The Weblog

Home for the heteronomous

Periodic Confessional: C-H….C-H. What’s missing?

I confess I am not a practicing Catholic. This has been the case for nearly 25 years, and most of the time it’s hardly worth mentioning. But when you were raised Catholic, it tends to pop up now and then.

Over the past couple months, it’s come up because my nephew who will be getting Confirmed, asked me to be his sponsor. I said yes immediately because my nephew – who is also my godson – asked me. I knew there were probably going to be some awkward moments to come from it, but the way I saw it was this. The church had explained to my nephew what a sponsor should do. He thought of me, ran the idea past his parents, and they said “Great choice!” or “that’s fine” or “this should be interesting”. Something. I don’t know, but he called me and with their blessing, asked, and that was good enough for me.

Things got hairy almost immediately. My nephew handed the phone over to my brother, who laid out the situation for me. He told me this church is a little…zealous. They don’t want just anybody being sponsors. They want practicing Catholics. And there’s a form.

“A form?”

Yes, a form. And they don’t want you to just sign the form that states that you understand the responsibilities of a sponsor and that you’re a practicing Catholic. They want the church where you’re a member to affix their seal.

“Affix a seal? Affix? Seal? Churches have seals?” Continue reading

March 18, 2014 Posted by | Friday Afternoon Confessional, religion | 6 Comments

Worshipping the god of convenience

This morning, I came across a man who had kneeled down to pray on the sidewalk, facing a local 7-11. He was basically aligned with the center of the store, making it look as though he was praying to some previously unknown god of 7-11. The snatches of prayer I heard seemed to be in the “your unworthy servant” genre — perhaps he had spilled some of his Slurpy, or made a mess in the condiment area the last time he got a hot dog there.

Another guy I’ve come across more than once, in widely separated areas: an apparent “Jew for Jesus,” who intersperses his prayers with what seem to be Hebrew words along with long, seemingly memorized passages that, as in the preaching clip on the first disc Godspeed’s Tiny Fists, have scripture-like cadences, etc., but don’t actually correspond to any scripture verses I’m familiar with. He seems to favor bus stops, and the worst part is that he will stand right outside the door when people board, so that you don’t know whether to pause and let him on — and you are of course in utter dread of the possibility of him getting on and continuing his discourse. On the occasions when he has actually gotten on, however (sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t), he has not preached during the actual bus trip.

A favorite genre of crazy guys talking to the air: black supremacists. More than once, I’ve come across them on the Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line (meaning I’m the only, or nearly the only, white person on board), and I’ve determined that they’re sufficiently confident that God will wipe out the white race that they have no interest in me in particular. On one occasion, however, a white woman travelling to U of C who was not familiar with that type of discourse essentially latched onto me after we both exited a car on which a black supremacist — in this case, one claiming to be the reincarnation of Moses, Jesus, Muhammed, et al. — was elaborating his views. While she seemed to be concerned for her safety, my main complaint was that I was just trying to get some reading done and couldn’t while he was talking — though presumably that’s the least I deserve as a white person.

September 1, 2010 Posted by | public transit, religion | 8 Comments

Commencements and abortion

Surely we’ve all heard about the controversy surrounding Obama’s invitation to speak at Notre Dame’s commencement. Now a bishop is protesting the choice of someone who’s pro-life, but apparently not purely pro-life enough:

Bishop Joseph F. Martino of Scranton, who has already questioned whether local Catholic colleges are following doctrine, has attacked the choice of King’s College to have U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania as its graduation speaker, the Associated Press reported. Casey opposes abortion and favors the reversal of the Supreme Court’s decisions legalizing abortion. He is among the most prominent Democratic politicians with such views. But Bishop Martino said that King’s would be commiting an “affront to all who value the sanctity of life” by having Casey as a speaker because the senator voted to confirm Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of health and human services. King’s officials aren’t commenting on the dispute. But a spokesman for Casey told the AP that the senator thought it would be irresponsible to leave the HHS position vacant. “He disagrees with her on abortion, but feels that she has the required expertise to help pass health care reform and provide health care to the uninsured, one of our country’s top priorities,” the spokesman said.

Casey’s reasoning sounds an awful lot like the kind of reasoning that Catholics are officially allowed to use in situations like this. The bishop’s reasoning sounds pretty specious to me, but I may be biased by the fact that I find the whole “abortion trump card” approach nonsensical.

I’m sure that before long, we’ll find a bishop protesting a speaker because the speaker pays taxes to a municipality that includes an abortion provider, implicitly supporting it by paying for a portion of the abortion provider’s police and fire service.

May 4, 2009 Posted by | religion | 5 Comments

Torture advocates and the religious right

At first glance, it would appear that the followers of Christ, a man who was unjustly tortured and executed, would not be advocates of torture, or at least would not be part of a political coalition that includes torture apologists. Yet I think there is a structural affinity between torture apologists and the religious right, centered on their self-concept.

On the one hand, both share a sense of being the noble ones who are willing to make hard choices that offend the naive and idealistic. For the religious right, they’re ruining the party for those with unrealistically loosey-goosey sexual and cultural ideals. For the torture apologists, they’re getting their hands dirty to do the necessary thing in the face of wild-eyed idealists with their unrealistically rigid moral standards. In both cases, they’re ultimately benefiting the people they’re offending — either by creating a moral and orderly society or by protecting the crazy liberal anti-torture people from the ticking time bomb.

On the other hand, both share a sense of being victimized by the very prohibition of victimizing others. For the religious right, the state’s failure to discriminate against other people (gays, people of other religions in the case of something like school prayer) is directly an attack against them. For the torture apologists, not allowing the torture of America’s enemies is tantamount to prefering or even desiring an attack on America itself. Impeding the torturers in any way means aiding — and de facto joining — the enemy and therefore attacking the remaining true Americans, i.e., the torture advocates. In both cases, depriving them of their right to persecute others is construed as the greatest possible act of persecution — hence the rhetoric of Christians being the most oppressed minority in America. Torture advocates haven’t quite gotten to that point, but they also haven’t been around as long as the religious right.

Both torture advocates and the religious right share a deep structure, therefore. Both are absolutely convinced of their moral rectitude and their duty to shape society in the way they see fit, and both regard any questioning of their power as a tantamount to a crime against humanity. The rhetorical device is identical in both cases: You don’t think we should torture? Oh, then you must long for the day when New York City is wiped out by a nuclear blast! You don’t think we should use every means necessary to discourage open homosexuality? Oh, then you probably think we should ditch morality altogether and eat our own children for dinner!

Thus they both fit well into a party that, for example, defines bipartisanship as their own party getting their way 100% of the time and defines intolerance as pointing out that white men are sometimes intolerant. It’s the coalition of the wounded narcissists.

April 23, 2009 Posted by | politics, religion | 5 Comments

The Bible and Bipartisanship

JERUSALEM — King Solomon today completely reversed course on his proposed bipartistan solution to the Multiple Baby Claimant Crisis that has rocked the kingdom in recent weeks, instead favoring a one-sided solution that many analysts say panders to special interests within the True Caring Mothers Party.

“The Israelite people are tired of the same old partisanship coming out of Jerusalem,” said a representative of the Baby Smothering Then Stealing Party who wished to remain anonymous. “Israelites have shown time and time again that they prefer divided infants.”

Early opinion polls suggest that when all Israel heard of the judgement that the king had rendered, they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him, to execute justice. But, says the leader of the Baby Smothering Then Stealing Party, a largely agrarian population entirely lacking in telephone technology is notoriously difficult to poll. “Early polls are likely to be limited to the areas of Judah near Jerusalem, which are overwhelmingly liberal. But we are a nation of twelve tribes, and Israelites from Benjamin and Simeon to Zebulun and Naphtali deserve to have their voices heard as well. And isn’t it telling that we so seldom see any polling out of Manasseh and Ephraim, which is the real heartland of Israel?”

When approached for comment, the leader of the True Caring Mothers asked if we knew a reliable babysitter, as she is now estranged from her former roommate.

[Inspired by Ta-Nehisi Coates.]

February 9, 2009 Posted by | politics, religion | 2 Comments

What a good prayer looks like

Via Brad, this invocation by Bishop Gene Robinson. As Brad says, it’s a shame that he couldn’t deliver this prayer as an invocation for the inauguration proper. (Here is a video.)

January 19, 2009 Posted by | politics, religion | 1 Comment

Holy crap!

Does everyone remember the commenter Chad and his delightful brother Dallas, from this post? Their last name, as I’ve known for a long time, is Jenkins. The connection I didn’t make, despite a number of hints, is that their dad is Jerry B. Jenkins, co-author of the infamous Left Behind series. (In fact, according to many reports I have read, he’s the actual author of the series, with LaHaye serving as “prophecy consultant” in order to guarantee absolute accuracy in every detail.)

I understand that in the eyes of many of you, this will undercut the two brothers’ already shaky credibility. Nonetheless, I recommend being extra-nice to both of them from now on, because I assume that they stand to inherit a lot of money.

December 22, 2008 Posted by | economics, religion | 35 Comments

Thoughts on evangelicalism

How do evangelicals become “true believers”? I’m sure many recovering evangelicals have experienced the apparent contradiction of these three points:

  1. Their parents weren’t particularly aggressive about pushing their personal beliefs.
  2. Their pastors almost entirely refrained from right-wing screeds.
  3. At some point, they were obnoxious “religious right” types to some degree.

Continue reading

October 29, 2008 Posted by | religion | 11 Comments

The power of prayer

David: did you hear that focus on the family were encouraging folks to pray for rain for obama’s address at the convention?
Adam: I did.
Adam: Thankfully, prayer doesn’t work.
David: Yeah, that’s saved my ass more than once.

August 27, 2008 Posted by | family values, instant messaging, politics, religion | 8 Comments