SECRET WEAPON

Saturday, May 29th, 2010 | Uncategorized

The always-insightful Walter Russell Mead on America’s hidden advantage: 

Sometimes the stone that the builders rejected ends up as the cornerstone of the whole building. That may not quite describe the role of Christianity in American foreign policy, but in some important and little understood ways the massive surge of Christian faith in the developing world is tilting the global playing field in America’s favor. At home, the appeal and the vigor of African-American Christianity, especially of the Pentecostal variety, may be America’s best defense against a sharp increase in home-grown terror. 

In a sense, the United States actually is a Christian nation.  Just not in the way that Europeans understood that term. 

It is a tricky job. Christianity has had its ups and down as a factor in American foreign policy. In its earliest diplomatic efforts to negotiate with the Barbary Pirates, American diplomats were instructed to stress that constitutionally speaking the United States was not a “Christian nation” in the way that the European powers were. At other times, stressing the country’s Christian roots was seen as a way to build alliances. In the Cold War the United States benefited enormously from the perception of many religious people around the world that we were the captain of “God’s Team” in the struggle with atheistic communism. The Soviets, the Chinese and their associated regimes regularly murdered and persecuted believers of all stripes. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Jews were all viciously persecuted, herded into camps, victimized by economic and educational discrimination and intrusively watched by the secret police. Even today, religious believers can be objects of suspicion and official repression in what remains of the communist world. 

For decades, American elites followed their European counterparts in basically rejecting Christianity. 

Meanwhile, Europeans were increasingly secularist, hostile to religion and faintly embarrassed by the past. With American elites increasingly drifting in the same way direction, after 1989 and even more strongly after 2001 the instinctive response of many people in the foreign policy world was to keep the question of religion off-stage. The failures of the Bush administration–at times attributed (wrongly in many cases) to the influence of religion within the administration–only deepened the general sense that American religion was a problem to finesse, not a strength to exploit. Christianity would not help win the COFKATWOT (Conflict Formerly Known As The War On Terror) and it might even make things worse; why bring up a divisive subject? 

These days, Europeans and the leftist Americans who robotically emulate them are embarrassed by the whole idea of Christianity and God. 

There is some good common sense in this view. Many Europeans do perceive American Christianity (and especially its evangelical variety) as knuckle-dragging barbarism; America’s problems with Islamic public opinion are serious enough without entangling the current issues in 1400 years of Christian-Muslim relations.

Which is a shame, really, because the fact of the matter is that Christianity is winning.

The challenges are fairly obvious to most people in the establishment; the opportunities are less well understood.  Partly because many people in the foreign policy world are nervous about religion (and especially about Christianity) and partly because so much religious behavior happens in places few diplomats and journalists ever see, many otherwise sophisticated observers fail to grasp just how much the global rise of Christianity helps the United States. And Christianity is a rising religion; whatever its problems in western Europe and the United States, worldwide we are living through the greatest and most transformational expansion of Christianity since the earliest times.

Pretty much all over the place.

Virtually everywhere in the world outside the EU and Islamic countries which forbid Christian proselytization, Christianity is on the biggest roll in its 2000 year history.  Both in absolute numbers of adherents and in terms of its global ‘market share’ (the percentage of the world’s population that professes the Christian faith), Christianity is at an all time high.  In the last fifty years it has surpassed Islam both as the most popular religion in sub-Saharan Africa and as the leading Abrahamic religion in China.  The Roman Catholic Church alone claims almost as many members as the total number of Sunni Muslims in the world; all told, Christianity claims almost twice as many adherents as Islam worldwide.

And while Europeans may declare themselves appalled by American culture…

Not all Christians like American values and American ideas; from Pope Pius IX to Dietrich Bonhoeffer modern European religious history is filled with Christian thinkers and writers who have been almost as horrified and appalled by American-style capitalism and society as Sayyid Qutb.

Christianity’s fastest-growing segment most emphatically isn’t.

And the fastest growing force within global Christianity is the most pro-American group within it: the global Pentecostal movement has grown from zero to something like half a billion members in the last 100 years.  This is the fastest growth in percentage terms for any religious movement in world history, and in Africa, Asia and Latin America the growth continues today.  According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Pentecostal Christians and their beliefs are a substantial and in some cases dominant force among Christians in some of Africa’s largest and most important countries.  From beliefs in divine healing and speaking in tongues, to the expectation of Jesus’ imminent return, to faith in the ‘prosperity gospel’ (the belief that God will bless those who truly believe with secular prosperity and physical health), some of the most characteristic beliefs and practices of Pentecostal Christians are found among both Protestant and Catholic Africans across denominational lines.

Becoming a Christian doesn’t and shouldn’t mean that you will automatically support the United States no matter what it does.  It will mean, however, that your values will probably be a lot closer to ours than to theirs.

Christianity does not make people pro-American, but Christian faith gives people a perspective on life that is often congruent with American beliefs and ideals (if not always concrete American actions).  For Pentecostals in many developing countries,  America and its friends are seen as good guys upholding freedom of religion (including the freedom to share your religion with your neighbors) and promoting economic development.  The radical terrorists and their various nasty allies are seen as murdering thugs who persecute Christian believers and fight the spread of God’s truth.  Pentecostal Christians are often accused of belief in the so-called Prosperity Gospel: the belief that God favors believers with worldly riches and good health.  This is a tough theology to reconcile with the Book of Job or, for that matter, the life of Christ; however, when preachers tell their congregations in cities like Lagos that God doesn’t want them to stay poor and marginalized, that God yearns to see them well housed, well fed and well cared for, that God wants their children to have an education and a better life — who among us would dare to call them wrong?

Bottom line?  There’s a war going on and pretending that there isn’t is criminal stupidity.

The faith competition between ‘hot Christianity’ and ‘hot Islam’ also matters at home.  The elites pay only a very casual attention to this competition, but a war is being fought in America today for the souls of the African-American underclass.  In our prisons, in our inner cities, even in our military barracks a silent struggle is going on for individual souls, one soul at a time.  A preacher I know told me recently that the battle is for the soul of the forty-year-old unemployed and unmarried grandmother whose eighteen year old unmarried daughter has a one year old child.  “Somebody’s going to reach her,” said the preacher.  “And she’s either going to be wearing a veil or carrying a Bible and singing in church.”

Many Roman Catholics who comment here have regularly expressed a desire for me to join them.  Right now, I doubt that it’s ever going to happen(and I doubt that I’d tell you even if it did) but I get why they do it and I’m certainly not offended in any way.  In fact, it’s actually a great encouragement to me.

I don’t think they do it because they believe that one-true-church, Protestants-might-as-well-be-Muslims-for-all-the-good-it-will-do-them garbage.  I think serious Roman Catholics want me to convert because to them, church is far more than a place to kill a couple of hours on a Sunday morning.

To serious Roman Catholics,  Roman Catholicism in all its facets is a pearl of great price.  And they don’t want to hoard it for themselves; they want to share it with me.

So much for the idea that there is no such thing as Roman Catholic evangelism.

Contrast that with the Episcopalians.  Although they would object if you left them to become a Roman Catholic, an Orthodox Christian of any type, a Southern Baptist or a Pentecostal, they wouldn’t object strenuously enough to want to talk you out of it.

They’d just figure that you weren’t Episcopal material, that’s all, so go ahead and throw in with the snake-handlers, you bigot.  And if that young woman Mead mentioned was forced to become a Muslim, put on a burka and spend the rest of her earthly existence as some man’s property, hey, there are many ways to God Whom we don’t want to put in a small box, now do we?

It’s like this.

If you have something of ultimate value that everyone in the world desperately needs to hear, you will do whatever you have to do to let everyone in the world hear it.  But if you think one religion’s just as good as another, you have no business being surprised, angry, shocked or horrified when people who actually believe what they preach make far more disciples than you do.

47 Comments to SECRET WEAPON

Don Janousek
May 30, 2010

Protestant political evangelicals seem to be unfamiliar with what Christ said: “My Kingdom is not of this world.”

The world cannot be saved through Americanism, as per Pope Leo XIII, or any other “ism.” Nor will following advocates of the Prosperity Gospel, like St. Louis’s own Joyce Meyers, bring salvation. Her “Trust God and He will give you $1,000 Italian marble coffee tables and a house in south St. Louis worth a couple of million bucks” theology is absurd. Nor will pentecostal babbling in “tongues” and a ban on dancing lead to the saving of souls.

Christ is physically present in the consecrated bread and wine of Orthodox and Roman liturgies. The myriad of protestant sects have no way of following Christ’s commandment in the Gospel of John that “You must eat My Flesh and drink My Blood or you have no life in you.” Not a memorial or a symbol, but His actual Flesh and Blood.

Compare the Jim Bakkers and Oral Roberts of the world to St. Ambrose,Basil,Augustine, Athanasius and others. Political evangelism is a dead end.

There is only ONE route to salvation as given by Christ – “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

FW Ken
May 30, 2010

Don’s words are true (although I could use a little prosperity gospel right about now), but should not be understood to say that ecclesial communities without valid sacraments are thus bereft of the grace of God. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end. It is not Catholic (nor, to my understanding, Orthodox) teaching that only members those Churches can be saved. Which is not to invite theories of an “invisible” church, but to acknowledge that God is God and while the sacraments are the normal means of Grace, they are not the ONLY means. Good and holy men and women abound among the protestants and pentecostals, and the Kingdom is much advanced by those folks.

Sinner
May 30, 2010

when people who actually believe what they preach make far more disciples than you do.

People who actually believe aren’t (just) going to make far more disciples. So, don’t be surprised when they bomb your cities, blow up
your planes, and kill your presidents.

while the sacraments are the normal means of Grace, they are not the ONLY means. Good and holy men and women abound among the protestants and pentecostals, and the Kingdom is much advanced by those folks.

Well of course. Because as Shori says: But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.

Truth Unites... and Divides
May 30, 2010

CJ: “Many Roman Catholics who comment here have regularly expressed a desire for me to join them. Right now, I doubt that it’s ever going to happen(and I doubt that I’d tell you even if it did) but I get why they do it and I’m certainly not offended in any way. In fact, it’s actually a great encouragement to me.

I think it’s a compliment too. Have you ever thought you might have the gift of celibacy? If so, you’d be suitable for the Catholic priesthood… at least in that respect anyways.

For some Catholic priests, the vow of celibacy is a difficult thing to wrestle with. Jimmy Akin has a well-balanced post about Catholic Celibacy regarding a recent letter sent to the Pope about changing the discipline of clerical celibacy:

http://www.ncregister.com/blog/what_do_italian_priests_mistresses_want_you_to_know/

Jimmy Akins references the mistresses’ letter here:

http://rentapriest.blogspot.com/2010/05/priests-women-speak-out.html

From the above blog there are other postings about clergy and celibacy that are interesting.

For instance: “Though it was a common rule in the first centuries of the Christian era, celibacy in the Catholic Church started to be more strongly enforced only in the 11th century, and then after the Council of Trent, in the aftermath of the Reformation. Priests continued to have clandestine relationships, of course, but it was not until the Second Vatican Council in 1962 that many of them came into the open and left their offices. According to the semi-official Vatican magazine La Civilta Cattolica, nearly 60,000 priests left the church to get married after the Second Vatican Council.”

And this former priest who writes for the Boston Globe writes:

“What I only intuited 35 years ago has become an open conviction shared by many: celibacy cuts to the heart of what is wrong in the Catholic Church today. Despite denials from Rome, there will be no halting, much less recovering from, the mass destruction of the priest sex abuse scandal without reforms centered on the abandonment of celibacy as a near-universal prerequisite for ordination to the Latin-rite priesthood. (“Near universal’’ because married Episcopal priests who convert are exempt from the requirement. “Latin rite’’ because Catholic priests of the Eastern rites are allowed to marry.)

No, celibacy does not “cause’’ the sex abuse of minors, and yes, abusers of children come from many walks of life. Indeed, most abuse occurs within families or circles of close acquaintance. But the Catholic scandal has laid bare an essential pathology that is unique to the culture of clericalism, and mandatory celibacy is essential to it. Immaturity, narcissism, misogyny, incapacity for intimacy, illusions about sexual morality — such all-too-common characteristics of today’s Catholic clergy are directly tied to the inhuman asexuality that is put before them as an ideal.

A special problem arises when, on the one hand, homosexuality is demonized as a matter of doctrine, while, on the other, the banishment of women leaves the priest living in a homophilic world.”

Not to mention that the Catechism declares that masturbation is a sin, whether clergy or laity.

Dale Matson
May 30, 2010

Don Janousek,
“Christ is physically present in the consecrated bread and wine of Orthodox and Roman liturgies. The myriad of protestant sects have no way of following Christ’s commandment in the Gospel of John that “You must eat My Flesh and drink My Blood or you have no life in you.” Not a memorial or a symbol, but His actual Flesh and Blood.” I agree with you on this but sometimes wonder why non liturgical Christians don’t seem to miss this part. I am also puzzled by the liturgical Christians who have left for the Mega Churches and don’t seem to miss the liturgy. In terms of (for lack of a better term) treatment efficacy, do the liturgy of the Word (only) churches produce a different type of Christian or offer a different type of Sanctification process?

Janjan
May 30, 2010

Well, Johnson, I certainly expect you’d tell ME! And if you didn’t I’d come after you!

Robb
May 30, 2010

I’m curious; how do non-sacramental believers deal with John 6?

Truth Unites... and Divides
May 30, 2010

Would the Roman Catholic clergy who are wrestling with celibacy have an easier time of dealing with their celibacy if masturbation wasn’t a grave sin?

The Editor
May 30, 2010

From FW Ken

An ex-priest who works for The Boston Globe obsessing on the sex scandal and trashing celibacy. Now there’s a credible source.

Sinner –

“Believers” of all sorts have done all sort of things in all times and places. Christians acknowledge that; in fact, our propensity to sin is a tenet of the Faith. But consider some facts:

“Believers” in atheist Communism and pagan National Socialism murdered something over 100 million people in the 20th century.

“Believers” shot Pope John Paul II and recently plotted to kill Benedict.

“Believers” flew into the twin towers on 9/11 and enacted the various plots in Europe and the U.S. since 9/11.

Of course, none of these were Baptist, Presbyterian, or Methodist “believers”, but let’s not quibble. Christians have done some bad things over the centuries.

So: are we horrible for the Crusades? I’m sure the Muslim invaders in the 6th century were just perfect gentlemen, but I’ll agree some Europeans acted badly, as well.

Are we horrible for – oh, heck, name your favorite Christian atrocity – slavery! There you go. Christians owned African slaves.

But wait: Christian conversion drove at least one man (John Newton) out of the slave trade, so maybe it’s more complicated than all that. Moreover, there’s a good historical case that “Believers” obtained the end of slavery, at least in the western, “Christian” countries. There remain stories of slave labor in the Communist and former Communist states.

So: are we horrible because some Christians acted badly, or wonderful because our monasteries welcomed the traveler and cared for the sick and poor? Do our schools and hospitals redeem “believers” in your eyes? How about Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services? Did you know the Texas Baptist Men routinely stock up and travel to disaster sites all over the world with food and water at their own expense? Christian “believers” here in Texas cared for a quarter million people after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Others did so, too, of course, but I know what Christians did because of their Faith. Until medicine became a for-profit business, Fort Worth had 4 hospitals: Catholic, Methodist, and Episcopalian and county, whose board of directors included active Christians and Jews whose faith impelled them to serve the poor.

So before you go slinging around the term “believers” in conjunction with political assassinations, you might do well to ask: what kind of believer? And more to the point, what does the religion say about the behavior of those who claim it?

Of course, not all Muslims fly planes into buildings (although a shocking number celebrated when it happened) and a case is often made that violent jihad is a corruption of the texts that speak of it. Well, I’ll leave that to the scholars.

Paolo
May 30, 2010

TUaD, is your last question serious or sarcastic?

Truth Unites... and Divides
May 30, 2010

Serious.

On another note, I’m curious, does the Eastern Orthodox Church teach that masturbation is a grave sin too like the Roman Catholic Catechism does?

Deacon Michael D. Harmon
May 30, 2010

I’ll make a stab at answering the question about what Protestants believe about John 6 (“my body is real food, and my blood is real drink,” et al.) I am not of that persuasion, but I will say that if you deny the sacramental nature of Christian worship, then it becomes far less hard to “spiritualize” such passages. A footnote in a Protestant study Bible I own says that this cannot be taken literally “because no one has ever eaten Christ’s body or drunk His blood.”

Since I have and do, several times a week, it’s the footnote that I find incredible, not the direct literality of the chapter. But if you firmly believe that God does not convey grace via material means, which is the definition of a sacrament, then you simply cannot wrap your mind around Him using bread and wine for that purpose. It is easier for Bible literalists to deny the literal meaning of John 6 than for them to accept a sacramental worldview.

I have tried to tell such people, “Don’t you know that if you are right, all Jesus had to do was to chase after the people who were leaving and say, ‘No, you are mistaken. I didn’t mean literally eat my flesh and drink my blood. It was a metaphor!’ But He didn’t do that, He let them go and asked his closest disciples why they weren’t leaving, too. His hearers didn’t leave because they MISunderstood Him. They understood Him perfectly well, and He knew they did, and that’s why He let them go.

Katherine
May 30, 2010

First, Chris, this is a very interesting essay by Mead. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. I agree with much of what he says. There is a battle going on out there in Africa and Asia for souls and minds, and if truth be told, it’s going on also, quietly, within the Muslim countries, where there are many silent conversions.

I can testify to how evangelicals handle John Chapter 6, having done an evangelical study of John this year. They say it means feeding on the Word, by which they mean the Bible, and on the truth of Jesus Christ. Having decided in advance that they cannot accept the literal meaning, either here or in the synoptics (“This is my Body … Blood”), they make it a metaphor. It’s odd. Whereas I look at Genesis and do not see God’s literal laboratory notebook but rather a clear discussion of who God is and who we are related to him and the rest of the creation, some evangelicals see only literal words there. And yet, in the Gospels, which are as near to hot off the presses reporting as any ancient literature can be, I take the Lord literally and they do not.

Nonetheless, I agree that the evangelicals and pentecostals are, most of them, doing God’s work in the developing world, and we ought not to sniff at them, even where we have sacramental and ecclesiastical criticisms of them. I do think it would be better if they regularly received the Body and Blood of the Lord. But are they not, as Book-only Christians, enormously better off than they were still trapped in the fatalism of the Hindu or Muslim systems? Freed from the prison of how they were born and from the impossible burden of saying the prayers correctly enough to please a frightening and vindictive god, why should we be surprised that they sometimes begin to make progress in improving their lives, secure in the love of God who cares for them?

Dave P.
May 30, 2010

It is easier for Bible literalists to deny the literal meaning of John 6 than for them to accept a sacramental worldview.

It’s also easy for them to ignore and/or deride 2000 years of Christian history. Instead of taking a hint from the fact that every ancient Christian Church (Roman, Byzantine,Coptic/Ethiopian, Armenian, Chaldean, and Syrian) believes in the literal meaning of John 6, they instead choose to believe that after the death of the apostle John, everybody everywhere starting getting everything wrong, except for a “remnant” which somehow kept the True Faith intact.

Ed the Roman
May 30, 2010

Robb,

As the good Deacon pointed out, non-liturgical Christians deal with John 6 between badly and not a all.

TU&D,

If you looked in the Anglican documents that deal with it from those eras such that you would respect them, they’d hold the Catholic teaching. I have not checked any Orthodox catechisms, but I’d be surprised if there were disagreement.

And if you think about it, if that’s what celibates are SUPPOSED to do, it means that they are not really to be normals who abstain for the sake of the Kingdom, but autosexual.

Ed the Roman
May 30, 2010

Dave P. brings up an excellent point: even churches that bailed before Nicaea and Chalcedon (that still exist, anyway) hold to the strong version of the Real Presence.

Truth Unites... and Divides
May 30, 2010

Was just considering what might help priests to not violate their vows of celibacy.

Brainstormed that masturbation might help priests to not violate their vows of celibacy.

It could be the “Secret Weapon” to help priests maintain celibacy.

Paolo
May 30, 2010

TUaD, as far as I know, the Orthodox view is the same. The reasons are probably framed in a different form than the Catholic one, but it’s definitely a sin.

Chastity is the radical commitment of oneself to the love of God for His purposes, where the bodily and spiritual dimensions are not to be separated; both priests/monks/nuns and lay people are called to live this (humanly scandalous) gift, each in their proper way.

That the matter is grave (against God’s love) has been common belief – even for the Protestants – till the XX century.
It would be hypocritical for a priest to profess chastity in public, while in private feeling free to fantasize about sexual intercourse and to give himself sexual pleasure: in this case celibacy has no Christian meaning at all.

Ciao, Paolo

FW Ken
May 30, 2010

Katherine and Deacon Harmon -

Helpful, thought-provoking comments both; thank you.

LaVallette
May 30, 2010

TUAD: your comment reminds me of what some anti-celibacy protoganists have advanced as the reason for occurrence of child abuse by celibate priests.

According to them, in the mind of an abusive priest celibacy is defined and interpreted very narrowly as meaning no marriage to or sexual relations with a woman. No more and no less. Therefore sexual relations with men and boys is NOT breaking their vow of celibacy. Thus the pedophilia/hebephilia and the homosexual relationships are behaviours undertaken (the opponents of celibacy would say imposed on them) for the sake of the protection and maintenance of the vow of celibacy. That the said aberrant behaviour involved unchastity, injustice, homosexuality, sex outside marriage, lies and deceit etc which apply to EVERYBODY, priest or not. does not seem to count, or taken into consideration.

You seem to be suggesting a similar approach: Approve the sin of masturbation for priests for the sake of upholding the vow of celibacy. It will never happen. If it comes to the crunch the Church would abandon chastity, which is a matter of discipline, rather then condone a sin to uphold it.

Truth Unites... and Divides
May 30, 2010

Lavallette: “According to them, in the mind of an abusive priest celibacy is defined and interpreted very narrowly as meaning no marriage to or sexual relations with a woman. No more and no less. Therefore sexual relations with men and boys is NOT breaking their vow of celibacy. Thus the pedophilia/hebephilia and the homosexual relationships are behaviours undertaken (the opponents of celibacy would say imposed on them) for the sake of the protection and maintenance of the vow of celibacy. That the said aberrant behaviour involved unchastity, injustice, homosexuality, sex outside marriage, lies and deceit etc which apply to EVERYBODY, priest or not. does not seem to count, or taken into consideration.”

You’re right. Although you or others might discount the following because it’s coming from a former Catholic priest, he does ardently confirm what you’re saying:

“Many priests tell themselves that if it isn’t vaginal sex, then it’s still celibacy. This is a perfect example of the “what’s the least amount I have to do to meet the prescriptions of church law?” morality, which is widespread among Catholics.

The church trains its children to compartmentalize sex, into distinct acts, from the very beginning, with only one act, unitive and procreative vaginal sex between a man and a woman, who are married to each other, considered holy.

Catholics have all sorts of ways of dealing with this. I had a Catholic friend in college, who vowed she would be a virgin until she got married, but she blew most of the guys in the theatre department.

In seminary, I believed I was still a virgin, because I had never had sex with woman. Men didn’t count, so the fooling around I did in college …

I learned that celibacy also involved chastity, which meant no masturbation. Of course, I did masturbate, but prayerfully, thinking about communion with god.

All Catholics are called to chastity, and I would venture to guess that 99% of them don’t live chastely. They masturbate alone or with their opposite sex spouses.

There are such guilty, fearful, and grandiose expectations placed upon the sexual act in Catholic moral teachings. Few Catholics can live up to these prescriptions; therefore, people develop ways of rationalizing their behavior, so that they can meet the church’s unachievable sexual sainthood.

It is no shock that pedophile-priests would not consider raping children, and the lesser sin of groping a child, a violation of celibacy. The system of Catholic sexual ethics sowed the seeds of their distortion and their crimes long ago.”

If interested in reading it: Here’s the link.

Caution: He’s an ex-priest who gives his opinion on what went on at his seminary. But what he says does corroborate what Lavallette says above.

FW Ken
May 30, 2010

Libcat ex-priest opines:

The system of Catholic sexual ethics sowed the seeds of their distortion and their crimes long ago.”

In other news, Episcopalian Gene Robinson supports same-sex marriage.

Catholics have known about libcat justifications for various types of fornication for awhile now; nice you are getting up to speed, TUAD, and there are many sources that spout the same swill, if you want to read them.

But what’s the point?

FW Ken
May 30, 2010

Wow! Not just a libcat priest, here’s the websitefrom which TUAD got his quotes:

The Gospel According to Hate
Exposing the hatred, hypocrisy, and violence of religion.

Their mission:

Exposing the hatred, hypocrisy, fear, and violence that religious institutions and individuals preach in the name of their gods.

And the blogmeister:

(Ex)Father Tom
Priest, Prophet, Heretic

Yeah, he’s a great source for information on Catholicism.

What are you selling, TUAD?

FW Ken
May 30, 2010

Sorry for the multiple posts, but I keep getting distracted and don’t say what I really wanted to say:

Christopher Johnson (if you are still reading this benighted thread):

I am far less concerned about what church you join as I am that you commit yourself somewhere. If Geneva calls, swim for shore (but wear a wetsuit – the lake’s chilly,I understand).

A Christian belongs in a flock; wandering alone makes him subject to attacking wolves and I don’t want that for any of us, my brother.

Truth Unites... and Divides
May 30, 2010

FW Ken,

Just supplying corroborating evidence for Lavallette’s observations.

Paula Loughlin
May 31, 2010

TUAD,

I don’t trust those stats at all. And I feel pity for those who perform mental gymnastics to justify sin against the virtue of chastity. But most of all I wonder why no mention is made of the sacramental grace within marriage?

And the fact that this society is so hostile to sexual continence explains a lot about why so many have a hard time forming true attachments and too easily mistake lust for love.

Robb
May 31, 2010

Ditto what FW Ken said with regards to the comments of Deacon Harmon and Katherine.

TUaD: Enough about spanking the monkey already.

FW Ken
May 31, 2010

LaVallette was presenting – and refuting – what “anti-celibacy protagonists” like Ex-Father Tom, have to say. They are ideological opposites, not corroborative at all.

Anyway, any Catholic can tell you those ideologies have been in play among some people since the 60s, but then, human beings have always sought to justify their sins.

Truth Unites... and Divides
May 31, 2010

Okay Robb. Was just considering what might help priests to not violate their vows of celibacy, and brainstormed that periodic masturbation to douse pent-up sexual fire, so to speak, might assist some/many priests to not violate their vows of celibacy.

FW Ken
May 31, 2010

Of course, self-control couldn’t be the solution.

Riddle me this, Batman: if the issue is to “douse pent-up sexual fire”, why do married men commit adultery?

Allen Lewis
May 31, 2010

FW Ken –

Good question to TUAD. What ever happened to the belief that God’s grace would be an inestimable aid in the goal of self-control? Isn’t that part of the core of Christian moral teaching?

No one ever said, and certainly Jesus did not say, that the Christian life was an easy one. After all, Christ referred to it as “taking up your Cross…” That is what self-denial is: taking up your Cross as you deny your own sinful, human nature to live a life of chastity.

But the fact is this does not apply to just sexaul morality; it applies to all aspects of our human interactions such as greed, covetousness, anger, envy, etc., etc.. Controlling all of these require the grace of God because human beings cannot do that by themselves.

Great thread with lots of good comments.

Bob the Ape
May 31, 2010

“All Catholics are called to chastity, and I would venture to guess that 99% of them don’t live chastely. They masturbate alone or with their opposite sex spouses.

There are such guilty, fearful, and grandiose expectations placed upon the sexual act in Catholic moral teachings. Few Catholics can live up to these prescriptions; therefore, people develop ways of rationalizing their behavior, so that they can meet the church’s unachievable sexual sainthood.”

All men are called to be virtuous, and I WILL guarantee that 100.00000% of them don’t live virtuously. They sin.

There are such guilty, fearful, and grandiose expectations placed upon all of life in Christian moral teachings. No one can live up to these prescriptions; therefore, people develop ways of rationalizing their behavior, so that they can meet the church’s unachievable sainthood.

Or maybe some of them keep stumbling and getting up again, repenting and asking for forgiveness and starting over, but never giving up.

Katherine
May 31, 2010

Allen, what could have been a thread about the spread of Christianity in its various forms and perhaps about how to move the evangelical and pentecostal strains towards the universal sacramental traditions of the church turned instead into another tired discussion of celibacy and the Catholic clergy. Religious liberals often have one-track minds and talk about sex most of the time. It’s sad when conservative comment threads begin to follow their example. (Yes, I know you didn’t start it; the guy who did might want to think about why this topic is so important to him. Screwtape may know.)

Ed the Roman
May 31, 2010

“But most of all I wonder why no mention is made of the sacramental grace within marriage? ”

The same reason that so little mention is made of dark matter in 19th century astronomy: absolutely no idea that either of them exists.

Kathy
May 31, 2010

Sorry, one more comment about that monkey. I am always amazed at the human astuteness of the Catholic church’s actions. As a divorced woman who came into the Catholic Church, I struggled to achieve chastity, failed, struggled again, ad nauseum. Praise God for menopause. However, completely aside from God’s wisdom, the insistence on chastity is a BLESSING to single people. Acknowledge that you don’t have an absolute right to illicit sexual activity, cleanse your mind of sexual thoughts and your body of bad habits, and you will have a much easier time of it. Thinking, wishing, fantasizing, etc. only makes you feel sad, lonely, and deprived, instead of concentrating on God’s gifts that you are invited to enjoy to the fullest. We have SO absorbed our culture’s statement that we cannot resist desire in any of its forms. The sins of our priests are directly caused by this. Libs are so hypocritical. All this is so “good” and “natural” unless a priest does it.

And TUaD? WHY do you waste so much time taking jabs at Catholics? Is anger your only pleasure? I do hope people on this site pray for you a lot.

Truth Unites... and Divides
May 31, 2010

I appreciate prayers.

I really hope conservative Catholics prevail over liberal Catholics.

Just like I hope conservative Protestants prevail over liberal Protestants.

I think liberal Catholics and liberal Protestants are aided and abetted by liberal secularists as well as they are aiding and abetting liberal secularists…

and I think liberalism in its many forms is destructive for the home, the church, the country, and the world.

Thanks for your prayers.

Paolo
May 31, 2010

TUaD, I do not see anything offensive in your posts.

Pray for me and my family.

Ciao, Paolo

Truth Unites... and Divides
May 31, 2010

Thanks much Paolo!

May the Lord bless you and your family abundantly.

Ciao!

Allen Lewis
May 31, 2010

Katherine,
It is true that we got somewhat diverted. But I really have no clue how to get charismatics and evangelicals to become sacramentalists. It seems to me that one either “gets” the sacramental aspects of Jesus’ ministry or one does not.

One of the most damaging fallout from the Protestant Reformation was the extremes that some parties went to to get away from the sacramental nature of the Body of Christ. This is one of the major point on which Anglican theologians got things right. They did not throw the baby out with the bathwater, but rather pared away several centuries of clierical accretions and got back to what the Church was like after the great Ecumenical Councils.

That worship was truly sacramental and focused on the ever-present grace available by regular participation in the Holy Eucharist.

Yes, there is something to be said for the Charismatic strain which weaves through the Protestant movement, but when all it can do is focus on the Spirit rather than the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ as evidenced in his Body and Blood, then something very valuable is lost.

Yes, we need more discussions about how we can incorporate the evangelical and charismatic strains into our Anglican life and practice.

Cheers!

FW Ken
May 31, 2010

Ya’ll put me in mind of the 70s, when I had some dealings with the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Houston, where, for a shining moment, the sacramental, evangelical, and charismatic did meld into a community that brought many souls to Christ, and Christ to a benighted neighborhood. Times change and the movement crashed on some pretty sharp rocks, but there are lessons there.

On the other hand, during that period I asked an Episcopal minister if his parish was charismatic. I got “The Look” and a reply I remember 35 years later: the Church of Jesus Christ is always charismatic. There is truth to that. My last Episcopal rector was fond of saying that growth is the natural condition of the church; you don’t have to make the church grow – you have to actively block growth. All of which comes back to my mind these days.

My current parish has grown 3 fold in membership and more than double in ASA over the past decade. True, a lot of the growth was in the hispanic population, but the English Masses have grown dramatically as well. Why should this be? There is nothing “charismatic” about it. It’s a very normal parish with the normal mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Nothing marks it as “charismatic”, although I commented on another thread that the Holy Spirit is a lot more active than we see – because we don’t look. You can’t point to anything that’s “evangelical”. I wish we had more adult education – bible studies in the evening and weekend and so on. Still, it grows. Why?

I’m betting most folks reading this – Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist, etc. – can tell the same story, if not about their parish, then about one they know.

I do want to raise one caution about the African-American pentecostals: there are pentecostals, and then there are Oneness pentecostals, who don’t accept the Trinity. As it happens, I have a fair amount of professional dealings with some of those folks. Good people in many respects, but, honestly, I have some serious reservations: it’s a gut feeling. On the other hand, there are many good, orthodox black folks doing faith-based work in my field, and they are excellent people. My personal favorites are Church of God in Christ – never met one I didn’t like, and they have a distinctive music that’s hard to not appreciate (even if you don’t like it).

ccinnova
May 31, 2010

But I really have no clue how to get charismatics and evangelicals to become sacramentalists.

There are some charismatics among the more orthodox Anglicans. CANA Bishop Martyn Minns, for example, is a charismatic. At least two of the CANA parishes in Northern Virginia, Truro and Church of the Apostles, are openly charismatic. And most, if not all, of Northern Virginia’s CANA parishes are evangelical.

FW Ken
May 31, 2010
Katherine
June 1, 2010

Right, FW Ken. The Trinity is not to be denied, and those groups who do deny it are on non-Christian ground.

I have a neighbor who had a conversion following a nasty divorce. She joined a Bible study. I went to the website of the Bible study materials and of the church in which the studies were hosted to see if they were Trinitarian. Not my style at all, not sacramental, but she is infinitely better off in her thinking and her whole approach to life than she was before. I had and still have the feeling that I would have been wrong to attack her choice; I might perhaps have put her off the whole Christian idea by attacking.

The Little Myrmidon
June 1, 2010

If I may throw in my 2¢ worth on this:

“I agree with you on this but sometimes wonder why non liturgical Christians don’t seem to miss this part. I am also puzzled by the liturgical Christians who have left for the Mega Churches and don’t seem to miss the liturgy. In terms of (for lack of a better term) treatment efficacy, do the liturgy of the Word (only) churches produce a different type of Christian or offer a different type of Sanctification process?”

I think the Christian who is attracted to this type of church is looking for something a little different. The emphasis in these churches is on the sermon (and the preaching in a lot of liturgical churches is pretty dreadful.) Growing up in the Methodist Church, I can remember that 1. There was no “Lectionary” ( I know that’s changed for a lot of UMC churches nowadays) and the minister could preach on any text he wanted – quite often to address a particular need. Additionally, the readings could come from “anywhere” in the Bible and the sermon didn’t have to be on the Gospel lesson. There are huge sections of the Bible that Episcopalians have never heard preached (yes, I know you can read the Daily Office, but that still doesn’t cover all the Bible. And, there are a lot of Episcopalians who don’t read the Daily Office.) 2. The texts weren’t a paragraph (or two.) I can remember hearing old and new testament readings that were pages long. 3. The sermon was apt to last for 20- 30 minutes (how many Episcopalians could tolerate this?) 4. The message was meant to be discussed or pondered over during the ensuing week. At my house, anyway, the sermon was usually discussed at Sunday Dinner. The message was meant to sustain and keep you from falling into error. (Of course, Holy Communion was also given once a month, too.)

So, yes, people that are looking for something more than the five minute sermon offered in RC and Episcopal churches will find these churches engaging. The whole emphasis in the seminaries for these ministers is on the preaching. Many of them are very good, some are excellent.

Dale Matson
June 1, 2010

The Little Myrmidon,
Thanks for examining this issue. I’ve attended Mega Church services and found that the “Sermon” is more likely a teaching from scripture applied to contemporary life. Additionally, the Pastor did not attend seminary and was only virtually present via video on a screen. Preaching from the lectionary in the Anglican Church does not require preaching from the Gospel Lesson only. The preaching could be drawn from any of the readings including the Psalm or Collect of the day but it would always come back to Christ being preached. My fifteen minute or so Homilies are usually based on whatever strikes me as most significant and relevant for me for the Sunday. For example, when the Amish Children were murdered, I told that story in the context of the beatitudes. I have put a great deal of thought into why so many Christians from liturgical backgrounds have transferred to Mega Churches and have not fully understood why. I suspect that it may be like fast food but that is probably not fair to most of these churches.

Robb
June 1, 2010

My two cents (actual cash value)
I spent a big part of my youth (yes, I did have one) in protestant churches.
Heard much great teaching and preaching. But as wonderful as that can be, it is not (IMHO) worship. I would rather hear a dreadful 5-10 minute homily from an incompetent priest and worship sacramentally then I would hear a sermon by D.L.Moody
of Spurgeon. In the former I have worshiped. In the latter I have been instructed.
To be sure, both profitable.

Don Janousek
June 1, 2010

Truth Unites… and Divides: I think both the Romans and the Orthodox would frown on…uh…choking the chicken, even if it is of the Lindbergh variety (flying solo), and neither would approve of….uh..”assistance,” even within the confines of matrimony.

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