Posts Tagged ‘ Religion and Spirituality ’

This View Will Change Your Life Forever

Today is the feast of the Transfiguration, the remembrance of when our Lord appeared in heavenly glory upon the mountain and spoke with Moses and Elijah with Peter, James, and John on looking.  God the father spoke decisively: “He is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased; Listen to him.”  One line of the Transfiguration story found in Luke stands out most to me:

They became awake and saw his glory…

The transformation of Peter, John, and James at the Transfiguration mirrors our own.  One moment they were asleep and at rest–encounter with the divine Lord jarred them from the slumber of the universe as they knew it.  Jesus’ divine kingship stirs us to move.  The reality of Jesus’ reign as king directly challenges our will toward self-reliance.  And we must to reconcile this reality with the notion that we are fully in charge of our lives and existence.  Either Jesus is king or he is not.  Either he is divine or he is not.  Either we, in turn, like the disciples become awake upon encounter or we deny his glory.

Jesus’ divine kingship remains true, but in our relativistic culture, it is easy to evade the question of Jesus’ divinity.  Tough questions are gently brushed aside.  People make broad statements such as, “That’s fine that Jesus is divine for you, but he’s not for me.”  We must open ourselves to the possibility of encounter.  When the encounter does occur, the choice remains–Jesus always gives us the choice to follow him!

While God has given me the grace of faith, I struggle with self-reliance.  It’s easy for me to try to do things all myself, which eventually leads to distrust in the Lord and worries and fears.  I lose touch with Jesus quite easily, having more faith in myself at times than I have in the Lord.  This turns my hope sour , and I am unable to give myself to the present moment and to love freely and unreservedly.

Recently, the Lord called me back to him.  I had a steady mental prayer schedule for a few months, at the guidance of a spiritual director.  While God graced me with a spirit of devotion and faith abounded for that time I lost track of that devotion upon a recent move with my family and lost track of prayer.

Minor annoyances became major obstacles as my self-reliance were inadequate for my vocation.  In God’s grace a wonderful priest friend of mine recommended a book that he was reading, Interior Freedom.  I felt compelled to pray over the book, and I have since then re-established my prayer routine.  While I have not been fully free of self-reliance I am again opening myself to the daily encounters with our Lord.  These encounters strengthen me and purify my will.

My prayer routines do not have the same drama as the Transfiguration, but yet I am grateful for prayer as my touchstone with divinity.  I pray that I continue to open myself up in my daily life and “Listen to him.”

“Liberal” Catholics Are Not Progressive Enough

I don’t understand actions and attitudes quite common in many American Roman Catholic  believers, attitudes which are, at their core, the fruits of the Enlightenment.  Ideals such as freedom and progress, as defined and practiced by today’s standards are fine.  But when mixed with Christianity–I get confused when Enlightenment-defined freedom subverts Christian freedom.  That is merely one example.

For the longest time, I rationalized that perhaps believers of this persuasion were simply heirs to the Enlightenment, and that was all they knew.  Indoctrinated in Enlightenment thought, they learned to emphasize Enlightenment values over any other values.  They received a thoroughly Enlightenment-influenced education and control a media landscape with a tendency toward brainwashing “progressivism.”

But people have a choice.  They are rational beings with a heart and a soul, who can make choices.  Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular presents a starkly contrasting view.  Christianity presents a more progressive view of  life, humanity, the future, death, and all sorts of terribly important aspects of living, compared with the drab gray, literally hopeless Enlightenment landscape.

Enlightenment living is static–for something is only better if it supports the meta-narrative of progress-de jure.  Since objective truths and values are anathema, real, lasting progress is only an ideal and can never be a reality in Enlightenment-influenced living.   Truly, the academy and the media concoct and promote a view of life so limiting, so anti-progress.   The axiom goes something like this: I am who I am and you are who you are, and that’s enough.   How is that progressive?

Want real choice?  Christianity offers expansive freedom and choice.  Want real, deep down hope?  Christianity offers that as well.  Believe in humanism?  The goodness of humanity at the core?  Christianity offers a deeper, comprehensive view of humanity.  Want to help people?  Real, lasting help?  Help which transcends ideology?  That started and ends with Christianity as well.

What I don’t understand is why believers prefer a twisted, anti-Christian brand of Christianity to what is really there. Why, when given the choice between the candy-saccharine heterodox Christianity and the joyous feast which orthodoxy provides, that heterodoxy is ever chosen?

C.S. Lewis in “The Weight of Beauty” said it better, as always:

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and to eagerly hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion…is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Of course in reality, it’s not an either-or endeavor.  None of us is perfect.  None of us is precisely obedient to the Lord and His Church.  All of us land on a continuum between heteropraxy and orthopraxy.

But, I’m not talking about heteropraxy (doing things contrary to the Lord and His Church) and orthopraxy (doing things in line with the Lord’s teachings and His Church).

I’m talking about heterodoxy (believing in things contrary to the Lord and His Church) and orthodoxy (believing in things in line with the Lord and His Church).  We all fall short, in practice.  To soak-in, breathe, teach, and argue for non-truth (heterodoxy), to the exclusion of truth–that is what I don’t understand.

Christianity is the true progressive heuristic, as compared with paganism or deterministic humanism/scientism or anything else.  Buddhism, teaching that people can become one, is progressive, but falls short of the progressivism of Christianity.  Christianity believes that people can actually progress–to be more like God–and to unite with God.  That doctrine is infinitely more progressive than any other belief conjured by the Democratic party, or by the overlords of scientism and the Enlightenment.

What is more progressive than knowing that each person’s potential is infinite?  A limited, constricting view of progressivism propagated by contemporary ruling powers falls short of the true progressivism taught by Christianity:

God Himself was born.  He healed and taught.  He suffered, died, and rose again.  Through sanctifying grace we can rise as well, as He did.

Now that’s progress!

Pope Francis loves gays and abortion-seekers: Antinomianism or grace?

Pope Francis knows how to shake things up, eh? While I have net yet read the whole interview (another post to come about that), it made me think of a comment that Adam recently posted on this site.  I had posted about how I get caught up in thinking about theology that I fail to encounter the One I study.  Or I argue about a point about the faith, but ignore the reason for the faith in the first place, Jesus.

It’s hard.  I think our intentions are right and true in that we want to seek out God.  But that is the problem.  We are seeking for God, while God is seeking for us.  It’s not like a meet in the middle kind of thing.  When we go looking for God, as if we are on an expedition, we won’t find him.  I think it’s about, rather, allowing God to find us.  Accepting God’s invitation.  The problem is, while that may be true, it seems so ethereal, so touchy-feely.  I get the feeling like holiness is much more simple, much more common, everyday.  If holiness isn’t simply living a bunch of rules (like our pope recently indicated), but rather an encounter, what does that mean?  What are the practical implications?  If it doesn’t actually involve doing something, then what is it?  Holiness isn’t just doing good.  It is accepting grace.  But what does that mean?

How does one encounter the Lord Jesus?  I don’t really know.  But I think it has something to do with mercy, accepting forgiveness, and following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  I think it involves a search for Truth and Goodness.  I think it involves healing and being and allowing Love to seep through the bark to the place we are most vulnerable.  Rules do not come quite yet.  Once we have this encounter with Jesus, we are given a choice–much like Jesus’ contemporaries had a choice after they encountered Him.  Will I come and follow?  Will I put down my nets, my boat, my family, my friends, my life as I know it, and follow?

But why?  Why would anyone in their right minds follow?  Our post-modern, skeptical self says, “What’s in it for me?”  Everything: living water, eternal life, everlasting food.  It’s the ultimate bargain with implications for eternity.  The question lingers–what will I choose?

Jesus tells those he healed:

“Go, and sin no more.”

After healing, forgiveness, and change of heart, then we are compelled, on our own accord, to seek the Kingdom of God, to know His ways, and to sin no more.  The grace we receive from healing and forgiveness opens our hearts to the longing that we have had all along, to live according to God’s commandments, such as living an authentic person-affirming chastity or living the virtues.

But didn’t you say that the natural virtues–living a good life–should lead unbelievers to Christ?  What now, you equivocating sophist?

I may be a sophist, but I don’t equivocate (here at least).

If we live the virtues, we will have a taste of Truth and Goodness, which can lead us to that encounter.  Living a good life takes us far, but only accepting God’s supernatural grace into our lives–and in response to God’s gift of grace, live our lives according to His will–can we live truly and deeply, with supernatural virtue.  Holiness, ultimate living, requires us to take a step beyond just “being a good person,” or even living a virtuous life.  It requires us to constant encounter with a person, Jesus Christ.

It’s a cycle of encounter, healing, grace, and transformation.  That transformation gives us a deeper sense of Jesus Christ, which in turn leads to a deeper encounter, and thus, the blessed cycle continues.

Transformation without healing and grace can only lead to idolatry.  That is, if I teach my children to follow God’s rules, but don’t teach them about the God who gives the rules, and His Son, Jesus Christ, whom he sent to set me free from the bonds of death, in order that I can have eternal life, I lead my children to an idol.  I need to lead them to the Person of Jesus Christ.

This is what Paul teaches in 1 Timothy:

For there is one God.
There is also one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus,
who gave himself as ransom for all.
This was the testimony at the proper time.

This is the Gospel. This is what it is all about, and this is, I think (though I haven’t fully read the piece) is what Pope Francis is driving at when he talked about the Church being “obsessed” with homosexuality and abortion. From the little I have read, this is what it is all about. He teaches that it’s not about living a code of rules. Christianity is not a code of rules. It is an encounter with a Person, Christ Jesus.

By his most recently published comments, he is not eliminating rules from Christian Living.  He is not saying that we shouldn’t have rules or follow rules.  Thus, he is not an antinomian.  But rather, he rightly emphasizes grace which only comes through an encounter with the Living Christ, Jesus our Lord.

Existence and not (a follow up from 5 minutes ago)

I wrote

  To be fair, some of the Christian armchair apologists (I would consider myself a part of this crowd) could brush up on their logic and rhetorical skills.

I think that is because non-believers train in logic.  They come from the sciences.   They are drilled in reasoning.  Unless we are academic philosophers, biologists, and chemists, we are playing on their turf.  It is always an away game.

They are logicians, rhetoricians, and argument producers/critiquers/destroyers by day AND by night.  Many Catholics are not.  Sure, we dabble in philosophy, logic, and rhetoric.  And there are plenty of super-solid logician, rhetorician, argument-producing Catholics.  But that is not the sum total of what we do.

Believers do not have as much at stake such that they feel compelled to constantly dialog with people who completely disagree with them.  Believers can sleep well at night (that is without much dissonance) knowing that there are individuals who disagree on the God question (and related consequences).  However, for some reason, atheists (at least those who comment on blogs and who make public claims based on their atheism) cannot seem to handle the existence of God.

That is, they seem to find it quite satisfying to continue to disprove and dispose of God.  That’s why they blog about it, think about it, write about it.  That is why they go to Catholic blogs and attack (sometimes with good argument, sometimes with stupid snark).

To use a common atheist trope: I don’t see any atheists passionately arguing against the existence of dragons, unicorns, and the flying spaghetti monster.

To be fair, I’m not quite saying that that indicates the existence of God, but it is fascinating to me at some level the interest, passion, and vitriol with which atheists spend their time.  So much energy directed at something that does not exist.  What an existence.

It is a curious thing though.

So I think part of my observation of quite adept atheist rhetoriticians versus middlingly adept Christians is attributed to  sampling bias.

I think another part of it is that it is passe to be a theist and an academic.  It is much easier to be atheist as an academic.

I also think that, at the same time, we need to devote infinitely more time and energy to honing our skills to match those who hold opposing ideas, yet I think we need to devote infinitely less time and energy to that task since our real task is sanctity.  Can you see how this has been a trying time in our life?

 

Just as Bad as Facebook

….in that it can easily suck hours of your life away.  This website, a few months old is awful.  Absolutely horrible.  So much so that I stumbled upon it and read it for like 90 minutes.  Basically, it’s a collaboration between some of my favorite bloggers and then some to produce rational, semi-deep philosophical works promoting and defending the faith–and, to be fair, solidly respectful and reasonable atheists to dialog about it.  By and large, the comments are respectful and thought-provoking on both sides.  To be fair, some of the Christian armchair apologists (I would consider myself a part of this crowd) could brush up on their logic and rhetorical skills.

 

Not Comps

I have recently been enthralled with the medium of musical sampling as art form.  It has its roots in French experimental music in which the composer took recordings of everyday things like trains and pots and whatever and made a sort of musical collage.  Rap and R&B are the mainstream heirs to those guys.  The contemporary samplers frequently take from funk, rock, R&B, movies, TV, advertising, etc.

On an NPR program about the influential powers marketing has on us individually and societally, “Under the Influence,” the host presented a segment about sampling and demonstrated how genius it can be.  He talked about the song “Praise You” by Fatboy Slim, and played its constituent parts and then the sum of those parts, the song itself.  I was pretty amazed at the seamless fit of the musical parts and that an artist can make an entirely new song based on manipulating and splicing together pre-recorded pieces.

I’m trying it out, and, given my freeware “Audacity,” I have some chance of creating at least something.  While it does cool things like add effects, it’s kind of hard to get the timing right compared with other programs I have seen such as garageband.  I have the garageband app on my iPad, but that is also quite limited compared with the real version.

And that, my friends, is something besides comps.