That kind of Catholic.

I was raised a Catholic, one of a long line of Catholics, which is to say, we were not all that Catholic.

We went to church on Sundays and holy days of obligation. We did the sacraments — baptism, first communion, confirmation, confession. My older brother and sister went to Catholic school; but when we moved, the summer before my first-grade year, to a house with an excellent public grade school at one end of the block and a junior high at the other, my parents lost their commitment to Catholic education. (My siblings were released from uniform bondage at the same time.) When we misplaced something, my mother told us to say a prayer to St. Anthony. We lit candles in front of saints’ statues. My dad ran the church softball team.

What we didn’t do: Pray the rosary at home, put a holy water font by the door, display religious art in the house (although there were crucifixes in the bedrooms). When I had a headache, my mother didn’t say, “Offer it up.” My prayer life was pretty childish and never really progressed — I prayed to pass fourth grade and later, for world peace, with a 50 percent success rate. When my later teen years came along, I found it easy to skip church and then stop going altogether, although my mother attended Mass until she couldn’t drive herself anymore.

In our practice, I’d estimate we’re right in the middle of the Catholic continuum, at least for our time. We weren’t holly-lily scofflaws, but it’s fair to say we chose what we wanted in the cafeteria line and didn’t consider ourselves bad Catholics as a result. I was taught the Communion host becomes the actual body and blood of Christ in CCD class, but even as a second-grader, I understood it as a metaphor. I suppose this, by church teaching, makes me a Protestant, but all I have to say is: Please.

One reason I’m so fascinated with Amy’s blog commenters is, they’re the kind of Catholic I never knew growing up. They don’t practice birth control, they march for life, they think Nino Scalia is a great man and are very big on Opus Dei. I’m sure these folks were in my church — there were a few families with 10, 12, 13 kids — but they didn’t stand around afterward talking about it. Of course, there were no blogs then.

So the other day I drop by Rod Dreher’s blog, who converted to Catholicism and then left it for Eastern Orthodoxy, and has written approximately 8 million anguished words about it — he’s quite the hand-wringer. He’s writing about a criminally corrupt priest who died recently:

Samuel Greene was a con man. He was a TV pitchman who got religion and founded the Christ of the Hills monastery in rural central Texas. At some point, he affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), which cut him loose after the child abuse scandal happened in the late 1990s. But his trailer-park monastery was quite the spiritual hotspot for a while. When it became known in the early 1990s that there was a miraculous weeping icon of the Virgin Mary there, the monastery began to attract lots of pilgrims — many of them Catholics. I was one of those pilgrims. When I’d go visit a Catholic friend in Austin, we’d drive out to the monastery, and I’d wait in line with the faithful — most of them poor Hispanic Catholics, as I recall — to venerate the miraculous icon. The monks would hand out cotton balls with her sweet-smelling tears on them. The substance was said to be myrrh. Years later, I found one of the cotton balls — this was before the fraud was exposed — and noticed that it smelled acrid and chemical-like. But I didn’t want to accept that it was a fraud.

Needless to say, miraculous weeping icons were not part of my religious experience. I can’t imagine even my faithful mother falling for such bullshit. That even a convert like Dreher could stand in line to “venerate” such a thing seems simply ludicrous to me, makes me want to look at a point on the horizon until someone changes the subject to baseball or the stock market. I was never that kind of Catholic.

Gene Weingarten is the WashPost humor columnist, but every so often he writes a long piece for the paper’s Sunday magazine, frequently of a serious nature. Here’s one that’s nine years old, but I read only recently: Tears for Audrey, about Audrey Santo, a Massachusetts girl who fell into a backyard swimming pool as a toddler, was gravely brain-damaged, and lived the rest of her life without regaining consciousness. She died only recently, and in her short lifetime, became a fixture of religious veneration. People believed she was a “victim soul,” a person chosen by God to suffer for others. People believed she had the power to cure, to heal, and wrote letters asking for her help. In her lifetime, she was displayed to visitors, although — allow me to say “blessedly” — never for profit. Her home was filled with religious statuary, and much of it also wept miraculously. Oil.

Weingarten’s story is very long, but I urge you to read it, if this topic interests you. It’s very deft, very sensitive, and very telling. There’s not a hint of sneering or snarkiness at this bizarre subniche of Catholicism, but as you read it, one thing becomes entirely clear: Her mother was making the “miracles” happen:

In the back yard, the Rev. Mike McNamara is celebrating Mass. Linda Santo takes a consecrated wafer on a brass plate and disappears into the house with it. Every day she gives Communion to Audrey. (Audrey has a feeding tube; the wafer is the only solid food she receives by mouth.)

A few minutes later, Linda returns. There is a peculiar look on her face. She is holding the empty Communion plate gingerly, and replaces it on the altar.

Liquid sloshes out and onto the tablecloth.

“Sorreee,” she whispers to the priest.

After the ceremony, four priests crowd around the Communion plate. It is filled halfway with opalescent yellow oil, maybe three or four tablespoons of it, and on top of that is a large, floating bead of clear liquid. It smells of pure roses, eerily strong. It wafts up and out into the sweltering summer air.

Linda Santo meekly explains that the plate quickly welled up with this substance as she walked alone from Audrey’s bed to the back porch, a trip of some 30 feet.

The priests nod. It is a miracle, everyone agrees.

I mean, come on: Isn’t it obvious? Well, maybe that case. The story is several thousand words long, and lots of people are quoted saying these things are miracles, that this statue “hemorrhaged” oil when Linda Santo wasn’t around, that this happened, that that happened, and sorry, but whatever it takes to believe such things are possible without human intervention, I don’t have it. I’m doubting Thomasina, sorry, Jesus. (For what it’s worth, I also don’t believe in non-religious spiritualism — ghosts, spirits, auras. I figure if I can’t believe a saint can help me find my car keys, I also can’t believe the spirit of my dead grandmother guides my hand when I’m cooking dinner. I also acknowledge I don’t know everything, and am always prepared to be surprised, one of these days.)

Weingarten’s story does find a miracle, by the way. You have to read all the way to the end; it’s very artful. A few weeks back, in his weekly chat, he said he thought the way he ended the story was a mistake, but I think he just needs smarter readers.

I never know what to say when people speak of “miracles” like this, except to go into grad-student mode, and reflect that this is a very old church, that literacy arrived in the congregation fairly recently in the grand scheme of things, and that one way simple people keep their faith alive is by believing in Marian apparitions and the healing power of Lourdes water and mysterious weeping icons. When I’m feeling mean, I think Catholicism married Voodoo and had a baby daughter they called Santeria.

But ultimately I shrug. What can you do? Given a choice between Catholicism, any kind of Catholicism, and, oh, Tim Goeglein’s Bartlett’s Familiar Lutheranism, I know what I’d choose. (The one where I already know the words.)

OK, so as we skip to the bloggage, let’s make sure we preserve the reverent tone, OK?

Britney got some glasses, which explains why she was always forgetting her pants — she couldn’t see!

Headline o’ the day: Bill would ban texting while driving in Michigan. What is happening to freedom in this country? Next they’ll be making it illegal to stick your tongue into electrical sockets.

From my nighttime career farming health-care news, I have learned one thing: No matter how bad I feel, it could always be worse. Ebola is the one that features bleeding from the eyeballs, right? How do doctors distinguish it from PMS?

Sometimes you read a blog for the post, sometimes for the comments. Like here.

Time to go to work. If God doesn’t strike me dead!

Posted at 8:29 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

78 responses to “That kind of Catholic.”

  1. brian stouder said on September 19, 2007 at 8:50 am

    preserve the reverent tone, OK?

    Alright! I was 6 in 1967, but this article captures something nonetheless (about Country Joe McDonald)

    I loved this bit

    Inaccurate news coverage of some parts of the ’60s and the romanticizing of other parts are common, Joe has found over the years. “The truth isn’t always entertaining and the media is in the entertainment business,” he says. “History has kind of smooshed it all into one TV show.” The memories of the participants aren’t exactly flawless either, he notes. He recalls a recent reunion tour with the Fish in which band members agreed they had not played on the “free stage” at the Monterey Pop Festival only to be asked a short time later by a fan to autograph a photograph of them rocking that very venue. And shown a list of his Fish and solo gigs from 1967, he is again shocked. Where he expected to see 30 or 40 dates, he sees more than 120. “Jesus Christ! We worked our ass off!”

    Joe gained much of his work ethic and insights about performing from Janis Joplin, one of his best friends and his lover during much of the Summer of Love. It’s Joplin, felled in 1970 by booze and dope, whom he misses most from those years, he says, standing outside an apartment they shared on Lyon Street in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district.

    ‘We were incompatible as lovers’
    “We were incompatible as lovers, really,” he says. “There wasn’t a lot of sizzle going on, but we were good friends. We were both Capricorns, and had that leadership, take-charge thing going for us, and we got along really well. I do miss her; she’s probably the one person from that time, in ’67, that I really wish was around today so I could compare notes with her.

    “She was very professional,” Joe says. “She liked to rehearse a lot, liked the structure of it and to plan the shows. She’s the person that taught me that nine songs were a set. And generally that’s the rule.”

    They did not make music together or with musicians outside their own bands. “Janis and I had the same feeling about jamming; I’m not really a person that jams with people. She wasn’t either.”

    They did do a lot of walking together, Joe recalls, leading the way to the epicenter of the Haight at its intersection with Ashbury. Joplin had a little dog named George “and we would walk with George up to the Haight, and then we would walk down the Haight, and we’d see Freewheelin’ Frank (a well-known figure in the Hell’s Angels), or Myra, Janis’ old girlfriend, who had a new young girlfriend at the time, I can’t remember her name, and we would talk, and Janis would get maybe a beer or something, and we’d walk up to Golden Gate Park to Hippie Hill, and it was very casual and a lot of fun. It was a community feeling, and very relaxed.”

    The Bay Area would be an interesting destination for a pilgrimmage, and Country Joe would indeed be an interesting icon to visit

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  2. john c said on September 19, 2007 at 9:46 am

    I’m not quite as lapsed as NN.c. But I’m pretty lapsed. I have all – well, most – of the Catholic horror stories. Angry nuns. Terrible priests. (I actually had a priest tell me, before I got married, to make sure my wife didn’t develop any outside interests. “Next thing you know, she’ll be sleeping with her therapist.”) But some of the best people I’ve ever met have been devout Catholics, including priests. I pray occasionally. But I know it’s an act of desperation, as most of parenting is. (Garrison Keillor hit it on the head when he observed that parenthood is 18 years of constant prayer.) I have a sister-in-law who is more devout than her sister (my wife) and me. We often spend time up at the family cottage in northern Michigan with her, her husband, and their four kids. And they have a tradition of saying the rosary as a family when they miss Mass, which happens from time to time on vacation. I can’t say I ever laughed at this. But I remember thinking, sheesh, that’s too much for me. Then one day I happened to be on the beach with them when they did it, so I joined in. After each Hail Mary someone, in turn, offered a brief intention. I’m quite sure no statues will weep because of our humble utterings. But, with the fine sand in our toes and the gentle lapping of Lake Michigan a few feet away, it was a beautiful moment. I can’t help but think some good came out of it. I think Nancy was making a funny little remark when she said she’d choose the church where she “knows all the words.” But there’s a lot in that. I know all the words when I go to Mass. And that makes it a comfortable place to be alone in a group. A few in the building have so much faith that the blazing flame of the Holy Spirit might as well be roaring over their heads. But more than a few of us are cupping a tiny match in our hands, trying to keep the wind from blowing it out completely. I lot of horrible things have been done in the name of religion, I know. But it’s not the religion, per se, it’s the people desperate to find order in chaos. Saying you see a weeping statue hurts no one. But sooner or later someone will say that statue is weeping because of all the faggots on television, or because the President stained a purple dress. Then it becomes something much worse than silly.
    Hmm. I think I’ve had too much coffee this morning. Excellent post, though.

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  3. John said on September 19, 2007 at 10:16 am

    “Anti-mammite”, what a hoot!

    I’m waiting for a pollster to call me and ask my opinion. I’m four-square in the “pro-mammite” column!

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  4. Connie said on September 19, 2007 at 10:29 am

    I am always willing to admit that I am completely and totally lapsed, after a childhood filled with serious guilt ridden Dutch Reformed Calvinism. Worse than lapsed, a total unbeliever.

    On her death bed I overheard my mother (dying of breast cancer at 56) tell her pastor that the greatest regret of her life was that she had raised her 3 children to be Christians and none of them went to church as adults.

    I work with a lot of people who can only be described as super Christians. You probably do too. I have to keep my lip zipped on a daily basis.

    Here’s what I can’t figure out. Ponder the universe in all its infinite glory and mystery. How can you believe that this one planet, a speck in an infinite ocean of stars, has its very own creator whom we must worship?

    Now I sit back waiting for the flames and prayer offers. Just because I don’t believe in anything that is supernatural. Although sometimes I resort to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Can I have a ramen?

    Please don’t feel you need to pray for me.

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  5. Marie said on September 19, 2007 at 10:29 am

    John C. — Well put.

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  6. brian stouder said on September 19, 2007 at 10:36 am

    Ponder the universe in all its infinite glory and mystery. How can you believe that this one planet, a speck in an infinite ocean of stars, has its very own creator whom we must worship?

    Connie, I have no answers, and no prayers.

    I will say, though, that boiling it all down to an unbelievably BIG ‘big bang’ sounds just as madly ‘faith-based’ as anything else one might subscribe to.

    What preceded the big bang? What precipitated it? And – have you noticed that when the facts don’t fit the theories – then we get constructs (such as ‘dark matter’) so as to patch patch patch the ever-so-scientific theory?

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  7. LA mary said on September 19, 2007 at 11:02 am

    Connie, few organizations spawn as many atheists as the Dutch Reformed Church. I have quite a bit of respect for some of the things the sisters do here at the hospital, though, and one of the chaplains, an Episcopal woman, is a good friend, always up for a lively discussion. No one give me crap about being a non-believer, and I pitch the core values to applicants without feeling like a hypocrit. Here they are:

    We affirm the dignity and worth of each person.
    We care for each person as part of our family.
    We continually improve all that we do.
    We wisely care for and share human, environmental, and financial resources held in trust.

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  8. nancy said on September 19, 2007 at 11:14 am

    It’s been my experience most atheists come out of the big leagues — Catholicism, Judaism. Don’t know enough Muslims to make a decent sample, but they have a much stronger cultural-strangeness factor (in the west, anyway), and theocratic-government influences elsewhere, so they probably aren’t a strict comparison.

    It’s also telling that both Catholicism and Judaism have very strong intellectual traditions, and may tend to educate their brightest minds past the point of belief.

    Here’s my most recent epiphany: We had a “computational cosmologist” as a seminar speaker when I was a J-fellow — basically, a guy who runs computer models of the universe for a living. It was very much out of my comfort zone, but for only a few short moments, I started to wrap my head around just how big the universe really is. And then it came to me: If there is a God watching over this creation, S/He really doesn’t care who I sleep with, what I eat or whether I use birth control. It was sort of the last shred of anxiety I had over losing faith, and it felt very freeing.

    Alan, on the other hand, sat through the same seminar and had a different conclusion — watching the guy’s slides of dark matter computer simulations and so forth, he was taken by how organic all these strange concepts were. (Dark matter looks like an orange peel, for instance.) And it made him think that maybe there really is a unifying force to it all.

    Both of us, however, freely accept that it’s entirely past our comprehension, though. And so we read the New York Times on Sunday morning.

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  9. Connie said on September 19, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    On the subject of comatose girls doing miracles…. I know I have recommended this book to you before. Maybe a Miracle, by Brian Strauss. Great novel about a teenaged boy watching in dismay as his comatose little sister is made out to be a miracle worker. Great moment near the end that really makes the whole book.

    And Brian, who knows about the big bang. I am just talking about the majesty of the universe from what little I see and know about it. Nancy comments about the cosmos above are a much better explanation of my views.

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  10. MichaelG said on September 19, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    Here’s from another recovering Catholic. Don’t get me started on the failed potential of Catholicism, the Papacy and the Catholic hierarchy. Not to mention the organization wide code of silence on their recent and continuing scandal.

    I think you’re right about the origin of atheists. And I would be willing to bet that among the gentle, peace loving Muslims the number of atheists rises with the level of education. Real education, I mean, not madrasas.

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  11. Danny said on September 19, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    Although I consider myself a believer in Christ, I am happy to say that I don’t think anyone feels uncomfortable around me because of it. From a proselytizing standpoint, I guess I always thought actions were more important than words. To paraphrase Paul, without love there is no faith (nor point to it).

    And anyone who says that they are of faith and has never had a crisis of faith, well, I just have to wonder if they have examined life closely enough. We’re all in this together. Or we should be.

    Nance, I know you didn’t mean it all that seriously, but I would take slight issue with the “being educated beyond faith” take. The caricature of the ignorant, uneducated Christian is often enough promoted by pop culture. And sometimes for good reason, as there is some truth to the saying that judgment should start in the house of the Lord.

    But, personally, I came to faith late in life and well into an education in the hard sciences. Many of my fellow believing friends/acquaintances are of similar educational backgrounds. Physicists, engineers, medical doctors. I even personally know at least three post-doctoral genetics researchers (one was an old roomate of mine). And we only handle “Speckles” the poisonous serpent on special days. Anyway, you get the picture.

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  12. 4dbirds said on September 19, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    I left lapsed a long time ago. I’m a total nonbeliever.

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  13. Joe K said on September 19, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    If there is no Supreme Being, why can’t man make a tree? Who gives us wisdom to perform heart surgery’s? What happens after we die? If there is a end to the universe, What is on the other side? I am by no means a bible thumper, I did 8yrs in Catholic school and now attend a Methodist church. But there has to be something bigger than us. This all could not have just happened. Part of being a Christian is having FAITH in things you can not understand.
    I get a chuckle out of people who say there is no God,yet when put into a situation of life and death, say a car wreck or in a war, or if a love one is dieing or hurt suddenly find them self praying. Remember there are no Athiast in fox holes
    If you do not mind, when I say my prayers, I will say one for everyone on the board.

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  14. alex said on September 19, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    I was raised secularly and never indoctrinated into any religion, but came by my balls-out atheism largely in reaction to people getting ugly with religion. And I wasn’t educated in the hard sciences but the liberal arts, where history tells us what an insignificant blip western civilization and Christendom are in the whole scheme of things.

    Danny, my brother’s a scientist and he works with people who’ve gotten Jesus and want him to get it too and he’s as perplexed as I am as to why they’d buy into it. It’s really not all that uncommon.

    As for praying for me, have at it Joe. It will do you about as much good as it ever did even if it does absolutely nothing for me.

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  15. Danny said on September 19, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    About foxholes. That reminds me of the prayer at the end of a Clean, Well-Lighted Place. “Hail Nothing, Full of Nothing, Nothing is with Thee,” and “Our Nada, who art in Nada…” Tragedy affects us all differently.

    Yeah, I don’t get a “chuckle” out of aethism and I do not lampoon or ridicule people who have that point of view. I was there, so I hold out hope for them too.

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  16. Connie said on September 19, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    Joe K, in fact I do mind.

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  17. Danny said on September 19, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    Oh, to be sure, Alex, I quite understand you and your brother’s point of view. I’m just saying that it is not axiomatic that Christian = Uneducated or Crazy or Ignorant. I think that sometimes people just get more comfort out of being able to ridicule something that they do not agree with.

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  18. nancy said on September 19, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    Of course, Danny, no one is saying Christians are uneducated, only that education fosters a certain skepticism about everything, which in many cases ultimately extends to religion.

    The computational cosmologist didn’t believe in God, by the way.

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  19. Julie Robinson said on September 19, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    Well, I’m a believer. And I might get kicked out of my church, but I don’t think my faith is superior to anyone else’s. The Bible tells us there are “many rooms in my Father’s house”, and I take that to mean there may be good Unitarians, or Jews, or Hindus, or whatever. I don’t think God has limits. (That includes how the universe got started. Who knows? My mind isn’t able to grasp it, and I can live without knowing.)

    Sadly, I know many people who have been hurt or damaged by churches and/or religion. To all of you I can only apologize and hope that there will be caring people of faith around you in the future.

    But I’m still a good enough Lutheran that when they crank up the pipe organ with “A Mighty Fortress is our God”, I get chills.

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  20. brian stouder said on September 19, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    The computational cosmologist didn’t believe in God, by the way.

    But ironically enough, Albert Einstein – the king of Relativity and quantum randomness, would never accept that ‘God plays dice’

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  21. alex said on September 19, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Really, Brian? I didn’t know there were any Judaic prohibitions on gambling.

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  22. brian stouder said on September 19, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    See – the randomness (and not the gambling) is the offense!

    The funny thing about the term ‘random’ (with regard to numbers and probabilities) is that you cannot define it; if you could define it, then it’s no longer random. (not to sound like a ‘determinist’ – which is a thing to be loathed if you’re in the ‘in’ crowd!)

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  23. Kirk said on September 19, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    Re: prayers for me.

    I have a Catholic sister-in-law (who doesn’t like the news media because they have the audacity to report on things that are the church’s business, such as priests’ sexual attacks on children and the church’s essential sanctioning of them). But she tells me sometimes that she prays for me, because I don’t go to church. She’s not praying for me, though; she’s praying that the scales will fall from my eyes and I’ll become a good, obedient, money-paying Catholic, because it’s the One True Church.

    The world would be so much better off if there were more believers like Julie, who isn’t obsessed with the superiority of her faith. The whole “Mine’s better than yours” idea has screwed up so much for so long for so many.

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  24. Futz said on September 19, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    I’m not surprised a convert could muster 8 million anguished words. Converts always seemed to be much more fundamentalist extremist than multigenerational Catholics. The converts acted upon some sudden epiphany (no pun intended), while the multi-gens defined Catholicism as who we are and who we always were. Like Judaism, multi-generational catholicism is as much a culture as a religion. I may have gone over to the nonbeliever side (quite easily, I might add), but if I had a conversation with someone who attended Catholic school in the 60’s anywhere in the country, large urban area, small town, rural setting, I wouldn’t be surprised to find our experiences more similar than not despite geographical differences.

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  25. LA mary said on September 19, 2007 at 3:32 pm

    Did you see the NYT is no longer charging for columnists or archives online? No more Timeselect.

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  26. colleen said on September 19, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    Baptized Catholic, but never got correctly edumacated. Am now in RCIA, heading to become full fledged at Easter. It seems to be the right thing FOR ME, so I am going with it. I think a huge factor is the priest and the parish I happened into. I feel better when I leave Mass than when I went in, which I could never say when I was attending a local Lutheran church before we were married.

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  27. brian stouder said on September 19, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    Mary, I saw that, but I haven’t dipped in yet.

    I suppose it is another hit-generating way to show advertisements. One wonders, especially after having read Madam Telling Tales’ various examinations of the continuing revolution/evolution within the news biz, whether such a cool thing is the Way Things Are Going to Be; or if it’s another after-shock in the darkness

    (non-sequitur: check this out –

    Other than good ol’ Nance, Jean Baker is an all-time fave of mine)

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  28. john c said on September 19, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    As for education and Catholicism, I did 8 years with the Jesuits. An oversimplification of their philosophy is this: Educate the kids as much as possible and teach and help them in every imaginable way to question everything about their faith. They believe this is a better way to encourage a strong faith than just telling people to shut up with their silly questions and go to Mass. Mind you, they lose more than a few believers along the way, but still. Some of the best people I know are Jesuit priests. (and please, I know full well that the hottest places in hell have perverted sicko Catholic priests sitting on the benches whining. I’m just saying there are some good ones.)
    This is an excellent little blogversation … I’m curious Connie: I can understand you thinking that praying is silly or worthless or whatever. But why would you mind if someone prayed for you? (This is a pure question. I’m not saying you shouldn’t mind. I’d just be interested to hear your reason.)

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  29. alex said on September 19, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    I guess the reason “I’ll pray for you” sticks in some of our craws is that we’ve been accosted with it under somewhat less than honorable circumstances.

    My pat comeback to demonstrators who used to say this to me as I broke through their ranks on my way to gay rights meetings in the ’70s and ’80s was “Don’t pray for me. Pray for wisdom.”

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  30. nancy said on September 19, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    Alex is right; for too many people (and I’m not including you, Joe), “I’ll pray for you” is another way to say “go fuck yourself.” I know a man whose father goes to Mass daily for the sole purpose of praying for his gay son’s soul. They get along OK, but it’s safe to say this is a sizable barrier between them.

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  31. john c said on September 19, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    Yeah, I can see what both of you are saying. “I’ll pray for you” is often another way of saying: “I am right and you are wrong.” or “I am so, soooo much better than you that I will pray for you even though I hate you.” I just thought that, in this case, the tone was more: “I like you even though I disagree with you. And even though you don’t think it will do any good, I’ll pray for you because I think it might help you. Not that you need help any more than I do. But we all need help.” I could have heard it wrong, though. It’s sort of like the store clerks who say: “Have a blessed day.” At first it bugged me FNAR. Now I think its kind of nice.

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  32. del said on September 19, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    John c, I think that Connie objects to the implications of Joe K’s post; that nonbelievers are somehow inferior to believers and merit prayer; and that by granting permission to pray for them nonbelievers impliedly acknowledge such inferiority (or perhaps admit that they are not really nonbelievers).

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  33. Danny said on September 19, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    I’ve never had a store clerk say that, but I have had waitresses call me, “Hon.” Which is kinda nice.

    But two weeks ago, my wife and I were at Islands setting at the bar eating a burger and having a beer and I innocuously said to the bar-maid, “here you go, Hon,” as I handed her my credit card. When she walked away, my wife looked at me sideways and asked if I just called that woman “Hon” and told me I sounded like an old man. It was funny. She was just messing with me, but I had to explain it was somewhat of an East coast thing.

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  34. alex said on September 19, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    I remember one time in Indianapolis where the protestors weren’t offering to pray but in fact threatening to do much worse. It fairly cemented my dim view of religion, at least as it’s practiced by a good number of protestant fundamentalists.

    I remember that day was the same day the news came on the radio that Marvin Gaye had been shot by his father. Luckily no other gays got shot that day, but it very well could have happened. We were literally under siege. A bunch of gay groups from the midwest were convening for a meeting at a YWCA. The Indianapolis Baptist Temple dispatched a huge mob to the Y demanding that “Christian” be struck from the organization’s name for allowing us to peaceably assemble and discuss human rights in their meeting rooms.

    A batallion of police officers had to escort us in; once there, we weren’t free to come and go. There were no females outside among the protestors, the rationale being that “it’s not a woman’s place to be outspoken in public.” No, there were men and boys, some very young boys, and it was appalling to me that anyone, much less someone who’d call himself Christian, would take a child to a hate rally where there was a high likelihood of violence.

    The local network affiliates were there and the Christians put on quite a show for them, perhaps illustrating our plight better than anything else possibly could have. By the end of the day, when their numbers had dwindled considerably, the police let us leave.

    You know, I agree, it’s not axiomatic that people of faith are uneducated or crazy or ignorant. It’s axiomatic that uneducated and crazy and ignorant people are invariably also religious and have fairly poisoned my mind against faith more than a good education ever could.

    Maybe I don’t really lack faith. I just don’t put my faith in hatred. I put my faith in love. And reason.

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  35. Connie said on September 19, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    John C asked me: I’m curious Connie: I can understand you thinking that praying is silly or worthless or whatever. But why would you mind if someone prayed for you? (This is a pure question. I’m not saying you shouldn’t mind. I’d just be interested to hear your reason.)

    Hmm. Feel free to pray away . Just don’t tell me about it. How is it I need to be prayed for? Why is it you need to tell me you are?

    There is a serious grammar problem in those last sentences, but I can’t come up with a fix.

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  36. Julie Robinson said on September 19, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    Colleen, I have to show my ignorance; what does RCIA stand for?

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  37. Connie said on September 19, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    Julie, I already looked it up myself! But shouldn’t I let Colleen tell you?

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  38. MichaelG said on September 19, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    What is it with this praying business? Why do people have to make such a large production out of it? Take prayer in school. There certainly is no prohibition against quietly bowing one’s head and saying a silent prayer. Why can’t people do that? Why do they have to turn their personal activity into a spectacle? Why can’t religion or spirituality be a private thing?

    Telling someone you are going to pray for them is so arrogant, so patronizing as to make me want to scream.

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  39. Julie Robinson said on September 19, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    Oh yeah, I guess I could have googled it before I wrote! I know that bringing new members in at Easter is an ancient tradition, and our Pastor is always thrilled when we do. But we also take people at other times of year, after new member classes. Waiting until Easter, though, to be a full member? They must be really thorough. Do you have to wait until then to commune?

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  40. Connie said on September 19, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    I will scream along with you MichaelG.

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  41. Danny said on September 19, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    Michael, I’m going to pray for you and then “lay hands” upon you. Just kidding.

    Actually, I’ve never mentioned it, but I have ocassionally prayed for people on this forum … privately, without their request or knowledge. It can’t hurt.

    I didn’t mention it because I agree that sometimes people can be arrogant about such things. Plus I’m such a smartass that most of you would probably tell me to go genuflect myself. 🙂

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  42. Colleen said on September 19, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. In the Catholic church, becoming a member involves taking RCIA, which starts in the fall, then new members are welcomed at Easter Vigil. I’m enjoying it right now on the basis of learning stuff I didn’t know before.

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  43. MarkH said on September 19, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    MichaelG, it’s because much of the Christian faithful have not fully grasped certain elements of, if not all, of Jesus’ teachings, such as the Sermon On The Mount. He deals very specifically with how to pray, give and fast: in private, “where only your Father can see you”. These passages are best recounted in Matthew 6:1-18. This is a basis of my faith, in humbleness.

    I’m not prosyeltizing here; my testimony is available to anyone who wants to hear it, but not unsolicited. I’m just pointing out that, yes, not all Christians “get it” (yours truly, a work in progress). And I agree with you that there is an arrogance in a believer telling one he or she perceives as a non-believer, “I’ll pray for you”, for that reason only.

    I’m no Bible scholar, and this may seem too simplistic, but I would urge you to break character for a moment and take a look at that passage, that’s all. It could lead to further questions and answers for any of you here.

    I find it interesting that a thoughtful thread Nancy started centered on some aspects of the Catholic faith has generated some angry responses about religion in general, Christianity in particular. Hypocrisy abounds in any religion, to be sure. But I would just say that some of the people described here as speaking for Christians by venting anger, certainly don’t speak for the rest of us (me, in particular), and I would venture, the vast majority. A Pat Robertson doesn’t speak for me; neither does a Ted Haggard or any of that ilk who seek only exposure for themselves. They just get more press.

    I will, however, defer to those, such as Rick Warren or Robert Schuller or even Billy Graham, to make expressions of my faith much better than I can.

    Speaking of expressions, may I add my endorsement, as well, of the sentiments of John C. and Julie; very nicely put.

    And, finally, Pastor Jeff: You frequently have gentle expressions of wisdom on relevant matters, including faith, yet you are conspicuous by your absence here today. Just wondering about the view from lovely Granville…


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  44. Jeff said on September 19, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    Now i know how Nancy feels when she skips a day and we get fractious . . . actually, i just hopped on-line here at (checking) 11 pm. My weekday job is with a county juvenile court, and we have a September flurry of fine young people who have found that school is too small to contain the greatness of their souls, or the world is too vast not to explore immediately.

    Or they just wanna keep watching TV like they did all summer.

    I enjoy the irony that it was trying to figure out what, exactly, was bugging me about Bob “Bexley is Mayberry” Greene that led me to NN.C, which took me to Amy Welborn, which opened up a world that i was neighbors with, growing up in Chicago, though not Catholic myself. Nancy says she didn’t encounter this kind of piety much in her youth; my neck of the woods (Da Region, northwest Indiana) was full of ethnic statuary-oriented Catholicism, Slovak and Polish and Italian, with the Irish Catholics of Chicago chortling their way through on the South Shore to Notre Dame games to our east. I’ve got a sense of familiarity around Catholic devotion that is entirely from proximity, not practice, but there it is.

    Rod Dreher quotes Wendell Berry often enough he can never entirely drive me away, but i can go weeks without reading his blog — then spend hours catching up through the comments and the (occasionally self-absorbed) poetic posts.

    Alex notes folks like Indy Baptist Temple, who with Greg Dixon and his son were the Fred Phelps and his Topeka family chapel hate-mongers of the 70’s and 80’s. My motivation to stick my 2 cents in on religion and society discussions is largely based on my own belief that a very small number of mean, nasty people manage to make the headlines and B-roll in the name of Jesus . . . or Muhammad, et cetera.

    What Hitchens and Dawkins et alia are somewhat willful in missing is the vast, decent, steady influence of faith in a wider reality for families and communities. Neither bin Laden nor Dixon or Falwell or Phelps represent much of anyone, but the other stories are like asking for more reporting on “14,000 planes landed safely today.” Ditto the priest scandals, which deserve coverage, but in terms of percentage, are just as bad with Lutherans or Southern Baptists or high school science teachers. Now, look at the Boston diocese, where the curve is shattered by the volume of molestors among clergy, and you do have to ask about “the culture of co-operation,” but Catholicism has no more problem in this area than any other denomination.

    What we Christians should be haunted by (and most of us are) is that our leaders are not significantly more moral than the general population, and that our marriages are no more successful than anyone else’s. The National Association of Manufacturers did a survey some years back to look at the consumer habits of this newfound “Evangelical Christian” population, and were greatly relieved to learn that they didn’t have to do anything different, because there was no difference in how many cars, or the length of boats, or the money spent eating out. They gave a bit more when including church offerings, but they saved as ineffectively as the general population.

    As G.K. Chesterton might have said, it isn’t a sign that Christianity isn’t valid so much as a sign that few are validating it. But when i’m working on lobbying for housing issues, building Habitat houses, supporting food pantries and agitating against predatory lending, i run into liberal Protestants and conservative Catholics and cheerful Evangelicals almost entirely. Faith still has a pretty good track record for showing up when the messy, dirty work of building a better community and tearing down injustice needs to get done.

    Now i’m conspicuous by my verboseness . . .

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  45. John said on September 20, 2007 at 6:59 am

    “What we Christians should be haunted by (and most of us are) is that our leaders are not significantly more moral than the general population, and that our marriages are no more successful than anyone else’s. ”

    This is so true and speaks volumns about the adherence to Matthew Chapter 7.

    Danny, after I turned 50, I started calling all the waitresses and counter help young ladies “sweetheart”.

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  46. alex said on September 20, 2007 at 7:55 am

    I hope those who are earnestly religious here realize that my tizz is directed only at those who think they have the right to persecute others on religious grounds. I don’t advocate or proseletyze atheism. I don’t think the world would be a better place without faith. I do think, however, that the world would be a better place if all people were more thoughtful about what they purport to believe.

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  47. Jeff said on September 20, 2007 at 8:02 am

    Heard, noted, and heartily agreed, Alex! And you’ve been clear about that before, which is appreciated. I just hadn’t thought about Greg Dixon’s Baptist Temple for a blessedly long time, and i’m sorry you had to cross paths with them.

    To use a technical theological term: yiiiiiccckkk. Emphasis on the three “k’s” at the end.

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  48. nancy said on September 20, 2007 at 8:14 am

    Sounds like the Chicago version of the Rev. Rod Parsley.

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  49. john c said on September 20, 2007 at 8:40 am

    I’ve never understood how Christians can be so hateful to homosexuals. I understand that some people are uncomfortable with homosexuality, probably because of some combination of uptightness and lack of exposure to gay people. But the word I always come back to when I think about the response of so many – but by no means all – religious folk to gay people is unkindness. The best people I know are, at their core, kind. You certainly don’t have to be religious or have faith to be kind. But there is no kindness in persecuting people just because they are different.

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  50. Cathy D. said on September 20, 2007 at 9:10 am

    A brave post.

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  51. Dorothy said on September 20, 2007 at 10:31 am

    Indeed a brave post by john c. I agree completely.

    As for me, I keep my praying and my faith to myself as much as I possibly can. It’s much too personal to me to share with other people, and I don’t think I have to explain any of it to anyone. I’ve really come to believe that so many things are pre-ordained and we just don’t have much effect on day-to-day existence. Except for making good and rational decisions so as not to put ourselves in harm’s way. Does that make sense?

    Hey Jeff – when are you going to come by Kenyon and go to lunch with me?! I go from noon to 1 Tuesday through Friday. On Mondays I have to be the one who answers the phones, and go to lunch 1-2. Keep me in mind – I work directly across the street from the bookstore, and right next door to the post office.

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  52. brian stouder said on September 20, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Well, I say we should all arrange (loosely) for an unofficial NN.c lunchapalooza/gabfest, someplace where Diet Coke refills are free

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  53. Connie said on September 20, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    Where Brian? Columbus? Fort Wayne? My deck in Goshen? Or Nancy’s newly fixed up back yard. Will we pray before the meal?

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  54. brian stouder said on September 20, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    Will we pray before the meal?

    depends where we’re eating!

    As to ‘where’, I’m always looking for an excuse to go here and there and everywhere….so anyway, the long-range planning committee (us!) should study this and report back

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  55. LA mary said on September 20, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    Let’s all go to Dorothy’s new office.

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  56. A Riley said on September 20, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    I’m one of those chortling Chicago Irish Catholics Jeff mentions above, and when I first discovered blogs it was the Catholic blogosphere I discovered (and from Amy to Nancy). And most of those people who populate St. Blog’s Parish (yes, that’s what they call it) are nothing like the Catholics I know — I mean *nothing.* The fear, the snobbery, the clericalism, the willful obscurantism, the magical thinking (and I use that word with thought) — that’s so completely *not* part of my lived experience of Catholic culture.

    I’ve got a relative in Indy who was brought up without religious practice, and became Catholic in adulthood (baptized at the Easter Vigil) — and she’s become one of those. Mystifies me. I don’t know what button in the psyche that pushes, I really don’t.

    So anyway.

    I worked for City News Bureau in Chicago for a while in the 1980s and that little newsroom was, as far as I could tell, a microcosm of newsrooms the world over, except with a younger, more transient population. The reporters were almost all kids right out of college, at least partially subsidized by the Bank of Dad (because no way could anyone survive on a CNB reporter’s paycheck, especially while maintaining a car, which they had to), and oh, they worked *hard* to live up to the reputation of hard-bitten, hard-drinking, hard-screwing Chicago journalists. Peyton Place, honest to God.

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  57. nancy said on September 20, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    When Pope Benedict was elected, Rod Dreher echoed the leading right-wing Cat’licks of our time, who hoped that his term would lead to “a smaller, purer church.” I cannot help but note that Dreher chose not to stick around for it. So much for the smaller part.

    As for converts, I think their frequent orthodoxy is pretty well-noted and has been for some time. I figure they have a role to play — they remind the congregation of what they’re supposed to be doing, having covered the texts fairly recently. I only wish more of them paid attention to the lifers, who by their own practice show what stands the test of time.

    Oh, and speaking of gay people, re John C’s comments above: Did you know there’s a Catholic Medical Association and that this is part of its position on homosexuality:

    Individuals experience same-sex attractions for different reasons. While there are similarities in the patterns of development, each individual has a unique, personal history. In the histories of persons who experience same-sex attraction, one frequently finds one or more of the following:

    Alienation from the father in early childhood, because the father was perceived as hostile or distant, violent or alcoholic, (Apperson 1968 ; Bene 1965 ; Bieber 1962 ; Fisher 1996 ; Pillard 1988 ; Sipova 1983 )
    Mother was overprotective (boys), (Bieber, T. 1971 ; Bieber 1962 ; Snortum 1969 )
    Mother was needy and demanding (boys), (Fitzgibbons 1999 )
    Mother emotionally unavailable (girls), (Bradley 1997 ; Eisenbud 1982 )
    Parents failed to encourage same-sex identification, (Zucker 1995 )
    Lack of rough and tumble play (boys), (Friedman 1980 ; Hadden 1967a )
    Failure to identify with same/sex peers, (Hockenberry 1987 ; Whitman 1977 )
    Dislike of team sports (boys), (Thompson 1973 )
    Lack of hand/eye coordination and resultant teasing by peers (boys), (Bailey 1993 ; Fitzgibbons 1999 ; Newman 1976 )
    Sexual abuse or rape, (Beitchman 1991 ; Bradley 1997 ; Engel 1981 ; Finkelhor 1984; Gundlach 1967 )
    Social phobia or extreme shyness, (Golwyn 1993 )
    Parental loss through death or divorce, (Zucker 1995)
    Separation from parent during critical developmental stages. (Zucker 1995)

    In some cases, same-sex attraction or activity occurs in a patient with other psychological diagnosis, such as:

    major depression, (Fergusson 1999 )
    suicidal ideation, (Herrell 1999),
    generalized anxiety disorder,
    substance abuse,
    conduct disorder in adolescents,
    borderline personality disorder, (Parris 1993 ; Zubenko 1987 )
    schizophrenia, (Gonsiorek 1982)
    pathological narcissism. (Bychowski 1954 ; Kaplan 1967 )

    In a few cases, homosexual behavior appears later in life as a response to a trauma such as abortion, (Berger 1994 ; de Beauvoir 1953) or profound loneliness (Fitzgibbons 1999).

    (I love the part about hand-eye coordination. But they say nothing about having a great color sense!)

    More amazement here.

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  58. Dan said on September 20, 2007 at 8:37 pm

    My next door cube mate is nearing the end of his career, has a wonderful classical education via Hillsdale College, undergrad degrees in math and chemistry and masters in Chem. He is not on the God bandwagon and his kids never spent a day in church. They’re good decent people, all. We had an interesting conversation recently about his grandchildren, who are also unchurched. It seems that even though he, personally rejected religion, he does bemoan the fact that his children and grandchildren miss many cultural queues — like when people allude to the Promised Land or the story of Samson, or the story of Joshua, or pick your own Christian story.

    On another issue, I wonder how much we all reap the rewards of living in a Christian community whether we are Christian or not. Oh, you can always point to bad acts Christians have done, but it has often been the Christian faith that also brought the world around to a more enlightened point of view. Discrimination, for example, versus MLK. But the less hold Christianity has on society, the less we’ll have Christian morals to fall back on. It’s kind of like these folks who don’t vaccinate their kids because they are afraid the vaccination will cause autism… they can get away with it because most people get their kids vaccinated. Once the vaccination level falls below a certain level of the population, the diseases start to show back up again.

    This isn’t to say that Christians are never immoral, it’s just that we have a certain agreement about what’s right and wrong that provides a backdrop on behavior. Throw that out and it’s not easy to know where you stand… society becomes like Reddit or Digg or You-Tube where nobody even has a starting point for discussion, let alone the tolerance for anything but total freedom.

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  59. del said on September 20, 2007 at 10:52 pm

    Interesting. If Christianity’s influence waned, hopefully simple goodness, kindness, and love would be the “starting point” in a post-20th century world . . . of course the potential for taking a bad turn’s always present . . .

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  60. Danny said on September 20, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    Thanks, Dan. Very good. Don’t believe we’ve seen you around here before. Glad to have you.

    Jeff, as always. Awesome.

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  61. Dan said on September 20, 2007 at 11:51 pm

    Don’t you think it difficult to define “goodness” and “badness” without relating to religion? For example, is it bad to cheat on a test if the professor is not grading on a curve? If so, I wonder why. Is it good to stay married to the same person your whole life — even if there are rough patches when you’re both unhappy? Take away religion and it all seems to twist in the wind. Before you know it, it becomes a good thing to euthanize burdensome people and a bad thing to have a father around the house (see letter from Befuddled at Slate’s “Ask Prudence” site ).

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  62. nancy said on September 21, 2007 at 12:08 am

    You lose me when you start crediting religion for good behavior, Dan. Is that the only reason you treat your wife with kindness — to get into heaven. One letter to one advice columnist does not a social trend make. Is it good to stay married to the same person your whole life, even through rough patches? I wouldn’t know, not being in a position to judge. A long marriage can be a wonderful thing, but the very fact of its length doesn’t make it so.

    As for reaping the rewards of living in a Christian community, I’ll give this to the other monotheists in Metro Detroit (Jews and Muslims) — they have better food in their neighborhoods.

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  63. Dan said on September 21, 2007 at 6:23 am

    It isn’t virtuous to seek a reward for good behavior, so I would hope the answer is, “No, I do not treat my wife with kindness just so I can get into heaven.” Your comment, though, seems unrealistic. Is anyone really able to step outside their own upbringing and the society in which they were raised and declare the reasons for each of their actions?

    As for the Jews and Muslims in Detroit vs. a Christian community… how fairs the Jewish community’s restaurants in Saudi Arabia? How fairs the Muslim restaurants in Israel?

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  64. brian stouder said on September 21, 2007 at 8:15 am

    So – if the nn.c peanut gallery was to have lunch at a Muslim joint in D-town, what would the special be?

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  65. alex said on September 21, 2007 at 8:24 am

    Dan on toast.

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  66. brian stouder said on September 21, 2007 at 8:32 am


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  67. nancy said on September 21, 2007 at 8:57 am

    Kebabs, hummus, the usual Arab stuff, but what I’ve really found intriguing is how many of the Middle Eastern restaurants offer complex, delicious, elaborate juice drinks — vegetable juice, fruit blends, vegetable-fruit mashups, the whole bit. Maybe it’s a no-alcohol thing, but man, they are good good good.

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  68. brian stouder said on September 21, 2007 at 9:07 am

    Well, I’m not averse to a wine cooler on the swing at the end of the day – but alcohol at lunch sounds like a bad plan all around!

    ‘Course, when it comes to alcohol, I’ve got a glass jaw. A little goes a long way with me*, (probably a net-blessing, so to speak) and not much more than a little makes me terribly sick; but I can drink gallons and gallons of abject swill like Diet Coke, and my teeth are fine and my heart beats regularly

    *Pammy points out that this is because I start out light-headed and somewhat disoriented

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  69. Danny said on September 21, 2007 at 10:20 am

    Dan, just so you know, a good many of the people around here will vehemently disagree with you if you say anything good about Christianity. It’s a reflex action. Kind of like visiting the “Argument Clinic” in Monty Python, except with even less reasoned positions to the contrary.

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  70. nancy said on September 21, 2007 at 10:26 am

    Danny, I have less interest in debating this than I do in inserting needles in my eyes, but let’s at least get this on the table: When you’re talking about religion, “reasoned positions” don’t really enter the argument. On either side.

    Ow, the needles!

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  71. Danny said on September 21, 2007 at 10:42 am

    Ah, Exhibit A.

    See here! A argument is more than just simple statements to the contrary.

    “No it isn’t.”

    “Yes it is.”


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  72. brian stouder said on September 21, 2007 at 10:53 am

    Well, I still liked the Country Joe McDonald article, fwiw

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  73. Pauli said on September 21, 2007 at 11:58 am

    LOL. Mark Shea had a piece on Dreher’s naivete, but he deleted it — not sure why…. I preserved it here.

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  74. del said on September 21, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    Yeah, it’s hard — maybe impossible — to declare the reasons for our actions. Is it good to stay married to the same person your whole life despite some rough patches? I dunno. We’re getting into the realm of the unknowable. You seem concerned about a moral slippery slope. I’m not as uncomfortable as some with moral ambiguity, but yes, I too have my limits and reach a point at which I crave clarity (wimpy as I am). To me it’s like neatness. Everyone likes a clean room, but some people are more tolerant of of messiness. Everyone craves moral clarity, but some are more tolerant of ambiguity. I think virtue transcends religion. We all know goodness when we see it: Muslim, Jew, Hindu, agnostic, Inuit, whatever. It’s kinda the converse of what Supreme Court Justice Brennan said about “obscenity” . . . Can’t tell you what it is, but “I’ll know it when I see it.”

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  75. Dorothy said on September 21, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    twenty three hours ago Mary made a suggestion. And my response (like the little lady in “Poltergeist”)

    ALLLLLLL are welcome!!! ALLL are welcome

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  76. MarkH said on September 21, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    del- fwiw —

    It was Justice Potter Stewart who “knew it when he saw it”.

    Great continuing thread here; I have so much I can say in response, but it will have to wait for the weekend when I am not at work; and I can be even MORE conspicuous in my “verboseness” than Pastor Jeff (!!!).

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  77. del said on September 21, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    Oops. (poor google site-checking)

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  78. alex said on September 21, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    To paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart, “It’s not the teat but the tumidity.”

    I stole that line from William Safire. I just googled it a second ago and see it’s getting quite a lot of mileage without appropriate attribution. Speaking of doing the right thing.

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