The Media & The Upcoming Papal Election

I must admit, I am taking immense pleasure at the fact that the Cardinals took several days to decide when to start the Conclave, causing the Press and the Media to become FRANTIC!!!

It appears that the Sistine Chapel has just closed, meaning that the Conclave will probably start within the week. I was hoping that the Cardinals could stall it a couple more days to cause the Press to go mad, but it’s not the business of the Church to drive the media up the wall (even as much as I want it to). It’s really the job of the Press to drive itself up the wall, overly caffeinated on a sleepless overseas 24 hr internet news cycle, when most people are not  really that obsessed. Besides, the Church doesn’t cave in to it’s demands.

There Is No Papal Candidate, No Magic Pope To Save The Church

Really? Is it that easy? Are the problems in the world that simple? Are the problems in the Church that simple?

People keep saying Catholics are leaving the Church in droves, that nones and unaffiliates are the fastest growing religious denomination. If the magic pope came in he would reign in on heresy! If the magic pope came in he would ordain women and bring all kinds of people back in the Church! Magic Pope! Magic Pope!!!I don’t know if that indicates that, at large, people are leaving a Church they were never brought up to practice. How could you leave something you never identified with?

But I am sure if we just had the magic pope, he could rescue us all right? That’s not the business of Popes to save and rescue. It never has been. To teach, and care for, and sanctify…

But instead of blaming a Pope, blaming millenials, blaming the media, blaming Baby-Boomers and the Post Vatican II generation, blaming the secular media. Instead I am going to proclaim Christ. Instead I am going to Trust the Holy Spirit.

Don’t Let The Media’s Misunderstanding Get to You. They don’t influence the Cardinals or the Holy Spirit!

Please don’t let fears of the media’s misunderstanding of our faith cloud you with doubts. I see it happen. I see good Catholics upset that the inept media isn’t getting the story right. Please, good Catholics, don’t overestimate them. Please, don’t underestimate the Spirit.

I know many of you have felt nervous that the MSM is twisting, or will further twist this event.

Look, THEY DO NOT have such power or influence of us. Don’t deceive yourself, and flatter them that they do. The mainstream media HAS NEVER had power over the Spirit or the Church. The facts of the Pope’s resignation are there, and the MSM CAN NEVER define them, even if they mix up the story. the MSM CANNOT EVER EVER actually manipulate truth, for Truth is Christ. Finally, the MSM WILL NEVER change the course of our Church, Nor CAN IT EVER or WILL IT EVER twist the movements of the Holy Spirit.

Don’t flatter them, the MSM don’t have a monopoly on Truth. The Twitterverse does not have a monopoly on Truth. Rather, Truth, who is Christ has us. Rather Christ who is Truth possesses us.

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Mark Shea, who writes at Catholic and Enjoying It, has some words for Fortress Catholics. The ones who are terrified that the Gospel of Christ cannot prevail against the ways of the world, the kind maniacally obsessed with paranoia over truly true pure catholicism, unlike the kind the rest of the fake sinful Catholics around here keep ruining. Here’s something to think about. I for one am glad for the New Evangelization.

Here’s a little Fortress Catholicism scenario:

So: Code red. Circle the wagons. The enemy is within the gates. The mask is off. The Faithful must huddle a little more closely together and shield themselves from the nightmare of Fake Catholics like Leah who are closing in on the Truly True Church with all their questioning and thinking and all that other modernist stuff. More evidence that the whole New Evangelization is another failure of that AmChurch liberal hero John Paul the Overrated. What this Church needs is a good purging, starting with all those converts. What we need to do is tighten the defenses on the Fortress, batten down the hatches, return to 1956 Cleveland Catholicism when everything was perfect and only allow converts in when they have passed a rigorous ideological exam created by the (anonymous) authors of Pewsitter and similar sites dedicated to the Preservation of the Fortress.

Here’s reality: The Church *exists* to evangelize. That means the Church is, in perpetuity, going to be engaged with people who don’t think with the mind of the Church perfectly and are still learning stuff and thinking it through. If you approach your faith as though it is a Fortress to be defended–as though the promise is “The Gates of Heaven shall not prevail against the world”–and your whole job consists of watching everything go to rack and ruin while you labor in vain to restore the Church to some imagined Golden Age then the joy of the gospel is going to elude you and you will become a particularly pitiable antiquarian, but not a Catholic and not a happy person.

I often believe that Liberals & Conservatives alike have wasted so much time on intra-church issues. Enclosed in our own little self-referential bubble, where we disdain those who don’t measure up to our idea of what the Church is.

There is such a lack of real manly virtue. Hope. Courage. In addition, not just because it is unproductive to bemoan what was lost in Vatican II reforms, or secularism, or whatever, but it’s not like there was a Golden Age in the Church before the Council. Study your history, it is short sighted to enclose the Church because things got tricky, because things got messy. Know your history.

And really, that is why we were founded. Jesus didn’t commission us to be culture warriors. Jesus didn’t qualify us to be moral/ethical teachers. Jesus didn’t tell us to go home, and have a nice cozy life. Jesus sent the Apostles out to the ends of the Earth, outside of their comfort zones, to proclaim Christ, his salvation, and invite them to New Life & Grace in the Sacraments.

Catholic and Enjoying It: Fortress Catholicism vs. The New Evangelization

Rape & It’s Rewards Neuter and Emasculate Men

As per our friend Marc Barnes, the Bad Catholic, I came across this disgusting story about a High School Football team, Gang Rape coverup. In order that the good ol’ football team heroes rake in money, sheriffs, coaches, lawyers, and other adults not only covered up the rape culture, but in some ways were rewarding their football heroes with test cheats, porn, drugs, and other immorality.

In complete angry and unreserved passion, I offer my reactions. I am not skilled in dealing with anybody who has survived rape, and this is more written for men, in order that men may have something to think about, and how there is nothing inherently manly or masculine about rape. I know and understand that there may be other ways to approach the issue, and I leave it to others to do so in a way they see more fitting.

At the root of this rape culture, is an idea of dotting and coddling their boys into perpetual adolescents. Coddling and dotting, and emasculating, and neutering these boys by persistently rewarding their mediocrity. Emasculating and neutering these boys from every maturing into an awareness of consequences and responsibility.

Not only is it commonplace for people to become paralyzed at the thought of ever holding youth to any moral standard at all, guys in all their testosterone will smother themselves in reckless unchaste immorality.

There is nothing daring about this, nothing bold, nothing admirable, nothing courageous, nothing virtuous. Nothing. Nothing admirable in manipulating and taking advantage of women, nothing virtuous in a limitless indulgence in porn and drugs, nothing courageous in hiding from the responsibility of adulthood, nothing manly about covering up rape.

I remember in high school, girls were telling me that Cosmo type mags were authoritatively declaring to them that guys were mentally obsessed with sex: Ergo, they reasoned that perhaps the most meaningful pursuit for a teenage girl would be to put all their “prudish hang-ups” aside, ultra sex-ify themselves, and please the pervs. Although I was fully immersed in this guy culture that unabashadly took advantage of women, I found myself troubled. Even myself troubled, at the time, a reckless amoral libertine. Even I found myself troubled at the thought. Not only was my entire existence being limited by and for my genitals, but even my human will and freedom.

I think we need to think of how being easy on adolescent boys is an absolute mandatum is not helpful for their maturity. Just take a quick look at guys mags that blur the line or chasm between malignant rape and “guys-just-having-some-innocent-guy-fun-whats-the-problem?”

In addition to this, there is a major difference between not withholding consequences from someone and forgiving them. Withholding consequences, withholding someone of their responsibility, is not the same thing as mercy or forgiveness.

Perhaps the only time that I ever yelled at teens in all my years in ministry was for a guy swearing that, as a guy, he’s entitled to fantasize, sexualize, and objectify women, because hey, that’s just what guys are, their personhood is merely an extension of their testosterone and genitals.

Anyways, I think the God’s Kingdom offers a solid alternative to save us from our obstinate self-annihilation…

Jennifer Fulwiler asks whether it is possible or not to raise one kids to be open-minded about religion. For some parents, open-minded means never committing to anything specific. Jennifer challenges that:

If being in a state of open-mindedness means that you’re asking questions, seeking knowledge, and attempting to evaluate data without bias, it seems that that should be a transitory state: At some point, you either find answers, or determine that the answers are not findable. In either case you now have a defined belief system, even if it’s agnosticism. At this point, while you may be open to hearing new perspectives, you are no longer “open-minded” in the sense of not having any opinions about matters of spirituality — you’ve found your belief system.

The tipping point, the commitment point. That’s what truth does to us. If we ever want to grow, we can’t just hover from one religious symbol or prayer or meditation to the next, it will never penetrate us enough. We have to commit after a certain time, after measuring it, and ourselves.

That is the problem I have with many spiritual seekers, who are more like wanderers. They completely lack any depth in anything specific. Instead it is just hazy feelings that don’t mean anything at all, except for them to pat themselves on the back and feel good and tolerant and open minded.

Don’t get me wrong, there are, I bet, several sincere spiritual seekers out there, I haven’t met any. But I am glad that they reverence truth enough to not just blindly follow. My challenge to you, again, agnostics, is to have the courage to commit to something, and let it penetrate your heart enough that you can have real convictions.

Jennifer Fulwiler: Open-Minded about Religion

CNN Online has an article about Kenda Creasy Dean’s new book Almost Christianity…

If you’re the parent of a Christian teenager, Kenda Creasy Dean has this warning:

Your child is following a “mutant” form of Christianity, and you may be responsible.

Dean says more American teenagers are embracing what she calls “moralistic therapeutic deism.” Translation: It’s a watered-down faith that portrays God as a “divine therapist” whose chief goal is to boost people’s self-esteem.

Dean is a minister, a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and the author of “Almost Christian,” a new book that argues that many parents and pastors are unwittingly passing on this self-serving strain of Christianity.

She says this “imposter” faith is one reason teenagers abandon churches.

“If this is the God they’re seeing in church, they are right to leave us in the dust,” Dean says. “Churches don’t give them enough to be passionate about.”

Be sure to read the whole thing here.

I am hesitant to call someone a ‘fake’ christian, if they haven’t made some kind of public sort of renunciation of their inherited faith. This is, however, something different.

In Brett McCracken’s 2009 book Hipster Christianity, he argues that Mega-Church Comfort Christianity offers nothing compelling. He also argues that “Family-values” lock yourself in your Christianity entertainment bubble is no longer persuasive, and young creative evangelicals are more interested in the risk of engaging the culture, even at times on the culture’s terms. Allegedly, Hipster Christians are supposed to have a vivid interest in Catholic things.

In Ross Douthat’s recent book Bad Religion, he gives a vivid description of common heresies that are more prevalent than orthodoxy, and makes a good case at comparing the phenomena of Oprah book club spirituality and Joel Osteen Prosperity Gospel Christianity.

Anyways, what puts brings many of these things together is the very fact that Christianity has gone two routes: one is the Family-Values Bubble, and the other is so watered down that it is hard to say that there is anything Christian about it. What is at the root of these is the irrational quest for a safe sort of Christianity. On one hand, one believes mainstream culture is irreconcilable to the faith, and therefore we must create our alternative universe with the family-values knock-off of mainstream music, movies, cartoons, clothing, and even bubble gum. The other side believes Christianity is so absolutely reconcilable, if not absolutely subservient to cultural norms, that the compelling and radical prophetic dimensions of Christianity are completely negated. Thus we have comfort Christianity, thus we have prosperity Gospel, thus we have all kinds of perversions of the Historical Christianity which has been timelessly been compelling in every age.

The sense I get from many of the young Catholics on tumblr is this, we got sick of being ‘lukewarm’ cowardly Christians. We were pressured to compromise on our faith convictions, but we are also not interested on broad-brushing all in mainstream culture (music, movies etc) has somehow the tool of Satan.

The article suggests that parents have an important role to play. At about the time I was 17, I was tired of my parents watering down, which had only increased over the years. I get the sense that there are a lot of young Catholics who want something deeper, a real tangible and palpable spirituality and passion faith expression that does not dichotomize religion, tradition, prayer, and/or spirituality.

There is still something so intrinsically and almost irrationally attractive about the great Martyrs and Saints who suffered greatly. As the article suggests, we want steak and potatoes, and they kept giving us cake. We wanted bones and blood, and they kept giving us felt and coloring books. We wanted to turn the world upside down, and exult the poor over the rich. We wanted to prostrate ourselves before God’s magnificence instead of clapping to upbeat songs all the time.

So the watered-down comfort Christianity that many of us inherited is not attractive. Christianity did not become attractive until we saw a wild and untamed Jesus turning tables in the temple, and calling the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and even being so bold as to dine with the sinner, while actually challenging them to SIN NO MORE!

Anyways, I will stop there, for now!

Teens Reject ‘Fake’ Christianity

The Trinity for Agnostics Part 4

Read Part 1

Read Part 2

Read Part 3

Trinity is very personal. Person was the term used to distinguish the Trinity in the early Church. Three persons of one substance. The substance is the communion of persons. Persons was a Latinization of the Greek Hypostatis. Hypostasis means the grounding of being. Each Hypostasis had a grounding distinguishing integrity, in much the same way that each of us do.

But even this entire philosophical processing can feel cumbersome that it is not even talked about in our Church.

Contrasting to many the pop-culture eastern mysticism, has at its heart, that the individual and personal integrity of the individual is meant to diminish until the person becomes non-existent. That is Buddhism. Self-Annihilation. Many of the self-asserting individualists who turn Buddhism into their consumer product don’t actually realize the hypocrisy in their spiritual quest. People who want the Dalai Lamas new book like it’s a trendy pair of jeans miss the point entirely.

Yet, in contrast, the Christian is to believe that we become most fully ourselves in God. We have all our personal integrity intact. We are not meant to lose it. We are, however, meant to diminish in the sense that we deny and die to our petty ego-centricism. This is not self-annihilation, neither is it self-assertion.

So we are most our own person in God’s person.

Conversely, we are most our own person in God’s communion, and in relationship to God’s communion in the Trinity. There is a relational dimension we are invited to. This is our salvation. We are redeemed from the wretched suicide of sin.

It is hard for me to describe God in his own existence. But even that is important to consider, because we are so obsessed with our own well-being. Having made it clear that God is more concerned with care for each of us then anything, we also have to shift our concern.

God existed as a communion of persons eternally, preceding any history or creation of the world. Preceding our own existence God was a communion of love. Some of the Church Fathers referred to this as a mutual indwelling of the three persons in a Pericoresis. Pericoresis was a dynamic Greek term that connoted a rotating. The strange thing for present theologians to consider is that the term implied dance.

The Triune God has engaged in a mutual indwelling dance from all eternity.

Augustine also referred to the Holy Spirit as the Unity of Charity between the Father and Son. Therefore we can say that God is Love. Therefore we can say that the Spirit unites Christians and peoples. Therefore we can say the Spirit is always moving in love in all the world.

Some of these images form a basis for reflection in prayer and theology, and they have helped me at all times. The God who is so magnificent and glorious to be conceived by my petty human mind, is the same God who discloses himself in the events in history, and particularly fully reveals himself in the man  Jesus of Nazareth, and the fire and life of the Church the Holy Spirit. God is already active before I was born, in a loving dance of unity. The Incomprehensible Transcendent Triune God existent before all ages, is the same God who cares and saves us.

The posture of the Trinity is always one of love, unity, integrity, and mercy. What then is our posture. It is always easier for us to be agnostic, because embodying compassion, charity and justice in the same way as God is always more difficult then in hiding behind the fact that we are a spiritual seeker, who is more apt at aimless drifting. When we encounter a person it demands the greatest reverence, it changes us. Therefore we must be ready to meet the aimless drifters and genuine spiritual seekers of truth with a personal encounter. God afterall, is very personal.

The Trinity for Agnostics Part 3

Read Part 1

Read Part 2

Augustine refers to having valued Jesus because of what his mother Monica taught him. He probably admired the person Jesus of Nazareth for being another remarkable teacher or philosopher. I think it would bear resemblance to your average agnostic today.

If you were to take your average lapsed Catholic agnostic, and ask them about Jesus, they would probably be in agreement on many things that perhaps do not agree with the Catholic Tradition. Beyond blaming the sorry catechesis, I think it would be interesting to see the generic and harmless Jesus that can only be the product of an overly materialistic consumer society. Jesus is another self-help guru. I am sure that is how they imagine him. He had some non-religious spiritual wisdom teaching, and he was a healer just like self-help gurus are or whatever. At the same time, there is nothing compelling or urging about this caricature, who can as easily be disregarded with each new pop fad. But by and large, Jesus remains a positive person that even the agnostic has a hard time overtly disrespecting him.

The apostles were vividly struck by this man Jesus of Nazareth. He was like the prophets before him. But he was not like them. He was like the lawgiver before, but Jesus was totally something beyond that. Jesus was, and Jesus was not quite in the way they understood. The Gospel themselves clearly testify to a certain Apophatic reflection on the person of Jesus as they grappled to categorize and bracket him into what their experience knew. Another lawgiver. Another prophet. Another teacher. Another preacher. Another wonder-worker. But Jesus was not any of these things.

Jesus was the son of a carpenter. Yeshua bar Yosef, he would have been referred to. Christ was not his last name (or Joseph and Mary’s). But what was with this guy? He was nothing like his family. There was nothing that could prepare anybody for the authoritative teaching, the inspiring proclamation, and the wonders he worked among the people.

All of this turned them on their head absolutely when they saw him in glory after having been publically executed. Their lives were turned on their head. They all went to the ends of the earth to endure brutal torturous death on account of the proclamation of this wonderful event.

Jesus said that his Spirit would come upon his followers, and there was a concrete and tangible difference. Whereas the Apostles locked themselves away in terror when Jesus was captured, suddenly they had no fear in the face of similarly gruesome torturous assassinations and executions.

They baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each of these titles corresponded to something, or someone they experienced. It was clear that Jesus was not the Father that he prayed to, but Jesus was the one with the Father. That Jesus was not the Spirit who came upon the disciples, but there was a unity.

The whole movement of the Church exploded amidst bloody persecutions. There was something alive and flamboyant at work behind the scenes. It took them a while to let their intellectual reflections catch up with their own experience and the tradition. It was clear from the beginning that there were three divine persons, each with their own solid ground and integrity. Yet, It was clear, as has always been that there is still one God.

As the Church Fathers were quite comfortable with articulations about God, balanced with an incomprehensible Divine Mystery, the idea that there God is Triune was not altogether difficult to accept. It is, unfortunately far removed from our experiences. I do believe that the magnitude of the incomprehensibility of Divine Mystery has been so incredibly undervalued publically, that many people do become agnostics. But God has acted in history. God has acted in our lives. It is quite concrete, so much so that it does not make sense to remain an exclusive agnostic for very long. Jesus, the Son of God, had flesh and blood like us. He hungered and feasted as us. And he spoke to us. He speaks to us in the Scriptures. Perhaps the Father is caring, nurturing, and providing for us. Perhaps the Spirit is moving and vivifying us likewise. It does not make sense to remain agnostic, because God is acting in our lives in a concrete manner, demanding a concrete response.

People who remain hard hearted agnostics, often will find themselves deliberated trapped, to protect themselves from hypocritical Christians. They want to see results. They want to see that following God leads to happiness, that the moral life is possible, and that they are all connected. Most of all they are craving communion, not more abstract moral theories, not more abstract moral doctrines. It is not that these have no value.

But the story of God is very personal. The story of Trinity is very personal. The Son of God is Incarnate. The Son of God has eyeballs, ears, a nose, and a tongue. The Son of God has a story, the story is our redemption, the story becomes our story, our story becomes part of his story, our story becomes the Church’s story, the Church’s story becomes our story, the Son of God’s story becomes our story. The Story of God follows with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and we can receive that gift through the Sacraments. We begin our Trinitarian Life at Baptism, in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. So it becomes very important for us to be well versed in this story. It becomes important for us to reflect on our personal part in this story in the Life of the Trinity. We see our past with new perspective, and God transforms our pain into something beautiful.

Augustine looked deeply into the story of Jesus, and the story of the Church, and the story of the Communion of the Saints. He saw something too remarkable to deny, and followed his heart into the story.

Read Part 4