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Nihilism, Grace, and the Religion of the Rose

Posted by on Jan 20, 2016 in Catholic Church, G.K. Chesterton, God, Homepage, John Caputo, Love, Mysticism, Postmodernism | 1 comment

I just returned from a Caribbean cruise (my life is hard), and I brought two books with me: Chuck Klosterman’s The Visible Man, and John D. Caputo’s Hoping against Hope: Confessions of a Postmodern Pilgrim. The former is a novel and is the one I was planning on reading (to be honest I wasn’t expecting to crack the latter at all). But as it turned out, I read almost all of Hoping while Visible remained untouched.  Caputo is one of the leading figures in the world of so-called “Radical Theology,” and this book explores his own spiritual journey from a young boy in his pre-Vatican 2 Philadelphia parish, through his time in a religious order as a young man, to his adulthood as a philosopher and theologian.  The basic gist of Caputo’s argument stems from a line from a German mystic (those “disturbers of the...

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Sexual Puritans in an R-Rated Culture

Posted by on Dec 2, 2015 in America, Culture, Culture War, Dan Savage, Homepage, Homosexuality, Pop Culture, Power, Sex | 2 comments

As you probably know, Christian and I interviewed Dan Savage on our most recent episode of Drunk Ex-Pastors. For those not familiar, Dan is  a gay-rights activist as well as the nation’s most well-known sex-advice columnist. Going in, we pretty much knew that the episode would make some people uncomfortable. We were right. I won’t spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that our conversation focused on sex in general and homosexuality in particular, and it featured just about everything you can imagine a discussion like that including. And true to form, some of our more conservative and Christian listeners disapproved. In a word, they thought it was distasteful and icky. Here’s the irony: Many corners of the Christian church have leaders who clamor for relevance, for a seat at the cultural table, and for a chance...

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Careful What You’re Thankful For

Posted by on Nov 26, 2015 in America, Football, God, Homepage, Humanity, Love, Protest, Thanksgiving | 2 comments

Like many of you, I will be spending the day with friends, family, and people I love. I’ll be eating turkey, having some good slash awkward conversations with plenty of eye-rolling, and watching a guy run the ball up the middle for a loss of yardage instead of just going around the defenders like he should’ve done.  Like many of you, I have a lot for which to be thankful. And like almost all of you, my giving-of-thanks should be mingled with a touch of grief, especially insofar as what I am thankful for falls under the rubric of The American Dream. To come at this by way of illustration, is it right for the child of a jewel thief to thank God for his Xbox? Sure, he may believe that it is God who is the ultimate Source...

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Don’t Love God, Love the World Instead

Posted by on Oct 26, 2015 in God, Homepage, Humanity, Love, Peter Rollins | 29 comments

I have given little hints here and there to the fact that my experience with God is largely characterized by divine absence, the “real absence of Christ” (to subvert a well-known theological formula). In short, the “every hair of your head” and “not a sparrow falls” passages resonated very little with me, if at all, while the one about his giving sunrise and rainfall indiscriminately to all made more sense. Shit happens, is what I’m saying. And it’s all pretty random, so don’t try to interpret Providence or expect God to be overly doting or attentive.  I read something the other night in Peter Rollins’s book Insurrection that made a little bit of sense out of all this:  In the Incarnation, then, we find a fundamental transformation in the way that we are to approach God, a shift that takes us...

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Is God Dead?

Posted by on Oct 14, 2015 in God, Homepage, Humanity, Idolatry, Peter Rollins, Postmodernism | 8 comments

I have been reading a bit of Irish philosopher/theologian Peter Rollins recently, as well as listening to some of his talks on YouTube. His reading of the Christian tradition is quite radical and subversive, and I am not convinced I have really “gotten” him quite yet. In an effort to further that along, then, I wanted to try to articulate his basic position as best I can (because that, for me, is the best barometer for knowing how well I actually understand something). Mankind is born with a sense of lack (of which a child becomes aware once he develops self-consciousness — it usually manifests itself as a fear of detachment from his mother). This desire for the other Rollins calls idolatry, for it is a desire for that thing out there that will ultimately satisfy us and give...

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I Am an Agnostic

Posted by on Sep 30, 2015 in Agnosticism, Catholic Church, God, Homepage, Humanity, Postmodernism, Suffering, Worldviews | 24 comments

(And so are you.) Here’s what I mean: Agnosticism refers to what we can claim to “know” (gnosis  being the Greek word for “knowledge”). An agnostic, then, is simply someone who doesn’t know something about a particular subject. The Latin equivalent of agnosticism is “ignorance” — if someone asks you whether you agree with the Iran deal that Obama recently struck, you could say, “Well to be honest, I’m pretty agnostic and ignorant on the matter, unfortunately.” In other words, there is relevant information that you don’t know.  When it comes to supernatural things it gets tricky. While a person may claim to know that water boils at 100 degrees Celsius and also claim to know that angels exist, those are two very different types of claims (even though they both invoke the category of knowledge). The first claim...

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Scientists and Superstitious Simpletons

Posted by on Aug 26, 2015 in Culture War, God, Homepage, Postmodernism, Science, Worldviews | 18 comments

I am sick and tired of hearing about the supposed “objectivity” of science and scientific inquiry. The claim goes like this: Belief systems, whether religious or secular, deal in supernatural issues like the afterlife, morality, and the state of the soul. Science, on the other hand, deals in brute facts, and therefore needs to be taken seriously. It’s an incredibly modern kind of claim, if you think about it. And I am just postmodern enough to be suspicious of it. It was Jean-Francois Lyotard who summed up postmodernism as “incredulity toward metanarrative.” By metanarrative, Lyotard meant any overarching story that grounds all of existence, a foundational worldview or set of principles that contextualizes everything else. To that, Lyotard said, the postmodern attitude is one of heel-digging and discomfort. In other words, there is no “view from nowhere.” The desire...

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All the World’s a Stage Office

Posted by on Jul 27, 2015 in Coffee, Culture, Homepage, Starbucks, Technology, Work | 2 comments

Those who go to Starbucks regularly (as I do) surely know that they can be obsessed with creating a mood, a vibe, an overall feel for the establishment. They purport to be a “third place” beyond home or work, a community hub where ideas can be bandied about and discussed. But I have noticed a disturbing trend over the past couple of years: More and more of the Starbucks coffeehouses I frequent are abandoning one vibe for another, more specifically, they are clearing out the big comfy leather chairs to make room for long rectangular work tables. Instead of leaning back and crossing your legs to read, you now lean forward to plug in and work. In fact, you couldn’t lean back if you wanted to since the work stations don’t have chairs, they have stools. I guess Starbucks...

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Posted by on Jul 21, 2015 in Caitlyn Jenner, Culture, God, Homepage, Humanity, Love, Pop Culture, Sex, Sports | 10 comments

I realize Caitlyn Jenner has been discussed ad nauseam by this point, but I would like to weigh in from a slightly different angle. I fully recognize that in some rare cases a person’s sex may not comport with their gender identification. For example, hermaphrodites (or “intersex” people) who were born with both sets of genitalia simply have to live with whichever decision their doctor made at their birth regarding their future maleness or femaleness—the physician decides that their body should be female regardless of his not knowing (or being able to know) how his patient will feel about this decision when she grows up. There is no doubt that this can, and certainly has, caused great suffering for those who feel trapped in the wrong body. Still, these are murky waters, and discussion of this issue can be...

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Bang Bang, You’re Dead

Posted by on Jun 23, 2015 in America, Culture War, Guns, Homepage, Politics | 2 comments

I was having dinner with some friends a couple nights ago, and the issue of guns came up. In such situations I often insist (jokingly, with tongue in cheek) that I just wish Obama would burst through our doors with a battering ram and personally confiscate all our guns so that we’d finally be safe. Once my conversation partner’s hyperventilating has subsided, we can usually have a pretty healthy discussion. The point I made that night, which I also made on episode #49 the Drunk Ex-Pastors podcast, is that we simply don’t get to be “the gun country” on the one hand and lament mass shootings on the other. To be more clear, while those who favor serious and strict firearm regulations can genuinely grieve over schools and churches being shot up and their inhabitants killed, when hardcore NRA-...

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