Saturday, August 11, 2007

The "Community Excuse"

Dr. Jeff Mirus sends me these great email updates from Trinity Communications, here's what he writes in the latest in his introduction to an article on Eucharistic Adoration:

Contemporary spiritualities often tend to deflect us from a personal relationship with God by emphasizing the importance of community. I encountered this recently in a parish leaflet which explained how Eucharistic adoration has given way to a more community-centric understanding of Christ's presence.

Well, to paraphrase somebody, it's never the community that bothers you; it's the people. Still, a community-centered understanding of Christ's presence is surely a very fine thing. But should it diminish our attention to His presence in the Eucharist?

Dr. Mirus is reacting to a type of "replacement" of the community spirit for devotion to the Eucharist. In the article, he reacts to leaflet stressing what he calls the "community-centric experience of Christ" and he points out that "There is nothing wrong with what is being said here. The problem lies in what is left out." Forgetting the source of the community's charity, unity and other charisms leads to what he calls a "new Pelagianism", i.e., a belief that the spirit and charity of the community has been somehow achieved be the efforts of those of whom it's composed rather than by the Sacramentum Caritatis, the Sacrament of Charity.

When we focus on the community at the expense of the direct presence of Christ in the Eucharist, we forget the source of the community’s power, and so our own sources begin to take over. We find ourselves evaluating community action according to prevailing social theories, or the interpretations of the mass media, or simply the fashionable ideas of the day. The community’s likes and dislikes, chosen causes, policies and prescriptions come not from the spirit of Christ but only from some broken or even alien community spirit which has been psychologically detached from its origin in Christ. What we try to do, in effect, is to save ourselves. Religion becomes horizontalized and Pelagius becomes our unnamed hero.

Even worse, should someone attempt to emphasize magisterial principles or traditional spirituality, he will be accused of going against the spirit of the community, which now becomes self-referential. The truth of things must be read in the community and nowhere else, as if the reception of the sacraments alone guarantees that Christ will be unfailingly visible in every portion of His mystical Body. Without question, the community that begins by becoming the exclusive focus of a truncated spirituality will always end by becoming the exclusive standard of truth.

As Tom writes in the "clip & save" section of his blog, "Can we say 'BOTH / AND'?" I've experienced this kind of thing in a baptism class where the leader actually said "We used to say that baptism washed away original sin, but now we say it's how someone becomes a member of the community." Again, why can't it be both/and?

It is indeed a mystery to me why this is so difficult, but I don't think it's lack of theological training that is the cause. If people spouting this stuff don't have an agenda -- and I don't think most of them do -- it's definitely a breakdown in common sense and a failure to state things with clarity. This is normally described to the ideological phenomenon known as liberalism. Regardless, let the following short video serve as an entertaining reminder more than one feature of spirituality, or beer, can have importance.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Modern vs. Progressive

The "M" Bistro in Westlake, OH is a really fine restaurant that I've been to exactly once for lunch, and I highly recommend the food and the "experience". But I have to mock the first sentence of their homepage for a second: "M Bistro is the modern answer to a Progressive American Bistro with Global Infusions."


The page concludes with "Experience food as it was intended!" Maybe I should try that sophisticated marketing tack with my 3-year-old instead of my usual "Put the food in your mouth and eat it."

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

"Is that in the red part?"

Pretty funny. Colbert quotes Matthew 10:34 to John M. and he doubts that it's really in "the red part", i.e., the words of Jesus Himself. Colbert keeps it pretty light, but at the same time really challenges the poor guy who's a better singer than he is a thinker.

Little trivia: met a guy who'd opened for Mellencamp's band. He referred to John M. as "Coug" and said he was angry and mean to everyone who went up to meet him. He said, "Don't stand to close to Coug, man, he don't like that," referring to the Napoleonic tendencies of the small town rocker. Whoops, I meant the Smalltown Rocker.

Sowell Reveals the Culprit

To attain some brownie points with Bubba, I'm directing all y'all to a piece by one of his favorite writers, Thomas Sowell. Here Sowell offers an explanation for what we might call the "root cause" of the whole sub-prime, creative financing thingamabob. Excerpt:

But why were housing prices going up so fast, in the first place? A number of studies of communities across the United States and in countries overseas turned up the same conclusion: Government restrictions on building.

While many other factors can be involved -- rising incomes, population growth, construction costs -- a scrutiny of the times and places where housing prices doubled, tripled, or quadrupled within a decade shows that restrictions on building have been the key.

Attractive and heady phrases like "open space," "smart growth" and the like have accompanied land use restrictions that made the cost of land rise in many places to the point where it greatly exceeded the cost of the homes built on the land.

In places that resisted this political rhetoric, home prices remained reasonable, despite rising incomes and population growth.

Construction costs were seldom a major factor, for there was relatively little construction in places with severe building restrictions and skyrocketing home prices.

In short, government has been the principal factor preventing the "affordable housing" that politicians talk about so much.

So, what does this remind you of? "Smart Growth" as opposed to horrible, "cancer-like" consumerist growth which might help keep prices down? As always, it comes down to the free market versus the "sieg heil" crowd. Call them communitarians, control freaks, new urbanists, rich elitists -- whatever name the fascists are going by this season seems to me to be largely unimportant.

Brownie points aside, I was stongly reminded of this related post from the "vault". It seems as if there is a good English word for "do[ing] things to control the rate of change and the direction of the change" and that word is regulation.

I'm back in town... here is James brown.

I'm loving that "duet" he does with the sax around 3:00 minutes in and continuing to the end. Check out the funky clothes! Looks like he raided the Star Trek wardrobe.