I’m sometimes asked by artless, though usually fairly harmless, people, “Are there some Church teachings you don’t believe?” I resist the urge to respond with equal tactlessness, “Are there things about your wife you don’t love?” The question itself reveals just how much political paradigms have distorted our ways of thinking and speaking about the Church, as if the deposit of faith were somehow equivalent to a party platform.
And yet—here you have it, Mr. Artless Questioner—this week I find myself ready to dissent publicly—for all the web to see—from an official act of the Vicar of Christ, the Supreme Pontiff, the Successor of the Apostle Peter.
Benedict XVI, do you have to go so soon?
I agree, to be sure, with all the generous things that have been said about the pope’s decision—that it’s a selfless and humble act, the fruit of great prayer and faith, born out of a profound love of the Church. Of course, it is. And of course Pope Benedict is a better judge of his own limits and abilities than anyone else and is also in a better position to judge the needs of the Church than some two-bit blogger from South Dakota.
But still, I can’t help but thinking, Benedict at 75% is still better than most of us at 100%. Who else combines Benedict’s spiritual and intellectual breadth and depth, his combination of scholarly incisiveness and gentleness of spirit? Who else has better seen through the pomps and empty promises of secularism or proposed so insistently, so clearly their remedy—friendship with Jesus Christ? Who else has Benedict’s sense of the liturgy, sense of history, sense of prayer? Couldn’t he just stay on for another year or two? Couldn’t he at least have waited until after finishing that encyclical on faith? Read the rest of this entry »
I don’t have much time for television in my current job, but parishes or no parishes, I haven’t been able to give up House, MD. The show ended last year but I’ve been watching it on Netflix—I march at my own pace, as readers here know—and last week I reached the final episode.
Dr. House, as viewers can attest, is a difficult man to like. A drug addict, a cynic, a master-manipulator, he shows glib disregard for the feelings, beliefs, and even human rights of others. He has a penchant for insulting patients and destroying relationships with anyone who dares to get close to him. A difficult man to like, yes—but I like a challenge.
The genius of the show comes from the character’s complexity, the fact that House needs relationships even as he unconsciously (and sometimes consciously) burns the ones he has. His colleagues (and viewers) see through his frequent, and slightly too insistent, assertions that curing patients for him is only a matter of solving puzzles. And a great deal of his off-putting-ness comes from the fact that he says things that are true, or uncomfortably close to the truth, but socially unacceptable. Read the rest of this entry »
Is Pope Benedict a regular reader of Whosoever Desires? Well, probably not.
But regular readers of our little blog might remember that a few months ago I wrote a short post on the decision of Fargo’s Bishop Samuel Aquila to restore the traditional order of the sacraments of initiation. If you missed it, you can check it out here.
Bishop Aquila was in Rome this week, and he was singled out for praise for his decision by that city’s bishop. You can check out the article here. So apparently I’m not the only one to find his argument about confirmation interesting.
On a practical level, I now find myself teaching courses for baptism, RCIA, RCIC, and confirmation, and I do find it somewhat difficult to explain the discrepancy between the standard practice for most cradle Catholics and that for those initiated through RCIA or RCIC. The theology doesn’t quite make sense and, as is so often the case, shaky theology undermines actual Catholic practice, leading to the sacrament of confirmation functioning as a kind of graduation from church for many teenagers.
Also, I just love to see Fargo on theology’s cutting edge.
The men and women working for the Obama White House are not stupid people. In fact, the billion-dollar Obama political machine is perhaps the most impressive such operation in American political history. Why then, I’ve heard many people asking, would this Administration choose to go to “war”—to use the word of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius —with the Catholic Church, in an election year no less? Why, furthermore, has the Administration’s response to Catholic objections to its new contraception rules ranged from the obtuse to the insulting?
Ducking reporters’ questions on the subject, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney read from a prepared statement with all the sincerity of a North Korean news anchor before refusing to answer questions about the penalties Catholic institutions will face when they refuse to supply free contraceptives to employees. And the Administration trotted out talking points on the White House blog that are blatantly mendacious even by the standards of today’s politics.
People of faith, and even fair-minded secular opinion-makers, have seen through the pretense that this front in the White House’s war is really about contraception. Indeed, one of the positive outcomes of this controversy has been the unity it has produced, not just within the Catholic Church but also among believers who do not share the Church’s beliefs on contraception—or just about anything else. The liberal columnist Sean Michael Winters issued an interesting proposal for our cardinals to engage in civil disobedience. Prominent Protestant and Jewish leaders have also objected to the Administration’s power grab, and the nation’s Orthodox bishops voted unanimously to “join their voices with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops” in “adamantly protest[ing]” the Administration’s new rules.
The Obama Administration is the most anti-religious and anti-Catholic presidential administration in the history of the Republic.
Last week the Administration released health care regulations which will force Catholic schools and hospitals to provide, free of charge, sterilizations and contraceptives, including some “contraceptives” which induce abortions. These regulations come on the heels of a Supreme Court decision in which the Administration’s lawyers pushed a line of legal reasoning, which, if followed to its logical conclusions, would have allowed the government to decide whom churches hire and fire, possibly even whom churches ordain. Fortunately the Court recognized that if the Administration’s argument had prevailed, the First Amendment wouldn’t be worth the faded parchment on which it is written, and rejected it—unanimously.
Toward the beginning of his presidency, President Obama and his subordinates had the tendency to describe nearly every policy they implemented as “historic” or “unprecedented.” A bit self-congratulatory perhaps, but certain aspects of this presidency no doubt made it worthy of those adjectives. And now, sadly, President Obama has made history in another way: no president has ever undermined the First Amendment’s promise of religious liberty in the ways President Barack Obama has.
Right now, the Catholic Church, because of its teachings on the morality of contraception and abortion, is bearing the brunt of the Administration’s assault, but undermining the principles of religious liberty and freedom of conscience threatens the rights of those whose beliefs put them entirely at odds with Catholicism. If the government can force us to violate our consciences today, what is to protect your conscience when the regime changes?
It is almost 2012, and the world will soon be ending. At least, according to the Mayans and a fundamentalist preacher in California, it will. Even though the Church’s readings in November, the end of the liturgical year, and Advent, the beginning, point toward the Second Coming, I have, I admit, not been overly concerned.
But then I had an unusual conversation a few weeks ago with a priest who was passing through town, one of those delightful Jesuits one meets who could be described as “a little crazy, in a good way.” On the surface, this good priest appears a tad unkempt, but you can tell from the way he prays the Mass—and he is praying, not performing—that the man has real spiritual depth.
While visiting our community, this man talked about his time, many years ago, working on the Rosebud Reservation, where I am now stationed. He talked about working with prisoners and people in one of the reservation’s most depressed communities and then said, almost out of nowhere, “It was here that I realized that prisoners and the really destitute have an intuitive understanding of the apocalypse—the good news of the apocalypse.” And then his voice rose slightly and he gave his little-crazy-in-a-good-way laugh and added, “Because it is good news.”
I realized I had never thought of the apocalypse as good news before, but I should have. The Bible itself ends with an urgent prayer for the Lord’s swift return: Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev 22:20). We pray for the end of this world every day in the words of the Our Father, Thy Kingdom come.
In my first post on the subject I argued that that Dan Dennett’s Breaking the Spell sets up a straw man by attacking only a childish and incoherent understanding of religion. In my second I looked at his attempt to weigh the pros and cons of religion, which is riddled with logical flaws. Dennett paints believers as unquestioning simpletons clinging to the stories they were told in childhood—he compares religion to Santa Claus—and simply ignores or breezily brushes aside any evidence that might contradict his stereotype.
One further aspect of Dennett’s charge against theism, however, deserves attention, for it can sometimes be a stumbling block even to believers—the notion of mystery.
For Dennett, “mystery” is simply a trump card played by believers whenever they can’t think of anything better to say, a talisman to be invoked when one has run out of arguments. Unfortunately, sometimes this can be the case, especially when dealing with the sort of unsophisticated believers Dennett seems to favor.
In Dennett’s view, religious beliefs once provided simplistic explanations about why the world is the way it is, but believers have had to retreat from many of these explanations as human thought evolved. Since religious beliefs are false to begin with—only material phenomena are real—they necessarily lead believers into absurdities and contradictions from which they attempt to extract themselves by changing their beliefs or, if they’re too stubborn for that, invoking mystery.
I suggested at the beginning of Lent that this season is a good time to get back to basics, and for Catholics it doesn’t get more basic than the celebration of the Eucharist. It’s well known that the Second Vatican Council called for the “full and active participation” of all the faithful in the Eucharist, but interpretations of what this phrase means have differed so widely that the Council’s vision hasn’t born the fruit we might have hoped for. On the most basic measure of full and active participation—Mass attendance—we’re actually far worse off today than we were when the Council began.
For me this Lent has coincided with work on a master’s thesis about sacrifice and the Mass (some of the ideas for which I test drove here on Whoseoever Desires), and my research has raised a question so basic we usually forget to ask it: what exactly do we do at Mass?
Answering that question depends on how we think about the Mass, what models we use to describe it. An incorrect model for thinking of the Mass is that of a show or play. Unfortunately, a lot of people fall into this kind of thinking. I’ll sometimes hear complaints that Mass is boring, which doesn’t make sense because Mass isn’t supposed to be entertainment. Even those who should know better sometimes fall into the trap of turning Mass into a kind of high school musical. I once attended an Easter Vigil in which the man delivering the third reading dressed up as Moses—complete with beard, robes, and staff. It almost made me root for Pharaoh.
Alright, so we ended Part I of this post with Johnny and il papa in conversation. And it was a nice conversation maybe, straightforward and edifying even. But, still I wonder, why is it that what Johnny did in that video – getting all of those secular saints to listen – why did it speak so strongly to me? Or, perhaps “why” is the wrong question. Maybe we should ask: Johnny, how’d you do it?
I’ve got one idea, and you can find it in the second half of the title I’ve given this post: the authority problem. Give me a second to set the problem up if you will; take a look at the video again too if that helps:
Okay, the problem: It’s a sociological sine qua non that the locus of religious authority has shifted from institution to individual in our time. And this shift – in both its strengths and weaknesses – at the very least means that the authority to minister can no longer taken be taken for granted in the 21st century west. Now, I’m not talking about the authority of a boss who says “do this” or “don’t do that.” What I’m trying to put a finger on is authority as the power (the capacity, maybe) of a minister to interact with a person such that s/he is opened up a bit to the grace of God. Ministerial authority like this is a beautiful and dangerous power. But regardless, it seems evident that in our times – love it or hate it – people can only be ministered to if they are willing cede to another the power to minister to them.
As ministers (and lay or ordained or in-process we have all been baptized as prophets of the Good News), I think we have to face this reality in both its freeing and constricting dimensions. We must recognize that ministerial authority is something given to us as a gift by the very people we seek to serve. For me it’s this reality, and not any relativity in the truth of our message, that explains why we must adapt the presentation of the Good News to the context of those to whom we minister today. I think this is what St. Paul saw so clearly when he described himself as “becoming all things to all people so that by all means I might save some.”
So as I listen to Johnny sing I feel like he knew what St. Paul was about, knew what I’m trying to get at here. At the very least he knew that there were some things, some jagged, honest things, that allowed people to face up to their need for the Good News. At the very least he knew that presenting himself in the sincerity of his belief and his strength and his weakness (all three), could allow others to cede to him the precarious authority of a minister. He certainly understood, like the quiet monks of old whispering “memorare mortis, frater” as they passed one another in the dark halls of an Advent monastery, that “remembering death” could be the trigger that allowed Johnny to take on the role of minister. It’s almost like with each verse Johnny sings, he’s requesting something of us who listen, asking those secular saints: let me minister to you. Let me open you up to living “under the challenge of eternity.”
But, as Aquinas said, that which is received is received in the mode of the receiver. That is, the Good News isn’t received in the mode of the one who gives (of the minster), but in the mode of the other (the minister-ee, if you will). The question for we would-be ministers then becomes: how do we best request of others that they cede to us the authority to minister to them? This is a complex and malleable question, but its inner simplicity is just what’s captured in Johnny’s song. It’s what’s captured in the subtext of his question: “will you let me minister to you with these words?” Johnny didn’t know how what he offered would be received and neither do we. Instead of assuming that he already possessed the authority to be minister to us, he asked. And not in words, but the question is there in his vulnerability. And like Johnny we must recognize that religious authority has shifted from the institution to the individual, and that if we want it back we must ask for it. We ask. We make the same request that Johnny makes of us. Like him, we try to communicate what we believe with charismatic power and with the utter vulnerability of people who know that we lie under the same judgment that we proclaim.
Johnny knew just what our Pope meant when he wrote that we should all “live under the challenge of eternity.” And it’s the call to live under that challenge – the call to live under the message of the Good News – that Johnny is issuing when he sings “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.” And maybe a few of the pop-culture saints who lip sync those words of Johnny’s are hearing that call afresh, are allowing themselves to be ministered to by a man to whom they’ve ceded their religious authority.
So finally we come back to the video. I watch it again. I listen. Sure, those actors might be just acting and those singers just singing, but I’m sure Johnny wasn’t. And even more I’m sure they know he wasn’t. That’s a new ministerial reality for our times. We’re living in a 21st century West in which vulnerable sincerity still gets a hearing, and while that can be both a good and a bad thing, it shows that its our job as ministers to handcuff vulnerable sincerity to truth while making the request that we be allowed to be the ministers we’re called to be.
Anyway, I’m sure grateful for you ministering to me, Johnny. I’ll give you that authority anytime.
This Advent has found me listening to a lot of music by the late great Johnny Cash. Johnny’s one of my favorites, and there are so many things to love about him – his honesty, his fire, the prophetic depth of his voice. I love it all. I love that Bob Dylan once said of Johnny, “he sounds like he’s at the edge of the fire, or in the deep snow, or in a ghostly forest… Johnny’s voice was so big, it made the world grow small.” I love how Johnny’s is a perfect sound for a cold winter, and for bringing Jesus’ impending arrival to mind.
But the thing I love the most about him is the rough honesty of his faith; how Jesus outlines all the jagged edges of the man’s life. I love how he wasn’t ever ashamed to lay that faith on the table for all to see. Damn the consequences. Rick Rubin (the great Hip Hop producer; the one who deserves my ceaseless praise for giving us Johnny’s last six American Recordings albums) tells an anecdote that captures what I love about the man. Rick said:
“I remember we had a dinner party at my house one night with Johnny and [his wife] June… and before dinner Johnny had everyone hold hands and he said a prayer and he read from the Bible. And I know some of the people at the table had never experienced that before. And I know some of the people at the table were even atheists. But his belief in what he believed was so strong that what you believed didn’t matter so much. Because you were in the presence of someone who really believed. And that felt good.”
As Emeril would say: “Bam!” As I would say: “Preach on, Johnny.”
Anyway, I’ve been listening over and over to a song that, like Johnny himself, pulls no punches. It’s rough and jagged and honest and it’s called “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.” Here’s the video. It’s worth 2.8 minutes for sure.
I know it’s presumptive to speak for the man, but I think Johnny would be proud of that video. I think he’d love the effect his song had on all those saints of pop culture. It’s like he’s been able to reach out from beyond the grave and say to them: “I’ve been where you are – I’ve been at the top of the word. And I got one thing to say: memorare mortis, friends, memorare mortis.”
To me, Johnny sounds in song a lot like Benedict sounds in prose. They echo each other in my heart like friends crying across a great canyon…
Johnny: “You can run on for a long time, run on for a long time… Tell the rambler, the gambler, the backbiter – tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut ‘em down.”
Benedict: “In practice [one]… should live quasi Deus esset – as if God really exists. He should live subject to the reality of truth, which is not our own creation, but our mistress.”
Johnny: “I been down on bended knee, talking to the man from Galilee. He spoke to me in a voice so sweet, I thought heard the shuffle of angel’s feet. He called my name and my heart stood still, he said ‘John, go do my will’.”
Benedict: “[We] should live subject to the love that awaits us and that loves even us. Live under the challenge of eternity… And one who – even if perhaps at first only hesitantly – entrusts him/herself to this difficult yet inescapable as if… will know profoundly and indelibly why Christianity is still necessary today as the genuinely Good News by which we are redeemed.”
I listen to these two talking, listen to that song, and I feel my own heart opened up this Advent. I feel myself a little more ready to welcome the little one who is my Savior. Because while I can run on for a long time, sooner or later…
I have to confess that given my vow of poverty I tend to think quite a bit more about death than taxes. And, for similar reasons, I don’t claim to be an expert on any and every political issue, even though here in the blogosphere that’s not always a bar to offering an opinion.
But I’ve been watching the progress of the tax compromise moving its way through Congress this week and there’s something about it that reminds me of the ocean… maybe it’s that fishy smell…
Perhaps my calculator is broken; perhaps my taste for irony is just that much stronger than my taste for Keynesian economics; perhaps I spent too much time around a grandfather who paid for his house in cash; but something in this “compromise” doesn’t make sense to me. Something, in fact, seems wrong, and I’m beginning to suspect that what is wrong has a moral tinge to it, instead of being an accounting oops or a technical legislative flaw.
Yes, you read that correctly. Other Catholic bloggers have criticized the media for its coverage of Pope Benedict’s recently released comments on AIDS and condoms (reproduced in their entirety below), but on this one, to be fair, journalists are in a bind.
They know the Pope didn’t change Church doctrine on contraception, nor—the wishful thinking of a few familiar “religion experts” aside—did he even edge closer to doing so. But at the same time, what the Pope said was unexpected and significant. Several of the articles I’ve read in the secular press have hinted at just how hard it is to do justice to the Pope’s comments in a headline.
And the press has good reason to be confused. The reason coverage of the Holy Father’s words—such as his March 2009 comments on AIDS and condoms—is often so unbalanced is that what he is offering is not so much a political “stance” on an issue, but a complete—and, for many, completely foreign—vision of what human sexuality means. His comments in Light of the World, like his March 2009 comments, are intended to invite people to give this vision a second look.
Amid all the excitement about the Pope’s “game-changer” regarding condoms, I thought I might do my humble best to clarify the situation. I’ll offer a roughly analogous moral case, but one that does not involve condoms (since, for some reason, condoms seem to be much more effective at preventing thought than conception). Though it’s true that my analogous case involves killing, a crime far weightier than contraception, the cases are structurally similar inasmuch as the Church reckons both deeds malum in se, that is, unjustifiable regardless of further intentions or extenuating circumstances.
Let’s suppose, for starters, that a pharmaceutical company develops and markets a “euthanasia” pill. This pill is designed specifically to induce painless death during sleep. Read the rest of this entry »
On Sunday Pope Benedict consecrated the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, a truly awesome rite. Construction of the basilica, Antoni Gaudí’s masterpiece, began in 1882 and is not expected to be complete for another decade and a half. In that respect, the Sagrada Familia is like many of the other great churches of Europe which took centuries to complete.
Today, the Church celebrates the dedication of another great basilica, St. John Lateran, Rome’s cathedral. To some, this might seem a rather strange feast on the liturgical calendar, commemorating as it does a building rather than an event in the life of Jesus or a saint. Some might even disapprove of lavishing such attention on a structure, a sentiment that finds expression in a line from my least favorite liturgical song, “Gather Us In.” “Gather us in,” the ditty goes, but “[n]ot in the dark of buildings confining.”
The idea of church buildings as “confining,” however, does not do justice to artistic marvels such as the Sagrada Familia or St. John Lateran, wonders as much spiritual as they are architectural. These buildings are, in fact, a true and profound expression of faith.
I might be risking the sin of pride by saying this, but we Jesuits have some pretty cool saints. One of the great unmerited blessings of this vocation is to be able to think of men like Francis Xavier, Peter Claver, and—today—Robert Bellarmine as elder brothers. And among those saints, I’ve always gotten a special thrill from the martyrs of the British Isles.
If, like me, you were avoiding homework yesterday by poring over transcripts of the papal visit to Scotland on Whispers in the Loggia (yes, I am a really big dork), you might have noticed that the Pope mentioned one of those Jesuits, St. John Ogilvie, as an example for the Scottish clergy.
John Ogilvie (1579-1615), was raised a Calvinist but converted to Catholicism at the age of seventeen. This meant he had to leave Britain to study on the Continent, first in Belgium and then in Germany and what is today the Czech Republic. There he studied in a Jesuit college and joined the Austrian province of the Society of Jesus.
He went through the usual lengthy formation process, was ordained in 1610, and wanted immediately to return to Scotland. His superiors thought Scotland too dangerous at first (and they were proven right), but he was finally able to sneak into his homeland in 1613 disguised as a horse dealer.
The Pope made some important comments on his trip to Portugal last week which have a fairly direct bearing on the abuse scandals so much in the news these days. Benedict’s response, as we might expect, touches on the spiritual aspects of the scandal and has some pretty deep implications for all of us. Here’s what the Holy Father said:
[A]ttacks against the Pope or the Church do not only come from outside; rather the sufferings of the Church come from within, from the sins that exist in the Church. This too has always been known, but today we see it in a really terrifying way: the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from enemies on the outside, but is born from the sin within the church, the Church therefore has a deep need to re-learn penance, to accept purification, to learn on one hand forgiveness but also the need for justice. Forgiveness is not a substitute for justice. In one word we have to re-learn these essentials: conversion, prayer, penance, and the theological virtues. That is how we respond, and we need to be realistic in expecting that evil will always attack, from within and from outside, but the forces of good are also always present, and finally the Lord is stronger than evil and the Virgin Mary is for us the visible maternal guarantee that the will of God is always the last word in history.
In earlier comments, too, Benedict talked about the need for doing penance, something fundamental to our identities as Catholics but which, I have to admit, I don’t normally give much thought to. Among my generation of Catholics I’m probably not alone in being a little clueless about what penance is or why we do it.
I find myself praying a lot for Pope Benedict these days. From within the U.S., of course, it’s easy to overestimate how much the sniping of the New York Times actually roils global Catholicism. Nonetheless, as the Times stacks one leaky bucket atop another, it’s easy here to forget that they all leak. And, because of both the uniquely spiritual outlook of the Roman Catholic Church and the highly technical nature of her legal terms, it’s easy to impute malice and self-protection to garden-variety Vatican heel-dragging. The saga of Stephen Kiesle, the third and most recent of the front-pagers for the Times, is a case in point.
I feel compelled, in the interest of fairness, to make a few points specifically concerning Pope Benedict’s alleged negligence in this regard:
It was in 1733 that Alexander Pope penned the famous verse, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” Whence the line? Maybe it can be attributed to something in Pope’s Catholic upbringing. Or maybe it arose from his general, lifelong observations of man. Or maybe, just maybe, Pope, in a prescient moment, gleaned that line from his observations about something else going on in the 1730s in England: the old game of “stoolball” being referred to more and more as “baseball.” Indeed, it would be a mere decade later, in 1744, when the word “Base-ball” would for the first time appear in print.
Baseball teaches one many things, not the least of which is hope. It does not matter how badly one’s team finished the year before, the season opener in April provides reason to hope. T.S. Eliot could not have been a baseball fan, for no baseball fan would ever write, “April is the cruellest month.” Read the rest of this entry »
These are indeed heavy days for the Church as she enters Holy Week. The coincidence of Passiontide with ongoing scandals in Ireland and Germany calls to mind Fr. Romano Guardini’s haunting observation:
The Church is the Cross on which Christ is always crucified. One cannot separate Christ from his bloody, painful church. One must live in a state of permanent dissatisfaction with the church.
It seems to say everything necessary—that Christ is always both obscured and revealed in His Church.
Most of the analysis of Pope Benedict’s involvement in the scandals, on the other hand, reminds me of a different quote—A. E. Housman’s mordant observations on thought and prejudice in “The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism” (1921). Apparently, even in a field as unlikely to excite the passions as manuscript editing, he detected the hindrance of complacency:
These internal causes of error and folly [in textual criticism] are subject to very little counteraction or correction from the outside. The average reader knows hardly anything about textual criticism, and therefore cannot exercise a vigilant control over the writer: the addle-pate is at liberty to maunder and the impostor is at liberty to lie. And, what is worse, the reader often shares the writer’s prejudices, and is far too well pleased with his conclusions to examine either his premises or his reasoning. Stand on a barrel in the streets of Bagdad, and say in a loud voice, “Twice two is four, and ginger is hot in the mouth, therefore Mohammed is the prophet of God,” and your logic will probably escape criticism; or, if anyone by chance should criticise it, you could easily silence him by calling him a Christian dog.
Substitute “Canon Law”—or even “the Church”—for “textual criticism,” and I think you have a decent pretty description of the present situation: Read the rest of this entry »
It has been wonderful to page through First Things 20th Anniversary Issue—and not only because of its priceless, circa-early-90s pictures of the neocon clan. The issue also features some excellent First Things essays which I have never read, like Joseph Bottom’s “Christians and Postmoderns” from February 1994. Alas, I wasn’t a ROFTER at age ten.
Reading the essay caused some latent neurons in my head to refire as I began again to consider a question I have often mulled over: Which poses a greater threat to Christianity, modernity or postmodernity?
Were I submitting this essay to a professor for a grade, I would need, at this point, to stop and define what I mean by modernity and postmodernity. But since I am not handing the essay in for a grade and want to avoid writing a many-thousand word blog post, let me omit positing a definition of modernity—and trust that the term is more or less clear—and proceed straightaway to the difficult task of grabbing the slippery fish of postmodernity and holding it still long enough to slap a definition on it. Read the rest of this entry »
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to serve as a soldier of God beneath the banner of the cross in our Society, which we desire to be designated by the name of Jesus, and to serve the Lord alone and the Church his Spouse, under the Roman pontiff, the vicar of Christ on earth, should, after a vow of perpetual chastity, poverty, and obedience, keep the following in mind." From the Formula of the Institute, 1540