Archive for the 'John’s Articles' Category

Scott Stephens reflecting on Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man and the Jesus’ trial:

It is in control of his life, and it couldn’t care less. And that’s the obscenity of the entire ordeal. There is no slick dialogue or high courtroom drama in The Wrong Man – just the brutal enactment of an insane system that is convinced of its own rectitude.

And of course the parallel:

The Gospel narratives depict Jesus as being paraded, like some freak at a carnival, before Pilate and then Herod, both of whom taunt and goad Jesus to accept their supposed power over him and thus to join in their insanity. They want Jesus to be part of their world, to quiver before them, or at least to rage against them. But instead, Jesus remains silent.

They’re talking about love at Inhabitatio Dei, from Bonhoeffer. I have a great of respect for Bonhoeffer, living as he did, through dark times, admitting that darkness was there and offering a faithful alternative to overcoming it through Christ. I admit that I have not spent a lot of time in more purely theological or philosophical pursuits. I mostly deal with historical and biblical questions. But this I could not pass up, I found it extremely moving and relevant in my own life and relationships.

Reading any literary piece is both a science and an art. It requires discipline, as well as creativity. Many of the principles here are applicable to any literature. That goes for holy texts as well. Here we’re looking at the Christian Scriptures. You could easily use this for other religious texts (though for ahistorical works like Buddhism the historical method is far less important). When reading a contemporary novel you won’t recognize that you’re doing these methods – but you really are. On a side note these methods are also exactly why fantasy (Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings) and sci-fi (Battlestar Galactica) is such a ready medium for displaying moral and ethical dilemmas and dramas that challenge us in our life. In short, the method is threefold; history, worldview, and exegesis.

I really have seven hundred places I could start, but this is closest to the main point I want to talk about:

This true meaning has remained hidden because the Church has trivialised it and the world has rubbished it. The Church has turned Jesus’s Resurrection into a “happy ending” after the dark and messy story of Good Friday, often scaling it down so that “resurrection” becomes a fancy way of saying “He went to Heaven”. Easter then means: “There really is life after death”… Now, suddenly, the real meaning of Easter comes into view, as well as the real reason why it has been trivialised and sidelined. Easter is about a new creation that has already begun. God is remaking His world, challenging all the other powers that think that is their job. The rich, wise order of creation and its glorious, abundant beauty are reaffirmed on the other side of the thing that always threatens justice and beauty – death. Christianity’s critics have always sneered that nothing has changed. But everything has. The world is a different place. NT Wright in Times Online

After all, isn’t “Jesus Loves Me This I Know” all we really need to know for a quality ministry? No – resoundingly not.Jesus Creed

A few facts, Christianity has always existed in a pluralistic society, a society that has a choice about religion. Christianity is not a personal religion, it has something to say (“Jesus is Lord”) to the world around it. That Gospel message is seen both in talk and action. The world is increasingly casting Christians into a position where they are not allowed to engage in the public sphere. What that means is that Christianity will fail to be able to preach the Gospel (not even that it won’t be “successful”, or convert people, but that our words won’t be allowed to have influence in the wider world). Why? One reason is education.

The student body at Notre Dame has written and will demonstrate against the choice of the University to have President Obama speak at their commencement.  They are doing this out of fidelity to the Church and her position on abortion.  It is incredibly well written:


In defense of the unborn, we wish to express our deepest opposition to Reverend John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.’s invitation of President Barack Obama to be the University of Notre Dame’s principal commencement speaker and the recipient of an honorary degree. Our objection is not a matter of political partisanship, but of President Obama’s hostility to the Catholic Church’s teachings on the sanctity of human life at its earliest stages. His recent dedication of federal funds to overseas abortions and to embryonic stem cell research will directly result in the deaths of thousands of innocent human beings.

What do you have when you have a person who is… -passionately against abortion and gay marriage (and able to explain why) -self-identified as a “conservative” -able to relate their social, cultural and political beliefs to their beliefs about God -not distinctively anchored in the historic Christian faith, particularly its beliefs about the authority of scripture, the fall, the church, the Gospel and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. These doctrines seem to play little or no part in this person’s thinking/living. Is this a disciple of Jesus Christ? Is this a picture of what the church is to produce?

A clever post by Raffi about being both innocent as doves and wise as serpents. It is fairly easy to be either of these extremes. I used to be a high-handed theological serpent when it came to people. I saw everything starkly and in black and white, except myself of course. I have definitely swung around like a pendulum to the the other side. I certainly did the “serpent” act wrong most of the time. Maybe I’m doing the “dove” act wrong most of the time as well. But that is why life is here. Live and learn, rinse and repeat. We have more than once chance. We are not the sum of our successes or failures. Though each of our successes and failures have consequences that we have to live with – for better and worse.

I just finished watching Constantine’s Sword by James Carroll. It was not what I expected from a seminarian and ex-Catholic priest. I expected more of a documentary explaining theology behind the peace movements. Carroll, during his priesthood, while a chaplain at Boston University, was a big part of the Christian anti-war movement. What the move actually is was very different. Part of my expectations were based on a lecture I saw that Carroll gave during the Religion & Violence Conference given last February at Trinity Church in Wall St. New York City. In that lecture he gave a fantastic analysis of the American civil religion and violence, heavily based on biblical themes though in no way actually backed by it. I got a story about primarily about anti-Semitism throughout the Christian ages. On its way through that story was the interaction with state-backed religion, and a smart bit of theology about it. The stories were incredibly moving. One of the most moving images was seeing the erection of a Cross directly outside the walls of Auschwitz by the then Pope. It is unfathomable to me that the institution of the church could be so insensitive. I highly recommend this film for all to see.

Some Milk

Responding to Sean Penn’s Oscar speech:

In this worldview, gender is viewed as a social construct that has nothing to do with what it means to be human. Notwithstanding the accidents of biology, male and female are totally interchangeable in marriage and in society. The normalization of homosexual relations flows naturally from this view, as does advocacy of gay “marriage.” When male and female are interchangeable, almost any sexual arrangement can be normalized. Both Black and Penn put this worldview on display in their acceptance speeches.Denny Burk

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