Friday, August 21, 2015

I'm Not Joshing You

The easiest Christian thing to say in the whole Josh Duggar mess is, "Don't we all have a little of that in us?" Well, yes. And I guess we still need to remind ourselves of that, since many professed Christians seem to join in the cultural chorus of treating certain heinous sinners like non-people.

I had another thought though, as I pondered my own failings, and sought mercy: we have a sacramental system, and we make frequent use of the sacraments, not because we lack confidence in God's love, but because we want to remain ourselves. That is, the change from a holy person into a wicked one is often slow, and maybe imperceptible.

Isn't one of the tragic parts of these public falls that people live a double life? You can't do that unless your friendship with the one who knows you best atrophies. Moralists aren't often wrong about what is moral, but without a shared life, they are just rules, like words on signs. Having God as your friend is like walking in a kept garden; in some ways, the first thing you learn is to avoid stepping on the plants. Isn't the joy of the garden...the garden? If someone told you that the whole point was to avoid the plants, you'd say that person was missing it. Enjoy your friend, the sights, the smells!

Don't we think this wrong way about sin? We say, "I've done well, because I haven't done x in y days or weeks." Well and good. Did you enjoy anything? That's how the saints become the saints: they love God so much that the fact of not damaging the plants is an afterthought.

Don't break the rules. Don't step on the plants. But enjoy yourself so much that the basic decorum is hardly worth belaboring.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bernie's Nuts, But He Understands People

Most people who get motivated by politics are idealists; even the people who get angry about their opponents in politics are idealists. If we don't stop these people, they're going to destroy everything. Isn't it funny how everyone says that? That shows me that we have a lot of passion, and not a lot of wisdom. There's an intellectual virtue of listening and reflecting; I know I don't have it.

The biggest problem with the "left" as it were, is that they believe two huge lies: That an unborn baby is not a person, and that nobody in Heaven and earth cares--or should--about what I do with my sexuality. Actually, replace "sexuality" with "money," and you've described a pretty big chunk of the "right," also. And of course, a few of them haven't bothered to wrestle with that fundamental realization of human personhood, either.

A lot of people are cynical about politics right now, and I suppose I understand that. Our political class is not overly-blessed with intellect, or heart, in the best sense of the word. Many seem to be bought and paid for by someone, whose relation and contribution to the good of us all is dubious, at best.

One thing you can say about Bernie Sanders: he's not cynical at all. We are going to take them all down! He's definitely angry for stretches, but that's frustrated idealism. I love idealists, as a general rule. I'm one, unapologetically. Politics, sports, you name it.

There is something inherently noble about the doomed, but idealistic presidential campaign. That's why the people who win in primaries say nice things about the vanquished: anybody who scares you almost out of a job has some people working for them that care enough to put it all on the line. I'd like to think the gestures of goodwill are not simply for good optics. We all used to care, and totally from a limitless reservoir of hope.

Let me never fail to appreciate that.

With wisdom comes the reckoning: I was flat wrong about that; I overstated that; I failed to consider... But let's never surrender to cynicism, even in these important, but lesser things.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

College Is Awesome

It's awesome in various ways. If you are a sensualist and a sinner, you have already thought of the words "drinking" and "free love". If they were in no way related to the good, it stands to reason, they would not be pleasurable. Do we exist for pleasure, however? And our own, at that? It would seem not. The pretense that universities exist for higher things strongly suggests that they once did. And I say that, not merely to suggest a wistfulness about days gone by, as if the days passing itself has caused whatever is lacking, but that what has been lost is truth about ourselves.

What is the purpose of knowledge? If I may be momentarily pedantic, the purpose of knowledge is to know. Whether what we know has any great value will depend on how well we order the various goods, and how well we share them. We become sharers of knowledge and even teachers because we want others to love, and therefore know, the highest things. The highest subject you can study is theology, because knowing and loving God is the highest good, to which all other goods are rightly ordered.

I'm going to assume you're going to make it. If you don't, well, don't pack in your life, because great people have done the same. Strive for excellence, but see high grades as the secondary end of being zealous to learn what's important, and why it matters. If you score well, it may not mean you know the thing in question; if you score fairly or poorly, it may not mean you don't. Don't get too hung up on this, if at all possible.

Especially if you have grown up in a Christian environment, you need to know that the temptations to act in a worldly manner are much stronger than you may have been told. Your greatest spiritual obstacle may be the wounded pride and shame that comes with finding out you're not--by yourself--as different as anyone else. I did not grow up in a Christian home or culture, but everybody surprises themselves in not a good way sooner or later. If you don't truly yet know God's mercy, you will, but it may be hard, at first.

You will need friends, and true ones. Do your best to find them, but don't be surprised when initial impressions for good and ill turn out to be wrong. True friends will help you be your best you; others will try to make you into someone else. There are seasons to these things, also, and that's fine. Yet I also know that I found the men and women who will share my whole life's journey, even those who will see my body committed to the ground in the hope of the resurrection, during this time. It's a special, privileged time that not all people get. You are not yet who you will be, but you are beginning to be you. Therefore, realize that sometimes, you need to give yourself a break, and others, you need to challenge yourself not to waste this opportunity.

If there is time, (and there should be) read or otherwise learn something that has nothing to do with your chosen field. The most insidious monster you will face--other than your fears--will be called Specialization, and it serves a god named Utilitarianism. It'll be great to get a job, obviously, and everybody wants to feel useful. But you are not the work that you will do. You are a person, and there is something about you (and other people) that can't quite be measured or managed without doing harm. Please try to remember this.

Don't sleep through class; you may see the professor in church (or elsewhere).

Good luck, kid. We're pulling for you.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Conviction Of The Heart, Revisited

It's my favorite Kenny Loggins song, and really, it's not close. Look, I get it. Hippies, socialists, eco-wackos, yadda yadda. This song is a gold mine, lyrically speaking. I don't know how to make cool videos on the internet, but if I did, I would make a montage of this song with quotes from Laudato Si. This song is Laudato Si.

I was lurking around the internet yesterday, when I caught sight of Confirmation Sponsor Guy picking apart some emotivist "conservative" argument about something or other. My life goal, one of them, is to make an argument about something political that he doesn't pick apart. I wish myself luck. I wish us all luck on that one!

I just think it's funny that some folks make a big fuss about being the Party of God, the same God who said, "Behold, I am making all things new!" and when the leader of the People of God says something like, "Hey, everything is connected, because Jesus became incarnate to give his life for us," people treat him like he's Bernie Sanders.

Oh, well.

Monday, August 17, 2015

I Checked In On The Yankees

MLB Network had one of their games from Toronto. Toronto is loaded, no doubt. The Bombers will have to fight. But they have That Thing. It's in the water here in St. Louis, but it's that weird chemistry that makes no sense on paper, but means October baseball. It's oozing out of their ears. The Yankees commentators pointed out that the GM Brian Cashman stood pat at the trade deadline, because these young guys had played together; he knew they had That Thing. I saw it before the year started; I called it.

These so-called "experts," I tell you. Do they even watch this game?

Reality Bites

The biggest temptation for any person is to live a lie; we all have moments where we just say, "Sod it all, I don't care." I'm the weakest person I know; my file on "sins of weakness" (as opposed to malice) is the biggest one they have, I'm sure. You might be able to say the same.

But I had a firm decision yesterday; I'm not going to deny reality to make myself happy; I'm not going to deny it to make others happy. People do this all the time. Getting along is easier than speaking hard truth. You might have to say, "Mental illness is real, and you need to face it," or "Abortion is murder," or any number of things. Not wanting to rock the boat could be an exercise of prudence, or a failure of fortitude, and it's not always easy to discern.

But if you let people continue in horribly unhealthy or immoral patterns for years at great cost to yourself without doing anything at all to change it, it's probably the latter. It's never too late to change it, but today could be the day.

People can get so deep in evil, they call it good, and call good evil. There's no direct helping that can or should be done. Just prayer. I was reminded that I might lose my cool, but if I can still pray, and with a pure heart, thinking of nothing but that person happy before God in Heaven, I have not truly been stained by anger or bitterness. For others, that reckoning has become a call to conversion, and we pray that God will not hold our unforgiveness against us.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Rootedness Hits A Wall

Most Christians you meet are not arrogant enough to think all they need is themselves, the Holy Spirit, and the Bible; they are going to make an argument from history and the creeds at some point. This is why Mathison's attempted distinction between Sola Scriptura and "Solo Scriptura" is so popular, when faced with the Catholic challenge. It has a surface plausibility; the Reformation has persisted for almost 500 years; everyone you know would think 500 years is a long time. If you appeal to an idea or a doctrine that is at least 500 years old, give or take, most people would credit you with the rootedness and historical awareness that you desire to project.

The problem is with biting the bullet, and saying that the Reformation commitments were there from the very beginning. The result of that bold commitment is to essentially consign great luminaries like Augustine and Aquinas to a purgatory (metaphorical, of course) for questionable ecclesiology and soteriology. Which is fine, if you're willing to believe that Christ left His Church, against his promise on this very point. You cannot both appeal to them for a proof of continuity, and hold them in suspicion.

This makes sense, upon reflection. The claim of continuity is open to refutation, based on criteria established prior to the Reformation. Here's the delicious part: Every single well-formed Reformed-turned-Catholic is in this place because he or she took the Reformers' claim of continuity with the early Church seriously, and tested it.

Most people who are deeply-invested in the theology of the Reformation, that is, who believe it to be correct, are capable of reading the Fathers; they can see there is a discontinuity between them, and the Reformers, with respect to ecclesiology and soteriology. It has always been accepted; indeed, Calvinism has a ready-made explanation for any severe discontinuities: the elect are the "faithful remnant" who persevere amidst the rotting visible church structures of history.

The claim of continuity is an opportunity for conversion. A firm belief in the idea that the history is not a rotting husk eventually comes into direct conflict with the hermeneutic of rupture that the Reformation assumes. It's not a schism, if the Catholic Church is not the Church that Christ founded.

If the Reformation in substance were in fact a moral protest against the abuses of the Church of the time, there would be no need for a new methodology of receiving the faith once-delivered, and new dogmas which arose from its use. This is why Luther was asked if ecumenical councils could err. It was for the Catholic defenders to be able to say, "You're not Catholic, and you never were."

Reform from within is the desire of saints; reform from without is a contradiction.