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Do You Know Where You Were Last Sunday? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 13 April 2008 08:02
The low-down on Mass Attendance

23% of American Catholic adults say they attend Mass every week.

(We should remember that a 90's hand-count of actual attendance at American churches on a given Sunday showed that the numbers present were much lower than the number of Americans who told surveyors they attended Church every Sunday. 48% said they attended every Sunday but only 25% were actually in the pews when the count took place. There is a natural, built-in inflation factor here since people are often answering based upon the fact that they mean to be there every Sunday or think of themselves as a regular church-goer. The actual numbers in the pew on a given Sunday are almost certainly considerably lower than self-reporting would indicated.)

Twice as many Catholics - 56% - report that they are never or rarely attend or only attend a few times a year.

21% attend at least once a month (which in some US dioceses and in Australia is the standard to be considered a "practicing" Catholic.)

So using this as a standard, that would mean about 44% of US Catholics would be considered "practicing" and 56% "non-practicing."

Which looks fairly dismal until you compare it to other western countries like Australia where only 15% of Catholics attend Mass once a month. In France, weekly attendance is usually put at less than 5%, under 10% in deeply Catholic Austria, etc. so you can see why the Pope might look with respect and interest on a western country that is still overtly religious in its public life and possesses a huge and relatively vibrant Catholic population.

And now off to Mass.

Just in case anyone was curious :-}
 
RCIA as Young Adult Movement? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 13 April 2008 08:02
According to the CARA survey:

16% of US Catholics entered the Church after infancy. 8% as children (presumably some of these are being raised Catholic and are simply "late" baptisms but the majority would be entering from another background with their parent(s); 1% as teens, 7% as adults - 75% of whom entered through an RCIA process.

Very interesting: 48% of those who entered as adults did so as young adults between the ages of 18 and 29. Connect that with the Pew Survey findings that probably a majority of US adults reevaluate the faith in which they were raised as children and choose another one as adults. Pew did not, to my knowledge, ask at what age that re-evaluation took place but young adulthood would be an obvious place for it to happen.

So roughly 2/3 of those who enter the Church after infancy do so before age 30.

Looking at RCIA as a young adult movement that is especially meaningful in light of the apparent American norm of reevaluating spirituality and religious beliefs in adulthood. Lots of intriguing implications.

It certainly was true for me and my circle of friends.
 
CARA Survey on Belief & Practice Among US Catholics PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 13 April 2008 07:51
The brand new CARA survey results have been posted in anticipation of the Pope's visit

The theme: Sacraments Today: Belief and Practice Among US Catholics.

Good stuff. More on this later.
 
Called & Gifted at World Youth Day PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 13 April 2008 06:12
Our Australian team has just sent me a link to the Dominican blog post about our presentation at World Youth Day this summer.

It is interesting to hear our vision being spoken with a slightly different accent:

During WYD 2008 the Catherine of Siena Institute will be participating in the Youth Festival with a short presentation equipping young people for the discernment task to which they are called by the Holy Spirit.

Most baptized Catholics are aware that God has a plan for their lives, but need assistance in identifying how to read the signs the Holy Spirit is working in their lives. The Institute’s programs offer real and concrete assistance in this work of discernment and in understanding each person’s unique role in the mission of the Church. In the usual work of the Institute this is done through the Called and Gifted Workshops but at WYD 2008 the Institute will provide an introduction to this work of discernment aimed specifically at young people.

“Our focus will be discernment as a right and duty for all the baptized. Ours is another truly radical and authentic approach to vocational discernment,” says Clara Geoghegan, co-director of the Catherine of Siena Institute, Australia. The Institute is sponsored by the Dominican friars' Province of the Assumption in Australia and New Zealand with the involvement of co-director Fr Anthony Walsh, O.P.

The essence of this vocation is mission - to witness to Christ and the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Each member of the Church has a unique and irreplaceable vocation which will take into account their individuality and unique place in the world. They have also been individually and uniquely ‘gifted’ by the Holy Spirit to fulfill that vocation.

“The presentation will look at examples of how discerning and using our charisms can change lives and bring God’s love and healing to those around us. We will show how these gifts have been used in the Church by the saints – particularly WYD 2008 patrons such as Mother Teresa and Pier Giorgio Frassati – but also in the lives of ordinary Christians,” she said.

The Youth Festival presentation will look at the real clues in our lives: the Church, our uniqueness and giftedness, the context in which we live our lives. These are all important clues discerning our vocation and our mission.

“A final message we want to give the WYD pilgrims, is that God acts when we act. Too often discernment is perceived as something which requires withdrawal from the world,” says Clara. “In reality we only learn through doing and reflecting on the ways in which the Holy Spirit works through our actions. Lay people are called to live our their spirituality in and through the world” she said.


I've met a number of American Catholics who are going to be at World Youth Day. Any ID readers planning to go?
 
Snapshot of Life in the Evangelical Vatican PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 12 April 2008 11:28
You know that you are really living in the evangelical Vatican when:

You run out on your first Saturday morning at home to check out local low cost organic grocery store run by a local Catholic family and discover that next door is a shop calling itself a Christian discount warehouse whose windows are plastered with "going out of business" signs.

So you step in to see if there is anything of interest and on sale and you hear three guys at the counter talking about:

The huge numbers of Muslims becoming Christians in the middle east. About a local congregation of Iranian Christians whose services they had attended. About a guy they'd met last week who told them that Christians were openly holding large scale evangelistic campaigns in Pakistan. And no one mentions Magdi Allam.

And you know that 1) that you are not only living in an evangelical community, you are living in an evangelical community that contains the headquarters of over a hundred missionary-minded Christian organizations.

And then you ask the store owner if he is going out of business and he explains:

"Well I was. You see, I have a church that grew out of the store. People were getting saved and it just kinda became a church and now we have three services and 120 people and I can't do both so I thought I'd get out when my lease was up. . ."

Some day I will count but I have never seen so many little strip malls filled with budding congregations and evangelical organizations as I've seen here in Colorado Springs. Except maybe in Jakarta. It's my theory that you aren't allowed to operate a strip mall in Colorado Springs that doesn't contain at least one Christian group . I know that the Institute's presence keep our little mall legal.

And that's how you really, really, really know that you aren't in Seattle anymore. Mission-minded evangelicalism permeates the atmosphere here the way Catholicism permeates Rome.
 
George Bush: "Closet Catholic?" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 12 April 2008 08:09
This will get 'em talking.

In anticipation of the Pope's visit next week, the Washington Post ran a piece this morning on President George Bush as a "closet Catholic" ala Tony Blair while still in office. The title? A Catholic Wind in the White House.

As the White House prepares to welcome Benedict on Tuesday, many in Bush's inner circle expect the pontiff to find a kindred spirit in the president. Because if Bill Clinton can be called America's first black president, some say, then George W. Bush could well be the nation's first Catholic president.

"I don't think there's any question about it," says Rick Santorum, former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and a devout Catholic, who was the first to give Bush the "Catholic president" label. "He's certainly much more Catholic than Kennedy."

Bush attends an Episcopal church in Washington and belongs to a Methodist church in Texas, and his political base is solidly evangelical. Yet this Protestant president has surrounded himself with Roman Catholic intellectuals, speechwriters, professors, priests, bishops and politicians. These Catholics -- and thus Catholic social teaching -- have for the past eight years been shaping Bush's speeches, policies and legacy to a degree perhaps unprecedented in U.S. history.

"I used to say that there are more Catholics on President Bush's speechwriting team than on any Notre Dame starting lineup in the past half-century," said former Bush scribe -- and Catholic -- William McGurn.

Bush has also placed Catholics in prominent roles in the federal government and relied on Catholic tradition to make a public case for everything from his faith-based initiative to antiabortion legislation. He has wedded Catholic intellectualism with evangelical political savvy to forge a powerful electoral coalition.

"There is an awareness in the White House that the rich Catholic intellectual tradition is a resource for making the links between Christian faith, religiously grounded moral judgments and public policy," says Richard John Neuhaus, a Catholic priest and editor of the journal First Things who has tutored Bush in the church's social doctrines for nearly a decade.



If George Bush is a "closet Catholic", then he is a "closet particular-shade-of-American-Catholic" that has is blown along by a very particularly American kind of Catholic wind. A wind that fosters a potent cafeteria Catholicism of both the right and the left.

If you want to argue that Bush has been influenced by and adapted a certain part of Catholic teaching that fits rather easily into his existing worldview - ok. I have no problems buying that. In that, he is very much like average American Catholics all along the political spectrum.

But the Church's teaching calls all of us to account regardless of whether we are "natural" liberals or conservatives. red or blue staters. It is supposed to call us to account. The Tradition judges our natural assumptions and inclinations because the Tradition is derived from realities that God has revealed to us, realities that utterly transcend our fallen human responses or knowledge. The fullness of the Church's Tradition challenges those of us on the right just as much as it does those on the left.

The easy solution, the road that most Americans have taken, is to acknowledge those aspects of the Church's social teaching which reinforce what we already held to be true and important and ignore the rest. But that doesn't make us good Catholics.

Until the President shows signs of grasping that most basic of Catholic moral teachings: - you cannot do evil in order to achieve the good - until we see him coming to terms with implications of the Church's teaching on the life and dignity of every person that call into question his hotly defended stands on issues like torture or the death penalty, I can't take him seriously as a "closet Catholic".

And if I am supposed to draw the conclusion from the WaPo atrticle that Bush's policies ,as a whole, are the fruit of his instruction by a bevy of seriously believing, theologically astute, non-cafeteria Catholics, then all I can say is that his advisors have failed in a dramatic fashion.

A "closet Catholic" President would be someone who trusts the Church's role as teacher and is truly seeking to think with the Church about his responsibilities across the board.

Not just using Catholic intellectual sophistication in this area to make more effective arguments for policies that he already supported while turning a deaf ear to things he doesn't want to hear.
 
13,000 New Catholics Baptized in China This Easter PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 11 April 2008 22:44
From CNA:

Rome, Apr 11, 2008 / 09:07 pm (CNA).- The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples reports that during the Easter Vigil over 13,000 people were baptized in China.

The Fides news agency reports that in the 80 dioceses of continental China, “13,608 people were baptized in the Easter Vigil 2008. In addition to the Sacrament of Baptism, the catechumens also received the other two sacraments of initiation: Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist.”

“The number of baptized in 2008 is much higher than that of 8,000 baptized on Easter in 2007. As well, many parishes and dioceses in China not only celebrate Baptisms on Easter, but throughout the entire liturgical year, according to the local needs,” Fides revealed.

The report also indicated that “the number 13,608 is the result of a provisory study done by the Chinese Catholic website ‘Faith’” and that “in the Archdiocese of Beijing, there were about 500 baptized on Easter, 100 more than in 2007,” while “among the newly baptized in the Diocese of Shang Hai, where baptisms have had to be celebrated all year long, there were 54 university students.”

Praise God.

To put those numbers in perspective, 60,000 + adults were baptized as Catholics in the US this Easter.
 
Bits of Anglican News and a Bad Sheavian Joke PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 11 April 2008 15:30
This was going the rounds of Episcopalian/Anglican circles last week and generating lots of discussion. This ad ran in the April edition of "Episcopal Life"

THE ANGLICAN USE SOCIETY in America in communion with the Holy See of Rome offers to Clergy, Religious and Laity of the Anglican Tradition an information booklet explaining THE PASTORAL PROVISION, the canonical instrument that has made possible their reconciliation with the Holy See as units of common identity which preserve their Anglican heritage of liturgy, hymnody and spirituality.

In other words, an official publication of the Episcopal Church includes an advertisement from an official Roman Catholic organization that invites Episcopal congregations to leave the Episcopal Church and become Roman Catholic.


Speaking of which, the 2008 Anglican Use Conference will take place July 10 - 12 in San Antonio, Texas.

I need to stop for a moment and contemplate speaking several days in mid July in San Antonio. Hmmm. 110 in the shade, Spanish-speaking, and Catholic to its historic core. OK. The new Anglicanism, I guess.

Reminds me irresistably of a conversation I witnessed between Mark Shea (who was then a mere nobody Catholic neophyte) and Peter Kreet (who was presenting at a conference Mark and I were attending.

Mark to Dr. Kreeft: "I have a question, Dr. Kreeft."

Dr. Kreeft: (taking off his glasses and preparing to give Mark his full attention).

Mark, earnestly: "Is it as hot in hell as it is in this room?"

Kreeft (without missing a beat): "Yes, and in hell, the air conditioners are always broken."
 
Eastern Catholic Blog Awards PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 11 April 2008 15:14
Lots of interesting ecumenical news about.

First off, the Eastern Christian Blog Awards.

The awards are open to all Eastern Christian blogs regardless of affiliation. Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, Assyrian Church of the East et al. are welcome and encouraged to be submitted for voting.

Categories?

Best Blog on the Domestic Church

Blogging about everyday life informed by faith - family, home, work-life, and everything in between.

Best Individual Blog

Preeminent blog written by an individual.

Best Group Blog

Premier blog worked on by a group of people.

Best Church News Blog

Best blog at keeping up with current events and providing insightful commentary.

Best Theology Blog

Most well regarded blog on matters theological. This doesn't require lofty examinations of arcane topics, but perspicacity that enlightens and provokes thoughtful discussion.

Funniest Blog

A blog that is simply, unequivocally funny.

Most Visually Attractive Blog

A blog that either presents beautiful images on a regular basis, has a well designed blog format, or in some other way is pleasing to the eye.

hat tip: Koinonia
 
Where to, Mortal? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 11 April 2008 11:49

Here's a lovely, anonymous reflection on our experience of the death of a loved one. Of course, depending upon the nature of those standing on the other shore, it could be a horrifying image. Let's cultivate our relationship with God so that the joyful shout is raised by the saints and faithful angels.

I am standing on the seashore.
A ship spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean.
I stand watching her until she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says, She is gone."

Gone where?

The loss of sight is in me, not in her.
Just at the moment when someone says, "She is gone," there are others who are watching her coming.
Other voices take up the glad shout,
"Here she comes!"

And that is dying.
 
The Shepherd of Disciples PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Friday, 11 April 2008 09:16
Here's a brief reflection on the Scriptures for this Sunday...

Being known as a sheep is generally not considered a good career move. How many job descriptions do you read in the paper that begin, "Wanted: good follower, not too intelligent, relatively helpless prey for predatory competitors"? But we are, in fact, not too impressive on our own - or even in a group - without the Good Shepherd. Jesus knows where fallen human nature, left to itself, leads – and it isn't pretty!

It is precisely the intentional disciple of Jesus, the Christian who has placed his or her life in the hands of the Good Shepherd, who is able to accomplish good, even great, things. Not because they have greater natural talents, skills, money, or opportunities, but because they become daily collaborators with Jesus, and his power and grace begin to work through them.

This is because at our baptism God gave us spiritual gifts, called charisms in Greek, that are given to us for the benefit of other people. They become 'activated', if you will, when our relationship with Jesus becomes personal; when we begin to realize he is someone Who loves us and who desires to be involved in our every decision, every conversation, every good activity.

Ironically, when we begin to enter into this deeply personal relationship with our Good Shepherd, we begin to stand out from the herd! He calls us by name. In Jesus' day to know someone's name, or to name someone or something meant that you knew something essential to that person or thing, and even had some authority over it. This is why it's very significant when Jesus renames Simon "the Rock", or why Jesus asks the name of the spirit afflicting the Gerasene demoniac (Lk 8:30). It also indicates how God humbles Himself by responding to Moses' request to know His name (Ex 3:14).

So when Jesus says the Good Shepherd calls his sheep by name (Jn 10:3), it means that he knows who I am in my deepest core. He knows what I can do, and what I can best be. When I choose to follow him as his disciple, it means that I give him authority over me. And it is then that he begins to work through me to change the lives of the people and institutions around me in a way that is unique to me.

Jesus calls all of his sheep. That means we all have a vocation (from the Latin vocare "to call"). And responding to that call will guarantee we find the deepest meaning and purpose of our life in some unique work of his love in the world. And that work will be to us a rich, verdant pasture.
 
The LA Cathedral's Saints PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Friday, 11 April 2008 08:27

I had a chance Wednesday, while in Claremont, CA, for a parish mission at Our Lady of the Assumption parish, to go to the LA Cathedral. It's an impressive structure in the heart of the city built to last five hundred years. While I know traditionalists love to hate its modern design, I found much of the artwork inside extremely powerful and uplifting.

One thing that touched me were the angels that adorn the dedication candles that ring the nave. They were designed based on a dozen or so different people's experience or perception of angels, and each one is different. Some seem to be offering protection, others seem to demonstrate God's beauty or power, others seem to offer challenge to our half-hearted following of their Creator.

I was also stunned to find the sanctuary crucifix is only about ten feet high, with the feet of Jesus at about waist level. In such a large cathedral in which the ceiling is at least 100 feet overhead, that kind of intimacy was unexpected. Such proximity allows worshippers to gather close to the bronze corpus of the crucified Lord. The artist studied the physical effects of the torture of crucifixion on the human body and incorporated his findings into his bronze. So Jesus' legs are swelled with bodily fluid, his hands are frozen in spasm, and his flayed body a rough mass of welts.

But by far the most powerful art in the cathedral are the tapestries that line the four walls of the worship space. According to the LA cathedral website
Twenty-five fresco-like tapestries depict 135 saints and blesseds from around the world, including holy men and women of North America canonized by the Church. Twelve untitled figures, including children of all ages, represent the many anonymous holy people in our midst. All the figures direct our eyes to the light of the great Cross-window above the Altar where the Eucharist is celebrated.
The saints were selected to represent all the ethnic groups in the LA Archdiocese, and when photographs or portraits were unavailable, the artist, John Nava, used some of his friends and people from Ojai, CA, who fit the physical description of particular saints, as his models. Because they face the cross and altar, rather than the congregation, I would have thought the lack of direct eye contact from them would have made them seem somehow detached from us. But these saints, blesseds, and anonymous holy people are so beautiful, I cried, and at first I couldn't imagine why.

Behind the baptismal font (the only place where one can bless oneself with holy water in the cathedral) is an enormous tapestry of Jesus being baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist. Our Lord kneels humbly before his cousin, and we see his strong back that will carry our sins and the soles of his feet which blessed our earth with each step. His head is bowed as John pours water from a bowl.
The great circular pattern above the Baptism scene is based on "Cosmati" stone floor decorations from the 11th century found in St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice, Italy. The stylized "wavy" water patterns in the lower portion are derived from Byzantine mosaic patterns found at Ravenna and that were used throughout the early Christian period.
The seven tapestries behind the altar depict the New Jerusalem converging with an overall circular "Cosmati" pattern traditionally associated with the divine. It provides symmetry with the baptismal tapestry on the opposite wall. A quote from the Book of Revelation is sewn into the tapestries that reminds us of God's presence with us here and now, especially when we gather at Eucharist. They are inscribed with the words, "See, God's dwelling is among mortals. God will dwell with them. They will be God's people and God will be with them." The surprising - and shockingly hopeful - thing is that at the center of the circle is the grid of downtown LA!

The next morning - just yesterday! - I reflected on that experience, and I think I have some ideas as to why I was so deeply moved by these tapestries. In addition to being artistically breathtaking, they speak to me of God's humility, intimate love, and absolute power to transform us. God's humility is demonstrated in sharing our humanity in Jesus and in his two-fold baptism by water and by crucifixion, the two poles of the long axis of the cathedral. Both are demonstrations of his desire to do His Father's will. His intimate love and power to transform us are shown in the saints who stand so closely to one another and to us. Their tremendous diversity is overcome and made completely insignificant in their common discipleship. Their eyes are fixed on Jesus, as should ours, but they crowd so close to one another that I can't imagine them being unaware of each other. Their stance is a constant call to discipleship, which allows us to one day take our place alongside them in the New Jerusalem, with Christ as the light of that holy city. My tears expressed my desire to be one with them and the Lord.
 
Fatuous History & Real World Policy PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 10 April 2008 08:34
More evidence, here in Colorado Springs, of our complex times. From our local Gazette:

The Air Force Academy's decision yesterday to not show clips from a film deemed "anti-Catholic" in the midst of a presentation designed to argue that the US military is not an agent of a Christian crusade against Islam.

The film was Constantine's Sword, which I will get to in a moment.

"The seminar, titled "USA's War on Terror: Not a Battle Between Christianity and Islam," was delayed 25 minutes while academy representatives debated whether to show the controversial footage, which reportedly included scenes involving alleged religious discrimination at the academy between 2003 and 2005.

The speakers were former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of the Iraq war; Islamic scholar Reza Aslan; and academy graduate Mikey Weinstein, who sued the Air Force in 2005 for allegedly encouraging Christian evangelicals to proselytize to cadets. The case was dismissed before going to trial.

Wednesday's event, which was not open to the public, was organized to counter charges of bias from the Muslim community and others after a February seminar at the academy in which cadets heard speakers claiming to be former Islamic terrorists who characterized Islam as a dangerous religion.

Wednesday's speakers, by contrast, argued that the U.S. military's embracing of Christianity sends the message to Arabs that the Iraq war is not about freeing Iraqi people but about converting the Muslim world to Christianity."

The film wasn't shown because the Academy received several phone calls warning about the film's "anti-Catholic" nature. Cause it wouldn't do to seem to be anti-Catholic while attempting to prove that you aren't anti-Muslim. One can sympathize with the organizers trying to negotiate respect toward all possible religious constituencies involved.

And now about Constantine's Sword, due out April 19. I haven't noticed a lot of Catholic bloggers picking up on this film coming out unlike the incessant talk and books about the Da Vinci Code. Naturally, the Pope's visit is looming on everyone's horizon. Was the debut during the Pope's visit intentional? Hmmmm. Is it too small a media blip to take seriously? Is the book too fatuous to take seriously? (Post-Da Vinci code, we know the answer to that one.) Do we think that major media types won't notice?

Constantine's Sword is being presented as a "documentary" . The synopsis from the film's website:

"Constantine’s Sword is the story of James Carroll; a former Catholic priest on a journey to confront his past and uncover the roots of religiously inspired violence and war. His search also reveals a growing scandal involving religious infiltration of the U.S. military and the terrible consequences of religion’s influence on America’s foreign policy.

Carroll focuses on Christian antisemitism as the model for all religious hatred, exposing the cross as a symbol of a long history of violence against Jews (and, most recently, Muslims). The film brings the history of religious intolerance to life, tracing it as a source of the fanaticism that threatens the world today. At its core, Constantine’s Sword is a compelling personal narrative — a kind of detective story — as one man uncovers the dark areas of his own past, searching for a better future.
"

The number of screenings scheduled is incredibly small at present - mostly in the LA area, including the LA film festival. It also seems to be making the rounds in liberal main-line non-Catholic circles:

On Monday, March 10th, a giant screen was set up in the nave of the National Cathedral in Washington where over 500 people watched the film, then rose for a standing ovation. The previous day, James Carroll was the featured speaker at the Cathedral’s Sunday Forum with Dean Samuel Lloyd. The film received a similar reception at Trinity Wall Street in New York City, The University of California Santa Barbara, All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., Suffolk University in Boston and Westminister College in Salt Lake City.

Discussions of the book, which came out in 2001, had already made the rounds of places like Harvard's Divinity School. (Note, not Harvard's history department!)

Like Dan Brown, the author is a novelist, not a historian. Thomas Noble, Professor of History at Notre Dame, has a thorough, damning review of the book in the May, 2001, issue of First Things:

"Carroll’s central thesis is that a generation or two after the life of Christ, a series of authors, the men we know as the evangelists, decided that it was better to get along with the powerful Romans than the despicable Jews and scripted the first version of the blood libel. That is, they made the Jews the murderers of Christ. They pulled off this clever feat by historicizing the prophecies of the Old Testament in such a way as to make Jesus Christ appear to be the Messiah. Moreover, they recorded the “intuition” of the apostles and disciples that Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus’ contemporaries actually only believed that Jesus’ love survived him, but as they gradually shifted from praying for him to praying to him they invented the story of his resurrection. So, in Carroll’s telling, the evangelists not only blamed the Jews for killing the man Jesus but for killing the Messiah. Carroll assures us that this account must be true because Crossan and the Jesus Seminar say so. Along the way Carroll cavalierly dismisses Raymond Brown, mentions a few other scholars with whom he has had conversations, and cites as his authority on Christology Rosemary Radford Ruether, with nods in the direction of Edward Schillebeeckx and Hans Küng."

We've heard this one before. As Noble observes: " One hardly knows where to begin in responding to all this."

But wait, there's more! Noble notes that Carroll asserts that

The New Testament was a "tragic historical mistake"

"because of Constantine and Helena, the Council of Constantinople inserted “He was crucified” into the primitive text of the Creed, and thereafter Christ’s death, already attributed to the Jews by those inventive evangelists, now replaced his life as the central fact of Christianity."

(To which Noble responds, 'The so-called Nicene Creed was in a state of evolution for more than a century, but it never at any stage omitted reference to or a grounding in the Crucifixion.'

As Noble sums up Carroll's thesis: " Put in simplest terms, it is Carroll’s argument that Western Civilization has been propelled primarily by Catholicism’s hatred for the Jews."

Noble's verdict on Carroll as historian?

"The historian, unlike the novelist, cannot artfully assign motives. Carroll says that it takes “moral maturity” to recognize the connections between events that others have overlooked or denied. This is fatuous. Page after page of this book would serve admirably in a college history class as an object lesson in false inferences and mistaken links of causation.".

The irony is that a book written by a Catholic passionately concerned about the Catholic church's history of anti-semitism, has been turned, in our post 9-11 world, into a film that accuses the non-Catholic US military of conducting a Christian anti-Muslim crusade. So clips of the film end up slotted for a seminar for cadets at the Air Force Academy.

Bad history fueling a movie that influences current discussions of real world policy. Imagine.

But remember this sentence from the Gazette article above:

"Wednesday's event, which was not open to the public, was organized to counter charges of bias from the Muslim community and others after a February seminar at the academy in which cadets heard speakers claiming to be former Islamic terrorists who characterized Islam as a dangerous religion.

Wednesday's speakers, by contrast, argued that the U.S. military's embracing of Christianity sends the message to Arabs that the Iraq war is not about freeing Iraqi people but about converting the Muslim world to Christianity."


In a 24/7 media world, it isn't about reality, it is about perception. You and I know that the US military didn't go into Iraq to convert Muslims and that nearly everyone there would leave today with great rejoicing if the consequences for destabilization and civil war weren't so obvious and terrible. You and I know that there is true freedom of religion in the US Armed Forces and that Muslim Americans are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. We know that the military is bending over backwards to avoid any appearance of being missionary.

But why should I expect an average Abdullah standing on a street corner in Islamabad to know that? Everything he hears from those his trusts - family, friends, religious leaders may say the opposite.

Imagine dvd's of this film making the rounds of the Muslim world - as they probably already are. Addullah's got access to a TV and dvd player and probably the internet. Put that together with those images on Al Jazeera and the endless discussion of Magdi Allam's baptism on Easter at St. Peter's. And Allam's extremely strong statements that essentially described Islam as intrinsically evil just after he had so publicly taken the name "Christian".

Thank God that tens of thousands of evangelically minded Christians are right now living among and loving Muslims through the Muslim world. Demonstrating with their lives, friendship, service, and compassion that Christianity and Christ are about love.

A comment below reminds me that I will have to make the should-be-obvious distinction. By "evangelically-minded" , I didn't mean "evangelical Christians". I meant all Christians - Catholic, Orthodox, Assyrian, Copt, Protestant, evangelical, whatever, who are committed to the mission of spreading the good news of Christ (the evangel).

There are "evangelically minded" Christians in all communions throughout the Muslim world - although the lion's share of the outreach is being done by evangelicals at present.
Capeesh?

If you'd like to know why Muslims are risking so much to become Christians around the world, read my post from last week:
Why do Muslims Convert to Christianity? and for an informed reality check about the numbers doing so, read Urban Legends and the Great Commission.
 
Life With Edmund Blackadder PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 09 April 2008 18:27
One of the great luxuries of life at home - actually watching a TV series. In this case, Blackadder the Third. (set in late 18th century London)

Filled with immortal lines such as

"I've got a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel."

Rowan Atkinson. Hugh Laurie as the Prince Regent, George IV who is described thusly:

"I care not a jot that you are the son of a certified sauerkraut-snacking loon. It minds not me that you dress like a mad parrot and talk like a plate of beans negotiating its way out of a cow's digestive system. It is no skin off my rosy nose that there are bits of lemon peel floating down the Thames that would make a better Regent than you."

I may have a brain the size of a sultana, but I call that brilliant!
 
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