Thursday, December 14, 2006
So, I have recently been reading the book The Temperament God Gave You by Art & Lorraine Bennett. It seems I have some rather melancholic tendencies...idealism, deep thinking, introversion. Perhaps this explains why sometimes I get into an Alanis Morissette mood; I think she must be a melancholy soul. Her lyrics are candid, vulnerable, and don't glamorize. Even her voice is very honest, not rehearsed and poppy. (Disclaimer: I'm not a fan of her occassionally crass and sexually perverse lyrics, but even still, they betray the very human, gut-level reactions to disappointments, the desperate graspings for a sense of security, the very real brokenness of the human psyche.) Despite the darkness, I don't find her lyrics discouraging; as a whole I find her music quite encouraging . I feel at home with it, I might say.
My favorite listen lately has been "Thank U" from Alanis's "Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie" album. I love the desire expressed in this song to overcome personal vices, the resignation to the need to change, even the desire to change. This song is quite self-affirming and full of great reminders of what matters most in life. Alanis sings...
How bout me not blaming you for everything?
How bout me enjoying the moment for once?
How bout how good it feels to finally forgive you?
How bout grieving it all one at a time?
Thank you India.
Thank you terror.
Thank you disillusionment.
Thank you frailty.
Thank you consequence.
Thank you, thank you silence.
The moment I let go of it was the moment
I got more than I could handle.
The moment I jumped off of it
Was the moment I touched down.
How bout no longer being masochistic?
How bout remembering your divinity?
How bout unabashedly bawling your eyes out?
How bout not equating death with stopping?
I especially love the "thank you"s. Terror, disillusionment, frailty, consequence and silence ... all are huge catalysts for self-evaluation... all are catalysts to look for something greater than yourself for meaning and direction.
Another Alanis song I love is "So Unsexy" from her album "Under Rug Swept". Lyrics below...
Oh these little rejections how they add up quickly
One small sideways look and I feel so ungood
Somewhere along the way I think I gave you the power to make
Me feel the way I thought only my father could
Oh these little rejections how they seem so real to me
One forgotten birthday, I'm all but cooked
How these little abandonments seem to sting so easily
I'm 13 again, am I 13 for good?
I can feel so unsexy for someone so beautiful
So unloved for someone so fine
I can feel so boring for someone so interesting
So ignorant for someone of sound mind
Oh these little protections how they fail to serve me
One forgotten phone call and I'm deflated
Oh these little defenses how they fail to comfort me
Your hand pulling away and I'm devastated
When will you stop leaving baby?
When will I stop deserting baby?
When will I start staying with myself?
Oh these little projections how they keep springing from me
I jump my ship as I take it personally
Oh these little rejections how they disappear quickly
The moment I decide not to abandon me
I don't really have anything to say about this song at the moment, I just enjoy the honesty regarding insecurities. Musically, the song is a pleasure to listen to. I'm very glad God gave Alanis the talent and motivation to make the music she does.
Okay...It's my bed time :-] Happy Advent to you all!
Thursday, September 7, 2006
What’s a life-friendly Telemundo star doing at abortion central?: Where Maria Elena Salinas Stands NOW
Tuesday, September 5, 2006
Ms Magazine is calling its readers to sign a petition: I have had an abortion. I publicly join the millions of women in the U.S. who have had an abortion in demanding a repeal of laws that restrict women's reproductive freedom.” Here’s a powerful response in the Wall Street Journal from a woman of Russian descent.
So glad you were born!
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
As soon as I saw the ad for Blue on Blue, I drove out to Lifeway Christian store (which was advertising it) and bought it. The 11-song album was released in stores on August 15th. Nash co-wrote all of the songs on this album, and the lyrics have a very different focus than those on the Six Pence albums which Matt Slocum authored.
I suppose the album title is related to Nash's song, Blue. It sounds like a break-up song. She sings:
Say goodbye to me.
I'll say goodbye to you, cause I can't move.
The world won't bend enough
For you to see that love is worth all the trouble
There is a dream that I can't finish
A need that I can't fill
All my dreams have been diminished
You're a habit I'm trying to kill
I try to know you
But to know you is to be blue
I say goodbye
But I'm still in love with you
Like all the songs on the album, Blue is very catchy. I've always loved Nash's girlish yet mature, ultra-feminine, lilting vocal style. For fans of Nash's voice, you will not be disappointed. The album is pretty mellow with a piano-based ballad and other songs interspersed with clarinet action. I personally find the album musically plain, but I prefer a more edgy and percussion-heavy sound. The album is, however, a great listen.
On first blush, all of the songs appear to be about romantic relationships, but after reading a bit more about Nash in recent days, it turns out the album is partially inspired by her new role as mother. Her son Henry is now 2 years old. Perhaps not so coincidentally, Nash's label (through Nettwerk Productions) is called One Son Records.
Nash and her husband have been married for ten years, by the way; I don't know who he is. :-) In her "Thank You" section of the album cover, she writes, "Thank you to all the French Canadian musicians that played, I have a crush on all of you!!! A healthy married person's crush, but a crush none the less." I'm not a fan of talking about having crushes on other people when you are married, but....
The first song, Along the Wall, seems to describe a couple separated by a wall of mutual stubbornness and coldness. Nash asks, "Who is the wounded one? Which one will make the move? Which one is willing to lose?" And then there seems a subtle reference to Christ's ability to make all things new, to turn what was a stumbling block into a stepping stone. Nash sings:
All along the wall between us
I see a teacher there for us
I look at the wall; I see right through it
I lean on the wall there for us
Reconciliation, forgiveness, restoration, humility, and having a teachable heart - all good things. One of the things I love most about Six Pence are the spiritual truths clearly but cleverly entwined in the lyrics. Nash's album does not have any overt Christian messages, which I personally find disappointing. As much as I love songs about relationships, without the central theme of God and His relation to man and ours to Him, I find such tunes ultimately unsatisfying.
Nervous in the Light of Dawn begins and ends with the calm, foreign sound of a duduk. Anyone whose ever been depressed, lonely, or stayed up all night contemplating their own existence can connect with the lyrics. Nash speaks of feeling alone in a desert "without any love" and "wandering alone". She contemplates the reality that there is "nothing anyone can really own." Nash continues:
And I wished for guidance
And I wished for peace
I could see the lightning somewhere in the east
And I wished for affection and I wished for calm
As I lay there nervous in the light of dawn. . . .
Hold me in your arms until I fall asleep
I'm so tired; hold me
Several songs on the album are verging on sickeningly sweet. In My Idea of Heaven Nash describes her idea of heaven as lying in the dark with her husband, feeling his "heart beating" and their "lips meeting." Hey nothing wrong with that, just a bit cheesy. But truly, the marital embrace is a foreshadowing of the bliss of heaven. I personally love the later lyrics, "I never thought you'd get here. Why'd you make me wait? But when I looked into your eyes I recognized you were my fate..... How in God's name did you find the lone star's loneliest girl?"
I thought I was the Lone Star's loneliest girl . . . ;-D
By the way, Yahoo Videos has a music video of My Idea of Heaven, but I can't watch it 'cause my computer doesn't have the right program (or whatever).
In Ocean Size Love Nash pines for the one she loves across the sea, but she is hopeful that their ocean size love will keep them bonded during their separation. Long-distance relationship? It's hard to tell what the motivating factor is behind this song and the others on Blue on Blue.
More of It is another one of the sticky-sweet songs, Nash opening with, "I am happy and at ease with love as it has turned out to be. You will be the man I lie beside when all is said and done with."
Ever felt like you could whether any insult or discouragement because your special someone loves you, and you know you'll be home with them soon, in the comfort of their arms, "your hand in mine"? Well apparently Nash has also felt that way. Her song Angel Tonight is all about that lousy day fading away as approaching night brings you home to the one who makes "everything all right." This could easily be a pop radio single.
Cloud Nine is funny 'cause there are two lines in the album cover that apparently were reworded in the final recording. The print says, "We're on fire, everybody knows. I look at you and there goes control." But Nash sings, "We're too high, everybody knows. I'm walking a real tight rope." It's fun either way. ;-D The gist of this song is, "When I'm on your mind, I'm on cloud nine." I really like this verse:
Twenty-four hours in a night and day
Should be plenty
For me to chase your thoughts my way
And let you catch me
I also especially like the chorus to Never Finish. Nash muses upon the euphoria of loving and being loved. It could apply to a romantic relationship, but it could very much apply to Nash's relationship with her son as a mother. She sings:
I've waited forever to know
How deep down my love will go
And no matter how hard I try to get it
It's the one thing that I'll never finish
What I love about this is the way it captures the "fruitful" element of love. True love is FREE, FAITHFUL, TOTAL and FRUITFUL. (Thank you John Paul II for teaching us this.) Real love is freely given, completely committed and monogamous, requires a total gift of self (i.e. not hiding the parts you don't like about yourself or rejecting your fertility through contraception and barriers - always gotta throw that in ;-). Love is also generous, overflowing, life-giving . . . FRUITFUL.
As you continue to truly love (i.e. your family, spouse, children, etc. . . .) your ability to love expands in ways you never thought possible. Parents often discover in themselves a whole new depth of love once their children enter into their lives. Hey, and if you are heaven-bound (your choice), your capacity to love and your sense of being loved will truly "never finish." It will grow and grow.
An interview article on MySpace quotes Nash as saying, "Motherhood came pretty fast, and I started writing a ton about Henry. I just found that there was a much deeper well within me than there had been before. This was probably because it was such an emotional process with the band breaking up and all the other things happening at once."
My favorite song on this album is Between the Lines, a song about being taken for granted, of not being heard, perhaps even of having one's love spurned. Nash says, "You may feel you wrote me. I'll be undercover. Until you need me. That's where I'll be." The chorus continues:
I'm talking to you
Not the Wailing Wall
If that's what you do
This link may fall
Between the lines
Can you read me?
Between the lines
That's where I'll be
Between hello and
I would give you the moon
Between I love you and I
I'll see you soon
At first, I thought the album's final song, Just a Little, was about Nash longing to be with her husband while on tour. The MySpace interview, however, claims Just a Little is a tribute to her toddler son, Henry. The song is very lullaby-esque; it's the perfect ending for the album, I think. The chorus has broad implications as it concludes with...
Life is a riddle
I wish I had the answer for
Love breaks your heart to teach you to be strong
I die just a little, so I can live just a little bit more
Anyone can be a critic, so I just want to make it clear that I think Nash has created an impressive CD (with the help of knowedgable friends and skilled musicians). I am holding my breath to hear the next album (whenever she puts one out) because I feel confident it will have more dynamic musicality and a lyrical depth that will showcase the fullness Mrs. Leigh Nash's talent.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Hello my darlings, It’s been a while, hasn't it? ;-D
I just finished reading Don Aslett's How to Have a 48-Hour Day again. I love this book; it always gets me motivated to DO things and to be productive. Near the end of the book Aslett has a blurb titled "Staying in the Firing Line." He writes:
Heroes and champions are made in the battle, in the game, on the front line, in fact the firing line. Where there is risk, injury, buffeting about, and opposition, is also the number one producing place.
The American dream is personal freedom, but going off the firing line isn't having it made, it isn't freedom. Ninety percent of the time, it's just the opposite: personal bondage! We work, scheme, stick our neck out, and sacrifice to achieve financial independence-so we don't have to answer to anyone. What happens when most people attain "it" and are off the firing line?-marriages fail, spirituality lessens, health deteriorates, enthusiasm evaporates, we become less charitable, and our attitudes sour. On teams and staffs, in families and organizations, the firing line is where everything is happening. It's where life, knowledge, and action abound, where the seeds of greatness are sown, sprouted, and harvested. When you insulate yourself from the action of the front lines, you cut yourself off from the very things that make you grow and prosper and make you productive.
So step out in front, to the firing line, where you're on the hot seat to produce and perform and be accountable. The good life isn't luxury; it's the ability to produce! Be where you have to answer, speak, give, duck, and deliver!
If we want to prove ourselves, then we have to keep ourselves on the proving grounds; stretched to and even beyond our capacity. (143)
Growing up in a financially-challenged home, I LOVED life. I didn't really care about having nice things; I just reveled in the time I had to bond with my mother and sisters. (Besides everything is a toy or a jungle gym when you are a child with lots of imagination.) Of course I wasn't the one worrying about paying the bills and keeping food on the table. But I have often thought, "What would I do with myself if I had a financially comfortable life some day?" Call me crazy, but I don't think I would like it. Just like Aslett said, I think I'd become less spiritually keen, less charitable, lazy. I guess if one lives a virtuous life he can be content and spiritually keen in any state. If one finds himself with great financial gains, the virtuous man will spend and invest and donate is wisely.
But, honestly, I don't want a comfortable, lounge-around the house while the maid cleans, vacation in the Alps 3 times a year family-life. No, I want to earn that vacation. I want to bond with my (one-day) family while doing dishes, scrubbing toilets, or painting the house. I don't want my future children to have everything handed to them on a silver platter. I want a life full of love and activity, bonding and productivity, love for the Lord and one another. (Reminds me of that song "Live Like You Were Dying.")
Once the persecution of Christians under the Roman emperors of the first few centuries A.D. ceased, Roman citizens converted to Christianity en masse. They didn't all have a sincere passion for the truth of salvation through Christ and a love for His Church; it was just what they were expected to do. So, certain Christians, desiring to live a life as passionately devoted to the faith as the martyrs of the Coliseum created for themselves a new sort of martyrdom; they become monks, nuns, hermits, friars, and such. They took (and still take today) vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. I mention this because it relates to Aslett's assertion that being out of the firing line of life often puts us in the position of becoming idle and indifferent. And so those who wanted to spend themselves completely for love of Christ found a way to do so.
This is the sort of life I want to lead - always alert and alive - seeking to live my life to the fullest and to love others to the fullest of my capacity. You only live once (and then you live forever ;-D). Pray fervently. Choose wisely.
"And I'll say to myself, 'You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:19-21)
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Mmmmm. Ain't it great?!
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Tuesday, July 4, 2006
Well, I guess it would be nice
If I could touch your body.
I know not everybody has got a body like you.
But I've got to think twice before I give my heart away,
And I know all the games you play
Because I play them, too.
Oh, but baby I need some time off from that emotion,
Time to pick my heart up off the floor.
And when that love comes down without devotion,
Well it takes a strong man baby,
But I'm showing you the door.
'Cause I’ve gotta have faith....
Baby, I know you're asking me to stay.
You say, “Please, please, please, don't go away.”
You say I'm giving you the blues.
Maybe you mean every word you say;
I can't help but think of yesterday
And another who tied me down to loverboy rules. [Whatever that's about?]
Before this river becomes an ocean,
Before you throw my heart back on the floor,
Oh baby, I reconsider my foolish notion.
Well, I need someone to hold me,
But I'll wait for something more . . .
‘Cause I’ve got to have faith . . .
I find it interesting. I can’t quite tell if this song is about a man struggling to resist a woman who is throwing herself at him because he is afraid she wants a deeper commitment or because he knows she just wants a good time and nothing more. I tend to think it’s the latter. It’s interesting to hear the struggle of a man wresting with the temptation of using a woman. Sounds like he has done such things before, but now he realizes that it is unfulfilling in the long run. He wants to wait for something more. Reminds me of another song that I have a love/hate relationship with by Weezer called "Tired of Sex." Here is a portion of the lyrics:
I'm tired, so tired.
I'm tired of having sex.
I'm spread so thin, I don't know who I am....
I'm beat, beet red,
Ashamed of what I said.
I'm sorry, here I go.
I know I'm a sinner,
But I can't say no....
Tonight I'm down on my knees.
Tonight I'm begging you please.
Tonight, tonight, oh please,
Oh, why can't I be making love come true?
I can't escape this hell;
So many times I've tried,
But I'm still caged inside.
Somebody get me through this nightmare.
I can't control myself....
So what if you can see the darkest side of me?
No one will ever change this animal I have become.
Help me believe it's not the real me.
Somebody help me tame this animal I have become.
Help me believe it's not the real me.
Somebody help me tame this animal.
I was reading a section in It Takes a Family this morning regarding our culture's messages about human sexuality:
Kids conclude from what they see on TV that true love is validated through sexual engagement, that sex is the natural and normal result when two people like each other. And what follows from sex is, of course, true happiness. With all this sex going on outside of marriage, you'd think we should be a pretty sexually satisfied society. Of course, we are not. In a groundbreaking essay on the impact of pornography, Naomi Wolfe asked, "Does all this sexual imagery in the air mean that sex has been liberated--or is it the case that the relationship between the multi-billion-dollar porn industry, compulsiveness, and sexual appetite has become like the relationship between agribusiness, processed foods, supersize portions, and obesity? If your appetite is stimulated and fed by poor-quality material, it takes more junk to fill you up. People are not closer because of porn but further apart; people are not more turned on in their daily lives but less so." The sexual saturation of our culture has had the unexpected effect of depleting real intimacy in our lives. One irony of our times is that surveys show the most sexually satisfied women in America are: married and religious! Hardly what the media would have you believe.That is dead-on! So all of this to say that George Michael's got a serious point (despite any of his other songs) when he says:
Well, I need someone to hold me,
But I'll wait for something more . . .
‘Cause I’ve got to have faith . . .
So I encourage you to have faith, faith to wait for something more - be it with the one you are already with or with the love-of-your-life yet to come. We are all tempted at various times to seek fulfillment in physical intimacy with someone we are not married to (or in selfish ways with the one we are married to). But we can start shaping our affections towards what is good and true and beautiful from this moment on. We can learn to trust God so profoundly that we can "wait for something more" knowing He'll be faithful to provide the love that truly fulfills. Saying “no” to selfish or desperate desires is part of how we exercise our faith in our loving God.
Psalm 37:3-5 "Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass."
"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. Go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." - Jesus
Thursday, June 1, 2006
If there were ever a time to laugh so hard that you can no longer control certain bodily functions, then that time has arrived! You've gotta read the following post by "Holy Office" from livejournal.com. I've reproduced the content below, but follow the link above when you're done 'cause the comments left by others on his site are also hilarious!
The Interpretative Dance Theocrats
There is an unintentionally hilarious excerpt in Salon today from Michelle Goldberg's new book, "Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism." In it, Goldberg casts doubt on her ability to serve as a reliable guide by repeatedly confusing premillenialism with rapture theology, by confusing the Weimar-era "conservative revolution" in Germany with Nazism, and by apparently believing that Leviticus was a person.
It also opens with a portentous description of an interpretative dance performance regarding the removal of Roy Moore's 10 Commandments monument from an Alabama courthouse. Apparently, Goldberg intends this to be menacing, but it's hard to be frightened by any group that communicates its message through dance. Goldberg draws explicit parallels between today's Christians and the Nazis of 1920s Germany, which only makes the whole thing more ridiculous: my own, admittedly non-intensive, study of the Third Reich has convinced me that ballet was generally low on the list of Stormtroopers' tactics.
This underscores that while many people in America are scared silly of Christianity, many of the most frightened know very little about it. Terms like "fundamentalist" and "evangelical" are thrown around with very little concern about their actual meaning, and this is before entering the dark thicket of Preterists, Amillenialists, Prelapsarian Arminian Claims Adjusters, etc.
To be fair to these perplexed and terrified people, Christians are not easy to understand. To begin with, there are roughly 2,000 years of history to grasp, and certainly more denominations and subdivisions than that to take on board. For people who were raised secular, I imagine it's like trying to understand an opera after coming in halfway before the end: the stage is crowded with people, two of them seem to be dead, a woman is wearing a hat with horns, and everyone is making a terrible racket.
The time has come for some kind of crib sheet for the confused and frightened, a handy, easy-to-use reference guide for identifying some of the key denominations, terms, and concepts in Christianity. This is intended a simple "cheat sheet" for those confused and worried about the place of Christianity in America and, to a lesser extent, the contemporary world. It's not intended to be a comprehensive guide, only to help my secular friends as they navigate the confused waters of the world's largest religion.
Let's start with some of the terms that got Goldberg confused:
This is the belief among some Christians that, ever since Jan. 1, 2000, it has no longer been possible, in the words of the Prince song, "to party like it's 1999." Postmillenialists are those Christians who believe that it will always be possible to do so, while Amillenialists believe that in this context, "1999" cannot be understood literally, but must be read as an allegorical term roughly meaning "a time at which it is especially appropriate to party."
This was a #1 hit in 1980 for Blondie (#5 in the UK), from the otherwise underwhelming "Autoamerican" album. Many Christians now concede that the then-pioneering use of rap in the song sounds a little lame in retrospect. In their best-selling series of books about the song, "Left Behind (Parallel Lines)," Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye defend the rap verse's hip references to Grandmaster Flash and Fab Five Freddy, and maintain that when Jesus returns, all believers will be united in accepting that Blondie's cover of "The Tide Is High" is better than the original.
The Pope is the President of Christianity. He is elected every four years by the Congress of Cardinals, which is divided into the Senate and the Holy House of Representatives. As president, the pope can veto important pieces of legislation, which he tends to do. The pope is also magical, and cannot be seen with the naked eye except for one hour on Christmas Eve every year.
The Bible was written by God as a merchandising tie-in to His blockbuster film "The Ten Commandments." Each book of the Bible is named after a person who features prominently in it, for example, the Book of Numbers, which is named after Herschel Numbers, who invented numerals. The Bible was so successful that God wrote a sequel, "Bible II: On to Rome," now generally called "The New Testament." Protestants believe the Bible is literal and exactly true in every detail except the description of the Eucharist, while Catholics are not allowed to read the Bible.
Catholics are the New York Yankees of Christianity. They are the biggest and wealthiest team, and their owner is intensely controversial (this makes St. Francis of Assisi the Derek Jeter of Catholicism: discuss). Catholics all wear matching uniforms, and are divided into "parishes," or "squadrons," to make choosing softball teams easier. Catholics are rigidly controlled by a hidebound hierarchy that starts with priests and ends with priests' housekeepers. Catholics are not allowed to read the Bible, eat meat, or refrain from worshipping statues.
For many years, American scholars believed the Orthodox were, like leprechauns, unicorns, and Eskimos, purely the product of the fanciful imaginations of medieval writers. Recent evidence leads us to tentatively conclude, however, that Eastern Orthodoxy may have somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 million adherents. Protestants tend to see the Orthodox as "Catholics with beards," while Catholics confess to a haunting sense that they are simply "Orthodox without beards."
The Protestant Reformation
This is the name historians give to a major labor dispute that erupted in Germany in 1517 when a group of monks hammered a proposed union contract to the door of the pope's house, requesting a 95 percent pay raise. The pope refused to negotiate with the monks union until it agreed to pay to have the door fixed, and the result was the world's longest-running strike. For nearly 500 years, a huge portion of Christians have been on strike from being Catholic, saying they are "justified" in their work stoppage because the pope won't expand the number of indulgences they get per year. Currently, the matter is in arbitration.
This theory was worked out by the French theologian and fashion designer John Calvin Klein, who argued that some people are predestined to be glamorous while others are doomed to be plain. America was founded by Calvinists, who sought to establish a country where they could pursue their belief that buckled hats were fashionable.
The belief that basic elements of play - like passing, ball handling, and defense - are the essential building blocks of a winning basketball team is generally referred to as "fundamentalism." The fundamentalists formulated their doctrine in the 1980s against the showy, heretical play of Magic Johnson's Los Angeles Lakers. Leading fundamentalist institutions include Bob Jones University and Syracuse. Larry Brown's failure to get the Knicks into the playoffs has been seen as a major setback for the cause of fundamentalism.
Baptists are Christians who believe God can only be accessed by means of a swimming pool or, in some cases, a shallow outdoor stream. The first Baptist was John the Baptist, who was said to eat locusts and honey, although contemporary Baptists generally prefer barbecue. "Baptism" is also the term used to describe a key Christian ceremony, in which prospective members of the church are either initiated actually (Catholics, Orthodox, confused Protestants) or symbolically (Protestants, confused Catholics, religious studies professors). Catholics believe that anyone can perform a valid baptism, Orthodox believe that any Christian can, while Baptists, paradoxically, believe that only they can.
The Emerging Church
This is a term that refers to churches attended exclusively by white people in their 20s and 30s who have at least one tattoo or body piercing. Their distinguishing characteristics are a refreshing, "up to date" interpretation of Christianity, and a reluctance to directly answer questions.
The Nicene Creed
This statement of faith is the Christian Pledge of Allegiance, recited every Sunday in squadron meetings by Christians all over the globe. Adopted in the 4th century at the behest of Emperor Constantinople, it was designed to counter the influence of the Aryans, who argued that Jesus was German.
When professional athletes thank Jesus for helping them win a game, this is the Jesus they're referring to.
This is the Christian expression of God, who Christians say is personified by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Not all Christians accept this: Unitarians, Jehovah's Witnesses, and some Pentecostals reject trinitarianism, as do Muslims. Interestingly, while this does not mean Pentecostals are Muslim, it does mean that Muslims are Jehovah's Witnesses. St. Augustine famously summed up the difficulty of comprehending the Trinity when he recounted a dream in which a small boy told him he would need a bigger bucket if he wanted to bail out the ocean.
Christians are not permitted to have sex. This unpopular doctrine was formulated by Pope Lactose LX at the Council of Disney in 1439. Despite this restriction, Christians have managed to increase their ranks to the point where there are roughly 2 billion of them. Scholars attribute this to the competitive health benefits and generous "flex time" arrangements offered by Christianity.
Heaven is a term referring to the ultimate destiny of a certain number of souls. Depending on who you listen to, heaven is either: where all of us will end up (Origen); where many of us will end up (St. Gregory of Nyssa); where some of us will end up (John Calvin); where a small portion of us have, in some sense, already ended up (John of Leyden); where precisely 144,000 of us will end up (Charles Taze Russell); or where Jack Chick will end up (Jack Chick). Theologian Belinda Carlisle once posited that "Ooh, baby, heaven is a place on earth," but explorers combing the globe have yet to confirm this.
Although the Devil - also known as Satan, Lucifer, the Father of Lies, and, to his friends, "Hef" - is mentioned numerous times in Bible II, most Christians today are uncomfortable with belief in a literal, personal demonic entity. Instead, they prefer to think of the Devil primarily as the potential for wickedness that exists within all human beings or, in some cases, as an especially unreasonable landlord.
I hope this helps clear up some easily-made misconceptions about Christianity. If there are any questions about other doctrines or concepts, please don't hesitate to ask.
By Holy Office
Sunday, May 28, 2006
In our present embodied state, the sexes are equal in value and dignity but they are nonetheless intrinsically different; male and female are not equal in nature. Kreeft (and the Catholic Church) holds that "sexuality is part of our inner essence." It is intrinsic to who we are at our core. If this is the case, "then it follows that there is sexuality in Heaven.” After all, grace perfects nature, it does not replace it, according to the Church.
If sexual differences are natural, they are preserved in Heaven, for 'grace does not destroy nature but perfects it.' If sexual differences are only humanly and socially conventional, Heaven will remove them as it will remove economics and penology and politics. (Not many of us have job security after death. That is one advantage of being a philosopher.) All these things came after and because of the Fall, but sexuality came as part of God's original package: 'be fruitful and multiply.' God may
unmake what we make, but He does not unmake what He makes. God
made sex, and God makes no mistakes. . . . The body is not a mistake to be
unmade or a prison cell to be freed from, but a divine work of art designed to
show forth the soul as the soul is to show forth God. . . .
The reason this subject interests me, is because I am always curious about the differences between men and women. Isn't the opposite sex so enigmatic sometimes? Heck, I find my own sex enigmatic. ;-D Thinking about engendered souls is a whole new aspect of this topic which I have never before contemplated.
“For some strange reason people are shocked at the notion of sexual souls,” Kreeft says. “They not only disagree; the idea seems utterly crude, superstitious, repugnant, and incredible to them.” If we believe that the body is bad, crude, sinful, and/or a temporary shell, then it is easy to view the soul as a perfect essence imprisoned and in need of liberation from our corrupt flesh. In this view, a person is a “ghost in a machine . . . [where] one half of the person can be totally different from the other: the body can be sexual without the soul being sexual. The machine is sexed, the ghost is not,” writes Kreeft.
Kreeft points out that God invites each of us into relationship with Himself as the men and women He created us as – not as “monosexual souls”. I am fascinated by the beautiful differences of the sexes in our embodied states. The complimentarity God has designed is intriguing and awe inspiring. I am fascinated with John Paul II's teachings on the Theology of the Body which so thoroughly examine how both sexes uniquely image the very relationship within the Trinity. Although God is spirit and neither male nor female, He did create men and women in His image. (Yeah, we always refer to God as He.) If we are in God's image then each of the essential attributes of maleness and femaleness originate in God.
A wholly male soul, whatever maleness means, or a wholly female soul, sounds unreal and oversimplified. But that is not what sexual souls implies. Rather, in every soul there is-to use Jungian terms- anima and animus, femaleness and maleness: just as in the body, one predominates but the other is also present.
I suppose Kreeft anticipated questions regarding hermaphrodism as well as the issue of persons who feel that they are the opposite sex "inside" from what they are externally. He writes, tongue in cheek . . .
If the dominant sex of soul is not the same as that of the body, we have a sexual misfit, a candidate for a sex change operation of body and soul, earthly or Heavenly. Perhaps Heaven supplies such changes just as it supplies all other needed forms of healing. In any case, the resurrection body perfectly expresses its soul, and since souls are innately sexual, that body will perfectly express its soul's true sexual identity.
Another controversy regarding the idea of sexed souls is that many hold a pantheistic "view of spirit as undifferentiated," as becoming one with some great Spirit and "leaving behind all the distinctions known to the body and the senses." "But this," Kreeft explains, "is not the Christian notion of spirit. . . . To call God infinite is not to say He is everything in general and nothing in particular: that is confusing God with The Blob! God's infinity means that each of His positive and definitive attributes, such as love, wisdom, power, justice, and fidelity, is unlimited."
Kreeft also says:
Spirit is no less differentiated, articulated, structured, or formed than matter. The fact that our own spirit can suffer and rejoice far more, more delicately and exquisitely, and in a far greater variety of ways, than can the body- this fact should be evidence of spirit's complexity. . . .
God is infinitely differentiated, for He is the Author of all differences, all forms. . . . Each act of creation in Genesis is an act of differentiation - light from darkness, land from sea, animals from plants, and so on. Creating is forming, and forming is differentiating. Materialism believes differences in form are utterly illusory appearance; the only root reality is matter. Pantheism also believes differences in form are ultimately illusory; the only root reality is one universal Spirit. But theism believes form is real because God created it. And whatever positive reality is in the creation must have its model in the Creator.
Okay, are you ready? As for sexual intercourse in heaven, Kreeft writes that in heaven . . .
If there is sexual intercourse in heaven it is not for "baby-making". Kreeft says, "Earth is the breeding colony; Heaven is the homeland." Christ makes clear that at the resurrection we will not be married or given in marriage.
. . . all earthly perversions of true sexuality are overcome, especially the master perversion, selfishness. To make self God, to desire selfish pleasure as the summum bonum, is not only to miss God but to miss pleasure and self as well, and to miss the glory and joy of sex. Jesus did not merely say, 'Seek ye first the
', but also added that 'all these things shall be added' when we put first things first. Each story fits better when the foundation is put first. kingdomof God
C. S. Lewis calls this the principle of "first and second things". In any area of life, putting second things first loses not only the first things but also the second things, and putting first things first gains not only the first things but the second things as well. So to treat sexual pleasure as God is to miss not only God but sexual pleasure too.The highest pleasure always comes in self-forgetfulness. . . The self has a built-in, God-imaging design of self-fulfillment by self-forgetfulness, pleasure through unselfishness, ecstasy by ekstasis, "standing-outside-the-self". This is not the self-conscious self-sacrifice of the do-gooder but the spontaneous, unconscious generosity of the lover.
Kreeft asks, "Might there be another function in which baby-making and marriage are swallowed up and transformed? Everything on earth is analogous to something in Heaven. . ."
Sexual intercourse is spiritual. Kreeft says, "We are made complete by such union: "It is not good that the man should be alone." He continues that "God does not simply rip up His design for human fulfillment." He says that, "Monogamy is for earth. On earth, our bodies are private. In Heaven, we share each other's secrets without shame, and voluntarily. In the Communion of Saints, promiscuity of spirit is a virtue." Uh, yeah, "promiscuity of spirit" sounds a bit crass, but I understand what he's trying to convey.
This sort of intimacy is different from romantic love here on earth because it is "free, not driven; from soul to body, not from body to soul." Intimacy with others in heaven is not opposed to or apart from our relationship with God, but rather it is "a part of it or a consequence of it." Communion of saints is God's own invention! Our relationships with one another in heaven will be "totally unselfconscious and unselfish: the ethical goodness of agape joined to the passion of eros; agape without external, abstract law and duty, and eros without selfishness or animal drives."
These thoughts thrill me and give me great hope because you know as well as I do that no matter how close you get to someone you love physically or emotionally, it is still not possible to fully know one another down to the minutest detail of their being. Heck, we don't even know ourselves to that degree; only God does! In heaven, we can most fully know ourselves, and know one another. In heaven, we canexpress love and experience the deepest intimacy possible with those whom we now love on earth. (This is a good reason to express your love to others here on earth in such a way as to help you both get to heaven. I mean, if one or both of you leave this life out of relationship with our God and Creator, then . . . well . . . you won't get to experience this ultimate, heavenly knowing of one another.)
After the Resurrection we will all be embodied in Heaven as Mary and Christ are already. We'll be able to eat and to be touched. Therefore physical intercourse is possible. Why would we actualize this potential? Why not?
Kreeft offers the following explanation:
Animal reasons for intercourse include (i) the conscious drive for pleasure and (2) the unconscious drive to perpetuate the species. Both would be absent in Heaven. For although there are unimaginably great pleasures in Heaven, we are not driven by them. And the species is complete in eternity: no need for breeding.
Transhuman reasons for intercourse include (i) idolatrous love of the beloved as a substitute for God and (2) the Dante-Beatrice love of the beloved as an image of God. As to the first, there is, of course, no idolatry in Heaven. No substitutes for God are even tempting when God Himself is present. As to the second, the earthly beloved was a window to God, a mirror reflecting the divine beauty. That is why the lover was so smitten. Now that the reality is present, why stare at the mirror? The impulse to adore has found its perfect object.
Specifically human reasons for intercourse include (1) consummating a monogamous marriage and (2) the desire to express personal love. As to the first, there is no marriage in Heaven. But what of the second?
. . . Even the most satisfying earthly intercourse between spouses cannot perfectly express all their love. If the possibility of intercourse in Heaven is not actualized, it is only for the same reason earthly lovers do not eat candy during intercourse: there is something much better to do. The question of intercourse in Heaven is like the child's question whether you can eat candy during intercourse: a funny question only from the adult's point of view. Candy is one of children's greatest pleasures; how can they conceive a pleasure so intense that it renders candy irrelevant?
This spiritual intercourse with God is the ecstasy hinted at in all earthly intercourse, physical or spiritual. It is the ultimate reason why sexual passion is so strong, so different from other passions, so heavy with suggestions of profound meanings that just elude our grasp. No mere practical needs account for it. No mere animal drive explains it. No animal falls in love, writes profound romantic poetry, or sees sex as a symbol of the ultimate meaning of life because no animal is made in the image of God. Human sexuality is that image, and human sexuality is a foretaste of that self-giving, that losing and finding the self, that oneness-in-manyness that is the heart of the life and joy of the Trinity. That is what we long for; that is why we tremble to stand outside ourselves in the other, to give our whole selves, body and soul: because we are images of God the sexual being. We love the other sex because God loves God.And this earthly love is so passionate because Heaven is full of passion, of energy and dynamism. We correctly deny that God has passions in the passive sense, being moved, driven, or conditioned by them, as we are. But to think of the love that made the worlds, the love that became human, suffered alienation from itself and died to save us rebels, the love that gleams through the fanatic joy of Jesus' obedience to the will of His Father and that shines in the eyes and lives of the saints—to think of this love as any less passionate than our temporary and conditioned passions "is a most disastrous fantasy". And that consuming fire of love is our destined Husband, according to His own promise.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Often I assume-probably incorrectly-that everyone knows that only Catholics are allowed to receive communion at Catholic mass. I think it would be really important for me to explain why the Church holds firmly to teachings such as forbidding non-Catholics to receive Communion at Catholic Mass. Here it goes . . .
The Catholic Church allows only practicing Catholics and Orthodox to receive Holy Communion at Catholic Mass. Interestingly, the Orthodox Church does not give her members permission to receive at Catholic Mass. The reason the Catholic Church has an exception for Orthodox Christians is that, even though they do not esteem the Bishop of Rome as their top authority, they do retain all 7 sacraments from the time they split from (what is now known as) the Catholic Church. Their priests also retain legitimate apostolic succession. The Orthodox Church claims to follow "only the authority of 'Christ and the seven Ecumenical Synods' (from Nicaea I in 325, to Nicaea II in 787)" ( Catholic Encyclopedia). You can read more about the Eastern Schism at the New Advent website. On this site it is explained that there has "never been a hopeless disagreement about the Faith" between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. It is a case rather of "pure schism, of a breach of intercommunion caused by anger and bad feeling, not by a rival theology." The Orthodox split from the Roman Church. The Eastern rites (which are often Orthodox) have "equally legitimate ways of celebrating the same mysteries." The Orthodox do at least continue to recognize the Bishop of Rome as the first Patriarch of Christendom as he is the successor of the see of Saint Peter the Apostle (the first Pope).
Well, that's sort of a side note, but important foundational information nonetheless. Moving on . . .
The Catholic Church also holds that one must not receive Communion if they have any unconfessed mortal sin. Mortal sin refers to any grave sin which a person commits willfully with full knowledge that such an action is indeed a grave sin. Mortal sins actually cut us off from God's grace and communion with Him by our own doing, by our free choosing. In Confession the penitent person is absolved of his confessed mortal sins by the priest. The priest forgives sins by the authority Christ gave Him that was handed-down through apostolic succession. (See John 20:22-23.) Through Confession and absolution the penitent is restored to a state of grace and communion with God. Of course, only those who are Catholic or Orthodox go to Confession - at least with a priest who has the apostolic authority to absolve sins.
I personally do not like the separation that exists among Christians in that we cannot all eat from one table and drink from one cup. However, this is the reality of things due to the Reformation. Most Protestants do not believe that which the Catholic Church has always taught and defended regarding Holy Communion, namely that Christ is made present - body, blood, soul, and divinity - in the bread and wine during the consecration by the priest. Although some Anglican, Episcopal, Presbyterian, and even charismatic Protestants claim a belief in mystical transubstantiation, this is not what the Church has held up through the centuries.
Okay, back to the original point. . .
If someone does not believe that the bread and wine consecrated by a priest at Catholic Mass become the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ, then it would be a sacrilege for them to receive communion. It would be a sacrilege on two accounts: 1. to eat and drink without discerning the Lord's real presence is to eat and drink condemnation on oneself (I Cor. 11: 27-32), and 2. the person receiving Communion while disbelieving that it is what the Church says it is is violating his own conscience and acting contrary to his own beliefs. He should be committing a sacrilege according to his own belief system.
Sometimes a person accepts that a Catholic (or Orthodox) priest has legitimate authority to consecrate the elements and that Christ is transubstantiated in them, but this person is not officially in communion with the Church and does not desire to be so. He is not allowed to receive Communion at a Catholic Mass even though he assents to the Church's teaching that Christ is literally made present in the Eucharist by the apostolic authority of the priest. Why not? Well, it is simply because he is not in full communion with the Church. That's the way it is. It is not that the Church desires to deny this person the real body and blood or our Lord in the Eucharist, but he has simply not taken the steps necessary to be in the position to receive our Lord at Mass.
For a Catholic, receiving communion at Mass is affirming a belief that the bread and wine one is receiving is no longer bread and wine-except in appearance-but the actual body and blood of Christ. Our "amen" just prior to receiving "the body of Christ" on our tongues from the priest or Eucharistic minister is an affirmation that we accept not only the truth that Christ is present in the Eucharist but also that we uphold all of the teachings of the Catholic Church, the bride of Christ and by extension His body here on earth. Who doesn't want to be a man of his word? In walking the aisle, saying "Amen", and receiving our Lord's body in Communion, we are saying with our actions (and our word) that we are in full communion with the Church, have been cleansed from mortal sin beforehand, and believe that we are receiving the very body and blood of Jesus. If these things are not true, the person receiving Communion is (perhaps inadvertently) lying; he is saying one thing with his actions and his word, but his reality and his beliefs are contrary.
Because I honor and love my Church and firmly believe in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, I wanted to take the time to explain these things to any who were unaware. Anyone who has ever illicitly received Communion at a Catholic Mass out of ignorance is not fully culpable for the sin that it is. From now on, this person should not receive Communion at Mass. If this offends that person, then at the very least they can consider refraining simply as an act of respect for the "customs" of the Catholics at Mass, seeking not to offend them or cause controversy. (That's akin to what we Catholics call imperfect contrition. ;-D) Should I walk into a Jewish Synagogue and demand to read before the Congregation from the Torah? No. Why not? The Torah is a Christian book isn't it? It's the first part of my Bible. Well, I'm just not allowed to do that. It's not going to help my Catholic witness to Jewish people if I walk all over their customs and in their own house of worship.
As for Protestants abstaining from Communion, inversely, I follow the same principle when at a Lutheran service or an Episcopalian service; I don't receive there because I would thus be giving witness to a belief that simply is not mine, namely that Christ is not present in the Eucharist or even that He is although the "priest" has no legitimate authority to consecrate the elements for transubstantiation. Even though Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants have much in common in Lewis's sense of a mere Christianity, it is simply a fact that we do not all believe the same things about Holy Communion.