Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Just starting and already taking a vacation.

Family is coming in tomorrow and will be here through the end of the week. Will resume next week all you anxious followers! I know, I know. There aren't any. But someday! In the meantime, we'll come back next week with some reflections on how Catholicism filled those little gaps I discovered in my Protestant ministry. We'll look at Oliver Stone's ideas about Hitler, Stalin, Jews in the media, and other goodies and see just how that reflects what is happening in our society today. Who knows, maybe a movie review or two. I'll muse on this, post on that, and generally keep an eye on the news of the world, and try to get a grip on things and how they impact the future, and how - in my own humble opinion - being Catholic has, for the first time, given me a sense of stability even when all around me appears to be going quite mad. So that's all folks. Till next week, blessings and let a little of the joy God gives bring some light into your lives.

A note on my blog's intentions

It is my intention to have a blog where I kick around the things of the world, and reflect on what it means for our future. As a Catholic, I will naturally assume a Catholic solution for most problems. Where that works with other Christian denominations I'll keep it general. If it is particular to the Catholic tradition, I'll make the points accordingly. Sometimes I will stray to other things that interest me, particularly history and popular culture and the media.

I will respond to comments, but not always. I won't get in and beat up on folks, but will defend my values, beliefs, and Faith. I will, hopefully, have a forum where folks feel they can be honest without being shot to pieces, called names, or have their salvation called into question - even if they have no plans for a salvation at all. To that end, if we get into more meaty issues, I'll do what I did as a pastor: allow for various views, elaborate when I feel the need to respond, and let the conversation go between individuals - no matter what their viewpoints.

News of the World

The courts have, at this point, given a slight victory to those who oppose Arizona's immigration law. What happens next is anyone's guess. Since I don't live in Arizona, it's far too easy for me to have an opinion. Right now, I'll sit back and watch.

Rest in Peace Maury Chaykin

He was one of those faces you see in movies that appears to be everywhere, even when, upon reflection, you realize you only saw him in a couple films. That's because when he was on the screen, the camera seemed to love him. Mr. Chaykin was one of those actors upon whom the film industry relies, always dependable, always there, and always recognizable without stealing too much from the stars. From his breakout roles in movies such as Wargames, to a strange yet pivotal part in Dances With Wolves, Mr. Chaykin was a captivating presence. Though television fans may recognize him as Nero Wolfe, millions of adults my age will forever associate him with the immortal line: Mr. Potato head. Mr. Potato head! Back doors are not secrets! (with Germany subtitles no less):

Thanks for the memories, and rest in peace.

Another attempt to compromise gets shot down by rationalists

Over at the Huffington Post, Matt Rossano, a professor of psychology at the Southeastern Louisiana University, attempts to look at St. Augustine as a role model for intelligent faith. Then, in the comments section, the typical group of HP posters swoop in and shoot him full of ink. There will be no compromise. Like Sam Harris, the only thing modern anti-religionists despise more than religion itself seems to be those moderates who are trying to walk down both sides of the road. Several of the comments are fun to read. You can feel the tolerance and open mindedness.

My favorite post was this:

"It looks like you've gone about 99% of the way toward conceding the obvious: There is no reason to believe any religion true. Why not go that extra 1%, as Bertrand Russell did, and quit wasting your time on a "discipline" that needn't even exist? Moderate Christianity is just as baseless as the Bible-banging, ark-hunting variety you seem to be disparaging. It's just slightly less embarrassing."
That's typically what happens when moderation of beliefs is the stratgey. I think progressive Christians may need to find a different tactic. Trying to find a middle ground with folks who see Christianity as a big lie at best, a force of evil that must be eliminated at worst, doesn't seem to be working. A better approach might be standing firm on the teachings of the Faith, and challenging those who think now, in this day, on July 28th 2010, we have finally found the truths against which all other truths should be measured...until tomorrow when we discover these truths are silly and have new Truths to proclaim.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Keeping it in perspective

Life with a one year old sometimes reminds me of this:

Even though we have three grown boys, the addition of a new Griffey has added some long forgotten twists on the scheduling of life. Of course he came around after we became Catholic - no doubt cosmic coincidence.

Still, despite having left my vocational career at the dawn of the worst economic spiral since the Great Depression, and despite the sudden gift of our latest child, we're still here. It's easy to fuss and gripe when things go sour, and I must admit I wouldn't mind some stability. Yet, God is good. We're here. Against all odds, and with the help, guidance, and prayers of many, despite leaving everything on the eve of our great, global economic train wreck, we've lost very little. So God is good. Even our most precious baby, with three great boys to help show him the ropes, has done nothing so much as bring a bright ray of joy to our lives when you'd think it would have been a burden.

But that's the way of God I suppose. It may not always seem easy, or make sense. Doing everything in the world to avoid a kid, staying put even if your heart and mind are restlessly pulled to something else you believe is true, staying where the money is and putting the best spin on compromise of beliefs - those all make sense. And few juries would have convicted us for doing any of these things. Especially in 21st century America.

But we didn't, we followed our consciences, we left it all, jumped through hoops, have been surprised by the joy, received the blessings of life in the Sacraments of the Church, and continue to reap blessing after blessing from our four wonderful boys that we wouldn't give up for all the world's promises.

So next time I feel like:

I'll just remember what I have, all that God has given, and to trust God no matter how counterintuitive it may seem. Which is a very Christian, dare I say Catholic, thing to do. Because down the road, even if it's through trials and tribulations, thorns and thistles, the reward more than makes up for it - as these mere hints of our future prize attest.

So with that said, it's time to go have dinner, relax, and enjoy those little blessings from God. Till tomorrow.

Vacationing with the Pope

A few words of wisdom from Pope Benedict. It's nice to remember that all of creation wasn't formed to conform to 21st century American lifestyles. In fact, sometimes these lifestyles, priorities, and burdens our culture serves up may hinder much of what we were supposed to be about. Sure, work needs to happen. Ever since we were informed that by the sweat of our brow we will eat our food until we return to the ground, it's been work, work, work. But sometimes, especially nowadays, it seems that off time (when we take time off without having our laptops and Iphones plugged into the office), can be as hectic and stressful as work. It's nice, just once in a while, to stop. Go outside into nature. Get the kids to run around and play in the cool of the evening, sit on the deck, look up at the night sky through the tree tops, and remember what God has been telling us all along: be still, and know I am God.

Oliver Stone, Part 1

The first thing worth looking at is what Oliver Stone actually said that caused the uproar. As reported by the New York Times, Mr. Stone said the following:

“Hitler was a Frankenstein, but there was also a Dr. Frankenstein . . .German
industrialists, the Americans and the British. He had a lot of support. Hitler
did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people.” Mr. Stone then
proceeded to discuss what he called “the Jewish domination of the media,” adding
with an expletive that Israel had messed up “United States foreign policy for
And, if quotes are accurate, he didn't say 'messed' up US foreign policy for years. But this is the 21st century, so let's move on. There was more, as quoted in this story at, which gives a better breakdown of Stone's comments, though again, only the juicy parts:

“We can't judge people as only 'bad' or 'good'," Stone said.

"(Hitler) is the product of a series of actions. It's cause and effect.

"People in America don't know the connection between World War I and World War II.

"Hitler is an easy scapegoat throughout history and it's been used cheaply."

Stone compounded the controversy by claiming Stalin had "a complete other story".

"Not to paint him as a hero, but to tell a more factual representation - he fought the German war machine more than any person," he said.

"I've been able to walk in Stalin's shoes and Hitler's shoes, to understand their point of view.

"You cannot approach history unless you have empathy for the person you may hate."
The uproar went viral overnight, prompting Stone to issue this apology as reported in the Mail Online:

‘In trying to make a broader historical point about the range of atrocities the
Germans committed against many people, I made a clumsy association about the
Holocaust, for which I am sorry and I regret. Jews obviously do not control
media or any other industry.'
OK, now we have enough to unpack this thing and see what's what. The first post is going to look at what he said about Hitler. Was he right, wrong, what? Then we'll look at his increasingly common take on Stalin and the Soviet Union's part in the Second World War. Finally, when we get around to it, we'll kick around his apology, what he apologized for, and why he said what he said in the first place. Was it anti-Semitic? Was it anti-American (hard to imagine!)? Why do we only hear about the Holocaust? What was wrong, right, and really no big deal.

Sex, Lies, and Media Takes is one of my favorite websites. That's because I learn more about how to read the news and what to watch for in the news than I ever have in my life. It also keeps the media honest. While I'm certain that the editors of GR have their biases, they do an admirable job of trying to look outside of those biases. Still, their sympathies allow them to question some of the prevailing narratives of the modern press. One narrative is, of course, that if it weren't for the Catholic Church, one is inclined to think there would be no problems with sexual abuse in the world. In this excellent post, Mollie Ziegler asks the obvious question: since it appears that sexual abuse is almost pandemic in our world, why does the overwhelming amount of media attention go only to the abuse in the Catholic Church? Read the post for her insight.

For me, I think it is because of what I call one of the Great Myths of our time. That myth is that a society with repressive attitudes toward sex is where the violence is, and once we dispense with such silly notions and embrace our innate sexuality, all of those old problems with sex, abuse, and repressed emotions will finally pass away. We'll see about that later. For now, the GetReligion post is worth the read, while wondering why all of the attention is only on the Catholic Church; what role lawyers and agendas have played in the coverage; and how we can take righteous condemnation seriously from folks like John Landis who have made their contempt and loathing of the Church because of the scandal well known,
but have gone public in their support for Roman Polanski, who admitted to, well, the same thing the priests have been accused of doing. Makes you wonder. Don't think I don't.

Does Oliver Stone Heart Hitler?

There's much buzz in the news world over Oliver Stone's recent remarks about Hitler, WWII, Stalin, and of course that real big, bad country America, and now his apology. Many are calling him anti-Semitic. Others anti-American. Well, there's so much in his quotes worth looking at that I want to take time to digest it all, work it through, and take each subject one at a time. I'll be back with the first thoughts when I've had a chance to sit and let it sink in. One thing I don't want to do if I can avoid it is simply jump in and start hurtling insults or accusations. It's true that what he said was incredible. But, I suspect, not for the reasons many are saying.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Of course there is the question: Why did I become Christian in the first place?

For that, we have to go way, way back in time to when Reagan was president, MTV played videos, and I was still but a college lad. I don't have time for the details, but it involved anthropology professors, history texts, and Pink Floyd concerts. When I can, I'll pull those together and explain how a young agnostic eventually walked through the doors of a church in the first place.

A nod to my saint.

St. Francis. Perhaps no other individual is more responsible for me looking at the Catholic Faith than he is. That's not to slight others who were instrumental in helping me take the plunge. But St. Francis, I must admit, captured my imagination even back when I was in college. Even though my life was centered around me, like any good post-Boomer, and even though I was in an increasingly secular culture, one where the Catholic Church never seemed to be anything but trouble, I couldn't stop reading about St. Francis. I even had a copy of his famous prayer in my office as a pastor. I was often surprised by how many in my churches knew of the prayer and weren't in the least offended (though I had a couple mention it to me over the years).

The picture is of the statue of St. Francis in our parish.

A small step toward the Catholic Church

A shot of Monte Cassino shrine at St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana. That's where my doubts and troubles over Protestant doctrines boiled over and for the first time I turned a corner toward the Catholic Faith. Actually, it was in the large field just north of the picture here, and it was in November. Even at that southerly location, by then most of the leaves were down, and you could see through the empty branches for miles from the top of the hill. It was cold, had rained earlier, and was overcast - just the type of day I love.

I sat, and sat, and sat, and sat. I just sat, wrapped up in my coat, and thought like Pooh, thinking and thinking. There was no real revelation or anything, no angel touched down and put a coal on my lips. No light broke through the clouds. But I remember thinking about what it was to be Catholic. I was just sitting, and as any Baptist minister knows, that could get you in trouble. Baptist ministers don't sit - they do. Something. Anything. But they do. And there I had sat next to a line of small trees in the middle of an empty field just south of a Catholic shrine for I don't know how many hours.

When I finally came around to realize it was time to get back for supper, I had to chuckle at the thought of just sitting there thinking. How that was so far from a Baptist thing to do. But then it dawned on me as I went to my car: I wondered if it might have been a very Catholic thing to do, which is why in that Catholic setting, I ended up doing it. As I said, no big revelation or anything. But the first little, tiny, baby step toward looking from the troubles and doubts I had developed about Protestantism, to glancing toward Rome. More some other time.

When reality refuses to fit into the narratives of the day

On this anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we see a little piece about the small contribution that Catholic bishops had in the process. Nothing earth shattering, but a small part nonetheless. I wonder if this will be mentioned in the general media?

A Day in the Life of Dave Griffey

Perhaps my all time favorite commercial. I so feel like that poor little fellow with the original idea.

No followers yet!

But what can I expect? I've only had this blog for about 16 hours. I see there's been a comment on the Youtube post (and it took a viral youtube video get one). Still, I'm only a paramecium on the internet food chain, so I can't be picky. I'll be looking at ways to let folks know I'm here. But that's a start, humble though it is.

On the other hand....

I will post about my experiences as a Catholic, what I've seen and experienced, the blessings I have received, and how all of this fits with my life from agnosticism to Protestantism to Catholic Christianity, as well as what I see in the world around me - that world we are about to hand over to our children.

Why not Catholic?

Or Catholic apologetics that is. Though I will touch on issues in the Church, or maybe defend against this or that accusation, or even kick around some blessing I have received as a Catholic Christian, I won't be diving too deeply into the world of Catholic apologetics. Why? Because there are others who do it better. Some of those are links on my sidebar. Others I will link to as they come to me. But Scott Hahn, Patrick Madrid, Mark Shea, Zippy Catholic, and Jimmy Akin, to name a few, are already there. In addition, many readers on those blogs are well informed, making them good places to kick around questions and thoughts about the Catholic Faith.

For me, I was a pastor before I was a theologian. I learned that all theology is ultimately pastoral, but pastoring is never only theological. So I tend to see things from that pastor-in-his-office-helping-someone-out lens. If we get into a debate about consequentialism, for instance, I'm inclined to think 'how can we reason with these folks and reach out to them by seeing it from their point of view.' Try that in some places and I'd be run over! Which is OK. That comes from not everyone being a pastor. And there's nothing wrong with that. But sometimes I find, when it comes to Church issues, my old pastoral counselor side kicks in and if folks want a nitty-gritty debate about what the Church teaches, there might be better places somewhere else to find it. And when I think it will, I'll refer the discussion accordingly.

I'll save my barbs and jabs for things like history (that I love and have studied and taught for decades), or the news, or media, education, or anything about popular culture. Those are where my feet will dig in and, hopefully through the prism of Catholic teaching, I'll let fly with the best commentaries that might give readers something to think about.

Why Catholic?

Every now and then, I'll post something explaining why I became Catholic. After all, it sure wasn't for the great job prospects. So why leave a life I had spent most of my adult life working toward? Because - the simple answer - I believed it was true. What I called 'The Historic Church' was simply right. By 'Historic Church', I meant the Catholic/Orthodox (or pre-Reformation) traditions versus the Protestant tradition I identified with. As a student of history, biblical studies, and being in a vocation where I spent my days and weeks encountering these subjects due to my ministry, I began to see some serious chinks in the Protestant armor, just like I had seen flaws in the non-religious ideals I tried to embrace all those years ago as a young college student. So when the notion hits me, I'll drop a paragraph here or there about the various thoughts and experiences that ultimately brought me to where I am today.

If, as Oliver Stone says, the first casualty of war is innocence, then the first casualty of modern documentary filmmaking must be perspective

I happened to be up a few nights ago, like I am now, and saw this little talk between director Oliver Stone and Tavis Smiley. Not to be brutal, but because of this attempt by Tavis Smiley to convince the world that Christians are out there just blowing everyone up and killing people everyday, he has already raised the flag of caution in my book. He may well be the PBS answer to Glenn Beck (and worse, because that's my tax money going to Mr. Smiley). So listening to them both gave me a sense that all the extreme stereotypes we hear about so often in our modern ideological debates may actually have a grain of truth. Which might explain the unbelievable things heard in the discussion between Mr. Stone and Mr. Smiley.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

And now, good night.

More tomorrow and beyond. But for now, I slumber.

Priorities in life

The boys. They make me proud. Great kids, smart, clever and fun. It must be their Mom, or they had to dive deep into the gene pool to find those recessive genes. But they are as much fun as a Dad could have hoped for. Expect a large amount of bragging on them as time passes.

And even more fun stuff

Once in a while I will even borrow/steal from my favorite blogs and sites. So this made me laugh out loud and certainly spoke for my feelings about the generation that came before my own forgotten generation.

Posts I will Post

This is the type of thing I will post on. Or this. Every now and then it may be something like this (particularly if I like the headline). I'll even toss out an opinion now and then. Or it may be a picture of the kids, or talk of a vacation, or anything else. Even a hobby or two.


I'll post some more later. I didn't need to say that, I'm just having fun seeing all the cool things that come with blogging.

Yes, it's another blog...

Well here's to starting something new. This is the beginning of a new blog. By me. I figured I spend enough time visiting other blogs, I should probably do one up for myself. It's mostly for me and anyone who wants to visit. Not being the least bit tech-savey, I will have to learn as I go. But for now, it's for me to put things up, toss things about, and post all those wonderful and inoffensive things I think about that HuffingtonPost never allows to be posted. More later as I kick things around and work them out. Till then, I'll see me later.