Friday, June 21, 2013

The Crying Game

Apparently, I make people cry. In the good way, and the bad way. Sorry, everyone. I make myself cry. Both ways, too. "Sensitive" doesn't get it; it's like touching souls. Sensitive people get itchy when the mold gets high; Soul-Touchers can either change your life, or rip your guts out, and make you wonder if it's worth it.

Like sketchy preacher-types. And whoever made 'Armageddon'. I don't care what you say; that movie gets me every time. It's the Dad thing; has to be. It recasts the whole movie for me. When I see Gracie Stamper, I think, I get you. I know who you are.

So let me just remind everyone that I am an emotionally dangerous person. Or something. I really didn't know this. I was not aware of this at all. Please forgive me if I have destroyed any of you emotionally or otherwise. It probably wasn't intentional.

I am sitting here reflecting, and I realize that no one gets such a powerful gift for no reason. It means that as we talk, I should be careful. I'm not careful many times, because I think everyone is like me. That's stupid, I know. And there's not much of a filter here, because if it matters, then it matters.

On the other hand, I do edit as I go. I've repented mid-sentence and written again. Or at least re-written for the sake of charity. I was recently invited to reflect on the possibility that down the road, I may regret this post. It's one of the most-viewed that I have. And fair enough, it hasn't been very long. Also, full disclosure: I am aware that I am fully capable of writing angry, as it were. And that it could become a sin issue, if it hasn't already. All that said, I love that post. I know the love that made me write it. I understand that not everyone has examined these issues in dialogue as I have for as long as I have. If you happened upon this for the first time, it'd be a punch in the face. My bad.

But again, I think the central questions in theology are ecclesiological. If we call ourselves Christians, and we are not aware that, especially from a Protestant point of view, our very concept of 'Church' is disintegrating right in front of our eyes, we are deceived. Frankly, I don't know how "What is the Church?" and "Are we wrong about the Church?" doesn't echo in the soul of every putative minister.

I don't know where everyone is with respect to the evidences for the Catholic Church's claim to be the Church Christ founded, and I don't know if there is any theological meaning to that claim for any one person. But I do know that it is the question that matters, now, and into the future. If my actually being Catholic empties that statement of all force, my apologies.

I still believe, as I have for many years, that we will not soon have the luxury of disunity. It was this mental picture of men, surely agents of the Enemy and of the State, rounding up the followers of the Way and killing them that sharpened the dogmatic principle within me: "What would you die for, and how would you know it was right?" It was never just a fun exercise; if you don't ask yourself this, you should. I'm not even a very good Christian, but I absolutely know that whatever this is, death and life are the stakes, whether here or in the hereafter.

Can you imagine what this might do to a person about to take sacred vows to the effect that, "This is the word of God"? You had better know what matters and why. I understand that, God-willing, we'll probably live out most of our days in relative peace; we'll eat fried chicken after the service and turn on the Cards game. If it goes just so, hey, I'm not complaining. But it may not. And I don't just say words with respect to God; if He asks for everything I have, for the highest stakes possible,--pardon my failures, O Lord--then I'm in.

What I actually did was examine my access-points to divine truth that demanded my whole being. And as Bob Lozano might say, there were plot holes in our story. Big ones. I was shocked at how, as I once wrote, "critically unexamined" it all was. It was as if we as Christians developed along parallel lines that will never meet. That fundamental assumption of continuity and unity that lies at the very heart of the gospel promises was mocked in our very ecclesial lives, and in the supposed proud history we were taught. And this is the key: It is not only a moral problem to be repented of and lamented; it is a theological problem that demands an answer. Frankly, as I look at the non-Catholic world, it's not a strong answer. I heard the words in my soul: This isn't worth dying for; this isn't worth even a separation. You might think Sola Fide or penal-substitutionary atonement is worth your life, at least until you inquire as to its origin and basis. And I am personally a witness that the Church that was allegedly unworthy of loyalty, that had supposedly perverted the gospel of Jesus Christ, puts up a sturdier defense than one is prepared to acknowledge.

While I am thrilled and thankful that most people now do not regard Catholics as sub-Christian heathen, and many kinds of Christians have all manner of warm fellowship and dialogue, it clouds our vision at times as to the importance of not only the person of God, but as to the precise content of his message. Fair to say that the disputants in Christian history would be offended by our apparent unwillingness to fight for the doctrine of God. Is it possible that transient things like politics and culture have become more important than the truth about God? A passing thought, worthy of consideration.

Just so we are clear: If you get an inspiration to read your Bible more, or to pray more, or a good word in a sermon, discern it. If it is good, do it! None of the hard edges of what the Catholic Church says to other Christians, whether authority, or sacraments, or doctrine, is opposed to this. But you must be ready for God to do what He likes. The Holy Spirit will never tell you to stay away from the Catholic Church. Jesus Christ is Jesus Christ. There is no Protestant Jesus and Catholic Jesus. And one Father of all who believe.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Father, Forgive Them...

It's no secret that I'm struggling to forgive someone and something. It's not even that I have no warm thoughts or prayers, because I do. It's just that the thing I most fear and hate has come true: to feel alone and isolated from a person who matters. I never wanted that. And I think, "To be misunderstood and even unloved! What could be worse?"

But then I listened to the priest. He said to meditate on those words of Jesus. It's true that my pain in its depth is not understood; it's true that I am hurt that I cannot redress it, that I have no one to talk to besides God, and His strange servants who don't really understand it.

But it is also true that I do not understand the depth of the pain I caused. I tried, but it's not always easy to do. It's harder when hurtful things come back at you. I'm a proud man; I am jealous of my reputation. So there was a curious tension between the opinion and hurt feelings of someone I value, and the unfairness of that assessment.

Life has gone on without me, I suppose, and if I wasn't continually reminded of it, I probably would not struggle so. If I could freeze it all in a time before it all happened, I would. And yet, the days that pass feel like a refutation of all the good. And that just seems wrong.

I've never been good at being angry. Worse than that, every time I say, "I have no need of this false 'friend' anyway" I call myself a liar in the next breath. Because I do not want to hurt and be hurt; I want to cry, and say, "I'm sorry" and hear, "I'm sorry, too." Don't judge me; like in the movies.

I'm not struggling to forgive; I'm struggling to live with the fact that I may not be, that I am a non-person in this other person's life. Call me vain or crazy or sick, but I don't fathom this; I don't know how.

You know how people in the Catholic Church debate Hell, and it's kind of a test of orthodoxy? If you emphasize total exclusion from God too much without mentioning punishment, some think you are doctrinally soft. If you talk about fire without exclusion, and without Mercy above all, people think you are a nut-bar. Well, there is something true about the thought of Silence that is the worst thing I can contemplate. Save your hellfire; anywhere without God is bad enough, dare I say. My friend is/was certainly not God. But I can tell you that there is something hellish about life here, and I only hope grace heals it one day.

I Dreamed A Dream (Again)

I had a dream two nights ago. All of my friends were in a house. It was the Lord's house; I know that part. It's a very nice house. Anyway, I sat down right in front of the friend from whom I am estranged. I looked right at her. She kept reading her book, as if I were not there. It was very hard.

It was more than a bit like those scenes in The Christmas Carol and It's A Wonderful Life, where no one can see the main character. We're desensitized to this now, because we've seen it so much. But can you imagine how terrible that would actually be? [Shudder] I wonder if the Judgment will be like this; you see what would have happened without you either way.

I don't know why I'm thinking about this so much. Well, I do. But I wish I were not. I feel pretty much like I did at the time: that the silence is unwarranted, un-Christian, unforgiving, and unfair. And no amount of lecturing or guilt-trips will change that.

I have taken not only this personally, but also those who thought it necessary to rebuke me, as if the emotions were not enough. You weren't there; you don't know what I was thinking and feeling. And no one bothered to ask. Shut your pie-hole.

My capacity for self-debasement only goes so far. But obviously, this is still bothering me.

Bovine Feces

"God does not love us because we are valuable. We are valuable because God loves us." - Martin Luther

Bovine feces. I wouldn't even fertilize my garden with that. [You don't have a garden.--ed.] The thing that irritates me most is that people think this is 'the gospel.' The gospel is this: God is Love. God loves us because he loves us. The fact that God loves proves that we are inherently valuable. There is absolutely no warrant for the self-hatred suggested by this dualistic man-hating excuse for 'the gospel.' God sounds like an abusive father.

In fairness, everything ultimately gets its value from God. But we are valuable AND God loves us. If humans were not inherently valuable, there would be no Hell, because the judgment comes by the rejection of God who made us. And it means that sin is a kind of self-hatred.

God loves us more than we can possibly love ourselves. Pride does prevent us from loving God, but there are two kinds: the "God is lucky to have me" pride, and the "God cannot possibly love me" pride. Calvinists generally incline toward the latter.

I can see why monergism is so attractive; you want the most foolproof theology you can find, given the fact that you don't like yourself, and don't see how anyone (including God) could.

It's still crap. How's this for good news: God actually loves you. Not redeemed you, not "my sin is covered" you. Just you. Actually, He never stopped loving. Anyone. Ever. But He wants you in on it. He wants to change you. You in?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Presumption, Film At 11

This is good, as far as it goes. We could lob bombs at various "fundamentalists" until the cows come home. But it only brings the question into sharp relief: "Was the Reformation at its core anti-sacramental?" In a word, yes.

It will not do to see all the ill effects of denying the sacramental reality of Holy Orders centuries later, and then try to smuggle the benefits in, without grappling with the question of authority that give this issue its real salience in the first place.

I do not deny or minimize all that is held in common by Christians. But the challenge is precisely this: If you don't have a real sacramental succession from the apostles, you vainly presume to carry the signs of grace to the people for whom Christ died.

The Young One

It is an offering
that must be made.
These are the best gifts
they say, and that may be.

But it came to me
unwanted, and it pulls me down
into a place of no thought, no reason,
only tears.

Were it death, that is one thing.
I mock death, and I know its defeat.
No, this is much worse,
and I am powerless.

I do not know how to offer
what I have been given.
I cannot see how it is good.
You want my bitterness and despair?

Perhaps Wisdom will come and say,
"This is the way."
On my behalf, she says,
"Accept it, for he is The Young One."

My portion is regret
and anger is my friend.
The choicest parts
It seems have been taken.