Showing posts with label rants against mediocrity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rants against mediocrity. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Studies That Make You Want To Go Don Ashes, A Hairshirt, A Scapular, And Sing Hymns In The Elevator

Religion To Disappear By 2041, Says New Study

(If you want to encounter your daily quotient of self-serving, agenda-driven, information-twisting, delusional pipe dream pseudo-science covered by a breathless and deadline-panicked journalist, go ahead and click.  I'll wait.  The rant is patient.)

OK, I will begin by granting the scientist something: secularism is on the rise in the Western World.  No jokes there.  And its easy to prove.

But really?  Religion will die  By 2041?

Because that is exactly how he is posing it.  Religion, the inexplicably human reality that has infected the world for millenia, is on the verge of being stamped out!  The suffering it has caused, soon to be no more!  And the vaccine?  Wealth!

(Scratch.  Scratch.  Something is itching does this sound familiar...OOH!  I know!
Matthew 19:23-24
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Oh well.  I've got hydrocortizone for that.

Seriously, his interpretation of that data is that as people get wealthier, women work outside the home, and education rises, people will become inoculated against the religion flu.  It's basically a global health thing.  Sorry, religion virus.  Nothing personal.  It's just that you're against the human race and eventually the poor, breeding, undereducated masses will wake up and choose health over your feverish malaise.

Wait, something is itching again...really need to get more hydro at Walgreens...what is that, that...?

Right!  Religion is the opiate of the people!  Karl Marx!  See, it isn't a drug, but its like a bug.  (And Marx may have had more followers, or fun, if he rhymed like that.)  But man, Marx?  Because his philosophy has proven to be such a successful template for political reform and governance?  And besides, this is Marx with a comfy couch.  The goal is not freedom and equality (fine goals in general) but WEALTH.  It' me a headache.  Agenda-driven philosophy will do that.  (Religion doesn't.)

So: we have a study showing a rise in secularism which leads Son of Marx to say religion will surely and finally die in 2041, and we'll try to have a funeral except all the Churches will be closed, boohoo.  

But wait, there's a problem (according to the article)!  Those religion people--they BREED!  More than atheists do!  This may yet undo all and keep the virus alive!

(You know the article doesn't quite go there, but did you ever think this could get ugly?  Like eugenics style ugly?  "Religion-infected people" get forced to pay extra to have more than two children, and worse?  'Cause you know, that's never happened before.  Look, it's no more a sci-fi development than saying Religion will be stamped out by 2041.)

Well.  There are clearly only two ways to react.  The first is to run straight for your nearest house of worship and kiss the ground and bring a few friends to boot.  Wear your Christian T-shirt gear, a hairshirt, Lutheran socks, scapulars, miraculous medals, wrist rosaries, and what the heck, ladies, the chapel veils can be worn in public.  Sing hymns in the elevator.  Wear ashes.  Say it loud and say it proud: I am a religious person.  It is health, not sickness, to believe in God.  And it ain't dying in 2041 without going through me first.

The second way is to pray for this man, for all those who think as he does.  Because they are missing out on the Great Adventure.

Luckily we have many thousands, maybe millions, doing both right now.

World Youth Day 2013.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Exclusive: Watch Me Go Quietly Insane Through A Theologically Wacked VBS Song

I looked worse than this.
(Wherein I prove I can be a Catholic momblogger.)

I try to be bigger than this, honest I do, and I love VBS.  Every year my kids like it and they come home with good insights about the topic of the week.  And this year's probably had the best "take home" CD of songs yet...catchy and fun and some were even theologically touching and deep.  Then there were two songs near the end....

In order not to publicly humiliate the artist of this song, I am not going to name it, or him, or the VBS program.  But for goodness sakes, I have been having a running debate with this song, which my kids want to listen to every day, for nine weeks straight.  (If you are thinking, hey, you're the parent, turn it off, remember that the rest of the album is great and I am usually in the middle of helping a child potty train or something).  I have officially snapped.  At least my mental cry of theological anguish may entertain you.

This song is about St. Peter, and has a rousing go go go! refrain. By the end of the song, I only wish I could.  It begins like this:

Hello folks, my name's Pete
Gonna tell you a story with a brand new beat!

--I realize that opening line is enough to make the trad readers out there howl like wolves.  But hey, they're little kids, and I'm OK with the light touch for something like VBS.

Out on the sea fishing one day
and a man walked across the water to say
"Go do the work of the Lord"

--OK, not to get literalist, but this isn't doing anything for Catholics' general rep as slackers in scripture studies.  Jesus walks on water after the disciples have been called, not as a first meeting.  I know it cuts down on the drama, but see, it has the advantage of being accurate.

It continues:

"What? How?" I ask
walking cross the water's an impossible task.
He came over, gave me his arm,
and said "Pete--I'll keep you safe from harm--

--Well, gee, Peter's crucifixion must have come as a particularly nasty surprise to him.  Jesus NEVER SAID I'LL KEEP YOU SAFE FROM HARM.  I know this may be hard teaching to tender young second graders, but still, you shouldn't be planting falsehoods in the mouth of Jesus.  How about "Pete--you gotta trust me now--go do the work of the Lord."  That works!  Even inserting "la la la la la la" would be less nuts than making up a brand new theology for the tot crowd.  What's he been listening to, Joel Osteen sermons?

--Go Do the Work of the Lord."

Refrain: Go Go--St Peter Go--Go Go--be the Rock--Go Go--St Peter Go and Do the Work of the Lord!

(Yeah, fine.  It's OK and its catchy.  Moving on)

I said yes, I'd follow that man
and so did 11 of my best friends,

(I don't know that they were best buds before meeting Jesus, but OK, maybe it refers to friendship afterward.)

The soldiers came and took him away 
and as he hung on the cross, I heard him saaaaaaaaaaay--

--PETE, YOU DIDN'T HEAR HIM SAY SQUAT!  You weren't there!  You ran away!  The cock crowed three times and then you wept bitterly?  Are you holding that last note for three measures to help you remember something you didn't witness?  What, were you bilocating?

"Go Do the Work of the Lord!"

No, it was "I thirst" and "Father, forgive them" and "Father, Into your hands I commit my spirit."  But hey, close enough!  Not.


Spoken: Hey Kids, how do YOU do the work of the Lord?
Kids speak: Do my homework!  (Singer: Sure!)
Wash the dishes!  (Singer: Good one!)
Clean my room!  (Singer: That's right!)

--While I appreciate the not so subtle help in getting my kiddos to help more around the house and do their work, unless he is going all "Therese's little way" on me, I wouldn't call this sort of thing the work of the Lord.  At least, not as a first teaching.  Oh, but it gets better:

Brush my teeth! (Singer: Brush my teeth?!)

--Well, what the freaking heck.  If we're making cleaning the house the work of the Lord, brushing teeth ought to count too!  We're taking care of our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit.  Cleaning bodies works as well as washing the dishes, right??!!!  p.s. flossing is not the work of the Lord, though.  It's just a pain.

and Pray.

--finally, we have one winner, although I am surprised we're not praying about cleaning the house at this point.  You know, here's my list of what I'd like kids to learn in a song like this:  Be kind to other kids!  Help the poor!  Tell people about God!  Love your enemies!  Pray!  Would that have been so hard?


( I twitch uncontrollably.)

I don't know what the moral of this rant is other than I desperately want someone to feel my pain.  This ain't martyrdom but it ain't pretty either, day after day after day.  And someone, write some theologically good VBS music.  It can be done.  But this isn't it.

And also, my second grader walked up to me last week and said "You know, Mom, that song's crazy.  Those things aren't really the best work of the Lord.  Martha was told to sit and listen to Jesus."  God bless my second grader and our very messy house.  Amen. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I despise the new Blogger....

It's like they've gone from Catholic fullness to Eckannar. 

Carry on.  You Wordpress people, be quiet.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Theological Rant #10: It ain't "the culture of bothersome unpleasantness" and Satan ain't a "gentleman caller"

Gentle readers, I haven't had a clean-out-the-gaskets rant against mediocrity in a long time, for which you are grateful. However, the time is nigh. Buckle your seatbelts.

I am utterly convinced that any divisions we have in the Catholic Church (and probably the larger Christian Church as well) are 3% on doctrine, and 97% about our differing readings of culture. (That's a rant, you think? No, that's academic prolegomena. I'm getting warmed up.) Last week I mentioned that I knew a lot of people who claimed they wanted to know theology or catechetics but really wanted missiology, a way to think about how to be Church amidst the culture of death.

My friends (and they are friends) smirked. Because I used that phrase: culture of death.

I am flummoxed by people who dismiss this idea, that we are afloat in a culture of death. Of course good things happen, and there are good people out there, but that isn't culture! Culture is the way human beings come together to make sense of the world through concrete policies, practices, and values. And this culture does not consistently value all human life. Period.

Let me put it this way: I live a pretty charmed existence, (lower) middle class in the sedate Upper Midwest, with a lovely family and work I love. But I am also surrounded by people interested in slashing human dignity at every turn: hospitals that ask me with every pregnancy (for over two hours at the mandatory genetic questioning intake) are you sure you don't want to kill your child, part of a Church where a majority of practitioners support torture, a country that increasingly encourages assisted suicide over being human and holding that person's hand, a nation at war for reasons I *still* cannot understand, a neighborhood where a mother of a child with Down Syndrome had an acquaintance tell her (IN FRONT OF THE CHILD) "why didn't you just abort him?", a town where there are homeless families facing the "slow kill" of living on the street, and more. If this isn't the culture of death, well, what the ^%(&%)# is?

Really, where is this denial coming from? I'm all for applauding the potential of human cultures, but to do that at the expense of misdiagnosing the culture we participate in seems almost diabolical. It is, at minimum, ridiculous.

I wish I had the presence of mind at the time to throw in some quip about Satan. I can't quite make the explicit connection, but I think people with a dismissive attitude about spiritual warfare tend to pooh-pooh the culture of death diagnosis. I don't know anyone (who's Catholic, anyway) who denies the existence of Satan. But I do think most people think of him as a kind of generalized way to talk about evil.

Here's the thing: Satan is no generalized concept. Satan is a hyena. He is an opportunist. He is not a planner; he can't plan, because God is the Master Planner of the Universe, and God has won the ultimate victory over his designs. We're dealing with Satan sniping at the flanks here (Rev 12). But plan or not, he can look for weaknesses and chinks in our armor, and can and will ruthlessly exploit them. To be human is to be wounded, at least past a certain age--it comes with vulnerability. But people who have suffered major trauma (go back and see the list that makes the culture of death argument above, and more)--Satan can and will try to go in for the kill.

What, you think that isn't very sporting of him? Not very gentlemanly?

People!!! This is Satan we're talking about, not the opposing football team! Satan is the father of lies and a thief from the beginning! Why would he abide by any rules of fair play? Hurt people are bleeding meat to him! And as the father of lies, he can plant all kinds of supposedly soothing bromides into a hurt person who allows him in: I had no real choice, I had to do that. My country, right or wrong. I hated seeing that/doing that/supporting that, but who wouldn't? Of course that was awful, but I'll get over it if I put my mind to something else. They didn't really want to live like that, right? In any case, there was no choice. I just had to. Everybody says so. And I'll make sure everyone else gets the support I didn't feel when I was wavering in that decision....

And that "making sure everyone else gets the 'support' to choose to end life" is called the culture of death.

Name it for what it is, people. And maybe a little missiology is exactly what American Catholics need right now. That, and the courage to say God has overcome the Evil One, and the revealed venue of the grace to cling to God is most fully held in the Catholic Church.

Live in reality, people. Over and out.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

OpEd: Dear Women Rioting in Italy, Berlusconi's Treatment of Women Not Church's Fault

Ah, dear sisters who got interviewed by NPR, please put down your placards for a moment and have a cup of tea with me. Or a nice glass of Chianti. We need to talk, woman to woman.

You spoke to me this morning as I was getting my kids ready for school, listening to a news story on your prime minister's latest attempt to make Hugh Hefner look like a saint. Rioting in the streets to protest Berlusconi's outrageous behavior seems like an entirely appropriate reaction to me. No qualms there. The reporter then said there was a lot of consideration as to why the vibrant feminist movement in place in the 1970s had suddenly spiraled into underage women being used by powerful men for pleasure and power. Your answer?: The macho culture and the Catholic Church.

Okey dokey. I'm sure the machismo doesn't help matters a bit. But the Catholic Church is responsible for a situation where Berlusconi is sleeping with 17 year old girls?

Let me point a few distressing facts:
  • The Catholic Church considers sex before marriage sinful. Always has. Always will.
  • The Catholic Church holds that women should be respected in the dignity of their personhood. That is in the home, in the workplace, on the beach, on TV, at a party, actually, anywhere. There's a document named Mulierius Dignatatem. Feel free to read it sometime. Or heck, read the gospels.
  • Since maybe 50% of the named saints come from Italy, you can look to them for some examples--especially the modern ones. Apparently you walk down any street and encounter a shrine, right? These women were, to a person, happy, and liberated from the culture's false sense of need to be any man's cupcake. You think they're oppressed?
  • Candidly, Catholicism has fallen so out of favor within Italian culture I wonder where you think the Catholic Church would have that kind of widespread societal influence.

More Chianti?

See, sisters, here's the sticky part. Although Berlusconi is responsible for his own sins, and these women are at least at some level victims, I'm afraid there is a certain amount of reaping the whirlwind here. When you advocate being "liberated" from marriage, you're freeing yourself into being used. Sister, what were you thinking when you came up with this quote?

"As far as I'm concerned, everyone can have all the orgies they like. However, orgies can in no way be the key factor in the selection process of political leaders."

It's not exactly an enthralling statement of conscience, is it? No, it goes against basic logic, women: have orgy => get used => be seen as usable object => get treated like usable object. If you don't make a stand for dignity in the first place, you can't easily reclaim it later. Women, YOU helped foster this culture that is destroying our daughters. (Yes, not just you. Men too. I'm having a talk with them later, thank you very much. I'm planning to use the Chianti bottle on them after we finish drinking it.)

The good news is, of course, there is some conscience at work here. We agree Berlusconi must be held accountable for his crimes (and they are crimes). But I beg you to stop drinking the "open sex is free" Kool Aid. Berlusconi is apparently "surprised" that a million women are in the streets, protesting his behavior. Is it worth asking the question--why?


Sunday, January 09, 2011

Theological Rant 9.0: The reason we don't have vocations

An occasional series of theological grumpiness.

Welcome to National Vocations Week, everyone. The week where we--well, actually, I don't know what happens on the ground here. It was mentioned (in one of my pastor's excellent homilies) this Sunday. But beyond that....

I know there are lots of theories out there, people. Why are there fewer vocations to the priesthood, consecrated life, sacramental marriage than in years past? Could it be smaller families? Lack of commitment? Haven't been invited? Haven't seen more vocations up close and well-lived? The posters don't have enough pop references? The state of youth ministry stinks? Too busy? Bad press? Misunderstandings about celibacy? No misunderstanding about celibacy at all ("that's the point--I get it! No sex!")?

Is it because we have 1.4 kids per family who play soccer on Sunday mornings, bury their heads in Nintendo DS's or Seventeen Magazine, get their theological education from Glee and the New York Times, and whose parents parent wears Christianity like costume jewelry?

--Please. I don't think so. Sounds like a set-up to the brilliant kind of conversion story God loves to write. Of course Mr. "Whatever" Kid could have a glorious vocation. Don't we all have a glorious vocation?*

The answer, actually, is obvious. We don't know the Holy Spirit.

We don't have a vocation crisis, we have a RECOGNIZING THE HOLY SPIRIT crisis. Oh, of course the Holy Spirit is present in our midst. Not denying that! But who recognizes the Spirit anymore? If we did, how could we not live in happiness, bearing each others' burdens, stand before the world in constant awe? How could we not pray always? How could we not run to give our lives to others for God?

Instead we:

1. Say "anyone but me Lord" to the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians (esp. speaking in tongues)
2. Treat worship like infotainment
3. Mentally picture Mo Willems' pigeon as an image of the Holy Spirit**

Even the sacrament most identified with the Spirit--confirmation--is an unholy mess of misunderstandings and mispresentation. Go to an average high school confirmation and you'll be wondering--this is what the Pentecost was about? Or, more to the point, you won't.

The Holy Spirit is an advocate, people! A divine person on your side, by your side, heck, even IN're his TEMPLE! Think about that! You should be getting goosebumps right now! ...But we look around and basically say "meh."

So, you want to cure the vocations "crisis"? Tell people to open their eyes to the Holy Spirit. Introduce them to Him! He's right there and he wants to tell you what your vocation is, for crying out loud. It's not supposed to be THAT great a mystery. God has a plan, and wants you know about it through the awesomeness that is the Holy Spirit.

Now go re-read Acts and 1 Corinthians, start wrapping your mouth around the "charismat..." word, and open your heart. Over and go out.

a "Still stunned after all these years" Temple of the Holy Spirit

* Go to catechism, see "baptism" in index.
**Knufflebunny is likely a disordered attachment to the mutable good.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Op-Ed: Listening to Christmas Music in November is like premarital sex

(An occasional series of opinion pieces.)

God bless you merry gentlemen, my aunt Fanny.

Welcome to the most wonderful time of the year (stop singing that!). Yes, it's ...advent. A blessed, quiet time of waiting, repentance, and hope. So once again, I'm walking into the grocery store all ahush with pure anticipation, and bombarded by Christmas muzak. It makes me feel like a sleazy liturgical strumpet, when all I wanted to do was buy some wholesome organic milk and bread, dang it.

Why am I so in the bleak midwinter about this (stop singing that!!!)? See, some of us like advent. The hush and quiet of it. O Come Emmanuel, Maranatha, etc. But more to the point, some of us like Christmas! On Christmas Day! And for the next 12 days! Celebrating with abandon the Incarnation! Hark the Herald...(STOP IT!).

Christmas is just wrong without the anticipation. It's cheap grace. Christmas music in November is intrinsically disordered.

To that end, I encourage everyone to go tell it on the mountain (STOP! STOP! STOP singing that!) that intentional listening to Christmas music in November is the liturgical equivalent of premarital sex. Tempting stuff but bad news.

It's a slippery slope, dashing through this snow (AUGHHHHH! STTTTTOPPPPPP ITTTT!). But if we don't nip this temptation in the bud, the next thing you know, your parish plays "Jingle Rock Rock" at midnight mass. Drastic times call for drastic measures. Listening to Christmas music before Christmas Day is like engaging in premarital sex. You will regret it.

Peace and blessings. And I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Theological Rant 8.0: St. Paul said it more elegantly, but....

An occasional series of somewhat less than profound theological grumpiness.

(Dear St. Paul, I have great sympathy for the charity embodied in your first letter to the Corinthians. You are, not surprisingly, a better man than I.--IC)

A reading from the Ironic Catholic's first blog post to the ... Corinthians. Yeah. Let's call them that.

Dear brothers and sisters,
Greetings in the name of Christ Jesus. I'm so mad this time I'm about to throw up. Or blog. Holding the throwing up option open, though.

So, I'm wondering: when exactly did every role in the Church became an enemy of everyone else's? The priests distrust the laity. The laity trash talk the priests. The deacons get accused of taking over lay ministry. The priests question the deacons' commitment. Everyone else wonders who the heck they are. The unhabited sisters glare at the habited sisters. The habited sisters shake dust off their sandals toward the unhabited. The brothers (who?) don't know where they stand. The teachers (bishops, college professors, catechists, parents, bloggers) say all those other teachers are doing it all wrong. I'm having a moment (clearly). Specifically, I'm having a moment when it seems like no one of you in this Church has the faintest bit of trust for anyone else. Hell, I'd settle for respect. Nada.

Why the hell do each of you want to abdicate your God-given role to gain another's? Why aren't we ever satisfied being who we each are--called and consecrated as specific members of the body of Christ, with a particular mission and purpose? It's not about control and power. It's about the Great Commission and bringing to holiness the entire world. Do we have the gall to say there isn't enough work for everyone?

When the allied troops were confronting the Nazis in World War II, did any of them say "Oh man. Well, I know I could help by doing this, but I'd really much rather do THAT. I think I'll sit here and whine about that while people get gassed and boarded on trains to death camps."

You think it's not that serious? Do you think people aren't dancing to their damnation? Do you have even a passing acquaintance with spiritual warfare?

(Excuse me while I go primal scream some of Jeremiah.
OK, I'm back.)

God Almighty! (and that's a prayer, not taking the Lord's name in vain)--don't you have enough to do already without the gleeful satanic busywork of destroying ourselves for sport?

And when did you forget the love your freakin' enemies lesson? Including the ones in your pew?

That's all.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Theological Rant 7.0: Judge not, lest ye be judged

An occasional series of theological grumpiness.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Have you ever had a series of events in your life that made you think: we don't have time for this crap?

The ranting topic of the day, readers, is judgment. Not prudential judgment: I mean getting your kicks from from your holier-than-thou self-righteousness.

I have had a few hours that have resulted in me being officially sick and tired of Catholics bashing each other with a spiky stick in unrestrained glee.  We can't let that person in our special group--she's "not on our page" (aka: way too conservative).  That "Catholic" (with the twitching fingers as quote marks)--is not really, or else he would have mentioned that important issue.  Never mind that what he said was perfectly valid.  And on, and on.

This isn't improved by being placed into a simultaneous series of events where I am defending the Catholic faith to people who should know better.   One responded to my suggestions about a heightened awareness of Catholic identity within a particular institution (I'll let you take a wild guess which kind of church-affiliated institution that is) would come across like a sledgehammer (and I don't think he meant the old Peter Gabriel song, although that's probably good, because I'm pretty sure that would have constituted sexual harassment.  I mean, it's catchy, but the lyrics, people!).  

Where was I?

Right, "Catholic identity is a sledgehammer."  I managed to respond politely, I think, by saying that one's person sledgehammer is another person's beloved tradition.  He apologized for the "choice in words." But you know what?  If he has had contact with the folks I've been dealing with in paragraph #2, I can see why he thinks it is a sledgehammer.  So I seem to be spending my time lately with people who think the Church ought to be buried under a bushel, or people who spend their time determining who is or is not sufficiently in the elect.  Where the $&*% is God in all this?

All I know is this, and I'll repeat it again so as to remind myself as well: we don't have time for this crap.  The reading for today gives us a hint: "...nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor's life is at stake." –Leviticus 19:16. This season, this life, is about salvation, humility, and repentance.  It's about saving people's lives, including your own.  I feel like we're relishing a debate about what's the preferred method of CPR while we've got a world on the floor, dying.  Or maybe this is what the truly dying do: zealously take over the judgment seat when we should be loving, and pleading for mercy, instead.

I'm going to go grade now.  God pity my students.

over and out for a while,

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rants Against Mediocrity 6.0: My God, it's a miracle! Shhhh!

(An occasional series, where I get my theological rant on. Apologies to those of delicate constitutions in advance.)

Ok, people. I know what is making me madder than a wet hen this month. It also happens to be reason #452 why the non-immigrant influenced segments of the Catholic Church in the USA seems to be in semi-permanent drift. (BTW, I have that list under lock and key, and you don't want to see that list. It ain't pretty.)

We don't talk about miracles.

(Shhh! Freak! She said the "M" word!)

See, I was in my parish family faith formation class, leading it, actually, and talking about a bona fide medical miracle that happened to me that would withstand the medical scrutiny of the Lourdes observers, for crying out loud. (FYI, Lourdes wasn't involved.) Almost 2/3 of the gathered assembly dribbled out over 15 minutes for the 10:30am mass (the idea is to attend the 8:30 mass and then do this formation meeting from 9:30am-11am). The eight people left were paying rapt attention until all our kids came back early to do foam crafts for Thanksgiving (--don't ask. As religious education crafts go it wasn't bad, but moving from witnessing to the almighty power of God to gluing thankfulness leaves to foam trees for a holiday centerpiece was...bizarre). I realize that the apostle Paul preached the Word under more trying circumstances, but you know, I'm talking about giving a presentation in a church where people are free to be there to praise God and reform their lives. I'm not talking about people facing jail time, torture, shipwreck, and execution to show up.

The issue here isn't that people weren't paying attention to me. Heck, I teach college freshmen at 7:45am. I'm used to that. But this story speaks to the truly stunning power of God to heal and save and surprise us: that is, it's about paying attention to God, not me. And there isn't a space to tell that story in any Catholic parish I know. Another person came up and talked to my husband (since I was busy gluing foam leaves) about a miraculous experience he had, and how obscenely grateful he was to hear someone at a church talk about the miraculous.

(blink, twitch)

Isn't that...utterly absurd?

It seems like the only time it's OK to talk about a miracles is when Jesus did them in the gospels, or you are dead and have been declared a saint.

News flash, folks: God is good. God is great! God is truth and beauty incarnate! I had no real idea who God was, or who I was, until this event happened. Don't you think that we all would want to know a little better this Mysterious One we call Our Savior through sharing these stories and building up our faith? We're talking about mountaintop events where God graciously reveals his love and power to the unworthy...and we'd rather picnic in the valleys and stare at ants.

If we aren't going to talk about miracles in parishes, where on earth (literally) do we talk about the power of God in the world today? Who carries the witness?

(And Peter went out and wept....)


p.s. I've said this before, but I reiterate: I really like my parish, honestly. We have a great priest and many good things happen there: it is a lovely, vibrant community. I got some very positive response from the people who hung in there, and many offered that the set-up was unfortunate for reasons that don't lie with any one person. But I'm ticked off right now due to a sense of parishes scheduling and busying themselves out of real sharing and witness to God's work...because whenever I do share this, people say things like "wow! we never talk about things like this in my church! But let me tell you MY story...."

p.p.s. Encouragement is the theme of NaPraGoMo today. I'll go read that now. Again.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Theological Rant 5.0: Youth evangelization isn't rocket science

Other cranky theologically-based rants here.

I had a "state of youth ministry" conversation with sic. It's not his fault, but my hair is now in clumps from pulling it out. Mortification is great, and God does work in mysterious ways, but I'm not sure this is the typical way to die to the flesh.

So let me start here, folks. See, GOD IS GOOD. God wants good for your life. God gives meaning to all things. We're not trying to sell moldy fruit here, although you'd think so given the attitude of some involved in youth ministry. This is great stuff! We want to share that with young people. This isn't "thank goodness they're out of the house for an hour" infotainment.

Think the young'uns are hopeless causes? Who do you think they're learning from? That's This is my idea of a youth program (stage one). And I'm talking to all of you (and me too):
  • Receive Eucharist like it is the highlight of your day, because frankly, it is.
  • Raise your kids like the parish doesn't exist: that is, as if their Christian formation depends entirely on you. Because frankly, it may.
  • Pray every day. In front of your kids, and more than table grace. Because frankly, actions speak louder than words.
  • Stop using teens as volunteer fodder for every dang aspect of parish programming for they can check off the Confirmation checksheet. Because frankly, the Israelites didn't like being slave labor either.
  • Work for the poor and vulnerable in your area. Yeah, you. Do more than write the check. Because frankly, kids smell hypocrites faster than rotting fish.
  • Just as the best thing a husband can do for his children is to love their mother, the best thing Christian parents can do for their children is to love God. Because frankly, nothing else matters as much when you're dying (or living, but it's clearer on your deathbed).

Finally, as much as I like the events, don't depend on World Youth Day or NCYC either. Live it local, people.

Grumpy IC out.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Op-Ed: Sen. Obama, the Theologian's "Pay Grade" Isn't Hard to Make, Actually

To: Senator Obama
From: The Ironic Catholic

Rick Warren: "When does a baby in the womb receive full human rights?... "
Obama: "... whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity ... is above my pay grade."

First, Senator Obama, I am a theologian. And the first clue you didn't know what you were talking about on this particular question was the assumption that scientists and theologians are even on the same pay-grade chart. Seriously, I don't begrudge scientists getting paid fairly for difficult research through a few zillion dollars in soft grants. But when a theologian actually gets a grant from a funding agency to do research, we're so shocked we begin to do the happy dance to Schubert's Ave Maria, and hang the consequences. It's that unusual for theologians to make money. Indeed, some of our parents begged us to major in the big bucks disciplines, like studio art or anthropology or Russian lit. But I digress.

Since my theologian's pay grade (after you include the three months I'm not on contract but research anyway, the virtually unpaid work I do for dioceses and churches on the side, and lets not forget the thankless but utterly vital work of humor blogging) = diddly/squat, I think we can take that as a monetary baseline for having theological guts. You most certainly do make the pay grade to make a decision on when a conceived child gains human rights. That pay grade is the divine gift of your conscience and free will. Everyone makes that decision--how and when we value human life--through their actions, whether they make 10 cents an hour or a few million a year (ahem).

But let me give you some credit. I think what you meant is that question is a highly sophisticated one and you're a pragmatist (although since pragmatism is as typically American as apple pie, I don't see how that is "change you can believe in"). Well, fine. I tend to agree these right to life questions can become very complex quickly. But there is something about all this that is, at root, simple: when you call us to have compassion on the poor, to create economic policies that support families, to offer a just wage... even when you call for us to end a war quickly for the sake of all lives involved... that speaks to a regard for human life. And that human life began at conception: all the DNA zipped into place immediately and it keeps growing until it dies a natural death, or it is stopped by an outside force. And even if you find that beginning point of human life hard to accept (and honestly, I don't think most people do), wouldn't it just be prudent to accept this point and refrain from policies that end these lives? Your own state, Illinois, declared a moratorium on executions the question was debated whether their human rights were being violated. How did everyone else merit the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable? (By the way, that's a good theological teaching. Look it up on Google. That's free knowledge, you know. Helpful for the whole formation of conscience thing.)

I have words for your opponent as well on other policies, but that's another day. In any case, you have an opportunity here to promote policies that defend all human life. And let me tell you, searching your conscience and acting in truth doesn't cost you a dime. I'll bet my pay grade on that.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rant Against Mediocrity 4.0: "Gee, you're just like a normal person!"

"Normal" Christian theologians wear pink socks, left.

Rants Against Mediocrity is an occasional series: more found here. Stand back, everyone.

You know what gets my theological goat this month? People coming up to me, commenting on my lived reality as a teacher of Catholic theology, and ending with the inspired revelation "Gee, it's great because you're just so normal!"

1. That's a compliment? Um, I was going for the supernatural "in the world, not of the world," thanks. Do you honestly think that's the ultimate compliment you can give a religious person?: "You know, you're just like the rest of the fallen world. Good for you!" It's true I am a sinner like everyone else, but it isn't something I'm proud of, for cripes sake.

2. Or does "normal" mean...human? a woman? I have brown hair? I laugh at jokes? I need bifocals? I'm interested in good literature and world politics? I mean, what the heck do you think Christians do? Shed our green scaly skin at night and curl in a fetal position while we lull ourselves to sleep humming Gregorian chant?

Now I am not so mean and uncharitable (usually) to recognize that the comment is well-intentioned and should be taken as such. And I try. But what on earth do you all you "I'm spiritual not religious" folks think Christianity is about, anyway? Televangelists behaving badly? Bickering scholars in Newstweak? Christopher Hitchens' regurgitated lunch? Is my average working mom self that much of a challenge to what you consider the essence of lived Christianity?

So some radical thoughts:
  1. Go to a Church (while people are in it). Look around. Feel free to stare.
  2. Go to a Salvation Army center. Volunteer. Look at who else is.
  3. Go to a Church-based crisis pregnancy center. Strike up a conversation with the volunteers.
  4. Think just a bit about what you consider normal. And what you now consider Christian. Then let's talk.
Oh, and thanks for trying to make me feel included and welcomed by your statement. But see, I don't care all that much whether I am "normal" or not. If you want to honor me with hospitality, try this: "Tell me what you believe. I'm really interested by the way you act." That, my friend, is a compliment.


I heard wears pink socks.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Theological Rant 3.0: Start Treating Marriage Like a Real Vocation Already!

An occasional series. Other theologically based rants found here.

Dear friendly, devoted, wonderful church workers, I apologize in advance for unleashing my wrath upon your oft over-worked heads.

I'm your happily married Catholic woman, royally ticked off today because there is nothing out there that encourages people to treat marriage as a vocation that leads to holiness. Oh no, you say. We pray for sacramental marriages in Mass, and we have flyers about NFP in the back of the Church, and all that. We have devotionals for women and some big whopping families. Dang, we even have a website. And, uh, we're nice to married people. So see, we do it.

Friends, how do I put this? about how delusional can we be here? It's not that any of the above are bad, in fact, they're quite good. It's just that no one seems to have a clue as to how to encourage holiness as a married couple, and when kids get in the mix, watch out. Churches seem to think that if they have a nursery that may or may not be open or run by competent adults during one of the Sunday masses, they ought to get a gold star in vocational development. Excuse me while I go do a primal scream right now.

[People outside my building in the street: "Wow, I've never heard someone primal scream the Hail Mary before."]

OK, I'm back. Here's a bright idea. You know how you nurture the "other" vocations, the first two that get mentioned in the Mass intentions? That's right, you encourage, enable, and expect prayer. You don't talk about "how the heck are ya going to balance your parish's budget?" You talk about devotion to God. But I can't tell you how many times I've seen those in the religious life flounder on this one with married folks. If you pray a lot, that's probably a sign you should be a nun or priest. And if you're already married, You're literally multitasking job, house, spouse, children, and pregnancy, and you ask how to deepen your prayer life. And bless your hearts, you religious life folks often fumble on that one like a greased football (OK, ok, not all of you, and I'm sure my readers haven't done this. 'Cause you're special.). I have gotten back:
  1. "Um. Wow. Do your best, you know?"
  2. "Gee, I don't know how you do it."
  3. "Your acts of family-nurturing are your prayer." (And that last one--perhaps yes, but only if you can have time to be with God for God alone. That "I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God" doesn't have a great affinity for multitasking the religious life.)
[People on the street: "Hey, now she's primal screaming the Act of Contrition!"]

I know
that canon law says those called to the religious life are a particular witness to Christ's whole and complete self-gift. I'm not denying that. I think consecrated celibacy is a beautiful witness. But geez, can you stop blinking at me when I say I crave a deeper prayer life? I get to pray too. I'm not just a breeder for future celibates.

For example: how about offering some free daycare so parents can go to adoration? How about doing a series of retreat mornings (again, free daycare) focusing on a couple's growth in God? How about reduced cost spiritual direction for moms and dads? How about praying for and with couples in challenging situations? How about making some of those Church activities child-friendly? But whatever you do, deal with people's relationships with God! I can go to the Lions Club for service activities.

Imagine this as a parish mission statement: "It is our priority to foster the first declared married saints in the USA"! But that means you need to tell me why I'm called by God to this relationship and this family, rather than say, oh, and that third vocation is OK too, you know, if you have to go that route. I was never under the impression that we have too few witnesses for a deep relationship with Christ to squander the lived reality of the majority of the Church.

I'm a wife and a parent and I'm proud. You may not be meaning to, but stop treating me like a spiritual child.

Ranting and Raving in God's Justice,

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Theological Rant 2.0: No Mediocrity for the Dying

By way of explanation: I normally encourage people to laugh at themselves (and include myself in that number). Honestly, many of the details of what gets people hot and bothered about the Christian Faith and Catholic Church don't bug me so much. Pope Benedict wants more Gregorian chant? Fine, I like that. I also like some of the Gather hymnal. I'm not too fussed about vernacular vs. Latin. But what gets me riled up is mediocrity. So let's call this an occasional series against mediocrity. First theological rant here.

I posted most of this months ago at Korrektiv, in response to a "surprised by good contemporary liturgy" post by the inestimable "Rufus McCain":

I know what you mean. I don't have as big a beef with contemporary liturgy per se; I was actively involved in it for years and think it is done quite well at my current parish. Perhaps the bigger issue is that, in most parishes, there is the pervading sense that “we just don't care.” Apathy. Ennui. Forgetting that we're participating in a divine liturgy that saved the cosmos; treating it like tea time with a groovy musical backdrop.

I have been thinking about death, in particular, who will be there when I die, who will help me, if anyone. (So help me, I read Kierkegaard my entire undergraduate life.) My husband has recently been a catechist at our church, teaching a mini-course called “What Happens When We Die?” to teens and adults. The course mostly reflected on doctrines and interpretations of heaven, hell, and purgatory, but he did ask a local Christian hospital chaplain in to speak. Apparently she spoke of needing to know your values and spirituality, and if you knew those things, that bode well for a good death. Right. Here I am, stepping into the abyss, but hey, I know my values. I'm hunky-dory now.

That reminded me of a young friend going through Clinical Pastoral Education en route to Episcopal ordination, and her revelation about hospital chaplaincy was that you just listened and repeated back what the patient said. Carl Rogers at the death-bed. Mind you, I think Rogers was a brilliant psychologist, but pure patient-directed counseling as said patient lies ill and in pain seems almost sadistic. “I'm in pain and really scared,” he says. “Really? In pain and scared, you say?” says the 22 year old CPE student. Please. If I were the patient, I'd be tempted to take that last bit of energy and throw my bedpan at said counselor. Then die, choking out the words “Get … a … spine!”

Not that I have any control over this…but when I die, I want someone to remind me about the love of Jesus Christ. I want someone to ask me about repentance and offer reconciliation. I want someone to challenge me that the best is yet to come, that this suffering joins me with Christ, and like his suffering, it is not the last word. God is here and God will be there and has already broken my path for that journey. I want to receive the anointing of the sick, and be reminded that God will raise me up. I don't want someone asking if I'm “in touch with my values.” And especially if I am weak and in pain, I hope the person helping me have a holy, joyful death will not expect me to “take the lead.”

But if that does not happen, God will be there anyway. The Holy Spirit will not leave us unattended. Those thousands of pleas to Mary to pray for us at the hour of our death will not go unheeded.

And this is a little like the lackluster liturgy issue. You expect more, want more, out of this community dedicated to Christ. And it should be more. The liturgy may not be exquisitely rendered, but it should be participated in such a way that one senses joy, or awe. We want the liturgy and all death-bed relationships (are they not similar? are we not all in this death-struggle to give birth, through the Holy Spirit, to a transformed self?) to tell us the truth in love, to hold our hands, to give us some opportunity to thank and praise God for His goodness.

Yet the Holy Spirit works through much less. Maybe especially so, to take Miss Flannery seriously.

I'm not sure what the point of this is, other than perhaps…thank you, God. Have mercy on us, God.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Theological Rant 1.0: Will You Just Let Me Be Religious Already?

Dear ________,*

Excuse me, I know you're just trying to live your life and be sensitive and thoughtful and all, but will you just let me be religious already?

See, when I join a Christian-based support group (like the one I belong to and it shall remain nameless), I expect to be challenged to live my life in a way that conforms to Christ, rather than "eh, we all have days" kind of mediocrity. I know we all have days. It's called sin, folks. I want Christ to transform that sin into holiness, not hand out self-help patter. I want beatitudes, not platitudes.

I think heroic virtue is worth striving for. Granted, this whole letter shoots my patience and humility virtues for today, but I'm tapping into the wrath of God, folks. Step into the sanctuary if you don't want to get hurt.

I love the sacraments. I love the saints. I love the priesthood. I love the religious life. I love marriage. I love all the ways God works through the world. I love saying those things out loud. I don't love being made to feel like a bit like a freak when I do that in my own Church.

And yes, I love some of those songs others hate, like "Rain Down." Yes, here I am today, singing out loud, swaying slightly. Stop staring at me, dang it. It's called praising God. Try it sometime. You may like it.

I love the Church! Of course we do things wrong! Of course it's a mess in all kinds of ways! But it was still instituted by Christ for the salvation of all people. It's not some sitcom episode to snarkfest like you get your spiritual discipline tips from Television Without Pity! Treat it like a mystery to be loved, not a problem to be solved.

To quote my new best friend, Jeremiah: Why do the ways of the wicked prosper? And why do all the faithless live at ease?

Geez, what do I have to do to be a devout Catholic in this world? I know people are at different spots on the journey, and I respect that, but will you allow me to be serious about wanting to be a saint? Please? Or is that just way too weird and threatening?

Do you think I'm going to go all St. Jerome on you?

Get used to it, dudes. My hands are on the plow.

Royally ticked off in my quest for holiness,

*to read the addressee name, get out your super sonic 3-D glasses and then translate this letter into Latin, taking the second letter of every word and finding the Talmudic numerical value, dividing by 47 and then translating that number into Russian, which will bring you to a slant rhyme of the nickname by which these persons are known. Or if that is too hard, try substituting "lukewarm dishrags" or "lovable disordered noodles".

p.s. For the record, I love my parish. If anyone from my parish is reading this, the parish is not inspiring this piece. Really. Thanks.