Category: Religion

How to Rebel Against the New Barbarism

We might be entering a new Middle Ages. The Middle Ages were a contest between the Catholic Church and barbarism. The Church won. That’s not what’s happening in the new Middle Ages. Here’s how to deal with the new barbarism.

Russian mystic and philosopher Nicholas Berdyaev (1874–1948) spoke about our world entering a new kind of Middle Ages.

Two elements battled for supremacy in the Middle Ages: barbarism and the Catholic Church. The Church won.

In the new Middle Ages, will the Chuch reassert itself . . . or will barbarism come back?

If barbarism, it will be much worse than the old barbarism. The post-modern barbarism will be, in the words of Berdyaev’s younger contemporary Henri de Lubac, “centralized, technically efficient and inhuman.”

De Lubac wrote those words in 1944. Since that time, it has become pretty clear that our world is reverting to barbarism, not the Church.

The Church has lost a lot of ground over the past 75 years, fighting waves of enemies from within and without, losing credibility with anyone who finds it unsettling for erstwhile celibates to sodomize emotionally vulnerable 14-year-olds, plus suffering the lowest of plights — getting kicked while down — as western institutions, from the New York Times to the universities to Hollywood, gleefully kick at the Body.

So, barbarism it is.

And it’s a “centralized, technically efficient and inhuman” one at that, as the … Read the rest

Is It Even Possible for a Church to Advertise Properly?

Is it even possible to use material bait to capture a spiritual fish?

Marlboro Man, meet Pastor Phil.

I wrote those words back in 2005 when I heard that the United Methodist Church will start a four-week, $4 million effort to market its church. John Wesley’s spiritual descendants said they were “turning to those who know how to sell cars, houses, and other commercial products.”

It was part of a trend that has only grown stronger over the past 15 years. Many churches have their own “marketing arms.”

I’m not sure I like it. It’s hard to pinpoint the reason, but it’s worth remembering the most common criticism of advertising today (after its saturation of public space): it’s more concerned with getting sales than imparting truth. Indeed, we know that some advertising gurus will distort the truth to get sales for their clients. If churches turn to ad agencies for whom such an approach is the norm, isn’t there a significant risk that the ads will be misleading or play off emotionalism and thereby be a discredit to institutions that claim to impart objective truth?

But forget that for the moment. I’m more curious about a potential branch problem of such advertising.

As advertising becomes acceptable to draw people to the pews, might advertising become acceptable once people are in the pews? Catholic Churches have advertised on the back of bulletins for years, with no … Read the rest

Frantically Trying to Fit in All the Spiritual Stuff?

I once told a spiritual adviser that I really liked a’Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ. He shook his head a bit and said he preferred to read Thomas Aquinas. He said he found the profound truths of, say, the Summa Theologica more moving spiritually than devotional works.

I tried it myself. I think he had a point.

But the point I really came away with?

To each their own.

_______________________

This new book by Vicki Burbach about spiritual reading reminded me of this. I’ve long been a fan of spiritual reading, but I’ve long struggled with what place to give it in my life.

Let’s face it: Catholic spirituality is wholly impractical. Here’s a list (not exhaustive) of things that priests or books have counseled me to do every day:

Spiritual reading

Scripture reading

Praying (adoration, repentance, thanksgiving, petition)

Mass

The Rosary

Meditation

The Morning Offering

The Examen

On top of those, there’s a host of other recommended things, though not necessary quotidian: Eucharistic Adoration, corporal acts of mercy, spiritual act of mercy, spiritual friendship, spiritual counseling, confession, lives of the saints, study of Church teachings, spiritual walking, etc. There is, of course, overlap in some of these things (e.g., lives of the saints might constitute spiritual reading), but still: Good luck fitting all that in a week, much less a day.

Quite frankly, the list of things to do can actually induce a … Read the rest

Why June 1 is a Great Day to Honor the Copts

Plus: Coptic Lemonade

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. 

Gospel of Matthew, Chp. 2

Our Christian brothers, the Copts, celebrate “The Entry of the Lord into Egypt” today.

It’s one of seven minor Coptic feasts that commemorate events in Christ’s life.

I’d think this one is especially special to them.


Copt, from the Arabic “Kibt,” which derives from the Greek word for “Egyptians.”

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (1998).

The Copts are one of the four or five Oriental Orthodox Churches: Syrian (which has two branches), Ethiopian, Armenian (of Kardashian fame), and Coptic. The term “Coptic” essentially means “Egyptian Christian.”

They come into history after 451, when the Council of Chalcedon condemned the Monophysite heresy (which, broadly speaking, rejected Christ’s two natures). The condemned Monophysites rejected the Council and continued their heretical stance.

Unfortunately, the Council was emotional, with shouting and temper and passions continued to ride high for years after the Council.

In 452, the main proponent of Monophysitism, Dioscorus, was deposed as the Patriarch … Read the rest

How to Think about the Cell Phone

Weapon of Self-Destruction or Tool of Self-Improvement:

The cell phone. Is it a great thing? A useful thing? An annoying thing? An addicting thing?

A ton of writers have condemned the cell phone on all sorts of grounds. They’re tired of rude talkers who use it in restaurants, parks, and churches, and they’re disgusted by the way cell phones seem to give people a sense of being: “I cell, therefore I am.”

At least one writer, though, decries all this decrying. Jeffrey Tucker, writing at the Ludwig von Mises Institute (http://www.mises.org/story/1849), cogently argued that it’s just more criticism of capitalism, of the Marxist sort. It’s an approach that’s been used repeatedly: Criticize a new technology as an extension of man’s alienation, pepper the essay with quotes from Nietzsche and Freud, and raise the specter of addiction. A few more such jeremiads and the psychiatric profession has a new mental illness to profit from, then maybe the government will get involved with funding.

Tucker also thinks it’s just fear of something new:

“Because our eyes see something new, something we haven’t been socialized to expect, and because the market is expanding and democratizing so rapidly, it creates the illusion of something having gone oddly wrong. Instead of seeking to understand it, the temptation is to reach into pop culture’s bag of ideological bromides and decry it as some sort of pathology.”

These are excellent points.… Read the rest

Federal Government Admits Catholicism is True

Well, not really, but indirectly, through PBS’ Flannery O’Connor documentary

I greatly enjoyed PBS documentary, American Masters: Flannery O’Connor, on PBS last night.

I thought the producers respected her intense Catholicism. I’m sure they could’ve found critics to say sacrilegious things like, “Her dark humor emanates from a religion based on a Jew who had a bad afternoon,” but they didn’t. Her Catholicism came up frequently but always as a fact, never as a jab.

There were two forays into her correspondence with a bisexual and a lesbian (couldn’t leave those things out), but I didn’t interpret either as an attempt to portray Flannery as a repressed lesbian, and I’m sure they could’ve found critics to say things like, “Her dark humor emanates from her nascent lesbianism birthed from her Catholicism,” but they didn’t.… Read the rest

I Found C.S. Lewis Reincarnate in a Flimsy Paperback My Parish was Giving Away Free

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

A few years ago, I stumbled across a video by some guy with an Australian accent. I listened for awhile and thought, “Man, this guy has a thorough grasp of what he’s talking about.” That guy, I learned later, was Matthew Kelly.

Whenever I pick up one of those flimsy Matthew Kelly paperback books that seem to proliferate and litter the back of churches, and read a few pages, I’m normally edified.

But I’ve never been a Matthew Kelly fan.

I guess I’ve never been able to get past the self-promotion, the pop “Dynamic Catholic!” trademark, those exclamation points, the relentless “be-the-best-version-of-yourself” admonition that sounds like it came from Tony Robbins.

To be honest, I have always kind of looked down my nose at his works, like they’re pablum.

I then picked up I Heard God Laugh. It was lying on our kitchen counter, stained and wrinkled because my wife just grabbed it while walking out of church one day and tossed it in the backseat of her minivan, to be ravaged by the exigencies of being a housewife.

I read a few pages and liked what I read.

It then hit me. “This guy is C.S. Lewis for the 21st-century Catholic.”… Read the rest

Rodriguez, Mother Teresa, and the Garden

Art, Charity, Simplicity, and Detachment

I frequently experience a soft yet unequivocal intuition that tells me gardening is a monastic-like pursuit.

Indeed, it’s even a bit stronger than that:  the intuition tells me that gardening is a holiness-like pursuit.

I don’t know where the intuition comes from. I’m not convinced the intuition is right, but the intuition strikes me for two reasons: it’s undeniably there, and the reasons it’s there are undeniably murky, at best.

That intuition first became conscious for me nine years ago over the same weekend when I watched the documentary Searching for Sugar Man and started reading Mother Teresa: A Simple Path. Neither has anything to do with gardening, but upon reflection, I concluded they have everything to do with gardening.

Rodriguez

Searching for Sugar Man tells the story about Sixto Rodriquez, a folk singer (Bob Dylan knock-off) in the late 1960s.

He lived in downtown Detroit and spent his days doing manual labor and his nights performing in dives of dangerous neighborhoods. He got noticed and cut two albums, including one album in Los Angeles. The albums did nothing, and he went back to his life of manual labor.

He didn’t know that his music had caught fire in South Africa and sold hundreds of thousands of copies. When combined with bootleg sales, millions of copies proliferated through South Africa, where he was “Elvis popular.” In the 1990s, two … Read the rest