Friday, December 7, 2007

Hauerwas on the Reformation

A relative and admired professor at Duke Divinity School, Stanley Hauerwas, gives one of his smokin' &%#X-prophetic homilies for Reformation Sunday:
I must begin by telling you that I do not like to preach on Reformation Sunday. Actually I have to put it more strongly than that. I do not like Reformation Sunday, period. I do no understand why it is part of the church year. Reformation Sunday does not name a happy event for the Church Catholic; on the contrary, it names failure. Of course, the church rightly names failure, or at least horror, as part of our church year. We do, after all, go through crucifixion as part of Holy Week. Certainly if the Reformation is to be narrated rightly, it is to be narrated as part of those dark days.

Reformation names the disunity in which we currently stand. We who remain in the Protestant tradition want to say that Reformation was a success. But when we make Reformation a success, it only ends up killing us. After all, the very name ‘Protestantism’ is meant to denote a reform movement of protest within the Church Catholic. When Protestantism becomes an end in itself, which it certainly has through the mainstream denominations in America, it becomes anathema. If we no longer have broken hearts at the church’s division, then we cannot help but unfaithfully celebrate Reformation Sunday. Continue reading ...

UPDATE: Read The Seat of the Reformation.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

NYT - Oh the humanity

The New York Times shows its flippant, arrogant, and decidedly vapid soul in the review of The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman's pied piper attempt at atheism on the half-shell. When Pullman shills, as with Rowling's late-blooming perception of Dumbledore's gay-ness (How the hell does she know? She's only the author), the world is diminished from the true, good, and beautiful. Dithering does NOT qualify as reality. It's called "vertigo of the imagination."

"That They May All Be One"

Our Lord's revelation did not end in mere didactical statements to his disciples. His gestures, his actions, and most of all his prayers also revealed the Father to the Twelve, and they continue to do so for "those who have not seen and yet believe" [Jn 20, 29b].

Jesus prayed in the Upper Room for those who are "in the world" that "they may be one, even as we (the Father and the Son) are one" [Jn 17, 11b].

So it is a continuing sign of hope this Advent that the Catholic News Agency reported the following:
.- Baptists leaders from around the world met with Pope Benedict XVI this morning at the Vatican as the second round of Baptist-Catholic talks continued. Saying that the lack of unity among Christians contradicts Christ’s will, Benedict XVI told the Baptist delegation that the world needs “our common witness to Christ and to the hope brought by the Gospel.”

This meeting in Rome is the second round of ongoing discussions that Members of the Baptist World Alliance are holding with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The theme for this meeting is: "The Word of God in the Life of the Church: Scripture, Tradition and Koinonia." Continue reading …

Many besides myself can well remember when Baptist Christians would no sooner meet at the Vatican with the Holy Father than cozy up with Nikita Kreuschev at the Kremlin -- and for similar reasons in their addled pates.

May this serve as one of many signs of the power of Our Lord to bring unity, peace, and brotherhood among all who, as Benedict XVI stated, lean upon the "liberating truth and saving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ." Amen and amen.

In the News - Beyond the Pale - No Jest

Catholic farmers who remember and fear armed-conflict panic hearing that Philippine government expands Muslim homeland near them. Wonderful. Naive politicians see new voters but know nothing and don't care about expansionism of dar al-Islam.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Islamic Congress has a 50/50 chance of getting a pair of "Human Rights Commissions" to shut down Mark Steyn.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

"Do You Give Up So Easily on Jesus?"

From CNA, Catholic News Agency, a dramatic, beautiful, and powerful story of witness and conversion: [HT: New Advent]

Father Bautista: Apostle in the Desert
Joe Burns, War Stringer

A few weeks ago, I returned to the U.S. after spending a week with Army troops in Iraq. More specifically, I spent six and a half days with my son’s outfit, the 63rd Ordnance Company stationed at Al Taqaddum. Al Taqaddum is a former Iraqi airbase, nicknamed TQ, and lies about 50 miles west of Baghdad in the Anbar Province near Ramadi. My son Mike and I spent the first three days in Baghdad while I was processed for my press pass and then waited for a helicopter to become available to take us to TQ.

[ ... ]

On the second day at Al Taqaddum, I was privileged to attend Mass said by Fr. Jose A. Bautista-Rojas, a Navy chaplain who ministers to the Marines and soldiers at TQ and in the Ramadi area. It was a hot, dry, windy and desolate day.

[ ... ]

The events of that morning for Fr. Bautista included a Mass he had just conducted in Ramadi at a Marine detachment. What made the Mass unique, was that his “congregation” consisted of one lonely Catholic Marine. When Father Bautista arrived in Ramadi along with his personal bodyguard, a strong young, well-armed Marine, he visited a detachment of eight men, only one of whom was Catholic. Undeterred, he told the Marine he would be happy to say Mass for him.

The young Marine confided to him, “You know Father, back in the States, I didn’t go to Mass that often, but out here I find myself longing to go to Mass again. But I’ve been here for seven months and you’re the first Catholic chaplain I’ve seen.” Fr. Bautista spent some time listening to his story and asking questions about his family. Then he said Mass for this single Marine, in the presence of countless angels and saints who rejoiced with them.

As Fr. Bautista continued speaking with us, he described the fascinating story of a young Muslim woman who was entering the Church under his guidance through the RCIA process. Her story was moving. While working with Americans, this woman, who must remain anonymous, was touched deeply when she realized that the U.S. medical personnel not only treated wounded Americans and Iraqi civilians, but also treated wounded enemy combatants, including one who was known for having killed U.S. Marines. As she put it, “This cannot happen with us.”

This dramatic extension of mercy even to enemy soldiers caused her to take the next cautious step. She asked Father Bautista to “tell me more about Jesus.” As Father described Jesus and his life in the Gospels, one thing stood out among the rest for the Muslim woman he called “Fatima” (not her real name) and that was how kindly Jesus had related to, as she put it, “the two Mary’s.” Fatima was moved to see how Jesus deeply loved Mary, his mother, who was sinless, but also how Jesus deeply loved Mary Magdalene, who was “a great sinner.” As these discussions continued, Fatima reached a point where she said to Father Bautista, “I want to become a Christian.” (My emphases) Keep reading Father Bautista, Two Mary’s, and “Do you give up so easily on Jesus?”

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Cunninghams

An absolute crying shame is that there is precious little video of Johnny Cunningham, the late Scottish fiddler of the group Silly Wizard. He and brother Phil (who still produces CDs) here:

John Paul II & the Jews - Dalin

A fine essay by Rabbi David Dalin appears at First Things, John Paul II and the Jews.

Growing up in the small Polish town of Wadowice, where Jews and Catholics mingled with relative ease, Karol Wojtyla, according to biographer Tad Szulc, “had Jewish playmates and classmates with whom he enjoyed easy camaraderie.” John Paul’s closest friend was Jerzy Kluger, whose father was a prominent local attorney and president of the local Jewish community and its synagogue. About fifteen hundred Jews lived in Wadowice, more than 20 percent of the town’s population, during Karol Wojtyla’s childhood. When Karol was a teenager, the town’s synagogue, which had had a full-time rabbi for many years, hired its first cantor, who was renowned for his splendid voice. On the festival of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement and the holiest day in the Jewish year, Karol was taken to the synagogue by his father to hear the Kol Nidre, the central prayer of the Yom Kippur worship service, chanted by the new cantor. In later years, Karol Wojtyla, as bishop and pope, would often remark on how moved and inspired he was by that memorable Yom Kippur service.

As Carl Bernstein and Marco Politi have pointed out, “since the time of the Apostle Peter, no Roman pontiff has ever spent his childhood in such close contact with Jewish life.”
Dalin also published the essential book, The Myth of Hitler's Pope: Pope Pius XII and His Secret War Against Nazi Germany [2005].

Monday, December 3, 2007

Top 20 Books Nobody Reads

Pompeii - Before 79 A.D.

If you happen to be a bibliophile and are just looking for a reason to buy another book (or several!), or you simply enjoy reading about books and Nic Basbane doesn't have another out just yet, Touchstone Magazine has just the ticket: Top Twenty Books Nobody Reads. [Tip: New Advent]

Islamic "Reformation"

Mark Steyn opines at The Corner on National Review that the Muslim "reformation" that many believe is needed is happening and may be very different than many wanted or foresaw in Moderate Muslims.

The Islamic "reformation" is, in a sense, the opposite of Christianity's. The Saudis have used their vast oil enrichment to promote themselves as a kind of Holy See for Muslims, and the Wahhabization of previously low-key syncretic localized Islams in almost every corner of the planet is testament to their success. I look at the gazillions of dollars tossed into the great sucking maw of US "intelligence" agencies and I wonder why somewhere in the budget we couldn't put something aside to promote a bit of covert ideological rollback in Chechnya or Bosnia or Pakistan. But we're not that savvy, and God knows what unintended consequences would blow up in our faces.

And at one level the Islamist "reformation" makes perfect sense. After all, they look at Christianity's reformation and see that everywhere but the United States it led to the ebbing of faith and its banishment to the fringes of life. The jihadist reformation is, as they see it, a rational response to the Christian one.

It is a point I made in a post entitled, Osama bin Luther. . .

Tyerman on the Crusades

The New Oxford Review's Phillip Blosser reviews Tyerman's God's War: A New History of the Crusades [Harvard University Press] here. Again, Don’t be ashamed of the Crusades.

Most benighted folk haven't a clue of history past, say, two decades or two centuries ago. Please, gentle reader, remember that the "prophet" Muhammad appeared over five centuries after Jesus walked in the Temple precinct. There simply were no Muslims in Israel, or "Palestine" for that amount of time. Christians, on the other hand, did occupy the land. Crusaders went out to protect, not to displace what "rightfully" belonged to Muslims. The question is one of motives. Why did Crusaders go and rescue?

As Belloc said, it is ”The World’s Debate.”

Summing Up "Spe Salvi" - BXVI

The world needs God, otherwise it remains without hope, said Benedict XVI when he summarized the central message of his encyclical "Spe Salvi."

The Pope said this today before reciting the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square. He also spoke on the meaning of Advent, which begins today.

Advent, the Holy Father said, "is the propitious time to reawaken in our hearts the expectation of him 'who is, who was and who is coming.'"

The Pontiff regarded the First Sunday of Advent as "a most appropriate day to offer to the whole Church and all men of good will my second encyclical, which I wanted to dedicate to the theme of Christian hope."

Benedict XVI noted that in the New Testament "the word hope is closely connected with the word faith." Hope, he added, "is a gift that changes the life of those who receive it, as the experience of so many saints demonstrates."

He asked: "In what does this hope consist that is so great and so 'trustworthy' as to make us say that 'in it' we have 'salvation'?

"In substance it consists in the knowledge of God, in the discovery of his heart as a good and merciful Father."

"With his death on the cross and his resurrection," added the Pope, Jesus "has revealed to us his countenance, the countenance of a God so great in love as to communicate to us an indestructible hope, a hope that not even death can crack, because the life of those who entrust themselves to this Father always opens onto the perspective of eternal beatitude."
Continue reading …

Sunday, December 2, 2007

SJS, Command '66', & Chivalry

I could not help but think of this as I watched tonight's CBS's 60-Minutes presentation on the religious cleansing of Christians in Baghdad. Truth be told: even if peace-loving Muslims want to criticize such evil, they fear its pagan accusatory and destructive power too. Legitimate defense and chivalry are in the offing, gentlemen. We must come together to speak the only language the primitive Sacred understands at present.

[First posted October 14, 2007] In George Lucas' finally-filmed installment in the Star Wars saga, Revenge of the Sith, on a special command ('66'), the clone army, heretofore obedient and helpful, suddenly turn their weapons on the Jedi, destroying nearly all of them. Out of the blue, unforeseen, unprovoked, this sudden attack is devastatingly destructive to the Jedi; devastatingly excellent for the Sith and Emperor Palpatine.

Daniel Pipes has thematized what I think is a similar and insidious phenomenon: Sudden Jihad Syndrome. [HT: What's Wrong w/the World]
"Individual Islamists may appear law-abiding and reasonable, but they are part of a totalitarian movement, and as such, all must be considered potential killers.” I wrote those words days after 9/11 and have been criticized for them ever since. But an incident on March 3 at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill suggests I did not go far enough.

That was when a just-graduated student named Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, 22, and an Iranian immigrant, drove a sport utility vehicle into a crowded pedestrian zone. He struck nine people but, fortunately, none were severely injured ...

In fact, no one who knew him said a bad word about him, which is important, for it signals that he is not some low-life, not homicidal, not psychotic, but a conscientious student and amiable person. Which raises the obvious question: why would a regular person try to kill a random assortment of students? Taheri-azar’s post-arrest remarks offer some clues.

He told the 911 dispatcher that he wanted to “punish the government of the United States for their actions around the world.”
I am thankful to Pipes for giving this phenomenon a name, "Sudden Jihad Syndrome" (Don't wait up for the American Psychological Association to put it in the DSM-V along with, say, homosexuality which they removed from the DSM-IV for political not scientific reasons. That’s another story.) Let me be clear, however: unlike the "clones in Star Wars, it is NOT a "command" that compels the attacker and overrides the will.

It is more like the wisdom of the late Fr Raymund Schwager: "Sins, especially serious and conscious ones, begin in the depths of the heart and they often have a long prehistory, in which many people bear different amounts of responsibility and in which it often depends on accidental circumstances as to whether things get as far as an outward, punishable deed and who commits it." In other words, one puts into actions what one has spent a great deal of time thinking about, fantasizing about. After a while, the step from fantasizing to acting-out is like slipping down a greased pole. The old word for it was possession.

But why, for pity's sake, would a Muslim spend time thinking about acting violently toward infidel (kafir) with whom he has no personal quarrel? Because, simply put, (1) the Koran praises such action in the realm of war (Dār al-Harb), and, as Erwun Caner points out, (2) the soteriology of Islam has to do with scales -- how much evil is in my life? how much righteousness? If 51% of my accrued action is "evil", I go straight to perdition when I die (in Islam). What can "erase" all the evil in my life as a man? Martyrdom in killing kafir "erases" all the evil in my life. For Muslim women, childbirth has the same effect. Does that tell you something about the "demographic wars?" Too, does it tell you something about the nature of the deity of Islam?

So. Why would a young law-abiding college student like Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar suddenly go berserk? Go figure. It seems likely that in the near-future we shall have all the opportunities we want or don't want to practice the virtue of Christian men that needs dusting-off and cleaning: chivalry.

Veni, Veni Emanuel

Having visited Israel three times, twice under the auspices of a Palestinian Christian tour company (Nawas International), I've seen the bifurcation, injustice, and, yes, cooperation between Jews and Arabs there. And no where is this seen in sharper relief than in Jerusalem.

Hugh Sykes of the BBC reports on his recent visit in At home with Israelis and Palestinians.

Is it too much to ask for all of us to ”pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” and all of her inhabitants during this season of waiting and watching?