Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
I grew up with the definite impression that Catholics were bad. Maybe not even Christian. This was never taught from the pulpit or in my home as far as I recall, but I picked it up somewhere. I have some serious doctrinal reservations (as they would with me) when it comes to Catholicism, but find much good and Christian within it and its people. I would like to be counted as one of them.
So I'm sitting at lunch with these folks, and when the conversation gets around to me being in seminary I can see their quizzical expressions: How is it possible I could then be married with kids? Their perplexity goes away with two words: "I'm evangelical". I think they are as surprised to meet me at this conference as I am to meet them.
One fellow, who calls himself a "papist", is very forward about what he prefers about Catholicism and what mystifies him about Protestantism. We had a good talk.
Far as I can tell he thinks evangelical denominationalism is an inexplicable break from the unity of the body of Christ. He asks me who the head of our church is, expecting no answer. When I said "Jesus Christ" it seemed to catch him off guard. He went on to talk about our lack of unity though, and I had to admit he had a point. I wish we could have a pope.
The conversation went back and forth and we were both making pretty good points. I saw some things I hadn't seen before, and hopefully so did he. In the end I felt like I had spoken with a brother in Christ, and when we shook hands and parted ways I hoped he felt the same way.
It was funny to me when I was with all these Catholics because I was imagining what some of my evangelical friends would be thinking if they were with me. Some would have been shocked at the liberalism: Free homemade beer and wine flowed all week (but they were charging for bottled water). Some would have been shocked at the conservatism: I haven't heard the word "contraception" so much in all my life. It was an interesting bunch to be with.
They sure know how to do their architecture. Stained glass and brick everywhere you looked. It had all the feel of fine workmanship and beauty and yet somehow avoided the sense of luxurious overspending. The whole place just felt reverent and connected to the past. I like that. I think it a little ridiculous that my papist friend wanted all Mass to be in Latin, but I do like that immediate connection with Tradition that one feels as soon as one participates in anything Catholic.
I was actually intending to go to Mass and I was even hoping to sneak communion. But when they announced that it was open only to "believing Catholics" I knew I couldn't pull it off because my cover had already been blown. I had known already that this was common practice, but to my surprise it actually hurt when they said I couldn't take communion with them. Even though I know there are good reasons for it, it felt like I was on the outside looking in on them and their Jesus. I did not like that feeling at all. So I didn't go. It would have been too painful.
It was great to lunch with these people at the same table. Personally, however, I long for the day when we can eat at the same Table. They are certainly welcome at mine.
Monday, June 11, 2007
5. Saturday Night Live
As much as this show has had its ups and downs, and whole seasons when I haven't watched a single episode, it must be admitted that it has been a perpetual laugh-maker, humour-former, culture-feeder, and televesion mainstay for several generations. I loved the Farley/Hartman years and have a plethora of skits from this show forever ingrained in my psyche. This show was the single greatest bond of my high school friendships and has been the fodder for many, many laughs.
Even though I'm sure a lot of the political edginess wore off by the time I watched it, this show still made some of the most poignant statements about life and war that I've ever seen on television and it managed to be heartwarming and funny as well. Very funny actually. I must have laughed out loud between ever commercial break. Even if I teared up at some of them too. What an amazing show.
3. NYPD Blue
Yeah, I saw more rear ends than I would have liked to, but this show got a bit of a bad rap for all the publicity that was made of its edginess. After the first couple seasons this show really settled into its own and I got quite attached to its characters. I thought it depicted reality in a very touching and truthful way. Interestingly enough, the show lasted long enough to be an essential part of my life when I still lived under my parent's roof, watching with my brother, and then under my own roof, watching the last two seasons with my wife. Sipowicz is possibly the greatest character ever on television.
For all that might be said about this show's legacy (turning the trivial into the important and the important into the trivial), it was supposed to be a comedy, not a worldview former! And as a comedy it hit the mark like no show ever has. Unlike the Simpsons, it bowed out before it got repetitive and boring. It was always, always, always, very, very, very funny.
I don't know where to start with this show. The best and smartest writing, acting, and story-lines I've seen on any screen. It was funny. It was intelligent. It was timely. It was gripping. It was moving. It was a fine peice of work. It is sorely missed. I don't know why its viewership slipped. I hardly watch TV any more since this went off the air.
Monday, June 04, 2007
"Nothing would remain stable in human society if we determined to believe only what can be held with absolute certainty."
After Sunday School the other day a guy told me that my class was making him think, which he thought was a good thing. He said when he first became a Christian his pastor confronted him saying he was a "lazy thinker". He is a retiral-aged man at my church now and I can say he has thought and is still thinking. Good for him. Good for that pastor too. I think a lot of pastors today have caved to the consumeristic pressures and are the ones dumbing it down rather than speaking from the Word for the maturation of their congregations. Motivational speeches instead of sermons.
But let's not pretend that we aren't thinking. We are just thinking lazy.
Augustine said: "No one believes anything unless one first thought it believable. . . . Everything that is believed is believed after being preceded by thought. . . . Not everyone who thinks believes, since many think in order not to believe; but everyone who believes thinks, thinks in believing and believes in thinking."
I think a lot of evangelicals in my tradition do not think of themselves as theologians. But they are. The thing is that a lot of us simply accept certain teachings on the basis of accepted authority. This might seem shocking to many to realize this, since many of them cringe at the Catholic concept of papal authority, but we accept certain truths based on a mixed-bag of authorities, mostly determined by bookstores and dynamic church leaders in our own era rather than on some sort of dialogue with church tradition as a whole---i.e. theology.
So we think from Lucado and Yancey, Hybels and Bell, instead of through them to everything behind them. Of course, you have to start somewhere, but we start from a few decades ago and move towards today instead of starting today and moving back into the faith that was entrusted to those before us; those from whom we've inherited this faith. I sometimes think evangelicals are alot like the Mormons, who think there was nothing useful between Peter and Josef Smith.
I sometimes wonder: Who is our Josef Smith and where do we get off thinking we can get to the pristine nature of the biblical faith and ignore all thought regarding about how it got to us in the first place? The Bible did not come to us without tradition. Tradition not only brought us to our current understanding of it but brought us the Bible we have to begin with. What ended up in the Bible was determined by the church of the first four centuries.
But we skip all that and pretend to believe in the Bible alone. But there is no such thing. We all think from somewhere. So will you think from Christian top 40 or from Christianity as a whole? It may be a difficult road forward, but evangelicals need to get about the hard work of reuniting with the faith of our heritage, rather than a truncated version of it.