Friday, November 14, 2014

"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 own Body, of which He is the Head. The story has not changed; it's only gotten more glorious and gracious. In light of this, the case for the Church, the Catholic Church, to be that which Christ founded, gets easier to make. Even in those most fractious times of the Old Testament, God was still speaking to His people. People have always gone their own way, even in very high places. Yet if you wanted to know what God said, you could always know. That's still true today. Some say that we have granted an invisible Church while denying it in practice. I remind them not to equate a real but imperfect communion with full communion. Also, it would be a mistake to equate the invisible workings of grace with an evidence for the fundamental nature of the Church.

It is a better place to be, by far, to be some sort of "confessional" non-Catholic with a whole raft of theological objections and other points to make. But even still, the biblical narrative as one of faithfulness to His people challenges the necessary counter-narrative he must hold, which is one where God hides and even deceives, until the "right" people come along.

To put it cleverly, what benefit in following Jesus would there be, if Jesus is not Jesus? There is no "basic Christian message." The things we must believe are necessarily connected to who Jesus is. To whom has Jesus entrusted the keys of the Kingdom?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

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?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

(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 exactly mercy, because it doesn't say that the sin wasn't sin, but it doesn't say that you or I are permanently defined by whatever it was. Mercy calls upward to God, to his better and higher plans, better than those devised by our foolish whims.

Our society hates mercy, and it hates it in two ways. Firstly, we love to destroy people. If you mess up, or you're just ubiquitous and kind of annoying, you do not exist as a person. Kim Kardashian. Justin Bieber. Jeffery Dahmer. Those aren't people, right? We've classified them. They are what they are, and we do not allow them to be anything else. The idea that they might be actual people with feelings and needs is a bridge too far. In the first two cases, we think, "They have money, and such an easy life--more than I have--so they don't deserve friendship or sympathy." You have a friend, and his name is Envy.

In the latter case, I grant you, mercy is not easy. That guy killed and ate people. You can't get worse than that. I was talking to a friend in college, recounting that Dahmer received Christian baptism before he was murdered in prison. He told me that if that man walked away forgiven, he wanted no part of God. Sit and think about that. I suggest that he could spend some time reflecting on his own trespasses. If hell is real, I would hope my worst enemy finds the mercy and pardon to avoid it. It has terrors far worse than anything we can dish out. And yet, we try our best to dish out the outrage whenever possible.

The reason is the same as the other reason we hate mercy: it shows us that we are guilty. That's the only reason we heap scorn on young misguided Canadian pop stars, and treat sex offenders like lepers, at best. We're the same people who design "family" TV channels that are nothing more than porn for teenagers. We're guilty, and we know it. Someone has to take the guilt. Better to project than admit we are the problem.

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.

Monday, November 10, 2014

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 whether there is a God, I would have just rolled my eyes at such a silly question. Of course God exists. Where have you been?

Let's just say that subsequent events do not allow me the luxury of entertaining that question in a vacuum. If you presented me at 18 with the basic Christian assertion that specific things which would not otherwise be known by reason or investigation have been revealed by God, I'd say, Dude, duh. Tell me something I don't know. He talks. He talks loud.

I need to hear more, because there is a difference between talking about God, and talking with Him. People who talk about Christianity and its cultural impact without talking about Christ sound like crazy people to me, no matter what the purpose. If you say, "Jim-Bob is a good guy, despite his Christianity, which I don't believe in," it's an odd statement, in two ways. First, who or what defines "good"? If it has some kind of objective reality, the non-theist already has a huge problem, because if he's not defining the term himself, it's referring to some Good, which everything that exists participates in, to greater or lesser degrees. If he is defining the term himself, he's essentially saying, "I agree with Jim-Bob (or Jim-Bob agrees with me) on whichever matters to which the term applies, and his non-agreement in other things is not significant." But what that would do to the truth-claims of a supernatural Being is less than clear. Suppose Jim-Bob were experienced by you in a negative way. It might make me or you less-inclined to listen to Jim-Bob, but it would not change the veracity or lack thereof of what is claimed.

I guess the whole conversation struck me in that odd way. Don't the laments over a Christian's alleged lack of Christ-likeness sort of presuppose the truth of what's been revealed? If not, it's just a human power-play, because my set of self-derived values would have no more to commend it than anything else.

More to say later.

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.