Saturday, September 12, 2015

This Isn't Actually Hard

I read one of those stupid millennial dating articles from a woman. Of course it didn't work out. I don't even know where to start. I could be just too old for this stuff, but I can solve your problems in 2 easy steps. Ready?

1. Don't have sex with him. It's not entirely true that all we want is sex, but the worst parts of us do, at the wrong times, and for the wrong reasons. If you want to know what a man is made of, tell him the pot of gold is at the end of the marriage rainbow, and not before. If he gets mean about this, run. If he moves heaven and earth just to watch you fail a pottery class, actually enjoys watching your shows no matter how stupid, and generally forgets other women exist, it could be good.

2. Don't live together. I know everybody says the opposite; everybody is wrong. Ask old married people what the secret is. I'll bet this is one. There is no incentive for a man to pledge his whole self if he's playing house already. When you're not sexy anymore, or too annoying, etc. he's out the door. How obvious does this need to be, before there is a widespread re-thinking? You can't really coax a man into marriage. If you do, he may resent you. Even if it seems to work, you don't get from "It's just a piece of paper" to, "Mom and Dad are celebrating 60 years!" You just don't.

I get it; you don't care for the religious doctrine lurking underneath what I'm saying. Fine. Believe or disbelieve whatever you want. If you want to try something different, try this. What is there to lose? "Serial monogamy" sounds like a new daytime soap to replace "Passions" on NBC. How's that working out for you?

US Open Update

A wise person leads with this. Hilarious and charming. In the other women's semifinal, Simona Halep of Romania, the number 2 seed, was upset by another unseeded Italian, Flavia Pennetta. What are we doing here, making wine?

Over on the men's side, the world number 1 and top seed, Novak Djokovic, rolled into the final in straight sets over the defending US Open champion, Marin Cilic. Seriously, though, this dude is scary. If he wins, that will be his third major this year, and 10th for his career.

In the other semifinal, the great Roger Federer rolled over 2015 French Open champion and fellow countryman, Stan Wawrinka, in a mere 92 minutes. Wawrinka is the guy who upset Djokovic in the French Open final to prevent him from being in position to win all four majors in a calendar year (the "Grand Slam"). Wawrinka is the 5th ranked player in the world; Federer made him look like a qualifier.

If Roger Federer wins, it would add an all-time leading 18th major to his total, and his 6th US Open. He is certainly cementing his legacy as the greatest male player of all time. For guys this great, there is no prime, no twilight, and no seeming end. What if he simply retires because he is bored? On the other hand, he is driven to dominate. He does it with great class and respect for opponents, but he's a fierce competitor. I think he wants to be the world #1 player again, and he believes he can be. It's patently absurd that he's #2 at this stage, anyway. Why not? I'll never question Federer again. His run to the Wimbledon title and reclaiming the #1 ranking was just as unlikely in 2012, but he did both.

That was more than 3 years ago now. All the way back in 2010, the media began to ask, "Is the greatest ever finally done winning major titles?" No. And his greatness is proved by being a consistent threat to win more in 2015. We can take nothing away from these other recent major champions, most of which are new in reaching this elite level. But don't bury the lede, as they say: "Federer Still Here, As Great As Ever."

You need to tune in, while you still can. I'm going to keep saying it, because the man is 34, and there's nothing really left to do in tennis, except reclaim the mountain upon which he stood, briefly unchallenged. Tennis is a deceptively brutal sport, and stays at the top are brief, unless you are Roger Federer. Age gives way to youth, unless you are Roger Federer. When Andre Agassi made his remarkable run to the final of the US Open, it was Federer who beat him. 10 years ago.

Tomorrow at 3 PM CDT, we have a chance to see if time can be defied once again. It's deeper than you realize, though: it's not a Cinderella story; Federer has made it seem commonplace for guys in their 30s to play for major titles. It isn't, and it never will be. Unless you are Roger Federer.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Hurrying Slowly

I've been packed to move for weeks now, but it's being held up. My crucifixes are packed, also. You don't realize how weird this is until it happens. A Catholic home with no crucifix is not a home. Surely only a church without the Blessed Sacrament is worse.

I don't want to write about 9/11. Most of what needs saying has been said. I think I learned the wrong things from it. We might complain that some "liberals" lionized and infantilized Muslims after the attack; it's just as likely we lionized and infantilized ourselves.

The purest and best lesson is that life is fragile, and not guaranteed. We always need reminding. Red said, "Get busy livin', or get busy dyin.'" He might have said, "Get busy lovin', or get busy hatin.'" It's all the same thing.

Peace be with you!

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

When I Was Done Being Astonished

Then I started to think about what was said here. The title certainly grabs one, and the title uses decidedly Catholic words like, "teaching authority," and "Church." Does this suggest that some segment of Protestants, as represented by Swain and Rishmawy, are moving toward us in the Catholic Church? Perhaps it is rather for those men to argue that the real distance between themselves and the Catholic Church is not as great as some suppose. The reader must decide, upon reflection, if a real change in the Protestant position has taken place.

Rishmawy correctly notes some measure of evangelical and Protestant suspicion of "churchly teaching authority", owing to the Protestant affirmation of Sola Scriptura and the Scripture as the "Word of God." He affirms the traditional Protestant formulations, but insists that still more could be said about the teaching authority without recognizing the magisterium, viz.,the authoritative teaching office, of the Catholic Church, or being captive to "what this means to me" in a small group Bible study. He writes, "No, many Reformed have recognized that God has given the Church in its broadest and narrower institutional expressions the task of representatively serving Holy Scripture."

Scott Swain, in the book Trinity, Reading, and Revelation, summarizes William Whitaker's answer to the question of the role of the Church with respect to the Scriptures within Whitaker's work, A Disputation On Holy Scripture, as follows:

1.      1.“First, the church is the witness and guardian of the sacred writings, and discharges, in this respect, as it were the function of a notary.” God has entrusted the Scriptures to the church for safekeeping, to guard and protect them from corruption or harm (cf. Deut 31:9; Rom. 3:2). Again, though, just because Israel was entrusted with the tablets of the covenant, that does not mean they established or authorized the covenant, but they themselves were governed and authorized as God’s people by them.
2.      2. “The second office of the church is, to distinguish and discern the true, sincere, and genuine scriptures from the spurious, false, and suppositious” (cf. 1 Cor. 14:37; 2 Thess. 2:1-2). The Church, again, doesn’t authorize or establish the canon, but it does recognize it. In other words, the Scriptural texts have their authority before the Church says so, but the Church is given the Spirit of God in order to recognize which texts possess that authority. As Swain says (possibly paraphrasing Whitaker), a goldsmith is trained to recognize gold, but his recognition doesn’t make the gold what it is.
3.      3. “The third office of the church is to publish, set forth, preach, and promulgate the scriptures; wherein it discharges the function of a herald, who ought to pronounce with a loud voice the decrees and edicts of the king, to omit nothing, and to add nothing of its own” (c. Isa. 40:9; Rom. 10:6; 2 Cor. 5:19). Whitaker’s quote is fairly clear, but the point is, the text of Scripture is supposed to be read, preached, and passed on. That does require a body of people committed to its dissemination and faithful transmission.

4.      4. “The fourth office of the church is to expound and interpret the scriptures; wherein its function is that of an interpreter. Here it should introduce not fictions of its own, but explain the scriptures by the scriptures” (cf. Mt. 13:52; Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 14:3, 29; Eph. 4:11; 2 Tim. 2:15). The Church is called to interpret the Scriptures and give their sense, not adding or subtracting, but attempting to humbly and simply explain the Word of God. This happens in all sorts of ways, but especially in the giving of preachers and teachers who take the apostolic message and explain it to the people of God, much as Ezra did the returned exiles.
      It's not my purpose to critique each of these points here. I would note that the Catholic Church's understanding of the primacy of Sacred Scripture as uniquely God-breathed does no violence to its understanding of revelation originating in God, but delivered in two modes: Sacred Scripture, and Sacred Tradition. The humility of the Church's guardianship answers many of the objections offered here. I commend Dei Verbum, chapter II, article 10 and chapter V to Mr. Rishmawy and others.

      Swain concludes by writing, "the church is that community created and authorized by the Word of God in order that it might obediently guard, discern, proclaim, and interpret the Word of God." Such a statement could be affirmed by a Catholic, but for the fact that "Church" is not being defined visibly. Without a visible Church, the various "institutional expressions" have no meaningful connection to one another, but are discrete members of a set. Also, asserting the existence of a universal Church is only an assertion, if the particular expressions are not actually parts of the whole. Rishmawy essentially concedes this point in distinguishing between those "institutional expressions" and the Church in its "broadest" sense. The universal Church is invisible, according to Rishmawy. In terms of authority, then, the particular communities exercise some authority; the universal Church cannot, for it is only a mental construct. Even the particular communities have only a pretense of authority, since any individual may challenge and refuse submission to any particular body, on the basis of "Scripture." Sola Scriptura remains at bottom the primacy of individual interpretation, and any hope of institutional control or authority is illusory, having accepted the premise. "Solo Scriptura" cannot be distinguished in a principled way from Sola Scriptura, and as a result, the old dispute and its contours remain unchanged.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Bad Religion?

They tell you that faith shouldn't be a cloak for intolerance, and I agree. Yet what does that mean? I don't think faith obligates you or me to send money to Creflo Dollar, either, and I'm sure you agree. It seems to me, though, people like when faith provides the sentimental padding to whatever they already agree with; they are decidedly less tolerant when it obligates people to say, "No."

The Bible says faith is a certainty in things unseen. Another thing I'm certain of, based on the reality of those things, is that I couldn't sell you a Playboy, or bake you a gay wedding cake. It hasn't come up. I also couldn't attend your wedding if you've been divorced, and are now being re-married, if your first spouse is still alive. "Re-marriage" is adultery, after divorce from a living spouse.

Separation from someone you're married to is acceptable; there could be a thousand good reasons for this. It could take the form of a civil divorce. Divorce doesn't exist in the mind of God, though. There are those Christians, typically Protestants, who think that adultery creates an exception to the divorce prohibition; not so. You can separate, but divorce doesn't exist.

If it comes up that I can't do or say something, based on Christian teaching, it's not because I don't like you, or want you to be happy. I want everyone to be happy. Supremely so, in fact. In what does true happiness consist? I think most people are used to defining "happiness" however they like. The true definition must be misplaced, in the same place as the true definition of "intolerance."

True happiness consists in knowing and loving God, and being with Him forever. I think a lot of people barely tolerate religion; they think that at best, it's a set of quaint, superstitious beliefs that old people and foreigners have, but they really don't matter. Friend, if you could even imagine what unending joy looks like, or will feel like, you wouldn't ask me why I can't bake you a cake.

What if that supernatural world is not only real, but more real than so much of this world which passes away? I'll bet you'd live differently. I'll bet a lot of people would.

Many people who look happy right now are actually inconsolably sad. They have adopted as their central motto, "Life sucks, and then you die." That's why they are the life of the party now. They are busy sucking every last drop of pleasure out of this life before it ends.

We're not supposed to die. The fact that nearly all of us have or will just tells us we have a problem. Sinning is choosing death instead of life; that's why it's wrong, and/or stupid. On the other hand, we are oriented to chase goodness; the only problem is, the compass is broke.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Revenge Of Roger?

John Isner, the 13th player in the world, and an American with a massive serve, is perfectly capable of beating Roger Federer tonight. Supposing however that Roger is much better, and will play like it, is no great reach. He'd get Thomas Berdych in the quarterfinals if the seeds hold, which could be a tight match, but he should win. Andy Murray has to play French Open champion Stanislaus Wawrinka in the quarterfinals. World number 1 Novak Djokovic would play either 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic, or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, either of which would be a dangerous quarterfinal match for him.

Federer could lose any of these matches, of course, but he has dominated both of his potential semifinal opponents in Wawrinka or Murray. Even if Djokovic were to prevail in another final--having beaten Federer in the previous 2 Wimbledon finals--it would be an enduring testament to Federer's longevity and greatness. If Djokovic were to win his 10th Grand Slam title and 3rd this year, he would begin to enter the conversation as one of the greats of all time.

If Federer were to win the US Open, he would cement his claim as the greatest male player ever, being 4 major titles clear of his idol, Pete Sampras, and the most legitimate rival claimant to his status, Rafael Nadal. There is simply no parallel to what Federer has been able to do: remain so near to the pinnacle of tennis at such an advanced age. There are evidences that he is not as dominant as during his peak from 2003-09, but we are 6 years clear of that window, and still talking about Roger Federer as a legitimate threat to win a major title. It is quite simply the most amazing, improbable thing I've ever seen in sports. Perhaps Jack Nicklaus winning the Masters at 46 in 1986 is close, but he didn't routinely stand in the way of his rivals before and after his triumph as Federer has been able to do. His Wimbledon triumph in 2012 was rather unlikely, or so it seemed, and yet here we are.

However it turns out, thank you, Roger. You have been the greatest of all time, but also done it with great class and respect, toward the game, and toward your fellow competitors. I have been privileged to watch these past few years. My only regret has been not following closely when you were the undisputed champion of your sport.