28 April 2007

Tridentine Mass, Minnesota's Religious Diversity, Satan in Utah, and D.F. Strauss

The BBC has an article about Benedict's bringing back the Tridentine Mass.

PBS's Religion & Ethics Newsweekly has a transcript of a discussion of Minnesota's religious diversity.

A Utah republican claims that Satan is behind illegal immigration:
Larsen, who did not return a phone call or an e-mail seeking comment Thursday, is urging the closing of national borders to illegal immigrants to “prevent the destruction of the U.S. by stealth invasion.”

“In order for Satan to establish his ‘New World Order’ and destroy the freedom of all people as predicted in the Scriptures, he must first destroy the U.S.,” his resolution states. “The mostly quiet and unspectacular invasion of illegal immigrants does not focus the attention of the nations the way open warfare does, but is all the more insidious for its stealth and innocuousness.”


“Everyone can have whatever beliefs they want to have,” Murillo said. “In the state of Utah, we’re grateful that the vast majority of people do not embrace these ideas.”

Satan has popped up in Utah County politics before. Last year, failed congressional candidate John Jacob of Eagle Mountain blamed the devil for his flagging campaign.

I find this ironic given that the Mormons of old immigrated West in search of a better life.

Brant Pitre has an article entitled "Strauss and the Credibility of Alternative Theories to the Resurrection." (D.F. Strauss's controversial and influential Life of Jesus here.)

27 April 2007

Peter Berger on "Religion in a Globalizing World"

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has an interesting transcript of Peter Berger talking about pluralism and the place/role of religion in the modern world at a recent Pew event.

24 April 2007

The "Teenage Holy War"

The Revealer has an absolutely terrifying look at BattleCry, a militant and cultish Fundamentalist army comprised almost entirely of t(w)eens.

The story deserves extensive quotation in lieu of actual reading:

"When you enlist in the military, there's a code of honor," [Ron] Luce [the BattleCry leader] preaches, "same as being a follower of Christ." His Christian code requires a "wartime mentality": a "survival orientation" and a readiness to face "real enemies." The queers and communists, feminists and Muslims, to be sure, but also the entire American cultural apparatus of marketing and merchandising, the "techno-terrorists" of mass media, doing to the morality of a generation what Osama bin Laden did to the Twin Towers. "Just as the events of September 11th, 2001, permanently changed our perspective on the world," Luce writes, "so we ought to be awakened to the alarming influence of today's culture terrorists. They are wealthy, they are smart, and they are real."


On the second day, when the time comes for even the youngest to enlist in Luce's army, I find myself sitting on the main floor of the arena next to a couple of twelve-year-olds, Hanneh and Mallory. Hanneh has straight blond hair; Mallory's a redhead with curls. Mallory wants to borrow my pen. "I have to write a message to MTV," she says. She hunches over in her seat, her hair hiding her hand as she scratches it out. "Dear MTV," she reads aloud, "leave those kids alone!"

Then she adds a kicker: "Repent." I ask her what she means. She giggles as if I'm teasing her. "Ron Luce said so!"


The Cleveland event, Acquire the Fire, only one stop in what is becoming Luce's permanently touring roadshow, is not meant to save souls -- most of the kids say they accepted Jesus when they were four or five -- but to radicalize them.


"This is a real war," Luce preaches. When he talks like that, he growls. "This is not a metaphor!" In Cleveland, he intercuts his sermons with videos of suicide bombers and marching Christian teens.


Luce equates 9/11 with Columbine, and both to the scourge of secular media. “Like the one kiss between Madonna and Brittney that went boom! The whole country took a step down. And they play it again, and again, and again, so you’ve got twelve-fourteen-year-old girls thinking, ‘Oh, it’s OK.’ And nobody seems to care.”


Luce absorbs influences without reflection and repackages them as hip and Christian without concern for allusion. The BattleCry aesthetic, for instance, looks as if it were stolen from Stalin's archives, a triangular red flag as its banner and set-jawed kids in silhouette as the new comrades - "trenchmates," in the BattleCry vernacular. Rittenhouse insists it never occurred to him or Luce that they were appropriating the ethos of the Evil Empire. "We just wanted a branding experience," he told me. "Red's a color that's in right now..."

Luce ends his rallies with an illustration from the Book of Judges: the story of a man who, after he gives over his concubine to be gang-raped, kills the disgraced woman and cuts her into twelve pieces, then sends one to each of the tribes of Israel as a reminder of what happens to the ungodly. Foe a finale, Luce or one of his junior pastors dissects a mannequin labeled "with the sins of secularism and then - to the cheer "Cut up the concubine!" -- sends his assistants into the crowd to distribute the pieces.


The Honor Academy is a polished campus of new brick buildings growing out of the red dirt of an east Texas compound....There's also what they call the "Back 40," several hundred acres on which stand more primitive structures, retreats for toughening up the kids, and a Quonset-hut officer's club for those who stay to become employees or permanent volunteers, forgoing college or earning mail-order degrees from Jerry Falwell's Liberty University.

Students, called interns, come for a year or more between high school and college. "It's a bubble," one girl says, a safe haven in which to purify before battle. Once accepted, interns pledge to uphold the Academy's tenets. They must promise not only to never criticize the Academy, but also to never allow any aspect of Luce's ministry to be "portrayed in a negative light."


Intern days begin as early as 4:45 A.M. with an hour of group exercise on the court near the Academy’s swimming pool. Mornings are for classes: There's "Character Development," which focuses on "obedience" and "purity," and the "World View Module," in which one learns to see current events around the world through the lens of obedience and purity.

Further reinforcement comes from the Academy's required "Life Transforming Events," the most grueling of which is ESOAL (Emotionally Stretching Opportunity of a Lifetime). Luce was reluctant to share details about the "Opportunity," a fifty-to-ninety-hour sleep-deprived endurance test, but a short video of the 2005 ESOAL provides revealing glimpses: students weeping and dragging giant wooden crosses on their shoulders; a boy rolling and puking across a field while a senior intern "sergeant" in camouflage and a helmet urges him on; a platoon of weeping girls; a shell-shocked boy mumbling into the camera, "Don't know what time it is…. Don’t know what matters…. Don't even necessarily know who I can trust."


Chuck Colson, the former Watergate felon who has since become the most politically connected fundamentalist in Washington, created a curriculum for Luce called "Rewired," featuring a series of Matrix-like videos suggesting that ideas such as creationism are powerful, dangerous secrets hidden by media elites, who code evolutionary propaganda into movies such as Predator and the Alien series.


The moral of the story is that obedience to God matters more than education. Contreras speaks of "generational curses" for those who do not obey - the idea that one must pay for the sins of one's fathers, a notion rejected even by most fundamentalists...


Such lessons, however, are secondary to the grunt work of building the BattieCry brand. Interns must log at least thirty-one hours a week working for the cause.


Everyone at the Honor Academy has a favorite Scripture verse to keep them pure and holy (some of the boys abbreviate them in ink across their knuckles), but the Bible story I heard cited most often was that of Abraham and his only son, Isaac, whom God commanded Abraham to sacrifice. Abraham consents, but as he's about to drive in the knife, God stays his hand and lets Abraham know he was only testing him. Abraham passed, and for that, he got to be the patriarch of monotheism. "Awesome" is the word most used to describe Abraham's single-minded willingness to destroy that which was most dear to him.

Somehow I feel that these miniature fascists don't quite grasp the nuances of Kierkegaard's Knight of Faith.

Of course, there are those who oppose BattleCry.

Some BattleCry-related videos:

Limbo Reassessed

Limbo is no more.

Slate has a somewhat cheeky article on the occasion of Limbo's going-even-lower than a hypothesis to a mystery:

The Vatican announced on Friday the results of a papal investigation of the concept of limbo. Church doctrine now states that unbaptized babies can go to Heaven instead of getting stuck somewhere between heaven and hell. If limbo doesn't exist, what happened to everyone who was supposed to have been there already?


Though the Vatican has effectively done an about-face, it won't directly state that limbo never existed. Instead, it says that official church dogma never included the concept and that limbo remains a "possible theological hypothesis."

Several problems:

  1. Church "doctrine," says: "As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God..." (CCC, No. 1261). It is difficult to have a doctrine based on mystery.
  2. The reason that the Vatican "won't directly state that limbo never existed" might be because it never asserted limbo's existence in the first place.

Catholic News Service has a better article:
In a document published April 20, the commission said the traditional concept of limbo -- as a place where unbaptized infants spend eternity but without communion with God -- seemed to reflect an "unduly restrictive view of salvation."


"Our conclusion is that the many factors that we have considered ... give serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptized infants who die will be saved and enjoy the beatific vision," the document said.


Limbo has never been defined as church dogma and is not mentioned in the current Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states simply that unbaptized infants are entrusted to God's mercy.


The document traced the development of church thinking about the fate of unbaptized children, noting that there is "no explicit answer" from Scripture or tradition.


The document said the church clearly teaches that people are born into a state of sinfulness -- original sin -- which requires an act of redemptive grace to be washed away.

But Scripture also proclaims the "superabundance" of grace over sin, it said. That seems to be missing in the idea of limbo, which identifies more with Adam's sinfulness than with Christ's redemption, it said.

23 April 2007

Roundup: Egan, Mormonism, Priest Abuse, Evolution, etc.

The New York Times has a piece on Cardinal Edward Egan of New York. The article appears upon the Cardinal's 75th birthday.

Commonweal has an article about the ethics of SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests):
In November of last year, the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, released the names of twenty former priests about whom the diocese found “credible or substantial complaints of sexual abuse of minors.” Most of the twenty are dead. Edward M. Dudzinski, however, was still living-although he had not served as a priest since the 1980s-and resided in Herndon, Virginia.

When local members of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) discovered Dudzinski’s location, they went door-to-door in his neighborhood distributing a file of documents with the title “Community Notification: Protect your children from a credibly accused serial sex offender,” which they believed established Dudzinski’s identity as a sex offender. Dudzinski, however, has never been convicted of, or even charged with, a sexual-abuse crime.


SNAP’s public campaign to expose priests who have merely been accused-or sometimes cleared-of abuse has a vigilante air about it. In their eagerness to effect justice as they know it, SNAP may in fact be disrupting the rule of law.


To be sure, the bishops have brought these theatrics of vengeance on themselves. For an institution famous for its rituals and emphasis on repentance, the church has offered precious few rituals of penitence as a way of acknowledging its fault, recognizing the harm it has done, and seeking forgiveness both from God and those it has wronged.


It is not enough to say, however, that bishops, priests, and the church are finally getting what they deserve. The vengeance game is a dangerous one. When the original offense is terrible, we feel empowered to do terrible things in response. Blinded by our righteous rage and convinced of our moral superiority, we may do things we later regret.


It is very hard to criticize the survivors of clergy abuse and their advocates. The survivors were indeed victims, not just of the molesters, but of the bishops and officials who ignored and deceived them, who covered up the problem and enabled further abuse. They have had to struggle bitterly to get any recognition or compensation. But their innocence cannot justify everything that survivors and advocates choose to do.


Who, then, will pay? Not the molesters, not the long-dead or retired bishops and chancery officials who enabled them, and not even the superiors who are still in office. The bill will be paid by closing and selling off older, marginal parishes that can barely support themselves in the inner cities and poor rural areas. It will be paid by closing Catholic schools already stressed by the increasing cost of providing private education, particularly to the poor. As usual, the poor will pay, but they won’t be the only ones.

Rowan Williams' lecture "The Bible: Reading and Hearing" is available online.

Neuhaus and Phillips argue against the impending religious death of Europe in The Much Exaggerated Death of Europe over at First Things.

The National Catholic Register has a piece on Catholicism and Buddhism—specifically the absence of any need to "go East."

PBS Religion & Ethics Newsweekly has posted a transcript on Mormonism and the possibility of a Mormon president.

The Busybody drops the bomb on the Caesar-rendering issue.

The Tablet straightens out Benedict's relationship with evolution.

16 April 2007

Pentecostal Church Lures Latin Americans Away From Catholicism

Der Spiegel has another interesting article.

A singer in body-hugging black leather pants pumps up the audience with reggae rhythms. The young people tap their feet to the beat. Then the house lights dim, creating the perfect ambiance for a makeout session. Suddenly, the spotlights blaze on. The audience applauds and whistles, as if revving up for a rock concert. Beams of light converge on a short man in jeans: Pastor Rinaldo Pereira.

The 34-year-old preacher throws his arms in the air as he welcomes his congregation and steps behind his altar, a surfboard on trestles. Behind his back, a laptop projects saccharine images of mountain landscapes and sunsets onto the wall. "God wants to see you smile!" the minister bellows into the jammed hall. The towering loudspeakers next to the altar throb. "Jesus! Jesus!" the audience chants.


Rina was moved to establish a Protestant Pentecostal community by a "spiritual experience," he says. He held his first service in a surfing supply store for a group of friends. "My generation has a strong yearning for spirituality that the Catholic Church can't satisfy," he explains. "Religion was considered square. So we had to come up with something new."


The Catholic Church has been hit hardest. Hordes of believers from the world's largest Catholic country are defecting to the evangelicals. The archbishop of São Paulo, Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, estimates that the Catholic churches have lost one-third of their members over the past 40 years. Seven out of 10 former Catholics are seeking salvation in a Protestant community.

Roughly 18 percent of Brazilians belong to Protestant churches, and half of all believers in many major cities are now Protestants. "A holy war for people's souls is raging in Brazil," says Regina Novaes, an anthropologist and religious expert. "The Catholic Church has lost touch with the masses."

Whereas the Pentecostal churches -- "a tree with many branches" (Novaes) -- cultivate a direct relationship with God, the Catholics go through an intermediary, the priest. "The Catholics don't provide quick answers to people's needs. The Protestants are more dynamic," Novaes says.

Yaaar. I don't want Latin America to go Protestant!

15 April 2007

"The Real Ratzinger Revealed"

The Tablet has an article on the "real Ratzinger."

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also has an analysis on Benedict XVI.

On a similar note, Whispers has a piece on Benedict's predilection for publishing.

Also, Without Authority has a nice overview of Der Spiegel's article on Benedict and European secular intellectuals (part of the fantastic Power of Faith series).

PBS Report on Interfaith Youth Core

PBS's Religion & Ethics Newsweekly has a transcript and video of a report on Interfaith Youth Core, an organization working for dialogue and pluralism on U.S. college campuses.

Hispanic Immigrant Secularization

The New York Times has an interesting article about the secularization of Hispanic immigrants. Back home in California, I often wondered what the effects of secularization and Protestantization had on Hispanic immigrant populations. Did the Catholics resent the Protestants who had left the Catholic Church upon their arrival in the United States? Or did the Protestants convert before immigration? How did the role of Catholicism in Hispanic identity change once in America?

11 April 2007

Metal is a Force that Gives Us Meaning

There seems to be no ultimate basis for any truth-claims whatsoever. A pervasive sense of existential ennui abounds. What to do? It seems like the only answer is Metal. Without reason, truth, and the like, beliefs hold no truck, leaving us with only emotion and aesthetics. And nothing fills me with a sense of nobility, honor, greatness than true Metal.

The Guardian asks, "Why should I care?":
* Because your pocket money will be withheld next week until you show some respect, young man/woman!

Margaret Toale, Co Meath, Ireland

* Because you matter.

Howard, Whitefield, England

* Why not?

Dave, Sutton

* I can't be bothered to tell you.

J Quinn, Godalming UK

* Before asking why you *should* care, perhaps it would be worth thinking about the fact that you *do* care. Human beings are emotional and moral beings - we simply aren't capable of observing other people's behaviour without reacting emotionally and morally (though not always rightly!) to it. Because we are good at thinking, we can learn to override our initial emotional reactions and behave as detached, scientific observers in certain circumstances. But this requires an effort, even if we don't recognise it as such.We care about other people because we can't help it. When we cease to care altogether, we cease to function as humans. The important question, then, is how we live with caring about other people, given how painful and demanding that is.

Eleanor Toye, Cambridge, UK

* With regards to your question - why should we?

SR, Cambridge

* And if we do not care - then what are we doing? I suppose we are living in a state of existential ennui, rather like that defeatist Sartre. Why bother its all hopeless anyway. The attitude denies the existence of God, which is rather like denying the existence of water - it is a magnificent denial, of course, but it is an utterly stupid one as well.

Eugene Silver, Los Angeles, USA

* If you don't, who will?

Rhiannon, Tredegar Wales

* In response to Mr Silver, summing up Sartre or the existential point of view as 'Why bother its all hopeless anyway' (you obviously don't bother with punctuation, I see) is as idiotic as summing up Christianity, Judaism and the many other religions as 'Why bother, God will look after us anyway'. I wouldn't distort your beliefs to support a trivial argument, regardless of how wrong I think you are, so please don't do it to mine.

Andrew Griffiths, Witham, Essex

* Talk about rhetorical...

Aidan Randle-Conde, Crewe, UK

* Because you voted Conserative

David Armitage, Portadown

* Eugene wotsit of wherever- how do you reach the conclusion that denying the existence of God is like denying the existence of water? I regularly see evidence- subjective evidence, admittedly- of water's existence, largely in the form of water. I have however never seen any evidence as to the existence of mermaids, for example. So with a certain degree of logic, I support water's claim to existence, while denying it to mermaids, judgemental though you might think me. I'm afraid God comes in the mermaid category, along with dragons, leprechauns and William Hague (surely no-one seriously believes- oh sorry, pointless political joke).

Tom Chivers, Oxford UK

* Because one day you might need someone to care about you and your situation.

Izzie Latham, Reading UK

* No man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. John Donne

Anon, London

* Because everyone else is doing it, so why can't I? You never know, this "caring" lark might catch on...

Simon, Birmingham England

* My own reason is that while it is far easier not to care, the rare times when caring and helping pay off you get far more back in return, and it is something you can never get any other way. Anytime you do something good, you should do it without expectation of reward -the world doesn't work like that- but for me at least, it is better than living with the fact that i could have helped and didn't.

d, London England

* If God doesn't exist, then it doesn't matter if you care or not, but if god does exist then you had better start caring.

Bob, Sotton UK

* I don't know but the dilemma is well illustrated in Joseph Heller's Catch 22. The lead character, Yossarian, is bemoaning the fact that he has to fight in the war. Yossarian "Why should I care?" Chaplain "What if everyone thought that way?" Yossarian "Then I'd certainly be a damned fool to feel any other way wouldn't I?"

DD, Cardiff, Wales

* Because you are Canadian, and it is your cultural heritage. It is not, however, your responsibility to actually DO anything, except perhaps to prevent OTHERS from doing something. This is also your cultural heritage.

Lorraine Murphy, Vancouver

* Because you have a brain. Millions of years of evolution have given you this information processing device designed singularly to increase your ability to reproduce. It forces you to care about where food and safety are, where warmth and comfort are, and where the opposite sex are. Existential ennui is a consequence of having all your base desires sated, yet your immature dreams of being a rock-star / astronaut thwarted. You should care because there's a lot of needless suffering in the world, and if you are rich enough to waste time on the internet then you are capable of changing things for the better.

Stuart Bray, Nottingham England

* An evolutionist would argue that you should only care if doing so leads to a greater probability that your genes will be replicated. Maybe in the survival of human beings in developed countries, in the immediate future is so assured, that even from a purely selfish point of view it is advisable to start thinking long-term. I for one fancy giving children's, children a chance. Surely this can only be achieved by caring.

Ilya Maclean, Edinburgh UK

* Why care? Not so hard to figure out why you should, a utilitarian approach works well on simple mass judgements like this. You care simply because it produces goodness for those whose lives are touched by your deeds, and this necessarily comes back to you. simple really.

Duncan James, Zurich Switzerland

* Because people who don't care are what is wrong with the world!

Jenna, Wales

* Actually, it doesn't matter a wit if you actually care or not - so long as you behave as if you do.

Robert Wright, Bristol UK

* Caring must come near top of the list of how we do things which help define us at our most empathetic, giving, tender, reflective and nurturing , something most often seen within the same species of the animal world, and something increasingly sacrificed by man at the altar of consumerism.

Alan, Zagreb, Croatia

* Because it's 500 free texts and 3000 minutes of free calls per month plus a new handset and a big mac with extra fries.

Steve, London

* No reason. You either care or you do not care. Nothing can tell you what you should do. If God asked himself "Why should I create the universe?" how could he answer it without referring to a greater power? It's the downside of free will. The ball's in our court.

Matt, Worcester UK

Nihilism is strange in that you may find that you (intellectually) really don't care about anything, but (emotionally) find yourself caring about a great deal. How to deal with this divorce between thought and feeling!?

Meanwhile, why not treat boredom and ennui as an aesthetic condition open to analysis—what better way to ward off boredom?!

Elizabeth Goodstein digs deep into the doldrums as she analyzes "the rhetoric of boredom."
...the word ["boredom"] suddenly appeared in the mid-19th century Oxford English Dictionary, sans source of derivation. Elsewhere in Europe, words used to describe discontent began to grow more similar. For example, Goodstein says, the strictly existential ennui of Baudelaire’s France began to carry the more quotidian connotations of the German langeweile—and vice versa.

“What you see is a new way of talking about subjective experience taking form,” Goodstein says. “And boredom is at the heart of that.”

"Ennui" appears in the seventeenth century, but boredom is only coined in the nineteenth. Does this indicate a banalization of ennui? Are we bored with boredom?
“Boredom has to do with a kind of distance from the world that you live in,” Goodstein says. “Alienation, estrangement—these are such a basic part of what it means to live in the modern world.” This isolation, she believes, stems from “a loss of traditional modes of thinking and feeling and doing things.” That’s why, she adds, boredom is “so important in the 19th century,” an era marked by social and technological change.

Kierkegaard, as far as I remember, only approached the aesthetics of boredom in his Diapsalmata but the subject is ripe for the plucking.

Why I Don't Leave My Door Open

Campus Crusade for Christ has an "eavesdropping on a spiritual conversation":

If her wedding ring didn't betray her, Melissa could pass for a resident in Regents residence hall, like Dani is. More than a year ago, she and her husband gave up their jobs to help college students understand how to have a relationship with Jesus as staff members with Campus Crusade for Christ.

Melissa and Dani find a cracked door and knock. A brunette opens it.

"Hi, I'm Melissa and this is my friend Dani," says the former kindergarten teacher. "We're getting people's opinions on spirituality."


Melissa's then boyfriend, and now her husband, Bobby, was asked a similar question by a Campus Crusade staff member when he was a junior at WSU. Soon after, he rededicated his life to Christ. Bobby explained this to Melissa, and she soon did the same. Then they both got involved in Campus Crusade.

Wow! What a break for Bobby that Melissa is so easily convinced!
Last week, when she and Dani initiated a spiritual conversation, a freshman named Allison who lives in the same dorm offered a similar answer. Melissa told her that Jesus offers the free gift of eternal life, and it is not because of what we do. During that conversation, Allison accepted Christ.

A free gift?! Oh great! There couldn't be any strings attached, could there?
Melissa tugs a blue booklet called Would You Like to Know God Personally? out of her bag. As they read through it, Melissa clarifies points and asks questions so Laura understands. The 28-year-old explains how everyone has earned separation from God, but that Jesus died to bridge this gulf.

At one point in the booklet Melissa asks Laura where she thought she stood with God.

"I don't have a relationship with Christ," she answers. Then she explains that one of her friends is Muslim and another is an atheist, so she doesn't like that people have to receive Jesus. "You just need faith in some form, as long as you don't harm others," Laura says. "No one can say there is one right way."

Melissa explains that truth is exclusive: Her blue shirt is blue, even if someone says it's red. Likewise, there is absolute truth, and Jesus is God's only provision for sin.

Are you serious? Let's just forget for a second how pathetic it is to pull out a tract instead of engaging in actual debate—claims to absolute truth require more than a chromatic metaphor.

The whole scenario is obviously fictitious (or so absurdly asinine that it is hard for me to take it at face value) but apparently this kind of shit actually happens.

A couple atheists and Campus Crusaders interview each other.

The evangelism toolbox.

Catholic vs. Protestant Heaven

Simpsons video clip of Catholic vs. Protestant Heaven.

Those Dirty-Minded Prelates

Whispers in the Loggia notes Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone's complaints that

"The church's messages are subject to a type of manipulation and falsification by some western media....I see a fixation by some journalists on moral topics, such as abortion and homosexual unions, which are certainly important issues but absolutely do not constitute the thinking and work of the church."

Some would beg to differ. Only recently, as far as I can tell, did the pope condemn the Iraq war and issues like poverty and nuclear disarmament are not commonly addressed by the Vatican. In contrast, birth control and abortion have been core issues of doctrine, dissent, and discourse since Paul VI's Humanae Vitae (1968).

It doesn't help Bertone's argument that Archbishop of Genoa Angelo Bagnasco recently compared "a bill that would grant rights to same-sex couples to allowing incest and paedophilia." Resulting public backlash, protesting graffiti, and (most of all) death threats convinced Italian police to provide the archbishop with bodyguards.

And Bertone wonders why so much attention is given in the media to the Church's stance on reproductive and sexual issues!

Spunky Televangelism

Two videos of spunky tele-evangelical upstarts with plenty of moxy.

B16 Roundup

The New Yorker has an article by Jane Kramer about Benedict and Islam which is quite interesting.

The New York Times also has a piece on B16, this article being a little more general.

Heavy Metal "a comfort for the bright child"

An article at the Telegraph tells us:

Intelligent teenagers often listen to heavy metal music to cope with the pressures associated with being talented, according to research.

The results of a study of more than 1,000 of the brightest five per cent of young people will come as relief to parents whose offspring, usually long-haired, are devotees of Iron Maiden, AC/DC and their musical descendants.

Researchers found that, far from being a sign of delinquency and poor academic ability, many adolescent "metalheads" are extremely bright and often use the music to help them deal with the stresses and strains of being gifted social outsiders.

For my own sake, I hope this also applies to 20-somethings.

10 April 2007

B16 Makes Stink over the War

Pope Benedict finally makes a stink about the war (as opposed to sexual issues and relativism).

06 April 2007

The NCR Addresses the Resurrection

In an article over at the National Catholic Register, Tim Drake takes to task those who want to verify the Resurrection with secular, historical methods:

“In the Catholic world, we trust in the authority of the Church,” he [Ray, an Evangelical convert] said. “Evangelicals are always looking for facts. If all you have is the book, you’re constantly trying to prove that the book is true. We believe when the Church told us that Christ rose from the dead, the Church is the voice of Christ in the world today, and we can trust it. It’s a whole different methodology because of what we see as our source of authority.”


“The fundamental conviction in a scientific age with our post-enlightenment views is that these things didn’t happen,” said [professor of theology Michael] Barber. “People have determined that any source that talks about resurrection is unreliable and rule it out. What kind of science is that? You don’t just dispense with evidence that you don’t like.

While Barber is to be commended for his "radical empiricism," science is hardly the tool to use when examining purported resurrections 2,000 years ago. If we want to scientifically examine a claim of resurrection in our own time, then that is a different story.

“In The Resurrection of the Son of God, Wright argues that the bodily resurrection of Jesus is the best historical explanation for what happened, given the evidence,” said [asst. prof. of theology Brant] Pitre. “Whenever others posit alternative scenarios, such as that the body was stolen or that people only saw his spirit, you have to discount all kinds of evidence from the Gospel. Those alternatives lack evidence to back them up.”

But what about the incredibly glaring absence of evidence for an occurrence of bodily resurrection not in the New Testament or Torah? How about from a modern text? Is it so outlandish to consider the possibility that a metaphor became fact? What about all the other supernatural claims in other texts? Do those not count because those aren't in the Bible--the unerring Book of Books which buys its incredible worth with the unbelievable property of being self-authenticating?

The strange thing about the article is that, ironically, in its eagerness to deny the necessity of proof for the "mystery" of the resurrection, it appeals smugly to the Church's authority and claim on tradition. If it is a mystery, why get involved in questions of its historical facticity? Because sacred tradition is contingent, in this case, on the Christ event being a historical fact. If it was merely a metaphor, than tradition would be superfluous in the presence of text.

Father Owen Kearns writes:
Easter is a day we commemorate a historical event — a fact, not a story or a wish. Christ rose from the dead, in Jerusalem, two millennia ago.

If Kearns wants to classify the resurrection as a historical event, he needs to subject the claim to historical methods. Faith in tradition and Scripture is not a historical method.