Sunday, April 27, 2014

Why anger at the Right can be justified

Conservatism is no Christ.  And sometimes those who walk under the banner of conservative can be wrong.  Dead wrong.  For instance, torture.  Torture is wrong.  Always has been.  It's what the bad guys do.  From Reginald Front de Bowuf to Major Toht, one of the character traits meant to drive home their evilness was the use of torture.  The Gestapo, the Vietcong, the KJB, the Spanish Inquisition, American Indians, you name it.  Their use of torture was a black mark on their ledgers. Torture and evil, they go hand in hand.

And waterboarding?  Torture.  I'm no expert, but it doesn't take more than an ant's brains to figure if we found our terrorists were waterboarding our troops we'd be screaming from coast to coast.  And rightly so.  It is torture in the classic sense of the word.  Before the world heard of waterboarding, variations of it were long understood as horrifying, cruel and evil.

And yet, for reasons that are beyond this brief post, modern conservatives have thrown their lot in with the torturers of the past, not just shamefully using the practice, but almost boasting of their willingness to do so.  Here is Sarah Palin, whose star showed brightly for a brief time, and has since fallen to earth for most thinking people, pining for more torture via waterboarding.  And and not just advocating it, but invoking religious imagery connected to Christian rites and sacraments, an act one thinks of when thinking of Jesus and John the Baptist, of babies sprinkled and families celebrating a milestone in one's faith walk.  Sigh.

When Francis Ford Coppola fused the assassination of the heads of the Five Families with the baptism of Michael Corleon's nephew in the classic The Godfather, the juxtaposition is clear.  The sacred versus the profane.  What is good occurring alongside that which is evil.  Birth and new life, death and murder.  And here's Palin, mixing the two to whip up her followers and appeal to the base.  An appeal that rests heavily on a growing trend in our post-modern age: that right and wrong don't apply to us, they only apply to them.  The Right isn't the only ones to do this of course.  But since the Right claims to stand on the best of the past, one would expect better.  Especially since we've seen where that attitude - the attitude that rules don't apply to us, just them - tends to lead.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

It must be tough to be a conservative American Catholic

When the basic gist of your mission is to proclaim the news that American conservatives are stupid, evil, racists who are always wrong and everything that liberals say they are.  Meanwhile, liberalism is praised and adored and spoken of for its potential, while liberal pundits and activists are increasing celebrated and admired.  And except for the whole 'sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance' stuff, there's really no reason we can't agree to disagree.

I have no problem with a person who is a liberal or conservative.  Just be honest.  If to nobody else, at least yourself.  And as the comments show, stop using the excuse 'I have to trounce the Right because of the overwhelming number of right wing tribalists who insist on visiting my blog.'  The comments in this thread alone suggest otherwise.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Catholic Church and Me

So this Easter will mark the seventh anniversary of our entrance into the Catholic Church.  It was at the Easter Vigil, 2006.  That's the night before Easter for those who don't know.  It was pretty special.  I was working for a lay apostolate that focuses, at least ostensibly, on helping Protestant ministers enter the Catholic Church.  I just started a couple months before.  We had just come off a string of months consisting of one disaster after another.  We lost a hunk of our savings (a portent of things to come), mostly due to my wife's dismissal from a Christian school because of our decision to become Catholic.

A series of mishaps followed, including a bad car accident which, unfortunately, my wife caused.  Our only working car lost, her job lost, me just struggling to replace my own ministry vocation had caused us to be at the finical breaking point.  Or so it seemed.

Then, suddenly, I was offered a job with that apostolate, and my wife got a full time job with an educational publisher, McGraw-Hill.  The money was pretty good. Combined it was more than we ever made before - evangelical ministers not known for their hefty paychecks.  We sat there that Easter vigil night, I was feeling so good.  Already I was in a position to keep my ministry wheels turning, we were financially well off enough to pay our bills and actually replenish lost savings.  The services were beautiful.  Doors were opening.  The future seemed on the right path.  We were taking some gruff from family, friends and former colleagues, especially about becoming Catholic while the sex abuse scandal was still fresh in the news..  Our kids were a bit confused about the sudden upheaval in our lives. But for us, it was clearly God's will and I couldn't be happier.

Nevertheless, there was one tiny issue.  The fellow who started the apostolate I worked for, the one who is seen by many as the face of protestant minister converts, was strangely apathetic about me becoming Catholic.  He wasn't there that night, though one of the employees, the liaison to the actual ministers who contact the ministry, did attend.  The founder of the ministry was absent. And more than that, he made no real effort to celebrate.  In fact, the following week, I had to remind him I was now Catholic. He said congratulations, but that was all.  Not even a card.  You'd think a ministry centered around what I had just done, with one of its own going through the very purpose of its existence, would have been, you know, happy. Maybe even celebratory.  But nothing.  A couple employees said well done, but that was all. I should have known.  A mere bump in an overall fabulous road that would soon come to define that road.

Two years later I was let go.  Officially - "officially" - it was because of finances, but as likely as not, it's because I couldn't or wouldn't move to a different part of the state where the offices were located.  But it was more.  I was an evangelical.  He, the president and founder, brought a disdain for my tradition with him into the Church.  That was clear.  We never hit it off.  He was what I discovered was more common than not: a former minister who made much out of the fact that when it comes to partying, few Christian traditions match Catholicism.  Dirty jokes and bathroom humor, cussing, smoking, drinking and partying - that's the stuff that Catholicism is made of.  And though I enjoy a beer or glass of wine with the best of them, that sort of thing has never been my cup of tea.  Once when we were having lunch with his wife, and as they were throwing about the old poop-humor, she grimaced.  She then noted I wasn't partaking in the Eddie Murphy screes. Her husband said it was because of my Baptist ways.  I said no, it's how I was raised before I was a Christian.  I fear that things like that assured me of no real future.

It may have been because of that I was often short shifted.  He obligatorily let me appear on his radio show, and once on his TV show dedicated to telling about journeys into the Catholic Church.  But he never rehearsed.  Usually guests prep with him ahead of time to know what to expect.  I was given no such benefit.  Each time, I was just thrown in and expected to do my best with no idea what to expect from him.  In charge of publishing, it was my job to tell him he had no clue about how to publish books, and my brief time with McGraw-Hill taught me a few things.  That went nowhere, and when our first book - In the Fullness of Christ - was published, he gave me no credit, no congrats, no thanks, no nothing.  I knew then my days were numbered.

Once I was let go in the spring of 2008, things went downhill.  After years of trying to get my name out in the Church through various avenues, I was getting nowhere.  Despite doing some well received projects for local parishes, and receiving much appreciation for lessons and teaching I did for their RCIAs and parishes, I was getting nowhere.

Then my Dad's health failed.  My sister's family unraveled.  My wife's sister got a divorce.  Then my Dad died, my Mom moved in with us in our starter home we've never been able to leave, and in December of 2011, as if the rest wasn't bad enough, my Wife lost her job in a tribute to modern Darwinian Capitalism.  She and hundreds of her coworkers.  Merry Christmas.

Since then we've lost all retirement, almost all savings.  Our little starter home is crumbling from lack of funds to keep it in repair.  I've now been all but told flat out that there is no place for me in Catholic ministry.  Not as a priest, deacon, teacher, nothing.  The fact that I was a vocational ministers is received in one of two ways.  One, it's irrelevant. Or two, the fact that I was a former ministers is itself the problem, and nothing I ever do will erase that.

Wow.  Quite a difference in seven years.  My current job is nothing special, I'm underpaid.  My schedule is a wrecking ball in our family's life.  My wife is working part time in a woefully underpaying and under employing job.  Our oldest is soon to graduate, this being the last years of his time with us. Our two youngest have almost no memory of stable, secure times.

So what's it all mean?  What happened?  I have no clue.  How it went from 'God's will as He opens doors and leads us along our glorious pilgrimage' to 'hell no there's nothing for you, starve if you must (but make sure you give to the Bishop's annual appeal' is something I can't answer.  All I know is that it's made a life of happiness and joy in the Catholic Church a tough one.

So why stay?  Well, there's the rub.  Because I believe it's true.  Because I believe the historic Church, that Church that existed pre-Protestant, is the True Church, and the fullest expression of the Faith in  Jesus Christ.  At this point, if there is no historic faith, there's no faith in Christ.  So to paraphrase Peter, where else would I go?

That's not to say I'm all tingly about what's happened.  I'm not.  I just remember that the Church may be the Body of Christ, but it's also full of people.  And it's that last part that's given the Church some of its more dubious reputations over the years.  Sure, many Catholics I've met are fine people, and probably have little to no clue what's happened, why it's happened, or the extent of what we've gone through.  But in the Catholic Church, at the end of the day, they don't matter.  Which has been the issue for more than a few centuries.

So as we crawl and stumble toward Easter, seven years from that fateful night, all I can say is that we're hanging on by a gossamer thread.  But we're hanging.  How things will unfold, or what will happen, I can only guess.  Perhaps hope.  Maybe pray.  But right now, we are bending all we have to push past the rubble strewn ruins of our life, and keep our focus on the core of our faith, one that once so dominated every corner of our lives, now at times a far off glimmer in a long, dark passage.  Perhaps it will shine brightly soon.  We can only pray.  But that's the way it is this Holy Week, 2014.  Till next time, perhaps on a new or fixed computer, Happy Easter.