Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Charismatic...Catholic...New Age?

My mom once mentioned a faith healer she had wanted to go see at the annual state Catholic charismatic conference he was supposed to be attending somewhere near her home this past summer.  I told her I was also interested in going; I've been trying to be more open to different kinds of prayer, since my prayer life tends to be more rote and...I don't know, insensate?  Less seasoned with personally significant or just personal phenomena.  Anyway, that and I hoped to provide some grounding for my mom whose interest in a visibly fruitful prayer life after having grown up on the cusp of Vatican II sometimes leaves her open to gauging activity of the Holy Spirit by emotional impact.  So we've got things to learn from each other.

Well, she encouraged me to look this healer up online, so I did.  The first Google hit I got was a discussion about whether he was on the level or not, so it seemed as good a place to start as any.  I looked at a few more, some which were enthusiastically supportive, others which were cautious because some of his language and healing techniques (he had been a physician but now does full-time prayer healing and some unorthodox/experimental medical practices I don't want to get sidetracked on) bear similarities to Eastern philosophy and contain occasional references to Eastern religious figures, still others which were pretty well against this man's work because of its Eastern appearances.   

What was funny was that this first web site was cautiously skeptical, based largely on conversations with a Catholic acquaintance of the author of the web site, but all the criticisms were against Catholic doctrine and culture.

Repeated denials that the man with the alleged gift of healing had anything to do with the healing of the Catholic acquaintance, that Jesus did not need him and could have healed him from the prayers of anyone else, such as the site's author (who may or may not have offered any).  Reminders that we don't need healers, we need Jesus (do we even need doctors, then?  Are we to despise certain tools Jesus may deign to use other than a grace of spontaneous recovery of health?).  "Alarm bells" going off at this healer's admission to using the rosary and chaplet of Divine Mercy frequently during his healing services.  Frequent "corrections" to the healed man talking about the work of his priest, and dismay at the man's cancer coming back, as if no sola fideist ever died.  Sorrow over his alleged misconception that he would have to go to purgatory, with the author's own misconceptions being clear in claiming that the doctrine of purgatory was proof in the lack of faith in the completeness of Christ's suffering (or rather, in the owner's thorough ignorance of Colossians 1:24) "that the RCC invented in the 800 years after Christ's death"--not sure how the RCC differed from the Eastern or Oriental or other Occidental rites back then, or if it wasn't until the ninth century that questions of purgatory presumably first arose.  Saying it is a lie that Rome is the one Church and [the pope, anyway] the successor of Peter, even though most ecclesial communities find it more fruitful to attempt to trivialize these claims than to attempt to show the claims are simply, willfully, false.  Regretting that this person, being Catholic, isn't even aware of his savior (a claim I find odd every time I hear it; we don't use "personal relationship with Jesus" language as much, although talk and writing about the Eucharist is pretty clearly that, and if he wasn't up for correcting the simple factual errors about purgatory and the role of the priest or the Church then he probably wouldn't have been well-equipped to cut through the Evangelical jargon either, but I hear this "you don't know Him" stuff so much it makes me wonder how stupid they must think we are for praying to some blue-robed Mother while the Son to whom she is a mother we never think about--who's the guy on the cross supposed to be, anyway, if not Jesus?).  Regretting that, in their zeal to show him the truly-true Gospel before Time Ran Out and he finally succumbed to cancer, they may have been blunt to the point of alienating; this is another curious feature I sometimes observe, one that smacks to me of a belief in the inadequacy and narrowness of the Cross, that if someone can't be pressed into reciting a trite formula before the buzzer on his life goes off, then there's no hope.  But maybe being overzealous and then recognizing the share in culpability for the harm done by belligerent proselytizing is better than saying "Well, we logistically haven't been able to evangelize to absolutely everybody in the world, so God must be okay with sending all those pagans to hell, and so who am I to have a problem with what God wants?" which I have also seen.

What was perhaps funnier was a comment left by a reader who laments that we Catholics never do discernment of the supernatural, that it's all the same and must all come from God, and so we never know if we're being deceived by satanic healings.

You know what?  Satan might heal (maybe wouldn't, but for the sake of the argument), but he couldn't if God didn't allow it.  Satan couldn't act, or exist, if God didn't allow it.  God allows things because in the end they will glorify Him.  I don't find a sorting logic of "Direct from God is good, anything that appears to be mediated by the saints or angels is from the devil" to be particularly discerning.  It attributes too much native power to hell and too little shared power to current and would-be saints.  You know what?  Okay, God did the healing, but you had the charity to ask God to heal.  God gave you the charity too, but He also gave you the free will to exercise it--the opportunity to let Him act through you.  Scrupling to deny that crosses the line from humility into denial of facts, and woe to he who calls good evil.  You've got a problem with free will?  Then you've got a lot of non-Calvinists to preach to than just the Catholics (which makes me wonder, on a tangent, what or when doctrinal differences qualify as fundamental and gross, or just negligible differences of interpretation betwixt brethren).

But I'm getting off track.  All these criticisms of Catholics' various apparently inferior charisms, but nothing about what should alarm them:

No qualms about mentioning Buddha alongside Jesus and the saints who worked through the power of love.  No fears about the similarities between Eastern pantheistic-medical practices and this healer's allegedly unorthodox medical practices.  No alarm raised at the descriptions of God as an Energy or a field like for one of the four fundamental forces of nature.

Here is a guy with cancer putting himself in the care of a guy potentially attempting to harness the powers of Eastern mysticism, and you're worried that he lacks some familiarity with Christ gained by reciting a rote verse?  Christ hasn't been present in this world the way you and I are for two thousand years; I would venture that none of us is really adequately familiarized with Him.  Worry first about whether the doctor has a predilection for conflating God and The Force.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I read a few other silly-creepy articles from this mailing list that will beat the Church and modern culture with any stick they can find, and I'm leaning again more in the direction of unsubscribing from their list and ignoring them.  On the one hand, they still make some correct criticisms of certain movements that are popular because they're comforting, such as the prosperity gospel, but judging from my moderate exposure to Joel Osteen, it may be fruitful for a discerning soul to take some of his "the Lord will reward you for behaving rightly" lessons in a metaphorical mode rather than in a materialistic one, and I think the outfit running this mailing list tends to err a little too scrupulously on the side of cutting out things that could be good because they might also be bad.

I don't want to encourage anyone to sin, nor to put them in the near occasion of sin, but sometimes there should be room for prudential judgment and a consideration for the individual's disposition and temperament.

Anyway, on the other hand, they pull some stuff that is so...inbred...that I can't even bring myself to make fun of it.  I can hardly say to myself with a straight face "Well, maybe someone should answer those charges, for the benefit of the anonymous reader who might read them and fail to find the sane rebuttal."

I mentioned a few days ago a few examples, the most egregious I think being the usual smack about the Vatican trying to establish a one-world government (which I have never seen an argument against, except on the grounds that the Antichrist also seems to want such a thing--certainly not a reason to embrace it, but not compelling on its face to the sober minded, either) after that silly article by an obscure department in Rome about global banking.

Somewhat more recently than the message where they criticized that occurrence, they had another article on the proper way to pray.  This sounds like it should be good, but keep in mind this is also coming from some folks who said we shouldn't pray to the Holy Spirit, because it's not Biblical; that we should only pray to the Father, through the Son.  I'm surprised they're Trinitarian at all, after the theological reasoning I saw there.

Anyway, they started by listing a bunch of spiritual practices known around the world, including the Divine Office, Zen mediation, reiki, centering prayer, and a few other things I can't remember at the moment.  The rosary was probably on there, too, and I think those crop labyrinths that show up outside of harmless harvest festival milieux.  Pretty disparate collection, but they then asserted that what all these practices have in common is that they're forms of contemplative prayer, and that they're unbiblical.

Huh?  Not at all.

Of course eastern mystical practices are unbiblical, even if you don't want to go as far as saying they're fundamentally incompatible with Christianity.  But none of these things in itself is contemplative prayer.  Contemplation is a form of prayer that is only a gift from God, perhaps best understood as a special kind of mediation that might occur during one of these other forms of prayer, but it's not something someone can simply sit down and do, like praying rote or praying extemporaneously.  Granted, grasping natural contemplation is an expected fruit of lectio divina, but infused contemplation is not something we can achieve, and thus not something we can resist, except by refusal to cooperate with grace--and that, being the definition of sin, no honest Christian would endorse).

Naturally I can't say God would never bestow the gift of contemplation on a pagan, I've seen too many pagans act in what I would have called Christian charity  to believe that God would refuse to work in their lives, so maybe there is a common thread after all, but honestly, all the things they mentioned are otherwise unrelated.  The rosary?  Mediation on the life of Christ, through the eyes of Mary.  The Divine Office?  Largely psalms of praise.  Reiki?  Some kind of pagan healing technology, of sorts.  Eastern meditation?  Perhaps the closest thing to Christian mediation on the surface, but geared more towards detachment and emptiness than towards calming the self and trying to listen to God, to just spend time with Him.

No, how they say we should pray is to say our praises and petitions, and then search the Scriptures for an answer.

This is not a bad thing, but it puzzles me that anyone would think this is a well rounded way to live.  I would lament if I were of the majority of Christians in history who could not read to study the Bible, or could not afford a Bible to read or the time to read it.

I wonder how they would react if, in poring over Lamentations or Revelation, they received a gift of a moment of spiritual communion in the very sense they said we should not pursue.  It is not seemly to pursue glories, but God is well known for giving us what we don't want because it's good for us.

Above and beyond, our Lord did give us instructions on how to pray, and it was not "praise and beseech, then search the Scriptures."  It was "Pray like this:  Our Father, Who art in heaven; hallowed be Thy Name.  They kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

You can follow that exactly or use it as a guide or template for all your prayer, but it far from supports the position of folks like I'm talking about who try too hard to be pure and correct.  Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, guys.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I don't often like visiting web sites that feature philosophies I strongly disagree with

Usually they're so rich with content I disagree with, I'd burn up the remainder of my soul trying to beat the host and his supporters with arguments about the truth of the Church and what all.  I don't want to do that, and don't like it when I feel myself so inclined, because what I should be doing is trying to convert them and win them over with love, instead of turning it into a fight.  Sometimes I'll visit a few, but I try not to comment or anything so I don't get too caught up in it.

I do get one mass e-mailing from some outfit that warns about some conspiracy between Rome and the UN creating a world government (a refreshing change from both being part of the same Jesuit plot although sometimes they go there, too), but they have a mix of silly stuff that doesn't bother me too much yet (I may get my fill after a few more missives like what I've received lately, though) and criticisms of the culture I actually agree with, so I can stomach the few nuggets of bigotry and misplaced paranoia, turn them into post fodder.  Although recently they attempted to Biblically deconstruct the "Catholics Come Home" ad campaign; they did such a grade school job on that "maybe a world bank wouldn't be a bad idea, eh?" article from whichever Vatican dicastery that it would have killed any faith I might have still had in their ability to exegete weightier subjects like the Bible itself.  You've probably seen the type; they talk about being among the mere tens of thousands of true Christians, write off all ecumenism as false ecumenism and put out articles and DVDs about how the "Bible Church" cannot "merge" with Rome, get it right on isolated topics like prosperity theology (I wish a few of them had the historical memory to attack residual liberation theology, but maybe the Jesus-Marxists are too far out there to show up on their radar), and then spend a great deal of effort going around debunking the messages of specific Protestant celebrities along side Masonry and Rome and other bogeymen.

I read an editorial by Richard Dawkins from last fall, though, that really made me want to add my drop to the bucket of challengers to his comfortable misconceptions.  I won't go into all of it, because I'm lazy and because his caricatures are only convincing to people who want to have an exotic, bureaucratic boogeyman to rage against.  The supporters in his combox, however, were perhaps more alarming.

Dawkins was talking about how the Church--the Latin Rite, at least--was a viable contender for the title of greatest evil force in the world, something like that.  Gave "examples" by referring to the teachings on chastity as lies about condoms that kill Africans with AIDS.  I wanted to go all Robert Louis Stevenson and point out that, even though federal monies sometimes make their way to Catholic hospitals in the US, the Church (and other religious groups) actually have boots on the ground trying to help the people who have AIDS now and are starving and in poverty now, instead of issuing shrill criticisms from his comfortably distant laptop computer.  But I doubt I have the charism to prick his conscience, if no other opponent of his has managed to do so, either.  Time to pray for him and for patience and humility for myself along the way.

Naturally the defenders of the Faith made their various and sundry contributions and efforts, and Dawkins' fan club chimed in with insults, compliments to his clarity of thought I found oddly uniform, and eerily disconnected as well as brazen affronts to all things Catholic, such as suspicion about Benedict's sexuality, the tenacious delusion that Benedict really was a Nazi sympathizer, and my personal favorite, an assertion that Rome had active agents involved in African genocide, supported only by a link to, to the page listing nothing but the bishops of Rwanda.

That was all.  Merely pointing out that there are bishops in a country that currently experiences genocide and expecting others to assume there's a deliberate connection.  You know what's also in Rwanda, buddy?  Trees and water.  Maybe they're also contributing factors.  You know who else had a genocide?  Germany in World War Two.  You know what else Germany had?  Sauerkraut and beer.  Maybe they're also contributing factors.  You know what else?  Rome has bishops for every square inch of land; most of them occupy their territories but some only have virtual or potential jurisdiction, like Timothy P. Broglio for the American military or whoever indirectly responsible for Antarctica whom my Google-fu is failing to identify.  Do you really think any attempt to assign contributing factors to these fellows would in any way be fruitful or meaningful?

I mean, this is what we're up against.  I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

“I don’t think a college student in Colorado Springs should have to choose between textbooks or the preventive care she needs.”

This from our president, to which and to whom I respond:

If this college student were spending so much on "preventive care" that she can't afford her books, she's having way too much sex to have time to study, let alone make it to class or do homework and take exams.  She'd be expelled for academic failure and have no further need of her books by spring break.

“We worked with Catholic hospitals and universities to find a solution that protects both religious liberty and a woman’s health,” he went on, but apparently this work did not come to fruition: “We’ve made sure churches and other houses of worship don’t have to provide or pay for it.”

Too bad for Americans with traditional religious values and beliefs that you couldn't find a solution that protects religious institutions other than churches, such as the aforementioned Catholic hospitals and universities.  

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Need proof that the MSM has a liberal bias?

I submit that the following evidence is representative, if perhaps a bit inflammatory; abortion is the example I give, and I recognize that the lines between Life and Choice are not drawn perfectly down the middle aisle.

The Bad Catholic has two posts with videos from the March for Life.

Mark Shea has more posts than I could hope to write, but in his defense, it's kind of his job.

Shameless Popery...well, you get the idea.

If you don't care to follow the links, each shows how the March for Life, attended by hundreds of thousands of pro-life demonstrators, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade was anything but news, but the relatively scant counter-protesters got disproportionate coverage, with interviews focusing on asking Planned Parenthood executives questions that suggest the underrealized utopia that consequence-free sex was supposed to usher in was mainly due to logistical difficulties.

And yes, I realize that I'm just rolling a few Catholic blogs.  But hey, the hard work's already been done, and sometimes being fair and balanced, so to speak, means presenting something with bias opposite to the usual so a lucid mind can consider the merits of both sides; and like I said, I consider this to be a representative, if dramatic, example.

You know, just to mix it up a bit, I'm going to link a couple gems from the Zombietime blog (which may not be suitable for those with delicate sensibilities):

There are some other articles there that go into more detail.  For those not in the know, Zombie is a photographer in the San Francisco area who, despite not being particularly conservative, finds much blog fodder in the incoherence of the fringe Left and the intellectual bankruptcy of its alleged elites.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.'
He said in reply, 'I will not, '
but afterwards changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, 'Yes, sir, 'but did not go.
Which of the two did his father's will?"
They answered, "The first."
Jesus said to them, "Amen."

This gospel passage, where the vintner hires workers in the morning and at midday and in the evening and pays them all the same, tells us amongst other things that whether we come early or late to the party, there is no partial reward upon admission to heaven.
I think this makes a reasonable contribution to the argument that we don't gain heaven through our own efforts; if God is not fair, then at least He is generous, and whenever you accept His invitation to the vineyard, at the end of the day you'll receive the day's wages.
Then, though, we are presented with the question Jesus posed to the chief priests and elders in another passage (which are actually mass readings a week apart for year A, I think).  Here's another vintner, one with two sons he tells to go work in his vineyard.  One says he won't do the work, but relents; the other makes an obeisant sign and then reneges.  Which one did his father's will?  In terms of the analogy, which one would enter the kingdom of heaven? The one who did his father's will.  Not the one who said he would.
I would hope that this episode would serve as a counterpoint to certain schools of thought that look at the parable as a proof text (one of several, I should say) for easy and irrevocable salvation bought by the recitation of a verbal formula.  When asked to explain someone who invites Jesus into his heart and at some subsequent point in his life seems to succumb to temptation and embraces malice and hedonism until the end of his life, the only possible answer given is "He must never have gotten saved in the first place."
It's very easy for the next thought to be "but that would never happen to me; I meant it in my heart when I asked Jesus to become my personal Lord and Savior."  
Savvy:  Christians are offered every same temptation as pagans and other unbelievers.  Committing sin remains a very real possibility for the duration of every person's mortal life.  An adulterer may reasonably expect his life to be destroyed by vices other than alcoholism or rage, but if he says "I'm turning over a new leaf, so help me God!" and then completely doesn't, then maybe he never meant it...or maybe it's just not that simple.
After all, not all who cry "Lord, Lord!" will be saved.  God will do everything to bring you to paradise except force you to go.  If you make a habit of making promises you don't keep (which is what the disobedient son did), your promises will come to naught; they won't fool God, and they won't fool you.  If you make a habit of breaking promises to do the will of God, you won't find yourself inclined to do or submit to His will for long.
In the first parable, even the people hired at the end of the day worked that last hour.  The vintner did not pay them in advance.
Okay, okay; some will say "He's saved despite the evils he commits" and others even "Christ's blood has it covered so those aren't really sins."  To the former I say one who endeavors to reject the graces of living a good life will not be disposed to accept the grace of salvation, no matter when either is offered; and to the latter I say a pardoned debt extinguishes deficit expenditures without defining them away.  To the former I say thus does presumption endanger the soul of the lazy believer, and to the latter I say you have no dog in this fight from the very beginning of it.
But again, while we are not expected or required or able to achieve the sanctity of heaven by our own efforts, we are expected to make hay during whatever sunshine still remains in the day.  Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said we are called to be faithful, not to be successful.  We are not called to earn justification and righteousness, we are only called to do the work.
Just as Paul said "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her," it is to husbands given the responsibility of dying for their wives; it does not then follow that no man who fails to consummate martyrdom for his wife has failed as a husband.  He is called to that duty, not required to execute it in the extreme in every case.