The Guy (or Gal) Most Likely To…

For a long time, there was a meme going around atheist circles that showed the Twin Towers pre-9/11 that said something to the effect that if there was no religion, then the World Trade Center would still be standing. Like most memes, I think the “no religion, no 9/11” notion is rather facile, especially since being highly religious, even “fundamentalist,” in one’s thinking does not mean one is going to run off to join a religiously motivated terrorist group. ISIS is an excellent example of this, since many of their Western recruits know next to nothing about the religion they supposedly are going to fight for:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/new-isis-recruits-have-deep-criminal-roots/2016/03/23/89b2e590-f12e-11e5-a61f-e9c95c06edca_story.html

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/01/isis-criminals-converts/426822/

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Strange Fruit, Rotting on the Ground

For the past month or so, I’ve been working on a class on medieval Christianity and before that I was dealing with a full load of four courses. It was my intention to do a number of posts on various aspects of the medieval church, but recent events have caused me to change my plans.

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The Middle Ages: Age of Faith or Age of Meh?

Traditionalists and secular humanists may not see eye-to-eye on much, but both groups tend to agree that the era of Latin Christendom (also known as the Middle Ages or the medieval period) was an “Age of Faith,” when Western European politics and culture revolved around the Catholic Church. For traditionalists, Christendom was the high point of Western civilization, and we’ve being going downhill ever since, while secular humanists would see that same period as a time of stagnation, or “one thousand years without a bath,” as one wag put it. Both views are wrong for reasons that I’ve already articulated on this blog, but the widely held belief that the Middle Ages was an “Age of Faith” is also incorrect.

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The Return of the Queen

I haven’t been posting as much lately, what with the demands of graduate school and such, but occasionally a story happens that demands a response. No, it’s not about the Donald Trump Show, the ignominious return of the Duggars to television, the death of Mother Angelica, or whatever thing Pope Francis is doing. This story is much more important: Kathleen Battle is  returning to the Metropolitan Opera:

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Lester Maddox: Christian, American, Governor, Segregationist

Yesterday, I went to the Atlanta History Center to see the new “Atlanta in 50 Objects” exhibit. Most of the choices were predictable, but still interesting: a copy of “Gone With the Wind,” White and Colored signs from the Jim Crow era, the old school Pink Pig that used to be at the downtown Macy’s, MLK’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, funerary from Oakland Cemetery, etc. However, there was one entry that really surprised and interested me: the “pickrick” (i.e., axe handle turned club) that Lester Maddox used to chase black civil rights protesters away from his restaurant, the Pickrick Cafeteria:

http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/government-politics/lester-maddox-1915-2003

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/25/us/lester-maddox-whites-only-restaurateur-and-georgia-governor-dies-at-87.html?pagewanted=all

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The Tragedy and Comedy of Whitney Houston

There are three things I know about Whitney Houston:

  1. Whitney Houston was incredibly talented, possessing probably the best voice in the history of recorded popular music.
  2. Whitney Houston had a fervent desire to know god, love god, and serve god, to paraphrase the Baltimore Catechism.
  3. Whitney Houston was a complete mess.

Thus, we have the elements of the tragedy and comedy of Houston’s life and career.

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What Do People Do With the Latin Mass?

In my continuing response to Msgr. Charles Pope’s piece about stagnating attendance numbers at Latin Masses (http://www.ncregister.com/blog/msgr-pope/an-urgent-warning-about-the-future-of-the-traditional-latin-mass), I decided that it would be useful to examine what Latin Mass advocates do with their preferred liturgical form and what they hope to achieve by increasing the number of Latin Masses available to the public.

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The Joy of Sects

I can’t believe I only just found out about this one. In a rare flash of insight and self-reflection, Msgr. Charles Pope wrote an article for the National Catholic Register about how the numbers for Latin Mass participation seem to have stagnated and how Latin Mass communities need to actively evangelize to increase their numbers and their clout.

It seems that a ceiling has been hit. The Traditional Latin Mass appeals to a certain niche group of Catholics, but the number in that group appears to have reached its maximum.

Some traditional Catholics I speak to say, “If only the archdiocese would promote us more,” or “If only the bishop would celebrate it at all or more frequently.” Perhaps, but many other niche groups in the archdiocese say the same thing about their particular interest.

At the end of the day, for any particular movement, prayer form, organization, or even liturgy, the job of promoting it must belong to those who love it most. Shepherds don’t have sheep; sheep have sheep.

And once again we are back to the fundamental point: numbers matter. Groups that seek respect, recognition, and promotion in the highest places need to remember that numbers do matter; it’s just the way life works. If we who love the Traditional Latin Mass want to be near the top of the bishop’s priority list, we’re going to have to be more than one-half of one percent of Catholics in the pews

http://m.ncregister.com/blog/msgr-pope/an-urgent-warning-about-the-future-of-the-traditional-latin-mass#.VrNn-PHe1Rk

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Do Catholics and Protestants Worship the Same God?

You may be aware of the recent scandal in which Wheaton College, supposedly the “evangelical Harvard,” fired a black female professor (the only one on the entire campus) for stating that Christians and Muslims worship the same god:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2016/01/11/wheatons-official-story-collapses/

This post is not about this incident, which has been discussed in great detail elsewhere. Rather, I’m going to write about whether Catholics and Protestants worship the same god.

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Separated Brethren: Black and White Christians

There’s an old movie of the “so bad it’s good” variety called The Thing With Two Heads (1972) that could be interpreted as a bizarro world allegory about American race relations. In this film,  a rich, racist white man is dying of cancer and demands to have his head transplanted onto a healthy body. The doctors oblige, but the only body available is that of a wrongfully accused black death row convict. Hilarity ensues, and we have the perfect analogy of race in America: a two heads on a single body, constantly beating itself up:

http://www.1000misspenthours.com/reviews/reviewsn-z/thingwithtwoheads.htm

Of course, race in America is more than black and white, so maybe a better analogy might be a hydra with self-destructive tendencies. Nonetheless, the thing with two heads is a good way of thinking of race in the South, which is still largely a black and white affair.

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