Monthly Archives: October 2009

Four Ways to Celebrate Reformation Day

As always, Reformation Day coincides with Halloween. But as our Catholic brothers and sisters know, Christian celebrations and leftover paganism work together quite well.

Here are some thoughts on how to wed Halloween and Reformation Day.

1. Instead of playing Ring-and-Run, try Nail-and-Run.

You remember the old ring-and-run trick: sneak up to someone’s doorstep, ring her doorbell, run, hide, and watch the hapless lady of the house come to the door and look around.

To celebrate Reformation Day, take a page from Martin Luther.

Instead of ringing the doorbell and running away, nail some profound thoughts to the door and then run away.

2. Give Reese’s Theses to trick-or-treaters.

Using your home printer and PhotoShop, recreate the Reese’s Pieces bag as Reese’s Theses.

Now open a few bags of Reese’s Pieces. Count out 95 candies and insert them in a Reese’s Theses bag. Seal and set by the front door.

Image how cool it will be if someone comes to the door dressed like the Pope.

3. This year, try the un-costume

As many Protestants believe today, robes and mantels and cassocks are all Romish trappings.

Roman Catholic priests wear these offensive costumes of robes as a statement against justification by faith.

There is only one fully adequate, completely satisfactory act of defiance in the face of these vestments.

You guessed it. You must dis-robe. You can’t be justified by boxers — or briefs.

4. Instead of handing out evangelistic tracts, preach sound theology.

When you hand out candy to trick-or-treaters, tell them, “This is an example of unmerited favor.”
Happy Reformation Day! Happy Halloween!

Taylor Marshall’s short history lesson: Catholicism, Protestantism, and the Church of England

I admit I’ve been interested in Taylor Marshall. His journey seems unlikely — or does it?

He started out thoroughly Protestant. He received a masters degree in systematic theology from Westminster Theological Seminary (a rigorously Reformed institution) and later earned a Certificate of Anglican Studies from Nashotah Theological House. He served as an Episcopal priest before converting to Roman Catholicism in 2006. He is the author of The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity. He is currently a Doctoral Student and Instructor of Philosophy at the University of Dallas.

The following is an excerpt from this article published today at Catholic Online.

Those who remember their high school history might recall that Pope Gregory the Great sent missionaries to England in the late sixth century to establish the Catholic Church in England. In A.D. 598, Pope Gregory the Great designated the township of Canterbury as the nation’s principal see. There were hiccups along the way (Norman conquest), but England remained under the pastoral oversight of the Pope until 1534 when King Henry VIII declared himself caput ecclesiae anglicanae “Head of the English Church.” Henry VIII never shook his devotion to the old rites. He demanded priestly celibacy, Latin Masses, and prayers for the dead. He did however have an appetite for the wealth of the monasteries. When Henry VIII died in 1547, he left his son Edward VI as king. As a Protestant, Edward approved a Protestantized English ritual which became known as the Book of Common Prayer in 1549.

The liturgies found in the Book of Common Prayer and subsequent editions reveal a careful blend of medieval Catholic piety mixed with subtle Protestantism. Henry’s daughter Queen Elizabeth fully realized this compromise between Catholicism and Protestantism—perhaps the cleverest grab for political power in history. As England colonized the world, she spread her national Anglican church. In America, she became the Episcopal Church. The new worldwide conglomerate of national churches became known as the Anglican Communion. Since those days, the Anglican Communion has been divided into roughly three camps: High Church (more Catholic), Low Church (more Protestant), and Broad Church (liberals who bless the political and cultural mores of society—something going all the way back to Henry’s desire for a second marriage, and then a third marriage, and then a fourth…you know the story).

In the last twenty years, the Broad Churchmen emerged as victors in the Anglican Communion …

Guess how many Church of England clergy could go to Rome; guess which U.S. parish could, too

The Right Rev. John Broadhurst, the Bishop of Fulham, has said about 1,000 Church of England clergy will seek to join the Roman Catholic Church. — The Associated Press, Oct. 25, 2009

That relates to “an announcement [made last week] by the Vatican, saying that Pope Benedict XVI had authorized an Apostolic Constitution. The constitution would allow Anglicans to move to the Catholic church, but keep their own liturgy and married priests,” The Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, the Rosemont (Penn.) Journal reported,

When the Vatican announced last week that it would welcome groups of traditionalist Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church, leaders of one Episcopal parish celebrated as if a ship had arrived to rescue them from a drifting ice floe.

”We’d been praying for this daily for two years,” said Bishop David L. Moyer, who leads the Church of the Good Shepherd, a parish in the Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia that is battling to keep its historic property. ”When I heard the news I was speechless, then the joy came and the tears.”

This parish could be one of the first in the United States to convert en masse after the Vatican completes plans for a new structure to allow Anglicans to become Catholic while retaining many of their spiritual traditions, like the Book of Common Prayer and married priests.

Richard Dawkins: Nostalgic for Evensong

Remember the guy who brought us “The God Delusion”?

Though he’s not the sentimental type, Dawkins admits to “an English nostalgia for village life, including church. I never go, find it excruciatingly boring, but still, I have some nostalgia for evensong on a summer evening.”

From a L.A. Times profile here.

New book on Andy Warhol released Tuesday

Pop: The Genius of Andy Warhol by Tony Scherman and David Dalton is due this coming Tuesday (October 27).

Photographer David McCabe attends the ‘Pop: The Genius of Andy Warhol’ book launch party at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery on October 20, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)

Writer David Dalton and photo editor Julia Moore attend the ‘Pop: The Genius of Andy Warhol’ book launch party at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery on October 20, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)
Content © 2009 Getty Images All rights reserved.

The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall

BERLIN – OCTOBER 21: A worker pulls out one of the approximately 1,000 giant, styrofoam ‘dominos’ that will be used to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall and that are currently stored at a warhouse after a press conference there on October 21, 2009 in Berlin, Germany. In November, the dominos, which are decorated with motifs having to do with the end of the Cold War, will be lined up in front of the Brandenburg Gate towards Potsdamer Paltz and then will be tipped over to symbolize the domino-like fall of communism throughout central and eastern Europe in 1989. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images) Content © 2009 Getty Images All rights reserved. Accessed through PicApp.

Doug Bandow provides a quick book recommendation

Update: Be sure to read Eric Schansberg’s comment on this post!

I emailed Doug Bandow, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, to ask him for book recommendations for those who want to develop a libertarian political perspective from a Christian standpoint.

On Friday, Bandow replied with this suggestion: Poor Policy: How Government Harms the Poor (1996) by D. Eric Schansberg.

Bandow is the author of The Politics of Envy: Statism as Theology (1994), in which he outlines a Christian approach to politcal libertarianism.

So why consider libertarian politics and Christianity together? Doesn’t libertarianism provide an anything-goes attitude that opposes the Bible’s moral dictates?

Bandow explained in The Politics of Envy

“That is, liberty — the right to exercise choice, free from coercive state regulation — is a necessary precondition for virtue. And virtue is ultimately necessary for the survival of liberty.

“Virtue cannot exist without freedom, without the right to make moral choices. By virtue I mean the dictionary definition: moral excellence, goodness, righteousness. Coerced acts of conformity with some moral norm, however good, do not represent virtue; rather, the compliance with that moral norm must be voluntary” (emphasis added).

Furthermore, I have always loved the subtitle to that book. Statism as Theology explains so much about our era, in which many people really believe that the application of political will power to the machinery of the modern bureaucratic state can solve most of our problems.

New book: ‘The Courage to Believe’

If the following press release gives an accurate representation, then “The Courage to Believe” should be a worthwhile book:

It isn’t sentimental, vague, or predictable. Respected theologian Roy J. Enquist‘s new book, The Courage to Believe, is a straightforward scholarly work that brilliantly explores contemporary issues. It offers overviews of scripture, sheds light on biblical redaction, and penetrates the essentials of the Christian faith with clarity. The Courage to Believe will challenge liberals and delight conservatives because of its “high” Christology and serious trinitarianism. It will challenge the conservatives and delight the liberals because of its strong use of historical criticism, affirmation of evolution, and its emphasis on connections between spirituality and ethics. It is a book that seeks to be widely inclusive for Christians while affirming other religions, especially Judaism and Islam.

The author is a former Canon Ecumenist at Washington National Cathedral and co-translator of Paul Tillich‘s book, The Socialist Decision. A professor Emeritus at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Roy Enquist develops some critical themes as he writes about the confusions and possibilities of both private and public faith. In fact, political theology is a major theme in The Courage to Believe, where it is clear that the world God so loved was never a world devoid of public culture. Thus, faith and power, faith and justice, faith and science and technology, faith and ecology, faith and history are all addressed in comprehensive fashion while the author speaks in a voice that is as pastoral as it is scholarly.

Enquist’s robust evangelical (not fundamentalist) perspective is appreciated by Nicholas Beale who contributed the foreword. Beale, co-author with John Polkinghorne of Questions of Truth, was particularly taken with Enquist’s non-fundamentalist approach to discussing religion and science in the book. He believes that the ideas expressed represent tremendous strides in dispelling the notion of an unavoidable conflict between faith and science.

The Courage to Believe (ISBN 9780982265529) is a major book offered by the new publishing house, Hansen-McMenamy Books, LLC out of Texas. It may be a stretch to believe that a ridiculously small operation can do justice to such a fine work, but the publishers say that this is the caliber of work they aim to continue to produce. The book will be widely available beginning in November, 2009.

Distributed by Religion Press Release Services

Killing dreams as well as nightmares; Green Day explains ‘Restless Heart Syndrome’

Recently I watched an Internet interview program in which the three members of Green Day talked about their album 21st Century Breakdown.

Mike Dirnt, bass player, said the song “Restless Heart Syndrome” was about the “government-regulated emotions” allowed through prescription drugs, implicitly some of the mood and anxiety-related meds.

He seemed wary of the nation’s increasing dependence on such drugs: 

“On the one hand you might be killing off old nightmares, but you could end up killing your dreams instead,” Dirnt said.

I wanted to concur. I have personally witnessed how medication can be a good and necessary thing for some people, but these days, I wonder if we Americans reach for drugs too quickly, without first doing the hard work of maintaining the soul.

Money, not meaning

The goals and priorities of college students have changed in my lifetime, as demonstrated by the shift in the numbers for certain majors.

William Chace, former president of Wesleyan and Emory universities, writing in The American Scholar:

Here is how the numbers have changed from 1970/71 to 2003/04 (the last academic year with available figures):

English: from 7.6 percent of the majors to 3.9 percent

Foreign languages and literatures: from 2.5 percent to 1.3 percent

Philosophy and religious studies: from 0.9 percent to 0.7 percent

History: from 18.5 percent to 10.7 percent

Business: from 13.7 percent to 21.9 percent

Why does this matter? R. Howard Bloch, chair of the Humanities Program at Yale, offers a keen explanation in this article in Humanities magazine:

Humanists are specialists in an activity upon which we daily depend, consciously or not, in everything we do: the making and assessment of meaning. The making of such meaning shapes the world of the arts; it is the operating principle of politics and understandings of the law; it rules our religious belief; it lies at the core of higher education and the development and spread of new knowledge.