM Thursday morning.

1. Stay home while loudly proclaiming, "Me and Jesus are having church right here!"

Ash Wednesday

5 Thoughts For Ash Wednesday

5. It seems that God is just here, upholding everything, quietly blessing everything good.

4. I think my sacrifice is as nothing. Before I offered it, it seemed great and weighty; now I feel I offer Him too little.

3. I'm 33, and it's Lent.

2. "My voice is breaking/My heart is burning..."

1. I love you all.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Problem With Protestantism, Part 3

In addition to the two problems presented by looking at Scripture in a deeper way, there is a third. Actually, the first two aren't problems; they're observations which present problems when their truth is acknowledged. The third is a bonafide problem: What does the Bible say? Even granting the fact that figuring out what the Bible says is not the entirety of what Christians are to believe, it's a very important question. So what method will you teach us so that we can know and do what it says? You cannot retreat to lexical and exegetical expertise, because nearly all interpreters have experts and schools where that expertise is taught. We cannot appeal to the Holy Spirit; anyone holding any position can appeal to Him whenever he wishes. We owe it to ourselves to rule out everything that is not unique or dispositive, and then examine the presuppositions undergirding the rest.

In fact, when we bring this problem into the ecclesial dimension of our Christian lives, we see the problem most clearly. What are denominations, if not authority structures to promote the favored interpretation? The biggest reason we cannot simply accept the reasoning that these formulations apply only to the people in those communities, and that the 'Church' is wider than one interpretation is that no one acts that way, practically. It's a restatement of what I said earlier: We need to know what God says in the places closest to our lives lived in order to be Christians. We've opted for a theological relativism in order to serve our ecclesiology. We have been unwilling to challenge the premise underlying that ecclesiology: that we possess the ability and the authority to decide for ourselves the content of revelation.

When we see the witness of history for what it is, it does not matter that Catholic doctrine does not appear obvious in its particulars from where we stand. Rather,--and this is a point often overlooked--what matters is that the new ecclesiology does not achieve its goal on its own terms. Call it the Presumption of Return; if we are not holding at least what we started with when we follow the paradigm to its logical end, it cannot be correct. We know that as Protestants we were the arbiters of revelation because our authority structures do not carry weight outside themselves, and our subjection to them is voluntary, and always contingent upon their agreement with us. This is the full implication of ecclesial fallibility.

If there is a distinction between doctrines outside the "tribe," and doctrines outside of Christ, it cannot be made clear from either the exercise of ecclesial authority, or the contemplation of the extent of that authority. When we talk next time, we'll talk about history and comparing paradigms.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Problem With Protestantism, Part 2

I want you to get inside my head so far. [Yikes.--ed.] This next part is about asking where things fit and how they function.

My theological training as a seminarian as far as it goes was excellent. I don't know a single person there who had reason to be disappointed. We knew Reformed theology; we knew how to articulate a stern, unbending theology into terms palatable to modern man. Despite my school's reputation as a hotbed for theological rebellion, this is grossly unfair. It is both confessional and pastoral, and the only scandal I see is that many of you use doctrinal confessional loyalty as an excuse to be inhuman. Pardon the aside. I mean to say that it cannot be said that I was never Reformed.

There was quite a lot of consternation amongst the students concerning the two covenants between God and Man at the dawn of human history: the "covenant of works" before the Fall of Adam and Eve, and the "covenant of grace" afterward. You can see it there in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter VII, article II. As the next article makes abundantly clear--there is no escaping it--the writers of this document believe that Man in his innocence had the ability to work or earn his salvation from God. The wording is, "having made himself incapable of life by that covenant." That strongly suggests that prior to his Fall, that covenant would be life-giving. Odd, that a group of people so fervently committed to anti-Pelagianism would step so directly into Pelagianism. So, the rebels among us, knowing this, favored an exception to this, and its eventual removal. Others--and I wish them well--have tried to massage this and explain it away. Still others try to make everything into grace in either case. Within the system, this move eliminates the intimate connection between grace and sin. For all the instruction we received to respect the distinction between Creator and creature, I think it fair to say that very few dare to ponder the need to preserve it even if the Fall had never occurred. Again, it is ironic that those we dismissed as having much too high a view of Man and his abilities never made this error.

It had been a conceit of mine that those who held a robust view of free will (such that they felt constrained to deny Reformed teaching on election) had simply never read the Scriptures closely enough. That went on a very long time. But my training has given me the inclination, if not the ability, to read the Scriptures very closely. As I did that, I realized a few things.

First, it seemed like Paul had bigger fish to fry. I began to realize that Paul did not write Romans so that I could win my arguments. That's not to say I thought we were wrong. But I owed it to myself and to God to find out what God (and Paul) really meant. That was the practical fruit of my deepening appreciation for the reality of the Incarnation, in that the human features and means God used to accomodate Himself to man in the process of inspiration, and those we must be attentive to when coming to understand the Scriptures, are not hindrances or even extraneous to that communication; they are a vital part of it. With apologies to McLuhan, the medium is the message. Neither I, nor anyone I knew, was in any real danger of what we might call fundamentalism with respect to a simplistic view of transmission or interpretation, but it is this concept as applied to history that is the doorway out of the 'Reformation'.

Second, it was not a discomfort with the unseemlier parts of Reformed theology that led me away from the "doctrines of grace," as we like to call them. Rather, it was the greatness of the Cross of Christ as the full manifestation of God's love for man, combined with the reality of judgment--personal judgment--that provoked essentially unanswerable questions. If wrath will be personal, if that reckoning for good or ill will be for each of us, then in fact God owes creatures the opportunity to "choose this day whom you will serve." It simply could not be true that salvation was monergistically ordained quite apart from any doing on man's part, and manifest in the mercy of Christ on the cross. Did Christ die for all men personally or did he not? If he did, he doesn't owe eternal life to any man, but whether that death is effective for a man cannot be rooted (fundamentally) in God; if it is, the drama of the cross is a play-act for a special few. This is why the flip-side of a robust Calvinism is universalism; in either case, you are not important enough to have your life in your own hands. But dissenters from Calvinism are right to say that the non-universalist version is barbaric. God would judge a man who was never a man. The glory of Man is to live by grace, choosing his or her destiny. It comes by necessity from the consequences of that judgment to come. It is not correct to equate synergism with Pelagianism. And those who foolishly equate monergism with the exaltation of God fail to see the implications of what they affirm, and they slander Him they mean to exalt. God is omnipotent, but he is bound; he is bound by his nature, which has been shown as Love at the Cross. How fierce will be that wrath after this! What words in defense will be left? But if we cannot choose, we cannot see it.

I have much more to say. You'll have to come back.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Problem With Protestantism, Part 1

It's not that the Catholic Church is so blindingly obviously true at the outset. I believe in the grace of God and in his leading, but if I overstated this, I'd be manipulating you, and misrepresenting myself. But in all things, truth is connected. And truth is knowable. Truth can be on the level of nature or above it. I trust I'm not scaring anyone yet.

But you can't approach this question as a "Protestantism vs. Catholicism" thing, mainly because there is no Protestantism, properly speaking. There are Christian communities of varying theologies that were formed, or are now in some way connected to, those leaders who separated from the Catholic Church in the 16th century. It's really important to state that clearly and somewhat precisely, because it becomes important to the story I'm telling.

As I am fond of mentioning to several friends, my Myers-Briggs type is ENFP. "Close enough is good enough." I paint with broad brushes to tell a broad story, and hopefully, I do it well. But I need people in my life who are more precise. I appreciate you if you are that person. I digress.

But I realized that my ordination vows before God and man would be one of those times. I was to be a churchman; I was to be, in some way or another, a creature of ecclesial politics and life. All the more reason to know what it is I believe, and why. Because I owed that to God and to those I would serve. That in general was the occasion for the events that would shake my life, the earthquake that was the call of the Catholic Church.

Before I go on, I need you to promise me that you will read the questions I ask as I would have experienced them, as "Reformed Seminarian JK" not as "Hack Apologist in His Catholic Pajamas JK." That's important. [You don't wear pajamas.--ed.] It's a metaphor, OK? Anyway...

In general, one of the things I couldn't take for granted was that the Reformed had more faithfully recapitulated the early Church than had the Catholic Church. You can embellish this any way you like, but at a minimum, we were taught that people who called themselves the Catholic Church had hijacked the true universal Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and added a whole slew of human traditions to the gospel, as found in the Bible. If you were Catholic, we hoped and prayed somehow that you had heard something about the true Jesus and the gospel that the Holy Spirit had quickened you, and that you would ignore all the 'unbiblical' things. As much as we Reformed enjoy ripping on evangelicals and their excesses, we are evangelicals. I mean that in a good way. The faithful person shaped by Reformed theology is deeply passionate about the gospel, about living it, and sharing it. It's not true what other Christians say about you, brothers; you are not the Vulcans of Christendom, though the jokes between us about that are still funny. This is a huge digression; my apologies.

I could not take the early Church for granted, partly because A) my liturgical life was predicated on the appreciation, and the claim of continuity with the early Church, and B) my own curiosity. In any case, in truth, no one should take them for granted, because all the disputes among Christians revolve around questions of continuity and discontinuity, or better said, the theological meaning of each.

One of the reasons I cannot countenance calling anything "Protestantism" is that all theology is local, just like politics. I do not, have not, and will not ever live in the abstract invisible ethereal reality that some of you call "the Church." At every point of my Christian life I can say, "I'm a part of this church, in this place, with these people. How we worship, our liturgy, our "reasonable service," is the place where God is encountered by us. And frankly, nowhere else quite so directly. If God does not act here, there is little point at all in talking about where else he does. I am not saying that going to church is the end or fullness of the Christian life, not at all. But I am saying that it is important. It is vital. I have always believed that. The questions you ask in these moments--the questions we ask together, our conviction, our experience of grace, pardon, and joy--are no small thing. The law of prayer is the law of faith.

So we are a local body. We are connected to some larger body in some fashion, given the obvious point that we are not the only church on Earth. One of the ways that we show that bond, that unity which binds us to every Christian in the entire world--we even said this--is by the Creed. Most often, the Nicene Creed, and sometimes the Apostles' was used. But I don't need an advanced degree in theology to know that we Christians as a whole might mean different things by saying it. I knew that because there was often a note in the bulletin "clarifying" certain words, like "catholic" or "apostolic," for example. First Idiot Question: Is it really uniting us if we don't agree on what the words mean? Obvious Follow-Up: I might want to find out the nature of this disagreement, and nail down why I think we are right.

On that score, I had no problem with saying (somewhere between 2002 and 2008) that the creed was a restatement of the scriptural truths concerning God, man, and the Church. No big deal. Most people, including Catholics, could say something like this, and it's true as far as it goes. It's only when we discuss how the Creed actually functions, or is supposed to, that we run into trouble. We'll come back to this. I hope and pray that I can connect all this in a coherent fashion. This is your official Digression Warning.

I have always loved the Catholic Church. Ever since I recognized that as a distinct body of people who did their uniquely weird churchy things. When you dismiss me as an emotional simpleton who sought full communion with the Catholic Church for primal, emotional reasons, this is the paragraph you will cite. I watched my Aunt Mary Ann get married in a Catholic church. I can recall my father's funeral Mass in a Catholic church. I have the Heirloom Edition of the Bible that they gave to my grandmother when he died. She gave it to me. I read it a few times. There are full-color pictures explaining the Mass to you. The translation and study notes are hideous (Paging the bishops! Clean-up on Aisle 5!) but someone was really serious about teaching someone something. Anyway, the truth is that I've never had a negative personal experience with the Catholic Church or its officials ever. Lucky me, right? The priest at Mary Ann's wedding gave me the Eucharist without asking. I was 12 at the time. That was very weird. Did I look like I wanted it? Needed it? If I had the theological knowledge to articulate what I thought then, I'd say, "Thank you, Father, but these accidents are disgusting." As an additional aside within the digression, let me say that all things Catholic are usually beautiful. The church is beautiful, the priest is adorned, the words he says are exalted, as are the words the people say. I remember that Anne Rice had said she loved Mass when she was small, and the beauty drew her back again before she left...again. One blatantly obvious reason why iconoclasm is stupid is that it's utterly contrary to the manufacture of a human being. Our senses work well, God-willing, and that's how it's supposed to be. If I wanted to start a cult, the Cult of Jason would have everything the Catholic Church does, in addition to whatever creepy thing I wanted to add. It works, man.

When we talk next time, I'm just gonna continue with the story. Thanks for stopping by.

Happy Birthday, Kelly Moffatt!!!

5 Thoughts For Today

5. You're as old as Jesus now.

4. Dargatz and Bishop are loud.

3. Good times in the clown car! Ha!

2. "This is a car for directionally-challenged people."

1. I'm sorry, I can't see past the chocolate on your face.