Friday, July 28, 2006

Cardinal Newman sounds off about Catholicism

Sure, this is rough, but can we say the opposite with sincerity? I'd like to think that we Orthodox have proven him wrong, but I'd say that verdict is still in the balance at best. Certainly I feel that the proliferation of Protestantisms has done quite a bit to reinforce Newman's vision. Keep in mind that he felt that Protestantism was too "democratic" to resist the creeping force of Pluralism among "Socianist" people who didn't want a religion that was "distasteful to their reason" or "alienating to their economic desires". Forget for a second the subtle problems with his 2-centuries dated research... does the man not have an excellent point? Look especially at the bold face at the beginning.

The World’s Famous Orations.
Great Britain: II. (1780–1861). 1906.

Catholicism and the Religions of the World

John Henry Newman (1801–90)


Born in 1801, died in 1890; Fellow of Oriel in 1822; wrote “Lead Kindly Light” in 1832; joined the Oxford Movement in 1833; entered the Church of Rome in 1845; established his Oratory in 1849; made a Cardinal in 1879.

HOW different are all religious that ever were, from the lofty and unchangeable Catholic Church! They depend on time and place for their existence; they live in periods or in regions. They are children of the soil, indigenous plants, which readily flourish under a certain temperature, in a certain aspect, in moist or in dry, and die if they are transplanted. Their habitat is one article of their scientific description. Thus the Greek schism, Nestorianism, the heresy of Calvin, and Methodism, each has its geographical limits. Protestantism has gained nothing in Europe since its first outbreak. Some accident gives rise to these religious manifestations; some sickly season, the burning sun, the vapor-laden marsh, breeds a pestilence, and there it remains, hanging in the air over its birthplace perhaps for centuries; then some change takes place in the earth or in the heavens, and it suddenly is no more. 1

Sometimes, however, it is true, such scourges of God have a course upon earth, and affect a Catholic range. They issue as from some poisonous lake or pit in Ethiopia or in India, and march forth with resistless power to fulfil their mission of evil, and walk to and fro over the face of the world. Such was the Arabian imposture of which Mohammed was the framer; and you will ask, perhaps, whether it has not done that which I have said the Catholic Church alone can do, and proved thereby that it had in it an internal principle, which, depending not on man, could subdue him in any time or place? No; look narrowly, and you will see the marked distinction which exists between the religion of Mohammed and the Church of Christ. For Mohammedanism has done little more than the Anglican communion is doing at present. That communion is found in many parts of the world; its primate has a jurisdiction even greater than the Nestorian Patriarch of old; it has establishments in Malta, in Jerusalem, in India, in China, in Australia, in South Africa, and in Canada. Here, at least, you will say, is Catholicity, even greater than that of Mohammed. Oh, be not beguiled by words; will any thinking man say for a moment, whatever this objection be worth, that the Established Religion is superior to time and place? Well, if not, why set about proving that it is? Rather, does not its essence lie in its recognition by the State? Is not its establishment its very form? What would it be—would it last ten years, if abandoned to itself? It is its establishment which erects it into a unity and individuality. Can you contemplate it, tho you stimulate your imagination to the task, abstracted from its churches, palaces, colleges, parsonages, revenues, civil precedence, and national position? Strip it of its world, and you have performed a mortal operation upon it, for it has ceased to be.

Take its bishops out of the legislature, tear its formularies from the Statute Book, open its universities to Dissenters, allow its clergy to become laymen again, legalize its private prayer-meetings, and what would be its definition? You know that, did not the State compel it to be one, it would split at once into three several bodies, each bearing within it the elements of further divisions. Even the small party of non-jurors, a century and a half since, when released from the civil power, split into two. It has then no internal consistency, or individuality, or soul, to give it the capacity of propagation. Methodism represents some sort of an idea, Congregationalism an idea; the Established Religion has in it no idea beyond establishment. Its extension has been, for the most part, not active; it is carried forward into other places by State policy, and it moves because the State moves; it is an appendage, whether weapon or decoration, of the sovereign power; it is the religion, not even of a race, but of the ruling portion of a race. The Anglo-Saxon has done in this day what the Saracen did in a former. He does grudgingly for expedience what the other did heartily from fanaticism. This is the chief difference between the two: the Saracen, in his commencement, converted the heretical East with the sword; but at least in India the extension of his faith has been by emigration, as the Anglo-Saxon’s now; he grew into other nations by commerce and colonization; but, when he encountered the Catholic of the West, he made as little impression upon Spain, as the Protestant Anglo-Saxon makes on Ireland. 3

There is but one form of Christianity possessed of that real internal unity which is the primary condition of independence. When you look to Russia, England, or Germany, this note of divinity is wanting. In this country, especially, there is nothing broader than class religions; the established form itself is but the religion of a class. There is one persuasion for the rich, and another for the poor; men are born in this or that sect; the enthusiastic go here, and the sober-minded and rational go there. They make money, and rise in the world, and then they profess to belong to the Establishment. This body lives in the world’s smile, that in its frown; the one would perish of cold in the world’s winter, and the other would melt away in the summer. Not one of them undertakes human nature; none compasses the whole man; none places all men on a level; none addresses the intellect and the heart, fear and love, the active and the contemplative. It is considered, and justly, as an evidence for Christianity, that the ablest men have been Christians; not that all sagacious or profound minds have taken up its profession, but that it has gained victories among them, such and so many, as to show that it is not the mere fact of ability or learning which is the reason why all are not converted. 4

Such, too, is the characteristic of Catholicity; not the highest in rank, not the meanest, not the most refined, not the rudest, is beyond the influence of the Church; she includes specimens of every class among her children. She is the solace of the forlorn, the chastener of the prosperous, and the guide of the wayward. She keeps a mother’s eye for the innocent, bears with a heavy hand upon the wanton, and has a voice of majesty for the proud. She opens the mind of the ignorant, and she prostrates the intellect of even the most gifted. These are not words; she had done it, she does it still, she undertakes to do it. All she asks is an open field, and freedom to act. She asks no patronage from the civil power; in former times and places she has asked it, and, as Protestantism also, has availed herself of the civil sword. It is true she did so, because in certain ages it has been the acknowledged mode of acting, the most expeditious, and open at the time to no objection, and because, where she has done so, the people clamored for it and did it in advance of her; but her history shows that she needed it not, for she has extended and flourished without it. She is ready for any service which occurs; she will take the world as it comes; nothing but force can repress her. See, my brethren, what she is doing in this country now: for three centuries the civil power has trodden down the goodly plant of grace, and kept its foot upon it; at length circumstances have removed that tyranny, and lo! the fair form of the Ancient Church rises up at once, as fresh and as vigorous as if she had never intermitted her growth. She is the same as she was three centuries ago, ere the present religions of the country existed; you know her to be the same; it is the charge brought against her that she does not change; time and place affect her not, because she has her source where there is neither time nor place, because she comes from the throne of the Illimitable, Eternal God.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Summer blogging reading recommendation

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the "adventures" of my friend Dan WEbb in Madagascar. He writes in a style you might find familiar from a person who spent many formative years of his life apprenticing to yours truly in the arts of sarcasm and slapstickily-semi-serious observations. I would especially recommend reading the June entries, namely about the "French language", "The Third World, Second to none","White Men can't jump, or Can they?" and "The Dark Continent Gets a Little Whiter". It's good stuff. Nice job Dan.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Wisdom tooth removal

Had my wisdom teeth taken out at 8am yesterday. Now, 24 hours later, my jaw is aching and my stitches are repairing. I'm living off of soup, Ramen noodles (also soup), and ice cream. This morning I created a classic. I put my coffee into a cup full of vanilla ice cream. An excellent treat. Try it sometimes!, but make sure you have enough ice cream, or else it's just bad creamer. You want it to be enough that some will not melt, but float, like a coke float. The problem is that without being able to really brush your teeth, sugar and coffee make add a lot of funk to your mouth (already made disgusting by copious amounts of blood and gauze) until the stitching can heal and you can brush again for real.

I do have to say that my Dental surgeon did an excellent job. Very minimal swelling and I have no real "pain" to speak of. I'm expecting a quick recovery, but in the mean time it's lame, and it's certainly in the way of my diet, which had been going nonstop for the better part of a month.

Still, if I get to heaven (God Willing), I will have to take this question up with the Big Guy right after the others that have always plagued me - Why do bad things have to happen? Why the dinosaurs? Why confuse us so often as to your existence? What wisdom was there behind giving me "wisdom" teeth?

Monday, July 24, 2006

My Book - step 2 - Chapter Titles and Overall Heading

Right now I'm trying to get some chapter titles down to serve as something of an outline for my book (yes, I'm still not off that kick, though i'm foot dragging).

Feel free to make suggestions. notice that I have two different book proposals on the table.

The topic of proposition #1 is, generally, religion from the perspective of a Gen-Xer, and how I've come to view the problems in my own journey of faith. So far here's what I'm thinking of. The planned format is going to be like a mildly organized stream of semi-linked editorials. I don't want the book to be formal as it's meant to be a popular work to some extent (plus if you write in simple language, the readers often engage your more complex writing more closely when you do feel it's worth employing). Again, the point here is to solicit additions and critiques from you all, so please feel free to voice your concerns...

1. A Gen-Xer speaks for his own generation (Generally I'm going to make the point that every generation needs a kind of "Mere Christianity" that is appropriate to its own questions and issues. One unique feature about being Gen-X'ers is that we do not really have a single and identifiable, nor even a communally consistent, worldview, thus why I must speak primarily for myself, but which I argue is normal and useful for understanding Gen-Xer's.

Book I: The Religion I Can't have - (Deconstruction of some alternatives. i'm also going to wail on Apologetics for a little while under the premise that they're misused/abused, and also that some of them simply don't hold water).

2. "Miracle" religion (This is about how it's virtually impossible given our/my education that I could believe with a faith that starts with the basic premise that whereas cockatrices and giants were perfectly viable 5,000 years ago, they're rubbish now... and that's supposed to be fine and dandy).

3. Literalism Won't get Us There (Some quick observations on how easily an acute, and not even particularl meticulous observer can begin to punch holes in the easy-out Bible fundi mentality.)

4. Fairy-Tales won't get us there either (Changing gears, I'm going to thumb down theories that, having abandoned Literalism, seek to make Scriptures and Traditions virtually meaningless, or at best no more useful than any other literature and/or tradition of beliefs).

5. "Just Believe it Jesus" Just doesn't fly (Questioning the theodicy necessary for the "tell Jeuss he's cool and get to heaven no matter what" to be accepted, thus why I will not).

Book II: Where my secular generation and i agree.

6. Faith cannot be "proven". (The counter-punch for the intro)

7. The world was always basically the same. (This is the counter-punch to #2)

8. I accept evidence that I don't necessarily prefer. (An explanation of why Literalism cannot guide an educated and open mind, and incidentally why it makes no sense for the same people to insist on trusting our educations and objectivity in all realms of life EXCEPT religion - it's an addition to #3).

9. Religion must challenge and not coddle us (This tees off on the occasionally well-meaning liberal tendencies that inevitably seem to conclude from the #4 mindset. Once Christianity is just "another faith among many" or one stream to a massive well, etc. Or, alternately, once it's morally neutral and governs only "positive" religious sentiments with no boundaries or rules, why it ceases to be of value).

10. I Believe that What I Do IS (Basically setting up the proposition, in contrast to #5, that Gen'Xers rightly preceive that humans have a very works-centered vocation AND that quite honestly people my age call it how they see it when it comes to good and bad - charity, witness, lifestyle, etc. count for more than "theology", and why it's demeaning to both Man and subsequently God - being man's creator - to assume that our works are irrelevant.)

Part III - A little synthesis

11. What "faith" is and why our contemporary world, more than ever, shows that it needs to be none other than exactly that.

12. "Who Created all things, both visible and invisible" - Toward a more organic, both/and way of understanding the miraculous and mundane, the physical and the spiritual, and generally the ongoing and always existent interaction between the physical and spiritual realms. Going to concentrate largely on the idea of SEEING and INTERPRETING as the key differences between a faithful and agnostic brain, rather than the acceptance or denial of evidence as it stands).

13. Rewinding the DVD for currently Viewing (Ancient understandings of textual/spiritual "Truth". A general pondering on how something is spiritually "true" without necessarily having to correspond to physical "fact". the usefulness of allegory in reading and a life of faith. Try to introduce the concept by the beauty of medeaval religious art and architecture... perhaps include Schneider's joke about the puritan preacher who goes to Rome).

14. Christians Gone Wild (The radical faith necessary for Christianity to be a worthwhile product in the modern world. Centering on "zeal").

15. "Doing the Business" and the Kingship of God (slaves of God. Harkening to His Torah and doing His Will).

Epilogue: Living in Images and Metaphors

Proposition #2: On The Abuse of Christian Words and Concepts
This one is a little bit more of a manifesto. It has to do more with crappy conceptions of what Christians say and mean, and also it has to do with some stupid platitudes that we need a new view on. It's in 2 sections: Words & Conceptions and Anti-Pious Platitudes. Here I'm REALLY trying for the popular appeal, but with a little theological justification. I'm ultimately wanting to engage the reader and challenge the pre-conceptions of what Christians should mean by these words and how we should allow and disallow others to see them. This is also a bit for agnostics who are confused as hell (and rightly so).

Abused Words and Conceptions:

1. Love
2. Faith
3. Belief and Believing In
4. Salvation, aka. "Saved"
5. Family Values
6. The authority of The Bible
7. Angels and Demons - the Spiritual Warfare
8. Tolerance

Anti-pious Platitudes:

9. "The religion of Peace"
10. The Crusades
11. "Religious Cause Wars"
12. Separation of Church and State (with some Kudos for Barak Obama)
13. Being "Open-Minded"

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Well I finally put my reffing license to use today. It was a 12 year old boys double-header. A friendly between two classics teams, one more-or-less local and the other from Tulsa. I called two offsides and one foul. the foul led to a direct kick and a goal. Other than that pretty uneventful... at least on the pitch.

The Tulsa parents were the biggest group of whiners known to man. It's actually funny to see these fat middle-aged parents get worked up about a meaningless 12-year-old soccer game. What's even more humerous are the accusations leveled at the referees. And of course the fatter and more unathletic the parent, the more they're living vicariously through their more athletic child, and consequently the more unbearably ignorant and loud they are. After all, if the kid "fails", then your offspring are possibly just as much an evolutionarily dead end as you are - and that's always hurt the pride to know.

After the game one of our other refs was going to tell a player from the Tulsa team that they had in fact been fouled, but that he'd called a play on because they had advantage. Instead, he heads over there and a parent (by which I mean a fat...loud...unathletic parent) barks "hey ref get away from our players! Haven't you screwed up enough already?" Then he points to me "And how many offsides calls was he going to miss? And they were clearly offsides!"

Now of course even in ref mode I'm not exactly non-confrontational. So I said sarcastically "Oh, clearly offsides, for sure." And he replies "Yeah clearly!" So I upped the ante - "Yes, oh yes, CLEARLY!" Then, so that we didn't continue this senseless dialogue I put it in perspective for him: "Now shut up." One of the other refs added "get a life". He was right. I had shown very clearly that I was new to this reffing business. Not only had I missed "get a life", but I'd also completely forgotten "and stop living vicariously through your kid."

Although "Now shut up, pipe down, get a life, and stop trying to live through your kid" is going to be practiced again and again until it's all but a liturgical rubric, I feel that I need to add some personal spice to it. But I can't fit it in so well yet. I guess I still need more practice at reffing. Somehow I want to convey to the parents both their pathetically unathletic and consequently unthreatening physique, but it's difficult. If I add "Aren't there some hot dogs you should be eating" I risk not only having to forfeit my new beraiting line, but if I say it after my line the most important part, ie. "shut up" might be lost in the larger barrage of insults. I need to pear it down somehow. Perhaps a little Wayne's World for insiders-only. Yunno, "fatstupidsaywhat?" But then I lose the satisfaction of the parent realizing how little I respect them and how much I'd love for them to try and physically confront me about it.

There's just so many hard choices...I need practice.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

"To Dork", It's not just for nouns anymore

Dork: A stupid, inept, or foolish person.

"To Dork", or "Dorking": Tommorrow, 110 inch screen. One full season of Battlestar Galactica, just myself and a friend, eating ethnic food, drinking some good beer, sitting with feet up on a tall foot rest... for nine straight hours.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A little less sure

Rewind the tape 12 years. I'm back in 8th grade. Doobs and Paul and I, new friends at the time, are hanging out at BJ's house, probably playing Dungeons and Dragons, doddling around on Warlords II. I click my armies to advance on BJ's lands. Not wanting to let me sack and possibly raze a production center so early in the conflict, BJ moves a stack out to meet me. My pikemen and his cavalry backed up by a dragon lock horms in the first battle of our war of conquest on the map 'Hadesha'. Although I demolish his cavalry, in the end it is the dragon who remains standing over the valley, but reinforcements are already pouring in from Lord Ebon's land (me), and my best champion Grimvold has a fully stacked legion of griffons and War Wolves under his command, loaded with the standards and items plundered from previous champions who Paul and Doobs and Rob had sent against me before being smashed by the mailed fisted hand of Grimvold. Coming down from the north out of the sky castles surrounded by a host of Archons from a previous quest and some Pegasi gathered from BJ's fine northern realm is BJ's most skilled warrior, Peligrin the Bold.

Taking a break from the computer, we return to Dungeons and Dragons. Our adventures take the party into the forgotten city of Janaguar. Tales of adventure, maidens, stygian spells and lusty curses come crashing down like waves on the rocky beaches of the solid party of adventurers. Rhine and Turin slay while Cloden 'boldly' picks pockets and Durz weaves his arcane arts. The next wave of the perverse race of Janaguarese rushes headlong, minds bent with rage and emboldened by the potential extinction of their race of undead. Abi Taleb, the warrior monk notches an arrow in his leather-backed bow and raises it to fire. Durz's hands flash with blue fire, awaiting the time for him to unleash the unholy energy on those denizens of the dark who set upon them - then it's time to leave.

We've been up fifteen hours warlording and role-playing. Now it's time for football practice for BJ and I. We have to prepare for our own turn to don the pads and do battle with the enemies of the realm...

But that was twelve years ago. I hadn't talked to BJ much for the past decade. He'd fallen in with the wrong crowd later in HS and we took different paths. Now all the rest of us have moved on, but not BJ. He's moved back. Busted physically and mentally from a combination of bad genetics and bad choices in life, he finds himself physcially frail, suffering from permanent short-term memory loss, dad has left for greener pastures, mounting medical bills he cannot pay, pills to the ceiling, ten or more diarreah attacks daily, a child from a woman he's not married to, a sister who's not doing much, a brother who's not doing much,a life-threatening illness, and a near-dead bedridden mother.

The old house is where it used to be, but it's a shell of its old self. Dirty almost to the point of putrid inside, the outside is barren and unkept, made all the worse by the tidy suburban neighborhood of which it was once one of the brighter points. It's all the little things that aren't quite right. No dishes washed, no grass cut, things pasted on the windows, no beds fully sheeted, much less fully made, things strewn haphazardly here and there, the young sister and her husband and one other guy all smoking outside, the mom of BJ's child who lives in the ghetto comes by briefly, not realizing that he's already dutifully taken the kid to her place across town.

It's White Trash USA right?

That would be the assumption, and it would be correct. But there's more here. Something else has changed; the Darkness has not overcome it.

BJ has changed. Despite the once bright and witty kid being mentally just shy of handicapped and physically well past that point... despite having to work bad hours at an even worse job... despite having to take care of a dying mother while still suffering the after-shocks of a stroke himself... despite having few friends and basically no good ones... despite the pills and the bowels and the immature mother of his child's antics... BJ has become Christ-like.

No I mean it. Once prouder than me, a decade of being leveled has finally fallen on him all at once, and for now he survives, pride annihilated. The one who was once sarcastic and cocksure is now concerned and heartbroken. He loves the mother of his child despite everything she does to him. He breaks himself, humiliates himself, and finally forgets himself so that those around him can have a life. When his younger brother returned from a full year of college with only 7 credit hours to his name, BJ slapped him upside the head and told him matter of factly "HEY! What the hell are you doing!? You want to end up like me in a few years? Get your act together!"

We can no longer speak as equals. The life experiences are too different. We stand on different grounds now, with different expectations and realities. We're no longer the same age, although we used to be...

But we are friends. I get the suspicion that we always will be. The old memories don't dim. Something happened in those times back then. There was a bond made that not even death will separate until it takes all of us. It's comforting in a way, to know that after a decade I can still be casually invited into the room to talk about life. I'm still a confidant, though I've done nothing to earn it in years. To my shame, I simply forgot about him. Chalked him up as a lost cause and a model of who not to be.

But he understands unconditional love even for a woman who mistreats him in every way, I have The List. He loves his child, his bro and sis, and his dying parent more than himself, my love has yet to be purified and tested in the crucible of pain. He can work a twelve hour job days on end hoping only for a .55 pay raise if he gets a perfect report so that he can keep his insurance and alleviate some of the burden from others. I have a hard time making myself sit down for a couple of hours to press out some GRE, keeping in mind that it holds a major part of the key to some serious advancement in prestige and economics. He can humble himself to use himself as an example to his younger sibling on how not to behave, I tend to either exemplify myself of self-conciously play down my own weaknesses, never wanting to appear less than Superman to the girls.

And he would never hesitate to invite me in and praise me in public. I can barely swallow my pride and call him "friend". And i'm ashamed of that fact the most.

Now i'm a little less sure of the world than I was a few hours ago, before I decided to drop by an old friends house and see what he was up to.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


Do you ever feel like you're just far too sane to live in the world with any illusion of normalicy? My sanity is being held against me I'm afraid. Sigh.

I'm back

back from Europe