Don’t aim for the straw man, go for the flesh and blood one aiming a lance at you.
The Anchoress, posting at First Things, has a wonderful post on the issues raised by Anne Rice in her "quitting" of Christianity. There is plenty of blame to go around, and in this portion of the post I’m quoting, The Anchoress covers them in part, but the whole post is well worth the read.
Anne Rice wants to do the Life-in-Christ on her own, while saying “Yes” to the worldly world and its values. She seems not to realize that far from being an Institution of No, the church is a giant and eternal urging toward “Yes,”, that being a “yes” toward God–whose ways are not our ways, and who draws all to Himself, in the fullness of time–rather than a “yes” to ourselves.
Unfortunately, we Christians teach this poorly and generally make too many excuses for our failings. Too many of us go out into the world seeking to confront and “fix” others, when the key to the Christian life begins with confronting and “fixing” the self. This can only be done through grace, which enters upon the Yes, and moves and grows on the intentional breeze of Willingness, because that is the only thing that counts, our intentions and our willingness; “worthiness” does not enter in.
But willingness only comes with humility. It comes when we can say “Thy will be done,” and then actually surrender, instead of preparing a treaty.
The world, because it is worldly, cannot understand Christianity or the churches; the world will never love either, and it is foolishness to think otherwise. But the church is not here to be loved by the world; it is here to serve the Bread. The Living Bread did not come for the love of the world, but for its life.
[Eve] Tushnet entered Yale in 1996 a happy lesbian, out since age 13 or 14 (she can’t quite remember). Her father, a nonobservant Jew, and her mother, a Unitarian, both belonged to progressive traditions, tolerant of her sexuality.
When, as a freshman, she attended a meeting of the Party of the Right, a conservative group affiliated with the Yale Political Union, it was “specifically to laugh at them, to see the zoo animals,” she says.
“But I was really impressed, not only by the weird arguments but the degree to which it was clear that the people making them lived as if what they were saying had actual consequences for their lives, that had required them to make sacrifices.”
In Ms. Tushnet’s time, as in mine — I was four years ahead of her at Yale — the Party of the Right had a benignantly cultish quality. “Have you read ‘The Secret History?’ ” she asks, referring to Donna Tartt’s 1992 novel about a secretive student clique obsessed with Greek literature. “It was like that.”
But she listened to them, sincerely, and came out with a far, far different view of them than the culture had led her to believe.
But she found the Party of the Right students compassionate, intellectual and not terribly exercised about her homosexuality. She was drawn to the Catholics among them, who corrected her misimpression that the existence of sin “means you are bad.” It means “precisely the opposite,” they taught her. “It means you have a chance to come back and repent and be saved,” she says. She began reading books like St. Anselm’s “Why God Became Man.” She began attending church. Her sophomore year, she was baptized.
“By the time it was real enough to be threatening,” she says of her conversion, “things had gone too far. I didn’t see it coming.”
So now she’s a fervent Catholic and against same-sex marriage, but isn’t trying to change her religion to fit her notions of right and wrong. She really believes in it, and understands what that means for her life.
As the hundred or so daily readers of eve-tushnet.blogspot.com, and a larger audience for her magazine writing, know by now, Ms. Tushnet can seem a paradox: fervently Catholic, proudly gay, happily celibate. She does not see herself as disordered; she does not struggle to be straight, but she insists that her religion forbids her a sex life.
“The sacrifices you want to make aren’t always the only sacrifices God wants,” Ms. Tushnet wrote in a 2007 essay for Commonweal. While gay sex should not be criminalized, she said, gay men and lesbians should abstain. They might instead have passionate friendships, or sublimate their urges into other pursuits. “It turns out I happen to be very good at sublimating,” she says, while acknowledging that that is a lot to ask of others.
Marriage should be reserved for heterosexuals, whose “relationships can be either uniquely dangerous or uniquely fruitful,” she explained in an e-mail message. “Thus it makes sense to have an institution dedicated to structuring and channeling them.”
She has her problems with the ex-gay movement (see here for her very thoughtful NRO piece on the topic), but does understand what the Church teaches on the subject and, rather than practice the a la carte version of Christianity some do, she’s taken Jesus’ advice to count the cost, and decided to apply the teachings rather than ignore that which she holds true. That’s dedication and commitment.
But she got there by actually listening and giving a fair hearing to what others considered religious nuts. Don’t believe the press. Well, in general, but specifically about the Religious Right(tm). Find out for yourself.
If you only read the newspapers and watched the TV news shows, you’d think that sexual abuse of children was limited to the Catholic church, and was worse now more than ever. You’d be wrong, on both counts. And The Anchoress notes something eye-opening.
In New York, Queens Assemblywoman Margaret Markey routinely presents a bill which seeks to open a year-long “window” into the statute of limitations on child sex-abuse cases, allowing victims whose cases may go back as far as 40 years to bring suit for damages.
Because the bill has -until now- always been limited by Markey to impact the churches, exclusively, it always either failed or been shelved. It is difficult to pass a bill that essentially finds some sexual abuse victims to be more worthy of redress than others.
Markey seems to have figured that out; her new bill includes suits against secular institutions, and the previously silent civil authorities, among others, are reeling.
Pointing fingers is so much easier than self-examination. But "credible allegations" of abuse dropped to 6 last year. The public school system only wishes they had a record that good.
Jim Finnegan, writing in the Naples (Florida) News, was responding to some folks who had commented on his original article on the Catholic Church priest child abuse cases. Apparently, some folks read his words and though he was saying something directly opposite to them. In his follow-up, he first had to give the obligatory disclaimers that he’s not excusing anyone, but he quoted some information that puts this all in perspective.
Charol Shakeshaft, a researcher of a little remembered 2004 study for the U.S. Department of Eduction [sic] on the physical sexual abuse of students in schools, pointed out " the physical sexual abuse of students in schools, is likely more than 100 times the abuse of Priests." I am sure this is easy to Google for the entire study should you wish.
Shakeshaft also pointed out that "nearly 9.6% of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometimes durin [sic] their school career." Creditable accounts of Priestly abuse occured [sic] from but 1.7% of the total Priests in the U.S. Thankfully, Shakeshaft’s study is now being revisited by news commentators seeking to restore some sense of proportion to the media’s aggressive coverage of the Catholic Church.
While Priestly sex abuse can never be mitigated by these figures, they do point out the gross imbalance, and bring question to the motives of the news media that are pouring resources into digging up decades old dirt on the Church. Sadly,the nerative [sic] that has been constructed is often less about the protection of the young (for whom the Catholic Church is, by empirical measure now the safest environment for young people in America today
Aside from Finnegan’s need for a spell checker, this does point out a stark double standard in play, by both liberals and the media (apologies for the repetition). Just going by numbers, you’d think there would be more coverage about abuse in schools, which (if you don’t homeschool) have a mandatory attendance requirement, vs. church, which is entirely voluntary. Not to mention the fact that the school abuse continues while…
The facts show that Priestly sex abuse is a phenomenon that spiked in the mid 1960’s into the 1980’s. This at the time that the "anything goes" sexual revolution began. These are the old cases that the media has chosen to resurrect in their recent attacks on the Church.
Again, none of this should be construed as excusing anyone of these horrible deeds. But a little perspective is in order, and the media, since it goes against "the narrative", is simply not providing it.
I was on Spring Break vacation with the family last week, so other than my post-dated blog posts, I didn’t write much … well, anything. But I did surf the web and kept track of some articles I wanted to highlight when I came back. Here they are, in mostly chronological order of when I found them.
Amnesty International decided that jihad was not antithetical to human rights so long as it’s "defensive".
The bump in polling numbers after passing health care "reform" was supposed to go to Democrats. Instead, while it’s just a measure of emotion at this point in time, you’d think that all the promises of the bill would give Democrats a few higher point. Instead, they’re at an 18-year low. It’s quite possible that people are only now understanding what they supported all along, because the "free" stuff isn’t materializing right now.
What was the point of the resurrection on Easter? Don Sensing has (had) some thoughts.
The Tea Party’s ideas are much more mainstream than the MSM would like you to believe. And Tea Partiers are much more diverse that the MSM realized. Turns out, they did some actual journalism and found out the real story. Imagine that. Has the liberal slant of the press become a problem of corruption, especially with, first, the willful ignoring of the Tea Party story, and second, the willful misreporting of it?
Toyota cars have killed 52 people, and got a recall for it. Gardasil, a cervical cancer vaccine, has had 49 "unexplained deaths" reported by the CDC and it’s still required in some states.
Changing the names to protect the guilty, the words "Islam" and "jihad" are now banned from the national security strategy document. When the next terror attack Islamic jihadists happens, it’ll be interesting to find out how they describe it.
Cows have been exonerated of helping to cause global warming. No, really.
Rep. Bart Stupak’s reversal of his principles is having the proper effect; he’s decided not to seek re-election. Likely, he couldn’t get re-elected anyway, after betraying his constituents, but let this be a lesson about trusting "conservative" Democrats too much.
And finally, media scrutiny of church vs. state (click for a larger picture):
Oh, that liberal media.
From George Weigel at First Things:
The sexual and physical abuse of children and young people is a global plague; its manifestations run the gamut from fondling by teachers to rape by uncles to kidnapping-and-sex-trafficking. In the United States alone, there are reportedly some 39 million victims of childhood sexual abuse. Forty to sixty percent were abused by family members, including stepfathers and live-in boyfriends of a child’s mother—thus suggesting that abused children are the principal victims of the sexual revolution, the breakdown of marriage, and the hook-up culture. Hofstra University professor Charol Shakeshaft reports that 6-10 percent of public school students have been molested in recent years—some 290,000 between 1991 and 2000. According to other recent studies, 2 percent of sex abuse offenders were Catholic priests—a phenomenon that spiked between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s but seems to have virtually disappeared (six credible cases of clerical sexual abuse in 2009 were reported in the U.S. bishops’ annual audit, in a Church of some 65,000,000 members).
Yet in a pattern exemplifying the dog’s behavior in Proverbs 26:11, the sexual abuse story in the global media is almost entirely a Catholic story, in which the Catholic Church is portrayed as the epicenter of the sexual abuse of the young, with hints of an ecclesiastical criminal conspiracy involving sexual predators whose predations continue today. That the vast majority of the abuse cases in the United States took place decades ago is of no consequence to this story line. For the narrative that has been constructed is often less about the protection of the young (for whom the Catholic Church is, by empirical measure, the safest environment for young people in America today) than it is about taking the Church down—and, eventually, out, both financially and as a credible voice in the public debate over public policy.
I guess one question would be, if the Pope’s fair game, why not the US Secretary of Education? If not, why not?
Mr Turk makes an interesting point in the conversation about ecumenical conversations, although I’m not entirely sure it’s the point he wants to make. A week or so ago he offered that those of other denominations, specifically the Roman and Easter churches were right with God only if they (accidentally) held to a Evangelical belief/approach to the Gospel. I think this point of view is held far more often by most people in every church/denomination. That is to say that any Christian church X thinks that members of church Y are in the soteriological pink inasmuch as those members in church Y (accidentally) hold to beliefs that are held in church X. That is, Mr Turk as an Evangelical thinks that the Catholic and Orthodox are saved if they hold an Evangelical understanding of the Gospel and those in the Roman hold that the Evangelical and Eastern are likewise correct when and where they (accidentally) hold to the Roman understanding of Gospel. And so on. Now I had been under the impression that I was “above the fray” in this regard. But on reflection, I am not. Read the rest of this entry »
Mark Horne offers some arguments why “he can never be a Roman Catholic.” I’m not a Roman Catholic … but it seems like a number of these reasons are not valid criticisms. I’m going to concentrate on one (and mention one more). Mr Horne offers:
Necromancy is almost as huge a sin and praying to the departed saints is necromancy. See #1 above. People raised thinking bigamy is Christian may be true Christians, but people who know better are living in sin and without hope of eternal life unless they repent of such behavior.
Praying to Saints by Catholics is not because Catholics believe that “some other intercessory agency between themselves and God” is required. Examine their liturgy and the prayers they pray. They pray to directly to Father, Son, and Spirit. So they are not asking Saints (or Mary) to pray for them because they think it is required. Something else is going on here, they do it because they think it is efficacious. My understanding of the way prayer to Saints is seen not as a required intermediary but as being equivalent to your asking a friend, acquaintance, or even some Christian you don’t really know, to pray for you. That is it. Just in the same way that Protestants (and every Christian) thinks that the prayers of others on our behalf is beneficial, likewise Catholics (the East and the original Reformers for that matter) think that the dead can pray for us … after all they are not dead but are with God. You are asking that this Saint, asleep in the Lord whom you believe is “now” outside of time participating in God’s presence (no longer seeing through a glass darkly), to pray for you. How is that akin to bigamy and living a life of sin?
There are two pieces to this that I think give the American evangelical cause to pause. The first is that the notion that a saint from a country far away and centuries removed will be aware of my request that he (or she) pray for me and that furthermore that he (or she) might do so. The second is that in our American notions of egalitarianism and equality Americans find the notion that we are not equal in the eyes of the Lord, a difficult one to master. To the latter, when the disciples were having a debate about who would be seated at Jesus right hand when he came into his glory, Jesus rebuke was not that “nobody would be sitting there” as we are equal in the afterlife, but that they were not the ones to be seated there.
Yet that isn’t really the question.
The real question is why is asking for the intercession by a deceased hero of the Church not adiaphora? And this has a counter question for the East and the Roman Catholic, why is not asking that the Saints intercede for us also not adiaphora?
A final remark Mr Horne objects:
Nowhere are Christians required to do a genealogical study to see if they are members of the true Church.
I for one, have no clue what is he talking about here. Any guesses?
John Mark Reynolds in a comment to my (first!) post at Evangel offered:
A child would view Favre well . . . but a real man would see him better. He would glory in his manly exploits as an image of excellence and be provoked to go and do likewise in his own chosen profession.
This is in short hoping a hope (or a recognition) that Favre (or pick your favorite athlete) and his exploits might do good in us by inspiring the Greek virtue arete in us. However that leads to the question … can one find support for the type of excellence of the sort Mr Favre would inspire … as being good (or Good) in Scripture (or enlarge that to church tradition for the non-sola-scriptura crowd). I think the answer is … no … but I might like to be convinced otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »
Take two similar stories and try to figure out how the media will cover each. With a hat tip to Newsbusters, here are the two stories:
1. A former Catholic priest comes forward Monday (4/20/09) to claim that another priest abused him as a teenager nearly 30 years ago. (The accused priest has no other similar public complaints and denies the allegations against him.)
2. A former school teacher was sentenced Wednesday (4/22/09) after pleading no contest to eight felony counts, including having sex with two girls under the age of 16. The man "admitted to having intercourse with the girls, performing oral sex with the teens and taking extremely explicit nude photographs of his victims — including pictures of him with one of the girls - before sending the images over the Internet."
OK, they’re not entirely equivalent. The priest story is from 3 decades ago and the teacher story is from this month. OK, and the priest denies the allegations while the teacher is being sentenced. So given that, what was the disparity in coverage?
Now it’s quiz time! To which story did the Los Angeles Times devote two generous color photos and a 640-word article? Which story did the Times totally ignore?
If you’ve been a close follower of this issue here at NewsBusters, you already know the answer. The Times loudly trumpeted the case of the Catholic priests, even though the original story was reported three years ago (!). Meanwhile, it totally ignored the story of the teacher (Contra Costa Times, 4/23/09; Long Beach Press-Telegram, 11/5/08).
We’ll say it again: It seems the most important element to the Times when reporting the awful abuse of children is whether the words "priest," "bishop," or "Cardinal" is in someone’s job title.
Given the Google results, it’s not just the Times that has this ailment. It’s almost journalists have some blind spot when covering negative stories on government schools and / or a hot spot when it comes to negative stories regarding religion in general and Christianity in particular.
I’m sure there’s a logical explanation.
Pro-choice, the Madison avenue euphemization for by the pro-abortion crowd is on some reflection an odd choice of terminology. The word “heresy” comes from the Greek hairesis (haireomai, “choose”), and means either a choice of beliefs or a faction of dissident believers. Pro-heresy might be an interesting alternative phrasing. Relabeling is in vogue these days, where it is common for those with the bully pulpit to recast the opponents and terms to favor their cause, which perhaps is why Mr Obama is trying to identify Mr Limbaugh as a conservative leader. If turnabout is fair play, perhaps recasting pro-choice as pro-heresy might help the pro-life cause within the liberal Christian community.
When making arguments one must consider one’s audience. When convincing a secular audience that one should rely on secular arguments, which is the primary place in which these arguments are taking place these days. If on the other hand, one is speaking to a Christian community, then Christian argument and theology should be used. Rarely however it seems to me does the pro-heresy community attempt to cast their arguments for abortion in the light of Christian tradition and theology. And for good reason … because Christian tradition and theology has stood against abortion for almost 2 millenia. Read the rest of this entry »
When sexual abuse in the Catholic church was uncovered, the national mainstream media was all over the story, as it should have been. But when it’s a public school system that is involved in the same thing — including sending known offenders back in to work with kids, and trying to minimized the issue — their silence betrays their bias. Then, there was outrage and daily reports on the evening news. Now, local reporting but not much else.
Dave Pierre of NewsBusters chronicles the issue here (back in May) and here (last week). The national media ignores a government program but wallops Christians over the same issue. Yeah, no bias there, right?
The theme/question for this quarters CoCR by our host at The Cross Reference is:
I guess I’d be interested in hearing perspectives on what obstacles are presented by the varying liturgies (high/low, sacramental/non-sacramental, rubrical/freeform) and how they might be possible to overcome. I don’t necessarily want to get too doctrinal (although the law of prayer and the law of belief go hand-in-hand, as far as Catholics are concerned). And the issue of liturgical reform would be open for discussion as well.
Much of American worship experience when compared to that 5 or 10 centuries earlier is very much less liturgically and bound in ritual and movement than it was then. Charles Tayler in A Secular Age recounts the development of the secularization of modern Western society. The move away from the ritual and formal liturgical expression was one intended to concentrate the spiritual focus of the worshiper away from externalities and to turn inwards concentrating on ones heart and mind to focus on God. As a result many churches and expressions in churches have become less liturgically bound. I suggest that many who reject, or “don’t get” liturgical expression also don’t really appreciate it. Likewise those who cherish liturgical worship don’t “get” or have a real appreciation for good non-liturgical worship.
I will admit up front, that I have always been part of a liturgical worship environment. I grew up in a Lutheran church … and have now ended in a Eastern Orthodox church, which is arguably about as “high” liturgical as you can get in the modern church. So I have a definite bias on the place of liturgy in worship. But, I’d like to pose a question for the non-liturgical church members.
One of the things liturgy and liturgical cycles are good for is memory. Passover and Pascha (Easter) are memories of two very significant events in the Hebrew and Christian churches. These are marked liturgically. The rest of the church year is marked out with a variety of other liturgical events … which in part are to help us remember and mark those as important. These can also mark other historical events. Recently, the church I attend has added to its liturgical calendar a service to remember 9/11. Americans remember July 4th and certain other Presidential holidays. We remember Pearl Harbor a lot less well. Why? Because, there is no secular “holiday” or secular liturgical event (if you will) to mark that day. 9/11 currently also has no such secular liturgy remembering that day. In 50-75 years in the absence of such a marking, like Pearl Harbor, 9/11 will fade from our public consciousness. The point is, liturgy and ritual make a connection not just in our mind, but in our whole being, our nous if you will, between us and events which we … as a church, find significant.
My question is how do you non-liturgical churches hold precious and fast to the important events in Church history in the absence of liturgical remembrance?
Dan Trabue, in our conversations on monastic life, offered that celibacy is un-Biblical. Huh?
Explain then (1 Corinthians 7 ESV):
Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.
To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
It seems to me the plain meaning of this is that St. Paul offers that unmarried devotion to Christ is preferred to marriage hence the “I wish all were as I myself am”, to whit unmarried and celibate (this chapter offers more support for that view as well).
Secondly, for 1500+ years the Christian church always held that unmarried celibacy, such as the monastic life was a higher calling than marriage. Today, many Protestants reject this. Why? On what basis? I honestly have no idea what is the basis of that rejection.