Monday, April 17, 2006

Hand Holding & Rubrics

There's an interesting (at least if you're into the finer points of the laity's role during the liturgy) thread at Jimmy Akin's blog about, well, holding hands during the liturgy. Why we shouldn't, why doing so isn't bad, how to defuse people who let no social barrier prevent them from making physical contact with you, and such.

I grew up in a parish that was really hand-holdy, so it's not a big deal to me. I've moved away, as have my parents, so I don't even get back there during holidays; it's a little different where I am now. Sometimes a stranger will reach out and I'll comply, but I won't try to get someone else to hold hands with me. I can always shake his or her hand during the sign of peace, if I'm jonesing for some kind of human contact or whatever.

I might have a solution. It's not realistic, and it might not even suffice where it's possible, but why should I constrain myself?

Find yourself a parish, most or all of whose congregation is of recent east Asian descent. If it's like the Korean Catholic church a mile or so from my office, hand-holding is diminishingly rare and the sign of peace is a bow, so there's little to no physical contact, and with any luck the Our Father will be written phonetically inside the cover of your missal or Worship book.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A new Biblical narrative of our Lord!

Late in the second millennium, an ancient document was discovered and widely disseminated in cinematic format. It describes the life and times of a messiah--but not the one you expect.

Jesus of Nazareth does appear in the narrative, but this document, which has been largely forgotten except in a few isolated circles around the English-speaking world, reveals a competing belief of the time: that the savior the Jews of Palestine were expecting was to be a philosopher-soldier who would rout the Roman occupiers, and did in fact appear at exactly the same time, in the same town of Bethlehem, as Jesus.

Learn about contemporaries of Jesus that early "Christians" didn't want you to know about! Discover long-forgotten truths about what the Jews of two thousand years ago really believed! Find out what they really taught!

Do it. Watch the Gospel of Brian. Why do things halfway and limit yourself to Gnostic heresies?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Sometimes I say the Jesus Prayer.

Recently, as I was saying it, I got an uncomfortably impersonal feeling whenever I got to "me, a sinner." I was not so much bristling at the notion of my recidivism, but at being anonymous, at the idea that my unique identity was utterly unimportant, especially next to my recidivism.

I kept saying with it and wrestling with this new and distasteful sensation. Then I went to confession.

I didn't think to bring it up in the confessional, but afterwards, I felt a lot better praying it. The proper perspective was restored to me.

Go figure.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Speeding, even a little, is a sin.

Is it as bad as murder or armed robbery? No, not normally. Doing 72 in a 70 mph zone is not going to be more dangerous than doing an even 70, by any reasonable metric. However, Caesar has set concrete limits, because limits of some sort do help to minimize injury and damage from vehicular incidents, and while it enables arguments about how taking traffic laws as strong suggestions can be sufficient, it also stops people from wasting the court's time with arguments like "I'm smart and fast enough to safely drive at 55 in school zones."

Declining to render unto Caesar by driving 72 in a 70 zone would only constitute a venial sin, of course. I've written about arguments I've had with people who would assert things like being momentarily inattentive to the speedometer whilst passing someone is morally identical to genocide, and how I think it's silly because whether or not marginal speeding is enough of a sin to warrant hell, refusing to distinguish between extinguishing numerous human lives and abstractly defying the social order in a trivial way is rather dismissive of the numerous humans and not at all helpful to the people who are, respectively, struggling with the particular sins and/or temptations to kill massively or drive quickly.

I suspect that this philosophy is also responsible for stimulating the opposite attitude, that certain things that are a little bad aren't really sins at all. I admit, it's the first rationalization that comes to mind when I'm sorely tempted to commit a venial sin (and sometimes mortal ones, but many of them are harder to rationalize), to save me from the fear of despair at having damned myself by succumbing to weakness and habit, but I do remember it's not that simple. I brought up speeding as an example because the first time I remember someone who still believed in sin write off minor things as not being sinful at all used speeding as his example.

I agree it's not very bad; most cops wouldn't pull you over for exceeding the limit by two miles per hour on a highway, and if one did, the penalty would be relatively light. Further, the limits are to an extent arbitrary; if we had sufficient mathematical models, we might find that 73 might be an optimal highway speed, after all, and 17 in a certain residential zone. However, we usually use round numbers because easy to remember and standard values make it easier for us to keep our eyes on the road instead of glued to the instrument panel.

I'm getting sidetracked. If bad sins get us into hell, then it does not follow that minor infractions aren't sins only because they shouldn't get us into hell. If driving two miles per hour over the limit increases accident rates by 0.000043%, and an increase in annual insurance rates of $0.00000079 per driver, then it's not really worth it to Caesar to pursue the matter. However, it is something we can choose to do or not to do. If it's not a morally neutral choice (and if Caesar is legitimately, reasonably, exercising his authority in proscribing one option, it isn't), and you actively choose wrong, you've got the elementary school textbook definition of sin on your hands.

It might not always be that simple, but it is that plain.

Monday, April 03, 2006

This Holy Week, don't just observe the Passion.

Supersize your Easter with The McPassion.

Now, is this little ditty offensive, or just tasteless?
Not the meal. The meal looks about as tasty as fast food can get.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

"I'm a person. I have ten toes and ten fingers. I'm also a woman, so I don't have a penis, although twice, for nine months, I had twenty toes and twenty fingers and a penis."

The first time I heard someone talk this way, several years ago, it seemed like a cutesy acknowledgement of the humanity of a pregnant woman's prenatal son. The next time I heard it, which was just a few months back, was after the "my arbitrary threshold for the humanity of a fetus is correct" rhetoric really got fleshed out in the public eye, or maybe just in my own mind and I'm not quite up to date on the propaganda.

Yes, the second time I heard the "twenty fingers and a penis" routine, it sounded trite and thoughtless. A woman pregnant with her son may "have" all this stuff, but they're not hers beyond the point that her son is her own. They are not an inherent part of her. A normal woman is not coded to possess double the normal number of fingers and male genitalia. She is coded, and constructed, to carry them in the form of a developing son, but they are not an ontological part of her. Without the contribution of a male, she cannot produce these things at all, and even then, she'll only produce the distinctly male features about half the time.

Unless you care to patch together some telological definition of Woman as strictly a baby making machine, you can't assert on these grounds that a prenatal human is merely a mass of the woman's tissue that can be thought of and treated as casually as a cyst or wad of phlegm.

Well, maybe you could argue, again, that Woman has the metaphysical ability to impute humanity by fiat, much as how the Fourteenth Amendment imputes citizenship, but I think that argument's even shakier.