Thursday, December 30, 2010

A meandering reflection on regular church attendance

Over on the other blog—“Why do you have two blogs, Layne?” Well, first of all, because I can; second, because the other one is good for quickie observations and YouTube clips—I have posted a copy of Fr. Tim Finigan’s classic lampoon, “Ten reasons why I don’t wash” (props to Fr. Z for pointing it out). Father Finigan posted it at the end of a short rant deriding people who don’t go to Mass because “my parents forced me to go to Mass when I was a kid”. His point—and it’s a darn good one—is that our parents forced us to do many things we didn’t want to as kids that eventually became adult good habits; going to church regularly ought to be such a habit. In fact, someday I hope to write a post on all the various annoying clich├ęs our parents told us when we were kids that we discovered as adults were the basics of wisdom; the most salient fact about truisms is that they are true.

The list points up a basic fact: Once you understand that the point of going to church on Sunday is to worship God, most excuses for not going are pretty lame. Of course, if you really don’t believe in God, you don’t need any other excuse; on the other hand, for every true atheist or agnostic, there’s at least one person who does believe in God to some extent but ranks corporate worship of Him below golf, house cleaning, watching The Game, and—when you’re really bored—having sex with the significant other. You would think, in these situations, going to church would at least be a break from the routine; for that, a megachurch can be great entertainment, although when done properly the Catholic Mass is great theater. Then, when you get back, you can play golf, clean the house, watch the game and—if you’re really bored—have sex with the significant other. Or not. [Please tell me if you missed the sarcasm the first time around.]

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Telling the Christmas story

Recently, Jeff Miller (aka the Curt Jester) posted a somewhat-lengthy discussion of the Christmas movies he’s been watching. Along the way, he noted just how many of them hit the same themes over and over: 1) Family is important; 2) Materialism is bad; and 3) Santa Claus is real. On the other hand, the only other option seems to be watching some iteration or other of the Nativity story, the most recent of which Taylor Marshall blasted as “blasphemous and sacrilegious” for its depiction of the Blessed Virgin consulting a palm reader (Gottenyu! Not something a pious Jewish girl would do) and for depicting her as suffering labor pains.[1]  Couldn’t somebody, Miller wondered aloud, manage to write a story that would hit the Nativity themes without being a Nativity movie?

It sounds like an interesting idea. At least, until you ask yourself: How do you separate the Nativity from the birth of Jesus?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Of parachutes and prophylactics

In my last post, I observed that William Saletan seems almost willing to concede that abortion is wrong; however, his obsession with contraception forces him to maintain it as a fundamental right … albeit an unattractive and unpleasant right, one that he would rather see exercised as little as possible. This is almost a textbook example of cognitive dissonance, the moral and psychological tension caused by holding two conflicting principles simultaneously.

Babies are good, but unwanted pregnancy is bad. Killing babies is bad, but making women carry unwanted babies to term is bad too. So women shouldn’t get pregnant if they don’t want to have babies, especially if they don’t like the idea of killing unwanted babies.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Why Roe must go

Recently, William Saletan cobbled together a possible compromise solution to the endless struggle over abortion in America. The interesting thing about his solution is that, while he still doesn’t quite “get” the pro-life position, he makes several key concessions that show he, along with other key pro-choice advocates, is reluctantly learning.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Liar, lunatic, Lord ... or legend?

“In all my life,” C. S. Lewis wrote in the opening paragraph of Miracles, “I have met only one person who claims to have seen a ghost. And the interesting thing about the story is that that person disbelieved in the immortal soul before she saw the ghost and still disbelieves it after seeing it. She say that what she saw must have been an illusion or a trick of the nerves. And obviously she may be right. Seeing is not believing.”

I remembered this paragraph after I first read of Emile Zola’s encounter with the miraculous. The defiantly atheistic journalist went to Lourdes, announcing that he wanted to see a miracle, even so small a healing as “a cut finger”. What he did see was a woman cured so thoroughly of lupus that patches of skin were still slightly red from healing. Zola was so horrified at the sight of a woman he had seen badly disfigured now whole and healthy that he turned away: “I cannot look at her; she is still too ugly.” He later stated that he would not believe in miracles even if confronted by all the miracles ever recorded.

These two incidents were brought back into my mind by a discussion on Father Z’s blog about the miraculous healing attributed to the intervention of St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (“Talking Eagle”), the Aztec peasant to whom Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared, and to whom the tilma which bears her icon belonged. Or at least to whom she is supposed to have appeared and the tilma is supposed to have belonged.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thoughts on the inerrancy of Scripture

Saul Meets Samuel (artist unknown)

In “Another reason why sola scriptura is bad doctrine”, one could argue, I evaded a very sticky wicket. One could even accuse me of deliberate obfuscation.

Okay, grant that Christianity is not based on Scripture, that you can’t derive the authentic beliefs of the first Christians from Scripture alone, and that Scripture by itself is as likely to lead to errors as it is to truth. Still, if Scripture is the inerrant, indefectible Word of God—and postulating that God would not lie about Himself—then does that not require you, Mr. Layne, to believe that God commanded the total destruction of the Amalekites (1 Sam 15:2-3)? That He ordered homosexuals to be put to death (Lev 20:13)? Doesn’t that require you, Mr. Layne, to believe that rock badgers are ruminants because God said they chew the cud (Lev 11:5)? That the universe and everything in it was created in six days (Gen 1:1-2:1)? In sum, does this not require you, Mr. Layne, to believe everything the Bible says without reservation and qualification, no matter how silly or demonstrably counterfactual a statement might be, no matter how one text might contradict another?

Yes or no?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Another reason why sola scriptura is bad doctrine

Let's pretend that you're watching TV. (Not too hard, since you're already staring at a monitor.) On the screen are the usual between-acts interruptions of narrative flow known as "commercials". One of them is a trailer for Schmuckatelli's Rules,[1] a recent release from Blowhard Pictures, which trumpets the presumed endorsement from Roger Ebert: "A FINE MOVIE … I WOULD RECOMMEND THAT EVERYONE SEE IT".

Intrigued, you find your way to Ebert's review in the Chicago Sun-Times, where you read: "Schmuckatelli's Rules is a fine movie, except for the dialogue, the story, the acting, the cinematography and the editing. I would recommend that everyone see it, except that I can't think of a reason even to watch the trailers." Congratulations! You've just discovered a fallacy of quotation out of context!