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Friday, September 30, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Hello Comrades! Boris Here! The freedom loving workers of the United Soviet-Socialist States of America (U.S.S.A.) will no longer tolerate these backward religious believers, like Catholic Hospitals and Catholic Charities, who do not want to give full healthcare to their workers. Diseases like pregnancy must be treated! The Workers must have the right to abort their unwanted children and to responsibly have sex using birth control paid for by the idiot religious believers! If they do not submit they must be punished or re-educated. Read more here. Long live the Revolution! Boris Out.
A Montreal Catholic group rented a room in a public facility. The regulations for the facility say that no "cultic activity" is allowed on public property. The Catholic group held a Mass. The woman who rented the room has been charged with violating the regulations and is scheduled to stand trial in Montreal. Apparently, you can drink and party till you drop in these rented banquet halls but prayer and celebration of the Holy Mass is considered Disorderly Conduct. Read the full story here.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Pope Benedict gave a sermon in Germany in which he said that sincere searching agnostics are to be preferred to fake Christians. Read the full story from the blog Southern Orders.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
An elderly Canadian priest has been suspended for preaching against sexual immorality. A diocesan spokesman said the priest's comments were consistent with Church teaching but were not "pastorally sensitive." Read the full story here. Apparently, the openly gay mayor of the town was on the parish council. I guess it begs the question to ask why an open and notorious sinner was allowed to be a member of the parish council to begin with? So here we have a priest who says the same things that the Pope does who is suspended for it. Shame.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Allen Tate and the Catholic Revival: Trace of the Fugitive Gods (Paulist Press: 1996) was the Ph.D dissertation of Professor Peter A. Huff who currently teaches Religious Studies at Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana. Huff’s thesis is that Tate and other intellectuals were attracted to the Catholic Church by their rejection of the values of the modern world and modernism. However, by the time Tate joined the Church in the 1950s, the Church was on its way to making peace with the modern world and rejecting its earlier uncompromising stand.
Allen Tate (1899 - 1979)
"Feeling an attraction to the Catholic Church in the Roman Jubilee year 1929 meant appreciating a religious tradition unapologetically dogmatic and avowedly illiberal. The Lateran Treaty of that year, for instance, rejected the notion of the exclusively spiritual nature of papal authority and reaffirmed the pope’s claim to temporal power over the Vatican territory. Only recently free from association with Action Francaise, the monarchist movement led by French traditionalist crusader Charles Maurras, the church on the eve of the Great Depression also found itself newly entangled with Opus Dei, the controversial movement of Spanish origin promoting aggressive lay involvement in right-wing political ventures. It was a church which proscribed involvement in the fledgling ecumenical movement, obliged its clergy to forswear modernist thoughts, denounced the liberal “hypothesis” of church-state separation, prohibited the use of artificial birth-control methods among its laity, legislated precise norms of proper dress for female communicants, and censored new motion pictures along with an already long Index of Forbidden Books."
Pope Pius IX
"In the United States, rudely reminded of its tenuous status by presidential candidate Alfred E. Smith’s political defeat, the church remained discredited in intellectual quarters by Pius IX’s earlier Syllabus of Errors and Leo XIII’s 1899 condemnation of “Americanism,” controversial papal pronouncements that seemed to reinforce Rome’s age-old reputation for authoritarianism and obscurantism. The perception of American Catholic opposition to the republican Popular Front battling General Franco’s fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War a few years later only served to validate that conclusion for non-Catholic American progressives. Drawing from a venerable tradition of anti-Catholic polemic reaching back to the eschatological musings of seventeenth-century Puritan divines, critics now ranked “Romanism” in the same category as the fundamentalist rabble that put Dayton, Tennessee on the cultural map. In the heyday of American progressivism, no better example of hidebound resistance to modern civilization could be found than the Roman Catholic Church.”
Pope Leo XIII
The “Catholic Literary Revival” had begun in England in the nineteenth century with the work of John Henry Newman. It had continued in the twentieth century with the work of authors like G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. In France, the Catholic Revival had produced thinkers like the neo-Thomist philosopher Jacques Maritain and novelists like Francois Mauriac and George Bernanos. In the mid-twentieth century, the Catholic Revival finally reached America where a number of intellectuals became notable converts:
“Born between 1890 and the close of the First World War, two generations of American writers felt deeply the attraction of the Catholic faith. They found their spiritual home in the church, believing entrance into the Catholic community to be an integral part of their literary careers. Including Katherine Anne Porter, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Robert Lax, Clare Boothe Luce, Robert Lowell, Tennessee Williams, Wallace Stevens, and Walker Percy, the American literary converts were drawn to Catholicism for intellectual and aesthetic reasons, motives mixing undefined spiritual aspirations with romantic countercultural protests.”
Jacques Maritain and Thomas Merton
“Many of the converts, enticed by the exotic features of Catholic doctrine or the high drama of Roman liturgy and devotion, shared the imaginative “nostalgia for Catholic order” that Harold Bloom has found in Hemingway’s literary consciousness.”
Intellectual converts like Tate, Thomas Merton, and Dorothy Day had “read themselves into the Church.” Huff notes that the conversion of intellectuals also stimulated an intellectual Renaissance among cradle Catholics:
“For all of the converts of the Catholic Revival, the church represented the realm of mystery sadly absent from modern experience. More than just a religion, Catholicism was for them, as Anne Roche Muggeridge has described it, “a country of the heart and of the mind.” Disgusted by the banal dimensions of what Merton called a “society of salesmen,” they found an oasis of beauty in the divine drama of the church’s worship. Critical of the reductionism of modern thought and the shallowness of liberal Protestantism, they found the integrity of Neo-Thomism and classical Christian orthodoxy intellectually stimulation. Witnessing the contemporary menace of totalitarian politics, they sought the remedy to secular society’s ills in the sacred tradition of the church. Even the pre-conciliar church’s requirement of personal sacrifice appeared as an attractive component of Catholic life. Though the converts were often drawn to the faith precisely because of orthodox Catholicism’s antimodernist stance, they nevertheless expressed impatience with the Catholic ghetto’s naive rejection of modern art and literature. What the American literary converts advocated was aggressive interaction with the modern world, not retreat into separatist folkways. They sought a religious tradition that would directly address the authoritative wisdom of the past to the fragmented world of the present.
"As a rule, the American literary converts, like their European counterparts, followed an intellectual path into the faith. Ever since Augustine heard the child in the garden singing, “Tolle lege, tolle lege,” people have been reading their way into the Catholic Church. But Thomas Merton’s conversion, triggered by a chance encounter with Gilson’s The Spirit of Mediaeval Philosophy in a Fifth Avenue bookstore, became nearly paradigmatic of the intellectual American’s conversion before and after his time. Others, born into the church, experienced an analogous rebirth of faith and religious identity after immersing themselves in the literature of the Revival.”
Why did all of these intellectuals, most of whom were self-proclaimed atheists or agnostics but who came from predominately Protestant backgrounds, become Catholic? The Catholic Church was generally considered to be backwards and stagnant. It has been said that intellectual converts of the 1930s who left Communism for Catholicism merely exchanged one authoritarian world view for another. This was an age in which the Church still set forth The Index of Forbidden Books and demanded unconditional assent by the faithful to all areas of teaching and dogma. The Church seemed an unlikely venue for all of these artists and intellectuals. Why did these people become Catholic rather than, say, Episcopalian?
“Rejecting the strategy of liberal Protestantism designed to attract Christianity’s “cultured despisers” by minimizing claims to infallible truth and reliance upon a supernatural world view, the intellectual converts to Catholicism overcame long-standing cultural barriers to accept the Catholic religion precisely because of its claim to possess a body of supernaturally revealed dogma. They were not inspired by a demythologized Christianity, nor were they convinced of the apologetic potential of the modernist project. As Ronald Knox put it, “the latitudinarian appeal, as a matter of experience, does not attract.” Rather, like Chesterton, the Revival converts found the church’s insistence upon doctrinal accuracy curiously “romantic.” Regularly, they described submission of the intellect to the mind of the church as an act of “mental emancipation.” Thomas Merton, for instance, thought it a liberating thing “to breathe the clean atmosphere of orthodox tradition.” Seeing themselves as spiritual heirs to Newman’s opposition to nineteenth-century liberalism, the intellectuals of the twentieth century Catholic Revival were stimulated, not stifled, by the church’s critique of modernity.”
Tate had a romantic admiration for the Middle Ages as a time in which Western Europe was bound together by a common Christian culture:
“Though he repeatedly denied that his admiration for the Middle Ages entailed reversion to an ideal past, he shared the Catholic Revival’s affection for the period and used it as the reference point for discussion of a restored Christian civilization. The organic unity of the culture, the agrarian pattern of its economy, and the common mythic structure shaping its vision were stock features of the Revival’s interpretation of the Middle Ages, but they appealed to the same instincts in Tate that drove him to reject much of what he found mediocre and destabilizing in modern culture. For most of his career, Dante figured as the icon of the fully developed artist in Christian society, and the medieval university served as his model for the understanding of genuine religious humanism.”Tate predicted cultural disaster if the West abandoned its Christian heritage:
“. . . he predicted the rise of “a complete Gnostic society,” should the West abandon its fundamentally religious insights into the human condition. . . . Along with Maritain and Dawson, Tate maintained that any hope for an authentically democratic future in national or international affairs necessitated the acceptance of a genuinely Christian humanism. Like Chesterton, who identified the dogma of the incarnate Logos as the idea ‘central in our civilization,” he placed the Christological mystery at the heart of his analysis of culture. Without that controlling idea, he said, every quest for the perfect society yields only another “perishable god” for the scrap heap of the world’s worthless idols: “I have come to the view that no society is worth ‘saving’ as such: what we must save is the truth of God and Man, and the right society follows.”
Tate and his first wife, the Catholic convert and author Caroline Gordon, to whom he was married and divorced twice.
Huff details how the changes to the Church after the Second Vatican Council distressed Tate who thought that the Church had gone too far in compromising with the modern world. Tate was particularly critical of modern theology, like that of the Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and was opposed to the Ecumenical movement.
Allen Tate and the Catholic Revival is out of print but is still worth a look for those, like this Bad Catholic, who are interested in seeing a new Catholic Revival.
“ . . . Tate shared Maritain’s misgivings regarding the apparent trajectory of postconciliar Catholicism. The “neo-modernist” theological fads of the age concerned him and irritated him and confirmed his suspicions of an emerging Catholic gnosticism. Especially exasperated by the cult of popularity surrounding Teilhard (described by an exasperated Gilson as “the most Christian of the gnostics”), Tate once blasted a lay enthusiast of the Jesuit mystic, telling him in no uncertain terms to “shut up about Chardin.” At the same time, he chafed under the liturgical experimentation of the period and worried about the destructive effort of ecumenical ferment on Catholic devotion. As one who “got into the Church only through the Virgin,” he was distressed by the tendency of the Vatican Council to “play down” Marian devotion in obvious overtures of friendship toward separated Protestant brethren. “If the Ecumenical movement is merely a levelling process towards 20th century rationalism,” he prophesied during the second session of the Council, “it will fail.”
“Attempting to describe the anxieties of that age of Catholic transition, James Fisher has recently produced a provocative portrait of convert Dorothy Day making her way into the old-fashioned Catholic subculture of personal piety and sacrificial obedience, precisely at the moment when her birthright Catholic followers, seeking to rid themselves of alien citizenship, were fleeing from the immigrant ghetto into the pluralism of America’s secular city. In a sense, Allen Tate was engaged in a similarly ill-timed pilgrimage. Walker Percy, fellow apologist for the forlorn values of the Catholic Revival, saw the plight of the modern Catholic writer as that of “a man who has found a treasure hidden in the attic of an old house, but (who) is writing for people who have moved out to the suburbs and who are bloody sick of the old house and everything in it.” To his dismay, Tate discovered the attic’s treasures just as the house was going on the market. In his career, he witnessed not only the disappearance of the South’s regional tradition in the wake of America’s unrestrained march toward standardization but also the dissolution of what he perceived to be the best of the Catholic tradition as well. To borrow a phrase from historian Mark Noll, Tate - as southerner and Catholic - joined the ranks of the twentieth century’s “alienated losers twice over.”
Friday, September 23, 2011
I may have mentioned that I normally attend Sunday Mass at a small mission church in a nearby town that is also served by the priest in my city. The only music is provided by a small pick-up choir and two guitar players. There is an elderly organ, but there has been no one to play it in many years. The situation in this church is simply: No Guitar = No Music.
So far, being a convert and not feeling really comfortable wading into the war being waged in the Catholic blogosphere about liturgy and music, I have not commented on this. It appears that the post-conciliar "folk mass" may soon be a thing of the past and that we may have to put away our guitars and bone up on our Latin and Gregorian Chant.
Every time I see something about music at mass, I have been forwarding it to our parish music leader. Last Sunday he gave me an article from Oregon Catholic Publishers ("OCP") who publish the Journey Hymnal which our parish uses. It appears that they are not going to go quietly into the night and retire all those songs by the Saint Louis Jesuits in favor of Gregorian Chant. The author, Elaine Rendler-McQueeny, writes:
". . . in these next few columns, I'll sketch a plan for teaching some new music and offer pointers on how these missal changes give us an opportunity for parish liturgical renewal.
Much has been said about the departure of Catholics from their parishes. . . . "those who have left Catholicism outnumber those who have joined the Catholic Church by nearly a four-to-one margin." . . . Of those who joined a Protestant religion after Catholicism, when asked why they converted 81% of former Catholics named the enjoyment of services and worship style as the most common reason for selecting that particular church.
Perhaps we should focus some of our evangelization efforts on the retention of Catholics, including young adults, rather than on their reasons for leaving. . . ."
I can already envision the comment boxes filling up with comments that Catholics don't go to Mass to be entertained. We go to Mass to Worship God and anybody that would leave the Church which Christ founded, and in which Christ's sacramental presence dwells, because they like the praise music at the Pentecostal Church down the road wasn't really Catholic to begin with.
As a convert, I am kind of astounded that I hear some of the most vehement resistance to Latin and Chant from cradle Catholics. I don't have a point to make, it's just interesting. As a convert, I am still in love with the mystical romanticism of Gregorian Chant. I often keep a chant CD going in the background to help me calm down. However, I think that there is a happy middle ground somewhere between total chant and totally abolishing modern music. I don't think that every praise song written from the sixties, seventies and eighties has to be banned from the celebration of the Mass. Some of them are quite worshipful. In my lifetime, I have heard very reverent guitar music and very bad organ playing. There should be room in Christ's Church, which after all encompasses the whole world and everything in it, for both.
Christianity Today the Southern Baptist Convention will consider changing its name to something "less regionally exclusive." They already changed the name of the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board to "Lifeway Christian Resources," which sounds like something from George Orwell's novel 1984. It is just going to seem really wrong if Southern Baptists become "The World Christian Federation" or something.
What's wrong with "Southern Baptists." I think that it is very descriptive of the theology of the organization. Centenary College Religion Professor Peter A. Huff has perfectly captured my own feelings about my Southern Baptist heritage:
What's wrong with "Southern Baptists." I think that it is very descriptive of the theology of the organization. Centenary College Religion Professor Peter A. Huff has perfectly captured my own feelings about my Southern Baptist heritage:
"The church in which I grew up was affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. Because of its status in the Sun Belt, Martin Marty once called it the Catholic church of the South. . . . I memorized scores of Bible verses, learned the parts to hundreds of hymns, tithed my allowance, and never attended a school dance. In early adolescence, I also "got saved." . . . I can look back at the religious milieu of my childhood and call it a warm pietism shaped by the revivalist tradition and the peculiar experiences of white southerners in the generations after the Civil War. Ours was an experiential and mildly ascetic "heart religion" emphasizing personal conversion. It was permeated with the cadences of the King James Bible, steeped in the four-part harmonies of the Baptist Hymnal, and filtered through the ethos of a sectional consciousness. As a child in the Bible Belt, Flannery O'Connor's "Christ-haunted" South, I suppose I was never very far from fundamentalism. But no one I knew ever spoke of it."Is "Roman Catholic" too regionally exclusive? Of course, the moniker "Roman" was given to us by the Protestants to distinguish the Church from them. The Catholic Church is just the Catholic Church. Although I no longer have a dog in this fight, I hope they keep the name "Southern Baptists." "Lifeway Christian Convention" just ain't gonna do.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
The execution of train robber and murderer Tom Ketchum in 1901.
The American Catholic has some more thoughtful ruminations on Capital Punishment.
The blog Catholic Anarchy has a post criticizing conservative pro-life Catholic blogs for not condemning the execution of Troy Davis here in Georgia as a "Lynching." Here is the comment which I posted in response:
As an attorney and a former Assistant District Attorney in the State of Georgia, (and one of the “pro-life Catholic bloggers” you are criticizing) I am hesitant to call a Judicial execution a “Lynching.” This Defendant was convicted by a jury, and his case was exhaustively reviewed by Courts all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. (I will admit that before I was a Catholic, in my prior career as a State Prosecutor I have prosecuted a man for murder who is currently still on Georgia’s Death Row, so my opinions may be held to be suspect.) However, without personally examining the trial transcripts and evidence, as the Appellate Courts and the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles presumably did, I am not willing to second guess the opinions of all those Judges and declare the execution “a Lynching.” I will agree with you that this case is more evidence of why the death penalty should be abolished. In the event that it is later discovered that Mr. Davis was factually innocent, as he and his witnesses claimed, the carrying out of the sentence will make the State of Georgia look pretty barbaric. Catholics should be pro-life across the board. The government should not be in the business of killing people and doctors should not be in the business of killing babies. You are correct, we should be against the Death Penalty and against abortion. However, Mr. Davis got a trial and a bunch of hearings, what due process does an aborted baby get?
A Fort Worth, Texas high school student was punished for saying that he was a Christian and thinks that homosexuality is a sin. They are punishing the kids now, sooner or later they will use the power of the government to punish the adults for improper opinions.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
A post at the Gay website "Queerty" says that the purpose of "Gay Awareness" Education in public schools is to indoctrinate young people. The author opines that he fervently wishes to "recruit" more children to be homosexuals. Read the whole thing here. (Warning: Some parts of this article are quite graphic).
A gay music minister in a Catholic parish in New Jersey has resigned and hired a lawyer to sue because the Priest preached against gay marriage which the music minister said was "harassment." Read about it here. So the official teachings of the Catholic Church are now considered "harassment" and teaching them may subject priests and the Church to legal action. Welcome to the Brave New World!
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
SHORT PRAYER TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY IN HER DESOLATION:
Hail Mary, full of sorrows, the Crucified is with thee; tearful art thou amongst women, and tearful is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of the Crucified, give tears to us, crucifiers of thy Son, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Today, September 14th, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross.
"We preach Christ crucified - a stumbling block to Jews and an absurdity to Gentiles; but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." 1 Corinthians 23 - 24.
GOD OUR FATHER, IN OBEDIENCE TO YOU YOUR ONLY SON ACCEPTED DEATH ON THE CROSS FOR THE SALVATION OF MANKIND. WE ACKNOWLEDGE THE MYSTERY OF THE CROSS ON EARTH. MAY WE RECEIVE THE GIFT OF REDEMPTION IN HEAVEN. WE ASK THIS THROUGH OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, YOUR SON, WHO LIVES AND REIGNS WITH YOU AND THE HOLY SPIRIT, ONE GOD, FOR EVER AND EVER. AMEN.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Tannhauser Worships in the Venusberg
A group in Arizona calling itself "The Goddess Temple" that offered prostitution as "religious healing" has been raided by Arizona police. Full story here.
"Saint John Chrysostem was born at Antioch about the year 349. After an extensive education he embraced a life of asceticism. He was ordained a priest and distinguished himself by his preaching which achieved great spiritual results among his hearers. He was elected bishop of Constantinople in 397 and proved himself a capable pastor, committed to reforming the life of the clergy and the faithful. Twice he was forced into exile by the hatred of the imperial court and the envy of his enemies. After he had completed his difficult labors, he died at Comana in Pontus on September 14, 407. His preaching and writing explained Catholic doctrine and presented the ideal Christian life. For this reason he is called Chrysostem, or Golden Mouth.
PRAYER: FATHER, THE STRENGTH OF ALL WHO TRUST IN YOU, YOU MADE JOHN CHRYSOSTEM RENOWNED FOR HIS ELOQUENCE AND HEROIC IN HIS SUFFERINGS. MAY WE LEARN FROM HIS TEACHING AND GAIN COURAGE FROM HIS PATIENT ENDURANCE. WE ASK THIS THROUGH OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, YOUR SON, WHO LIVES AND REIGNS WITH YOU AND THE HOLY SPIRIT, ONE GOD, FOR EVER AND EVER. AMEN.
Although I agree with a lot of what Michael Voris' says, I think that he can be a bit too sarcastic and uncharitable. After all, we are supposed to love our enemies. Although I think that some of his comments on this video are uncharitable and may be "over the top," (especially what he says about charismatics opposing the Latin Mass), I thought that his assessment of the factions within the Church is generally accurate.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Full story here.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
I recently purchased a copy of the prayer book Blessed Be God : A Complete Catholic Prayer Book first published in 1960 by P.J. Kennedy and Sons with an imprimatur by Francis Cardinal Spellman dated September 11, 1959. The edition I have was reprinted in 2010 by Preserving Christian Publications.
As advertised, if you have this prayer book you probably don't need another one. (Although, Protestant though it may be, my favorite prayer book is an Anglican Catholic volume called Saint Augustine's Prayer Book). Blessed Be God has everything: prayers for the morning, prayers for the evening, the rosary, novenas and just about every kind of prayer you can think of for any circumstance. It is also very much a document of the pre-Vatican II Church and that is what I want to talk about in this post.
Blessed Be God lists indulgenced prayers with the amount of indulgence that one gets for saying that particular prayer. For instance, for saying the ejaculation "Jesus, Mary, Joseph" you are entitled to an indulgence of 7 years. For saying "Holy Mary, deliver us from the pains of hell," you get an indulgence of 300 days. It is this kind of stuff that still makes "Bible Christians" accuse Catholics of trying to work their way to Heaven. It is my understanding that back in the old days that children would try to say as many rosaries as possible as fast as possible to rack up indulgences.
Now this old Southern Baptist and sometime Anglican turned Catholic thinks that he has a pretty good grasp of the theology of Purgatory. Even though God forgives the believer for the sins that he or she has committed, sin still has a consequence. For instance, God forgave Adam and Eve but they were still banished from the Garden and they still had to suffer physical death.
Dante stands between the Mountain of Purgatory and the City of Florence
The Catholic does not believe that you can sin hardily for 80 years and then suddenly "get saved" on your death bed and die and go straight to Heaven with no consequences in the afterlife. This was the theology which I grew up with in the Baptist Church. Once you "Got Saved" you would go straight to Heaven when you died regardless of what sins you committed before or afterwards. This theology is known as "once saved, always saved.". Baptists who follow the theology of the Reformer Jacob Arminius (known as Arminians) usually believe that a person can be once saved but then "backslide" by falling into sin and loose their salvation. Baptists of a more Calvinist persuasion would say that if a believer backslides that means that he or she was not really saved to begin with.
The doctrine of Purgatory makes sense. A person who is a believer and who has confessed their sin and asked God forgiveness is forgiven. However, the negative consequences of the sin still remain. If you die and there is still a bunch of sin darkening your soul you are not yet ready to stand in the presence of God. It is like a child who is out playing in the mud who is called home for dinner. Mother is not going to let the child sit at the dinner table until he takes a bath and changes clothes.
In the modern day Catholic Church we don't talk too much about Purgatory anymore. I am going to start saying some of the prayers in Blessed Be God for the souls in Purgatory. However, I am not going to worry too much about how many days that I will get off my own stay in Purgatory for doing so.
Martin Luther denounces the sale of indulgences in his 95 Theses
At the risk of being accused of still thinking like a Protestant, it seems to this old former Southern Baptist that having people running around worrying about how much time they could get off their sentence in Purgatory pretty much deserves the criticism which has been leveled on it by Protestants. First of all, it's really meaningless to say that you've got 300 days or 300 years Indulgence. What does time mean in the afterlife? What does 300 days suffering in Purgatory mean next to Eternity. By definition if the soul is in Purgatory then that soul is destined for Heaven. I'll gladly take 300 or 3000 years in Purgatory if at the end of it I will be happy with Jesus forever in Paradise. Scripture says that with God a thousand years is as one day. (2 Peter 1:8) Linear time as we know it here on Earth will have no meaning in the next life.
The kind of thinking that had kids trying to say as many rosaries as fast as possible to stack up indulgences is a mechanical kind of legalistic religion which we do not want to return to. This is really akin to the kind of error taking place in Martin Luther's day when Popes and Bishops were trying to sell indulgences as a revenue raising measure. ("A coin in the coffer rings, a soul from Purgatory springs.").
An actor portrays the infamous indulgence seller Johann Tetzel in the movie "Luther"
We should talk about Purgatory and seek to humbly pray and do good works. We should do this Not because of the benefit we seek to gain from it but because of our faith in Christ and love for God. We should not give our Protestant friends cause to accuse us of trying to work our way to Heaven. To me the whole argument of Justification by Faith Alone (Sola Fide) verses Justification by Works is largely arguing over semantics anyway. Saint James said "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:26) That's why Luther wanted to take the Epistle of James out of the Bible. If you're really "saved" then you are going to want to try to stop sinning and bear good fruit in your life. True faith will bring forth good works.
There is a lot about the "old Church" that was good and needs to come back. Indulgenced prayers are a good thing so long as these prayers are said out of faithful conviction and not just to rack up points like life was a giant gameshow with God as the scorekeeper.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Monday, September 5, 2011
Andrew Himes is the grandson of Fundamentalist Evangelist John R. Rice. Himes’ book, The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Religious Fundamentalism in an American Family, traces the history of Fundamentalism alongside the history of his family and his personal journey from being raised Fundamentalist to atheism and then back to some form of faith.
Himes’ maternal grandfather, John R. Rice, was descended from hardy Scots-Irish pioneers who settled in the back country of Appalachia during the colonial period. These people were staunch Presbyterian Calvinists and fiercely independent. Himes recounts how one of his ancestors was a member of the “over the mountain men” who crossed the Appalachian Mountains and wiped out a British detachment at the Battle of King’s Mountain, South Carolina during the American Revolution.
Gradually, the family migrated westward during the 19th century, eventually settling in Missouri. In Missouri, Himes’ ancestors became wealthy planters and slave owners. Losing all their wealth during the Civil War, Himes’ family then moved to Texas.
Alongside this family history, Himes gives a great summary of American Religious History on the Frontier. At the time of the American Revolution, the Baptists were a small, persecuted sect which dissented from the established Church of England. It was on the frontier in the early 19th century that the Baptists and Methodists, with their revivalist missionaries and “circuit riding” preachers, really made a big impact and became the dominant Protestant groups in the United States. Great mass revival meetings were held in the back woods of Kentucky and Tennessee which drew hundreds of people.
According to Himes: “The explosion of churches and membership in the new Methodist and Baptist sects was directly connected with the personal freedom and personal responsibility demanded by the Age of Enlightenment. The evangelicals were both religious revolutionaries and political revolutionaries. They were in “enthusiastic” rebellion against the stultifying formalism of the Church of England, demanding a direct relationship with God unmediated by the hierarchy of the established church. And, along with the Deists, the evangelicals demanded an absolute right to freedom of religion and conscience as enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
A large part of Fundamentalist belief is the end-times theology called “Pre-Millenial Dispensationalism.”
“Ever since St. Augustine systematized the doctrine in the fourth century, amillennialism had been the prevailing view of Christian scholars, traditions, and theologians. The term amillennialism referred to the church’s rejection of the belief that Jesus Christ would have a 1000-year physical reign on earth. Amillennialismm held that the thousand years referrred to in Revelation 20 was a symbolic number, and the “millennium” mentioned was a symbolic period in which Christians should work to realize the Kingdom of God on earth, striving for justice, loving one’s neighbor, serving the poor, and generally embodying the love of Christ. Amillennialism was a principal doctrine of the Catholic Church throughout history, and was the dominant view of the Protestant Reformation as well, defended by Martin Luther and John Calvin among many others, and it continues to be the view of most mainline American Protestants in the 21st century.
Begninning in the 18th and 19th centuries, however, many American evangelicals were persuaded by the doctrine of postmillennialism, which posits that Christ’s return to earth will take place only after the Millennium, a golden age of peace and prosperity in which Christian principles will prevail. Postmillennialism is inherently optomistic, believing that good will triumph over evil, and that the expanding Kingdom of God will defeat Satan’s forces. Christians are required to be reformers, remaking human society in the image of God’s love and righteousness. Throughout the 19th century, evangelicals used the doctrine of postmillennialism to justify social activism to end slavery, expand human rights, seek equality for women, establish public schools, and reduce the exploitation and abuse of laborers.
However, an opposing movement sprang up in the early 19th century. In the 1830s, British preacher John Nelson Darby concocted a new set of doctrines that became known as premillennialism. This literal interpretation of selected passages in Revelation insisted that Jesus would return to earth before the millennium of his reign on earth and transport Christians out of the world before its descent into horrible global suffering and massive bloodshed. . . . Darby taught that according to the Bible the history of the world since creation could be divided into seven different eras, or “dispensations,” and his system became known as dispensationalism. The sixth dispensation would be signaled by the “Rapture,” in which all the Christians alive and dead would be taken instantaneously to Heaven, followed by “seven years of tribulation” on earth and ending with the “apocalyptic” battle of Armageddon, a climactic struggle to destroy an evil person known as the Antichrist and institute the seventh dispensation - the millennial reign of Christ on earth.”
Pre-millienial Dispensational theology is a big reason that Fundamentalists pour all of their energy into “saving souls” and very little effort on social concerns such as aiding the poor. Since the world is ending soon, this world is not worth trying to save. Christians who concentrate on social justice concerns are seen as theological liberals who are probably “not really saved.” According to Himes, “Darby’s followers assumed that any attempt to reform society according to Christian principles was both fruitless and heretical.” This attitude has passed over into Fundamentalism. For American Fundamentalists, the tenants of Darby’s Pre-Millennialism was passed on through the footnotes in the extremely popular “Schofield Reference Bible.”
During the 19th century, literal belief in the truth the of the creation account of the Book of Genesis was challenged by Darwin’s theory of evolution. Belief in the literal truth of many Bible passages was also challenged by the “higher criticism” coming out of Germany.
“For example, higher critics considered how the four gospels relate to each other, and found discrepancies and contradictions that called into question various traditional beliefs about their authorship.”
Christians who had no problem with modern theories such as evolution and who embraced higher criticism of the Bible were labeled “modernists.”
“The controversy between modernists and conservatives became increasingly bitter over the last years of the 19th century and into the first two decades of the 20th. More and more, Protestant Christians began to feel that they were being forced to take sides in what was rapidly becoming an historic split. . . .
On one side were Christians who were more liberal in their outlook and more willing to accept the new ideas that had emerged from “higher criticism” and study of the Bible as an historical text. They also tended to be more politically progressive, more attuned to the “social gospel,” and more intent on the message of social justice they discerned in the teachings and life of Jesus.
On the other side was a growing chorus of conservative voices expressing dismay at these new ideas of the mainliners. The conservatives claimed to represent the historic Christian faith, in opposition to the modernists, who they believed were betraying and abandoning orthodox Christian beliefs. They were more focused on individual sin and the need for individual redemption and salvation. They were more prone to emphasize the importance of saving individual souls from a literal and fiery hell than the need to transform human societies on earth.”
(As an aside, in line with Fundamentalist Protestants, during this period, the Catholic Church began requiring all clergy to take an oath against “modernism” and rejected all forms of higher Biblical criticism.)
Between 1910 and 1915, the Bible Institute of Los Angeles published a set of 12 booklets called The Fundamentals, which tried to set forth the beliefs that conservatives believed that all Christians should hold. These included “the inerrancy of the Bible, the Virgin Birth and deity of Jesus, the belief that Jesus died to redeem mankind’s sin, the physical resurrection of Jesus, and the literal truth of the miraculous elements in the Bible.” These booklets are the origin of the term “Fundamentalist.”
The Texas Cyclone
Himes’ grand father John R. Rice, was a protégé of Reverend J. Frank Norris, the firebrand and rabidly anti-Catholic pastor of the First Baptist Church of Fort Worth, Texas. Dubbed “The Texas Cyclone,” Norris was in favor of Prohibition and opposed to anything which he thought was “modernism.”
“Norris viewed the greatest threat to Prohibition as coming from the Catholics, whom he viewed with the greatest suspicion. From his pulpit and newspaper, as well as in dozens of radio broadcasts, he unleashed floods of viturperation on immigrant communities - from Germany, Italy, and Ireland, and other countries with large Catholic populations. These immigrants, he said, were the demon spawn of the Antichrist himself. “The Roman Catholic Church knows allegiance only to the Pope,” he wrote. “They would behead every Protestant preacher and disembowel every Protestant mother. They would burn to ashes every Protestant church and dynamite every Protestant school. They would destroy the public schools and annihilate every one of our institutions.” In accusing Roman Catholics of trying to take over public education, Norris said, “When the time comes that they seek to dominate and control the free institutions of this country, then it’s high time that every man speak out as a true-blooded American citizen.” Norris claimed that Catholics could not possibly be real Americans because the Pope was the authority for Catholics in all spheres, in the voting booth as well as the confessional.
. . . he also saw the battle against modernism as a continuation of the Lost Cause of the South, as a rebellion against the German rationalism and secularism that had already conquered the North, and as a stand against the Roman Catholic papist conspiracy that threatened the whole country.”
Norris’ most infamous act was to shoot and kill a Catholic businessman who confronted Norris about his attacks on the Catholic Mayor of Forth Worth, Texas. Tried for murder, Norris contended that he had acted in self-defense against the unarmed man. A Fort Worth jury took only a short while to find Norris “Not Guilty.” Norris was also a staunch supporter of the Ku Klux Klan and worked untiringly to elect candidates endorsed by the Klan to office in Texas. Himes comments: “Fundamentalists like Norris were calling for a new struggle to preserve Southern values, Southern religion, Southern culture, and the Southern way of life.”
Norris took the young evangelist John R. Rice under his wing and provided patronage and support. Even though the Southern Baptist Convention remained theologically conservative throughout this period, Norris thought that its leadership was “too liberal” and “too modernist.” Norris apparently threatened to leave the SBC one too many times, because he and his First Baptist Church of Fort Worth were finally involuntarily thrown out of the SBC. Himes recounts that a group of leading Texas Southern Baptists visited grandfather and warned him to separate himself from Norris or he, too would be excluded from the SBC. Rice refused and followed Norris into becoming an “Independent Baptist.”
Under Norris’ sponsorship, Rice would bring his “tent meeting” into a community and then help the newly minted converts to establish a “Fundamentalist Baptist Church.” Rice’s final break with Norris came after Norris had become jealous of Rice’s success as an evangelist and newspaper publisher. Rice had been invited to lead a revival in New York State. Rice received word that his invitation had been withdrawn after Norris told the sponsoring Churches that Rice was practicing “glossalalia” or speaking in tongues. (Fundamentalist Baptists are generally opposed to this practice). When Rice found out that these stories had originated with Norris, he cut his ties with him.
The Sword of the Lord and Billy Graham
John R. Rice edited a fundamentalist newspaper called “The Sword of the Lord.” In 1940, Rice moved his family and the offices of “The Sword of the Lord” from Texas to Wheaton, Illinois. Shortly after arriving in Wheaton, Rice met a 22 year old student at Wheaton College named Billy Graham.
“Billy was only 22 at the time, a full 23 years younger than Rice. He had grown up in a Presbyterian church in North Carolina, and shared with Rice the full panoply of assumptions that most Southern fundamentalists carried - about race, religion, and politics. . . .
The two men met within the first year the two of them lived in Wheaton. They quickly formed a friendship. John R. Rice quickly became a mentor for the younger man. Graham was inspired by Rice’s citywide revival campaigns and became an avid reader of the The Sword of the Lord. . . .his first published sermons would appear in the pages of the The Sword of the Lord after Billy graduated from Wheaton.”
In the most fascinating part of the book, Himes recounts how his grandfather helped to launch Billy Graham’s spectacular career as an evangelist but then broke with Graham over the issue of separatism. “Separatism” is the idea that true Christians should not associate with anyone claiming to be a Christian who does not share all of the Fundamentalist positions on doctrine. “Genuine Christians could “witness” or preach to “lost people,” but it was impermissible to do so in company with anyone who disagreed in any way with the doctrines held to be core to “orthodox” Christianity.”
When Billy Graham appeared at his meetings with Episcopalians and other mainline Protestants whom Fundamentalists deemed not to be “real Christians”, Rice and other Fundamentalist leaders like Bob Jones, Jr. were alarmed. When Graham continued to defy the Fundamentalists by racially integrating his revival meetings and cooperating with “modernist” Christians, Rice, Jones and other Fundamentalist leaders declared that Billy Graham was not a “real Christian” himself and withdrew their support from his ministry.
Fundamentalism and Racism
Himes discusses the split among Evangelicals in the mid-nineteenth century over the issue of slavery. Wealthy Southern planters, like the Rice family, looked for a religion which told them that slave ownership was Biblical. The Southern Baptist Convention was established in the 1840s as a break with Northern Baptists over the slavery issue.
“Given the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura - it is only necessary to read the Bible to find God’s manifest truth - Southern preachers and theologians had an easy time justifying slavery. All one needed to do was to read the Bible with an open mind and a dose of common sense, according to them, to see that they were right. Any Bible student could easily find a dozen passages of scripture that seemed to justify slavery explicitly.”
Himes recounts how his great grandfather, Will Rice, was both a Baptist preacher and a member of the Ku Klux Klan. J. Frank Norris was violently racist and a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan. Although he publicly opposed the violence of the Klan, for the most part, John R. Rice adopted the racist views of his father and mentor.
Rice preached firebrand sermons against the ministry of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1964, Rice said “although religious infidels boost him as a Christian, Dr. Martin Luther King has openly declared that he does not believe the Bible. He is not a Christian in the historic sense of holding to the great essentials of the Christian faith, he is a ‘minister’ who doesn’t preach the gospel, doesn’t save souls.” Since Billy Graham invited Dr. King pray at his meeting held in Madison Square Garden in New York City, in Rice’s view Billy Graham was one of the “religious infidels."
Himes recounts how his father, also a Baptist preacher, was fired from pastoring a Church in Memphis, Tennessee for refusing to interrupt a service to make a black man leave. Himes also gives a fascinating account of how a Church pastored by his uncle in Greenville, South Carolina was boycotted by Bob Jones University because blacks were allowed to attend the Church.
The real fundamental of Jesus’ teaching is love of God and the unconditional love of our fellow human beings. At the end, Himes proposes a new fundamentalist movement based upon this teaching.
The Sword of the Lord is a great book. Everyone interested in American Christianity should read it. Highly Recommended.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
Thursday, September 1, 2011
CNN's Piers Morgan branded former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum a bigot for believing the official teachings of the Catholic Church on homosexuality. Full story here.
The Church is the Mother of Artists not the Church of Calvin's Geneva. Good editorial from Mark Shea on the current "scandal" about Michael Voris' Real Catholic TV.