Friday, October 31, 2014

it's Halloween so that must mean we blog about zombies

Zombies!  They're not just for scaring the undergraduates any more!

No, as Steve Kolowich observes, they're becoming big academic business.  Turns out that rather obvious jokes about a coming zombie apocalypse hit real fears that some as-yet-unknown pandemic will engulf us all.  Anxiety--now that's something academics can tap into.  This means that philosophers and the like start writing.  Kolowich's great concluding line:

"In some corners of academe, real zombies are unnecessary: the brains eat themselves."

Indeed. Read it all here.  And don't say I didn't warn you.

Monday, October 27, 2014

the hits just keep coming

Rod Dreher, regularly cited on this blog, commented on Philip Jenkins' "Last Episcopalian" post last week.  The results, apparently, were dramatic.  Dreher received one comment so long and insightful he gave it its own post.  A former United Methodist pastor weighs in on what drags down so many church organizations...

(When I left the UMC ministry – my district superintendent told me that he (along with over half of his colleagues) was on anti-depressants and that he suspected that when he retired he wouldn’t need them anymore.)
Understand – I’m not against anti-depressant medication – it can literally be a lifesaver for folks suffering from clinical depression – but he was telling me that his job environment was so toxic that he needed to drug himself to cope (and frankly saw no irony in that fact). This is just symbolic of the denial that so many in leadership in these denominations live in. Our annual conferences were multi-day exercises in self congratulation and furrowed brow deliberation over countless resolutions that accomplished nothing other than solidify the entrenched political power of the denominational apparatchiks. Clueless old-school church politicians fighting over the remaining scraps of organizational power deluding themselves into thinking all is well.

and Dreher extends that to organizations in general.

People from outside the bureaucratic structure typically have no idea how much being on the inside affects the way you see things. A good friend of mine worked for a big company that, because of changing market conditions, began losing a significant amount of business. He was in management there, and told me that the leadership class within the company was truly concerned about what they could do to turn around their situation. The thing was, all their proposed solutions favored what the managerial elites wanted to do in the first place. That is, they would consider no possible measures that would mean doing something that challenged their own settled convictions, and certainly nothing that would harm their own perceived internal interests.
Result: .... the management ... was so immersed in its own bubble that it did not understand how blinded it was by its own interests.

Since it's Reformation Day (i.e., Halloween), let's have a little more:

Don’t forget the late historian Barbara Tuchman’s elements that are present in all great and consequential institutional collapses (e.g., her account of how six Renaissance popes allowed conditions within the Catholic Church to degrade so much that the Reformation happened):
1. obliviousness to the growing disaffection of constituents
2. primacy of self-aggrandizement
3. illusion of invulnerable status
Again, this is not a Christian thing, specifically, but a function of bureaucratic mindsets within government, industry, academia, and all complex social entities. Being religious does not liberate you from being human. It can, though, convince you that whatever you’re doing as a leader within a religious bureaucracy must be right, because you are serving God. I’ll never forget the case in which a Catholic bishop told an adult victim of a priest’s sexual abuse — the priest was the woman’s confessor, and used information he gained in the confessional to blackmail her, a married woman, into a sexual relationship — that if she went to the authorities with this story, he, her bishop, would ruin her, “because I have to protect the people of God.” True story.

Pretty sobering stuff.  The Fall is real, folks.  No, I don't mean in a simplistic fashion, but that our humanity--intrinsically good and imbued with dignity and freedom by and from God--now can't help shoot itself in the foot.  Repeatedly.  And at the darnedest times.  We see this in our personal lives and relationships, and yes, Virginia, you can see it in the lives of nations.  We are capable of such good--and occasionally we come close to achieving it.  And at other times we seem capably only of screwing up things further, even as we claim to be helping.  Worth considering on this the 497th anniversary of the beginning of Protestantism.  No, we can't save ourselves.  Only God can do that--and Trent agreed.   God also gave us the Church and, despite the obvious problems as dictated above, that is the avenue through which we experience the justification God alone gives.

Read it all here.

restore us again, O Lord...

Over at the St Joseph's College Theology blog, Father Frank Donio, SAC, provides a great reminder:  pray.    Father Donio writes:

Fervent prayer, ardent prayer, in the way that Pope Francis is calling for is an on-going dialogue with God throughout our day, an awareness of the action and activity of the Holy Spirit permeating our lives. It is a seeking for God and finding God in all things, in every moment and in every place. St. Teresa of Avila encourages us to be seekers of God and St. Ignatius of Loyola calls us to “find God in all things.” St. Vincent Pallotti puts the two aspects together, as was often his way, and challenges us to:
Seek God and you will find God.Seek God in all things and you will find God in all things.Seek God always and you will always find God.”

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pope Paul VI and the martyrs

This past Sunday's installment over at the St Joseph's College of Maine theology blog.  Coming up this weekend:  the St Joseph's Symposium on the Second Vatican Council.  Highlights next week.

And then will start some reflections--along with catching up on what should've been a busy month of blogging, lots to blog about--about Blessed Pope Paul's legacy.  There's far more there, I've discovered, than just a second name for another pope or two.  Blessed Paul, pray for us!

Friday, October 17, 2014

obligatory Synod blog post

Quite frankly, it's not much.  1) Everybody else is writing about it and I'm trying to figure out for myself just what has been said and why.  The Cardinal Kasper fiasco has only muddied things further.  2) Life's busyness factor has kicked it up a notch or two (or five) around here so time has not been in great supply.

That being said, this post from Artur Rosman seemed hit a number of good notes-with a sense of humor too.  He closes with this:

If that that’s not enough for you, the highly respected Church historian Robert Louis Wilken weighs in with this:
And so began… a time when leading bishops of the Church disagreed profoundly on central matters of Christian teaching. Ecclesiastical councils publicly debated deep theological issues, with the aim of reaching consensus on language to express central Christian beliefs in formal statements of faith. The disagreements ran deep, and the disputes were often bitter and sometimes violent.
Gotcha! This quote actually comes from Robert Louis Wilken’s history of Christianity, The First Thousand Years. The Aquinas and mysticism scholar Fritz Bauerschmidt dropped this passage on social media explaining that it applies to Church history stretching from the start of the fourth century to the middle of the sixth. That’s one long stretch of time. Bauerschmidt adds the following comment, which all would be Synod commentators should heed:
It’s déjà vu all over again. Somehow I find that comforting.

Read it all:

And continue praying for the Church.