Monday, February 28

At the risk of beating a one-note drum....

There's more than one note to a Bodhran
I realise that I beat on this drum a lot and I also realise that there is a lot more to the richness of Christian life than this.

And yet....

As Bill (of Bilgrimage) and I were discussing during a recent exchange, judgment is one of the key elements of Christianity (of all stripes) within the US today.  We seem fueled by the idea of being worthy in comparison to others.  Ergo, those who do [X] or are born [Y] or have/don't have [Z] are evil/sinful/naughty and, thus, I'm better than them.

The NT reading for mass this weekend is from I Corinthians:
Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (I Cor 4:2-5)
So....a few things here.

1. Stewards/managers (the greek is οἰκονόμους, literally household-manager...usually a freed-slave.) must be trustworthy.  (insert rant about clerical abuse scandal here)

2. It's God who judges. (insert rant about judgmental folk of most every religious and irreligious stripe here)

3. At the end of days, God will open all the books and all the hearts...and everyone shall receive commendation (ἔπαινος, fitting praise) from God.

Note there's no 'fire & brimstone', no Old Testament Wrath-O'-God stuff here.  Mayhap some shall receive more commendation than others, but it will be just and due praise as the motive of their hearts as well as their actions in secret requires.  So...kinda a positive-only version of Karma.  That's....that's very much not what they teach in Sunday School or  most churches.

This also highlights a longstanding, complex question.  "If one does a good thing for evil reasons, is the action morally good or not?  Contrawise, if one does a morally repulsive thing with the best of intentions, is the action morally repugnant?"  Paul's statement here puts intent at LEAST on the table, if not of equal standing with results.  In short, it's both faith AND works. 

Friday, February 25

Hello again, mr. wolf

Recall I said that things would shift once I started to 'understand'?  *chuckles*

So, last night became 'rehash how you fail at relationship and, more generally, at social anything' night.  My lupine friend at left was the featured guest star but it was a true Cecil B. DeMille production with a cast of thousands.  For those of you tuning in late (or perhaps may not recall), a friend of mine introduced me to the phrase 'wolves at the door' to refer to the negative whispers in your ear which often lead to dispair, depression and all of those fun places.

This morning was shaping up as a bit of a redux when, entirely by accident ([sarcasm]of course it was by accident, because nothing ever happens by the nudging of the Divine in my life*coughs* [/sarcasm]) I run across this Cherokee story.

A boy went to his old grandfather with anger in his heart at a friend who had done him an injustice, 

"Let me tell you a story," the grandfather said.

"I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.  But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times." 

He continued, "It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way."

"But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger,for his anger will change nothing."

"Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit."

The boy looked intently into his Grandfather's eyes and asked, "Which one wins, Grandfather?"

The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, "The one I feed."

Thanks, Dad!

Thursday, February 24

I think I'm starting to understand

The hip fashion statement for Mass
Are you worried yet?

I kinda am.

Every time I start to 'understand', things shift a bunch.  Anyways....

Most of today was consumed with thinking about Bilgrimage's post regarding anti-gay measures in different US States which quickly got into a discussion about the whole 'hate the sin, love the sinner' canard.

I say canard because it is predicated upon the idea that one can judge a person, find them wanting and then say that you love them, but hate parts of who they are and what they do.  That's specifically not a Christian attitude.  Christ taught that a person is not to judge others.  Christ taught that you are to love your neighbor....period.

Whether it is Genesis or James (or a dozen places in between) we are reminded that mankind is made in the image and likeness of the Divine.  That includes women...and gays...and people who have sex (even for non-procreational purposes!).  To instruct, teach or otherwise inculcate that these folks are any less human or more imperfect (dare I say, intrinsically disordered) than a priest (single, straight, celibate male) is against the teachings of Scripture, a bald-faced statement I will make without resorting to the dozens of times Christ points out the iniquities of the priests.

The conversation continued about the priestly abuse scandal and how the victims are the ones treated as pariahs and where the ones doing the abuse (and those covering up said abuse) are either lauded or, at worst, have excuses  and 'reasons' made for them.

So..after a lot of hand-wringing and rewriting, I finally post stuff, then come home and finally do my daily reading.
"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire...." (Mk 9.42-43)
He goes on about feet and eyes, but you get the point.  So, applying that to the above-mentioned topics...well, it kinda seems obvious, doesn't it?  In the past, the synchronicity would have been cool, possibly creepifying.  Now?  Just another day in the Good Book.

Wednesday, February 23

Upon reflection...a bit of clarity may be in order.

At the risk of belaboring the point, I should mention that I have no animosity or underlying issue with the office of the presbyter.  This is not about shooting sacred cows, but rather coming clean and being perfectly honest.  The 'someone' isn't a single person, but multiple people from multiple places, so please don't take offense.

Any time that I hear someone say "'X' has always been that way", it raises a big, red flag.  That is a sign of lax scholarship and/or thinking.  The only thing which has always been is God.  When you have a solid start date to something (whether it be the founding of Rome or Christianity) and a good written record, you can find when a concept was developed.

Whenever I hear someone say something similar to "you must believe in Y to be a good Catholic/Christian/etc.", that is another huge, red flag.  This is an implied 'No Good Scotsman' fallacy.

No Catholic would eat fish on Friday...
I'm a Catholic and I eat fish on Friday...
No Good Catholic would eat fish on Friday

We've seen this in mundane circles in the US media regarding 'true patriots', 'real soldiers'...etc.

If you wish to say that, by ancient Tradition a priest is required to perform certain sacraments, sweet!  I can be very much behind that and can make a substantive argument for that part of Tradition being formally in play since the 13th century.

If one wishes to regard presbyters (catholic or protestant) as subject matter experts in their field (which is most commonly pastoral care/social work), I can respect and support that.

If you wish to say that there is a permanent, ontological change which occurs during the process to ordination, I can certainly accept that, but that change is independent of the licensing of the presbyter to perform sacraments.  Put differently...learning about the law, graduating from law school and being licensed to practice law are three different things.

Where I have issue is saying that the ability to perform the sacraments (as opposed to 'simulate' them) is the sole province of the licensed presbyter due to his ability to transform into God.  I would refer readers to the argument between the Traditors and the followers of Donatus Magnus.  One argues that the validity of the rite depends upon certain characteristics of the celebrant (let us, licensure, in mortal sin or not), whereas the other argues that it is God who validates the rite independent of the celebrant and their worthiness.

The current opinion of many RCs is that one must be a celibate, straight man who has license from the Church to celebrate the sacraments with an unwritten coda that he probably shouldn't be in mortal sin.  That's pretty much in line with Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and the teaching of the 20th century, but is explicitly what the Donatists were condemned as heretics for at the Council of Arles in 314 and is what St. Augustine wrote vehemently against as he outlined a key doctrine within the Deposit of Faith for fifteen centuries. 

This could easily digress into a non-productive rant about 'some people' who believe they can change history and texts to suit their political agendas and who use infallibility to cover over what they cannot reasonably argue (much in the same way that 'certain fundamentalists' use the word "BELIEVE" (with booming voice)), so lets leave that there.

I hope I've generated more light than heat, cleared things up rather than muddied the water further.

Tuesday, February 22

I should explain.....

Not sure why I'm blogging about this, precisely, other than I'm seeing a whole bunch of well-meaning misinformation out there.

Lemmie 'splain.  No, it take too long, lemmie sum up.

Colkoch wrote about an article by Jamie Manson and reply by Tony Equale regarding wimminz-priests.  I see great value in the questions and conclusion that all three discuss, but there are some really important and large factual, historical errors that Equale's substantive rejoinder that motivates me to go on about this.  I was going to talk about this on her blog, but the comment was as long as a post and I figured I shouldn't clutter up her airwaves with my static.

The main thrust (if you'll pardon the fencing pun) of Equale's argument is summed up in his statement here:
"I claim that the institution of the 'sacramental' priesthood as we know it in our times, is a greco-roman elitist innovation that did not exist until well into the 2nd century, a hundred years after the founding of the church.  It was designed precisely to eliminate christian egalitarianism, create a hieratic caste, mystify the ordinary people and concentrate power in the hands of the upper class."

The first part I would dispense of is the word sacramental in regard to priesthood.  That is a wholly 20th century invention which took hold in the wake of Vatican II.  Full. Stop.  Don't believe me?  Read the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia.  Read Aquinas. Read as far back as you please. 

Yes, the development of elders (presbyters) occurs in the second century and one sees the development of metropolitans and bishops during the 3rd-4th century, but these positions are chosen by the laity they are to oversee. It isn't until the late 5th-early 6th century do we see those individuals being chosen from above. Read the Desert Fathers about this, in particular John Chrystosom and Augustine.

Priests were not required for the validity of the sacraments until the 13th century (made in response to the Waldensian and Cathar heresies) and that wasn't formalized at Council until Trent (mid 16th century). Further, what rites are and are not sacraments wasn't even vaguely described until the 8th century  and wasn't explicitly defined until Peter Lombard in the 12th century. Of course there were rites performed from the Apostolic era forward, but the express definitions as to what they are, what they mean and how they are done happens a LOT later than what is being intimated or outright expressed.

There is substantive evidence (by Irvin, Eisen and others) which shows that there were women as deacons, priests and even bishops up through the 9th century.  When Aquinas wrote his Summa Theologica, one of the requests by the Vatican (his sponsor) was to explicitly define why women could not be ordained as priests.  Aquinas replied that there was nothing in Scripture or Tradition which would prevent this.  He then goes on to say that, nonetheless, they shouldn't be ordained because Aristotle said that women are 'lesser, imperfect creatures' than men. 

In the wake of V2, the Papacy asked the Pontifical Biblical Commission to study the matter in depth and, like Aquinas, give the Vatican ammunition against the ordination of women.  They, like Aquinas so many years before, could find no reason in Scripture and Tradition to bar the ordination of women and since medical science had advanced since Aristotle and Aquinas, the argument that women are inferior by virtue of their sex was....wanting.  When the CDF hi-jacked the results, over 2/3 of the commission resigned.  The resulting document is the basis of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

Thus, to bring us full circle.... Equale's conclusion that the priesthood has been turned into a hieratic order designed to concentrate power with the side effect of marginalizing the laity is fundamentally correct.  He's just off by 1500+ years.

What I did this weekend.

Two Catholic prelates
This past weekend was a three-day holiday and I spent much of it thinking and, as is my wont as of late, I spent most of it thinking about matters religious.  So, these are MY thoughts and have neither nihil obstat nor explicit condemnation by any religious body (at least, nobody's called me on it yet).

1. What makes a Christian a catholic?

In the first, it's not about what you do.  Fish on Fridays and Hail Mary's doesn't make you a catholic any more than wearing a beret and drinking bitter coffee in little cups makes you french. It MAY define what some folks think of as Roman Catholic, but even then...what matters is what you believe and how that shapes how you act. So, speaking theologically and spiritually, what makes a person catholic (in the inclusive definition of the word)? a nutshell, I'd say...Transubstantiation, importance of Works (not sola fide), Hooker's stool (not sola scriptura), and the Communion of Saints. 

2. What makes a person 'catholic, not roman'?

Two more Catholic prelates
A lack of obeisance to Rome and belief in the Magisterial dictates.  I am sure that there is more specifics, but with a shortage of understanding on how the eastern and western catholic doctrines overlap and don't...I'm going to leave it there.

3. What makes a person ECC, not other catholics (RC or otherwise). 

In five bullet points, I would say...Primacy of Conscience, equality of humanity, recognition of sexual intimacy and relationships, the open table, and the importance of laity.  Before some folk get their hackles up and say "but we have that", I would like to outline what I mean by those bullet points and why, in general, I would forward the argument that you probably DON'T have all of these (at least not within the framework of a catholic church). 
 Primacy of Conscience covers most of the 'social evils' of 'modernism', be it euthenasia, abortion, divorce ....well, you know the list.  Fundamentally, it says that your spirit-filled conscience knows how to direct your behaviour better than any dictate from prelate or priest.  That puts the onus of 'good behaviour' back on the parishioner, but also removes the burden of dictating 'proper behaviour' from the priests shoulders and puts it into God's hands.

Equality of humanity means just that. There is nothing ontologically different or 'disordered' about any demographic. Conversely, there is nothing ontologically or inherently superior about straight, white men.

Recognition of sexual intimacy and relationships reflects the idea that we are human and humans are social creatures.  We form intimate bonds and use sex as a reflection of that intimacy.  Put differently, sex is not just about procreation, but is an expression of love.  As such, celibacy (though not an ignoble thing) is not nearly as important nor as desirable as 'some folks' would impress.  Additionally, intimate bonds can and do fluctuate over time.  For a variety of reasons, our relationships wax and wane and both marriage and divorce are parts of that.  Further, there is no reason that ordained members cannot be married, have children or divorce, for the ontological change which ordination has made does not prevent nor stop those men and women from being human.  As mentioned previously, it is with Spirit-filled conscience that such decisions are to be made by those who know the situation best.

The Open Table is a symbol for an universal invitation to the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist.  The celebration of the Eucharist is held at Christ's table, where priests and prostitutes were equally welcome.  If anyone wishes to partake of that Bread of Life and Saving Cup, wishes to be in communion with the Body of Christ, then no person has the right to stand in their way.  The same goes for the rites of Reconciliation and Extreme Unction.

Importance of Laity refocuses the church organization towards it's early roots of the Desert Fathers era.  The church is made up of the laity, who choose their pastor, who run their own books and who direct the tactical and strategic choices of the parish.  Writ large, this happens at the regional and at the top-level as well.

Note that there is still a LOT of maneuvering room within the ECC, thanks to a dependence on one's conscience and a 'bottom-up' leadership.

Friday, February 18

Nothing succeeds like excess

How much of this do you REALLY need?
As mundane matters press upon us and our consumer-driven economy sputters, it is very natural and easy to lament over how things are horrible.  Long-time readers may recall that depression is an old 'friend' of mine, but I have recently found a potent antidote in gratitude. 

If you have a roof over your head, clothes on your back, a place to sleep and food in the fridge, that puts you ahead of 3/4 of the world.  1 person in 8 doesn't have safe drinking water.  More people in the world have a cell phone than a toilet.  Nearly 15% of the households in the US don't know where the next meal is coming from.  I could go on, but you get the point.  And it's not a matter of "Thank God I'm not 'him' or 'her', but "Thank God I have what I do".  I know that what I have is mostly an accident of birth, that is to say that I had no part in the decision any more than the 5.2 billion people who don't have a roof, a bed, clothing and food. 

This extends to the job market and the economy.  Time and again I have heard that I should feel glad that I have a job, yet  how many times have you heard a job or career being called 'soul-sucking' even if the pay is good?  Grateful that I can pay my bills? Yes.  Grateful for a job that pushes you further from being a feeling, loving person?  Hell no!

And yet, it makes me think.  The western consumerist economy is all about working at a job we don't like to buy things we don't need (or terribly want) and to live a lifestyle that necessitates the aforementioned job to pay for it.  Why?  Our economy is run by today by corporate models which are created for 'the bottom line' and implemented by people who are legally required to make decisions based on short-term profits, not moral principles.  The Ford Pinto and Deepwater Horizon are two obvious and egregious examples, but there are so many it is hard to enumerate them all.

And here comes that Hippy again from today's reading.

"What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life?"

What does it matter if you have a new iPad if buying it means someone committed suicide?
What does it matter that you live alone in  a 4br house when there are homeless in the streets? 

He who dies with the most toys is still dead.

At what point do we say 'I have enough and I appreciate what I have?' 
At what point do we say 'I would rather be poor in ca$h and rich in spirit than the other way around?'
At what point do we say 'My life is more important than stuff?'

Dad gave us this life, this body, this world.  He gave us everything we need and we know that he will take care of us.  Be grateful.

Thursday, February 17

What is the Church Thinking?

"Do not make me get all Old Testament on you!"
I have been reading a number of discussions about 'the Church' (read Roman Catholic Church) and it's trouble and the recent (past 50-100years) history. One can blame Karol or Joe or any number of people. One can blame the priests, the hierarchy, the Magisterium. Then...then I read today's gospel reading. 
And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” (Mark 8:31-33)
So Christ has some unpleasant truths which he lays out to his followers.  Peter, the first pope of the Roman Church, starts to school Jesus.  Christ's reply?  He schools Peter, saying that he's not thinking about God, but man.  You don't have your eyes on the big picture, just your part in it.

This trouble permeates to the core of the RC sexual abuse scandal.  One Belgian arch-bishop is quoted as saying, "we couldn't come forward with the abuse (which was known about for decades).  It would expose the church to nearly unlimited legal liability".  So, doing what is right takes second seat to what is financially and legally prudent.  Man's interests come before God's.

Isn't that the trouble with Peter's church?
With most all of the churches these days? 
They're not thinking about God's interests, but man's.

But....if WE are the Church...then shouldn't we step up to the plate and make sure we're all thinking about what God wants instead of what we want?

Just sayin.

Wednesday, February 16

body and blood, hand and mouth

So, I am reading through the comments on another blog and I come across this from my friend JD talking about 'by mouth' vs. 'by hand'.
"When we receive the Eucharist at Mass, it is not a community of people giving it to us, not the priest (or EMHC) but Christ Himself giving Himself to us, and graciously so. To reach out and "take hold of the faith" and "our relationship to the divine incarnation" is really quite antithetical, symbolically speaking, to the posture of a creature before its Maker and Saviour. Grace is received, not taken hold of."
Once again...JD is planting seeds and making me think.  Often times, we disagree, but I have always found his commentary to be thoughtful and earnest.  Rather than spewing all over someone elses' blog, lemmie break this down sentence-by-sentence here.

When we receive the Eucharist at Mass, it is not a community of people giving it to us, not the priest (or EMHC) but Christ Himself giving Himself to us, and graciously so.  
Yes, I agree that the Bread of Life and Saving Cup are not from the priest or the people.  The power within those elements (and the transformation which that power precipitates) comes from God and She alone.  This line of thought obviates in persona Christi and (even more heretically) the necessity of an ordained presbyter to celebrate the Eucharist.  Where I would disagree, at least in part, is that the public celebration of Eucharist DOES bind us, as a local faith community and as a larger communion, together as the Body of Christ.  Ergo, my brothers and sisters are such because of the bond we share in Communion, not only with Christ but also with each other in Christ.

To reach out and "take hold of the faith" and "our relationship to the divine incarnation" is really quite antithetical, symbolically speaking, to the posture of a creature before its Maker and Saviour.

As to the idea that we should be more humble and servile before the symbols of the Saviour...Mayhap.  We have gone through the public rite of reconciliation, we have affirmed, communally, that we are unworthy to recieve the gifts of salvation and grace, and yet we are called to the table.  I shall answer the call as Isaiah did - "Here I am, Lord."  More specifically (and this is addressed at greater length below), my humility is reserved for my Divine Creator and Saviour, not the priest, who is no different than I am.

Grace is received, not taken hold of.

As to the symbolism of the Grace being received, not taken hold of, it outlines the solid difference between myself and many other, more traditional catholics.  To my mind, to say that Grace is received, one must be willing to take it just as God is willing to give it.  That God is willing to grant that Actual Grace is a matter of faith, but your reception of the Grace is a matter of your own willingness to accept and hold onto it.

From what I know and recall of the 'by mouth' Eucharistic tradition, one lines up with the others and take your place at the rail, kneeling and assuming a position subservient to the priest (who is in persona Christi).  At that point, one passively waits until the priest follows down the line, gets to your place and dispenses the blood-less sacrifice into your open mouth.

In our tradition, I walk up to the front of the altar and stand as an equal of the priest with my hand outstretched to recieve the transformational gifts from God.  The priest, as an agent of the Body of Christ and my sister in Christ, presents the host and offers it me.  I, as her equal and brother, look her in the eye, acknowledge the power within the host, and accept it from her.  Finally, I internalize the received gift of Grace and transformation by my own hand, giving thanks and glory to God.

In short, in the first scenario, the recipient is a passive observer who has submitted themselves to the priest-as-God, spoon-fed like an infant by mother church.  In the second scenario, the recipient is an active participant who receives the gifts with open hands, but also open eyes to see that the Grace comes from God through the elements, not the priest or the church.

Tuesday, February 15

whitewater rafting through Tim's brain

Life vests not included
There are days when the dam breaks...when there is a cascade of thoughts which are started by a little pebble and end up causing some torrent downstream which was entirely unpredictable.  Some of these waters are well traveled but some are rocky and not easily navigated.  Please keep your head and arms inside the craft at all times. You've been warned.

So, Colkoch over at Enlightened Catholicism (why she's not ECC I'm not sure) is talking about how there is becoming (perhaps already has been) two RC churches - the old-skool, Trenten/V1 church (with it's emphasis on the beauty of the liturgical, the necessity of blind obedience and the sinfulness of man on one hand) and the new-hotness V2 church (with it's emphasis on a 'contemporary' liturgy, the primacy of conscience and that the gift of salvation is open to any who wish it) on the other.

This caused me, in my fevered way, to recall Sirach from the reading this weekend.
If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you;  if you trust in God, you too shall live; he has set before you fire and water to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.  Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him. (Sirach 15:15-17) (emphasis mine)
Your will.  Salvation or damnation is in your hands...It's on you to be good or not, Augustine and Calvin be d_d.  Do we, as humans, choose poorly, stray from the path and need Divine to extend Her hand to save us?  *snorts* Of course we do!   It isn't determined before we were born or entirely beyond our control, but the choice to cling to or turn from the Divine is ours to make just as it is Her decision to grant His grace and mercy.

This leads to a discussion after mass this Sunday with one of our priests.  I mentioned how I would have focused on Sirach and not the gospel reading (Mat. 7, talking about going beyond what the law says), to which she mentioned how seminary focuses their homily skills primarily on the gospels with a bit about the rest of the NT thrown in.  But, I think to myself, the catholics have the expanded know, the one that has the 'too hot for Lutherans' books in it.  What's the point of having them...or any of that...if you're going to restrict canon to a dozen books with the focus being on 4 of them.  That's restricting the Deposit of Faith far more than even the most spittle-flecked Baptist would consider prudent.  This leads to the next part in the rapids.

So, what defines canon?  For nearly 1500 years (3/4 of the Church's existence, for those of you who are fractionally inclined), there was no 'established cannon'.  That is an 'innovation' of the Protestant church, co-opted at Trent by the catholics.  If one can hear the voice of Holy Wisdom in the Tao te Ching...or the Koran....or Marcus Aurelius... or Julian of Norwich...or Mohandas Gandhi does it matter whether or not a council decreed that their works are nihil obstat and have granted imprimatur?  If I experience the power and the mystery of the Divine on a mountain top with spring water and a granola bar, is that nullified because it's not (cheap) wine and (tasteless) bread that a priest has said 'the right words' over?

Being Omnipotent means that the Divine is not restrained by Vatican I OR II (or any council, edict or stricture).  His presence is everywhere and in everything.  The shortcoming is not Her power but our inability to see, to recognize and to appreciate what is happening around us. We can refuse His help, turn away from Her or ignore Him, but She doesn't fit into a nice, neat little box that fits under the altar/communion table (despite what I was told growing up) anymore than natural world follows the 'rules' of science.

Mebbie that's where this river is dumping out.

Science is the study of the natural world in an attempt to understand it.  Religion is the same sort of thing, a study by which we attempt to relate to and understand the world around us.  In both instances, we come up with observations...which become explanations...and eventually 'hard-n-fast rules'.  But if the underlying assumptions are proven wrong, or the observations were made in an environment which no longer exists, then the rules can be entirely invalidated.  That doesn't change the natural world...or God...just our very limited understanding of it.  If something doesn't wimmen-folk being called to become clergy or neutrinos having mass....then it's time to change your dogma/theory/laws.

Love God, do good, don't be a dick!  The rest is commentary.  (apologies to Hillel)

Friday, February 11

parabolas and parables

Hyperparabola, not hyperbole
Reading through a few of my regular blogs as well as the readings today, it has really struck me how pervasive and destructive the practice of scriptural literalism is.  Ignoring the use of metaphor, simile, proverb and parable for a moment, I'd like to focus on the simplest of things, word meaning.

Words today do not mean the same as they did 100, 300, 500, 1000 or 2000 years ago.  One of the readiest examples is the word 'aweful', which means "terribly bad, unpleasant" and occasionally it is used as an intensifying adverb (an awful cold day).

When the big push for the first english translations of scripture came about, aweful meant something very different.   It meant "full of awe", as in, full of wonder/reverence and dread, which is a different meaning for the word awe from 500 years before that.  Times change and so to words.

Now, let us consider metaphor, simile, proverb and parable.  All of these use something which is familiar to the listener to explain something which is not familiar to the listener.  There is an underlying assumption, however...that the listener is familiar with the first part so that they can make the leap to the second.  The parable of the Tares (Mat 13) comes to mind.  Even with Christ explaining it to the disciples in the text, it STILL doesn't make a lot of sense if you don't have a substantive agronomic background.  Where things get interesting is when you have stuff like today's gospel reading.  In Mark 7, Christ has left Galilee and is trying to keep a low profile (though that doesn't happen).  There is an exchange between Jesus and a Greek woman who wants her daughter to be exorcised by Christ.

He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”
She replied and said to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”
Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.”

Though this isn't a parable, the exchange between them is filled with cultural subtext which is entirely lost on literalists.  The 'children' are the jews...the chosen of god.  A dog is an unclean animal, as are heathens like the greek woman and her daughter.  So, knowing those things, you can read the 'code'.  Of course, those who understand judaic culture (especially of that time period), would have known these things without them needing to be said.  Folks like the original authors, the people it was originally written for and the medieval devout whose lives were infused with the history, tradition and scriptures.

As for the geometry above, parabolas (and hyperparabolas) dance around the point, can highlight where 'the point' is.....but they never actually hit the mark themselves, leaving the examiner to figure out exactly what 'the point' is.  Parables (and the rest) are much in the same way.  They will highlight around 'the point', dance around it, etc....but it is still up to the reader to discern for themselves what is going on.

Wednesday, February 9

Your monthly dose of tradition

Keep the faith, even unto death
This wasn't my original intent for a post today, honest.  Then I read good Terence over at Queering the Church....and the daily office....and both were talking about the same thing.

Terence was talking about how Benedict XVI recently admitted the patent errors that were made in the trial and execution of St. Joan of Arc by the Roman Catholic church almost 600 years ago.  This is important and not to be made light of, as the RC has a whole lot invested in the concept of a holy, consistent and unbroken tradition from the Ressurection to Right Now (tm).  There's a quote from then-father Joseph Ratzinger which he recalls...

“Not everything that exists in the Church must for that reason be also a legitimate tradition…. There is a distorting tradition as well as a legitimate tradition, ….[and] …consequently tradition must not be considered only affirmatively but also critically.”

That links into the gospel reading today from Mark 7, where the pharisees berate Jesus because his minions disciples don't wash their hands before they eat (thus defying ancient jewish tradition, ergo eating like heathens).  And, as expected from that Nazarene Hippy, he lays the smack-down on the Man.

Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips,but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”

This ties into a recent 'kerfluffle' which most may not have read about.

Seems that roughly 1/3 of all german theologians signed a petition that pointedly and unapologetically says that retrenchment Catholicism is destroying the church and the only way to save the Bride of Christ is for her to become transparent, open and give the Body of Christ (the laity) back the control of their own parishes.  Obviously, there are issues with all of this, but what really takes the cake is that it shatters the largest myths regarding dissent in the Roman church.

It's not just me (who we all know is a heretic and possibly a lunatic).  It's not just the americans (who we all know are second-class catholics, infected with that liberation theology).  It's not just the laity (who we know are just ignorant and misguided by the World).  It's not one or two scattered priests (who we understand could be led into darkness by the Devil).  One hundred and fourty four german theologians...the colleagues of Dr. Joseph Ratzinger...believe that the Magesterium is at variance with the Deposit of Faith and that the Vatican does not call the tune to which people of good faith and moral conscience must dance.

Really not a lot I can do to expand on this.  We, as a community, must examine the traditions we hold and ensure that they are useful and godly, not just comfortable or self-identifying.  We must, for ourselves, consider what we believe and why.

"Why don't you decide for yourselves what is right?" (Luke 12:54)

Thinking for yourself?....damned hippies.

Tuesday, February 8

Old-skool guilt? We've got an app for that.

Seems that the Vatican has decided to get all 21st century and tech-savvy.  In the face of a precipitous decline in priests to hear confession and what laity that remain are too busy to say confession, the Roman Church has announced The Confession program for the iPhone.  For just $1.99, the app will walk you through why you're a naughty boy (or girl) and guide you step-by-step through the sacrament of confession.  Then, you just need to slow-roll past a RL priest for absolution and you're back in good graces with the Universal Sysop. (h/t to BBC)

Wow, but this sends me up the flue...but for different reasons than most folks would think.  The priest doesn't absolve me of sin.  In computing terms, he can't delete my sinlog.txt, he doesn't have access to those commands.  Only the Sysop does...the Divine.  Now, they're outsourcing most of the sacrament to a phone?

Then you have the whole fact that you can 'track your sins' using this app.  Colour me jaded, but having been around the intarwebz more than a week, the social engineering/blackmail/phishing that could be accomplished with this BY THE CHURCH, let alone a third party, is nearly incalculable.

Finally...why are you focusing on this?    The instructions call for us to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves.  Why are you trying to find fault with yourself?...Won't that naturally lead to trying to find fault in your neighbour?  What good does that do?  How is God present in those actions?

I could go on,'re a smart one.  You can figure it out.

Monday, February 7

Addendum to familial introductions.

"Trust me, this is gonna be AWESOME!!!!!"
So, one of the joys of living in my world is a rich and ongoing conversation in which the Spirit is present. Another way of saying that is that weird, unexplainable things happen all the time and the levels of synchronisity and coincidence are so improbable that it's hard to describe.  You get used to it...or drink a lot.  I've gotten used to it.

Case in point....

Sometime last week, I must have broken a bone in my foot, badly bruised it or...something.  Upshot is that it really hurts to walk.  On Sunday, for the first time prolly ever, I ended up saying 'no' to being Lay Eucharistic Minister because I didn't want to walk up there.

So, we're singing the hymn, "Here I am Lord" for the presentation of gifts and I look over.  The old deacon plumber is walking up the aisle solo, bread and wine in both hands.  He looks at me with a twinkle in his eye and nods to the altar...well, you know where that's going.  So, sure...I end up front where I didn't want to be and no, my foot didn't hurt _while I was there_.  Before and after it was sore as anything, but not while I was up there.

After mass, I went out to lunch with a friend from church.  As part of the discussion, she's talking about her dreams and she nonchalantly mentions to me that she had a dream a few days previous which told her that I had decided to be a priest.  That would be within 24 hrs of when I had, in fact, decided to formally commit to orders of some kind.  Only the parish priest and my Crone were told about that.

There's more...enough that the above-mentioned things don't faze me and normally wouldn't be worth mentioning.  Just little tick-marks which remind me that the coyote is padding about, chuckling.  

"Dude!  Trust me, this is gonna be AWESOME!!!"

Thanks, dad.

Friday, February 4

I'd like to introduce y'all to my Dad.

"Lighten up!"
In the first I would say that the Divine is infinite and complex beyond comprehension.  Since we have a limited and flawed perception of the universe, so too we have a very limited and flawed perception of the Divine.  One can catch a glimpse of the potter from the pot...and one can see the Creator in her creation.  Because we are all different (as I like to think of it, we each wear our own glasses that colour/change our perceptions), how each of us see the Divine is different and unique.  Some see 'God' as a creative, maternal figure, others as a stern, white-bearded man who points and shouts in Elizabethan English a lot ("I know thine most inward thoughts, thou dost beggeth for a smiting and thou shalt have it, for I am the Lord thy God" *thunderclap*).

The largest part of my personal experience with God has been that of a loving father (to the point I call her 'Dad'), who is there to guide, encourage and gently push. You're driving the bike, though, and if you drive off the path when you were told not too, well, we both know you got what was comin to ya and it doesn't mean that He doesn't love you any less.

In recent months, there has been a new aspect which has slid in to my limited perception of the Divine, as evidenced by the pic of the handsome fella above.  You see, my Father has a sense of humour.  In our conversations, there's a lot of chuckling going on...mostly at me not seeing the hints which had been provided.  It's never in malice and, often enough, I end up smiling too.

Throughout the First Nations of the Plains and Southwest, there are several cycles of stories about Coyote.  He is most commonly known as a trickster who, as often as not, gets hoisted by his own petard.  In some story-cycles, he is the Creator-made-manifest.  In general, he functions outside the bounds of 'polite society', does what is right by his own reckoning,  pokes fun at society and laughs at everyone, including himself.'s the overall message I'm getting.

"Dude, lighten up! 

Yes...You are the center of the universe, a special snowflake made in my image and likeness...just like everyone else.  Make ya feel better?

Look, tomorrow will be better, but only if you want it to be.  If you don't like where you're at, then move, but know that staying or going is your decision. 

I made all this for cheers, not jeers.  Don't ignore, destroy or hoard it. Enjoy the world and everything (and everyone) in it.

Do you honestly think I care what words you use to say 'thanks' or what music you play or how you dress?   Seriously?  Seriously?!   *leans back head and howls* 

Relax...I got it covered."

I hope that you can hear the wit and sarcasm, I know I can. 

For those who have attempted to independently discern the nature of the Divine (as opposed to taking the blue pill offered by catechism and/or Tradition), we imbue our perception of the Creator with certain qualities which are needed in our lives.  One could argue just as strongly that the need is perceived and God  reveals that aspect of Herself to you. 6 of one, half-dozen of the other.

It's very easy to succumb to the 'gravity' of all the theology and the importance of X and of Y or the grave heresy of the Z's.  I've been known to become very introverted in an unhealthy manner.  I guess that's why I've got the unassuming Divine, fully of pithy and deflating observations as a reminder of an old aphorism taught to me long ago.  "Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they shall ever be amused."

Thanks, Dad.  :)

Thursday, February 3

Turning the wheel

"The body of WHAT?"
Yesterday was Groundhog Day aka...

Feast of Cornelius the Centurion (among others)
Feast of Our Lady of the Navigators
Feast of St. Brigid (depending on where you are)
Feast of the Virgin of Candaleria
Meeting of Our Lord
Naming of Jesus
Presentation of Jesus at the Temple
Purification of the Virgin
World Day for Consecrated Life

I don't celebrate all of these. Honestly, I rarely celebrate ANY of these. Some questions comes to mind, though. If you DO celebrate one or more, why? Do you know the stories behind the specifics and what significance (if any) do those stories hold for you? Did you have a crepe yesterday? Did you know that it's traditional to do so? Does that matter? Should it matter?   I've waxed rhapsodic (or is that rapped quixotic) about tradition several times in the past, but I want to consider the matter from a different angle.

I'd like to look at the first and arguably least controversial of the list for use as an example. 

Groudhog day.

Are you Pennsylvania Dutch? That's where the tradition comes from.
Did you know that there are dozens of groundhogs from Alabama to Alaska that have to endure the annual celebrity, not just Punxsutawney Phil?
Easier question...have you actually SEEN a groundhog in the flesh?
Do you believe in the prognostication prowess of a rodent?
Is this a 'real' holiday in your mind, a kitch/quaint old custom without relevance, a pseudo-holiday like 'Talk Like a Pirate' day or perhaps no more than a 'shaggy dog' at the end of the evening news?

I could go on...and I could have chosen one of the 'real' holidays listed above. It really doesn't matter, though. I'm not from the Canary Islands and not a hard-core Marian, so the Virgin of Candaleria isn't any more 'real' than groundhog day. Not saying that it is, in any way, wrong, silly or stupid...rather saying that it is not part of my cultural heritage or identity and the meaning behind the feast day has little to no personal resonance.

Imbolc/Candlemas/St. Brigid...that's different.   The three are tied together and all are about the procession of the year.  Imbolc is the ancient celebration of the cross-quarter day, when the days get longer and we are assured that the dolours of winter shall not last forever. Just as Lucy brings light on the winter Solstice and assures us that we are never in the dark, fiery Brigid reminds of the cleansing flame in preparation for the new year. The lambs are about to drop, the snow about to melt and the land is going to be waking up from it's wintry slumber. Candlemas is about putting those January plans into action and clearing the decks. On any given year, these things resonate with me, which hearken to my heritage and help me remember and revere the Divine in the 'mundane'.  This year, their importance thrums in the veins.  I know things are changing.

Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, February 2

Spirituality in the 21st century

There has been a good deal of blogospheric traffic as of recent regarding the inability of the combined faith communities in regard to engaging the 'youth', though I find categorizing everyone under 40 as 'youth' more telling than most would like to see.

Putnam and Campbell state in their book, American Grace, that the Gen-X and younger group are leaving churches at a rate 5-6 times faster than the historical average and that religious fluidity in america is such that sectarian affiliation is no longer a familial or even cultural matter (i.e. - my parents are scots-irish and Presbyterian, which means I'm a Buddhist).  Putnam and Campbell argue that one of the causes of the disaffection with organized faith is the identification of said church structure with radicalized conservative political movements in the US.

A 20-something attendee of a Catholic conference devoted to the subject of 'youth in the Catholic church' pointed a lack of resonation i.e. - Liturgy which does not inspire, a social environment which is not inviting, education that is non-educational and activities which do not engage.

The article in America about the conference notes that these 'youth' are disaffected due to the politicization of the pulpit, the euro-centric view of Catholicism is disenfranchising latino and asian-americans, and the views of the Church regarding sexuality and gender being increasingly at odds with the 21st century consensus on inclusion and tolerance.

Though I recognize and generally affirm the observations above, I still see most of these as pastoral and cosmetic changes which won't address the underlying issue.  What crystallized my thoughts about all of this is something that JD at In Exsilium said.

"Most people don't reject Christianity because they have thoroughly reasoned it out, but because they were born into a highly competitive ideological market, and an environment where it is basically impossible to piece it together for an objective judgement (as though that were possible?)."

Much of what I hear in regard to evangelization and engaging the 'youth' is about marketing.  Rick Warren and the whole 'purpose-filled' feel-good church movement is just that.  But this ignores the whole underlying tenet of authenticity which, in my experience, is key to understanding 'youth culture'.  EVERYONE is selling something and most of what people are selling is a sham.  Show me what's real, what's authentic. Prove to me that it is relevant to my interests and it's real and you won't need fancy gimmicks.  JD talks about a lack of objective judgment, but most folks who grew up in a post-modernist society don't believe in objective truth or the certitude of anything.

The other thing JD said which grabbed me was that  "Spirituality today is a consumer product". Consumer products are sterile, prepared, pre-packaged and pre-digested.  We, as a generation, have been raised to have all of the answers given to us, the truth as a consumer product.  But life isn't that way and our relationships with each other prove that.  They're raw, immediate, unpredictable and flooded with reality and emotion.  Nothing in the real world can be solved in 23 minutes (plus commercials) and nobody lives with a laugh track.  The natural world doesn't function as a consumer product either, so why should we expect our relationship with it (and it's maker) be that way?  If all of our experience shows that relationships don't function as a consumer product, why should we expect our relationship with the Divine to act like that?

One of my primary consumer products are computer games and MMO's (Massively Multiplayer Online games) have become a huge portion of those games in the last decade.  Religion and spirituality are not games...and not MMOs.  Its not about raising your piety points, grinding your prayer skill by saying the rosary, gaining levels in godliness or unlocking achievements by saving souls.  There are no save points, no spawn points and no eq you MUST have. 

On the other hand, what most folks don't realise is that life is Co-op, not PvP or PvE.  At least, that's what my guild leader, HippyNazerene, keeps saying.

The big chill...

It's been cold here in heresy-land.  I mean, seriously cold.  When average temps for January run -11 to +6 (12-42 F), it was a breathtaking-30 (-22F) this morning and we're expected to reach a balmy -15 (5F) as a high.  When it's 20+ degrees warmer in Helsinki (yes, Finland) than in the foothills (not mountains) of Colorado... *mutters*

Weather like this always makes me think of the homeless.  We have a lot of homeless in the area due to the normally clement weather and generally tolerant attitude towards the indigent.  This year, of course, there are a lot more than usual and those 'additions' are woefully unprepared to deal with what's happening to them.  Obviously, they need help.

In the 21st century secular/capitalist environment we live in, government, especially local government, is picking up where the church traditionally has been the pillar of support.  In our present economic 'crisis', local government isn't tightening its belt, it's sold the belt to pay the bills. Between decreased revenues (less people in the pews means smaller collections) and increased costs (be it higher bills, fancy conferences, hush money for lawsuits or spendy ad campaigns) the Church has less 'free income' to spend on things like feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and sheltering the homeless.  So, if the structured religious organization is too busy covering its assets and burying the silver it has, then mayhap it is time to find a servant who is more interested in being a good steward.

Note that this is not an indictment of any particular sect, but a generalized admonition. 

Just sayin.