Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Woman Hit by Lightning while Praying

A news item from WSB television, Atlanta:
Worried about the safety of her family during a stormy Memorial Day trip to the beach, Clara Jean Brown stood in her kitchen and prayed for their safe return as a strong thunderstorm rumbled through Baldwin County, Alabama.

But while she prayed, lightning suddenly exploded, blowing through the linoleum and leaving a blackened area on the concrete. Brown wound up on the floor, dazed and disoriented by the blast but otherwise uninjured.

She said 'Amen' and the room was engulfed in a huge ball of fire. The 65-year-old Brown said she is blessed to be alive.

Firefighters said its likely she was hit by a bolt of lightning that apparently struck outside and traveled into the house yesterday afternoon. She was found lying on the floor by her 14-year-old granddaughter.

Fire officials think the lightning likely struck across the street from the couple's home and traveled into the house through a water line. The lightning continued into the couple's backyard and ripped open a small trench.

You know you’re having a bad day when you kneel in prayer and get hit with a lightning bolt. As an Anglican, I’m one of the world’s worst at free-style praying, but at least I’ve never elicited that response from the Lord. If I were her, I think I’d stick to a prayer book from now on.

A family member said he will no longer assume it is safe to be indoors during a lightning strike.

Huh? Where the heck else are you going to go? If it's not safe indoors praying, I don't think outdoors is going to be a whole lot better. "Ever since mama got zapped in the house, whenever there's a thunderstorm, I go stand in the rain and hold onto the flagpole."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Da Vinci Code Boosts Opus Dei Numbers

I love this story! I’ll be smirking for the rest of the day. (From The Scotsman)

The controversial religious organisation lambasted in the blockbuster movie and book The Da Vinci Code has revealed that membership inquiries have soared in the past year.

The film and book portray
Opus Dei as a murderous and secretive cult within the Roman Catholic church. Despite this negative view, membership applications have increased tenfold.

[…] Opus Dei is portrayed as a ruthless suppressor of the truth, using any method - including murder - to protect the church. But Opus Dei's website insists their primary aim is to encourage spirituality in every area of members' lives.

Jack Valera, Opus Dei's UK spokesman, said: "We're getting 10 times more enquiries than we would normally get. Over the last two months, as the hype for the film has built up, we have had about 50 inquiries a month about membership. We would normally get about three or four a month.

"Some have mentioned the book or the film in their e-mails. It's quite surprising, and I believe it's down to the publicity surrounding the run-up to the film."

Valera added: "I did go to see the film - that was not for pleasure but professionally. I watched it under sufferance. It was gruesome to us, much nastier than in the book, in my view. And again it was so boring, it was far too long, at least half an hour too much. After all the hype I expected something a bit better."

Claire McDonald, an Opus Dei member in Glasgow, said: "My husband and I went along to see because we thought: 'We're in Opus Dei; we might as well know what's in the film.' I thought we might be able to enjoy a thriller even if it was disparaging Opus Dei. But it was boring; it was even worse than Gladiator."

[…] A spokeswoman for Sony, the distributors of the film, said: "We don't have a comment."

This is all so wonderful. I’d join up myself, except for the minor fact that I’m still not Catholic.

The only thing I’d worry about is that some of these new applicants might want to join because they think Opus Dei really is “a murderous and secretive cult within the Roman Catholic church.” Hopefully, they can run some kind of a background check.

On the other hand, murderous and secretive cults really do come in handy once in a while, and it can be really hard to find an albino killer monk when you need one. A few well-placed assassins could do wonders for the average state of the Catholic liturgy in this country. Perhaps Opus Dei would consider subcontracting a few to the Anglicans before the next Lambeth Conference?

A Memorial Day thought, especially for the clergy

If you're an American priest, or,
If you're an American man considering the priesthood, or
If you're a American bishop, with priests under your pastoral care, or
If you're a priest in another country, who might visit the US,
I hope someday you have the chance to visit our nation's capital.

While you're there, be sure to make time for a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, and watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Take some time to learn about the soldiers who, after intense competition, are chosen for that duty.

They observe a rigorous standard of personal conduct for the duration of their tenure, including their off-duty time.
They carry out a ritual that is minutely detailed, allowing no variations whatsoever.
They perform this ritual again and again, in good and bad weather, no matter how they feel.
They surrender their individuality, rightly confident that the ritual is more eloquent than any words they could speak, any gestures they could make, on their own.
They do it all because they want to do it; their duty is considered an honor.
These soldiers are like priests, in a way. But how many priests have the same attitude toward the dignity of their ministry, and the inherent power of the Eucharistic ritual?

And much as we honor the Unknown Soldier-- especially today!-- he did not rise from the dead.

(Quoted verbatim and without further comment from Diogenes.)

Da Vinci, Okay - Rebuttal, No Way

From LifeSite News:
The Canadian Movie Theater chain Cineplex Odeon abruptly cancelled a planned in-theater advertising campaign by Campus Crusade for Christ May 17. Valued at more than $60,000, the ads were part of the organization's program encouraging the public to view The Da Vinci Code movie and explore religious issues raised by the film.

"We're very disappointed the movie chain cancelled our ads without any discussion or verification regarding our plans," said Campus Crusade Marketing Director Braden Douglas.

The Langley, BC-based organization had produced a 10-sec movie screen teaser ad encouraging the public to visit a special website - - to explore and discuss religious beliefs and questions raised by the film. The ads were scheduled to run in theaters in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto.

"Aside from the obvious concern for free speech, our campaign is a thoughtful and positive one with messaging that the public will find interesting," Douglas said. "Judging by the public's response so far, people are eager to explore their religious faith, which we believe is a positive step."

Douglas said Campus Crusade has seen a dramatic rise in visits to its websites and sold more than 30,000 booklets on the topic through its bookstore and website. In addition, he said churches across Canada have been requesting and have been shipped thousands of books, discussion guides and posters on The Da Vinci Code.

He added that volunteers from the organization are still looking forward to handing out web cards at theaters and in public venues to try and further their information campaign.

To express concerns to Cineplex Odeon:
1-800-333-0061 (Option 8)
Cineplex Entertainment LP
Guest Services
1303 Yonge Street
Toronto, Ontario M4T 2Y9

See the banned ad here:

One wonders about the reasons for the cancellation. Only two come immediately to mind. First, they may have decided that anything which questions the veracity of TDVC might impact their bottom line. Second, they may simply be more interested in promoting that which denigrates Christianity than in what is or isn’t the truth. After all, this is Canada – very much the Brave New World – and questions of truth and falsehood are so passé in our postmodern world.

At the risk of exhibiting both a sinful level of cynicism and a pathological level of paranoia, the second possible reason seems more likely – it is hard to see how anything that increases the level of controversy over one of their movies could be anything but an economic win for them.

Speaking of paranoia, it might be fun to write a novel about the secret forces at work producing and promoting things like The Da Vinci Code and the Gospel of Judas – The Da Vinci Code Code! I can see it now. Deep in the sewers – I mean, catacombs - beneath the offices of the Episcopal Church, USA, a secret meeting of Opus Satani orders a deformed monk (oddly resembling Michael Moore) to assassinate Dan Brown before he can reveal the group’s secret agenda to convince the world that the Presiding Bishop is the sole living descendant of Jesus and St. Mary Magdalene. An inadvertent witness to the murder is plunged into a desperate search to determine where they’ve hidden the tabernacles in modern churches. In the process he uncovers the stunning secret behind the image of “Our Lady of the Angels” in the LA Cathedral and its strange resemblance to the Minbari ambassador Delenn from Babylon 5.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Has "Christendom" Served its Purpose?

A lot of people I run into seem to be angsting these days about the imminent failure of what used to be called “Christendom.”  On the one hand, the repaganization of Western Civilization seems to be progressing steadily.  (On CSI: Miami the other day, some character told another that “That’s between you and your own personal god.”  I found that to be a rather telling statement.  It can only be between “you and your own personal god” if your own personal god really exists!  Otherwise it’s the same as saying “it’s between you and your imaginary friend Skippy.”  The concept of “my personal god” lies at the heart of classical paganism, not at the heart of “religious tolerance.”)

Anyway, you have homegrown paganism on the one hand and you have the pressure of militant Islam on the other, taking down a former Christendom that, in the case of Europe, is no longer even capable of rustling up either the virility or the maternal instinct to replace itself.  

Is Christendom disappearing?  Well, that may depend on what we mean.  Are the Dark Forces of Satan about to throw us all to the lions?  That particular fear would seem to be a bit paranoid at the moment.  Atheist bumper stickers and The DaVinci Code do not a persecution make.  In terms of having a Christian-based civilization that is an effective presence in the world, however, I’d have to say yes – Christendom has pretty much vanished before our eyes.  We can argue about that until the cows come home, but I think most readers here would buy the claim.  The fact itself is not what I find interesting.  We can also ask whether the process is irreversible. (My response: theoretically, no; practically, probably yes.)  But that’s not what interests me either.

The question I do find interesting is, why is Christendom disappearing?  Not “why” in the political or sociological – or even theological – sense, but “why” in the teleological sense.  We claim to believe in the God of Providence, the one who works through history to establish His Kingdom and Whose purposes cannot be thwarted.  If we actually mean what we say, then Christendom can’t be disappearing because God’s suddenly losing the war with Satan – its failure must have been calculated into the grand scheme of things just as much as Adam munching the apple and Jerusalem falling to Nebuchadnezzar the Great.  

If Christian Western civilization really is going the way of the dodo bird, then it must have served out its purpose, at least for the present time.  Which then leads to the question, why did it come into existence in the first place?  There may be an analogy with the history of Israel, the nation state.  Israel was the place where monotheistic faith could be developed and preserved until the coming of the Messiah.  Once Jesus had come and the gospel was being preached throughout the Empire, Israel (as a national culture) didn’t last very long.  The Second Temple was destroyed in the Jewish War in A.D. 70, and the city of Jerusalem was plowed with oxen after the Bar Kochba revolt in A.D. 136.  

“Christendom” really came into existence with the Emperor (St.) Constantine.  Through the Romans, Europe was Christianized and remained a sanctuary for believers during the Muslim conquests of the seventh through the seventeenth centuries.  It was through the rise of imperial Europe that the church was able to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  There are still a few unreached people groups in the world, but the likelihood is that within a few years there will be no races, tribes, or nations where the gospel hasn’t been heard.  I suspect we’ve served our purpose.  The rest of the world can take it from here, and it’s time for us to pay our bill.

Israel presumed that their chosen status would protect them from destruction no matter what they did.  Haven’t we pretty much presumed the same thing?  Spreading the gospel was certainly a Very Good Thing, but a lot of really bad stuff went along with it.  I don’t think there’s any shortage of unrepented sin in the Western world; there sure isn’t in my house.  

Jesus promised to be with us to the end of the age – pretty much the same thing that’s been promised to the Jews.  The promise made to the Jews was made to those who chose to follow Yahweh, not to the nation-state.  The promise of Christ wasn’t made to us as a “Christian culture;” it was made to us as a church.  It’s the remnant against whom the gates of hell will not prevail – sometimes that remnant is 95% of the population, and sometimes its 1%.  We’ve gotten used to the idea that we’re the majority; like the Jews, we may have to get used to minority status.  The Promise never changes, but the comfort level that goes with establishment status may be in for some pretty rude revisions.

That was a lot more long winded than I intended when I started out, but hey – I am a professor, at least part-time. Long-winded is my business.  Wind me up and I automatically go on for at least an hour, and I don’t have a reset button.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Arbeit Macht Frei - Coming Soon to Your Neighborhood

From (of all places)
Human rights groups are raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.

[…] Iranian expatriates living in Canada yesterday confirmed reports that the Iranian parliament, called the Islamic Majlis, passed a law this week setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical "standard Islamic garments."

The law, which must still be approved by Iran's "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi before being put into effect, also establishes special insignia to be worn by non-Muslims.

Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth.

[…] Ali Behroozian, an Iranian exile living in Toronto, said the law could come into force as early as next year.

It would make religious minorities immediately identifiable and allow Muslims to avoid contact with non-Muslims.

[…] The new law was drafted two years ago, but was stuck in the Iranian parliament until recently when it was revived at the behest of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

A spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa refused to comment on the measures. "This is nothing to do with anything here," said a press secretary who identified himself as Mr. Gharmani.

"We are not here to answer such questions."

[…] Mr. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly described the Holocaust as a myth and earlier this year announced Iran would host a conference to re-examine the history of the Nazis' "Final Solution."

He has caused international outrage by publicly calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map."

Well, I think that last line is the point. He didn’t cause much international outrage by calling for Israel to be wiped off the map, and I will be pleasantly surprised if he causes any significant outrage by signing this law into effect. The USA is already about as outraged with Iran as you can get without dropping the big one. The Israelis themselves are pretty close to losing their cool and actually dropping the big one. The Europeans couldn’t care less, any more than they did in the late 30’s. They will probably make a few public statements of displeasure, and at the same time assure the Iranians under the table that things are business as usual as long as the oil flows.

There seem to be many people who are convinced that history has turned some globalized corner from the past and moved on. I run into them all the time, in both political parties. I wonder how much longer before they find out that history may lurch on, but it never turns any corners. What's old is new again.

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss
(The Who, Won’t Get Fooled Again, 1971)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Christans are Fair Game, but Spare the Albinos!

(Original article from The Telegraph (UK).)
A Support group for albinos has added its voice to the criticism of The Da Vinci Code, accusing producers of propagating "cruel stereotypes" by having an albino as villain.

Activists say the film continues a long Hollywood tradition of portraying albinos as evil characters, "mystical freaks and unconscionable assassins".

The film co-stars Paul Bettany, the British actor, as Silas, a red-eyed albino monk who carries out a series of murders in a bid to keep secret a trove of lost Christian documents that could prove Jesus was a husband and father.

Critics say Bettany's character is the latest in a long list of evil albinos, including the dreadlocked twins in The Matrix Reloaded, the white-haired hitman in Foul Play, starring Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn, the sadistic killer in Cold Mountain and even the wicked executioner in the comedy, The Princess Bride.

Michael McGowan, an albino who heads the National Organisation for Albinism and Hypopigmentation, said The Da Vinci Code was the 68th film since 1960 to feature an evil albino.

"The problem is that there has been no balance," he said. "There are no realistic, sympathetic or heroic characters with albinism that you can find in movies or popular culture."

The organisation petitioned the film's producers not to bleach Bettany's hair or make his eyes red but the calls "fell on deaf ears".

Mr McGowan said his group did not plan to boycott the film but hoped to use its profile to raise awareness about the realities of albinism.

Bettany said he looked at Silas not as an evil albino but as a man damaged by his harsh upbringing.I thought, this man's a psychopath and he's not a psychopath because he's an albino," he said.

"He's an amalgamation of everything that happened to him in his life. I think it's no more a comment on albinos than it is on monks, and no more a comment on monks than it is on people who wear sandals."

I just want to make sure I’m clear on the concept here. Christians – especially Catholics - are supposed to just get over the blatant distortions and untruths in The Da Vinci Code because, after all guys, it’s just a work of fiction. Evil murdering monks from Opus Dei; Saint Mary Magdalene reengineered as Mrs. Christ – can’t you Christians take a joke already? But a murdering albino monk from Opus Dei – well, now you’ve gone too far!

It brings me back to The Waffler’s irrefutable proof for the existence of God: no imaginable physical process could possibly produce a world this surrealistically funny.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Few Reasons for Thankfulness

My apologies for the dearth of blog posts lately.  I have been busy with Beloved-but-Expensive Daughter’s graduation from college and with starting a new job – one which I expect to work me half to death but with which I am likely to be much happier.  In lieu of more substantive topics, let me just offer thanksgiving for the following events and milestones:

For Beloved-but-Expensive Daughter:  Thanks be to God for her graduation -  summa, by the way - from a US News & World Report top-rated school with a double major in psychology and religion.    Humble man that I am, you will notice that I avoid taking any pride in her accomplishments.  BBED and her two roommates represented 15% of the total number of summa-cum-laudes in her graduating class.  Not too shabby.

For Hilary:  Thanks be to God, not only on her receiving her Master’s from the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, but on doing so and managing to keep her faith in the process!  Many a once-faithful soul has wrecked on the treacherous reefs of a “modern” theological education.

And also, thanks be to God for her new job as youth minister at a fairly large local Protestant congregation; I am certain many young lives will be blessed through her ministry.

For Caitlyn:  Thanks be to God for her high school graduation, and her college acceptance.  

For Carl:  Thanks be to God for his making it through the graduations of both the females in his household!

For S and D:  Thanks be to God for their upcoming 25th anniversary as well as their upcoming (Orthodox, with crowns and all!) renewal of vows.

For myself and my long-suffering wife, I can’t believe it will be 33 years in less than a month.  You are either a saint, my dear, or a masochist.  Thanks be to God that you are a person of strong character, and were such a poor judge of mine.

Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD!
Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and for evermore!
From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the LORD is to be praised!
The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens!
Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high,
who looks far down upon the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!  (Psa 113:1-9, RSV)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Cardinal Pell Sparks Outrage Over Koran Comments

From The World Today:
ELEANOR HALL: Australia's Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal George Pell has sparked furious reaction today with his description of the Muslim holy book as an incitement to violence.

In a speech delivered to a group of Catholic business leaders in the United States, the archbishop also took aim at what he claimed were hysterical and extreme claims about global warming, saying the west's obsession with climate change is a symptom of pagan emptiness.

And he said a crisis confidence in the west was manifesting itself in a decline in fertility rates, as Edmond Roy reports.

EDMOND ROY: At eight pages and with 24 footnotes, the Cardinal's central argument was that an understanding of Islam was vital for the future of western democracies.

September 11, according to the Cardinal, was his wakeup call. And a copy of the Koran, which had in his possession for nearly 30 years, was dusted off and digested.

Indeed, as he puts it: "I recommend that you, too, read this sacred text of the Muslims, because the challenge of Islam will be with us for the remainder of our lives."

Having read the sacred text, Cardinal Pell then sets out what he discovered.

The Koran, he says, is riddled with invocations to violence.

There are so many of these, he says, that after about 50, or 60, or 70 pages, he stopped taking notes.

He goes on to say that considered strictly on its own terms, Islam is not a tolerant religion and its capacity for far-reaching renovation is severely limited.

And he points to the difficulty that scholars and commentators face when analysing the Koran, such as receiving death threats and violence when questioning the divine origin of the holy book.

George Pell's speech to the Legatus Summit in Naples, Florida may have been received with some sympathy inside, but outside the reaction has been furious.

I’m curious. Why is it than when a Catholic cleric criticizes Islam, it is grounds for moral outrage, but when Islamic clerics call for the death and destruction of Jews, Christians, and the USA as a nation, it barely makes section 1 of the paper? I don’t really expect an answer. Just wondering.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

"Mom," "Dad," and Other Hate Speech

From the “Slouching Towards Gomorrah” file (whole article available here).

A bill requiring students to learn about the contributions homosexuals have made to society and that would remove sex-specific terms such as "mom" and "dad" from textbooks has passed another hurdle on the way to becoming the law of the land in California.

Having already been approved by the state's Senate Judiciary Committee, SB 1437, which would mandate grades 1-12 buy books "accurately" portraying "the sexual diversity of our society," got the nod yesterday of the Senate Education Committee.

The bill also requires students hear history lessons on "the contributions of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States of America."

[…] SB 1437 not only affects textbooks and instructional materials for kindergarten and grades 1-12, it also affects all school-sponsored activities.

"School-sponsored activities include everything from cheerleading and sports activities to the prom," said England. "Under SB 1437 school districts would likely be prohibited from having a 'prom king and queen' because that would show bias based on gender and sexual orientation."

England also says the bill would likely do away with dress codes and would force the accommodation of transsexuals on girl-specific or boy-specific sports teams.

[…] Sponsored by Democratic Sen. Sheila Kuehl – a lesbian actress best known for playing Zelda in "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" in the 1960s – the legislation would add "gender" (actual or perceived) and "sexual orientation" to the law that prohibits California public schools from having textbooks, teaching materials, instruction or "school-sponsored activities" that reflect adversely upon people based on characteristics like race, creed and handicap.

I’m not going to bother addressing the Senate Bill itself. The paltry few people who read this blog can guess my thoughts on the matter. What mosot interests me about this sort of proposal is that the people who are determined to reengineer society actually think their plans are going to work. They really seem to believe that they can recreate humans by jiggering with the environment; that if they gain power and enforce their new rules, they can forge a brave new world according to their ideals.

I can understand how people thought that way at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, with most of the world under a European Colonial peace, with scientific advances improving public health and nutrition, and with all sorts of proposals – from Teddy Roosevelt to Karl Marx – to address the ills of capitalism and to improve society. But how can anyone, after the experience of the last hundred years, still believe that dreck? If the last hundred years prove anything, they prove that attempts to create the New Man lead only to death, destruction, and misery. The agenda abroad in the USA today is merely the ultimate result of the self-indulgent narcissism that really went public back in the 60’s when the Spock generation started flexing its muscle. We haven’t learned much of anything in the succeeding 40 years any more than we learned from the history that

The war babies and baby boomers like myself will start dying off pretty soon. The question, I’m afraid, is how much permanent damage will we do before they bury our idiotic, “it’s all about me” philosophies along with our bones? The wreckage of our nation and society is serious enough, but in the grand scheme of things, nations and societies are temporary constructs. The damage to individual persons - to our children - is incalculable, and God intends each person to last forever. When that Great Day of the Lord arrives at last, I am sorely afraid that the Queen of the South and the Men of Nineveh may “arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it.” Kyrie eleison!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Second Things

From Catholic World News (Emphasis mine):
From the Baltimore Catechism (III), 1891:

Q. 491. What is the duty of the Teaching Church?

A.The duty of the Teaching Church is to continue the work Our Lord began upon earth, namely, to teach revealed truth, to administer the Sacraments and to labor for the salvation of souls.

Listening to "progressive" bishops lecture us on the use of condoms for reducing AIDS infection, I was struck by how far the model of the Church's teaching office has departed from the traditional one stated above. Note that the catechism said the Church's prime duty was to teach revealed truth - not psych, not medicine, not sociology. And the goal of such teaching was not improved hygiene or race relations, but the salvation of souls.

Since the Council we've watched "the salvation of souls" drop out of the vocabulary of the progressivist Catholic majority, while the duty to teach revealed truth has been shouldered aside in favor of efforts to engage contemporary secular problems in contemporary secular terms. The thinking behind this shift (fueled by a grotesquely sentimentalist misreading of certain passages in Gaudium et Spes) was to revitalize the Church by regaining the attention of the indifferent masses by showing interest in what the masses were interested in. Old liberals deny it today, but back then they gleefully announced from every podium the self-evident truth that, by accommodating herself to cultural and political fashions, the Church would see huge increases in Mass attendance and vocations, a reanimated parish life, and a groundswell of enthusiasm for religion on the part of young people. "Let's engage the Church's worldly mission," the thinking ran, "then we'll be in a stronger position to engage her supernatural one."

Wrong. When the Church tried her hand at psycho-drama and economics she dismayed those who loved her, amused those who hated her, and simply bored the rest. Churches, convents, and seminaries emptied, and the young people for whose sake the supernatural duties were abandoned resented being patronized even more than being scolded.

In a 1942 essay called First and Second Things, C.S. Lewis drew attention to the paradoxical nature of the blunder: "To sacrifice the greater good for the less and then not to get the lesser good after all -- that is the surprising folly." He went to generalize the law:

Every preference of a small good to a great, or a partial good to a total good, involves the loss of the small or partial good for which the sacrifice was made. Apparently the world is made that way. If Esau really got his pottage in return for his birthright, then Esau was a lucky exception. You can't get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.

The sight of a retired Jesuit archbishop reduced to coaching Africans in marital onanism is sorry enough, but it only recapitulates the trajectory of his own order. Precisely in the measure that it swapped faith for justice, it ended up with neither. And the same is true of post-Conciliar progressives in general: by putting secular prestige before spiritual duty and teaching human sciences instead of revealed truth, they gutted the Church Militant and lost contact with the Church Triumphant. Today, strutting in an empty church of their own design, they can neither bless nor heal.

The Catholic Church seems to be in a process of vigorous recovery from its flirtation with irrelevance – much to the chagrin of my aging generation of spoiled brats, and thanks both to the vibrant orthodoxy of many younger Catholics and to the influx of refugees from Mainline Protestantism. Well, I guess thanks should also be offered to the Holy Spirit in there somewhere…

Anyway, my point is that many of the old, established churches of Western Protestantism – including my own former denomination which I won’t mention by name because I pile on too much – have made the same choice to pursue the world instead of the spirit. In the absence of any central Magisterium, their path to the world gives all the appearance of being a one-way street. Founded on dissent, they have no response to further dissent except schism, and the orthodox find themselves fractured into smaller and smaller splinter groups.

Meanwhile, revisionist pastors look desperately for ever-changing ways to market their churches, sure that the unchurched will flock to them if they just tailor the message right. Scrapping the liturgy, losing their collars, inviting anyone who can breathe to the communion rail (if they still have one), all the while convinced that the world is interested in hearing about a Christ Who has no cross. They never seem to grasp that a church without the real gospel to preach is nothing more than a poor excuse for a sports bar, with bad food and cheap wine.

I don’t know how things will shake out; I expect the vertical divisions between denominations will start to fade as the horizontal divisions within denominations become more and more pronounced. Or perhaps not - I have the gift of stodginess, not prophecy. Whatever happens over the long haul, I don’t expect to live to see it. In the meantime, my family finds sanctuary in one of those splinters, and I get to look through the doors at a revived Catholicism and a resurgent Orthodoxy that portend glorious things for the years to come.

The Lord tells us in Matthew 16:18, “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” On the other hand, He never told us that we would never get wounded in the struggle.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Coming - National Really Bad Theology Day!

From The Times (Online);
For one group of expectant mothers, their due date holds an extra dimension of dread. The prospect of giving birth on June 6, 6/6/06, has prompted talk of spawning devil children on Armageddon Day.

How in heaven’s name did the “Number of The Beast” get turned into a date, of all things? Sounds like the Database Administrator of The Beast applied the wrong Oracle conversion function: “date_armageddon := TO_DATE(NUM_OF_BEAST, ‘MMDDYY’).”

A British self-help group that usually exchanges routine tips on parenting has turned its attention to the dangers of a date marked by the satanic symbol.

For Hollywood and the worldwide entertainment industry it is by contrast a once-in-a- century opportunity to turn evil into gold. Leading the charge is 20th Century Fox, whose remake of The Omen, the classic 1970s horror film, will appear on June 6.

The approach of the sixth day of the sixth month of a new century’s sixth year has prompted animated discussion among women participating in the website of Mother & Baby, a British parenting magazine.

One pregnant woman, Francesca Renouf, said she had been so worried that she had booked a doctor’s appointment to ensure that she would avoid giving birth on the sixth.

Others appeared to take the dangers less seriously. One woman, Emma Parker, wrote that she intends to call her baby Damien, after the satanic boy in The Omen. Another, Donna Magnante, said she would name her baby after Regan in The Exorcist.

She intends to name her baby after the Antichrist in a bad movie. I think we need to pray for that kid – not for protection from Satan but from his mom.

In America the marketing of the apocalypse is well under way. Slayer, one of America’s most popular heavy metal rock groups, will start its Unholy Alliance tour, subtitled Preaching to the Perverted.

There’s an Episcopal joke in there somewhere, but I will leave it for the comment boxes.

Crown Forum, a US publishing giant, has seized on 666 as the perfect date for the launch of Godless, a new anti-liberal political polemic by Ann Coulter, a prominent right-wing columnist.

And inevitably the internet is awash with frenzied doomsday debate and 666 speculation, all reflecting America’s continuing obsession with angels, devils and the possible nature of heaven and hell.

While some Armageddon believers fear that 6/6/06 will be “a day of satanic power” that may be marked by a comet hitting the Earth, others believe that the world is coming closer to what is widely known as “the rapture” — the moment the Lord calls the Christian faithful home and millions of born-again evangelicals will suddenly disappear from the Earth, leaving non-believers behind.

Perhaps we could get someone in Congress to declare it the “National Day for Really Bad Theology.”

On one popular evangelical website last week, a “rapture index” that calculates the likelihood of the Lord’s arrival stood at 156 — which the website declared was time to “fasten your seatbelts”. By contrast, another website claimed that the Antichrist had already arrived — he is supposedly George (six letters) Walker (six letters) Bush Jr (six letters), the president whose name adds up to 666. “The violence and destruction that began when Bush first entered office is now certain to culminate in the apocalypse, as predicted in the Bible over 2,000 years ago,” warned Stephen Hanchett at

You include “Jr” to get the number? One might consider that to be a bit, umm…. “strained,” but I guess that just means I’m the false prophet. Of course, “President Roosevelt” contains 18 letters, and FDR had 3 initials. 18/3 = 6. Clearly FDR was the Antichrist, and the violence and destruction (Remember Pearl Harbor!) that began during his 3rd term (there’s the 3 again – clearly a mockery of the Trinitarian number!) is certain to culminate in the Apocalypse – especially since FDR was responsible for the Manhattan Project which led to the development of nuclear weapons. He didn’t really die in ’45, you know; he’s just waiting for his chance to show back up and proclaim himself Messiah. He will then resurrect Wendell Wilkie, who will be the Supreme Pontiff of the new one-world religion.

There is of course, another possibility. For centuries, people have thought 666 referred to Nero – “Nero Caesar” is Nun – Resh – Waw - Nun Qof – Samekh – Resh in Hebrew, which adds up to 666. That, of course, is absurd – Nero is most sincerely dead. However, remembering that there are no vowels in written Hebrew, the same letters that give us “Nero Caesar” can give us “Enron Caesar,” which of course is Ken Lay.

The 666 phenomenon is based on a disputed passage from the Book of Revelation, which in several popular versions declares the “number of the beast” to be 666 — although some biblical scholars claim there was a mistranslation and the number should really be 616.

(Interestingly, you can make Nero Caesar work both ways using alternate spelling. NRWN QSR = 888; NRW QSR = 616. But what earthly difference does it make?)

Either way, John Moore, the Irish director of The Omen remake — entitled Omen 666 — realised that June 6 was too good a date to miss for a film about a sinister child named Damien who turns out to be the Antichrist. “It’s a fantastic marketing gimmick,” Moore said. “We figured if we could hit this date it would make it all the more interesting.”

The only devils in Coulter’s book are abortion-loving Democrats, but that hasn’t stopped her publisher making the most of 666. Coulter, a tall blonde with a mean anti-liberal streak, is the bestselling author of How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must).

Her new book, subtitled The Church of Liberalism, is reportedly even more bilious, with chapters such as “On the seventh day God rested and Liberals schemed”, and “The holiest sacrament: abortion”.

Joining Slayer on the musical front is the cult death metal group Deicide, which calls itself “Satan’s favourite band”. Its latest album, The Stench of Redemption, is scheduled for release on what it calls “the most unholy of days, 6/6/06”.

The majority of Americans may well conclude that if the last 6/6/06 (in 1906) failed to end in apocalypse, they might survive this one, too. But the current vogue for horror films suggests that the omens for Fox’s Omen 666 may be bright whatever the release date.

Or we could be good until June 6, 6666, which is a double witching date with six 6’s or two 666’s. That is probably the date when the Final Release of Windows sucks the last available electron out of the universe and the world crashes in a fatal out-of-memory error.

Unless of course anyone notices the numerological significance of “Fox”. As one contributor to Arianna Huffington’s blog pointed out last week, F is the sixth letter of the alphabet, O is the 15th letter (1+5=6) and X is the 24th letter (2+4=6). Could Fox be the studio of the Beast?

Or it could be Vincente Fox. He’s always looked a little demonic to me. I think it's the mustache.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I’ve long suspected that the fascination with the Apocalypse really reflects an unwillingness to come to terms with our own mortality. There is something disquieting about the idea that the world might actually continue to function without us. The Last Trumpet turns death into a group project, and we’re not left to face the end alone.