Saturday, May 19, 2012

Matthew 6:7: Vain repetition or babble?

The early teen years are a time when charming misinformation is passed on from kid to kid with the solemn, easy assurance of time-tested wisdom.  “Schnauzer” is a dirty word in German.  The F-word is an acronym meaning “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” (in fact, that became a Van Halen album title towards the end of the Sammy Hagar era).  And KISS, the name of the rock supergroup, stands for “Knights In Satan’s Service”.

Eventually we learn better.  Schnauzer, in fact, comes from Schnauze, meaning “snout”.  Although the actual root of the f-bomb is uncertain, enough cognates abound in the Germanic languages that it most likely comes to us from a common Indo-European stem through Anglo-Saxon.  And, according to Wikipedia, guitarist and founding member Paul Stanley first suggested the name “Kiss” when original drummer Peter Criss mentioned that he’d been in a band named Lips; at one point, founding bassist Gene Simmons claimed it stood for the old rule about sales pitches: “Keep It Simple, Stupid!”

And yet, though we tell ourselves (and each other) that there’s nothing so stupid or counterfactual people won’t believe it if you repeat it often enough, in the main we fail to erect mental checkpoints where new data can wait for validation before they’re added to our lists of “everybody knows that” truths.  I’m sure most of us have listened or read as some blowhard confidently preceded some assertion of patent folly with the words, “Science has proven that ….”  Usually, this means one of three things:

  • “Some recent study/experiment, using dubious methods and/or inappropriate measures, claims that …;” or
  • “Although this theory can’t be tested under our current technical limitations, some scientists take it for granted that …;” or
  • “Famous Scientist says that ….”  (Because, of course, Scientists never get stuff wrong, or speak on subjects about which they know bubkes.)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A queer reflection

And all men kill the thing they love, 
By all let this be heard, 
Some do it with a bitter look, 
Some with a flattering word, 
The coward does it with a kiss, 
The brave man with a sword! 
—Oscar Wilde, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”

Before it’s anything else, the culture war is a word war.  A war of words; a war over words. 

In a sense, control over the language is control over thought: if you have the ability to impose your preferred words and definitions on the rest of the culture, you can control how things are said and, eventually, what is said.  No-no words become no-no thoughts, which become no-no attitudes, values and beliefs.

This is certainly true of the battle against same-sex marriage.  Consider the three theologians who accused Cdl. Timothy Dolan and the USCCB of “misrepresenting Catholic teaching”: former priest Daniel Maguire of Marquette told The Beast, “The bishops will stand with Dolan and the US Catholic Conference, but on this issue, they are in moral schism since most in the Church have moved on [to] a more humane view on the rights of those whom God has made gay.”[*]  A little later, writer Matthew DeLuca tells us that the most recent Gallup polling data says 51 percent of Catholics said gay marriage should be legal.  Which brings up the obvious question: When did 51% become “most”?

More important is what’s happening to the word marriage itself.  DB of Omnia Vincit Veritas puts the matter bluntly:

To be sure, it would be nice if everyone in the world understood and accepted the true meaning of marriage, but …, sadly, the trend is moving toward fewer and fewer people accepting the true and more traditional meaning of marriage.  As a result, the lone term marriage is also no longer being used as a shorthand for true marriage by much of the world.  This is the reality that we must confront and overcome; not simply whine about a misappropriated shorthand and all that goes with it.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A gay saint? Why not?

Over on Patheos, The Blogger Who Must Not Be Named has written a thoughtful, thorough and not-too-incendiary piece about Perry Lorenzo, the late director of education for the Seattle Opera, a gay man of his acquaintance whom he admired and respected as a fellow Catholic.  Indeed, the title is, “A Gay Man I Consider a Saint”.

After you read that, take up Pat Archbold’s defense of the Blogger, who made it quite clear that he didn’t know whether Lorenzo was continent and didn’t really care either: “Not my business. That’s between him and God.” Saith Patrick:

Some of the negative reactions to Mark’s piece bug me. Some people pointed out that the man in question lived with another man. How could Mark point out the holiness of a man who may have [] been actively gay? Scandal! I think some of this reaction is profoundly unfair. Why is it that we treat same sex attraction so much differently than other struggles? Sin is sin.
Would Mark have received the same reaction if he had written the same words about a man who did amazing things for and because of his faith but who also struggled with alcoholism? No, people would try to assume the best, praise what he did well, and hope that he died in friendship with the Lord. They wouldn’t be filling up comboxes with reported bar sightings as everyone would find that extremely rude. But somehow if someone struggles with same-sex attraction it is ok to be rude?

The timing of these posts is excellent, because my last post ended on a more strident, pugnacious note than I would have otherwise preferred.  Because I want to make it clear that Jesus’ love does embrace homosexuals … just not the way Andrew Sullivan would prefer.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What would Jesus say?

Aww, isn't Jesus so cute!
A friend of mine posted the editorial cartoon to your left on Facebook.  I guess it’s not enough to insist that, where my faith and my Church are concerned, I do in fact have a sense of humor.  So let me point out what’s really funny about the cartoon: the nun is wearing a habit.  Definitely not representative of the LCWR.

To be effective at manipulation, you want to keep things simple.  So rather than portray the nun in an ugly pantsuit (far more common), you dress her in the almost-forgotten habit, just as you draw Papa Bene as if he were being cast for the next installment of Grumpy Old Men.  Then, to really demonstrate how shallow your theology is, you draw Christ the Lord as a cute little koala bear of a man with a smiley face, looking nothing at all like someone who could open up a can of whip-ass on moneychangers in the Temple (Jn 2:14-16) or condemn Chorazin and Bethsaida to a fate worse than Tyre and Sidon (Mt 11:21-22).

Of course the cartoon is meant to be ironic, in the sense that it supposedly demonstrates an incongruity or inconsistency in Catholic teaching.  After all, nowhere in any of the Gospels does Jesus say anything about homosexuality — good, bad or indifferent.  So isn’t the Catholic Church concerned with preserving his teachings over all others?

Just like young boys at a matinee movie showing like to supply “dialogue” (i.e., wisecracks, burps and other noises) to fill the gaps in the script, so people like to answer the question, “What Would Jesus Do?”, with all sorts of self-serving mishegoss.  Especially if the Gospels can’t contradict them with a direct quote.  Who cares what Ss. Paul, Peter, John and those other losers said?  Jesus didn’t say it!