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Sunday, May 27, 2007

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toast

well, that's just like you, sloop - taking the easy way out, aiming to reconcile the whole trajectory of Catholic belief for yourself ... can't you just blindly follow along?! :::sheesh:::

baby, if you wanna be a Catholic, i'll light the incense and hail Mary with you, because i know you are not about deciding what's right for me. you are about respecting boundaries and accepting diversity. that's more about emotional maturity than any stupid "moral superiority" ...

Nightwind

I'm generally darkly amused by certain liberal Christians' insistance that their diverse and tolerant church is the best kind of church out there. It's just so ironic.

Humans have a tendency to believe that their outlook on a matter is the naturally superior position, and I think this is accentuated in things like politics and religion. While we might be able to accept that other people come to conclusions different than ours, its even more hard to accept, much less understand, that people can come to those conclusions through processes entirely alien to the process we ourselves took.

Finding like-minded people is certainly (in my mind, anyway) a valid way of seeking a religious rommunity. But it does involve a certain assumption of the correctness of our own opinions. By saying "I'm pro-choice, so I could never been Catholic because the pope is pro-life" presumes that the pope must be wrong on the matter. But Catholics accept the pope as a really smart guy, and just maybe he knows a little something more than me. (Then again, liberal Christians tend to have a hard time with the very idea of anyone having a dinstinct spritual authority over them either.) Or it could be that the Catholic in question simply finds more important things to base their choice of religion on than abortion and gay rights...things like, oh, actual religious practices and theology.

Tim

Very thoughtful and well written. I'm grateful you shared it.

We have a mixed-religion marriage (Jewish/Christian) and feel strongly that both should be honored in the home, be part of our social activities and taught and discussed with our kids in an age-appropriate way.

The first 10 years, the tension from external forces sometimes caused confusion and occasionally hurt feelings. Not any more. Not that all the answers have been found, but the tension is well known and welcome at this point.

Ben

Excellent post, Sloop.

I grew up evangelical, attended a liberal mainline seminary, and currently attend Catholic church as a non-communicant (with my Catholic wife).

Sheesh. I wish I'd just make up my mind.

I am not a person who is given to certainty about anything, and I wish I were. At least then I would be a more forceful advocate for something. But there is this innate tension in Christianity - have faith in what you believe, but remember your own humanness, your own finitude, your own sinfulness. In short, remember you could be wrong.

Ben

I also find it odd that liberal Christians (and I mainly am one) believe that they know what Jesus really would want -- and, oddly enough, it's almost exactly what secular liberals want anyway. What a coincidence!

Then again, do I really want to follow the Roman Catholic Church on, say, homosexuality?

More importantly (to me), do I really believe that the Church can be infallible on anything? That cuts against my view of human nature.

I dunno. The longer I believe, the more confused I get.

Huffman

As you know, John, I'm fascinated by religion. The literalists who have so dominated US Christianity for the past 30 years (goodbye and good riddance Mr. Falwell) are mostly dull, philosophically. But the spirituality of thoughtful people like yourself is intriguing.

So, I wonder what it means to "belong" to a religion? What does it mean to "be" Catholic? After all, the Church teaches the infallibility of the Pope. So if you do not accept the Pope's edicts, then how are you Catholic? I understand the tension between the Church's teachings and your understanding are part of why you are Catholic, but that cannot be all there is. Presumably you would find a similar tension in, say, Islam.

(I am really just curious. I've gone through several drafts trying to figure out how to sound less aggressive or provocative, but this is apparently the best I can do. Maybe there are some professors of communications studies who could say something intelligent about that.)

Daniel

One of the best lines I ever read is: "God is a target you can't miss." That's a 180 from the God I learned about growing up, and I think its net effect on me has been to remove the urgency from my three decades of wondering about such things.

I think John's ideas about trying to come to terms with the tradition and practice of an established religion are provocative and instructive to him. I know he's serious about it. I know he's not lording it over anybody. I'm not being condescending here, either: I think it's great for him and I totally endorse it.

For me, though, thinking about religion has become entropic. The energy I put into it now no longer returns to me -- it just dissipates. I find myself unwilling to critique other people's beliefs -- until they cross the line into civic infringement on other people's rights.

So in essence, when I take an interest in religion these days, I'm not really all that interested in the spiritual aspects but the resulting behaviors. For instance, I have no interest in arguing theology with someone who thinks death in jihad will result in heavenly sexual favors. I simply want to prevent that person from blowing other people up. If you don't blow people up, or deny them their rights, then you're free to believe all sorts of nonsense as far as I'm concerned.

That's a long way from what John writes here, but suicide-bombing is the extreme outcome of this constant jockeying for moral superiority that he reports encountering. If we are forced to believe, by our system of belief, that A is superior to B, then our dualism eventually leads to conflict and suffering.

Maybe that's just the human condition as heaven ordained it. Maybe not. But we're all living our answers to that question one way or another, all the time.

jmsloop

What a nice set of responses. You guys have pushed my pseudorant in interesting directions.

Robert, as for "why catholicism?," I talked about this in an earlier post that deals with similar issues (and actually also had some very smart responses. You guys are GOOD!

Huffman

Great. My second Xark post and I'm already rehashing old threads. What a loser.

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