Monday, March 29, 2004

The new Catholic feminism

Stimulating Commonweal article by Cathleen Kaveny of Notre Dame Law, contrasting the new feminism anchored in JPII's theology of the body with the "more nuanced" feminism of Buffy (a bit contrived, but I'll bite).
It's worth spending some time thinking about why it seems so difficult to engage some theologians of the body in an honest conversation. It would not be wrong, I think, to say that they are too naively romantic, or too lost in the tributaries of philosophical idealism, or too fixated on church teaching on contraception. Still, the fundamental problem, in my view, is squarely theological: they make the mistake of eliding the original state of grace with the state of redemption. The touchstone for the theologians of the body is the relationship of men and women before the Fall. West, for example, chides Johnson for being "locked in his fallen view and unable to cross the threshold back to 'the beginning.'"

We are not called to retreat to Eden, but rather to move forward in pilgrimage toward the New Jerusalem. Redemption does not erase sin; it transfigures it. Redemption does not gesture distantly at brokenness; it conscripts it into the service of salvation and new life. To encourage young people to believe that with a lot of hard work and a little bit of suffering, they too can have a relationship like the one between prelapsarian Adam and Eve is deceptive and cruel. It is also the road to despair. Transfixed by the illusory promises of a return to the purity of creation, they may be blind to the possibilities for a gritty but real redemption in their own lives.

...The irony of this dogmatically metaphysical new feminism is that it is susceptible to precisely the same charge that Glendon levied against old-line secular feminism such as that of Betty Friedan: it subordinates the complexities of real women's lives to its own ideological goals. At best, the authors in Women in Christ will play quietly and unnoticed with the pretty concepts in their metaphysical dollhouse. At worst, they will lead many working mothers to conclude that the church doesn't appreciate their lives, their attempts to be faithful to their own unique vocations in Christ, because they don't fit--and don't want to fit--the metaphysical picture concocted by philosopher-theologians like Stein and von Balthasar. For these new feminists, if working mothers are working because they have to, they are to be looked upon with pity; if they are working because they want to, they are to be looked upon with suspicion.
Well taken, but she's a bit sloppy with her use of theological concepts like "redemption," "sin," and "brokenness." And that's no mere technicality. As far I know, nowhere in Catholic teaching does redemption transfigure sin or "conscript it into the service of salvation and new life." She's confusing it with nature, and even then, it sounds like she would have misinterpreted it in Niebuhrian fashion. There's a lot to be said for an unfliching realism, but I'm afraid Kaveny doesn't quite transcend the contrast she's contesting. Still, it's a solid contribution to the debate.

The subjectivism of Objectivism

How Ayn Rand is still considered a philosophical giant boggles me. Here we have an Objectivist zealot-philosopher at the Ayn Rand Institute claim concerning the Pledge of Allegiance controversy:
This so-called "Culture War" truly is a war: a war against the individual mind. It is a particularly dirty kind of war, with both sides of the political spectrum vying for the right to enslave the minds of legally disarmed victims, and to do it by means of money expropriated from the victims themselves.
The only way to end this war is to re-assert the First Amendment, with its guarantee of intellectual freedom—and the only way to do that, is to get the government out of the business of supporting ideas.
Like the 1st Amendment isn't based on state-supported and state-enforced ideas? Like it isn't an idea in itself? This guy should have his Ph.D. revoked. Could you imagine him at the Constitutional Convention crying over all the propagation of ideas by the government? "We the People?"--that's an enslavement of the autonomous mind!

Preservationists and the culture of death?

Boston Globe on the simmering conflict between preservationists of historical church buildings and the cash-strapped archdiocese. It's a curious phenomenon occuring in dioceses all over the country. Many, especially Protestants, often stererotype Catholics for having an excessive attachment to their houses of worship, to the external, material elements of faith. But the preservationists imply Catholics have insufficient respect for their architectural treasures. More curious is how the preservationists objectivize these church buildings and have the mind to isolate them from the concrete, present life of the Church. They give the appearance of advocating for religious and architectural history while simultaneously de-historicizing it. More evidence of our taxidermic culture of death, like Western Europe's conversion of the Church into a stuffed animal?

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Ugandans keeping the Anglican Communion alive

From First Things, powerful words addressed from Archbishop Nkoyoyo of the Anglican Church in Uganda to the ECUSA's Presiding Bishop Griswold, regarding gay bishop Gene Robinson:

“Considering those things, we were shocked to receive a letter from you informing us of your decision to send a delegation to the enthronement of our new Archbishop in January, and your intention for the delegation to bring aid and assistance for the people who live in desperate conditions in the camps in Gulu that you have ignored for years. Recent comments by your staff suggesting that your proposed visit demonstrates that normal relations with the Church of Uganda continue have made your message clear: If we fall silent about what you have done—promoting unbiblical sexual immorality—and we overturn or ignore the decision to declare a severing of relationship with ECUSA, poor displaced persons will receive aid. Here is our response: The gospel of Jesus Christ is not for sale, even among the poorest of us who have no money. Eternal life, obedience to Jesus Christ, and conforming to his Word are more important. The Word of God is clear that you have chosen a course of separation that leads to spiritual destruction. Because we love you, we cannot let that go unanswered. If your hearts remain hardened to what the Bible clearly teaches, and your ears remain deaf to the cries of other Christians, genuine love demands that we do not pretend that everything is normal. As a result any delegation you send cannot be welcomed, received, or seated. Neither can we share fellowship nor even receive desperately needed resources. If, however, you repent and return to the Lord, it would be an occasion of great joy.”

Wow. Nkosi Sikeleli Afrika, indeed!

Theological societies -- what are they good for?

Peter Leithart in First Things offers some perspectives from the recent Evangelical Theological Society meeting, where a couple of prominent theologians found themselves in the gnat-seat:
Given the structure of ETS—the minimalism of its doctrinal statement and the fact that it is not a church with disciplinary powers—there was little that the Executive Committee could do. I say this not to defend the final decision but merely to acknowledge that the fragility of the Society’s theological consensus entails the structural pressure toward gnat-straining. What will ETS do if faced with “biblical” docetists, who mouth the word “inerrancy” but argue that the Son only seemed to take on human flesh in the incarnation? What will ETS do with “inerrantist” defenses of sodomy? What about “biblical” denials that the Bible actually teaches a bodily resurrection?

Warning that ETS is “potentially facing a crisis of identity,” L. Russ Bush, Academic Dean of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and former ETS President, proposed that the Executive Committee “consider and recommend to the Society appropriate ways to clarify our Society’s understanding of our doctrinal basis.” That would be a salutary exercise, especially since Bush’s adverb “potentially” seems altogether too sanguine. Perhaps the Executive Committee will produce a thicker ETS doctrinal statement—say, the Nicene Creed or the Formula of Chalcedon for starters. But it is entirely imaginable that ETS will heroically retain its commitment to the accuracy of Scripture, while slowly conceding, one after another, evangelical and catholic commitments about what Scripture teaches.

Before the discussion of Pinnock at the November 2003 meeting, the chairman prayed that the Evangelical Theological Society would not act like Pharisees. I suspect that he was praying that God would preserve ETS from legalism, harshness, and rancor. In fact, his prayer turned out to be something of a cruel irony. Pharisees, after all, were not known only for their legalism. They were also known for their marvelous capacity to strain a gnat while swallowing a camel.
And then you have the Catholic Theological Society....[cough, cough].


While no one raises an eyebrow over John Travolta and Tom Cruise's promotion of Scientology, California courts have been dealing with an "officially secret 1993 agreement with the Internal Revenue Service," privileging no other religious group. A Jewish couple has sued for unequal treatment. I'll pity the Scientologists when I see them provide some public good, and not just another floozy pseudo-religion for the rich and famous. Where's the huge public outcry against institutional secrecy? Guess that's only fun when the target's the Catholic Church.

St. Alphonsus Liguori's Stations

Last night, I was able to make the Stations of the Cross (my first in a long while) over at St. John Cantius Church. It was beautifully old school, with a thick, healthy serving of self-flagellating sin spiel. We used St. Alphonsus Liguori's Way of the Cross, a standard Stabat Mater hymn, in a three-acolyte procession (crucifix flanked by two candle bearers).

Repeated in the responsorial: "Never let me offend You again. / Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will."

In each station, as I chanted those lines with the congregation, the tension between the Church and the Modern World could not be more strained within me. There is something eerily "cult-like" about people chanting like this, but it's everywhere in the secular world too when you think about it. The only difference is that at Cantius, I sense the mystery of Christ boldly displayed in its full objectivity.

In the Tenth Station: "Consider how Jesus was violently stripped of His clothes by His executioners. The inner garments adhered to his lacerated flesh and the soldiers tore them off so roughly that the skin came with them. Have pity for your Savior so cruelly treated and tell Him."

But the responsorial further develops this gruesome thought (which could have come right out of Mel's film): "by the torment You suffered in being stripped of Your garments, / help me to strip myself of all attachment for the things of earth."

We ended with a moving Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. I hadn't done that in ages. As the priest, shrouded in a humeral veil, exposed the monstranced Host and blessed us, a ladies choir sang in Latin the "O Salutaris Hostia":
O Saving Victim opening wide
The gate of heaven to all below.
Our foes press on from every side;
Thine aid supply, Thy strength bestow.

Amen. To Thy great name be endless praise
Immortal Godhead, One in Three;
Oh, grant us endless length of days,
In our true native land with Thee.
We then sang in Latin the Tantum Ergo:
Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail,
Lo! oe'r ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.

To the everlasting Father,
And the Son Who reigns on high
With the Holy Spirit proceeding
Forth from each eternally,
Be salvation, honor blessing,
Might and endless majesty.
With the reposition of the Bl. Sacrament, we closed with the Divine Praises and the hymn "Adoremus in aeternum." Why the post-VC2 generation finds this type of prayer so complicated or difficult is really just beyond me. I found it to be the summit of simplicity. More importantly, it communicates the divine simplicity as sublime truth without any subjective, self-conscious shellacking. I think I'll keep attending, even if I am the only non-white.

Sports & spirituality

Quickly after starting my teaching career at an all-boys high school, I realized sports would have to be my prime analogy for theology. I posted this Scriptural verse on the wall:


On this theme, NY Times Magazine has a wonderful memoir on an old coach and on growing up. (from Amy Welborn) What's true on the baseball diamond is at least as true in the Church.

Friday, March 26, 2004

If only Bush could outsource votes

"Bush isn't so smart, showing off his economic program in Ohio. He should go to places where his plan really created employment. India, Thailand or China... " - Jay Leno

Another reason I'm skeptical of "Evangelicals & Catholics Together"

An evangelical campus administrator from Calvin College comments (in the tradition of Mark Noll) on the "spasm du jour" over TPOTC among evangelicals (from CT):

"But actually, evangelicals' unequivocal embrace of The Passion is the latest indicator of a long-standing evangelical shortcoming: we don't have a context for understanding art."

At least we're seeing more self-critique.

Real interfaith dialogue

I've grown increasingly skeptical of interfaith/ecumenical dialogues and statements. The unstated purpose is usually to change one party or the other to embrace inclusivity, diversity, multiculturalism, etc. But the logic of accomodation falls ever more flat in both secular and sacred circles today. I've always believed the most productive arena for interfaith engagement is in works of mercy and justice. Let's just shut up and get some work done, y'know?

I might reject the theology of a Mormon, but if there's work to be done building houses, I'll carry the other end of a 2x4 for him anyday. Seattle Post-Intelligence has a nice article on "Together We Build a World Community," which brings together Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Notre Dame religionists to build farmworker homes. Still, lurking in the background is the alluring rhetoric of "tolerance."

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Dr. Bond, hats off

A couple of us would always chuckle every time Prof. Gilbert Bond mentioned the Civil Rights Movement in his Theology of Reconciliation class, because it was impossible for him to not also name the Holy Spirit in the same sentence. He wanted to excise from our heads the history textbook idea that the CRM was just another progressive reform movement or even a precursor to the radical politics of the late '60s. He got us to exegete MLK and the forms of collective action the CRM used--all in order to confront us with one controversial fact: the Civil Rights Movement was above all a movement of the Holy Spirit through the Black Churches--a fact completely ignored or inconceiveable in our secularized myths. For this reason, CRM cannot be included in that hallowed category of "The Sixties," for it was not ultimately about "rights" at all, but about the raising up of our human nature which had been so thoroughly disfigured by racisim and sin; it was primally about Christian reconciliation. The gay marriage advocates today when they try to enlist former leaders of the CRM demonstrate how poorly they understand what the CRM was all about. And it has heartened me to see that some of those old leaders have publicly expressed discomfort over the cooptation of their legacy.

David Brooks (via reading David Chappell) in the NY Times wonders about what that legacy has to say to us as we debate over the "under God" clause in the Pledge:
If you believe that the separation of church and state means that people should not bring their religious values into politics, then, if Chappell is right, you have to say goodbye to the civil rights movement. It would not have succeeded as a secular force.

But the more interesting phenomenon limned in Chappell's book is this: King had a more accurate view of political realities than his more secular liberal allies because he could draw on biblical wisdom about human nature. Religion didn't just make civil rights leaders stronger -- it made them smarter.

Whether you believe in God or not, the Bible and commentaries on the Bible can be read as instructions about what human beings are like and how they are likely to behave. Moreover, this biblical wisdom is deeper and more accurate than the wisdom offered by the secular social sciences, which often treat human beings as soulless utility-maximizers, or as members of this or that demographic group or class.

Whether the topic is welfare, education, the regulation of biotechnology or even the war on terrorism, biblical wisdom may offer something that secular thinking does not -- not pat answers, but a way to think about things.

For example, it's been painful to watch thoroughly secularized Europeans try to grapple with Al Qaeda. The bombers declare, "You want life, and we want death" -- a (fanatical) religious statement par excellence. But thoroughly secularized listeners lack the mental equipment to even begin to understand that statement. They struggle desperately to convert Al Qaeda into a political phenomenon: the bombers must be expressing some grievance. This is the path to permanent bewilderment.

The lesson I draw from all this is that prayer should not be permitted in public schools, but maybe theology should be mandatory. Students should be introduced to the prophets, to the Old and New Testaments, to the Koran, to a few of the commentators who argue about these texts.

From this perspective, what gets recited in the pledge is the least important issue before us. Understanding what the phrase "one nation under God" might mean — that's the important thing. That's not proselytizing; it's citizenship.

Buddy Christ maker speaks

I loved Kevin Smith's "Buddy Christ" statue in "Dogma." He's quite open, if not also iconoclastic, about his Catholic faith. So I've been waiting to hear him say anything about TPOTC. Here it is, from an NY Times interview:

CURTIS: You made a controversial movie about Catholicism, "Dogma." What did you think about "The Passion of the Christ"?

SMITH: I haven't seen it yet. I think it's funny, though, that people bring it up and ask me, "What do you think of the controversy?" I'm like, "What controversy?" The dude made a movie about Jesus in a country that's largely Christian — a very traditional movie — and it's made over $200 million in two weeks. There ain't no controversy, people. That's a hit. They took one or two Jewish leaders in the beginning and said, "This may be construed as anti-Semitic," and then spun it into a must-see movie for hard-core Christians. You've got to go see it if you love Jesus. I wish to God I had thought to do that when I was making "Dogma."

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

I'm Yeats! ...Oh wait. Hey!


You are Lord Byron! Quite the Ladies' man, Byron
wrote during the early 19th century. He was
born with a deformity, and much of his life was
spent with a sense of urgency, trying to suck
up as much life as he could to make up for his
own insecurities. He was a bisexual and died
very young of fever.

Which famous poet are you? (pictures and many outcomes)
brought to you by Quizilla

You are Lord Byron! Quite the Ladies' man, Byron wrote during the early 19th century. He was born with a deformity, and much of his life was spent with a sense of urgency, trying to suck up as much life as he could to make up for his own insecurities. He was a bisexual and died very young of fever.

Which famous poet are you? (pictures and many outcomes)
brought to you by Quizilla

Thank God I'm not French Impressionism

which art movement are you?

this quiz was made by Caitlin

Monday, March 22, 2004

The state bilks the non-affluent once again

I just got slammed with a notice in the mail from Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP cum City of Chicago Department of Revenue demanding I pay $1230 in parking tickets from 1994-1995 or get the Denver boot. Obviously, the city has been delinquent in enforcing its own laws for years and now is helping a private law firm reap in the windfall of additional revenue. Why is this an injustice?

I got those tickets as an in-limbo college student who couldn't afford a nice $150+/month parking slot in a high-rise apt building equipped with doorman and security cameras, much less the ticket fees. I can't remember how many times I'd blow 1/3 of a tank just searching endlessly for a parking spot, or how many times, the city would pull a surprise No Parking or Street Cleaning notice out of nowhere. Plus, as everyone knew, parking tickets were jokes. The city effectively encouraged parking tickets by their incompetent collection skills. If enforcement was strict and swift, then the city would have been sending a strong message that they back up what they preach. But because it wasn't, what else were they communicating but that parking violations are not a big deal. Now, I and thousands of non-affluent Chicagoans are being asked to reward the city and some carpetbagger law firm for their incompetence. Governments are strapped for cash and who do they turn to to make up for it? Not the yuppies of Lake Point Towers or the Presidential. No, it's chumps like us, living from credit card to credit card in our tiny apartments waiting for the next drop in the price of tripe.

The city's behavior is no example for parents rearing children. If I were a father who gave his kids a rule, which they proceeded to break repeatedly, and failed to enforce it with ANY penalties, then waited years till they were teens to kick the shit out of them for all their breaches of the rule, I'd be hauled into family court. But such models of morality are beyond the city's grasp. I'm wondering who in Linebarger knows who in the Dept of Revenue.

Yes, I did break the law. I should pay for my heinous crimes. But I don't think justice is denied if the city owe up a little to their dereliction by showing some leniency. Grrrr. This is why hearing Republicans opine about what a bad deal the rich get with all the taxes they have to pay is so bad for my teeth.

Next denominational victim in the culture wars--UMC

WaPo covers the trial of Karen Dammann, ordained Methodist minister discovered to be living in a lesbian relationship, which violates Methodist laws. (I didn't even know they had laws.) Amidst the inclusivist fervor dominating the proceedings, this "conservative" layperson comments:

"Karen the person is very likable," he said. "Karen the symbol is where I have a problem. When she gets up in the pulpit as a symbol, she's in conflict with Methodist law, religion and religious values."

Yeah, but when "It's just a symbol" is the de facto motto of Protestant sacramental theology, he doesn't have much ground for the distinction. For plenty of Methodists, I gather, Karen the symbol is very well the fulfillment of Methodist law, religion and religious value. You make your theological bed, you gotta sleep in it. Stay tuned for the next episode of "When nihilistic subjectivism strikes."

Lent goes to school

Cute, but slightly unsettling article on an LA Catholic grade school finding new ways to get Lent-bent.

"We are trying to make Lent seem less like a punishment," Jones said.

What an idea.

The Irish legacy

Seeing we've had a weekend to recover from our annual Irish lovefest, I figure it's a little safer for me to ponder Charles Morris' note, from his book American Catholic, that "The roots of the modern American Church are found not in Rome, or in the early Spanish missions, but in nineteenth-century Ireland." That's not terribly controversial but a review in Crisis magazine of D. Vincent Twomey's The End of Irish Catholicism picks up on a point that has bugged me ever since becoming Catholic:
He [Twomey] also became aware of the lack of seriousness with which the Irish approached theology, looking upon it as "a hurdle to be overcome before ordination." The belated imposition of Tridentine discipline (only in the second half of the 19th century) and the cultural ascendancy of Victorian puritanism left the Irish Church with "a legalistic moral theology, a highly centralized authoritarian institution, and a sentimental spirituality," but without an inclination to articulately engage and contest with modern opponents or think out the implications of Vatican II reforms.
What is true about Irish Catholicism seems to have spilled over into American Catholicism, for better and for worse. Despite being an Asian-American with little love for Guinness, I went through a phase a few years back when I became enamored with all things Celtic. Yeats is still my favorite poet, Harp one of my favorite beers, U2 one of my favorite rock bands, Michael Collins one of my favorite political figures, next to RFK. But my post-honeymoon disillusionment as a Catholic came as a direct result of living in the pop urban Catholicism of the Archdioceses of NY, Newark, and Chicago, all of which are still dominated by Irishness. I still don't fully understand all the layers of culture and history, but I feel ever more convinced that the American Church must "de-Hiberniate" itself if it is to find its way out of the theological and cultural sinkhole it's in. That isn't to blame the Irish, just our excessive attachment to Irish ways of being Catholic.

Giving unto Caesar

Glad to see Mel Gibson, unlike so many of his fellow neoconservative Catholic brethren, can distinguish love of God & Church from love of Bush.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Corleone vs. Soprano

Found this great site that collects theological and philosophical perspectives on films. One of the latest articles is on The Sopranos. Most interesting to me is the critical difference between Vito Corleone and Tony Soprano:
According to Puzo, Vito Corleone was an accidental if not a reluctant Don. He was not a man who sought the title, and only embraced it when circumstances and necessity forced it upon him. As a child, Vito came to this country as an orphan and on the run from a blood-feud in Sicily. As he grew into adulthood, his hopes and aspirations were modest--a wife, a family, and an honest job. Only when a local member of the "Black Hand" forced him out of his job and began to harass his friends did the young Corleone take action. He killed this "Black Hand," this "fellow Italian who stole from other Italians" out of a sense of duty and justice and not for personal gain or in an attempt to establish a reputation. Vito Corleone became a "man of honor"--un uomo d'onore--because he acted on principle and not on impulse. Even at the end of his life, sitting in his garden talking to his son Michael, Vito Corleone felt he had only done what was necessary to do. "I make no apologies for my life. What I did, I had to do. I did it for my family." No such motives can be associated with Tony Soprano's career choice. His selection of a vocation came from the adrenaline rush he got out of watching the strong arm and bully boy tactics of his father "Johnny Boy" and his uncle "Junior" Soprano. Honor and ethnic pride aside, Tony sought out, chose, and eagerly embraced "the life" because it looked like fun. For him, it was all about the thrill of the game--the hunt, the chase, and the kill.

Friday, March 19, 2004

St. Joseph, pray for us

Today the Church celebrates St. Joseph, father of Jesus. I've drawn closer to St. Joseph over the last couple of months, with issues of employment and vocation up in the air for me and lots of Americans these days. I've been praying this prayer a lot:

Glorious Saint Joseph, model of all who pass their life in labor, obtain for me the grace to work in a spirit of penance to atone for my many sins; to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my own inclinations; to work with gratitude and joy, considering it an honor to use and develop by my labor the gifts I have received from God; to work with order, peace, moderation and patience, without ever recoiling before weariness or difficulties.

Help me to work, above all, with purity of intention and with detachment from self, having always before my eyes the hour of death and the accounting which I must render of time lost, talents wasted, good omitted, and vain complacency in success, which is so fatal to the work of God. All for Jesus, all for Mary, all after your example, O Patriarch Joseph! This shall be my watchword in life and in death. Amen.
Technically, this prayer should be receive special attention on May 1, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, or May Day for the labor movement, but hey the job market still sucks so, here it stays. You can find more info on Catholic devotion to St. Joe here. Warning: the icons of St. Joe on this site are pretty revolting.

Catholicism and American assimilation

The esteemed historian of American religion Allen Guelzo over at Books & Culture reviews John McGreevy's Catholicism and American Freedom, which is up there on my to-read list. McGreevy wowed me with a breathtaking historical study of American Catholic urban culture in his Parish Boundaries. Guelzo, from a Protestant perspective, draws some rather Hauerwasian conclusions from his latest book:
I first met John McGreevy at Harvard in 1994, when he was coming to the end of his junior appointment in the history department there, just before he moved to his current academic home at Notre Dame. He was quiet, intense, and well-liked—not a frequent combination—and his book is very much like the man. Catholicism and American Freedom is thorough, phenomenally well-researched, broad in its perspective, and sober in its judgments. It will not be the book Catholics will like to read about themselves, because it is really the story of a misalliance, between a Catholic culture that should have remained Catholic and an American culture which was persistently indifferent to Catholic wooing. Although McGreevy's final message is about whether American culture has finally developed the maturity to welcome Catholics as equal partners rather than strangers, it is hard to avoid the implications McGreevy strews in the reader's path that Catholics might be better advised to forget assimilation to a culture drunk with autonomous individualism and be content with Catholicism's own authentic strangeness.

Presidential assassination attempt in Taiwan

I feel guilty about not taking this more seriously. But the speed with which the assassination attempt got converted into a political spectacle really gives the incident a circus-like feel. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Read the "gory" details at Taipei Times.

The gospel of wealth and health

Substitute "religion" for "Christianity" and "health" for "morality" in the following quote by T.S. Eliot, and you get one of the central problems in America's religious culture.

“what is worst of all is to advocate Christianity, not because it is true, but because it might be beneficial…To justify Christianity because it provides a foundation of morality, instead of showing the necessity of Christian morality from the truth of Christianity, is a very dangerous inversion.”

Christians went crazy for a while over the health benefits of prayer. Now you have the health benefits of being a Muslim woman wearing a hijab.

"Life goes on" in 21 Grams

Big thumbs up from me after catching it on DVD last night. I recommend seeing it twice since the flow of scenes will wreak havoc with your sense of linear time. At least Memento gave you some sensory cues whenever the time machine shifted gears.

No one else plays Purgatory like Sean Penn. He's done so much of it on screen, I think he should get a "time served" sentence at the bar of St. Peter. As in Mystic River, Penn's character, Paul, encapsulates the drama of man in cosmic torment, victimized by forces beyond his control, yet tenaciously unwilling to embrace illusions of resolution or redemption. The theme of "life goes on" recurs in very different contexts, but Paul and the other two protagonists, played by Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro, are unified in their refusal of this platitude. Yet in the end, all end up accepting this bitter truth--and it is bitter, not the consoling sentiment we usually intend by it. When tragedy strikes, we have to earn the right to say "Life goes on" and often we must resort to some drastic measure to get there. Anything less is a fraud. 21 Grams would thus make a fascinating addition to a pastoral ministry class on grief and loss.

Jack, played by Del Toro, encapsulates the pitfalls of predestination theology. The line from Scripture about God knowing when a single hair on your head moves pops up a few of times, and I kept shaking my head over the impoverished theological understanding Jack and his pastor received from their Calvinist lineage. The path Jack takes after his "blasphemous" rejection of a deterministic God is essentially Catholic, though deviant in its Pelagian anxieties. He reminds me of Robert De Niro's character in The Mission. But some Promethean act of heroic penance will not cure either man of guilt. It may be a necessary part of the purgatorial process, but it's no bridge to freedom. The greater penance for Jack is returning to his family and "moving on," being a virtuous father and husband to his broken family. Good for a theology class in highlighting the destructive idiocy of hyper-Calvinism found in evangelical and fundamentalist Protestantism.

Evangelicals in Iraq

Great overview report on American evangelicals in Iraq. Some of the more brow-furrowing lines:

"Iraq will become the center for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to Iran, Libya, throughout the Middle East," said Kyle Fisk, executive administrator of the National Assn. of Evangelicals, which represents 4.5 million Christians in the United States.

"We don't force Jesus Christ's love on anyone," said Darrell Phenicie, an American missionary who teaches theology in Baghdad. "Doesn't freedom of religion mean the right to learn about other choices?"

"Handing out food is a perfect time to talk about Jesus Christ with nonbelievers."

Nonevangelical Iraqi churches have been vandalized in recent weeks. Newspaper editorials and Islamic clerics charge that Americans are in Iraq on a religious crusade. Clausen warned: "The missionaries coming here don't realize the danger they are placing us in."

As Atass spoke, her mother finally caught the attention of church leaders. They listened to her problems and handed her a box that contained some food, cleaning supplies and a pamphlet about Jesus' life. "I want eternal life," Atass said, "but we also need enough to eat."

Haiti & liberation theology

Interesting opinion piece by Fr. Sirico of the neocon Acton Institute, on what the recent troubles in Haiti betoken for liberation theology.
Lacking a coherent view of economics or an understanding of how society functions and develops, Liberation Theology ends up with precisely what it decries most of all: centralized power exercised on behalf of the few at the expense of the many. The story has been repeated so many times in the past 100 years that one would think that even theology students would get the message that socialism is a very bad idea. But somehow, there are always those who think that the next attempt under the right person will at last bring Heaven to Earth. Thus was Mr. Aristide's rule despotic not despite his professed adherence to the theology of liberation but precisely because of it.
Of course, liberation theology does not necessarily insist on the economic ascendancy of socialism. That's a bit of strawman, but his argument should be taken seriously in seminaries and div school still teaching liberation theology. If it's to have any life beyond the liberala academy, it's got to move beyond deconstructing capitalism.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Denominational brand marketing

Add mainline denoms to Madison Avenue's clientele list. They say TV ads are a necessary outreach strategy in media-obsessed America. Funny, the Ivy League doesn't seem to think so. No one seems to need to be told they want to go to Harvard. What these churches are refusing to see is that their "product" just sucks. Contrast with the Catholic Church, against which the media has been propagating plenty of dis-advertisements, yet numbers continue to grow. Trying to be a church without a real Eucharist is like trying to sell Apple computers with PC processors or Chanel perfume with bottled piss. When it comes to religion, it's the product, not the marketing, stupid. And to extend the business analogy, if it's ever about packaging, Catholics have always had that covered; we call it "sacraments."

See, Hindus get it!

Tina Turner as Hindu goddess Shakti??? It's upsetting lots of Hindus, including an Oxford prof: "...any person that plays Shakti, be it in a play or any representation, has to be very pure in their lifestyle." If only Westerners could respect Christianity the same way...

The arrogance of demotic power

Boston city council is having a conniption over the Archdiocese's plans to close some parishes and schools. On one level, this is just desserts for the hierarchy's handling of the abuse scandal. On another, the state seems to be treading, not very softly, on ecclesiastical prerogatives to privacy and property. You can smell the stench of self-righteous sanctimony coming out of that council through the article.

More Protestant Culturolatry

New zine for young Christian boys. Now this is pornographically destructive to historical Christian orthodoxy. The counterargument is predictable--what's the big deal? It's bringing thousands of young men into a deeper personal relationship with Jesus! That's what really matters, right? Yeah, if it wasn't such an obscene genuflection to MTV's "real world." As often as I hear them quote it, they never seem to get the radical nature of Romans 12:2. I just hope Catholics have enough spine to refuse trying to mimic Maxim.

Taiwan-based cult sets up shop in FL

''You had to be careful what you said. Just mention you were cold and the next thing you know she was coming with bags full of Ralph Lauren sweaters,'' the neighbor said. 'When I made a comment about why she was bringing over all this stuff all the time, she said, 'I have so such money I don't know what to do with it.' ''
Another example of the bizarre spirituality of Chinese folk. Their leader, who gave herself a westernized name, Celestia De Lamour, sounds like a charlatan to me, but who am I to judge? With a name like that I won't be surprised if she comes out with a new aromatherapy label.

I still can't quite figure it out. Falun Gong, wacko Taiwanese Protestant ministers, the cult of financial fortune and physical longevity--the Chinese have their own spirituality that mutates everything they embrace, which is why I'm always leery about simplistic missionary models applied to the Chinese. They may accept Christianity, look and sound Christian, but scratch underneath the surface and you'll find a trove of heresies.

Drunk driving nun

What is it about nuns committing crimes of concupisence that gives us such a naughty thrill? The seriousness of drunk driving notwithstanding, and assuming no one got hurt, I find this story quite gratifying. Maybe it's got something to do with the archetypal image of the mischievous but righteous nuns in The Sound of Music, or maybe something to do with the ancient idea of eutrapelia.

Presidential proboscii

My dad's now in Taiwan getting ready to vote for Chen Shui-Bian. Here in the US, height is a critical criterion for presidential success. In Taiwan, amusingly, it's facial phrenology. If nose size is really so important for presidential candidacy in Taiwan, then maybe I should reconsider my vocational options. Whenever I came home from college, my mom would sit at the kitchen table, with a Mien Shiang (face reading) manual in hand, studying my face while I ate. I guess there's more to it than just maternal eccentricity.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Countering the critics

You don’t really criticize any author to whom you have never surrendered yourself. . .You have to give yourself up, and then recover yourself, and the third moment is having something to say, before you have wholly forgotten both surrender and recovery.
- T.S. Eliot, Christianity and Culture
Easy enough to see how most anti-orthodox critics fail to implement this hermeneutic rule in their analysis of TPOTC. But harder to see how we "orthodox" counter-critics might be doing likewise in our response to the accusations of anti-Semitism and sadomasochism. When I hear Christians scornfully muse over the absence of pogroms, I wonder if we're not "surrendering," at least temporarily, open to whatever truth may be within our enemies' criticisms. I like how Eliot doesn't just end his rule with surrender, which is as far as postmodernism will go. The "recovery," to me, is a process of ordering the fragmented truths according to the Truth.

On Mel's Cultured Despisers

we are not living in an age in which religious adherence has simply withered away before the parching wind of Enlightenment reason, but in one in which a new evangel has—over the course of a few centuries—displaced the old, and with it the cultural energy and rationale of Christian Europe: a new religion, whose most devout believers are as zealous, intolerant, and absolutist as any faith has ever produced, and whose vast silent constituency is as unreflective, passive, and pliant as any enfranchised clerisy could desire. It is good for Christians to grasp that, even in this hour, we struggle not simply with disillusion and demystification, but with strange gods.
- David B. Hart, First Things, December 2003
We really shouldn't get too indignant over all the neighsayers of TPOTC. They prefer their Christ swimming in piss, which I suppose is their eucharistic drink. But like many nomadic peoples, I'll take blood over piss any day.


Despite St. Augustine's defense of mediocrity, von Balthasar has this to say, probably the most depressing and fatalistic thought he's ever put on paper:
It is strange to see how sharp the dividing line is between those people who are satisfied with an ordinary, quiet life and those who strive for the extraordinary. The latter are rare, and you can almost discern them from a distance. There does indeed exist as well an unhappy intermediate group, consisting of those who are only just capable of envisioning a higher existence, but these know that they lack the substance to realize such an existence in their concrete lives. Grain of Wheat
Certainly puts a thorn in the side of the American myth of being whatever you want if you try hard enough. Those who can, do; those who can't, blog.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Protestants Awake!

Awesome stuff. I love seeing Protestants pop an artery over all things Catholic. This fella has realized TPOTC is a Catholic movie, and is now on a crusade to protect his brethren from being duped by the papists and mariolaters. It's a very straight-forward attack, right out of the fundie textbook. But this line of argument against the movie is my favorite:
Monica Bellucci (Mary Magdalene), Claudia Gerini (Wife of Pontius Pilate), and Rosita Celentano (Satan) are European porn models with pictures or films to confirm, though relatively unknown in America. For a man going to Mass every day to be “squeaky clean,” selecting these women to play major roles in a movie about Jesus Christ is more than a little hypocritical. Have we missed some wonderful repentance stories? Or is Mel just Hollywood as usual?
"Hypocritical"??? Like I said in an earlier post, these guys have no sense of irony.

More from Godspy

A recurring topic of conversation among some friends has been the "new orthodoxy" spreading in Christian America. Some see it as a triumph of the Holy Spirit. Some see it as an epiphenomenon of the rising social and political conservatism after 911. I'm still not so sure. Reading this, I wonder how much of it is just a psychosocial reaction to the dehumanizing banality of postmodern bliss.
I must admit that somewhere in the depths of my postmodern liberalized heart I secretly envy [Timothy] McVeigh's tenacity, even as I am appalled by his actions. When I read the news of my former church's persecution, I felt a tremendous urge to abandon my sense of grace and nuance and, once again, fight the good fight of faith. The truth is, I miss the genuine dissent of fundamentalism; I've grown weary of purchasing clever t-shirts that mock society. I want to believe arrogantly. I want to be more narrow-minded. I want to see in black and white. But I can't. So I buy, while others bomb.

Contra Me

Godspy presents a good argument against my belief that it's still possible to be Catholic and Democrat.
The majority of Democrats no longer believe in a created order. They believe that humanity itself creates whatever order it enjoys, culturally and politically, and should respond to new social realities—the emergence of politically powerful interest groups such as the gay community—by accommodating their interests. That's what democracies do. They extend rights to constituents. Republicans counter that rights are God-given.

I suspect that most Democrats find this a sentimentality. They usually respond to the God-given rights arguments by finding fault with the founders' consistency in extending rights to African-Americans and women-as if inconsistency in application disproved principle.

...Joe Lieberman's failed candidacy makes clear that there is virtually no place today for people with a consistent Jewish or Christian faith in the Democratic party. The old Democratic-Catholic alliance has totally broken down, because Democrats have committed themselves to godless philosophical models.
Sadly, Harold Fickett is right. I plead no contest. But I still hold out hope, however foolishly. I just don't like the idea of rewarding the Bush Administration for merely filling a vacuum created by the Democratic Party (which has more metaphysical reasons be the true pro-life party).

Slate on Kerry & Catholicism

Nice non-polemical article summing up the political ramifications of Kerry's Catholicism in the post-Roe v. Wade era of presidential campaigning.
Politically speaking, what's his best approach? He could agree not to take communion, a confession of the "defective" nature of his faith, but a sign also that he's willing to play by the rules of the church and at the same time stick by his political scruples. But he would thereby insult, in effect, all other pro-choice Catholics who take communion on principle. He could attack the church's position, thrill liberal Catholics, and look like a man of honor. But that could spook moderate Catholics.

His best tack is probably to talk proactively about how his Catholic faith has affected other parts of his life, like his commitment to helping the poor, for example. It would show that he's a religious man who takes the Catholic faith seriously, even though he defines it in his own way like many American Catholics do. George Bush is already running ads asserting that he's a man of principle, a notion that seems plausible in part because of his widely publicized faith. Weirdly, the fact that after Kerry's first marriage broke up, he sought an annulment might show some Catholics that he cared enough about the rules of the church to go through the process—though it also gives an excuse for critics to probe the circumstances of the divorce and annulment.

As far as the election goes, it's less important for Kerry to agree with the church's positions than it is that he be viewed as a person with strong religious convictions. Obviously having a Catholic-style marital flameout is probably not sufficient. He'll have to offer something a bit more Dororthy Day and a bit less Ted Kennedy. The more he rebuffs the church's theology, the more he'll have to highlight what makes him truly pious.
Steve Waldman in his article implies that the best approach for Kerry would be to dodge the pro-life issue. That's just plain chicken, not to mention impossible, given the centrality of a pro-life vision in Catholicism. If Kerry is to remain a Catholic in good faith and simultaneously a pro-choice Democrat, he's going to have to abstain from regular reception of the Eucharist so long as he is in public office. But he should continue to attend Mass as he is obligated to do. Waldman doesn't like that idea because of the offensive message it sends to pro-choice Catholics. Please. If he kowtows more to heterodox Catholics than to his own bishops on matters of faith and morals, then he should just switch membership to a mainline Protestant church.

The vice-hold that the pro-choice agenda has on the Dem Party is ridiculously disproportionate anyway. Black Democrats complain with just cause about being taken for granted and ignored by the party because they can't defect to the GOP. Similarly, pro-choicers wouldn't turn to the GOP if it were the last party on the planet. Yet unlike Black Dems, pro-choicers have never seen their agenda placed on the block for negotiation. In fact, the party leadership has seen it more fit to shred and sacrifice the policy priorities of black America over any pro-choice expectations of mainly middle-aged, upper-class, white Democrats. If electoral politics dictates these calculated sacrifices, then the party isn't calculating very well. Pro-choice numbers and their "plight" are tiny in relation to the power they wield in determining the party platform. If Dems really want to recapture the WH and the Congress, they've got to start acknowledging the growing dissatisfaction with the pro-choice worldview and start showing some ideological freedom from it. They're not going to lose pro-choice voters, unlike black and Catholic swing voters, to the GOP and can only gain moderates who love the Dems for everything BUT their pro-choice agenda. The pro-choice wing shouldn't feel so comfortable in their party, so long as labor and blacks are seeing their demands negotiated away by the leadership.

Unlike most of my fellow Catholics who take orthodoxy seriously, I do believe it's possible to be both a pro-choice Dem and a faithful Catholic. But such a tightrope act comes at a great cost to one's communion with the Church. Kerry should accept this without the usual liberal indignation and submit to his bishops' proscriptions, including a good dose of penance. The worst thing he could do is ape those Catholics who without any struggle or good will thumb their nose at the Church's moral teachings and mindlessly tow the pro-choice line. I would be deeply impressed if Kerry could muster up enough moral toughness to buck that Kennedy-style of Catholic politics. If he were an even better Catholic, Kerry could also speak to youth of the tragedy of abortion and work to encourage other pro-life options for pregnant women, while upholding his party's pro-choice stance. Too fine a line to walk, I suppose. But as Bush is showing, good faith may be good politics more often than not.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

"Blood of Christ, inebriate me..."

Another smart-ass blowhard who's begging to be smacked up side the head with a catechism:

"Gibson, by contrast, merely demands that you witness in labored, faux real-time detail the fact of Jesus' torture, and marshals it into a shrilly righteous indictment of us for having seen it, and like the Jewish rabble and Roman authoritarians, still failing to submit to its self-evident logic.

This barely contained contempt for the film's audience comes through most clearly in the camera's obsession with blood. Anytime Jesus sheds his blood, the camera zooms hungrily in for a close-up. We do not see the blood merely shed; we also see it spatter back into the faces of the torturing Roman soldiers, who cackle in Breughel-like transports of sadism. After the scourging, the two Marys take up two cloths and begin sopping up the copious amounts of Jesus' blood that have literally puddled in pools in the courtyard. As he is mounted on the cross, we see his blood draining out of one of the cross's nail-holes, much like the oil in an automotive crankcase."

Is it really news to anyone that Catholics have always regarded the Blood of Christ as more than bodily fluid? For all his smarmy intellectual hot air, this guy can't even wonder whether he might be missing something here. For Catholics, Christ's Blood is the recapitulation of the blood of the Passover lamb, which saves us from death, analogous to the lamb's blood spread on the lintels of Israelite households. At High Mass, when the priest sprinkles the congregation with holy water and prays the Asperges Me, he is recapitulating the sprinkling of bull's blood by the high priest on the altar of the Temple for ritual purification. From the Gospels, the disciples are commanded by Christ to drink his blood from the "cup of salvation" or else have no part of him. The attention the Marys pay to Christ's blood in the film is a representation of the devotion Catholics pay to his Precious Blood. In his famous prayer Anima Christi, St. Ignatius of Loyola supplicates,
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds, hide me.
Christians inebriated with blood? Cambridge Univ. Dominican theologian Aidan Nichols named one of his books, No Bloodless Myth, to describe the drama of the Christian story, which is to say that the Christian story is in fact a rather bloody myth. How can any critic worth his ink avoid seeing this context in TPOTC? So, YES, Catholics are obsessed with Christ's blood. Call it disgusting, but that's orthodox Catholicism, not some deviant pornographic version of it, as the critics keep charging ad nauseum. Even Judaism gives blood a theological meaning through its rituals and kosher laws. But our critics can't fathom the relevance of theological perspectives. Once again, I have never been more dumbstruck by the self-incriminating "know-nothingness" of intellectuals.

One of the great misconceptions (propagated unfortunately by even the film's supporters) is that TPOTC is "literal" or "historical." It is not. It is theological, which includes the literal text and the historical Jesus, but is not reducible to either. There would be a lot less hysteria over this flic if we all just understood that much.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Religion & Media conference at Yale Div

Encouraging to see the alma mater picking up the challenges raised by TPOTC. Hopefully, it won't be just another Mel-bashing, mass mea culpa session.

The crisis in Catholic-Jewish dialogue

I've been more or less brushing off the cries of anti-Semitism regarding TPOTC, especially seeing that there have been no pogroms since its opening. But after reading some Jewish blogs and particularly this article in The New Republic, by Leon Wieseltier, I'm now deeply saddened and troubled. I've come across Wieseltier in the bookstore, skimming through his book Kaddish, which impressed me as an earnest spiritual journey of a secular-minded intellectual struggling to come to grips with the ancient faith of his fathers. It's one thing for the religiously aloof literatii to bash the film with no clue to the theological issues at work, but it's another for religiously sensitive Jews to join in the "mel-edictions."

"In its representation of its Jewish characters, The Passion of the Christ is without any doubt an anti-Semitic movie, and anybody who says otherwise knows nothing, or chooses to know nothing, about the visual history of anti-Semitism, in art and in film."

"The apologetics for The Passion of the Christ must represent an intellectual nadir in contemporary American conservatism. Thoughtful people have been uttering thoughtless words."

When I hear statements like this, I just want to throw up my hands and say, "No, Rodney King, we will never just get along." Is dialogue just a joke? Is its only purpose to impose and enforce a slow death sentence on an orthodox Christology? Why bother explaining the nuances in one's theology when even sincere people only give them the worst possible interpretation? Wieseltier doesn't want to hear any of it. Anyone who finds value in Gibson's film is supportive of anti-Semitism and ignorant of history. Pretty black and white. When these complex, multi-layered issues are reduced to a choice between pluralist heaven and orthodox hell, people will follow their love, like Orpheus, to hell.

"Then there was the argument for timidity. "Jewish denunciations of the movie only increase the likelihood that those who hate us will seize on the movie as an excuse for more hatred," Medved declared. I wonder if he feels the same way about Jewish denunciations of Islamic anti-Semitism. In a journal of the American Enterprise Institute, he warned that "sadly, the battle over the The Passion may indeed provoke more hatred of the Jews." Yet the hatred of the Jews is not simply a response to the Jewish response to the hatred of the Jews. Anti-Semitism is not anti-anti-anti-Semitism."

True, but Medved still has a point. Before articles such as Wieseltier's, I, in good faith, assumed that to appreciate the movie as a profoundly Christian work (but not very intelligible to non-Christians) and to regard Judaism with respect and honor were naturally consistent with each other. Now I'm being told that it's not only inconsistent, but impossible! Who's forcing who into a fight?

To see Catholic scholars and clerics (like my former prof Fr. John Pawlikowski) scramble for cover, desperate to apologize for the movie's violations of dogmatic pluralism, reveals a real crisis in interfaith dialogue. It tells me that all of the work we've done to strengthen bonds of mutual understanding between Catholics and Jews is far from complete. In fact, we've probably taken several wrong turns along the way. There IS an inherent theological anti-Judaism in the New Testament that must be acknowledged and understood as separate from social and political anti-Semitism. If this cannot be discussed, if Christians are required to swallow the equation, Christological supersessionism = anti-Semitism, then dialogue is indeed impossible. Because this seems to be the case, I can't be too hopeful. Sad to see how often we prove Nietzsche's vision of truth as a mere battle of wills.

Pope appoints UChicago alumna

Mary Ann Glendon has been called by JPII to head the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, making her one of the Church's highest ranking lay women. An amazing Maroon and Crimson woman. Orthodox in her faith, yet indomitable in legal scholarship, she embodies the best qualities of lay Catholic activism and the ideals of the encyclical Fides et Ratio. How she has won the respect of liberal, establishment colleagues like Dershowitz and Tribe, despite her strong conservative views, is something of a miracle. Now that's girl-power.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Viva Il Papa!

The old codger lookin pretty swank in his Lenten colors.

On March 14, JPII will pass Pope Leo 13 for duration in office. NY Times article here.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

A dieting regimen from Dr. Freddie Nietzsche

This had me rolling. Works for Lent too. Nietzsche as Atkins successor with book titles: Fat is Dead; Beyond Food and Evil; Swiss Steak Zarathustra; Human, All Too Fat a Human. Funny, all too funny.

Friday, March 05, 2004

First Friday of Lent

This is the instructive fast, it teaches the athlete the ways of the contest.
Draw near to it, study, learn to struggle shrewdly.
Behold he instructed us to fast with our mouths and hearts,
Let us not fast from bread and think thoughts
In which the hidden poison of death is hidden.
Let us confess on the fast day the First Born
Who gave us the word of life to meditate on.

Let the scriptures be for us like a mirror, let us see in them our fast
For the Bible discriminates between fasts and prayer.
It chooses one type of fast and rejects another
Some fasters appease God and others anger him.
There is a prayer which is sinful, and another which is the medicine of life
O Lord let us rejoice in our fast
As he rejoiced, my brothers, in his own fast.
--St. Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns on Fasting
As Christ rejoiced in his own fast... There's no forced grins or smiles here for St. Ephrem. Joining in Christ's Fast is truly life-giving.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Would you like an orangutan to go with your microchips?

Taiwan cuts a big orangutan trade deal with the Brits. Well, that's one way to get rid of your crappy politicians.

Don't we wish

Read this Catholic's-dream version of Bishop Wilton Gregory's press statement. Remember to pinch yourself--it's fictional, repeat, fictional. I had to kick myself since the candor expressed is what I would practically expect from the sacramental head of Christ's Body. The thing is, a bishop *could* have made such a stirring yet not outlandish statement. So close, yet so far away.

The grotesque and the macabre Passion

Found this pic linked over at GetReligion. Another piece of art history that gives additional "con-text" with which to "read" TPOTC.

Hieronymus Bosch, Christ Carrying Cross, 1490

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Why I am the Road Warrior

Bwaahahahaha! I am the Peregrinator. And all from one '93 Honda Civic.

create your own personalized map of the USA
or write about it on the open travel guide

Financial stewardship

Commonweal has a fine article expressing the need for greater financial disclosure in diocesan and parochial institutions. But David Gibson seems too sanguine in his belief that "Opening the church’s books involves no change in doctrine or theology, and the bishop or pastor would still have the final say on how diocesan or parish funds are spent." Nearly every diocese has its clerical despots who will fight any encroachment on their authority tooth and nail. Nearly every diocese has its Voice of the Faithful types who will take it as an opportunity to expand their agenda into every corner of the Church. It's the byproduct of teaching the "seamless garment" ideal. What Gibson recommends, however necessary, won't pass without a significant rumble in the ecclesiological jungle.

Evangelicals vs. Post-Evangelicals

Battles are brewing over Evangelical "traditionalists" and "postmoderns." Here's one trad dropping a round of bombs. A British postmodern or "emerging church" dude discusses the possibilities of integrating WiFi into church worship here. As the Reformation cycle repeats itself once again. It reminds me how one key difference between Catholic and Evangelical aesthetics is irony, which barely exists in the latter.

When teachers strike...against students!

Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take it" used to be the theme song of youth against the establishment. It becomes the teachers' song when youth become the establishment.

Aesthetics and The Passion

Finally, aesthetics has returned to the center stage of Christian debate, thanks to Mel. A Washington Post art critic has written the first article I've read in a major paper that acknowledges how theology and aesthetics have always been joined at the hip. It drives me nuts how Christians rarely discuss aesthetics as anything more than a matter of taste or style. The article also makes a good case for Counter-Reformation aesthetics.