Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Albinos and paintings and grails, oh my!

I see everybody with Internet access has had something to say about The Da Vinci Code. I don't think I can add much to it. However, Doug at IllumiNations has had some good things to say on the subject. And this is probably the funniest commentary I've seen about it.

Scaryduck found himself fed up with the hype while sitting on a bus, and took action:
I did a bad good thing last week.

A young lady got on the tube at Charing Cross, and sat across the aisle from me. Sadly, she whipped out a copy of The Da Vinci Code from her handbag, going down in my estimation considerably.

Early doors, she was only on page thirty or so, which meant I had every chance of weaning her off this badly-written tripe before it was too late. So, getting off at Paddington, I told her the five words that should ultimately do the trick, and save her several wasted days having her brain DanBrown-washed...

"The Grail's in The Louvre."

Oh, and don't forget to check out The Norman Rockwell Code. Wonderful!

Feelings... nothing more than feelings...

Okay, here it is. I promised Michael a reply to his post about emotions and faith. It's a long response, and I'm not sure how much sense it will make, but here goes.

Back at the beginning of the month, Michael said:
I have always disagreed with the view that faith is not a feeling. I think that sounds good, and I know many western theologians teach that faith is only a "God initiated commitment of the will... despite how one feels." (Matthew Henry, Hank Hannigraf, etc.)

But an emotional awareness of God's presence is absolutely a part of faith. The thought that it is not a large part of faith is, in my view, completely wrong. We should not think that Paul, on the Damascus Road, simply gave mental assent to the person and teachings of Jesus without a significant emotional awareness that Christ just knocked him off his ass. Nor should we assume that David's emotions were "less than faithful" or "wrong" while he danced half naked through the streets of Jerusalem. Emotions are created by God. They are not evil or any more a tool of the devil than intellectualism is. Emotional awareness of God and an intellectual commitment of the will (without emotion) are both designed by God and useful for growing in faith.

With all our Bibles and commentaries and web resources and radio teachers and seminaries... it is so easy for us to take emotions out of the equation. For the person in other parts of the world who doesn't have all our teachers and resources... God uses emotions in a profound way - as a primary building block of faith.

Michael recognizes (and rightly so) that faith goes beyond the intellectual. Simply acknowledging a fact is not faith; otherwise, my religion could just as easily hinge on my undying belief in the Second Law of Thermodynamics, or in the date of the Battle of Antietam. St. James highlights this when he points out that even the demons believe in Jesus on an intellectual level.

But where Michael slips, I think, is in making the issue solely between emotions and intellect. This is a hallmark of Protestant theology, inherited from the Reformation, which tended to render everything down to the intellectual or "spiritual" plane, in a pendulum swing against what the reformers saw as idolatrous reliance on icons and sacramentals for salvation.

Even today, Protestants often look askance at any physical manifestation of faith as works-righteousness or dead religious ritual. But we're not talking about salvation here; for the Christian struggling with an emotional wasteland, that's already been dealt with. Righteous works don't have to be done out of fear of Hell.

I'm going to flash back to my misspent youth for a moment, and quote a bawdy limerick I learned as a vulgar-minded boy:
"For the tenth time, dull Daphnis," said Chloe,
"You have told me my bosom is snowy;
You have made much fine verse on
Each part of my person,
Now do something -- there's a good boy!"

Is Chloe in any doubt about her lover's knowledge of her... er... attributes? Hardly. He's made his intellectual appreciation of her very plain. But the dimension that's missing is that of action. Should Daphnis be struck blind, or lose his power of speech, he won't cease to love Chloe, nor will she question his love for her, if his actions bear it out.

(Let's discreetly draw the curtain on the pair, shall we, and get back to more spiritual – and less lecherous – matters.)

Maybe a good place to take it up again is a consideration of the word "spiritual." Why is it, exactly, that we draw a dichotomy between the spirit and the body, but not between the spirit and the intellect, or the emotions? Why should the spirit be lumped in with the brain and the feelings, to the exclusion of the body?

Well, we see a certain amount of that in the Bible, especially in Paul. He frequently speaks of the carnal as something in conflict with the Christian's spirit. But nowhere does he suggest that the body should be dispensed with entirely, or indeed that it's evil in itself. That came later, with the Gnostics and the Albigensians. Rather, he points up the need for the Christian not to be ruled by his body; to remember that Christianity is more than just the physical.

Okay, so why am I restating the bleedin' obvious, and being really long-winded about it to boot? Because nobody ever pits the spirit against the heart. Nobody calls an emotionally-charged faith "dead." On the contrary, at least by the Evangelicals I grew up among, a church that practiced a lot of ritual was called dead, and recited prayers were derided as "pat." (Or worse, as vain repetition.) Spontaneity and fervor are seen as the best expressions of our love for God, and anything less seems kind of fakey.

But who's faking: the person who intersperses his prayers with the ubiquitous "andLordwejust" or the one who automatically descends to one knee upon entering a church? Neither is faking, necessarily. Nor is the Christian who suddenly bursts into song while driving down the road. What all of them are doing is expressing the fourth factor in faith: attitude.

I don't mean to leave emotions out of the equation entirely. What they are is something like the sensation in your hands. They can be positive, as when petting a cat, or negative, as when Kitty gets tired of being stroked and reduces your skin to tatters. Either way, they're both an indicator of our state and an enhancer of it. When we're strong in the Lord, we feel strong, which in turn makes it easier to act strong. It's a cycle, rather than a unidirectional cause-and-effect.

When David danced, he was acting out of an attitude of appreciation for God, and joy that his faith had been vindicated. When Saul converted, he was encouraging in himself an attitude of submission. When I genuflect, when Michael raises his hands in worship, we're both expressing physically something we've checked out intellectually and are now experiencing emotionally: an attitude of submission, repentance and appreciation for the Lord.

On a temporary basis, all the factors are dispensible. We can do without the physical, as many of the more stringent Protestant denominations insist on doing. We can do without the intellectual; I can't count the times some apologist's argument has caused me to wonder if I'm really just drinking Jonestown Kool-Aid. And we can do without the emotional, as I've learned during times of depression and burn-out. (That last is a really disturbing thought to some Christians; they think they've abandoned Christ if they have a bad day, and so they try to create the emotions within themselves).

But all of those things can come and go. What doesn't change is the basis for our faith: not a fact, but a Person. Paul says "I know Whom I have believed," not "what." And our faith is a combination of all those four things: body, mind, heart, and attitude. It's our response to a Person, an objectively real Person, and not just something we ourselves determine according to how we feel or what we think.

So yes, emotions count. They spring from our attitude, and they strengthen our attitude, whether it's a Godly one or a sinful one. But in the end, God won't greet us at the gate with "Well done, thou good and jubilant servant." Being faithful is a lot more than feeling happy.

There's no place like blog! There's no place like blog!

[/click ruby slippers]

After a longer-than-expected hiatus, I'm back. Hopefully things have slowed down on the office front that I can waste some valuable time posting again.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Sorry for the silence

I've been working like a madman to meet a host of deadlines at the paper, and I haven't really had time to meet blogging commitments. (Yes, Michael, I still remember that I owe you an answer about emotion and faith.)

Today, incidentally, marks nine years that I've worked for the Greatest Newspaper in the Northwest™. I think I'll pour another cup of coffee in self-congratulation and stick my nose back up against the journalistic grindstone.

Look for actual posts in a day or two.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Stop it!

Stop that research! It's safe, I tell you! Safe! Why are you questioning us?

But just to make sure, we're going to stop prescribing that you take it in a manner not approved by the FDA. Just as a precaution, you understand. Against nothing in particular. Perfectly safe...

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Potter, clay, husband and wife

Tim Challies has an excellent review up of a book called Love that Lasts, pondering the parallel between earthly marriage and Christ's marriage to His bride, the Church. I know it's a topic that's been done before, but Tim brings a freshness and honesty to it that's hard to match:
Is Christ pleased with the baby steps He sees in my life, or does He lament that I do not grow more--that I do not grow faster? Does He rejoice with me as I grow in my knowledge and love of Him? Is He glorified even in the smallest, halting step I take towards being further transformed into His image?

I thought about this for a while. And then I saw in myself and in my attitude towards my wife just a shadow, a fleeting glimpse, of the work of Christ. I love my wife dearly. I love Aileen so much that my heart aches for her sanctification. I love few things more than seeing my wife reading her Bible, teaching the children about God, and being with her in times of worship. I pray continually that God will continue to mold her into His image. And, if I look carefully, I can see times when I have provided the leadership to help move her (and myself, and our children) towards this goal. I can see where I have been committed to the process. And best of all, I can see the joy I have taken both in leading her through the process and in seeing the results of the process. In my relationship with Aileen I can see, as if in a dim, clouded mirror, a reflection of the work of Christ in my life.

Of course I can also see with startling, shameful clarity the inumerable times that I have failed. I can think of opportunities missed or deliberately avoided. I can see times where my own selfishness and laziness have no doubt robbed Aileen of many a blessing. Yet my faith is stirred when I think that God never misses an opportunity. God is faithful where I am faithless, committed where I am laxadasical, strong where I am weak.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Another Gnostic gospel discovered!

This should shake the very foundations of Christianity!
But it happened that after Jesus had risen from the dead he spent eleven years speaking with his disciples without pausing for breath. And he taught them only as far as the places of the first ordinance and as far as the places of the First Mystery, which is within the veil which is within the first ordinance, which is the 24th mystery outside and below, but the 45th mystery on Tuesdays, these which are in the second space of the First Mystery, which is before all mysteries the Father in the form of a dove. And Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come forth from that First Mystery which is the last mystery, namely the 24th, or the 45th on Tuesdays.”

And the disciples did not know and understand that there was anything within that mystery. So they used it to carry home their dry cleaning.

H/T to Cacciaguida.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

It's not fair!

Aberdeen already has one of the highest suicide rates in the NW. If you've ever been there, you know why. So why make it worse with this?

(I did think the couch-jumping contest would have been a nice touch, though.)

Musical geography

There's a seriously cool thread in the comboxes for this post at It Comes in Pints. I can't recall when I've had so much fun with one blog post.

Mint juleps!

A mint julep is a mystical experience. I learned how to make a makeshift version of the beverage a couple of years ago, and I've wondered ever since if they're not the best argument in favor of the Confederacy winning the war. The author of this recipe would probably be appalled that a non-Southerner had even read it. (I refuse to be called a Yankee; I live farther from New England than he did.) But it does carry a certain amount of the grace of the part of the South that still considers itself antebellum.
The preparation of the quintessence of gentlemanly beverages can be described only in like terms. A mint julep is not the product of a FORMULA. It is a CEREMONY and must be performed by a gentleman possessing a true sense of the artistic, a deep reverence for the ingredients and a proper appreciation of the occasion. It is a rite that must not be entrusted to a novice, a statistician, nor a Yankee. It is a heritage of the old South, an emblem of hospitality and a vehicle in which noble minds can travel together upon the flower-strewn paths of happy and congenial thought....

A gentlemanly H/T to Fr. Jim Tucker, with whom I regret that I'll probably never get to share a mint julep this side of heaven.

Y'betcha! Pass the lutefisk, Ole!

You gotta be kidding!

You're Minnesota!

You love hanging out around lakes, even if they're frozen solid. Given your probable Scandanavian heritage, it all just demonstrates that you're pining for the fjords. Your obsession with wrestling got a little carried away for a while there, and this should prompt some serious reflection about the separation of mind and body. It may be time to celebrate, even throw your hat up in the air. You're going to make it after all.

Take the State Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Yes, my ancestry is more Norwegian than anything else. But I'm a seventh- or eighth-generation Washington brownsider, and I've never even been to Minnesota. I'm not absolutely certain the place even exists. I think it's interesting how much more an eastern Washingtonian's answers apply to a state like Minnesota than to the more populous, more liberal, more green Puget Sound area.

H/T to Julie, who's fortunate enough already to live in the state the quiz selected for her.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Are you sure about that, old sport?

You're The Great Gatsby!

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Having grown up in immense wealth and privilege, the world is truly at your doorstep. Instead of reveling in this life of luxury, however, you spend most of your time mooning over a failed romance. The object of your affection is all but worthless – a frivolous liar – but it matters not to you. You can paint any image of the past you want and make it seem real. If you were a color of fishing boat light, you would be green.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

I didn't try to manipulate the test or anything, but if you attempted to come up with my diametrical opposite, this would be a good description.

A/T to Compassion Fatigue Julie at Happy Catholic.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Shut up and do as you're told!

You're just the pharmacist. It's not like you're a trained professional. What business do you have deciding for yourself what your store will carry? We'll make the choices for you, dammit! That's why we're pro-choice!

The language originally proposed at yesterday’s meeting by the Department of Health would have required that pharmacists fill all lawfully prescribed drugs and devices unless those drugs are unsafe for the client or fraudulent, or if there is another pharmacist available on-site who will fill the prescription.

But by the end of the meeting an alternative version emerged that permits a pharmacist to refuse to serve a patient and refer them elsewhere.

The meeting was largely dominated by Pharmacy Board member Donna Dockter, a Seattle pharmacist whose term expires next January. Dockter spent the majority of the meeting expressing her strong opposition to a pharmacists’ duty to fill lawful prescriptions and advocated for new language that would permit a pharmacist to refuse a patient and refer them somewhere else.

Dockter’s version reads that if a pharmacist “cannot fill a lawfully prescribed stocked drug or device,” that pharmacist may “transfer the prescription to another pharmacist,” regardless of whether the other pharmacy stocks the drug or not.

You know, the mantra of the pro-death crowd used to be "Don't push your morality on us!" Now it's "Respect our auth-or-i-tah!" Pushing morality is only bad if religious people do it; we shouldn't even be allowed to keep our morality to ourselves.

I thought this comment was especially representative of the uterofascist line:
Donna Dockter, eh? Does anyone know what pharmacy this dumb fucking bitch works at? It would be nice if we could exercise some consumer McCarthyism and boycott pharmacies that employ Fundie pharmacists.

Of course, by the logic these jackbooters employ, it should be illegal to make business choices based on your personal beliefs. But we'll leave that aside for a moment. Besides, I expecct that personal harassment will be forthcoming instead. If I was able to find out quickly enough where she works, I imagine the brownshirts will too. Her home address shouldn't be that hard to find, either. I wouldn't want to hold the insurance policy on, say, her front picture window. (Update: Found 'em both. Took about five minutes.)

Let's note first that "Fundies" are a very small segment of the people who will be affected by this. The largest group is Catholics, and that's what really gravels the uterofascists. Frankly, the Catholic church is the biggest obstacle to making opposition to abortion illegal. The Church stubbornly refuses to change its stance to reflect non-members' demands, and this is intolerable. Allowing practicing Catholics to be members of professions that would otherwise be involved in abortion is a tacit admission that there is a moral question involved. So they have to be eliminated.

The next step will be to require all doctors to offer abortions, under the same logic. Then lawsuits against the Church will start cropping up demanding that they desist from prohibiting its members from participating in abortions. In the end, these people are hoping to see the Church outlawed altogether. (Don't laugh – it's happened before in this country.)

The other thing to bear in mind is that the venom is directed only at people who don't believe in abortion. Other private businesses are left alone. Would there be a hue and cry against a convenience store that refused to sell cigarettes? Not bloody likely!

I'll believe that these people are honest in their convictions when they support a law requiring kosher delis to sell ham.

Via Washington State Political Report.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Dogs-Playing-Poker Code

Of course there was more than met the eye to those paintings. Much like a philosopher with hemorrhoids, it stood to reason.

Speaking both of reason and hindquarters, it also makes sense that the Wittenburg Door would come up with something like this. And that I would owe an Akubra Tip to Kathy Shaidle.