Category: Catholicism

Pax Romana Unity vs Pax Christi Unity

In a recent conversation that is all too familiar, Rachel Held Evans asked the organizers of a major leadership conference why there were only 4 female speakers out of 112. The responses received were pretty stereotypical:

  • “Hey, look, here’s a woman,” with a picture of one of the 4 speakers. In other words, it’s the equivalent of “I’m not racist! I have a black friend!”
  • “We did invite some more; not our fault they said no” which is a handy way of passing the blame back onto the voice you are silencing.
  • “We acknowledge women are good for talking about women’s issues: pregnancy, abortion, marriage” which understandably infuriates a lot of women who think they are capable of discussing more than that.

The response I really want to hone in on, though, is the oft-repeated claim that anybody who questions the power-holders are being divisive and thus hurting the Body of Christ. It’s an effective move because nobody really wants disunity. We can all agree that the ideal is for Christianity to be one big happy family.

The problem, though, is how this big happy family is possible. In the framework of these critics, those in power seek to make it happen through control and suppression of other perspectives which may challenge that control.

My First Catholic Mass

My wife and I went to our first Catholic Mass this past Sunday with a good friend of mine. I had been to a special event or two at Catholic churches and gone to a couple of dinners at the Catholic ministry at Queen’s, but I had never done a Mass. It was a great opportunity to learn from a tradition that is a “big sister” in the faith to my own. Here are my scattered thoughts, sorted as likes and dislikes. It is about my own experience in one particular church, not about “good” and “bad” which would imply a universal judgement which I don’t pretend to have.

Liked: Liturgy

I have a strong appreciation for well-done liturgy, and I don’t think anybody does it better than Catholics (with all due respect to Anglicans and Orthodox). I’ve experienced other well-done liturgies occasionally in some of my Protestant mainline experiences, although usually not consistently from the same church and usually with a lot of less-meaningful liturgies in between. A liturgy poorly done tends toward rote repetition, but a liturgy well done can be a powerful setting for meeting the divine in a way that having to find your own words may not always be able to provide.

Movie Theatre

Jesus, Mary, and Catholic Tradition in Passion of the Christ

This is the final piece of a series on The Passion of the Christ adapted lightly from a paper written as part of my M.Div. In the original paper it was 2 short sections but I combined them here to be a more standard post length and since the two themes are related.

Son of Mary

Unsurprisingly with Gibson’s Catholic faith, the movie has a strong role for Mary, and thus I would say that Jesus is also defined heavily in terms of being Mary’s son. While Mary is not a central part of the biblical account of the crucifixion, and even less central in most Protestant renderings, she was arguably the second most important character throughout the film. She first appears having woken up in the middle of the night, knowing that something has happened to her son.  It evidently does not take her long to figure out what that was as she is next seen at the trial, and she remains consistently appearing in each stage of the trial, torture, and execution for the rest of the movie.

Interestingly, there seems to be somewhat of a divide between the men and women in the crowd as Jesus is presented as a friend to women – something true to Scripture – in general and not just his mother. 

Movie Theatre

The Passion of the Christ: Introduction

Passion of the ChristTwo years ago I wrote this paper analyzing The Passion of the Christ for a course on the differing ways that we have represented Jesus throughout history. If you’d like to read the whole thing essentially as it was written at the time, you can view it from my portfolio site. I’ll also be releasing it one section at a time here on the blog, though, with some minor adjustments to make it more appropriate for the blog format.

The Passion of the Christ as Reactionary Catholic Work

Only 7 years ago (2004), The Passion of the Christ was released, going through the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane to his death and a brief scene of his resurrection.  While at the time of release, Director and Writer Mel Gibson was often quoted as saying it was simply a historical tale, there is an obvious specific Christian framework evident, as is bound to be the case with a film about as controversial of a figure as Jesus was.  This framework, in line with Gibson’s beliefs, was clearly one of a traditional Catholic framework.  Phyllis Tickle in her work The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why identifies four quadrants of Christian belief, one being Liturgicals. 

Bible

History Lesson: Why Not All Bibles are the Same

In one of those random bits of trivia from Sunday School as a child, I learned that the Bible has 66 books. It wasn’t until I was about 18 that I realized it wasn’t that simple thanks to, believe it or not, The Bible for Dummies. In case you aren’t aware, Protestant Bibles are 66 books, but Catholic Bibles have more and if you throw in various Eastern Orthodox churches you get a few more minor variations. Why?

This may be hard to swallow for certain evangelicals who picture God dropping the Bible from heaven one day a couple thousand years ago complete with everything we need for every detail of our lives. If you’re in that camp, you’re probably not reading this blog anyway, but just in case, this is your warning that you’ll probably think I’m a terrible liberal heretic.

Gender - Male and Female Gummy

Church History Matters: Contextual Theology

I have a pet peeve in a lot of conversations with other Christians (particularly but not exclusively conservative Protestants): most Christians seem to be not only completely oblivious to their history but also don’t think that there’s any reason to change that.

Even conservative Christians will usually admit that the Bible has context. They don’t necessarily try to understand it before concluding the absolute truth for all time from the text, but they will usually admit it is theoretically there when they are asked. They don’t, however, admit that theological development of the past 2000 years – in other words, how we’ve interpreted the Bible – also all came from a context.

Initial Thoughts on Pope Francis

The newly elected Pope Francis I waves to the crowds from St Peter's basilica.

Pope Francis I

I’m not Catholic. I have no interest in ever becoming Catholic. With that said, they’re the largest institution of Christians in the world so a new leader clearly impacts all of us (even non-Christians in indirect ways). Here are some thoughts expressed somewhat at random and Jamie Arpin-Ricci of missional.ca – a fellow MennoNerd and author of the book The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis, and Life in the Kingdom – will be guest-posting a bit more later.