21 February 2006

A few updates

I’ve been writing a big (hopefully) near-final piece of my proposal, so my writing energy has been consumed elsewhere of late.

But a few things to throw out for your consideration.

First, BF is participating in a “Catholic Smackdown” over at BustedHalo, a Gen X Catholic website. You can check it out for yourself.

Second, we have of late been enamored of Olympic speedskater Joey Cheek (below). We love speedskaters in general. Just like with bicyclists, massive quads are sexy. And when they’re as hot as Joey, we sigh and flutter our eyelashes a bit.

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Third, we may be a little sporadic over the next couple of days, but hopefully less than the last few.

Posted in Ev'rything But the Sink on 21 February 2006 at 10:08 am by Nate
12 February 2006

A revival in Boston?

Got this article just recently about the growth of Protestant evangelicalism in Boston.

Park Street defies the myth that Boston and the rest of New England have shed their religious heritage for a secular society. It also defies the institutional hold that the Catholic church has on America’s most Catholic city. In fact, evangelical Christianity is thriving in Boston. During the past 30 years, church growth, fueled by evangelical university groups and immigrant communities, has dramatically outpaced population growth. At the same time, mainline denominations have dwindled and the abuse scandal in the Catholic church has forced the closing of dozens of parishes. Evangelical leaders expect this “quiet revival” not only to continue, but to blossom into another Great Awakening….

Catholic collapse

The Catholic church is to Boston what evangelicals are to Wheaton or Colorado Springs, says Harrell. The influence of the Catholic church is everywhere from parishes to politics. Harrell says Catholics often did not leave the church because of the abuse scandal, but they were shocked at how the church handled it. “That’s what sent people through the roof,” he says.

A recent survey found that only one-third of Catholics attend mass weekly. Despite the low attendance, Catholics tend to stick it out with the church they grew up in, Harrell says. At least, they are reluctant to attend church elsewhere.

But many do find themselves at evangelical churches like Park Street. “We get a lot of recovering Catholics,” Harrell says.

There is rarely a direct move from the Catholic Church to Park Street, Harrell says. Rather people spend years disenchanted with church before trying out a new one. They are also looking for something more demanding than the church they grew up in.

I replied with the following to the correspondent who sent it to me:

The CT article is largely good, and I think it’s accurate. One exception I take is in what seems a somewhat slight bias against Roman Catholic Christianity. For example, the measures of faithfulness that it uses (weekly church attendance) isn’t really appropriate to Roman Catholics, both for cultural and semi-theological reasons. If they measured how long individual people stayed faithful and committed to one church community as the measure here, the RCs would win, as they don’t change churches as often. It’s subtle, but I think there’s an argument that some bias is there. Not that this should entirely surprise: both evangelicals and mainline Protestants have historically considered Catholics as somehow distinct from “Christians.” I even remember hearing stuff like this in church and school as I grew up. Probably this has as much to do with lingering ethnic reasons as theological ones. It’s ironic, considering that we as Protestants came from the Roman church, and that the Roman church, for example, has reformed the problems that gave rise to the Reformation (the Roman Catholic church and the Lutheran World Congress have even signed a joint statement emphasizing that they have the same understanding of the role of grace in salvation, which ends up being essentially Luther’s position).

One of the great things about the Roman church is that it holds the Great Tradition of the Church and that it has the historical memory that we Protestants often lack. The result seems to be that we sometimes teach things that contradict that faith: for example, I can think of some things I learned in church and school that, if not heretical, skirted the edge of heresy. (Like a Donatist understanding of the effects of the purity of ministers and clergy on the effectiveness of the sacraments, for example.) Having a theologian as a partner has made me realize that my own theological beliefs are not too far afield from the large tradition of the Western Church, and it has made me much more comfortable in the Roman church. It’s probably why I stay on the Anglican via media, halfway between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.

Posted in Rayleejun on 12 February 2006 at 4:29 pm by Nate
11 February 2006

How I will spend my Saturday night

Here’s the dance we chaperone tonight….

No pictures allowed, because of the scandal that might create.

Although, I don’t think our students care if people see them doing almost anything. Someone recently pointed out to us some photos of some of our students, on facebook.com, wherein they are dancing about their common room in their underwear. Hardly the most revealing thing one can find on the facebook, to be honest. But it gives some idea of what goes on behind closed doors around here.

Tonight we’re just opening the doors, I guess.

Posted in Day2Day on 11 February 2006 at 9:19 am by Nate
10 February 2006

Spam of the day/week

I thoroughly enjoyed this:

Subject: Former President Bill Klinton uses Voagra!

Everybody knows the great sexual scandal known as “Klinton-Levinsky”.

After the relations like this Klintons popularity raised a lot!

It is a natural phenomenon, because Bill as a real man in order not to

shame himself when he was with Monica regularly used Voagra.

What happened you see. His political figure became more bright and more attractive.

It is very important for a man to be respected as a man!

This leads me to wonder: Is Clinton misspelled because his name now sets off spam filters?

Posted in OnTheWeb on 10 February 2006 at 11:49 am by Nate
9 February 2006

Seriously now…

I’m glad to see someone moving to confront the RC Church’s hangup over sex and sexuality. And the content of the lawsuit is potentially explosive:

…Halfway through the 44-page complaint, the priest-turned-advocate drops a bomb on the cardinal: He alleges that [New York archbishop Edward Cardinal] Egan is “actively homosexual,” and that he has “personal knowledge of this.” His suit names two other top Catholic clerics in the region as actively gay—Albany bishop Howard Hubbard and Newark archbishop John Myers.

It’s not that Hoatson has a problem with, as the suit puts it, “consensual, adult private sexual behavior by these defendants.”

No, what Hoatson claims is that, as leaders of a church requiring celibacy and condemning homosexuality, actively gay bishops are too afraid of being exposed themselves to turn in pedophile priests. The bishops’ closeted homosexuality, as the lawsuit states, “has compromised defendants’ ability to supervise and control predators, and has served as a reason for the retaliation.”

Does any serious person believe that Catholic priests are straight? Cardinals and bishops seem even more likely. Do straight men say, “I fell in love with the liturgy at a young age” (as Benedict XVI has said)?

None that I can think of.

Posted in Rayleejun on 9 February 2006 at 5:24 pm by Nate
8 February 2006

Weblog editor

I’ve been using ecto lately as a weblog editor, and I’ve really liked it. Much better than MarsEdit, from the people who make the best Mac RSS aggregator, NetNewsWire. ecto has a nice set of features, and moves nicely back and forth between WYSIWYG and HTML modes (just to name the one I’ve used most so far). But it supports deli.cio.us tags, all sorts of inserts and attachments, and other stuff I haven’t used yet. I’d recommend it to anyone who needs an editor besides the web interface of most blogs (say, if you want to blog offline and upload later when you find a hotspot).

I think I will probably pony up the $18 for a license, so I can keep using it….

Posted in Books on 8 February 2006 at 9:58 am by Nate
7 February 2006

Brokeback’s Closet

Excellent point from the NYTimes Blog “Opinionator”:

Citing Roger Ebert and other critics who have proclaimed “Brokeback Mountain” to be a “universal” love story, Daniel Mendelsohn writes in the New York Review of Books that such critics are “well-meaning but seriously misguided” when they ignore the movie’s status as “a specifically gay tragedy.” He writes:

For to see ‘Brokeback Mountain’ as a love story, or even as a film about universal human emotions, is to misconstrue it very seriously—and in so doing inevitably to diminish its real achievement.

Both narratively and visually, ‘Brokeback Mountain’ is a tragedy about the specifically gay phenomenon of the ‘closet’ — about the disastrous emotional and moral consequences of erotic self-repression and of the social intolerance that first causes and then exacerbates it. … If Jack and Ennis are tainted, it’s not because they’re gay, but because they pretend not to be; it’s the lie that poisons everyone they touch.

Mendelsohn concludes, “If you insist, as so many have, that the story of Jack and Ennis is OK to watch and sympathize with because they’re not really homosexual — that they’re more like the heart of America than like ‘gay people’ — you’re pushing them back into the closet whose narrow and suffocating confines Ang Lee and his collaborators have so beautifully and harrowingly exposed.”

The Baptized Pagan made a similar point a few weeks ago:

I haven’t seen this in print anywhere yet, so here goes my take on Brokeback’s theological anthropology: Brokeback Mountain, besides being a romantic tragedy set in a beautiful landscape, is also a natural law argument for the acceptance of homosexuality. The not-so-subtle entree into this position is the slogan at the bottom of the ads: “Love is a Force of Nature”. One can notice that all of the bad things that happen in the film — the adultery, the alcohol abuse, the materialism, the dishonesty, the hurt that comes not only to these two men but to those in their lives — comes about not because they’re in a same-sex relationship, but because they’re in a same-sex relationship but trying their dardnest not to be. If, as many gay people, particularly gay men, describe their experience, their homosexuality is something discovered as a part of them, rather than a choice or a deviation from heterosexuality, then a good Thomist, if (and this is a big “if”), if she were open to hearing that first premise and accepted it as probable, then it makes sense to follow one’s nature where it leads into human flourishing.

Posted in Politicks on 7 February 2006 at 11:08 am by Nate
6 February 2006

Disturbing

Brokeback to the Future is making the rounds of the Internet.  Funny, and yet discomfiting….

Posted in OnTheWeb on 6 February 2006 at 11:55 pm by Nate

Bono at the National Prayer Breakfast

Bono addressed the National Prayer Breakfast last week, showing up politicians as only a global rock star can do.  Here’s one of my favorite passages from his speech:

Look, whatever thoughts you have about God, who He is or if He
exists, most will agree that if there is a God, He has a special place
for the poor.  In fact, the poor are where God lives. 

Check Judaism.  Check Islam.  Check pretty much anyone.

I
mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill…  I hope so. 
He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff… maybe,
maybe not…  But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and
ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor. 

God
is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house… God
is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus
that will end both their lives… God is in the cries heard under the
rubble of war… God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives,
and God is with us if we are with them.  “If you remove the yolk from
your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if
you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the
afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with
become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy
your desire in scorched places”

It’s not a coincidence
that in the Scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. 
It’s not an accident.  That’s a lot of air time, 2,100 mentions.  [You
know, the only time Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the
poor.]   ‘As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you
have done it unto me.’  (Matthew 25:40).   As I say, good news to the
poor. 

It occurs to me that Bono believes with all of his heart, sould, mind, and strength that we have the ability to end the sort of poverty we see in places like Africa today.  That seems so impossible that I can only describe it as the leap of faith.  As he has said to a variety of audiences, “I’m a believer in grace, not karma.”  And it’s only if you believe in a form of grace that you could have the audacity to think that we have the ability and the duty to end extreme poverty.

And it shows up these politicians each time they get near him.  In the face of Bono’s simple pleas on behalf of those who can’t get to National Prayer Breakfasts, insincerity shows its falsity, power is afflicted, and humanity incarnate shines.

He really does believe all this.  It’s much more belief than many of us can muster.  It can seem simplistic, unreal, childish.  And he takes a lot of flak for it.  But as he says, “Grace makes beauty from ugly things.”  For Bono, justice is the beautiful result of grace.

Posted in Politicks on 6 February 2006 at 11:32 am by Nate
5 February 2006

Christianist Donatism, of a sort

The Christianists are at it again.  And they’re behaving somewhat heretically, again.

If you didn’t read the Times the other day, there was an article about the new film “The End of the Spear.”  Here’s what’s going down:

Christian ministers were enthusiastic at the early private screenings
of “End of the Spear,” made by Every Tribe Entertainment, an
evangelical film company. But days before the film’s premiere, a
controversy erupted over the casting of a gay actor that has all but
eclipsed the movie and revealed fault lines among evangelicals.

The film relates the true story of five American missionaries who
were killed in 1956 by an indigenous tribe in Ecuador. The
missionaries’ families ultimately converted the tribe to Christianity,
and forgave and befriended the killers. The tale inspired evangelicals
40 years ago with its message of redemption and grace, and the film
company expected a similar reception.

On Jan. 12, though, the
Rev. Jason Janz took the filmmakers to task for casting Chad Allen, an
openly gay man and an activist, in the movie’s lead role as one of the
slain missionaries, and later, his grown son.

(Growing up in Sunday School, we heard this story of these missionaries numerous times, and their martyrdom was held up as an example to us.) (I might also note that I might not have seen the film, because I’m getting a bit concerned about Hollywood’s pursuit of the “Christian” audience, but Chad Allen is just yummy….)

That which seems to be the problem here is that some people deem the deliverer of the Gospel message to be unworthy to present it, and his unworthiness somehow invalidates the enterprise.

Let’s go back to the fourth century, to discuss a conflict between the Donatists and non-Donatists.  Wikipedia tells the story as well as anyone:

Their primary disagreement with the rest of the Church was over the
treatment of those who forsook their faith during the Persecution (303–305 AD) of Diocletian.
The rest of the Church was far more forgiving of these people than the
Donatists were. They refused to accept the sacraments and spiritual
authority of the priests and bishops who had fallen away from the faith
during the persecution. Many church leaders had gone as far as turning
in Christians to the Roman authorities and had handed over sacred
religious texts to authorities to be publicly burned. These people were
called traditors (“people who had handed over”). These traditors had returned to positions of authority under Constantine, and the
Donatists proclaimed that any sacraments celebrated by these priests
and bishops were invalid. As a result, many towns were divided between
Donatist and non-Donatist congregations. The sect had particularly
developed and grown in North Africa. Constantine, as emperor, began to
get involved in the dispute, and in 314 he called a council atArles
in France; the issue was debated and the decision went against the
Donatists. The Donatists refused to accept the decision of the council,
their distaste for bishops who had collaborated with Rome came out of
their broader view of the Roman empire….

Augustine campaigned against this heterodox belief throughout his tenure as
bishop of Hippo, and through his efforts the Church gained the upper
hand. His view, which was also the majority view within the Church, was
that it was the office of priest, not the personal character of the
incumbent, that gave validity to the celebration of the sacraments.
This is the view that prevailed and has persisted to the present day….

The basic idea here is that the personal worthiness of the minister has no bearing on the worthiness or importance of the Christian message.  Sure, we should aim toward people who are virtuous, but their failure to live up to a code of virtue — especially one on which not all agree — does not affect the message, because the message is independent of the human messenger.  If it is a transcendant message, as Christians claim, then it must transcend the limitations of the messenger.

The Rev. Jason Janz seems to be skirting close to heresy, at least in some sense.  Perhaps he should go back to seminary for a bit more time.

Posted in Rayleejun on 5 February 2006 at 10:54 am by Nate