Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Do you Fugu?

While reading Rod Dreher's review of Chloe Breyer's book The Close, I came across one of those references you realize you're oblivious to but feel you should know: fugu fish. It's a type of poisonous pufferfish or blowfish which has become quite a delicacy for the rich, trend-setting, and suicidal of Japan. You too can risk death from a fish that has enough toxin in it to kill 30 adults for $140 per fish. Yummy. I wonder if it's made an appearance on Iron Chef. The intimate relationship between fugu consumption and Japanese auto and camera production will be the subject of my next book...

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

American Religion is as ever a Tower of Babel

Curious little can of worms GetReligion blogger opened up on newspaper religion correspondents' idiotic comments on the Hanukkah and Christmas calendrical convergence of 2005.

St. Louis Dispatch religion reporter wrote this gem for the Theological Illiteracy file:
Most scholars today acknowledge that Isaiah was not predicting the birth and death of Christ, but instead was using the suffering servant to talk about God’s relationship with Israel during the Babylonian exile in the sixth century B.C.
GetReligion responds:
That last sentence is one of the most preposterous I’ve ever read from a religion reporter. Ever. It’s one thing to attribute the claim to someone — but to substantiate it with an unidentified cabal of “most scholars” is particularly offensive. If, in fact, “most scholars” believe this, perhaps we could learn of the survey where they were asked about their views. Perhaps we could learn what type of scholars they are. Also, perhaps, someone could notify Christendom.
This is where GR loses me. I see the usual self-serving elitism in "most scholars," but that's not what's so preposterous about the statement to me. Rather it's that the journalist actually thought he was popping someone's bubble by observing that "Isaiah was not predicting the birth and death of Christ." It's as if most Christians have foolishly hoodwinked themselves into thinking every other statement in the OT was a crystal ball prediction of Jesus. It's so ridiculous a statement -- Wait a minute...hey, oh yeah, there ARE people who butcher Scripture like that." I've been Catholic long enough to forget.

This ridiculous crystal ball understanding of Biblical prophecy among Bible fundies and evies for some bizarre reason just won't die, hence the Left Behind and pre-/post-Tribulationist crazes. We can thank Sola Scriptura once again (my favorite theological pinata) for providing us with such nonsense. Be sure to check out the comments section in the GR post; it's chock full of people talking over, through, behind, around (anything but TO) each other.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Church of Public Radio

Sunday night programming on public radio is getting dumber and dumberer. It's as if some liberal NPR exec gave out an order to counter the rise of all those fundamentalist channels infecting the airwaves, sending his underlings scrambling for any "spiritual" voices regardless how inane so long as they mock or condescend over all Christians who actually take Christianity seriously. It's a Unitarian's dream come true.

There's the Infinite Mind from which I just learned that "all experiences of God take place in the brain" and that if scientists could replicate that neurological mechanism, we could "help people" with depression, anxiety, a whole host of mental disorders, and we could have religious experiences on-demand! The expert then reassures us that his research does not challenge religious faith at all, but only enhances it, unless, he's quick to qualify, you're doctrinal in your beliefs.

Then there's the div school dean who was blind enough to proclaim that the real threat of destructive religious extremism ("evil religion" in his book) in this country is to be found in the those fundamentalists who oppose perfectly rational and good stuff like legalized abortion and Roe v. Wade. I guess the destruction of millions of embryonic humans isn't all that destructive. He has the gall of associating Christian fundies with Al Qaeda. He mused that if only Osama abided by the Golden Rule...then he wouldn't be so evil.

Yeah, and if we all spoke Esperanto, we wouldn't need translators. The reason Esperanto failed is the same reason why liberal religion has failed and will fail as a historical force. If only these so-called experts would get their noses out of their Western Enlightenment navels they'd maybe see that their ideas only feed the flames of fundamentalism via the backlash effect. Their smug sentimentalized posturing gilded with the airs of superiority would disgust anyone who takes their faith seriously, including both rational and irrational believers.

Now I can't stand fundamentalism but I have to respect their consistency, tenacity, and their scorn for the two-faced hypocrisy of "liberal" spirituality. I'm with them when they feel the brunt of the puritanical moralisms of the Left, particularly its extremist attitudes on tolerance, inclusivity, relativism, perspectivalism, individualism/collectivism, nonjudgmentalism, anti-establishmentarianism, sexual expressionism, et al. But that's all I share with the Protestant Right in America. Right and left religiosity are invariably flip sides of the same coin of Protestantism to me.

When you separate faith and reason, as Protestantism did, then you're forced to pick sides. The Right picked faith against reason; the Left reason againt faith. It's that simple. The only solution for the West is a return to the synthesis between faith and reason, where for example Catholicism's protest against legal abortion is rooted in natural law, not solely revelation (revelation under Catholicism is never destructive of reason anyway). Only under Protestantism could anyone argue that hostility to abortion is rooted solely in religious belief which is assumed to be independent of reason.

Anyway, there's also Speaking of Faith, which is more of the same "alternative" spiritual cotton candy. It's not enough that Alternative religiosity can point out heroic figures who represent its views. Heroic individuals do not a religion make. A true religion has to organically inspire and unite an entire people regardless of class, education, or ideology. It has to find its roots in something that transcends all those things, and not just in the mind of individuals but in entire communities. The Golden Rule and Tolerancism are not religions in this sense -- by themselves they're just sugary disembodied ideas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

More "War on Christianity"

St. Blog's is abuzz about the DaVinci Code film and sundry attacks on Christianity from mainstream media during this blessed season of peace and hope.

I'd have to say that unyielding whimsy is the best response for Catholics. Anytime anyone mentions The DuhVinci Code with lurid excitement, just say firmly and pointedly, "You know it's fiction, right?" And let it go. If anti-catholic ideology hasn't yet turned their brains to mush, that one-sentence argument is plenty. Cuz, really, the only ones who are getting screwed by this whole craze are the idiots who actually believe Dan Brown to be the David McCullough of church history. Let's not take the bait and script ourselves into the victim role.

The movie may be great visual entertainment, and that's all it would ever be - yet another gripping conspiracy tale to tickle our X-Files bone. Protests, boycotts against the movie and demonizing people who love it just plays into their script, balloons publicity for the flic and multiplies their ticket receipts. DVC doesn't even amount to persecution, not even close. It's problem is not blasphemy or heresy so much as the deceit of fiction-posing-as-truth. If it openly presented itself as doctrine or historical truth, then I'd break out the iron maidens.

The test is the "saint's reaction" test - if you told Mother Teresa about yet another Hollywood production that distorted Christ and the Church, would she pop a gasket and organize a protest or boycott? Or would she just shake her head and go back to tending to her sisters, the poor, and the Blessed Sacrament?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Sourpuss Andy

Time Mag has named B16 "European Newsmaker of the Year." Yeah, it's probably the most unexciting title to ever be vested on the Pope. In what was otherwise a fine, reserved appreciation of his first 8 months as Pope, the author had to include a silly quote from your favorite and mine, Andrew Sullivan:

After the release of a new Vatican document that would prohibit any person who was openly gay — even if celibate — from becoming a priest, the writer Andrew Sullivan, a gay Catholic, said Benedict "has identified a group of people and said, regardless of how they behave or what they do, they are beneath serving God. It isn't what they do that he is concerned with. It's who they are."
No, Sully, Benedict would gently correct you: you're the one who willfully chose to subsume your identity as a person into your sexuality when nothing in Christianity has ever taught that. Benedict believes you are a human person before you're gay, a sinner-saint before God, just like all of us. You want to elevate homosexuality to the level of ontology, which is just philosophically and logically absurd. Benedict simply insists that we are more than our sexuality, far more, and that it's a tragic error to teach otherwise. Too many priests out there are teaching otherwise. That's the wrongful action he's after, not who you are. Next to the man the article describes, Sullivan just keeps stereotyping himself as the ever-petulant high school homecoming queen who got her dress muddy.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

What kind of Catholic am I?

You scored as Traditional Catholic. You look at the great piety and holiness of the Church before the Second Vatican Council and the decay of belief and practice since then, and see that much of the decline is due to failed reforms based on the "Spirit of the Council". You regret the loss of vast numbers of Religious and Ordained clergy and the widely diverging celebrations of the Mass of Pope Paul VI, which often don't even seem to be Catholic anymore. You are helping to rebuild this past culture in one of the many new Traditional Latin Mass communities or attend Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgy. You seek refuge from the world of pornography, recreational drugs, violence, and materialism. You are an articulate, confident, committed, and intelligent Catholic.

But do you support legitimate reform of the Church, and are you willing to submit to the directives of the Second Vatican Council? Will you cooperate responsibly with others who are not part of the Traditional community?

Traditional Catholic


New Catholic


Neo-Conservative Catholic


Lukewarm Catholic


Radical Catholic


Evangelical Catholic


Liberal Catholic


What is your style of American Catholicism?
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