Wednesday, April 30, 2008

See the Movie "Expelled"

I had the opporunity to go with a friend and my oldest son (14 years) to see the Ben Stein documentary "Expelled" a few days ago. I highly recommend this film to all Christians who might be concerned about intellectual freedom; right to life issues; and the cause and effect relationships between the scientific establishment, atheism, and the dignity of the human person.

Ben Stein is the guy from Ferris Bueller-- you remember. In looking up his biography, I've discovered that he's among other things an economist, actor and writer. I honestly don't know too much more about him-- I think he's Jewish. He clearly hangs around with some deep thinkers.

The film centers on how proponents of the theory of evolution within the scientific community, have basically blackballed those scientists who even entertain other theories, namely intelligent design-- which basically says a higher power had a hand in creating life rather than life emerging from the primordial soup from a series of random, undirected physical events. While the examples of such discrimination are outrageous and frustrating to hear about, there were a couple of other related themes that I personally found more moving.

As the subject matter develops, Stein finds and presents the connection between Darwin's theories, early 20th century eugenics and the Nazi hospital in Hadamar, in which thousands of victims were murdered because they were medically or genetically "inferior." Stein is visibly moved by the outcomes of these philosophies. He mentions Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood. This portion of the film really got me interested in exploring the themes and their historical relationships. For instance, the principal theorist for eugenics is Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin.

At the end of the film, Stein basically issues a call to action. What can each of us do?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Only Say the Word...

For many years I observed Mass as a non-Catholic, as I attended with my wife. The point in each Mass that always stood out to me, was the preparation for Communion when the priest lifts up the Host and says, "This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper." And of course the congregation replies:

"Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."

I learned a while back that the response is adapted from the account of Jesus' healing of the Centurion's slave, in both Matthew and Luke. The Centurion believes that Jesus can heal his servant, without necessarily being in his presence but rather by simply saying it from afar.

"...Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed." (Matthew 8:8)

The placement of this adaptation of verse in the Mass just before we receive Communion has an overt meaning: none of us is really worthy to receive God into our bodies, but we believe that this healing gift is nonetheless offered to us. But as I reflected on it at Mass this past Sunday, it struck me that there might be additional meaning. The Centurion needed great faith to believe that the servant need not see Jesus, or hear his blessing, or feel his hands laid upon him, for healing. He proclaims as much and Jesus is amazed (and the servant is indeed healed without a visitation).

But aren't we similarly called to express that same great faith, that we are receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, even though we don't perceive Them as such? To us, They still retain the appearance, smell and taste of unleavened bread and wine. Without getting into the philosophy of it all (since I am utterly unequipped to carry out a real conversation on it anyway), suffice it to say that we Catholics believe that the bread becomes the Body and the wine becomes the Precious Blood, despite what we perceive.

Like the Centurion, we don't require Jesus' human flesh and blood to be evident to our senses, before we partake. "Only say the word," we tell him. And he did, during the discourse on the Bread of Life in John's Gospel, in which he stated clearly that his disciples would have to eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life. And at the Last Supper, when he instituted the Eucharist. In fact, it's a good thing that the true identity of the transubstantiated Host is hidden from our senses; Jesus indeed lost many disciples who couldn't accept eating his flesh.

This is a very long winded way of saying that meditating on the Centurion's faith, in relation to the faith I need to accept the holy identity of the Host, is a great help to me when I prepare my heart for Communion. I had been called for all those years to the Eucharist, to believe and eat and be healed. Thanks be to God that I finally answered.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Cleaning out the files.

I have not posted because I have run out of things to say. So, will post something I wrote before I came back to the Church. It was a reply to a letter from a friend. I post it because I no longer struggle with many of these questions and it is good to look back every once and a awhile to see where you came from. On second thought maybe I do still struggle with the same questions only differently. So, here it is a letter from 2005.

“I have never heard of F Buechner. Though a quick web search yields this- "Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun." He is an Episcopalian or at least well liked by the EC. He sounds like Yancey for the mainliner. I do not mean that to sound as bad as it might seem coming from me. Both of these fellows have some good things to to say and perhaps just as importantly say it well. People listen to well spoken things even if those things are wrong (Ayn Rand is a great example). Yancy and it seems, as far as I know, Buechner say true things well. In a similar way Lewis, Schaffer and Chesterton spoke to an earlier generation. There are similarities to all these non-theologian writers on theology. They have interesting insights that are usually missed by the professional theologians. These insights are gained from being consumers and practitioners of theology rather than the creators of it. "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried."

I am skeptical that theology has more correct things to say about God or faith than anyone or anything else. Whatever theology says it says precisely but it may be precisely wrong or precisely misleading. God may reveal himself in bits and pieces every day. Theology has some things to teach us but so do our neighbors and our enemies. We certainly have a big chunk of revelation in the bible, but the bible is not exhaustive in it's statements about God or faith or practice. This is part of my growing difficulty in being evangelical (not to mention the almost systematic way the Holy Spirit is ignored). I am unsure how well I will do at Bethel. The last night I was with my friends at bible college in San Antonio we were discussing what we could take away with us. What was the meaning and the effect of 4 years of college level biblical study. My response "I know now that God exists, everything else is speculation." And in reality that is all I have hung on to. Anticipating another round of intense study I only hope to add one more true statement. I have no idea what it will be but I figure that knowing 2 things for sure is a hell of a lot more than I should expect from life. Abraham believed God and he was declared righteous. That was only one thing! I think it would be nice to know three things before I die. That would balance nicely. I should think that Faith in God is more about what we do not know but hope to be true rather than that which we think we can prove through logic and reason. Then again logic and reason have their place as does systematic theology...

[Mrs. Germanicus ;-) and I are reading through the bible together. We are in the middle of Exodus and we both agree that the God we read about in the bible is not the God we hear about in most churches or the God that most people "love". I suspect if a neophyte were to read the bible and take it at face value, they would not come to the same conclusions about God as D. J. Kennedy or C Swindol. They would see no lessons on leadership in Exodus no Organizational strategy in Joshua or 5 keys to financial management in the gospels. I suspect they might find a a fierce powerful God controlling the fates of people, kings, nations and the world. A God that thinks nothing of wiping out an entire family to prove a point or to exalt a despot to punish a nation. A God that chooses his favorites based on God knows what and then sticks with them no matter what they do. I am the God of deceivers, thieves, rapists, murder's, and idol worshippers. I will redeem them and the world will see my glory. We do not understand. I tremble when I think about facing God. I think and fear that he will be more terrible and real than I imagine. I can not reconcile it all with what I have read, heard and what I understand of the churches teaching. So, I move forward, haltingly, humbly, and carefully. I move forward because I must, time compels me and I am trapped. God hates the arrogant and the coward. I do not know what to do except live and live fully.”