Friday, January 30, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

For Matt. F.: Basketball Follow-Up

Here's the information missing from the first article I posted on the lopsided victory of a gaggle of basketball girls.

And while it is that the girls beat a team of others with "learning differences" (from first article), those girls with learning differences were not suffering from anything debilitating; e.g., dyslexia, ADHD, etc. They were more than capable of playing basketball at an equal level to the team that beat them.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What I'll Be Reading After I'm Done Reading What I'll Be Reading When I'm Done Reading What I'm Currently Reading!

What I'll Be Reading After I'm Done What I'm Currently Reading

What I'm Currently Reading

Vatican Tube

Catholics can rejoice: the Vatican has its own YouTube channel.

Now all we need is some pesky Catholic blogger to disagree with some Catholic internet practice, and e-nail his/her objection to Wittenburg Door and we'll have a new wave of e-Protestants.


Let the fun begin!

Joe Bob Parties With the Atheists

Via: Wittenburg Door.

Refreshing.  Funny.  And nicely written.  Enjoy.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Christ and the Basketball Girls

These girls beat the other girls 100 to 0 in a game of basketball. That's a sizeable win. However, their coach thinks it's not Christ-like because the margin of victory was too large. He feels it was an honourless victory and wants to forfeit the win.

Criticism and Snark: I'm certainly glad that Christ didn't feel the need to repent for his lopsided victory over the devil when He beat satan ∞ to 0. It was a game, Coach, and your girls trounced the other girls. That happens. Get on with things, and spare the rest of us the disturbing pretences and platitudes.

Friday, January 23, 2009

In Defense of the Ontological Argument

St. Anslem's Ontological Argument asserts that God is the perfect ground for all conception and all reality, so-much-so that the denial of His existence is logically impossible. Therefore, God exists.

Historically, St. Anselm’s argument was held to be untenable. Gaunilo, monk of Marmoutier, responded with his famous In Behalf of the Fool, in which he protests that the conception of a thing does not necessitate its reality. Moreover, Gaunilo charges that people refer to those things they already know (men are known by the characteristics that men have), but the conception of a supreme essence that is greater than all is not something that any person can refer to on their own. Therefore, “one might more appropriately say that it cannot be understood not to exist and cannot be understood even to be able not to exist.”[1]

Knowing, for Gaunilo, implies a certainty that understanding does not: one can understand the existence of another person in a different country, but that in no way means that one knows that other person actually exists. To that end, Gaunilo does not deny that St. Anselm’s argument carries a certain force with it, but asserts that it must be “more cogently argued.”[2]

To wit, the main challenge to the Ontological Argument can be summed up by the simple phrase “it assumes that all ideas have their parallel in reality.”[3] To say this, however, places reverse emphasis on the direction of the Ontological Argument, and ultimately ends in circularity. The Ontological Argument moves from a direction of cause to effect, conception to concretion, but the popular contention that reality contains the parallels of the ideas moves from effect to cause, concretion to conception, and thereby slips the limits of St. Anselm’s a priori intentions.

What St. Anselm was describing was that there is no parallel in reality to a supreme God, for that would make the physical parallel God and not the Christian deity. Therefore, God is wholly beyond parallel in both humanity’s conception of the supreme deity, and in the observable world around us. However, for God to be perfect, He had to really exist, free from parallels, in order to be God. God is His own cause, and our understanding of His supremacy beyond reality and human conception is the effect of His truly being real.

Moreover, if all ideas are paralleled in reality, then reality can be said to be the reflection of an idea. Who conceived the idea then? Certainly not contingent beings who need the reality they exist in to survive! Presumably then, God, who is beyond parallel in conception and reality must have conceived the idea of reality. So unless one is willing to admit to St. Anselm’s a priori assertion, one ends up with an ineffective argument that reads something like this: ideas have their parallel in reality, ergo reality is composed of ideas. Nothing is ventured and nothing is gained from such speedy trips around Pi (π).

© Christopher J. Freeman

[1] Hopkins, Jasper and Herbert Richardson, ed. & trans. Anselm ofCanterbury V.I, 120
[2] Ibid., 120
[3] Dr. William Mundt, “Fundamental Arguments for God’s Existence” Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, November 30th, 2004.

An Open Discussion On Roman Catholicism

I've been wondering lately if the accusation that Roman Catholicism is a cult is accurate or not. I haven't made a decision, but I thought I'd bring it up for discussion here. And if others do think it is a cult, I'm sure we can agree that that doesn't mean that everyone within the Roman Catholic Church is a godless reprobate, but that some people are devoutly secured in the love of Christ.

So, anyway, what are your opinions?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ads Promote Conversation

It seems as if the 'anti-God' bus ad campaign is picking up speed and spreading beyond the boarders of England and America.

"The anti-God bus ad campaign has now spread beyond the borders of England to the heavily Catholic nations of Spain and was also scheduled to start appearing in Italy next month."

The world did become largely Christianized through similar measures as atheists are taking now: propaganda. I suppose some merit can be proffered atheists since this present campaign to wipe-out God is more peaceful than, say, the anti-religious cleansings propagated by Mao Zedong, and Stalin (who, combined, are responsible for the deaths of almost 100 million people); not to mention lesser atheist bad-asses like Pol Pot, Fidel Castro, and Kim Jong-il. So we can all rest assured that this time, the atheists bent on removing God from the daily workings of human life are going about things with less gusto.

Still, the fact that atheists have less gusto this time around does not mean they lack stridency. On the contrary, they're decidedly vocal with their advertisements, the most popular one of which states, "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." But this is not the only slogan:

" Italy, home of the Roman Catholic headquarters, buses with the slogan, “The bad news is that God does not exist. The good news is that we do not need him,” was scheduled to start appearing in the northern city of Genoa on Feb. 4. "

That slogan met a quick end, however, when a bevy of conservative protestors managed to have it stopped.

What tickles me about these slogans, however, is that neither of them is empirically provable. At best, this should give the atheists asserting these campaigns a moment of pause. For, if the pride of atheism is (as Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris say it is) the rational life as understood through science and Darwinian natural selection, then there must be some empirical evidence, some kind of evolutionary proof de jour to support such bold-faced claims.

Put the other way around, if confronted by ads from the religious community, a simple response from atheists would be to say that the religious have the burden of proof to demonstrate that God does exist. However, since these atheist ads assert their message by way of negation ("there is no God"), they would do well to establish physical evidence to prove their universal logical negative -- which is impossible, and thereby not worth consideration.

Or is it?

"Other Christians, however, have reacted positively to the 'No God' campaign, saying that it helps spark debate and provides an opportunity to talk about God."

That's a decent perspective. I can agree to that. However, if this conversation is going to happen, we're going to have to have it on a much more sophisticated level than the playground academics of "yes He is," "no he's not" that we've seen so far. When this happens, whatever proof one thinks he has -- no matter how valid it might be -- is just a red-herring that leads to the usual end in these conversations: talking past each other, not to each other.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Million to One

I love it when newspaper headlines mean something different than what they're intending. It usually ends up being a good laugh. For example, while leaving a convenience store one day, I pointed out a newspaper headline to a friend. It read, "Dead Man Seen Walking Out of Bar". We had a hearty laugh and moved on.

Today, while I was sifting through articles, I came across this one: "Millions of Christians Pray to Become One". Now while the point of the article is vastly different than the immediate reading of the headline, I enjoyed the laugh anyway.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Atheism Rides the Bus

Let's not beat around the bus here: we're going to have atheist bus ads in Toronto, Canada. It's being called a 'campaign' and it's definitely a peaceful crusade. That's if you call trying to deconvert people 'peaceful', mind you.

I do like, however, how the Erasmus of the article bears the same name as the Catholic Christian, Erasmus, of the 16th century. It's a delicious -- even if pedantic and meaningless -- historical irony.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

3 Heads is Better Than One

Just your friendly neighborhood three-headed frog ready to dazzle you with eating skills beyond your dreams. I thought I'd let everyone know in of course my usual controversial fashion, that upon close examination and the utmost study, it has been determined one head is an atheist, the second head a theist and the third head an agnostic! I think the one in the middle is the agnostic, apparently a little confused by his left and right company.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Thanks Mr. Cockburn

"Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for - in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it." ~Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen, you are so incredibly right. But of course, "the trouble with normal is that it always gets worse." Thanks Mr. Cockburn for such a superb insight.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Can't See God for Christianity

Many questions toward atheists are equally unanswered for in Christianity. While I believe that God Himself answers them all, Christianity doesn't and somehow manages to sidestep the reality of such questions, or even worse, ostracises those within for asking them. I have first-hand experience with this.

A few typical questions asked of atheists by Christians are (and I've borrowed some from Suneal's post 'Openness Theology has Tea with Atheism'):

1) How do you place one value over and above another without the constant of God to arbitrate?

2) Why would you feel any inclination to defend or purpose or initiate anything? What would be the point?

3) What is the purpose of life to you? Why bother with anything, trying anything, most especially attempting civility and altruism? What benefit are these?

4) From where are derived such realities as justice, mercy, art, music, thought, charity, love, effort, ad nauseum things that Christians attribute to God's character...?

I could posit myriad *reasonable* (non-Christian-faith-based) responses to these questions, and I believe in the ultimate/eternal/everlasting Lordship and salvation of Christ. The point is that these questions alone will never be sufficient for pointing out error; I'm not even sure they *could* point out error.

I believe that all are created in the image of God; therefore, all are capable of acting in accordance with His image (at least some of the time) regardless of whether or not they choose to acknowledge Him. Asking an atheist to account for morality as if to corner him toward God misses his point at best, and misses God's point at worst.

I think there are definitely huge problems with atheism, but asking existential questions that the whole of humanity has and continues to struggle with camouflages the real problem.

Christians want to know why atheists can't see God. Christ told His disciples that the world would know God because of how the disciples loved one another. Since there is a greater love vacuum in the church than elsewhere (where we wouldn't *expect* to see it), how could *anybody* recognise God in the world?

Did Christ say that the world would know Him through the love of His disciples toward one another and if they don't love one another He would perform a great miracle to convince everyone anyway, so don't worry about it? Did He only mean that IF His disciples loved one another then obviously the world would be forced to recognise the One who IS that love? Or, did He mean this as He said it? That the world WOULD know Him BECAUSE of the love His disciples had for one another?

I think the questions atheism poses directly correlate to the lack of love in the church, which is why as we see an increasing absense of love amongst believers, we see an increasing frustration from those outside. They are crying out for what their souls need, and they cannot get it because we're supposed to be giving it to them, and in our own lack, we're not. We're not BEING the love that GOD IS in us!!! We have taken His 'talent' and buried it-- deep-- so deep that nobody can see it.

So essentially, unbelief is a *believer's* problem. If my children or my friends don't think they are loved, it is my neglect and lack of willingness to extend Christ's unconditional love through me toward them that has brought this about, even if I can point at reasons for my actions, even if I can point at how they weren't willing to receive it, even if... whatever; I'm judging THEM as though I were God, and not at all living the love of Christ, but rather living the judgment of the forbidden tree from which I think I can sustain myself, but which instead of feeding me is actually the source of my starvation, and theirs. Ultimately, I have to be willing to give love at all cost and unconditionally, and until I do, my questions or calls to account belong aimed at me.

The community of believers known as and who is the Body of Christ Himself has the much greater calling to truly and pragmatically LOVE than to bring unbelief to account, especially having contributed so much clanging to the 'cause.'

So let's get to it.

There is no sense in screaming in someone's face while slapping them on the cheeks, "WHY CAN'T YOU SEE HOW LOVED YOU ARE???!!!"

Guitar Hero

I've been playing guitar for 20 years now. It's an enjoyable skill, and I'm pretty good at it. Then along came Guitar Hero and reduced the value of developing an 'actual' skill on an 'actual' guitar to a virtual mockery in the form of a game.

There. My cynicism about that aspect of Guitar Hero is officially done.

A few days ago, I played Guitar Hero for the first time and had a lot of fun! Mind you, it was a tad confusing for me when I was following along with the scrolling dots playing a Metallica song I can actually play, and my fingers wanted to play the song for real. Needless to say, there were a lot of misplaced (even though they were properly placed for really playing the song) fingers.

But then this morning, while I was reading an article about some Gospel singers making a convention for the Superbowl (cough, gag, sputter, spew), I came across this advertisement -- Why, dear God? Why?

Yes, that's right: Guitar Hero has been Christianized. Now, instead of having to listen to those evil, nasty, satanic, and godless rock-bands, you can listen to the good, peaceful, godly, and worldless rock-bands. And all-the-while you'll be tapping four fingers over five fret-buttons, developing the same gaming capacities but without the possibility of cognitive dissonance from exposure to other creative human endeavours.

Oh, and let's not forget the appeal to pity in the advertisement for Guitar Praise: the wee 'uns so happily rockin' it out without the parental discomforts of CGI rock stars, and their studded shoulder pads. But don't worry, you can still send your hyper-Christianized kids to public school where they'll get a first class education in pornography, drugs, anti-Christian ideas, negative peer attachments, outcome based learning, and evil rock music.

Relativism: A Sympathy Extended

It re-occured to me today as I re-read most of the comments made in the last few days in "Atheophobia?" and "Pro-Christmas/Anti-Atheist Campaign" that a good deal of the philosophy of relativism is disingenuous at best, and social engineering at worst. I was taken aback again by my wife's rather poignant comment that a friend of mine has unwittingly fallen prey to a conformist mindset, while at the same time probably not believing himself to be a conformist. I wondered how this could happen? How can a reasonably intelligent person look around at the condition of our world, live within Western culture and believe the psychobabble moonshine of relativism as a worthwhile notion to conform to?

Not really having a formal answer of my own -- I did have a few inarticulate hunches -- I went on reading some articles dealing with the subject. Of relativism, that is. I came across this particular article via Arts & Letters Daily, and was struck by its humour, intelligence, and sympathy. I think now I have a better handle on why my friend allows his mind to be ploughed by the blades of relativism, and why he might not agree that he is a conformist, even though on a pragmatic and political level he comes across as one.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Openness theology has tea with atheism

The paradoxes we live with. A few thoughts to ponder. If I live with “openness theology,” would I ever truly hold anyone to anything? Why would I assume any system of rules whether religious or logical? Would not a de-systemization be just as incongruent, for not knowing the future, and God not knowing it either, should truly mean nothing can be assumed, even such thoughts as “alienation within society.” On what grounds can “openness” doctrine predict future human behavior even predicated upon past human experience if the future truly is “open?”

If I am an atheist, why would I truly worry about anything? Is not life purely random? If so, on what grounds do I prioritize suddenly some higher value to something, such as “human rights?” If life is not “purely random” and no higher power has made it thus, on what grounds or from what source can purposefulness, attach greater value to one facet of life over another? Furthermore, since with this paradigm there is a homogeneity to life, making all things equal since all things are inherently random, whatever be the “value” attached to all things, how can this value be different from one atheist to another? What accounts for such a differentiation? I speak completely theoretically at this point, for I do not believe anyone has or ever will live treating all things as equally random.

However, if either the atheist or the openness theology candidate were to be consistent with their paradigms, I think the end result would be quite ironic. Both would live in the present, presuming nothing! Both would have no need to defend or fight for anything! But I've been wrong before. I wonder though, how right am I this time? One more thing, if I have misrepresented "openness theology" I think that is because it is open for debate:)

Let's Get it Right

It seems as of late, everyone is arguing for their opinion. No problem there. However, in the spirit of this blog, I have a question that is almost anti-this-blogish (there is a new Bushism).

Does "winning" an intellectual argument actually prove you are correct or right regarding the topic you argue for?

This Is My Church

This is where I attend church. It is a mid-sized congregation with a very inclusivist view of other Christian pedigrees (just a little playful term). As I understand it, we have former Catholics, questioning Catholics, former Lutherans (like my wife and I), Baptists, Anabaptists, etc.

Our common vision is unique to churches that I've attended -- and I've attended a lot: to love Christ and be an example of lovingkindness to the community around us. What makes that vision unique is that my church accomplishes it without all the fixings and dressings of denominationalism, and hang-ups of arbitrary legalisms and moralisms. It is a free-flowing, and loving place to gather together and express our common love of Christ without the blurring of theological differences.

Dr. Veith noted that my church is essentially non-denominational. I kindly disagreed with him citing that non-denominational churches, while holding to a rejection of denominationalism, usually have very definite stances on certain doctrinal issues; e.g., infant baptism, or the nature of the eucharist. These stances are essentially de facto standards which -- and I'm open to correction, Wyatt -- don't seem to be applied within our congregation. That is, theological differences co-exist in a mature manner with love for Christ and each other being the primary focus between us. This makes for a place where people can gather around, say, the eucharist, some of us disagreeing as to the memorial aspect of the practice, and still lovingly and validly partake of Christ's real presence, or even *gasp* transubstantiation. An issue such as the eucharist is an issue between the person receiving the gift, and the Person giving the gift. Our theological differences do not matter so much as meeting and being together in His love, receiving what Christ has to offer, and not interfering with one another in the reception of that gift.

This, I think, is what really being a church is about. It is not about streamlining, managing, overseeing, and over-ruling each other's theological compass to the point where we can all only see North and refuse the realities of East, South, and West. That is, really being a church is about loving each other despite, and even because of our differences. It's about iron sharpening iron just as one man sharpens another. And if, in the end, we come out having to agree to disagree on certain points, we can still love each other as a family loves each individual within that family whatever the respective differences may be.

However, this brings up a necessary point: is there a place where differences are actually divisive and unChristian? In fact, yes. At my church, however, I think the idea is not to weed out those who are not actually Christian by the traditional understanding of what a Christian is (see, Apostle's Creed) but to include them with the loving hope that they may one day become Christians.

The Forward

I received a 'forward' in my email account today. I don't usually open forwards; I delete them. But this one was sent by a relative I love and respect but, sadly, have infrequent contact with. What follows is most emphatically not the kind of thing she is given to believe, or take seriously. I'm fairly certain she sent it to me because she figured I'd get a kick out of the odd flavour of crazy involved. And I did!

Here you go:

That was the picture. Now here's what was written underneath it:

"The President of Argentina received this picture n called it 'junk mail', 8 days later his son died. A man received this picture & immediately sent out copies..his surprise was winning the lottery. Alberto Martinez received this picture, gave it to his secretary to make copies but they forgot to distribute:She lost her job & he lost his family. This picture is miraculous & sacred. Forward to 10 people.."

Now, let's be controversial: I'm an atheist about this kind of twaddle.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Pro-Christmas/Anti-Atheist Campaign

Well, atheists pushed the public's awareness of the possibility of no God/gods by purchasing advertising space on buses. As a counter measure, Catholics have taken out advertising space on a US bus line, also.

I guess it won't be long now before religious factions everywhere are doing the same thing, and our buses read like some sort of syncretistic cult show.

Let the games begin!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Archbishop of Bad Form

The Archbishop of Canterbury has opined on the obvious. Apparently, if we value people more than material wealth, we'll be righter.

"Instead of only placing value on material wealth, Dr Williams challenged people to see their fellow human beings as their true treasure.

'Jesus said where our treasure is, that’s where our hearts will be. Our hearts will be in a very bad way if they’re focused only on the state of our finances. They’ll be healthy if they are capable of turning outwards, looking at the real treasure that is our fellow human beings,' he said."

Nevermind the deep and richly mistaken hermeneutic Archy placed on that passage, it behooves us to examine once again how a man in a prominent position, backed by a large and wealthy church has condescended to tell us plebians to value material wealth less.

If you recall, Pope Benedict XVI made similar implications in his ironic vespers speech from St. Peter's basilica. Now, in a timely and oh-so-expected turn, the Church of England has followed suit renouncing material wealth -- for other people.

It's true that the financial climate is precarious at best. It's true, like the Cynics of ancient Greece used to emphasize, that material wealth has no inherent value beyond itself. It's also invaluably true that people, animals, just life itself generates far more return than can be measured in linear currency. It's true, too, that raining moralisms down on people from fancy pulpits in the guise of encouraging and hopeful messages amounts to little more than a false appeal to authority on the parts of church curates.

At what point did it become the providence of rich churches to rightly tell less privileged people how to use their money? When did it become even remotely ethical to homilize on the value of what others own, and then to assume that in a culture where access to material wealth is quite easy that that means ipso facto that people are valued less?

Is this a case of spotting the fleck in another's eye while the Church of England does precious little to remove the log from their own eye? By way of comparison, my earthly possessions probably wouldn't afford the Archbishop's mitre and cloak. So since he's not, in any foreseeable way, going to be giving those things up to improve the quality of life for the homeless guy on the street, why should I give heed to a blatantly hypocritical splash of rhetoric?

I do believe Jesus rebuked the Pharisees along similar lines. Bad form, Mr. Archbishop.


In mainstream culture, the word phobia is often appended to the disparaging noun, 'homo'. Thus the commonly misplaced term 'homophobia', meaning the irrational fear of homosexuals. And I say "commonly misplaced" because mere disagreeance with the practice of homosexuality can earn a person the stigma of being homophobic, which is just as much an irrational and fear-based reaction as being afraid of homosexuals.

Nevertheless, I have to wonder how far the notion of a phobia can be spread before it becomes one of those words that means little-to-nothing. If a simple disagreeance with a practice, perspective, philosophy, or what-have-you can gain the 'Phobia Badge of Dishonour', how long before having an opinion is considered a fearful thing?

Which is where this little gem comes in: atheophobia. Atheophobia? The irrational fear and hatred of atheists.

It's certainly no secret that there are some rather loose-tongued, unloving 'religious' people out there who have taken arms against homosexuals. I'm thinking in particular of such evangelical disasters as Fred Phelps and his army of irrationalists. But I've never personally met, heard of, or even read of anyone actively 'hating' or 'fearing' atheists.

But this is where such obfuscations as labelling something a phobia comes in. If I disagree with something because I hold a reasonable position to the contrary, am I thereby 'fearful' and 'hateful' of the opposite position? On personal reflection, I can very pointedly state, "no." I am a Christian, convinced and content (in the best sense of the word). On top of that, I have an enormous lack of fear and hatred for atheists.

Admittedly, I only speak for myself in all of this. Apparently there are enough people out there who claim to be both religious and fearful and hate-filled toward atheists. So-much-so, in fact, that the term atheophobia has swung into the vocabulary of the British citizenry, and leaflet campaigns are attempting to raise awareness of this problem.

Atheophobia, it is alleged, leads to anti-atheist bigotry, including the following examples:

"- are morally inferior
- are a cause of evil
- have rejected God and embraced sin
- intend to destroy religion and religious holidays
- have meaningless or decadent lives
- should not be allowed to express their beliefs
- are unsuitable for positions of responsibility"

I truly am baffled by this. Like I said earlier, I have not seen a single example of any of this happening around me, or even in extended acquaintances and engagements. The closest I've come to seeing a possible and highly improbable case of this is in reading and viewing debates where religious scholars question the basis of morality if God is non-existent. Certainly cross-examination of another's position isn't bigotry, irrationality, or hatred is it?

If we reduce the logic of "disagreement equals irrational fear and hatred" then almost everything is fair game. If I disagree with my wife that we should purchase eco-wool for bed-making, am I suddenly woolaphobic? Is an adamant pipe-smoker cigaphobic? If I'm suspicious of being labelled am I nounaphobic? Was Plato Aristotlephobic? Are Catholics Protestaphobic? Well, okay. Maybe we can make a case for that one!

In any case, is there a rational basis for labelling someone phobic because they hold to a different view of reality and the divine? If not, then who has the phobia? And really, who does it benefit to slather a moniker on anyone? All it does is pronounce a segregation that would be more rationally dealt with through sincere and meaningful discourse. As soon as you crusade against something, no matter how benignly you crusade, you invite combat, and that, historically, is the breeding ground for phobias.

Does anyone else out there get tired of seeing people running around π?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Weekend Chesterton

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people." - ILN, 7/16/10

"The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice." - A Defense of Humilities, The Defendant, 1901

"What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism." - Sidelights on New London and Newer New York

"To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it." - A Short History of England, Ch.10

"Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere." - ILN, 5/5/28

By way of: The American Chesterton Society

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Moderating the Pope

Pope Benedict the XVI has a little cheek left in him, yet. Apparently, during his end-of-the-year vesper's service, he made a call to sobriety and solidarity. And during an occasion that marks solidarity via a lack of sobriety, too! Tsk, tsk, Mr. Cheeky-Pope, you do know how to play with your words.

Ah, but we all know what the former Cardinal meant: moderation and brotherhood (sisterhood, too, for all you people who appreciate explicit inclusivism). Not a bad call, really. Bit hypocritical, mind you. Afterall, if the pope were properly moderating his thoughts, he'd probably do something about making Catholicism 'universal' (like it's supposed to mean) and not exclusive (as the claim to being 'the one true church' implies). Yeah, whoops! Labels do pose a problem when they serve as standard-bearers, don't they?!

But let's give il papa a bit of a break. His heart is in the right place. Moderation and brotherhood would certainly help the world get on a little better. And like Benny has made out, it would bolster our chances of more peaceful survival during the global economic tizzy. You know, when tempers flare, people become all panicky, and simple humanitarianism plummets at a rate parallel to the gold standard.

"In his end-of-year vespers service at St Peter’s Basilica last night, the Pope told the faithful that the 'not to be fearful' in the face of 'shadows of uncertainty and worry for the future', but encouraged them to instead return to the virtues of 'sobriety and solidarity' to restore the world."

Just a couple of things here. Does anyone else find it a little caustic, perhaps even smarmy to call for sobriety/moderation from the pulpit in St. Peter's basillica? I mean, addressing the world's financial down-turn while gracing the floor of one of the world's most disreputable building projects, one of the most expensive buildings ever errected*, and giving the charge to be moderate in our dealings strikes me as a tad disingenuous -- many a peasant bought into the lies of indulgences and thereby funded St. Peter's construction. Somehow, robbing the poor to build a basillica of immense expense seems like the last place the pope should be giving the fiat to be easy on the wallet this year.

On a more abstract note, however, where does the pope get off telling people to be more moderate while at the same time claiming to hold all earthly and divine jurisdiction over the Church? While he is vested with full authority personally, all his under-bishops are given authority collegially. It would seem then that God knows how to spread things around a little, but the pope enjoys the sole benefit of being the dude in charge of everyone in charge. He gets to have it all to himself! But I don't think -- if he were truly a virtuous man -- that he would be immoderate with his 'authority', and would more-than-likely give some of it away. Perhaps give enough of it away to make for an equal priesthood amongst all believers? But that would be all biblical and stuff, and would collapse the fundamental power-structure of Catholicism, and there's no way that's going to happen.

I suppose the best alternative for Benedict XVI then, is to do what he did: flap his gums about the virtues of sobriety and solidarity while wielding an immoderate level of power over the faithful, holding on to a exclusivist moniker, and pushing spiritual gems from the cathedra of a $48,000,000 basillica.

What's certain in all of this fulsome gobbledygook from Benedict XVI, however, is that even though he has the audacity to push virtues that he and his predecessors didn't and don't uphold, his message is still pertinent to the rest of us. If we take 2009 in stride, managing our finances, not living beyond our means (as much as is possible), and loving others as Christ loved us, then the lives of billions will be affected for the better. And real religion lives in doing things for the other's welfare.

*Just For Interest's Sake: "The construction of St. Peter's, in so far as the church itself is concerned, was concluded within a period of 176 years (1450-1626). The cost of construction including all the additions of the seventeenth century amounted to about $48,000,000. The yearly cost of maintenance of the gigantic building, including the annexes (sacristy and colonnades), amounts to $39,500, a sum that is only exceeded when actual renewals of the artistic features (such as gilding, repairing the pavement, and extensive marble work on the pilasters) becomes necessary." (See more here.)