Tuesday, August 20, 2002

We are waiting for some info from the doctors that could be good, bad, or really bad, so prayers for me and Mrs. K would be very much apreciated. Especially if you happen to be seeing this in advance of about 8 am Wednesday.
You are 36% geek
You are a geek liaison, which means you go both ways. You can hang out with normal people or you can hang out with geeks which means you often have geeks as friends and/or have a job where you have to mediate between geeks and normal people. This is an important role and one of which you should be proud. In fact, you can make a good deal of money as a translator.

Normal: Tell our geek we need him to work this weekend.


You [to Geek]: We need more than that, Scotty. You'll have to stay until you can squeeze more outta them engines!


Geek [to You]: I'm givin' her all she's got, Captain, but we need more dilithium crystals!


You [to Normal]: He wants to know if he gets overtime.

Take the Polygeek Quiz at Thudfactor.com

'Oh God, Not Today!'

I am often troubled when I hear someone say, "I know God saved me!" because that would imply that God chose not to save some other person. One can look at the evacuation of the WTC as a miracle, because "only" 2,800 some people were killed (no final number has been reported, and the total shrunk by four yesterday). But one can also say "Why didn't God hear the prayers of the 2,800 who did not get out?"

At the same time, there are double blind studies that suggest prayer does have a measurable influence on medical outcomes. I linked to them any number of times when I first started this blog. (I have yet to hear an atheist address them, by the way.)

What makes me uncomfortable is the certainty with which a person proclaims God's salvation. For this certainty, that the Hand of God interfered in my life in such a tangible way, holds many dangers in it. When a prayer is answered in the negative, the outcome for the person may be fearsome. The tendency to say "My spouse was saved because he goes to church. Look what happened to your spouse, who does not go!" is a constant temptation.

For myself, the compromise I have struck with such "flare prayers" is to ask for a specific outcome, but periodically to insert the phrase "if it is in accord with Your will." This reminds me of the idea that God sometimes says "no" to prayers, and that His reasons may appear inscrutable.
Choice in China. The reflexive use of the word "choice" here makes this all the more sad and pathetic. How can you write a headline using that word and, in the very first paragraph, include the apologetic "Punishing rules continue to be enforced in some areas, but overall, sterilization as a method of birth control has declined"?
Do you like what you find at Kairos? Make a donation. (And thanks to Disputations for a really excellent idea. Want to know what's so excellent? Then click on the link. It's not what you think.)
Stop me before I blog again

Once I get going on books, it is hard to stop. A reader noted that the books I posted were very fiction heavy. Though this wasn't deliberate, I'm fine with that. Good novelists can tell you a great deal more about the human condition than many writers of "non-fiction" and they usually reach a wider audience. But I do have a few more non-fiction works to recommend (plus a couple more novels).

John Marshall: Definer of a Nation by Jean Edward Smith. Best. Political. Biography. Ever. Marshall is the least known but arguably most important figure of the early republic. Want to understand how the constitution and the republic survived some serious internal threats in the early years? Read this book. (And tell all those annoying Jefferson hagiographers to stuff it.) [By the way, Smith's Biography of US Grant is also very, very good.]

This People's Navy by Kenneth Hagan. A provocative history of the US Navy by a former professor at Annapolis. Takes a very different interpretive approach from many others.

Faithful Dissent by Rev. Charles Curran. Whether you are at the Emily Stimpson or Mike Hardy end of the theological spectrum, you need to read this book. You may disagree with it totally, or you may find yourself nodding in agreement. But it is an essential work for anyone struggling with the formation of conscience. HOWEVER, you must approach it critically: if you are predisposed to agree with Curran, make sure you read some critiques of it first. If you are in the opposite camp, make sure you read a defense of it, because forming your conscience does not mean seeking out scholars who agree with your biases.

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev. A good book for those of you who (like me) tend to think the baby boomers screwed up an otherwise excellent world. Post-modernism was invented a long, long time ago.

The Ugly American by Eugene Burdick and William J. Lederer. There's an easy way to tell whether a person has ever read this book. If he uses the phrase "Ugly American" to mean a loud, obnoxious, stereotypical American tourist and tut tuts at cultural imperialism, he hasn't read it. The "Ugly American" is just about the only sympathetic character in the whole book. Terrific story, and brilliant analysis of what went wrong in the fight against communism in Asia. Also a great model for what to do in the Middle East, once Saddam is converted to a smoking hole in the ground, and Arabia is handed back to the Hashemite dynasty.
Another humble subject of the Lord

Fr. Jim took up my humility post yesterday, and (without meaning to impugn me) correctly noted that those of us who speak the most about humility are often those who live it least. Since he has hit the nail on the head in my own case, here's another exercise in humility for you. (His post, which includes St. Ignatius' levels of humility, is worth a look. Scroll down, since his archives usually stop working as soon as someone links to them.)

Yesterday's examples were very easy compared to this one:

Think of Saddam Hussein. Now acknowledge that he is every bit as loved by God as you are, and that he is just as important to Christ as you.
Instead of a hymn or a psalm, today is a sonnet. There's a Catholic blog written by a teenager named Alicia, called "In the time of your life" where I was reminded how much I like this sonnet. Has anyone ever set it to music? (Meanwhile, check out her blog.)

Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town to'another due,
Labor to'admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly'I love you, and would be lov'd fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me,'untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you'enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
Tuesday Intentions

If you have someone you would like to add, please email me.

For Mrs. Kairos Guy, who is slowly getting better.

For all children who have fallen victim to violence, for the safety of all who are endangered or missing. For the Church in Boston. For persons with same-sex attraction who aspire to live the Christian life and those, of all inclinations, whom unchastity hinders. For artists. For Sarah E-Pression.For Chris and his wife, in training for the law and NFP. For my wife's cousin Sue. For those who kill themselves and the people they leave behind. For victims of bombings in Israel. For John Paul II. For Alicia, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend. For a just peace wherever fighting prevails. For S, her mother and her family. For Bill L.'s mother, father, and daughter, who shares something in common with me. For Eugene D. For those who need strength to bear their crosses. For Fr. Jim's cousin, mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Karin, Elizabeth, Sarah, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, Megan and the anonymous ones as well.

Monday, August 19, 2002

This sounds interesting. This group is going to spend the next year reading the Catechism in small doses and discussing it on their message boards. All converts, heretics and people of otherwise dubious Catholic pedigrees are welcome (and even encouraged to attend). (Credit to John Betts for pointing it out.)
Late intentions

Please include Zorak of E-Pression in your prayers, as she is undergoing gallbladder surgery, and Fr. Bob Carr, who is (understandably and justifiably) at wit's end.
Not that you asked

Not that you asked, but something occurred to me during Mass yesterday, when I was thinking about "Dying you destroyed our death" instead of the Mystery of Faith we were actually saying. It is a huge objection for many agnostics and atheists that Christ would have to die to redeem us, but as usual with most such objections, it struck me how very wrong that idea is. It says ever so much more about the state of humanity than of God that we would only finally and fully begin to listen after putting God to death.
It's hard to be humble when you're as great as I am

When I was first getting going with this blog, I did a brief tour of some of the classical virtues and vices. I had intended it to be comprehensive, and it may still be yet, but I got hung up on humility, and haven’t been able to get back to it coherently. Humility hung me up because it is the hardest virtue.

That surely sounds wrong, doesn’t it? If you took a poll, my guess would be that the majority of responders would choose “chastity” as the most difficult, and humility the easiest. This, however, stems more from misunderstandings of the two than from any real truth about their natures.

One thing that has been said very often by many better writers—but that retains truth nonetheless—is that it possible to “be” something, or to “become” something, by doing it first. Thus, if one sets one’s mind towards doing charity, truly doing it, one will discover that one’s mind and mood become charitable. As soon as one stops worrying about being, and becomes engrossed in doing, the being follows almost automatically.

And so, chastity can be done by an act of will. I do not dispute that the act of will is greater or lesser for some, of course, but an act of will it remains.

Humility isn’t quite so neat. For it contains a paradox within it that makes it much trickier to navigate while you attempt to learn it.

At least a few readers said to themselves, their computers or the blind people to whom they read Kairos out of kindness, “Aha! I’ve got him! All I have to do to ‘do’ humility is to put others first. And that is surely easier than making sure those lustful teens leave room for the Holy Spirit!” Well, yes, I suppose so. But hang on a moment, first.

Most people, when they “put others first” do it either out of latent self-interest or self-loathing. Personally, I vacillate between the two at a speed measurable only by well-equipped laboratories engaged in experiments that would baffle Schrodinger. (Sorry about the lack of an umlaut.)

The first part is the old question about whether altruism exists at all. The second is a kind of reverse narcissistic personality disorder, that places the self above others by lowering it. If I am the lowest creature that ever was, in a perverse way I am the best. (I don’t, by the way, suggest that I very often get to the extreme endpoints of these two states, merely that my actions and attitudes inscribe a sine wave across the scale.)

The paradox of humility is in the ironic heading above: it in fact is hard to be humble when you are as great as I am. But humility, true humility, can only flow from that realization.

Now, there are about two kajillion (2 x 10^bazillion) errors and heresies that can flow from what I just said, so hang on before you go divorce your spouse and start a temple to yourself in Aspen.

Humility starts in a realization that you are great. You are, after all, a creature of God. He may not have made you out of clay, except at several removes, but He did make you, and He endowed you with gifts and freedoms to make it possible for you to see and appreciate Him, and this is undeniably great. So no more running around, muttering under your breath at yourself for being such a jerk all the time, or for being the worst person to ever live, or whatever other bile you spew at yourself with great regularity. Stop it. You are God’s creation, and continually or continuously putting yourself down borders on blasphemy.

HOWEVER.

If I stopped there, I would have written nothing that you couldn’t find in a book of daily affirmations in the “self-help” section of the local Borders. I’d probably also have a bestseller, an infomercial and a jet. [Ed. note: how come the spell checker knows “infomercial” but not “kajillion”? Doesn’t seem right somehow.]

Here’s the paradox: everyone else is God’s creature, too. You are no better than everyone else, but you are no worse, either. So, yielding to the needs of others because they are better than you is as wrong as putting yourself first because you are better than others. Neither one is true humility.

Humility is recognizing that “all men are created equal.” Not in the foolish, “pretend we’re all the same and define differences out of existence” modern western sense of that. But in the original sense, equality before God, or equality under law. Once you recognize that, you put the needs of others first because it is right, and because putting your own first no longer makes much difference. [For those who wish to dispute the “2+2=4” statement that “putting others first is right,” I refer you to Aquinas and Aristotle. I’m not proving objective truth here, but discussing how to apply it.] What can it matter, then, if you are first among equals or last?

Fine and good, then, you say. What’s so tricky about that?

Well, try it. Try to acknowledge in your heart that the smelly man in the next pew singing off-key is as loved by God as you. Not so easy, but possible, after some wrestling. No points, however, if you had to think of some known virtue he possesses to offset his smelly bad singing. We’re not weighing good against bad here, we’re talking about starting points.

Now try this: accept that you are the best player on the team. Seriously. If you are the one player your team can’t do without, you are the best. And it is humble to accept it. Note, I’m not giving you permission to brag about it, or to rub others’ faces in it. But it is prideful to pretend you are not, all the while cherishing a secret knowledge that you carefully hide from others. It is humble to say, “I am,” and to move on.

And that is really the secret of humility: accepting reality as you find it, and acknowledging your own place in it. You are better at some things, worse at others, and endowed with gifts you must use as best you can. At the same time, you are in just the same state as every other person, and you, knowing your own heart better than others, should recognize your weaknesses very well, and be glad for others who manage not to fail quite so often as you.

Humility lies in taking joy, real, Christian joy, in everyone, including yourself. Loathe those things you do and others do that are not in themselves good. But do not loathe yourself anymore than you loathe others for them. Loving the sinner and hating the sin is as true for your own sins as for anyone else’s.
Tuesday Intentions

If you have someone you would like to add, please email me.

For Mrs. Kairos Guy, who is slowly getting better.

For all children who have fallen victim to violence, for the safety of all who are endangered or missing. For the Church in Boston. For persons with same-sex attraction who aspire to live the Christian life and those, of all inclinations, whom unchastity hinders. For artists. For Sarah E-Pression.For Chris and his wife, in training for the law and NFP. For my wife's cousin Sue. For those who kill themselves and the people they leave behind. For victims of bombings in Israel. For John Paul II. For Alicia, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend. For a just peace wherever fighting prevails. For S, her mother and her family. For Bill L.'s mother, father, and daughter, who shares something in common with me. For Eugene D. For those who need strength to bear their crosses. For Fr. Jim's cousin, mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Karin, Elizabeth, Sarah, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, Megan and the anonymous ones as well.
Because I got in an argument this weekend with an Espiscopalian about who can take communion at a Catholic wedding, I present
Psalm 34 today.


Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left.

1 I will extol the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
2 My soul will boast in the Lord ;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together.

4 I sought the Lord , and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.

8 Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the Lord , you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

11 Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord .
12 Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
16 the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

19 A righteous man may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
20 he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.

21 Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems his servants;
no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.

Friday, August 16, 2002

We're taking a little time away this weekend, it looks like. So this is it until Monday.

A few books I forgot to mention: Anything by Chesterton, but read the comments on the previous book post to see why that was deliberate, not accidental. Also covers what I dislike about Malcolm Muggeridge.

Lincoln at Gettsyburg by Garry Wills. Yeah, I know. But this is a tremendous book, and worth reading in the present world.

Huck Finn, by Mark Twain. A great but flawed book about people and how they are.

Abandonment to divine Providence by Cassaude (I think). Hard to read in a few sections, and I don't totally agree with it. But it is a GREAT starting point for thinking about how to live in the moment.

I've got some interesting stuff brewing for next week, so check back Monday.
Psalm 15

A psalm of David.

1 Lord , who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?

2 He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart
3 and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman,
4 who despises a vile man
but honors those who fear the Lord ,
who keeps his oath
even when it hurts,
5 who lends his money without usury
and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things
will never be shaken.
Friday Intentions

If you have someone you would like to add, please email me.

For Mrs. Kairos Guy, who is slowly getting better. For Chris and his wife, in training for the law and NFP. For my wife's cousin Sue. For those who kill themselves and the people they leave behind. For victims of bombings in Israel. For John Paul II. For Alicia, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend. For a just peace wherever fighting prevails. For S, her mother and her family. For Bill L.'s mother, father, and daughter, who shares something in common with me. For Dylan. For Eugene D. For those who need strength to bear their crosses. For Fr. Jim's cousin, mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Karin, Elizabeth, Sarah, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, Megan and the anonymous ones as well.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

From our bulging "Wish I'd written that!" file

This is from 1967!"Moreover, no solution of the present crisis of our society, of the personal problems and quandaries of the individual members of our society, nor of our multifarious educational problems, is possible or conceivable unless it is firmly rooted in our Western Christian heritage. This does not mean going back to anything we had before, but it does mean going back to our roots in the past, and growing onward from those roots, which must be found in a period in our past before the alien gods of material affluence, of power-thirsting, of sex-obsession, of egotism and existential self-indulgence, became the chief aims of life, eagerly embraced, as they now are, by our contemporary 'trahison des clercs.'"
There's an interesting argument going on in the comments at Mark Shea's blog. Rod Dreher of NRO wrote "My friends and I sat around feeling even more bilious than usual toward the bishops because we take the faith seriously enough to make real sacrifices to serve Christ, and most of them don't give evidence of taking it seriously at all -- or at least not seriously enough to risk "scandal" to save Catholic children and families from pederast priests. I keep trying to find a way around the grave insult to the Catholics of Boston that the Vatican is delivering to them by keeping Bernard Law as their archbishop (and Mahony in L.A., and...), but I can't."

Here's my response:

Rod,

I hear you, and I'm sympathetic, but you sound like the older brother in the Prodigal Son story, or the vineyard laborers who started early in the day, looking at the bishops showing up with only an hour to go.

I don't mean to be uncharitable (I truly don't) but what possible difference does it make to you that some bishops behave badly while you and the friends you spoke of behave well?

I ask because I feel the same way most of the time. And I can only conclude that I am being prideful, and haughty in my own way. I measure them against myself and find them wanting, and that is a terrible, terrible thing I do. Cardinal Law is my Archbishop, and every Sunday I pray "for Bernard, our bishop" and then I pray for myself, for adding "he sure needs it."

If we are being insulted here in Boston, then we must bear that as we bear all insults, with humility and forgiveness. I believe that to be true because those are just about the only things I want more than anything NOT to be true.

Be faithful. Be happy. Be patient. And be trusting in God. Don't worry about the wages paid to others: are you getting a fair wage for the labor you put in?
9/11

Alan Dowd proposes to make 9/11 a holiday. I have heard this idea before, and while I am sympathetic to it I oppose it.

First, we haven't won the war yet, and I don't think we should celebrate what was, in essence, an American defeat--even as a somber holiday--while we are still fighting. Pearl Harbor Day, though often recognized, has not become a holiday at least in part because of its "infamy." 9/11 is much the same.

Second, Dowd proposes that it be a day without commerce, that schools and businesses be closed for the day. While this holds appeal in the abstract, the reality is there is no way to avoid commerce on this day. Americans cannot resist commercializing even somber religious holidays. (And lest we think it a modern problem, complaints about the lack of understanding of "the true meaning of Christmas" date well back into the 19th century.) Easter bunnies and Fourth of July sales are a part of our national character. Congress could regulate only so much of it, and sooner or later some state assembly would cave to business interests and allow businesses to be open. Once that happens, protection from "unfair competition" will soon ensue, and we will have stores open just as on Memorial Day.

Soon enough, sales will begin--after all, it was only October before it became patriotic to buy diamonds and automobiles. It will not be long before bad taste takes over, and "prices come crashing down" or some other hideous metaphor pollutes our national culture.

We are at war. The best way to honor those who died on September 11, 2001, is first to defeat those who murdered them. We ought not rest until we have won. I would rather see every American pause at 8:48 am and recite the Pledge of Allegiance and one of the prayers of St. Ignatius.

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for any reward,
save knowing that I do your will.
Books I like

Never one to miss an opportunity for vanity, I herewith present a selection of books that I think highly of. The only criteria for being on this list is that I read it, and thought it worth recommending. Some are annotated, and some you’ll just have to trust me on.

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. I don’t think much of Greene personally (read his preface to Kim Philby’s “My Secret War” to learn why) but as a novelist and storyteller I can find no fault. I could list at least half a dozen of his books here as favorites, but this one stands above the rest, for its perfect capturing of what it means to be Catholic, a sinner, and still to persevere.

In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead by James Lee Burke. Burke is one of the better crime novelists around, writing compelling prose with a languid Southern feel. His books also deal in broken people and bring a Catholic mysticism to the genre while retaining a quiet, wry sense of humor. The first book in the series is “The Lost Get Back Boogie” (if you are someone who needs to read the books in order) but this one is my favorite.

The Aubrey/Maturin Series by Patrick O’Brian. Also, “The Unknown Shore” which contains O’Brian’s prototypes for the characters of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. I blogged about these books back in May sometime so I won’t repeat myself.

“A Hostage to Fortune” and “Fate is the Hunter” by Ernest Gann. These are Gann’s autobiographical works, the former being a full autobiography and the latter being a memoir of his flying career. Gann has to be one of the most interesting people to have lived in the 20th century. He worked in movies as a cameraman and later talent evaluator for Jack Warner, produced Broadway plays (and even gave Mary Martin her start), was a successful novelist, airline pilot, and painter. He also snuck into Holland during World War II and spied on the German occupation. His novels include “The High and the Mighty” and “The Antagonists” (which became the ABC miniseries “Masada”).

CS Lewis. There’s really nothing bad in his works, but if you haven’t read Mere Christianity or the Screwtape Letters, you have really done yourself a disservice.

The “Hinges of History” series by Thomas Cahill. Yes, he’s a screaming liberal on the Church, but as a historian and scholar he’s first rate, and his works have a lively, enjoyable quality to them. “How the Irish Saved Civilization” is great fun, however contentious my father thinks the title.

“Rogue Male” by Geoffrey Household. Terrific thriller.

“Past Caring” by Robert Goddard. My favorite of Goddard’s books, and also his first. A thriller about a historian who takes on an interesting investigation into the history of a family that turns ugly fast. Don’t start it at 10pm unless you can stay up until 3 to finish it.

Nautical fiction, unannotated: “Run Silent, Run Deep,” Edward Beach. “The Cruel Sea” by Nicholas Monsarrat. “The Caine Mutiny” by Herman Wouk. “Mutiny on the Bounty.” The “Horatio Hornblower” series by CS Forester. Sorry, I know it’s blasphemy, but I don’t like Melville.

Things I’ve read recently: “A Voyage for Madmen” by Peter Nichols. Gripping “true adventure” about a singlehanded sailboat race. “Descent into Hell” by Charles Williams. Mixed bag. I think I need to read it again before reviewing it, but I can’t give it the whole-hearted endorsement that others have. “Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea.” Hard to believe this one is not a novel. “A Fellowship of Valor: the Battle History of the U.S. Marines.” Say what you will about the Marines, they do propaganda better than any of the other services. I recommend the audio version. “Isaac’s Storm” about the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. Tremendous. “Faster” by James Gleick. A book-length essay about the acceleration of life. Good, not great. Plus a bunch of chewing gum fiction not worth mentioning.

Cookbooks: How to Cook Everything. The Best Recipe series. The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. The I Hate to Cook Book. All of these are more than collections of recipes, and the last one is audibly funny.
Thursday Intentions

If you have someone you would like to add, please email me.

For Mrs. Kairos Guy, who is slowly getting better. For Chris and his wife, in training for the law and NFP. For my wife's cousin Sue. For those who kill themselves and the people they leave behind. For victims of bombings in Israel. For John Paul II. For Alicia, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend. For a just peace wherever fighting prevails. For S, her mother and her family. For Bill L.'s mother, father, and daughter, who shares something in common with me. For Dylan. For Dave's nephew and family. For Eugene D. For those who need strength to bear their crosses. For Fr. Jim's cousin, mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Karin, Elizabeth, Sarah, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, Megan and the anonymous ones as well.
A Psalm in lieu of a hymn

One thing of interest in reading the psalms is how often the psalmist speaks to the Lord in a familiar tone, sometimes with an emotion very like anger or resentment, even while praising God. The first line of this psalm is "Why, O Lord , do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?" I wonder if our modern sense of decorum, which permits us to sing as though we are God, but does not permit us to be mad at God while still loving Him, is of much worth.

Psalm 10:12-18

12 Arise, Lord ! Lift up your hand, O God.
Do not forget the helpless.
13 Why does the wicked man revile God?
Why does he say to himself,
"He won't call me to account"?
14 But you, O God, do see trouble and grief;
you consider it to take it in hand.
The victim commits himself to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked and evil man;
call him to account for his wickedness
that would not be found out.

16 The Lord is King for ever and ever;
the nations will perish from his land.
17 You hear, O Lord , the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Mutated Gene Source of Language, Study Says

"The research suggests the genetic mutations may at least partly explain why humans can speak and animals cannot. Researchers are likely to attempt to introduce the genetic mutations into mice as part of their work, but they said many other genetic changes would likely be necessary to produce a talking animal, and several said they doubted anything of the sort would ever be possible, let alone desirable.

Can a four-assed monkey be far behind?
A Blog of silence?

A question/thought/idea: would it be a good or bad thing, or entirely irrelevant, to suggest a day of blogging silence Sept. 11? Instead of spending time at the computer blogging, we could be praying, visiting a church, quietly reflecting, or *doing* rather than talking about doing.

I am undecided myself what value the idea has, so please comment or email away.
China Update

I no longer think it's enough just to say "I'm not going to buy products made in China." I think now I have to tell store managers when I'm leaving without a product because they only carry Chinese brands. If you do this, you will find store managers making faces that indicate they are working very hard at being patient with another religious nut, but that's okay. Personally, I'm not seeking martyrdom, but suffering for our convictions is supposed to be part of the territory, and if putting up with condescension from the manager of the local Wal-Mart is the cross I must bear, then so be it.

BUT, if all of you out there who are doing this (and a number of you have written to say you are) also tell the stores what's going on, it is just possible they will begin to sense a trend. And businesses, being driven by the bottom line, will follow any trend they think might be profitable.

Mrs. Kairos Guy suggested, for instance, that I call LL Bean. LL Bean unfortunately almost exclusively sells footwear that is made in China. But Bean is a company that takes stands and responds to its customers. If enough people contact them about this, it may prompt them to think about changing their vendors,or putting pressure on the vendors to change their practices. Or, failing that, Bean might at least have enough clout with the vendors to get them to certify that they aren't using slave/prison camp labor or factories owned by the military.

Something like the "Sullivan principles" (from South Africa's Apartheid days) adapted to China would be especially useful in situations like this. Sadly, all the people who were so active on South Africa seem not to be very interested in a situation in China that is also morally heinous.
Okay, now back to blogging. (And hating Blogger for eating posts!)

Don't forget to make your nominations for Most Overrated Rock Band of All Time and favorite One-Hit-Wonder. I will summarize and post sometime over the weekend or early next week.
Thank you

Thank you all again for the many expressions of kindness and the many prayer intentions. Sally is home and slowly improving. Your continued prayers for the next few months will be very much appreciated.

Update: I forgot a while ago specifically to thank the many fellow bloggers who posted requrests for prayers on their blogs, Flos Carmeli (to whom I owe a link in any case) and relapsed Catholic in particular. Thanks to all.
Wednesday Intentions

If you have someone you would like to add, please email me.

For Mrs. Kairos Guy, who is slowly getting better. For Chris and his wife, in training for the law and NFP. For my wife's cousin Sue. For those who kill themselves and the people they leave behind. For the repose of the souls of Fr. Tom's nephew, Brian H., and the victims of bombings in Israel. For John Paul II. For Alicia, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend. For the repose of the souls of Iris and Violet Carey, and their parents. For a just peace wherever fighting prevails. For S, her mother and her family. For Bill L.'s mother, father, and daughter, who shares something in common with me. For Dylan. For Dave's nephew and family. For Eugene D. For those who need strength to bear their crosses. For Fr. Jim's cousin, mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Karin, Elizabeth, Sarah, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.
Thanks to God

Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all Thou dost provide!
Thanks for times now but a memory,
Thanks for Jesus by my side!
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
Thanks for dark and stormy fall!
Thanks for tears by now forgotten,
Thanks for peace within my soul!

Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare!

Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
Thanks for heavenly peace with Thee!
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,
Thanks through all eternity!

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Tuesday update

Thank you all for your prayers. Mrs. Kairos Guy came home from the hospital last night. We still don't have a confirmed diagnosis, but at least have some strong indicators of what has been wrong. She is still not well, but there has been some improvement, and there should be more in the coming days. In the meanwhile, please keep the prayers and good wishes coming: they help tremendously. She told me Sunday morning she could feel them.

I will be getting back to work in the next day or so. Blogging will resume later today if the positive trend continues. Thank you for your patience!

Saturday, August 10, 2002

Update

Many thanks for all the prayers (thank you Kathy, especially, for pointing out the need.) Please keep Sally in your prayers, as she remains hostpitalized. We don't know what is wrong at this point--there are many possiblities, but after 36 hours with the doctors, we still don't know. The situation does not appear to be life threatening, but we can't really say until we get a diagnosis. It is very scary.

Friday, August 09, 2002

Mrs. Kairos Guy is very sick, and in the hospital. There will not be any blogging until she is back home and better.
Mrs. Kairos Guy is sick this morning. Since I will be taking her to the doctor in a bit, there will be no blogging until lunchtime. And what blogging there is will likely be back on topic today, and generally more charitable, though, since I need to report back on the end of my conversation with "Bob"--and that will try my charity severely--I can't promise a completely charitable blog day.
If you're a blogger who was inspired in part by Kairos, why not clock on the "Blogtree" link on the right, and make the connection?
Glory Be to the Father

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
World without end. Amen, Amen.
Friday Intentions

If you have someone you would like to add, please email me.

For Mrs. Kairos Guy, who is sick. For my wife's cousin Sue. For those who kill themselves and the people they leave behind. For the repose of the souls of Fr. Tom's nephew, Brian H., and the victims of bombings in Israel. For John Paul II. For Alicia, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend. For the repose of the souls of Iris and Violet Carey, and their parents. For a just peace wherever fighting prevails. For S, her mother and her family. For Bill L.'s mother, father, and daughter, who shares something in common with me. For Dylan. For Dave's nephew and family. For Eugene D. For those who need strength to bear their crosses. For Fr. Jim's cousin, mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Karin, Elizabeth, Sarah, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Noooooooooo. Not Russell Crowe!!!!!!

Sorry Emily, I know you like him, and he's good and all. But not as Jack Aubrey. Drat and conflab it all.


The World of Patrick O'Brian (FAQ) The much-awaited motion picture is currently in production at 20th Century Fox and Samuel Goldwyn. Filming began 17 June 2002 and runs through this October. Tentative release date is 2003. Directed by Peter Weir, it stars Russell Crowe as Jack Aubrey and Paul Bettany (who co-starred with Crowe in A Beautiful Mind) as Stephen Maturin. The film has been listed in several sources as alternatively titled Master and Commander and The Far Side of the World—the exact final title has not yet been announced by the studio. There are several links to good online news reports on the filming and production of the movie on our new Patrick O'Brian Movie Page.
Hussein Says Anyone Who Attacks Iraq Will Fail
President Saddam Hussein warned today that any troops invading Iraq would be "buried in their own coffins."


If Saddam were really as evil as his reputation, wouldn't he threaten to bury us in someone else's coffins?
I shudder to think what might happen if some of these lifeguards grow up to work for Norman Mineta. Can we please find a way to deal with breast-feeding that neither freaks out at it, nor pretends it doesn't exist, but that also acknowledges that many natural things ought not be done in a pool?
John at Disputations posted some pro-Dominican remarks yesterday, at least one of which was made at the expense of the order that tried to draft me in the first round coming out of college. (I played Lector on my college team, but they thought I was more natural as a Pastor. So I held out and they traded my rights to the Laity for a conditional draft pick and a decent bottle of wine.) Therefore, I herewith invite, in addition to the squabble over music, jokes about said order.

(For those who are here for serious reflections on life, fear not. As soon as the humidity returns in a few days, this Spring-fever-like eruption of snarkiness will end, and bloviation will return.)
Soldiers of Christ, in Truth Arrayed

Soldiers of Christ, in truth arrayed,
A world in ruins needs your aid:
A world by sin destroyed and dead;
A world for which the Savior bled.

His Gospel to the lost proclaim,
Good news for all in Jesus’ Name;
Let light upon the darkness break
That sinners from their death may wake.

Morning and evening sow the seed,
God’s grace the effort shall succeed.
Seedtimes of tears have oft been found
With sheaves of joy and plenty crowned.

We meet to part, but part to meet
When earthly labors are complete,
To join in yet more blest employ,
In an eternal world of joy.
Defeat

"It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail."
--Gore Vidal

So my wife and I had an argument. We have just moved far from our former parish and so obviously will be attending a new church. The incomparable Miss S, a former member of Organized Agnosticism, wants to parish shop, whereas I, having been raised in the One True Faith, believe we are stuck with whatever slobs and cretins we happen to live near. (Spare me complaints about my uncharity: we have moved into a college dorm. Even the smart kids are cretins in college.) Now, I know (I read it somewhere, perhaps on a box of "Holy O's" or "Beaties--the Breakfast of Martyrs!") that we in the Apostolic Line of things don't get to choose. We are stuck with the people around us, and--more to the point--they are stuck with us. Unless we run around advocating abortion and the like, we are pretty much immune. (That's still an offense, right?) But the Barely-Converted Heretic doesn't ever believe me when she doesn't like my answer, so we decide to appeal to a higher authority: Mom. (Not, in this case, Holy Mother Church.) Mom, you see, is a theology student at a major metropolitan newspaper--er, theology school.

But this school, being run by a society that rhymes with Sneezes, hasn't gotten around to teaching the answer to basic questions yet, even though Mom's been there a while. (Hi Mom!) So Mom appeals to Mom (yes, this time I mean Holy Mother Church). She asks a priest well-versed in such mundane things as canon law (though how he found time for it with all the Wellness Seminars going on I have no idea) and he, of course, comes back with the expected answer:

We all were secretly converted to the Congregational Church in 1983. Apparently, the whole "fighting communism" thing was just a ruse to distract us, a sleight-of-hand meant to ensure that we didn't know that the Holy Father was handing over the keys of Heaven to some really groovy new-age folks.

In other words, I was wrong, and it is now perfectly fine to live in Tulsa but attend Mass in Opaloosa. Where's that link for that Pius the 13th guy again?

[PS Wouldn't it be cool if people who belonged to Organized Agnosticism got to put letters after their name, like it's a religious order, or a British thing. "JB Kairos Guy, OA, OBE, KCE"?]

[PPS Anyone who has a recipe for "humble pie" please email it to me. Apparently, in my house I not only have to eat it, I get to bake it too.]
Information, please

Well, okay. Just feedback. Except for a couple emails from Dave Pawlak, I don't think I've ever received any comments or other feedback on the more-or-less-daily hymns. I'm just wondering if they add or subtract anything, or are neutral, to your experience of Kairos. I'm going to continue to post ones for my own sake, but I may make it less frequent if it turns out to be primarily an exercise in self-gratification. As the man used to say, "Ed and I thank you fer yer support."
Thursday Intentions

If you have someone you would like to add, please email me.

For my wife's cousin Sue. For the repose of the souls of Fr. Tom's nephew, Brian H., and the victims of bombings in Israel. For John Paul II. For Alicia, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend. For the repose of the souls of Iris and Violet Carey, and their parents. For a just peace wherever fighting prevails. For S, her mother and her family. For Bill L.'s mother, father, and daughter, who shares something in common with me. For Dave's nephew and family. For Eugene D. For those who need strength to bear their crosses. For Fr. Jim's cousin, mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Karin, Elizabeth, Sarah, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Have I ever recommended you read Jonathan Levi's "A Guide for the Perplexed"? (Not to be confused with the better known book of the same name by Moses Maimonides). Well, I should. Some reviewers didn't like it, but I found it highly enjoyable, and worth pondering a smidge. Read, and discuss.

[Hmmm. Maybe I need to post a list of books. Maybe even an Amazon wishlist. After all, I seem to be practically the last blogger in Christendom without a little paypal button. Maybe I could "bleg" for books. Mmmmmmm, boooooooks.]
Additional band contest

I am also now accepting nominees for your favorite "one hit wonder." Mine? At the moment, Chumbawumba, with a song that could be an American anthem: "I get knocked down."

"We'll be singing
When we're winning
I get knocked down
But I get up again
You're never gonna keep me down"
Contest clarification

Duran Duran doesn't count. I said rock bands. (Hair metal bands do, sadly, count. My criteria are obscure and unbending, but fair.)
Contest

For no reason whatsoever, I am now accepting nominations for "Most Overrated Rock Band of All Time." I nominate Fleetwood Mac, and will delete any entries that suggest U2. Let the flames begin.
Light blogging day. Sorry.
I can't really resist this. Apologies in advance.

A lot of people have been posting about the movie "Signs" and the director M. Night Shyamalan. Most people seem to like it and him. But if they didn't....

wouldn't the headline....

HAVE to be:

(sorry)

Shyamalan a Ding Dong!

[That's it: off the Confession and a rosary, RIGHT NOW!]
I have run out of patience with the Bob argument. I began to feel like the John Cleese character in the Monty Python argument sketch. Hope I haven't upset both readers who were following it intensely.
Spirit Offers Free Flights on 9/11
Tue Aug 6,11:21 PM ET

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - Spirit Airlines announced Tuesday that all its flights on Sept. 11 will be free, saying the offer is a response to travelers' reluctance to fly on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
Wednesday Intentions

If you have someone you would like to add, please email me.

For the repose of the souls of Fr. Tom's nephew, Brian H., and the victims of bombings in Israel. For John Paul II. For Alicia, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend. For the repose of the souls of Iris and Violet Carey, and their parents. For a just peace wherever fighting prevails. For S, her mother and her family. For Bill L.'s mother, father, and daughter, who shares something in common with me. For Dave's nephew and family. For Eugene D. and my wife's cousin Sue. For those who need strength to bear their crosses. For Fr. Jim's cousin, mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Karin, Elizabeth, Sarah, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

More from Bob. This may be it for me for a while, as this is taking way more time than I can afford right now. Warning: the post is long, and I did not want to delete from it, in the interest of fairly representing Bob's views.

Your reply is thoughtful, well constructed, and demonstrative. I deeply appreciate the effort you put it into it. You have made a logical and reasonable argument.

I believe your argument is a trifle incomplete, though, and papers over some areas of weakness. I hope you do not mind if I point them out, or rather, explain where our thoughts diverge. After all, if you desire to continue to particpate, then I would characterize this exchange not as a contest but an examination.
To the point:

1) All Christianity is not an argument from authority. There is that which is a matter of logic and that which is a matter of experience, then there is that which is a matter of speculation, interpretation, invention, piety, and ecclesiology. A simple way to put the issue is thus - Truth vs. Truth plus ideology. (Or Jesus vs. Jesus and propaganda about Jesus.)

2) We cannot possibly take the Gospels (NT or OT) to mean what they say. They say too many different things to mean the same thing or point to the exact same conclusions.

3) Authority as you refer to matters of history (testimony) and science (demonstration) is entirely incorrect as an example related to religion and spiritual Authority. Matters of history such as Hitler and Napoleon rely on
inductive reasoning (a rational endeavor), correspondence of evidence, the weight of corroberating testimony. What we accept as authority in science is reliance on experiment (verifiable experience). You can reinvent the wheel any time you like to determine whether round will roll. But even better, you can do the work in your head, a thought experiement to determine the truth of many natural things.

Associating demonstrated proofs in history and science with undemonstrable assertions in religion is a false analogy in this instance.

4) Certain first principles are essential to Christianity, indeed. For Jews, one first principle is necessary - there is one God. The second principle is an interpretation derived from the first - and he has chosen the Jews for his people.

Christians have three primary principles - God is One. Jesus is God. God is Three Persons. It is from these we derive everything else, but nothing automatically follows from these principles in terms of demonstrable proofs.
Scripture is clearly a commentary upon these principles (experiences, revelations). The Church is obviously an invention flowing from these Revelations.

But nothing in Scripture or Church can ever be as true or demonstrated rationally as principle revelation, and revelation is only relevant to those who experience it; not to those who merely possess hope that they are true (or put all their trust in the testimony of others). Raymond Brown once pointed out - "God doesn't write books, people write books. " We can apply
this to the church also. People create religions, not God.

Faith is an interactive sport or a feedback loop. By seeking you find, by finding you seek again. It is the way of prayer, not entirely but primarily a solitary endeavor (as exemplified in Jesus' life and being).

Revelation, or spiritual experience, is not a matter of argument from authority. It is a demonstrable result of human endeavor which is verifiable through testing, concordance, prior evidence, testimony, and examination.The experiment is applied in a somewhat different manner than a purely material one, but verifiable, nonetheless. You may call it Pascal's wager or the psalms recommendation to "taste and see", but there is a large body of knowledge and experience related to spiritual phenomena which has survived the test of time, and enjoys careful revision and addition. There is also that which is gratuitous and comes unbidden. All such experience is subject to comparison, contrast, interpretation, seculation, and conclusion.

The knowledge derived from it often concludes in ways that are logical and non-contradictory - but not always. Sometimes, a religion imposes constraints upon experience in such a way as to render it untrustworthy or ideological. Paul suggests testing all such things, but doesn't say how testing can be done without prejudice, therefore the tests of the Church are as likely to be biased as the proclamations of the source of phenomena.

(An example: some fellow claims to have an experience of the eucharist bread turning into actual flesh. The church says, nonsense. The bread can never give an outward appearance of Jesus' flesh. But the church's test of the claim is spurious. Why? In one sense, anything is possible for God, and thus if God wants to turn the bread into an actual lump of flesh and skin, it is well within his omnipotence; and two, the Church has to demonstrate that it and it alone has the absolute authority to speak for God. An extraordinary claim that demands extraordinary proof.)

Jesus, though, is always able to prove my personal claim that he is God, arisen and alive, through extraordinary means. He does so millions of times to people over millenia and the results are usually extraordinary (people change for whom change was impossible); while the church is never able to prove its extraordinary claims by extraordinary means over any period of time to any substantial number of people. It's claims always remain just that - assertions of human will and nothing more, ending in absurd conclusions.

Bob



Bob,

In response, you partially misundertand me. When I say "all Christianity is an argument from authority" what I mean is, Christianity has nothing to say without that authority. Particular teachings may not refer to Matthew 16:19, but without the authority of it, there's no point in speaking of moral doctrine. It is reduced to opinion, and of a somewhat blasphemous nature, without it.

Second, we can and we do take the Gospels to mean what they say. That does not mean we must abandon reason when we approach them. It is not always crystal clear what the point was, and Jesus *is* quite clear at any number of places that this is deliberate. But scripture is the starting point, and the starting point of exegesis is the literal meaning. We work from there, and sometimes stay with the literal meaning and sometimes try to understand more deeply. The general rule of thumb is, the less clear or the more counterintuitive something in the Gospel is, the harder we have to work to understand it. But "whatever you bind on earth" has been understood in more or less the same way more or less from the early church until Martin Luther. Paul, especially in the authentically Pauline letters, takes the authority of the Church as a given, and those were written within the first decades after Christ's death, a fact which no serious scholar contests.

But my point is not to argue exegesis as such. My point is, if we are Christians, really Christians, we must accept that the authority granted the Church was granted by Christ, or else the choosing of the Apostles and the Pentecost have no meaning at all. And the people who knew Christ personally, or who converted under the Apostles, believed this to be the case. This is the authority of testimony you refered to, and the only authority I am arguing about (I haven't even hinted at "revelation" in this discussion). And this authority grants knowledge, power, and a particular relationship with the Holy Spirit (as testified to in Acts, at Pentecost, in a book quite possibly written by an original apostle--though that point is not undisputed.)

In any case, you proceed from a false premise. "Scripture is clearly a commentary upon these principles (experiences, revelations)." No. Some scripture is this, but some is nothing more than testimony to what was witnessed firsthand or recorded at secondhand, in a serious attempt at history. (Luke is considered by many scholars in recent years to be a true work of history; many, many details once considered to be literary embellishments have turned out to be facts borne out by archaeology. The location of Herod's palace, for one, that was often cited as an example of how Luke "got it wrong" turns out to be a fact that Luke, uniquely among early histories, had right.)

The first five books of the New Testament are not commentaries, but actual histories. The fact that they disagree in certain details should not obfuscate the fact that they agree in many details, and on nearly every large issue. They agree, in fact, much more closely on most questions than many non-religious documents of the era that are accepted as authoritative history. The epistles are in some cases commentaries, but the Gospels are not, and it is disingenuous to conflate the two.

The fact that much of the preaching reported in them is contrary to expectation, or shocking, does not by itself mean we cannot treat the reports as serious. And it is not the same thing as saying the reporters themselves are unreliable, but that is in effect what you are saying.

You beg the question when you assert that "The Church is obviously an invention flowing from these Revelations" and "People create religions, not God." You have assumed as a premise the item in dispute. I assert, on the authority of Jesus Christ, as substantiated in the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and any number of the epistles, that the Church is *not* an invention, but the Creation of Christ. I argue this not on the authority of the Magisterium, but the authority of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. I assert that that authority grants the Magisterium power to bind and loose.

The principles of Christianity, which were never in dispute until after Luther, are much more than three persons, one God. They are encapsulated in the creed we say each Sunday. "We believe in one God, the Father the Almighty...We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of the God...We believe in the Holy Spirit...who proceeds from the father and son...We believe in one Holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come." That creed was written in the 4th century (either 325 or 391 AD), and encapsulates the fundamental precepts of Christianity, the "first principles." They are not Roman Catholic christianity, but "mere" Christianity.

There is no logical proof of the authority of the Magisterium that does not proceed from the authority granted by Christ. It would be self-nullifying if there were. If you wish to dispute it, you need to dispute either: Matthew 16:19, and it purports not to be a revelation but a quotation; or the facts of Apostolic succession. While "The Church says so" may be what some Catholics argue, it is not in fact what the Church teaches.

You are proceeding from assumptions about the New Testament that are not borne out either by the texts themselves, or by most scholarship on the subject. I don't know where to take the conversation from here.

Peace,
Brian
Bob wrote back. Here's his email and mine.

>From: "Bob" [bob@edsredeemingqualities.com]
>To: "JB O"
>Subject: not offended
>Date: Mon, 5 Aug 2002 22:50:29 -0700
>
>JB,
>
> I don't find your reply sarcastic or snippy at all. I hope you didn't
>find my questions to be so, though they are obviously pointed.
>
> The problem as reason and logic must see it, though, is that your answer
>is evasive. It falls under the category of an Argument from Authority -
>simple assertion without evidence or demonstration, or a circular argument.
>Which makes much Christian faith a matter more of ideology than experience.
>
> Strangely enough, as I explain in my blog today, it makes the Christian
>ideologue the obverse of the atheist. The atheist ignores the absurdity of
>his contradiction in terms; whereas the religious ideologue ignores the
>absurdity of his circular argument from authority; but both substitute
>themselves for God in the final analysis.
>
> Are you able to examine the case against religious ideology with
>disinterest or are you rather committed to the irrational interpretations,
>speculations, pieties, and theologies of the Catholic ideology?


All Christianity is an argument from authority. That is, if Christ is who He said He was, then we have the authority straight from the top, as it were. And if we therefore take the Gospels to be and mean what they say (but not in a fundy sense) then we have to take the idea of the Magisterium seriously.

You and I take all sorts of things "from authority" and no one ever questions it. I take it from authority that Napoleon existed and tried to conquer Europe. Likewise Hitler. I was not alive for either of those periods, but people concur that they happened. I take it on authority that the reason the lights in my office work has to do with the creation of electric fields made in power plants far away, and the transmission of those fields through wires. I can put my hand in a socket and get zapped, but that only proves that the force that lights the lights is there. I rely on authority to explain it.

It would be one thing to say that no one has ever observed God, and then argue from authority. But to be Christian is to accept certain first principles and proceed from them, just as to be a physicist is to do likewise. Some people once observed certain phenomena, and sought to categorize them. They wrote down what they saw, and passed it down to us, and we argue all sorts of things from those. The only difference between the physicist and the Christian (or the historian, for that matter) is that the physicist deals in repeatable phenomena and the Christian and historian deal in unique ones.

If we are going to go around rejecting arguments from authority, merely because they are from authority, we are going to have to spend a lot of time every morning probing around the bedroom before we can safely walk to the kitchen to make the coffee. The question is, which authority, and how reliable, and why should I believe that particular one?


My additional comment is, read Matthew 16:19. It is not my own Authority, but Christ's. Now, one can challenge that authority, of course, but there is nothing circular about it. Einstein was right, or Einstein was wrong. Paul Kennedy is right, or Paul Kennedy is wrong. Christ was right, or he was wrong. I believe He was right, and many things flow from that. But the authority of the the Magisterium is not circular or self-referential. It comes from Christ.

Monday, August 05, 2002

So, I got an email from a fellow blogger. Normally, I'm a follower of the Welborn protocol, which says that email not declared private is considered public, but I also tend to follow common sense, and this one seems like it was private. In the interest of sharing the message and avoiding the annoyance of constant circumlocutions, let us call him "Bob." Bob emailed with a question, which I found to be a surprising one from a Catholic, though perhaps I shouldn't have. His email and my reply follow, both edited slightly, with further comments at the end.

>From: "Bob" [bob@edsredeemingqualities.com]
>To:
>Subject: the spirit
>Date: Mon, 5 Aug 2002 15:59:17 -0700
>
>J.B.,
>
>You wrote: "They appear to want us to be a democracy, because they apparently do not understand the notion that we are guided by the Holy Spirit. They are so hopelessly obsessed with "power" that they sound just like the Cardinals they condemn."
>
>Is there a special Spirit detector that you or the RCC possesses which can determine whether it is more guided by God than say the Eastern Orth., or the Protestants, or the Jews, or Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus?
>
>Or let's put it in even more basic terms, is there anything to detect whether you or I are being led by God to different degrees? Or >that I am led by the spirit any less than say Paul or Jesus was? Does the spirit as manifested in Paul trump that of the spirit
> manifested in some Council?
>
>Or let's put it this way, is the stronger the belief in an ideology, more an assurance of righteousness than otherwise?
>
>Wondering.
>
>Bob

Bob,

I was tempted not to answer your email, becuase you won't like my answer. (At least, I wouldn't like it, if I were in the position of asking the question of someone else.) You may think it snippy or sarcastic, but I promise you it isn't.

There *is* a spirit detector. It is called the Magisterium. It is the Magisterium that defines the difference between the RCC and all other churches. It does not always function with perfect accuracy, but it is a fundamental tenet of the Roman Catholic Faith that it is the authoritative repository of Christ's teaching.

Eastern Orthodox churches have the fewest theological problems with the idea of the Magisterium (for reasons that people smarter than I must explain). Protestant churches mostly object to the idea. And Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus think we're all batty on it, though many find much politer ways to say it.

You may not like the answer, but it isn't mine. It is the Roman Catholic Church's.

Now, having given that answer, you may find (as many American Catholics do) that this is awfully judgmental and not very ecumenical, and therefore full of self-righteousness. For myself, I am very hesitant to declare (as the Magisterium is also, though many individuals are less so) that this therefore means others whom you name cannot be saved. If you read my blog with any regularity, you will know I take a rather hopeful view of salvation, and suppose that it is possible many people who do not acknowledge either the magiesterium or even Christ may well be saved. But there is little comfort to be found in Scripture on this, and I only enter the realm of speculation.

Peace,
JB the Kairos Guy


My further comment is that no one should take this as a sign of triumphalism. As I have said before the thing that distinguishes Christians from others is not how good we are, but that we are the only ones who understand how truly wicked we are. I don't suppose it made any difference to my correspondent, as I have sensed in some previous emails that he is rather skeptical of the whole notion that some people are saved while others are not. But if you really are a member of the Roman Catholic Church, you have to find a way to reconcile your modern, western relativism with an absolutism that is not very heartening to those on the wrong side of it.


I'm blogging late Monday night, in hopes of avoiding blogger during the day on Tuesday. Busy day ahead.
Tuesday Intentions

If you have someone you would like to add, please email me.

It seems whenever I pray, I am praying for Israel, and once again it happens today.

For the repose of the souls of Fr. Tom's nephew, Brian H., and the victims of bombings in Israel. For John Paul II. For Alicia, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend. For the repose of the souls of Iris and Violet Carey, and their parents. For a just peace wherever fighting prevails. For S, her mother and her family. For Bill L.'s mother, father, and daughter, who shares something in common with me. For Dave's nephew and family. For Eugene D. and my wife's cousin Sue. For those who need strength to bear their crosses. For Fr. Jim's cousin, mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Karin, Elizabeth, Sarah, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.
Kind of a funky, ecumencial blog from across the pond here: the Connexion.
This is definitely not good.

37.5 %

My weblog owns 37.5 % of me.
Does your weblog own you?
Flos Carmelli has some good observations about my earlier post today. I commend them to you, and then to my comment over there. He is essentially right, both about my intent, and the ease with which I allowed myself to be misunderstood.
I know I have said this before, but it bears constant repetition: You cannot fix the world. You can only save it.

Yes, it is possible to make modest improvements to the conditions of the world, and it is possible to improve the lot of some people in some places by your efforts alone. But none of that fixes the world.

It cannot be done, because the condition of the world is fundamentally broken. The best you personally can do is make it run for a couple of minutes, and get it to move forward a few feet before it breaks down again. But you can save the world, and by saving it, cause it to be fixed.

This is what makes groups like VOTF so frustrating. There is only one power in the Roman Catholic Church, and it is neither the Pope nor the College of Cardinals, and it is a profound misunderstanding, not to say heresy, to think it is. Anyone who wants seriously to “keep the faith” would know that. Arguing about who gets to do what and when reduces the physical manifestation of Christ on earth to a petty legislature.

I am on record as being in favor of married clergy. I am biased towards the idea of a female clergy. My opinions on these subjects matter not at all. If the Holy Spirit wants these things, He will find a way to make them occur, and He will not first ask my permission.

Let our focus in the Church please be on nothing more—and especially nothing less—than the saving of souls. The souls of the corrupt priests and corrupted victims require significant attention, and our penance must surely be severe. But they are not the only souls about which we must be concerned.

I could really use some help with mine, for instance, and I imagine yours is in much the same shape. That guy down the street needs some help, too. And the person on the way to work this morning…And the woman who…
Monday Intentions

If you have someone you would like to add, please email me.

It seems whenever I pray, I am praying for Israel, and once again it happens today.

For the repose of the souls of Fr. Tom's nephew, Brian H., and the victims of bombings in Israel. For John Paul II. For Alicia, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend. For the repose of the souls of Iris and Violet Carey, and their parents. For a just peace wherever fighting prevails. For S, her mother and her family. For Bill L.'s mother, father, and daughter. For Dave's nephew and family. For Eugene D. and my wife's cousin Sue. For those who need strength to bear their crosses. For Fr. Jim's cousin, mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Karin, Elizabeth, Sarah, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.
Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones

Ye watchers and ye holy ones,
Bright seraphs, cherubim and thrones,
Raise the glad strain, Alleluia!
Cry out, dominions, princedoms, powers,
Virtues, archangels, angels’ choirs:

Refrain

Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia!

O higher than the cherubim,
More glorious than the seraphim,
Lead their praises, Alleluia!
Thou bearer of th’eternal Word,
Most gracious, magnify the Lord.

Refrain

Respond, ye souls in endless rest,
Ye patriarchs and prophets blest,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Ye holy twelve, ye martyrs strong,
All saints triumphant, raise the song.

Refrain

O friends, in gladness let us sing,
Supernal anthems echoing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One.

Refrain

Sunday, August 04, 2002

Fr. Jim Tucker at Dappled Things has posted his own take on my thoughts about the subjunctive. I am inclined to agree with him, with the proviso that the subjunctive holds temptations that require special vigilance. It is very easy to go from "What if" in a sense of wonder and humility to "if only..." in a sense of resentment. And the line isn't always clear, at least to me.

After all, how can I know if it is my cross to bear, to witness a problem or to solve it?
VOTF

"Voice of the Faithful" is run by spineless weenies. I cannot, and do not, speak ill of its membership as a whole. I suspect there are many good people mixed up with the rabble rousers who run it. But they have shut down on their discussion boards a thread about a wholly inappropriate speaker at their conference, because the criticism of Dave Alexander was unrelenting. Truthfully, the response is very much like that of the Church to the allegations of priestly abuse. And given the nature of the speaker in question, an advocate of child sexual "education" that is basically abuse named Debra Haffner, eerily parallel.

VOTF's motto is "Keep the faith, change the church!" The general tenor of the group appears to be to turn the Catholic Church in to a version of the Unitarian Church. They appear to want us to be a democracy, because they apparently do not understand the notion that we are guided by the Holy Spirit. They are so hopelessly obsessed with "power" that they sound just like the Cardinals they condemn. Mark Shea keeps comparing them to victims of Stockholm Syndrome, and I think he is right.

I'm not really going to join the battle against them here on any regular sort of basis, since that's not what this site is for. But I have taken the fight to them on their message boards (and they deleted my post) and will continue to do so.
The other side of "If"

The other day I wrote about how "if" leads very often to sin. I do think, however, that the subjunctive is a tool, like any other. It may be misused most of the time, but that doesn't mean it has no power to help us do better. Evaluating the past in the hope of doing better starting right now is a marvellous use of the mood. "Next time I see a beggar, if I have no money I will..." "If I am feeling short-tempered, I will keep a little distance between me and those on whom I might atke it out."

I still believe that even this can be misused. It can very easily lead to pointless regret (for things forgiven and repented of) or needless anxiety (about a future we have only influence over, not control of).
Sunday Intentions

If you have someone you would like to add, please email me.

It seems whenever I pray, I am praying for Israel, and once again it happens today.

For Alicia, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend. For the nephew of a priest Dylan knows. For the repose of the souls of Iris and Violet Carey, and their parents. For a just peace wherever fighting prevails. For S, her mother and her family. For Bill L.'s mother, father, and daughter. For Dave's nephew and family. For Eugene D. and my wife's cousin Sue. For those who need strength to bear their crosses. For Fr. Jim's cousin, mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Karin, Elizabeth, Sarah, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.

Friday, August 02, 2002

sorry y'all for not posting on Friday. Just got the computer working again. I will do some posting during the weekend to make up for it.

Peace,
JB the Kairos Guy

Thursday, August 01, 2002

A lesson in humility

Last fall I reread "The Screwtape Letters" and thoroughly enjoyed it. One part that caused me to laugh out loud felt very familiar.

Screwtape advises his nephew Wormwood to counter humility in the "patient" by planting the thought, "I was just humble!" The pride that results ruins the humility. But it can be cyclical, Screwtape advises, and the patient may find the whole thing absurd if carried on too long, and laugh it off.

I laughed because that happens to me a fair amount. Any time I manage to do something without thinking first of its impact on the Almighty Me, I wind up patting myself on the back for having been humble. I do manage sometimes to find the cycle of humility and pride amusing, and move on. But I could never figure out how to break it.

The other day the Holy Spirit gave me the answer. "I was just humble!" I congratulated myself proudly. "Finally!" replied the Spirit.
One of the things I love about "Disputations" is that it is one of the few places in the world and on the internet where you can see an imperative like "Bring back the clausulae!" and know you are going to be treated to an earnest argument in favor of something you had never heard of before, and probably won't soon again. I try stuff like that, and come out sounding like a horrible pedant. (Perhaps that's because I am in fact a horrible pedant, but I could really do without the constant reminders.)
By the way, in case you didn't notice, I'm back.
If

I realize I’m skating perilously close to nihil obstat territory here, but I am beginning to wonder if the subjunctive mood is un-Christian.

It seems strange, surely, to suggest that grammar could be sinful, but bear with me. As we all know, the subjunctive mood is a form of a verb that expresses hypothetical action, or action contrary to fact. It is no doubt a major stumbling block for the pedant named above, because it is so often used incorrectly. An example of the subjunctive is the song “If I were a rich man” from “Fiddler on the Roof.” He is not a rich man, but he sings about what he would do if he were.

And there is the problem. That little word “if,” out of which flows so much sin. How many acts of uncharity, of pride, of petty theft even, flow from that word “if.” “If only I weren’t so broke, I would surely pay that debt.” “If only I can get the promotion…” “If only he weren’t such a jerk…” “If only…if only…if only.”

The act of bearing a cross is the act of stifling the subjunctive. There is no past or future in bearing a cross, no hypothetical other realities. Only the act of accepting what the present has to offer, making the most of it, and heading for the next moment. It may in fact be a simplification to say that all sin flows from “if” but not much of one.
Thursday Intentions

If you have someone you would like to add, please email me.

It seems whenever I pray, I am praying for Israel, and once again it happens today.

For Alicia, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend. For the repose of the souls of Iris and Violet Carey. For a just peace wherever fighting prevails. For S, her mother and her family. For Bill L.'s mother, father, and daughter. For Dave's nephew and family. For Eugene D. and my wife's cousin Sue. For those who need strength to bear their crosses. For Fr. Jim's cousin, mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Karin, Elizabeth, Sarah, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.
The King Shall Come when Morning Dawns
The King shall come when morning dawns,
And light triumphant breaks;
When beauty gilds the eastern hills,
And life to joy awakes.

Not as of old a little child
To bear, and fight, and die,
But crowned with glory like the sun
That lights the morning sky.

O brighter than the rising morn
When He, victorious, rose,
And left the lonesome place of death,
Despite the rage of foes.

O brighter than that glorious morn
Shall this fair morning be,
When Christ, our King, in beauty comes,
And we His face shall see.

The King shall come when morning dawns,
And earth’s dark night is past;
O haste the rising of that morn,
The day that aye shall last.

And let the endless bliss begin,
By weary saints foretold,
When right shall triumph over wrong,
And truth shall be extolled.

The King shall come when morning dawns,
And light and beauty brings:
Hail, Christ the Lord! Thy people pray,
Come quickly, King of kings.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

I really hate doing this, since yesterday was the busiest traffic day in the history of Kairos, but today and tomorrow are not likely to have any active posting. This evening is slightly (and I mean SLIGHTLY) possible, but otherwise, nothing much until late tomorow or Thursday at the latest.

Check out Disputations while I am gone, or visit any number of the links on the right. And be sure to send Emily Stimpson a farewell email, as on Thursday she closes down her solo act and joins HMS blog.

Monday, July 29, 2002

"Challenge the Church" and "Alternative World Youth Day"
(the thing that fizzled)

My favorite part is this:
The "Pope-mania" that surrounds this event is something with which many Catholics have problems. "The Catholic Church’s teachings call for justice for the poor as a priority for both church and state" says Gwyneth Lonergan, a University of Toronto student and member of Challenge the Church. “I’m shocked the Vatican wants to pay for the Pope’s visit with funds that could be used to relieve homelessness.”

And, now, to Holy scripture (as put to a meter by Tim Rice, of all people):

"Woman your fine ointments
brand new and expensive
should have been saved for the poor
Why have they been wasted?
we could have raised maybe
300 silver pieces or more.
People who are hungry,
people who are starving
matter more than your feet and head!"

--Judas Iscariot

Interesting, eh?
More on husbands and wives submitting can be found at theHeart, Mind & Strength Blog. Ephesians ("wives obey your husbands; husbands love your wives") is taken up rather more directly than I manage. Good stuff.
Well, there sure are a lot of you Mark Shea readers out there, aren't there?

Welcome, and hope you stay a while. If you like what you find, skim the archives some, and don't forget to tell a friend about Kairos! And make sure to use the new "Blogs4God" rating system on the right. I would offer you an indulgence for doing so, but then I would be a heretical schismatic who is anathema. And I don't want to be that. :)
I think nihil obstat must be very lonely.
I am pleased to note that Integrity is back to posting, and primarily on its original area of focus, Christifideles Laici. I will add Integrity back to the links on the right next time I fiddle with the template, but for now, go check it out.
“Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works. “

-- Ecclesiastes 9:7

The Water of Life

It is a curious fact that many alcoholic drinks identified with a particular nationality—Whiskey, Vodka, and Aquavit, for instance—derive their names from words for “water of life.” It is partially curious just because it reveal more about us than perhaps the originators of those drinks could know, but is also curious because of the similarity of alcohol to life. That is, alcohol (at least for those who drink at all) plays a role in friendship very much like the role the world plays in our relationship to God.

Worldly life and alcohol both have the potential to enslave us to them. But properly regulated, and understood as an enabler or an enhancer, they both become a means to an end. Whether of the highest quality or the lowest, both can be addictive, however much they repulse at first. (Try a few shots of Jagermeister if you doubt this.)

A gathering of friends held over bottles of good wine often has a magical quality about it that merely sitting down to quaff lacks. Our very word “convivial” comes from the latin “convivium,” which, like the Greek “symposion,” was an all night party of alcohol and conversation.

The use you put both to has much more to say about their value than anything else. Some are born at a station in life equivalent to a Chateau Lafite Rothschild; others, Bud Light. But both hold temptations to various kinds of abuse. Some get addicted to their consumption, others to their possession. For the hard-core wine addict, actual drinking of the wine is anathema.

And so too with life. The wealthy person born of high station (the Lafite) can become consumed with recounting the station, listing the pedigrees of ancestors who actually did something, fighting to preserve the value of the trust fund, and so miss out on the opportunity to actually live, to take advantage of a station in life that need not demand many hours a day for mere subsistence. They never ever drink of the wine in the cellar.

The impoverished person of lower station (the Bud Light) faces many more day-to-day obstacles, but often rises above them. For that person, the doors to the house and the refrigerator are both always open to company, and every moment is a good one to share a drink and some fellowship.

Of course, the poor person can be an alcoholic and the wealthy one the true philanthropist, who never turns a poor person away from the door. The contrast is not true in all cases. It merely illustrates that the quality of the alcohol and the quality of the life lie mainly in the use you make of them. And, in both cases, we know exceptions. There do seem to be people who can be highly-functional alcoholics and still remain agreeable companions, and highly selfish people who have apparently missed the point of existence who are fundamentally content. But choosing the most dangerous path merely because someone once crossed it is not a choice the vast majority of humanity can gamble with and win.

Drinking oneself numb is very much akin to thrill-seeking. In both cases, the risk of addiction increases, and in both cases the purpose is to quiet the still small voice that suggests something may have gone wrong. Soon enough, the purpose is gone entirely, and all that is left is a sieve trying to fill itself up.

Just as various heretics in the early church and occasionally more recently have decreed that the world as such is evil (Disputations will certainly note some in the comments section of this item) so some people who have no addiction nevertheless crusade against alcohol. Both assume the potential for abuse will always lead to abuse, and so condemn as evil that which is merely a tool for good or evil.

Why do I tell you all this?

One of my readers asked in the comments section on my Friday blog about Marriage, what the real purpose is? He gave the classic example of the married person who meets his or her “soulmate” and “knows” that the new person will make him or her happy.

Now, I cannot here speak about the purpose of a purely secular marriage. (I do wish we could disconnect marriage with job benefits more completely, so that those who use it as a benefits program or as PR for their film careers could find a better way to do those things, that don’t undermine all forms of marriage. But that is a blog for another day.) But for a Christian the purpose of marriage has nothing to do with happiness, though that is of course one of its effects. The purpose of marriage is to form a spiritual bond, to emulate in life the spiritual bond of Christ and His Church, and to have and raise children within the light of Christ.

If you set out to capture “the perfect buzz” you will more likely wind up getting sick on the gutter or never quite hit that pleasant level. If you set out to “be happy” in a marriage, some therapist’s child is likely to get a new pony. But if you soak up the companionship and alcohol around you in a measured way, “the perfect buzz” often comes. If you and your spouse both make loving, honoring, and obeying the purpose of your marriage, you will probably wonder what all this twaddle about “finding a soulmate” was all about.

There are exceptions, of course, because life offers no promises save impermanence. But setting out to control the things you can is a little like shaving the dice in your favor. They don’t always come up your way, but you surely ought to bet on 7s anyway.
Monday Intentions

If you have someone you would like to add, please email me.

For Alicia, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend. For the repose of the souls of Iris and Violet Carey. For a just peace wherever fighting prevails. For S, her mother and her family. For Bill L.'s mother, father, and daughter. For Dave's nephew and family. For Eugene D. and my wife's cousin Sue. For those who need strength to bear their crosses. For Fr. Jim's cousin, mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Karin, Elizabeth, Sarah, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.
Psalm 4

Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have relieved me in my distress;
Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.
How long, O you sons of men,
Will you turn my glory to shame?
How long will you love worthlessness
And seek falsehood?Selah
But know that the LORD has set apart[1] for Himself him who is godly;
The LORD will hear when I call to Him.
Be angry, and do not sin.
Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.Selah
Offer the sacrifices of righteousness,
And put your trust in the LORD.
There are many who say,
"Who will show us any good?"
LORD, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us.
You have put gladness in my heart,
More than in the season that their grain and wine increased.
I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Sunday, July 28, 2002

I'm sorry not to be posting much this weekend. The gazillion word essay on Friday used up all my brainpower. Plus, I'm busy getting ready to move. Monday should have some posts. Tuesday and Wednesday likely will not. Then I should be back on track for the duration.

Friday, July 26, 2002

Okay, so the following blog is really, really long. I read enough blogsites that I skim the extra long posts, too, so I feel your pain. But please read all the way through to the end. It had to be that long.

At least 60% of the time in my marriage, I am an extraordinarily annoying person. I belch, fart, and snore. I whine, I complain. If not for the fact that the other 40% of the time, I do the kinds of things written below, my wife would long ago have hidden my corpse in little freezer bags. But she is annoying too.

That’s the point. We have a very strong marriage not because we are perfect, but because we deal with the imperfections.

[Warning: not all imperfections can be dealt with. If you stick with him just a little longer because you just know he’s gonna change, he isn’t.]