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Showing posts from 2014

Define Your Terms, Feminist Edition

I'm not a feminist. I'm going to define the term, and then you'll understand why.  Feminism is a political movement, the goal of which is to subjugate men to women. That's what it is. If you want to talk about what most people want it to mean, and all manner of ancillary desires that people have (most of which I share, by the way), we can do that. But numerous problems faced by women which induce them--and a fair number of men--to call themselves "feminists" does not mean it is defined accurately in that case. For most people, feminism means recognizing the dignity and status of women. It means speaking out against sexual violence. It means encouraging girls to learn math and science (and everything else), or even play sports. I'm OK with all this, to a point. And feminists know this about most of us, which is why they like their movement being associated with all these things. But you need to understand: these are just means to an end, for the

The New Puritans (Way Worse Than The Old Ones)

There's a show I love called, "Criminal Minds." It's about a "Behavioral Analysis Unit" of the FBI that profiles serial killers and other violent offenders. We've been touched by violent crime in our family, so we have a great interest and admiration for what law enforcement does in this area. Great show. Anyway, there was a killer on the show who was murdering young women because of unresolved guilt over same-sex attraction, AND his parents sent him for "reparative therapy," where he was forced to watch pornography, and raped by a woman. It's so absurd, no wonder they think we Christians are insane. I could lodge objections against some forms of so-called "nouthetic counseling" all day long, but bottom line, this craziness doesn't fit any "pray away the gay" ideas I know of! In any case, I may just scream if I am subjected to one more consequentialist argument this week. (specifically, that it's OK to be com

Born Is The King Of Israel (Lk 2:22-35)

I could very well be imagining things; I can't say I felt totally contemplative in reading this Gospel. Still, the things which kept sticking out to me were "your people Israel" and, "the consolation of Israel." I can't get away from the joy and the sadness of what it must've been like, to wait, knowing that the transgressions of the covenant left God's People with a very circuitous route to the experience of His mercy. Simeon was faithful Israel, in his own way, carrying around in his body, and in his yearning, the death of Christ. And Mary is faithful Israel par excellence. We don't need to wonder at foolish questions, like whether Mary could die for us; she is not the Savior. We have an impoverished view of our God and Lord, in fact, if the only thing we love Him for is his sinlessness. In any case, if we don't see that we participate in what God is doing for His People Israel, we have no idea how great the New Covenant is. Most of us

5 Amy Grant Thoughts

5. Her pop albums--namely "Heart In Motion" and "House Of Love"--are better than the Christian music that made her famous. 4. I love the title track "House Of Love," but it makes me uncomfortable. Is there a non-judgmental way to say, "Divorce and re-marriage make me uncomfortable, because they're wrong"? 3. I know someone who almost asked out Amy Grant, because he literally had no idea who she was. (Of course, there's a big difference in age, but that proves that she has remained absurdly beautiful for a very long time.) 2. I was going to say, "How come Amy Grant and Kenny Loggins never had a duet?" but they did: "Return To Pooh Corner." 1. I have like 50 songs I think are the Greatest Song Ever, but one of them surely is "I Will Remember You."

C'mon Will, You're Better Than This

Dude,  Bryan wasn't even a literalist, as he admits in his own unquestionably heroic testimony. Just read it. No, the teaching of evolution in the state of Tennessee had far more insidious purposes for Bryan. The textbook embraced social Darwinism, of the kind we fear, but progressives knowingly or not, routinely advance.

The Weary World Rejoices

I got in the car to go to my brother's on Christmas afternoon, and the radio was on. We chose 106.5, the one adult format station that doesn't cave to seasonal pressure. If I want Christmas music, I'll go to church. They were playing "Locked Out Of Heaven," by Bruno Mars. It worked somehow. It's a sketchy song, but it tells us something important. Even when people are doing the most selfish things, like using each other for sexual gratification, they are thinking of and hoping for Heaven. That's how much of a claim God has over us. The power of Christmas and Jesus Christ is this: You don't know many people completely unaffected by the "magic" of Christmas. The worst person you know can't fail to notice that these days are different. That vague intuition, no matter how poorly articulated, is the work of grace. It's grace that can lead all the way to salvation in Christ, if one remains open to God's promptings. The weary world

I'm Not "Super-Religious," I'm Christian

It's only weirdly counter-cultural to be an unmarried virgin because we have forgotten that fornication , or sex between an unmarried man and woman, is a sin. Our culture does two things very well: 1. It denies truth, which ultimately comes from God, who is Truth; and 2. It twists truth, so that which was once true contextually (like the fact that God loves you, even if you sin) swallows the rest of the truth (that sin is bad, and it separates us from God). It's not all wine and roses, trying to be obedient to God. But we do it, because we believe that friendship with God is our highest end. Any real Christian you meet could tell you of his sins, even knowing, willful ones. Forgiveness of sins is a huge part of the story. Depending on what part of it you're looking at, it's the defining part of the Christian story. "You are to name him 'Jesus', because he will save his people from their sins." I think evangelical culture has done a weird thing, too

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Is there anyone who actually hates trees? 4. On the other hand, whatever benefits may accord from commoditizing literally everything, the unfettered exchange of goods and services via contract is not necessarily in accord with the common good. 3. There are real cases to made on both "sides" for a robust articulation of what Professor Cole Williams calls "economic self-determination." The Right absolutizes the self, to the exclusion of the whole; the Left obliterates the self for the sake of the whole. 2. We do not have a healthy economic ecosystem, for two reasons: 1. We have believed that people are mere economic instruments; and 2. We have degraded and stifled the moral intuitions of those same people, in pursuit of merely economic and material ends. In short, we lack the virtue to create wealth in sustainable, humane, and purposeful ways. 1. The "common good" is the sum of all conditions necessary for every person to reach the end for which t

It's Very Simple

Someone in my family posted a picture of the Twin Towers smoldering, with the meme, "This is why I don't care how the terrorists are interrogated!" It has all the finesse of a kick to the groin. Well, I do. And the reason I do is justice. It's not just or right to treat people's humanity like trash. It wasn't right the first time when they did it; you can spangle it with stars, and adorn it with country song lyrics, and it's still wrong. That's why the Enemy laughs whenever there's a war, because he knows that injustice will often be met with wounded, angry, passionate retaliation. They are still people. It's so simple, but it's so hard, because we think no one else is watching, that vengeance is OURS, we will repay. Maybe it's that simple atheism right there. It makes all the difference, doesn't it? It's possible and very likely that these people have merited a thousand Hells by what they have done. But ask yourself this:

Kickin' It Old School

It would actually be a tragedy if a woman defied her father, and married a man he hated. It's tragic either way. He might actually be a bad husband, and a good father would do everything possible to prevent that. On the other hand, if one is living in the small universe of possibility that ignoring Dad is a good thing, that's a tragedy worth mourning, too. This  is the song that prompted me thinking about it, and an interesting discussion besides. I'm not sure I would do it. I'm perfectly capable of an unshakable affection, which might be one reason I wouldn't. Maybe other people are smarter than my heart (and hers). I would rather live in a world of "outmoded" traditions than this one, where we decide individually what we think best. How's that working out?

The God Who Is There

I believe God is here. I believe he sees what you will see when you read this. I believe He is one God in three distinct Persons. He hears me, and loves me. God is not a concept at the top of an enterprise attempting to do something else; He is God. The whole world does what it does by His design. We are breathing because He sustains us. Understand what you do if you disdain someone who "gets religion"; unless you are disputing her particular claims or sincerity, (legitimate in the abstract) the other alternative is that you are saying, "I live in a world where He isn't there." You don't want to end your life living in that world; that is one aspect of Hell. I doubt the earnest atheist realizes the extent of what he claims to desire. Frankly, I think most atheists are really anti-fideists; that is, they don't believe we should just take a leap in the dark, believing a fanciful story "just because." I say, "Fair enough." I may not be

Little Things Mean A Lot

I suppose it's a good thing to be on the fence about needing the Sacrament of Reconciliation, if you are a well-formed Catholic with a strong conscience. It means that you are not the sort of person who lives the kind of life that the fear of judgment is inordinately terrifying. On the other hand, the saints seem preoccupied with their own sinfulness. That makes sense; if the light of Christ always shines, it'll see a lot of dust and dirt. In short, I went. Maybe one gets a little proud on the road to Heaven, because I didn't want to go. I always think there might be a guy who hasn't been in 40 years, and I'm holding up the show. On the other hand, if I cared enough to speak these faults--even, blessedly, not mortal to my soul--God the Holy Spirit thinks these are more serious than I do. And I felt more sorry about them in the sharing than I did when I was debating whether to go. I have to believe that was a work of grace. God never works shame in our hearts, bu

I'm Not Mad. Really.

I don't know what buffoonish person decided that you must be mad if you answer a simple question in writing or text with "Yes." but it's crazy. I'm not even comfortable ending a text without punctuation. I'm just not. If you ask me a yes/no question, you're going to get a yes/no answer, and probably with a period. I would feel weird putting an exclamation point there; am I excited? Are we laughing? I don't use smileys, either, unless I mean it. I shouldn't have to, to communicate a modicum of goodwill. Anyway, tell you what: anybody reading this, if you get a one-word text with a period, that period means, "I love you very much, and I'm so happy that you took the time to ask me that question! I'm looking forward to the next time we meet! In person!" It seems a bit melodramatic, but actually, that's a lot closer to the reality than, "I'm angry and seething; I shall communicate my dislike with this period." Seri

Let's Cut It With The "Fallen World" BS

It's certainly true that the world is imperfect in some way. We are imperfect in some way, and we know it even before we spend any time analyzing this or that moral situation. So I do not intend to say that we should deny original sin, or our inclination toward evil. The creation groans in expectation for the sons of God to be revealed, says St. Paul. What really irritates me is when this phrase is deployed when grievous, avoidable, culpable human sin is present. We should say, "That is wickedness," or, "I have done evil, when I had it within my power to do otherwise, by God's gracious help." I don't know if some of you are in the grip of some determinism that disallows blaming the actual people responsible, but it bugs me. I don't ever want to be so Christian that I talk and think like an insane person. Feel free to lament the fallen world when a young kid who hasn't even learned to ride a bike gets cancer, or a young woman dies before she b

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Go Cards!  [Baseball won't start for awhile.--ed.] Doesn't matter. WOOOO! 4. Thanks a bunch, Ireland. [He's Catholic now.--ed.] Chortle. True story. 3. I'll tell you why.  Because R. Kelly is "ghetto." He was never quite acceptable to white people. The most racist thing is this right here: They/we don't expect better. The Cosby thing hurts, because he is like us. He gave us white people exactly what we wanted, in the very deepest recesses of our Lincoln-loving, paternalist souls: the ideal Black man. We could love him without cost, like an entertainer MLK. Man, it's hard to write that. But it's true. 2. Then again, I doubt Ali is any less beloved, though he was about as "unacceptable" at certain points as anybody. Liberal revisionism that worked, for once? Who knows? 1. If Will Smith does something heinous, I might curl into the fetal position and sob, with the rest of White America. Sigh.


As you may or may not know, this is a plural imperative. In the Southern, then, it is "Y'all rejoice!" I think we all know things that aren't occasions for joy. Yet, this is a day for mercy, and therefore, joy. Mercy consists in this: we have not only pardon for sin, but the abiding invitation to be drawn ever more deeply into the life of the Blessed Trinity. While we cast aside what is common for what is eternal, we find the joy that is the promise of Heaven.

I'm Trying

If you're reading this blog, you know that I have a social media presence. Maybe it's vanity, and maybe those who say discussions in those places aren't helpful are right. Fair enough. I've always liked them, and as long as I have the time, I don't plan on stopping. Yet I notice that the public at large doesn't like grey anything. People--whether the media, corporations, political parties, you name it--put you in a camp, and they expect you to stay there. The drug of choice is a false dichotomy. It's no secret that I'm a passionate guy, with many strong opinions on everything. But I find this intellectual challenge welling up inside to find the truth, even if I have to refrain from speaking to do it. Saying there is grey when others see only black and white isn't to say there is no truth; it is to say that it may take more time and effort than some people are comfortable with to find it. I'm 34 years old. My days of being a "prophet"

Fred Says Things Better, Again

I should just admit it.  Recall, the Noltie Conundrum only works in a world where God supernaturally reveals things. It works as a dilemma because it demonstrates what legitimate epistemic doubt does to the ability to hold a supernaturally revealed truth x. It relies on the fact that one horn of the dilemma is completely unacceptable for the Christian: that God could err, or lie. I also thought it was interesting, as I felt the force of it, that it relies essentially on love and goodwill to make the point. It's easy to take the other door, to simply say that Johnny Methodist isn't smart or saved; it's a great deal more fruitful to wonder if Sola Scriptura is the way God intended us to know the faith. (No, in case you're wondering.) Every serious theological school has a Captain Jack; this backdoor appeal to expertise dies a quick death, upon reflection. At least it did for me. Maybe the other door out would have been atheism or an existential agnosticism, but for

The Longest Confession Line Ever (And The Virtue Of Patience)

It wasn't that hard, really. I couldn't help but notice, though. That got me thinking. Firstly, this isn't the first time I've waited an hour, at least. I wonder what God is trying to say? Secondly, I was acutely aware that there was no way I was leaving this line, unless the priest gave up and ran away. Even then, I can't guarantee I wouldn't pester him like I was the persistent widow. That's just how these things go. That's all you need to know about whether we believe all that sacramental stuff. Yes, man! Thirdly, it helped me shake the dust off my mental feet regarding this Latin American Reformed guy who was arguing with me about the sacraments some weeks ago. I guess I was supposed to feel bad that mother Church teaches that attrition, or fear of the punishment of hell, is sufficient to obtain the grace of absolution. I just kept thinking, Dude, if I sat around worrying about whether I felt sorry enough, or the right kind of sorry, I would die

From The Department Of The Blindingly Obvious

Rick Warren, of course, is right.  I can appreciate the positions of those who say I believe a "false gospel," but... Firstly, are you sure? How do you know? (These turned out to be much more difficult questions than I realized.) Secondly, how compelling is a "gospel" that has nothing to say about real human problems? In the end, I didn't think the Church that led the West to the very pinnacle of itself could be preaching a false gospel. At the very least, I could think critically about those who raised a dispute with her.

5 Thoughts For Today

5. I like the song, "On Eagles' Wings." I'm sorry, but not. 4. Here is my Traditional Catholic membership card, and decoder ring. 3. On the other hand, Gregorian chant really isn't that hard, at the end of the day. Why are we singing hymns, then? [Especially when it's only an allowance in a less-than-ideal situation.--ed.] 2. You can add "Days Of Elijah," also. Keeping in mind that it's not proper for the liturgy. 1. There is a 99.9% chance that you are not a lector, or a minister of Holy Communion, even if you are routinely filling such roles. Those are instituted offices. It's a small distinction, but an important one. We should say, "I'm fulfilling the lector's role today," or "I'm assisting with the distribution of Holy Communion." You're not a lector unless you hold that office, and you are not a "minister of Holy Communion" unless you are a 1) Bishop, 2) priest, or 3) deacon. I think

Messing With That Cardinal Is A Bad Plan

A Catholic Cardinal, to the leaders of Geneva, and John Calvin, in 1539: Let us here suppose two persons, one of each class, that is, from each road, let them be placed before the dread tribunal of the Sovereign Judge, and there let their case be examined and weighed, in order to ascertain whether a condemnatory or a saving sentence can justly be pronounced. They will be interrogated whether they were Christians. Both will say that they were. Whether they properly believed in Christ? Both will, in like manner, answer yea. But when they will be examined as to what they believed, and how they believed, (for this investigation, respecting right faith, precedes that concerning life and character,) when a confession of right faith will be exacted of them; he who was educated in the lap and discipline of the Catholic Church will say: - "Having been instructed by my parents, who had learned it from their fathers and forefathers, that I should, in all things, be obedient to the Catho

Mark Shea Love-Fest, Volume 5000

I love Mark Shea . I just do. I'm sorry, but not. I have a buddy on Facebook who was a student of Dallas Willard, and he always peppers my News Feed with the awesomest things Dr. Willard ever said. After I read the Christianity Today piece on Willard , he made me intensely curious, and appreciative at the same time. Barth is like that, too. You love him, and you don't know why. Well, I know why: because he loves Jesus. And that's no small thing, even if a man holds ideas that are heretical, and even dangerous. I digress. This poor DeWaay guy can't do anything, if his people ask anything outside his little box, except to shame them. This is the byproduct of fideism: the basic idea that divine truth needs no evidence, no proof, just a leap in the dark. It might even be true to say that I explored Catholic claims because "Because we say so/the Bible says so" wasn't good enough anymore. Paging Christian Kingery! This seems like the beginning of a worthy ep

Men Are Pigs

Got your attention, didn't I? I don't mean to say there are no good men. I should hope not! I expect myself to be one. The thing is, though, we are selfish trolls, by default. That's the only way a starlet can say things like, "He'll either look at porn, or you" and no one really flinches. Women can lust, too. But I think we know that we live in a society that tolerates and embraces imbalanced male sexuality. What I'm really sick of--beyond myself--is the attitude that we are entitled to sexual gratification. Dudes, that is garbage. God will send me a wife if he thinks it's good, and not before. He's calling me and you to chastity in any case. What is "chastity," anyway? It's the integration of our sexuality into the whole of our person, and to the plan of God as a whole. Plain English: Sex doesn't exist for its own sake.  It has a place, and that place isn't at the top of the pyramid. That means that the girl you "have

Christ The King

The Gospel made me cry. Matthew 25:31-46. It's true that it's a challenge, but the real test is not the works in themselves; it's to give yourself over to Christ's love. He doesn't just offer a giant cosmic hug; His love is his power to bring everything into subjection. When we step forward to participate in that re-ordering, we say what side we're on for the day when he reigns in triumph. That triumph is a triumph in love, but make no mistake: the King has no rivals. They will be won over, willingly or not. Perhaps we think God's love is a hippie-circle at Woodstock, but Jesus isn't a buddy; he's the ruler of the entire universe. There is no term, no election, and no opinion polls. The Mighty One will do what he wants. Choose this day whom you you will serve. We therefore can't simply read this or preach it, and say, "Do stuff!" The doing or not has a personal dimension; that Person is Jesus.

Men Do Not Understand Women, But...

Women don't understand men, either. Not even close. They think they do; they might even swap vainglorious magazine articles about how much they do, but the truth is, unless we are comparing your average single young woman to a complete oaf and scumbag, the man understands way more. You think I'm crazy, perhaps, but I'm not. My favorite absurdity about women is how they handle romantic attention. I'm taking a risk here, because I know women read this blog. Fair enough. I figure I'm single anyway; it doesn't get "worse" from here, for me. (Do not write me extolling the virtues of celibacy and other forms of special dedication to God; thank you. I am not denigrating it; I am single, knowingly. Meaning that I am treating it like a season for me, and a hard one, at that.) Anyway, the silliest thing I ever have seen is when young women act surprised when a "really good friend" expresses romantic interest, they rebuff him, and then they have the

The Gateway, Part 2

I wholeheartedly grant that even a large preponderance of the so-called Reformers did not intend to be the arbiters of their own rule of faith, via Sola Scriptura. I grant that many of them, and the spiritual descendants after them, do not grant that they are biblicists. They believe that they have a healthy respect for tradition, and the accumulated weight of considered reflection over centuries. But what a person believes concerning himself, and the reality of what is, under the light of logic may well be different. Who is the arbiter of what Scripture says, if the Magisterium of the Catholic Church is not? It would seem, quite frankly, that any alternate authorities do not function as true arbiters, if indeed that purported authority over the man is predicated on his prior agreement that it agrees with him. At this point, many will object, saying that no adherent of the Reformed or Lutheran (or other) system submits to himself, but rather, the Word of God. Yet it is the failure to

5 Thoughts For Tonight

Just a note: This will be Spurs and basketball related, because--aside from the continued good health of a struggling friend, and the Good News of Christ--today wasn't all that great for the world, though I have no personal complaints. Without further ado: 5. Dude, the Cleveland Cavaliers are legit. It's time to face up to the fact that LeBron James makes any team he is on into an acute threat for the NBA championship. And not because he does it all; he facilitates the flourishing of his teammates' talents. I am neither pro or anti-LeBron; I just know what I see. "King James" is not only arguably the best player in the game, he's one of the best ever. At 29. 4. I grant you that I am an avowed fan of the San Antonio Spurs. Because of this, you are free to dismiss what I will say. The Spurs are the most complete team I have ever seen. There is scarcely a meaningful distinction between a starter and a bench player on the Spurs. It's not an admirable goal,

Amen, I Say!

Oh, how funny and obviously adorable is this woman ? Learning how much Jesus loves her, and a degree from Mizzou to top it off! Be still, my heart! [The grammar fascism would reach unprecedented and unhealthy levels between the two of you.--ed.] True story. She'd also get around to saying I'm not much of a writer; I like starting sentences with conjunctions, and I overuse commas. I blame some Oxford dude, and Mrs. Conway. [Those grammar lessons still give me nightmares.--ed.] Dude, I know. Like being Catholic or something. [Zing!--ed.] I'm in the club now; I say what I think.

The Gateway

I've said eleventy thousand times that the claim of the Catholic Church to be the Church Christ founded rests on The Three Things . If you're going to doubt it, it'll be about these things. Fair enough. But what is much more sporting fun is to ask your friendly neighborhood papist and convert, "Just what in blazes made you consider it in the first place?" I'm so glad you asked! We could talk for hours about the unworkability of Sola Scriptura, and the attendant Noltie Conundrum, but it doesn't quite make it plain. What does is this: I realized that so-called "derivative authority" was a sham, that its logical system makes a distinction without a difference. I'm saying that everyone who has placed all their eggs in the basket of drawing a distinction between "Solo" and Sola Scriptura are playing mind-games with themselves, because it isn't there. If Sola Scriptura is unworkable, AND the ecclesiastical authorities set up subsequ

Love Is The Answer (Again)

I love that song. Most people just chalk it up to my love of (in their view) terrible music, but the truth is that I love that song for a very specific reason. If you knew the intensity of my fight with God in '09-'11, you might get an idea. It's not going to win any theology prizes, OK? Sometimes, it sounds vaguely Arian. But Dan Seals will tell you, that song helped him become a Christian in 1996. I didn't know that song until 2010. It came at the perfect time for me. I'm the kind of person who, for whatever reason, makes the simple things really hard at times. That's what I was doing in 2010. The plain message is this: Sometimes, you have to let go, and trust Jesus. It doesn't mean we stop thinking, or not care about Truth. But He is that Truth, and the plainest thing I know about Jesus is that His Name is Love. Tell you what: I dare you to take the chorus of this song, and make it a prayer: "Light of the world, shine on me; Love is the answer

5 Thoughts For Today

5. You'll have to pardon the rudeness, but I find the mere suggestion that a Reformed seminarian, with his "literal" interpretation, is a better interpreter of Scripture than St. Anthony of the Desert hilarious. 4. And yes, that means that "Saints" are a real thing. 3. Which means that growth in both sanctification and justification is both possible, and necessary. 2. If that sounds weird or impossible to you, you do not yet grasp the Catholic position well enough to even refute it. 1. When the Catholic Church says someone is justified, that doesn't mean they were "declared" innocent; that means they are in fact innocent.

"Love Like Jesus": A Subtle, Pernicious Form Of Dogmatic Relativism

Usually when people say, "I just want to love Jesus, and love like He loves" they do not mean they could do more works of mercy. We need to understand that, and see it for what it is: it's a cry for help. Sola Scriptura has done its nasty work, and the inability to know and come to agree on what Jesus has in fact said has reached its full flower. This person quite literally does not know what he or she is to believe. They've done the best they can to relativize whatever they could not fix, and here they are. Here's the thing, though: If you're going to even attempt to do or be anything like Jesus, you're already pretty far into the narrative of God's People. You've already accepted the authorities that gave us that story. The Church was meant to be as visible as Israel was, and more so. The New Covenant is the incorporation of the Gentiles into the People of God, which Christ--the Messiah, the Son of God and son of David, has willed to call His

5 Thoughts For Today

5. The original "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" film (1990) can't possibly be matched by the most recent one. [You haven't seen the recent one.--ed.] I don't need to. 4. I'm starting the Vikings defense/special teams against the Bears this week in fantasy football. I'm sorry, but not. 3. Speaking of football, it's a highly anticipated match-up this Sunday night: Patriots and Colts. Brady against Luck. The aging "Golden Boy" against "The Kid." [Boy, he is a gunslinger, too, that Luck.--ed.] The brains of Manning and the arm of Favre. 2. The family-size box of Cheez-Its stares at me, and I at it. We all know who will win the war, one delicious cracker at a time. 1. Al Roker is trying to set a Guiness World Record for the longest continuous weather broadcast: 34 hours. Are you kidding me?

(Liberal) Read Of The Day

Good idea.  You all know that my greatest sympathies with something resembling liberalism are in the area of prison/justice reform. I do not believe that anyone is simply a product of his environment, but neither do I believe it has no impact. Liberalism's failure in the US is directly related to the belief that people are inclined to the good. We are not; we are good with respect to our original design, and the end for which we are made. But, by virtue of those things, we have a dignity that ought not be thrown aside. In fact, for us to employ people whose sole function is to enforce the degradation of that dignity is itself a degradation of their dignity. In theology or politics, it comes back to what we mean by "mercy." Mercy is not the forbearance of evil; it is rather the plain confession that a particular evil and its effects are not the end of a person's story. They really aren't meant to wallow in regret and self-hatred. "Go and sin no more" is

5 Thoughts For Tonight

5. "The Big Fundamental," better known as future Hall Of Fame player Tim Duncan, wasn't good tonight. 12 points and 13 rebounds. I know a lot of players who wish they could suck like that. 4. 4-3 now, and as much as we enjoy the role players becoming stone-cold killers--especially come playoff time--I'm sure you're asking what I'm asking: "Where the #$@! is Patty Mills?" 3. And Tiago Splitter. 2. And Marco Belinelli. 1. I guarantee you Coach is mad, because they gave up 100 points.

Checking In On The Drunk Ex-Pastors (Episode 15)

Jason and Christian, again.  I want it known that 2006 was the only time I missed an election. I voted this time, and I was pleased to do so. I enjoy following politics as well. It's just interesting. I'm the political opposite of Christian, though. Stellman knows than I am ideologically flexible enough to be a good time. It's hard to say I was happy about the results; there is enough variance in the Republican Party itself, with respect to the goodness of government as such that I'm a long way from feeling heady. On the other hand, the Democratic Party is so arrogant, and so fundamentally opposed to my view of the world that they deserve to get smacked. Hard. Over and over again. Christian's non-faith still seems like a huge non-sequitur to me, although we have arrived at our places from very different starting points. I wasn't raised anything , but my childhood with alcoholics and those recovering from it was such that if you asked me at 12 years old wheth

Love Across Time And Space

That's what "Interstellar" is about. With all due respect, no one cares deeply about relativity. We need it as an explanation for why the characters face various problems related to time, but that's it. Dr. de Grasse Tyson wants to talk about it, but that's because it's all he has. That is what we call "emptiness," my friends. The way I see it, we either talk constantly about things we can't measure because we're stupid, or because we're so much more than stupid. What would St. John Paul the Great say? Who would you rather be like? Food for thought.

I Have No Idea

Can you deeply appreciate a film if it fails to accomplish its purpose as a film? That's what I keep asking myself after seeing "Interstellar" last night. Is it worth it? Yes. Emphatically yes. Will you leave feeling satisfied? Probably not. I'm not going to tell you anything else about it, because I don't know where to start. If you're a Christian and you like philosophy or theology, you should definitely see it. Heck, if you appreciate the Questions of Life, you'll appreciate it. I have to put something like a Dad Warning on this. If you're a Dad, or you could be one, you'd better see this with people who will not mock you if you get emotional. It's a weird feeling: to know the filmmakers didn't quite do what they set out to do, but that you should thank them anyway.

5 Thoughts For Today

5. The quickest way to improve the conversation on body image is to stop showing your body. 4. We men are rational animals, who will indeed be held accountable for our sins. But the key word is "animals." 3. Apart from grace and prayer, the best guy you know is a breath away from Super-Creepy Rob Lowe. 2. Still not Lent. But it is Friday. Fare thee well, Candy Bag. 1. I have concluded in half-seriousness that "Stand Beside Me" by Jo Dee Messina is an egalitarian anthem. I blame Tim Dukeman.

O Holy Night

I feel Advent coming. I heard the hymn in my head today, and I nearly cried. It's not enough to say that it is powerful, moving, and reverent. Let the song be whatever it is. But don't let its subject escape your heart. There is something about the Incarnation that vibrates the soul with the generosity of God; His Law is love, and his gospel is peace. People are quick to say that good feelings and intent don't make everything alright, but with God, this truism does not apply. His love and mercy swallows every lack, every evil. I only know that I hear the knock at the door of my heart, and I must answer. Don't stand in the way; don't hold it back; there is no penalty for an excess of emotion here. 'Til He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

A Weekly Shot Of Fred

Good stuff, buddy . Nor do I disdain using Obama catchphrases in other contexts. [You're such a commie.--ed.] I am not. Anyway, this gives rise to a fascinating intra-Catholic discussion with regard to just how much of Catholic teaching is "in the Scriptures," explicitly or implicitly. In any case, one reason why good Catholics tend to reject a reformational "Scripture vs. Tradition" dichotomy is that the Sacred Scriptures were once oral, and we still receive them orally in the liturgy. We preserve that "whether by word or by letter" attitude every day of our faithful lives. Let that blow your mind.

Read Of The Day

Read this.  Maybe we should talk about the fear of death, instead of pretending we don't have it. But then, it's like Fr. Whatshisname said the other day: how you live is how you die. At the moment, the pleasures of life are useless to me, if people do not know that I tried to love them for God's sake. Easy to say, I guess, for me. And yet, how you live is how you die. Get started now, because I don't want bitterness and hatred stamped on the folder of my life, and neither do you. Christ, have mercy!

5 Thoughts For Today

5. That was a butt-kicking of the highest order. It seems like some semblance of political order has been restored to my universe. 4. Did you hear about Iowa? As the House seats in that state went more and more Republican, Democratic supporters "re-located to the cash bar." I had to laugh at that one. 3. Harry Reid is so bad, he made me happy to see Mitch McConnell. There should be a t-shirt that says, "The days were so dark, we were happy to see McConnell." 2. How did a (once) pro-life Mormon become the second-most important guy in the Baby Murder Party? You wince, but you know it's true. 1. I'm happy for Cory Booker. Don't judge me. Obama has probably prevented a black man from becoming president for a century, but seriously, I can listen to him for like 5 whole minutes.

Man, That Button Is Hot! (CCC, 2357-2359)

This is a hard teaching. But what else is new? It presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, and that's an important distinction. We may wonder why a little "harmless" sex of any kind seems to concern God, and our eternal destiny. But look around: Does our free and easy attitude really seem harmless? What does it mean when it says, "disordered" a couple of times? Realize that every gift from God has an end or purpose. Sin is usually taking a good thing, and using it for the wrong end. Some things are by their nature disordered, which means that circumstances or ignorance don't change the bad character of the act. The tendency or inclination of homosexuality is not personally sinful  as such, but it is part of the imperfection that results from original sin, from the Fall. 2358 reminds us that carrying the cross of these tendencies is not easy, and we shouldn't have a different attitude toward these temptations than we do toward our own. W

Checking In On The "Drunk Ex-Pastors" (Podcast 14)

Jason (Stellman) and Christian had a re-hash of their discussion about what exactly constitutes "indoctrination." I still believe that the negative connotation it carries (which Christian takes as the real definition) is wrong. I would grant that some conceptions of "Christianity" are simply fideism, that is, claims without reason, with no basis in reason, as naked appeals to authority or the threat of punishment. But Christian should simply say that. That is, it does not follow that rejecting a set of beliefs proposed because the reason to believe is "because I said so" requires the rejection of anything that purports to be supernatural (agnosticism/atheism). All that is to say, I'm looking forward to more of Christian explaining his story. Jason basically made that exact point in the first 15 minutes or so, and brilliantly, at that. I agree with Jason on almost every point usually, but I have a growing appreciation of Christian. Frankly, it had

Oh, You Mean Like Pastoral Theology

I think Mark is right (again). Feel free to read it all. I also think Cardinal Burke's approach of speaking directly and plainly works, too. It depends on the person. Or, in fancier words, "What is received is received according to the mode of the receiver." It's one thing to be genuinely concerned that people will continue sinning when in the Church, because someone has never told them; it's quite another to simply decide that certain undesirables will never repent, and any show of affection or friendship betrays "the gospel". This is where Calvinism is truly insidious, actually, because it gives those who make such a determination theological cover for doing so. Catholics, however, have no such excuse. Only you can know (and God) whether you have gone soft out of fear. Pray about it; pray for genuine and welcome opportunities to share your faith. As for me, I welcome anything that allows sinners to meet Jesus, even if it is their deception that ma

What Is "Pastoral Theology," Anyway?

You hear a lot about how we need to be "pastoral" these days. What does it mean? Well, first know that the root of the word means "shepherd" in the language(s) from whence it came. At the most basic level in theology, being "pastoral" means to shepherd people toward God, who loves all of us more than we do. The problem is that some people think "pastoral" means that we should hide the truth, or excuse sin, because the life God calls us to is too "hard" for some people. Or that our revealed truths are nice in theory, but not in practice. I couldn't imagine anything more wrong, or ultimately, more hateful. Still others think that being "pastoral" is a cowardly set of actions, seeming to forget that our God will punish all evil and sin that has not been pardoned with unquenchable fire in the pit of Hell. They believe that we should simply preach the Catechism, and admonish whoever we find the same way: "You're pr

Dear Everybody, The "Sacramental Treadmill" Is Awesome

You hear that a lot. "Catholicism has people running on a sacramental treadmill, never knowing if God loves them, and if they are saved." I confess, I can't beat up on you too bad, because I thought this, too. I'm sure Jerry Bridges is an awesome dude; many people have begun to have a relationship with Jesus through his work. The book "Transforming Grace" is where he uses the word. He should be honest, and plainly accuse the Catholic Church of whatever errors he wants to name. It's better that way. It's in that spirit of love, frankness, and fraternal correction that I say this: I have rarely read such dangerous, heretical nonsense. But then, that's the whole Reformation in a nutshell: giving some people a false peace, by telling them Jesus forgave them at the Cross for all sin, past, present, and future, and making the rest fearful and scrupulous, first telling those people that the sacraments of the Church don't really do anything, and th

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Progressives can't do political humor, really. They can't laugh at themselves; always so earnest and serious. 4. If you're going to make fun of someone in a good way, you have to like them. 3. If you appreciate Rick Santorum, and his faith-based morality, calling him "Archbishop Santorum" is sort of funny; if you actually believe an evil, theocratic cloud is descending, you sound like a paranoid freak. 2. Another day it isn't Lent. WOOO! 1. We've heard a lot about "catcalls" lately; it seems to me there's a difference between being crude, and being appreciative. At least once a week, I want to say, "I'd like to get hopelessly lost somewhere with you, with no GPS." [That's because you are a directional moron. You'll marry the first girl who rescues you from starvation.--ed.] [shrugs]

Well, They Did It Again

The San Francisco Giants have won the world championship of baseball. I'm not happy about it; my praise will be grudging and sparse, and I make no apologies for that. My Cardinals were beaten by the lucky trolls, for one. And for another, just that: they were obscenely lucky. I still haven't figured out how they score runs; they don't really hit! The ERA for the starters not named Madison Bumgarner was near 10; that's awful. The relief pitching was great, and obviously, it had to be. At this moment, I need to tell you how great Bumgarner really was, and is: he's played in 3 World Series, and he has surrendered about a quarter of a run per 9 innings over all of them. Forget winning; you're fortunate to score against him. When my profound distaste for them all wears off, I will say that it is one of the most impressive things you'll ever see in this game. He started and won games 1 and 5, and he pitched in relief 5 innings in Game 7. Two days of rest. He'

The Point Is...

At no point, to use a mathematical analogy, does 0*any number= anything but zero. So, if you have/assume not only fallible humans, but sinful ones, ecclesial communities with derivative authority (and not divinely-protected authority) and Sola Scriptura (and perspicuity, which follows necessarily from it) you must assert that the Holy Spirit protects and teaches a person as he interprets the Scriptures, if you wish to distinguish human opinion from revealed truth. At that point , and not before, does Sola Scriptura become a problem. You can see with your own eyes that there is no dogmatic agreement there; in fact, an invisible "Church" to use Newman's phrase, is a theory to account for a difficulty. The problem is, it doesn't do it very well. It's a uniquely Protestant problem, not simply a point of Catholic apologetics. The Catholic apologetic point is to say, "You can't account for the doctrinal consensus --imperfect as it is-- in a principled way, via

What Is Ecumenical Dialogue?

It sure seems like the Church does a lot of talking. Maybe too much, some fear. What is "ecumenical dialogue" anyway? I'm defining it this way: An ecumenical dialogue is a bilateral conversation regarding the content or application of revealed truth, principally concerned with defining terms, for the purpose of reaching agreement in that revealed truth. Appreciation is by no means excluded. But appreciation cannot be the end of dialogue, for appreciation is a rejoicing with and in the truth.

Begging The Question

What are "heresy," "orthodoxy," and "church," anyway?  If you think we need to go back to the early Church, you are unwittingly saying, "I want everyone to be members of the Catholic Church." Otherwise, you are imposing ecclesiastical authority and the doctrines they articulated in an ad hoc fashion. Realize what a unique situation this creates: you might even know the Catholic Church is the source of these truths, but refuse the rest (and the jurisdiction). To be blunt about it, such a person could not be saved. (Lumen Gentium, 14) Most people can't be said to knowingly, willfully reject Christ and the Church in this way. They either dispute the Church's claim to be uniquely founded by Christ based on a false notion, or the data which would make the claim reasonable are presented inaccurately or incompletely. In the most simple terms, my axioms can be summarized by two things: the faith must be received, and it must be infallible. So

Read Of The Day

Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig writes good stuff a lot. I've linked her here on the blog, as you'll see on your right-hand side. One day, she will write something I hate, but it hasn't happened yet. I guess she's on the political "Left" somewhere, but that reality just leaves me saying, "Please keep talking; I'm still listening." I love those people!

Of Course They Called It Quits

Whatever you may feel for another impossibly sexy person while you are on "The Bachelor," it won't be the things that make a marriage. Poor Juan Pablo and Nikki; they are chasing this cultural phantom called "love," when it's really lust, or at best eros, when even that must become a self-giving love rooted in the eternity of the Kingdom of God. I watched a season, I'll admit. Brad and Emily. I'm still mad about it. Because that little girl Emily gave birth to had a raw deal when her father died in a plane crash. This plane crash.  We owe   it to our kids in justice  that they grow up with Mommy and Daddy who love each other. Emily obviously wants, on some level, to make the best of it. But you can't really do that on a whim, on TV. Jesus is so good to us, He gives us grace through the Church to accomplish what we ought to do anyway, in the Sacrament of Matrimony. That's change I can believe in.

5 Thoughts For Today

5. I want to put some big speakers outside Rachel Maddow's house, and blast "Angry All The Time" by Bruce Robison. [OOOH, it's a Reverse Noriega!--ed.] A what? [You heard me. Just think about it.--ed.] 4. At the risk of objectification, she is really attractive. A guy who says, "You're beautiful when you're angry" is crazy. She might be cute when she's mildly annoyed, but true anger doesn't help anything. 3. I'm debating going back and listening to all the episodes of Drunk-Ex-Pastors , but then, I can't even be bothered to watch my Netflix shows, which I intentionally queued to watch. 2. My political crush is Christine O'Donnell. Yeah. 1. Pray for a thing I want to do. No other details.

I Believe In Indoctrination (Drunk Ex-Pastors, Episode 13)

If you don't start with something that cannot be questioned, you're a bad parent. No; I will force them to memorize things; I will have them learn it and memorize that Catechism. And the saints. Kids need things like that. Like you need to wear bike helmets. Christian at the end starts to make sense, because he's talking about "motives of credibility." But "question everything" is dumb. No one does that, and no one should.

Alan Noble, Call Your Office!

I'm still annoyed about Derek Rishmawy's asinine Tweet from yesterday, something about Reformation Day, yay! because we don't need indulgences, blah, blah, blah. Fine, if you are moved to dissent from the Catholic Church, do it. But at least get it right: Indulgences can't grant pardon for sins. They never could. You could read whole volumes of Reformed dogmatics, but you can't survey the official Catechism of more than 1 billion Christians for 10 minutes? But I get it: It's more about putting on a good show for your friends. Well, you're on notice. I'm watching. I hope you had a good "holy day" celebrating a divorce. How very postmodern.

Now, And At The Hour Of Our Death

It seems to me that death is all around us. It's almost absurd that we always act surprised. We do, though. Everybody's got those things, those sins, which seem like a little harmless fun. But what if you died before you finished reading this sentence? What would be the verdict of your life? The truth is, we're all Brittany Maynard (Diaz). We're all Oscar Taveras. It invites us to ask and answer the great question in life, posed by the great American philosopher, Scott Stapp: "What's this life for?" If you don't know, it's time to find out. We were not put here for ourselves; God put us here, to live for Him, for love of Him, and others. We don't have the right to live forever, but we have the opportunity. Jesus Christ died so that our sins may not be held against us. Ever since the message of his salvation has gone out, God has been reconciling the world to Himself in one body, the Church. The Catholic Church. It is not enough to know th

The Breath Of Life

"You've gotta shorten your swing!" I would yell at my TV nearly every time Oscar Taveras took his swings at the plate. A good hitter needs to get his hands through the ball as quickly as possible. Pitchers love long swings; long swings have many holes. I was tough on Oscar; St. Louis has astronomically high expectations for its team and players, and he was no exception. But in that dugout, on this team, you could see the kid grow. You know that this is the place to fail, while you learn to succeed. When you pull on that uniform, you join a huge family. Oscar is family; the wins and losses don't matter as much as playing with heart and guts. All the way to the end. The family that lives and dies with the count and the score is reminded that at the end of the day, it's only baseball. If you knew you had hours or minutes to live, what would you do? How would you be remembered? I pray that in those final moments, Oscar and his girlfriend knew true joy, and that,

A Thought

Romans 9:21-23: "Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory to the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory..." 2 Timothy 2:20-22: "In any great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and earthenware, and some for noble use, some for ignoble. If any one purifies himself from what is ignoble, then he will be a vessel for noble use, consecrated and useful to the master of the house, ready for any good work. So shun youthful passions and aim at righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart." It seems that the second text precludes interpreting the first in the manner of Calvinists. For if St. Paul means to