Jul 31, 2014

Of course, many Protestant conversions to Catholicism are themselves protestant conversions. On one occasion when I was tempted to convert to Catholicism, I did so because I was angry at the silliness of activities like puppet-and-clown Eucharists. A friend and pastor asked me to wait one year to make sure that I was not converting because of what I was protesting against. Wouldn’t such a conversion be one more act of protest? It was good Ignatian counsel. I waited the year and then went through spiritual direction with a Jesuit to discern whether I should convert. He did not think I was ready.

How thorough is a Protestant conversion to Catholicism if the convert harbors an animus toward Protestantism that violates Roman Catholic teaching? In my 2005 essay I quoted the Catholic catechism to remind Protestants that the Roman Catholic Church does not consider Protestants to be heretics, apostates, or non-Christians: “I would not deny that Protestants already share to an extent in the Catholic unity. In fact, this is the official teaching of the Catholic Church itself. Its catechism states that ‘one cannot charge with the sin of separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers.’ Those of us who came to love God through these separated communions are correct to declare our faith in the ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.’” So even on Catholic grounds, I am not considered as a Protestant to be protesting against the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

D. Stephen Long, “My church loyalties: Why I am not yet a Catholic”
Jul 30, 2014

Lillian is a tonic. She understands, for instance, that the phenomenal popularity of “Celtic” services being held for all comers, with open communion for the unbaptized, is not going to strengthen the faltering churches. Her voice is valuable and much needed. She does not, however, seem particularly interested in The Great Tradition (aka generous orthodoxy) of the church, but rather, in what the church asks of its people — and more power to her on that. Doctrine, however, still lies at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. As soon as one becomes unmoored from the Great Tradition of biblical interpretation and Christian doctrine, there are unnumbered, treacherous currents, tides, and rocks to get lost in or run aground on. Moving away from the church (with all its all-too-obvious defects) means exchanging one flawed organism for another — oneself. Pelagius was a Christian, a very serious one, but the teaching that Augustine was dead set against was his tendency to substitute human agency for divine agency.

In the end, it’s about God. Who is God, and what difference does that make? There are a number of dangers in the Pelagian route, but perhaps the primary route out of biblical faith is the redefining of the identity and nature of God. It is simply tragic that the issue defining the various parties in the church today is same-sex unions. The passions surrounding this debate have almost entirely obscured the all-important questions of Christology and the role of Scripture in an age when an unprecedented number of books and media messages are bent on undermining the church’s ancient confession that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Fleming Rutledge
Jul 29, 2014

Suffering in these self-made spiritualities is something we can overcome by hard work, exercise and reading the op-ed page. But worldwide disaster—how do you wrestle with that?

Here’s how one man wrestled with it. Realizing that his pastor was desperately in need of reeducation, he explained how his own son had bowled him over with a great insight. He said: “Listen to what my son wrote: ‘Children are starving with empty bellies in faraway lands. They have nothing to eat. All around them they hear the sounds of gunfire and bombs going off. And it made me realize that we are so lucky. We are so lucky to be living here and not there.’”

"I had tears in my eyes when he said that," the parent went on to say. "I was blown away and I realized that he gets it, he really gets it. It was gratitude. That’s our religion—gratitude. And at that moment, when he recognized all that suffering and how fortunate he was, I could not have been prouder."

Never been prouder? Really? I can see being proud that your kid watches the news and understands that he has privileges many other people do not. I can see being a little relieved that he knows that not everyone goes to bed with a full stomach and that he can at least imagine the fact that war causes enormous pain. But the punch line of this religion of gratitude is this: “We’re so lucky that we live here instead of there.” Really? That’s it?

What’s missing from that worldview—and this is no fault of the teenager—is something you might get in a Christian community, a perspective that would take you from feeling lucky for not being hungry to actually doing something to feed a hungry person. This dad was happy to stop with the self-made religion of gratitude, like a person who fills up on the deep-fried appetizers and doesn’t order anything else from the menu. He may not feel hungry for dinner now, but that snack will not sustain him.

Lillian Daniel, “You can’t make this up: The limits of self-made religion”. Read the rest!
Jul 29, 2014

Stratford Caldecott, Catholic author and publisher, who died last week, is to be buried alongside his literary hero, J.R.R. Tolkien.

Earlier this month, before his family met the undertaker, the relative of someone buried in Oxford’s Wolvercote Cemetery allegedly attacked a tree on the edge of the Tolkien plot because it encroached on their land. The tree was uprooted, leaving behind a vacant double plot in an oversubscribed cemetery.

Tolkien’s writing inspired Caldecott’s conversion to Christianity.

The Tablet - News (via David Mills)
Jul 28, 2014

Spouses shouldn’t wind up completely sated by a relationship, able to retreat from the rest of the world. Married people, just like singles, have some needs that are best met by a friend or by a neighbor or by family. Our mutual, unsated needs draw us together in service to each other.

Few partners will be in danger of making a complete retreat, utterly emotionally self-sufficient as a dyad, but aiming at this goal is as destructive as achieving it. Spouses in this situation are likely to sell their friendships short, failing to rely on them, as the theatre-going wife does.

If the friends of these marital perfectionists are rarely given the chance to excel, their spouses are only ever given the chance to fail. Expecting a romantic partner to be fully satisfactory doesn’t just damage existing marriages, it can preempt them. A person who assumes that their spouse should fit seamlessly into his or her life may pass up several good partners while waiting for the perfect one.

In the meantime, they’ll be missing out on the best part of marriage—the presence of a partner in the ongoing project of becoming better versions of yourself. The spouse you pick shouldn’t be the one who makes you happiest, but the one who makes you more kind, prudent, and generous, and whom you can give the same gift. You join to grow, not to accommodate the desires of your present self.

“You complete me,” remains a trite and unhealthy declaration, whether you say it to one lover or a full set.

Leah Libresco
Jul 28, 2014
The teachers of the Church provide the members of the Church with a model for their own thinking. The teacher of the Church does not just teach others what to believe, but also how to believe, and the process by which one arrives at a theological position. This is one reason why it is crucial that teachers ‘show their working’ on a regular basis. When teaching from a biblical text, for instance, the teacher isn’t just teaching the meaning of that particular text, but how Scripture should be approached and interpreted more generally. An essential part of the teaching that the members of any church need is that of dealing with opposing viewpoints. One way or another, every church provides such teaching. However, the lesson conveyed in all too many churches is that opposing voices are to be dismissed, ignored, or ‘answered’ with a reactive reassertion of the dogmatic line, rather than a reasoned response.
The Loss of Pastoral Credibility in the Age of the Internet
Jul 28, 2014

For most of our adult lives, Rebecca and I lived in houses full of roommates and loved it. Before our most recent move, we rented a rambling five-bedroom house with four friends. When we started talking about getting married, we realized our biggest fear was that we’d leave these important kinds of friendships behind and end up living in what she jokingly called a “love/torture cave of nuclear family loneliness.” Neither of us wanted that.

It turned out two of our closest friends (Rebecca and one member of that couple had gone to college together) felt similarly and we decided to do something different and move in all together. At the time we didn’t know anyone else who had done such a thing, though later we discovered a friend of a friend living in another co-op house less than a mile away, and she has helped us figure this out. We found a house we liked and made an offer. A couple days after we closed, before we’d even painted the walls and moved in, they found out they were expecting.

…Yes, all four of us are on the deed and, yes, we share the 30-year mortgage and food and maintenance expenses. No, there’s no division of the house into separate sections. And no, all four of us are not all having sex with each other. (Why do many people assume that if adults are willing to share a kitchen, they probably also want to share a bed?) We are just two couples who plan to live together and raise children in one household, hopefully for decades.

…While most people take for granted that dual-parent households usually have more resources to deal with life’s challenges than single parents, why stop there? By forming a household with friends who share our values, we realized we could build an even stronger system of support than we would have in separate homes. The model is not even new; it’s an echo of raising children with the support of an extended family, but with less drama, I expect.

Two Couples, One Mortgage. Via Leah Libresco — whose other related links and comments you should read!
Jul 26, 2014
Jul 24, 2014
Jul 21, 2014
The takeaway message is this: no one needs churches to be nice or tasteful. If churches have a future, it’s in addressing our existential darkness: sin and death. Progressive politics is important, but it doesn’t do any deep religious work. And liberals in the church will have to rediscover this after we have won our culture wars. What other religion has such a dark image at its centre? And yet my own brand of liberal Christianity too often seeks salvation through a few gentle verses of All Things Bright and Beautiful or lots of self-important dressing up and wandering around in fancy churches. Devoted atheists are never going to be persuaded by a theology of the cross. But no one whatsoever is going to be persuaded by a theology of nice.
Giles Fraser, “In Sweden, human darkness is confronted by the arts not the church” (via Eve Tushnet)
Jul 21, 2014

No wonder people hate Burning Man, I thought, when I pictured it as a cynic might: rich people on vacation breaking rules that everyone else would be made to suffer for not obeying. Many of these people would go back to their lives and back to work on the great farces of our age. They wouldn’t argue for the decriminalisation of the drugs they had used; they wouldn’t want anyone to know about their time in the orgy dome. That they had cheered at the funeral pyre of a Facebook ‘like’ wouldn’t play well on Tuesday in the cafeteria at Facebook. The people who accumulated the surplus value of the world’s photographs, ‘life events’ and ex-boyfriend obsessions were now celebrating their freedom from the web they’d entangled all of us in, the freedom to exist without the internet. Plus all this crap – the polyester fur legwarmers and plastic water bottles and disposable batteries – this garbage made from harvested hydrocarbons that will never disappear.

To protest against these things in everyday life carried a huge social cost – one that only people like Jean were grimly willing to bear – and maybe that’s what the old burners disliked about the new ones: the new ones upheld the idea of autonomous zones. The $400 ticket price was as much about the right to leave what happened at the festival behind as it was to enter in the first place. Still, I’d been able to do things here that I’d wanted to do for a long time, that I never could have done at home. And if this place felt right, if it had expanded so much over the years because to so many people it felt like ‘home’, it had something to do with the inadequacy of the old ways that governed our lives in our real homes, where we felt lonely, isolated and unable to form the connections we wanted.

the conclusion of Emily Witt’s essay about attending the Burning Man event
Jul 21, 2014

Put it this way: as every cat-person knows, each cat is a unique individual, different from every other cat. But it is unique because of what it has received from nature, from its genetic make-up and from what has happened to it during its life. When a cat dies, this unique life is no more; this is of course sad, but nature has simply taken back what it has given. I can grieve for the death of a cat, but with the death of a friend there is something much more, something of a different kind; we have an instinct that finds the death of a friend somehow unfair, outrageous, and I think we are right to trust this instinct. For my friend is a unique irreplaceable person not just because of what she has received from nature but because of what she herself has made of herself by her own free decisions, by the spontaneous love she had, by her failings, by all the things that we could praise or blame her for. Unlike the cat, my friend was in part responsible for herself; in a way she created the kind of person she was; she was not just made, she also made herself. She belonged to herself, she was not just a part of nature. And now, in the natural course of things, the lifetime of a body has come to an end; but nature, in claiming back her own, has also taken away the unique personality of that body — which nature did not give.

There are people who will pretend to see death as quite natural, as natural as birth; but I think they should look again. Human life, unlike other life, is more than a simple cycle of birth, growth, maturity, decline and death; during and within this cycle there is a story, there is the development of a person which is not a cycle but a continuing story that is arbitrarily cut off by death.

Herbert McCabe
Jul 21, 2014

My favorite place to read is in a dark bar mid-day. Although I can read almost anywhere, we’re each allowed our preferences and mine is so. Coffee shops feel pretentious, the gym is freaking weird. Libraries are fine but there’s so much candy and I can’t handle it all calling my name. The last thing I read was The Conversations by Cesar Aira, and I devoured it in this quaint little dive up the road from my house. Aira’s stuff is super meandering and detailed and it requires all of my senses working in unison; the bar is always close to empty when I go, so it’s everything I need.

Bars, especially the ones I read in, are gifts. They’re warm and brooding, and if you go early enough, it can be just you, a bartender, and enough open space to react to plot twists without judgment. All that’s happening is the cleaning and the setting up shop for the lunch crowd. And so I’ll sit with a book. Sometimes I’ll even stand a while, which I did through part of the closing section of Wise Blood.

Juan Vidal, “A Shot And A Book: How To Read In Bars”
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My name is Wesley Hill. I am an assistant professor of New Testament at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania.

This is my commonplace book and sometime-journal.

I blog at SpiritualFriendship.org.

My book is here: Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality.

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