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Part of a letter to the editor in the December 2nd edition of the local newspaper, The Register Guard:
Occupy Eugene’s “dry-place-to-sleep” zone is working great. Thanks to everyone for the donations. The port-a-potties are a high-priority expense, the city parks and recreation department is taking away the garbage, all recyclables and compost are continuously and carefully prescreened on site, and the wood-chip paths are refreshed regularly.
The kitchen is incredible, serving more people than the city’s only other secular soup kitchen (FOOD for Lane County). Having homeless people camp at the conveniently located and unobtrusive site is a natural. This is a priceless opportunity to raise the consciousness of citizens who are, for whatever reasons, clueless about the severity of economic the recession.
Let's see: Free food. Nap zones. Bathroom facilities and breaks. People who clean up after you. Clean play areas. Why not just call it Occupy DayCare for Adults? The big difference, however, is that the children in ordinary daycares don't spend their spare time lecturing the clueless citizens (aka, working parents) about the need for a raised consciousness regarding the goodness of a Nanny State.
No, really. True story. Could this be Jack Chick's lawyer? (Ht: Dave Pierre of The Media Report):
In the sedate and sober world of bankruptcy law, one lawyer's memorandum sticks out like a sore loser.
"Across the country the court systems and particularly the Bankruptcy Court in Minnesota, are composed of a bunch of ignoramus, bigoted Catholic beasts that carry the sword of the church," the Nov. 25 filing said.
It went on to call one bankruptcy judge "a Catholic Knight Witch Hunter," said one trustee was "a priest's boy" and claimed another trustee is a "Jesuitess."
It got worse from there.
Hastings lawyer Rebekah Nett also called U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Nancy Dreher and other court personnel "dirty Catholics." Then she expressed concerns over what might transpire at a hearing docketed for next week, writing, "Catholic deeds throughout the history have been bloody and murderous."
People who spend their time writing and reading legal documents were stunned.
Read the entire November 30th article on the Pioneer Press (Twin Cities, MN) website. The lawyer, Rebekah Nett, claims that the, uh, opinions expressed in the memorandum were those of her client. She also let it be know that Judge Dreher had "yelled" at her over the, um, historically dubious statements. That's the least she could do, methinks.
Honestly, I think the description, "Catholic Knight Witch Hunter", is pretty nifty, although it is a bit unclear if it refers to a Catholic who hunts knight witches, or a Catholic knight who hunts witches. Some clarification is in order. And for the record, I also am opposed to dirty Catholics, which is why my children take baths on a regular basis and they don't believe a word that issues forth from the mouth or office of Nancy Pelosi.
The reference to a "Jesuitess" is a nice historical touch; apparently there was a Jesuitess order—female Jesuits!—that was suppressed in 1633 by Pope Urban (only to reemerge alive and well nearly 400 years later—in Minnesota!). No word yet if Dan Brown will attempt to write a novel titled, The Jesuitess Plot. Actually, there's no word yet if Dan Brown will ever attempt to write. Period.
... how about this video, which is apparently (or allegedly) an officially-sanctioned video of the International Association of Scientologists (IAS):
Um. Hmmm. Okay. The lyrics aren't exactly Shakespeare (or even Hubbard, for that matter), but at least they aren't about shooting cops or leering at, um, ladies. Still, they do have a certain creepy, cultish quality to them:
Giving solutions to the world and the whole human race We ain't never gonna back down, leave town, play the clown. Phychiatry and SPs you know we take 'em down. See the purpose ingrained. It's burning in our blood. They the passing storm. We the unstoppable flood.
See, cuz we the IAS. And we're dauntless and defiant. We confront even the giants, yo. Handle anyone barring freedom for all. Cuz you know when we win then nobody falls. So bring it harder y'all. Let's make it stronger now. Unite as one, answer the call. Come on, and we'll forever be the winners!
"SP" refers to a "suppressive person", and is part of the special language invented and implemented by L. Ron Hubbard. As journalist Janet Reitman explains in detail in her fascinating book, Inside Scientology, Hubbard used his alternative language as a way of further insulating his followers from outside influences, something he worked at with a frenetic passion for decades, notably from the 1950s through the 1970s. Hubbard had a special disdain for psychiatry and psychiatrists:
Hubbard also began to obsess over the forces he saw opposing him, including journalists, whom Hubbard long distrusted and even banned from ever becoming Scientologists. Worse still were psychiatrists, a group that, coupled with the pharmaceutical-drug industry — in Hubbard’s words, a "front group" — operated "straight out of the terrorist textbooks," as he wrote in a 1969 essay titled "Today’s Terrorism." He accused psychiatrists of kidnapping, torturing and murdering with impunity. "A psychiatrist," he wrote, "kills a young girl for sexual kicks, murders a dozen patients with an ice pick, castrates a hundred men." (from this excerpt from the book)
I've read about half of Reitman's book and, frankly, some of what Reitman describes is simply creepy and downright disturbing. I doubt that the above video, if really made by Scientologists, is going to help change that perception too much, even if it also inspires a few laughs along the way.
The latest incarnation of Hasbro's My Little Pony empire has generated buzz among an unexpected fan base: grown men.
So what if the target demographic for the television show and toys featuring brightly colored, sparkly equines is 6- to 12-year-old girls?
The nationwide contingent of men who call themselves "bronies" say they're man enough to admit they love "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic," The Hub television network's newest generation of the children's brand first popularized in the 1980s.
"Just because it's a kids' cartoon show doesn't mean it's not entertaining," says Jacob Schultz, a 20-year-old self-professed brony from Eagle Creek. "Ignoring the fact that they're colorful ponies, they have a good story and characterization behind them."
Schultz is part of a Portland-based group of bronies that recently began meeting to share their passion. The group's latest endeavor, July's "Northwest Bronyfest," attracted 80 My Little Pony enthusiasts -- mostly men, plus a handful of women -- for a two-day celebration of bronyism.
The Romans were conquered, or at least finished off, by barbarians on horses. Will we succumb to the "My Little Pony empire"? Whoa... (ht: Iowa Hawk).
The most god-awful form of contraception, which gets condom usage confused with taking communion, is voluntary, intentional abstinence. At least condoms fail once in a while.
Do Catholics claim opposition to all birth control, if by "birth control" is meant controlling the number and occasion of conceptions and births? Not according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which Mr. Mexico has likely never touched, let alone opened, read, or considered:
A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality ...
Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. (pars. 2368, 2370)
The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception). (par. 2399)
Read the entire section from the CCC. Perhaps Mr. Mexico is unaware that contraceptions are not the only means of regulating procreation. However, judging from the argument he makes next, he's not concerned to much with facts or fairness:
Golly, I nearly forgot, what with the World Series, the Wall Street protests, and clipping my fingernails: the end of the world will be taking place tomorrow, Friday, October 21st. Don't believe me? Well, you'll at least believe the folks at Family Radio, right?
Thus we have learned that except for a somewhat different understanding of the words “earthquake” and “rapture” or “catching up” no other past teachings of Judgment Day or the end of the world have been changed. The time line, the certainty of it, the proofs, and the signs are all precisely the same. No other past teachings have been changed or modified. Indeed, on May 21 Christ did come spiritually to put all of the unsaved throughout the world into judgment. But that universal judgment will not be physically seen until the last day of the five month judgment period, on October 21, 2011.
We have also learned that God is still teaching that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked and will not punish the wicked beyond what is called for in Deuteronomy 25. That is, there is a distinct limit to God’s wrath.
Thus we can be sure that the whole world, with the exception of those who are presently saved (the elect), are under the judgment of God, and will be annihilated together with the whole physical world on October 21, 2011, on the last day of the present five months period. On that day the true believers (the elect) will be raptured. We must remember that only God knows who His elect are that He saved prior to May 21. [emphasis added because, well, it seems kind of important]
Oh, also: the Oregon Ducks will be playing the Colorado Buffalo on Saturday, October 22nd, the day after the world ends. And in case you are wondering, I do believe that Colorado (who is a 31 point underdog) has a better chance of beating the Ducks than the Family Radio folks do of prophecying the end of the world. Truth be told, if Oregon does lose on Saturday, some people around here will feel like it is the end of the world. But since that would be on Saturday and not Friday, it wouldn't count.
From e-mails or comments received in the past 24 hours:
If Insight Scoop is not the best Catholic blog there is, I can’t imagine what could be better. I am amazed daily at the inspiring, informative, critically devastating, humorous, thought-provoking items you post.
Thank you! I can say with all honesty that Insight Scoop is the best blog I'm currently moderating, editing, and shamelessly promoting. I'll happily leave judgments about "best" to intelligent, insightful, and objective readers such as the one who wrote this kind note.
Steve´s words were said to protect us from dogmatic persons like you.
Too which I say: I'm simply going to take Jobs' advice: "Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice." So take that, you dogma-hater, you.
And from another reader, also about the Jobs post (not to be confused with far less substantive jobs bills):
[Jobs] did not only know God (we again go back to the mention of heaven) but he loved and served God by loving the people the world through Apple/Pixar/NeXt ultimately sacrificing himself and I guess he had time to say sorry (so much loved giving people the best it caused cancer), it was a happy death, it wasn't sudden. also having mentioned going to heaven means his soul knew where he is going and reason says this is true because his love to bring joy through good design (showing humble leadership as a ceo who is a presenter and the 1$ salary, of course the humility isn't perfect).This love we now enjoy through cool tech.
PITTSBURGH, Sept. 9 (UPI) -- A former Catholic priest's plans to convert a small chapel into a large center near the Pennsylvania field where United Flight 93 crashed worries critics.
Bishop Alphonse Mascherino, who now serves with a branch of the Catholic Church not recognized by the Vatican, wants to move the former Lutheran church he converted into a Flight 93 shrine closer to the planned national memorial. The center would include an auditorium, conference rooms, museum and gift shop, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. [puzzled emphasis added]
Is that most similar to:
• A branch of the U.S. government not recognized by the President, Congress, and the Supreme Court? • A player for the New England Patriots not signed by the team or known to Coach Bill Belichick? • A member of U2 who doesn't play or travel with the band and has never met Bono? • A tree branch that lies on the ground and is no longer attached to the tree, but insists everything is "Just fine!"?
So, the reporter first describes Mascherino as a former Catholic priest, but then says he serves in a "branch of the Catholic Church", which would not be former, but current. Huh? In fact, Mascherino apparently was a Catholic priest for over thirty years before leaving and joining the schismatic North American Old Roman Catholic Church, which is not in communion with the Catholic Church (the one founded by Christ, with the Pope and such) in which he now serves as a "bishop". As a September 2009 article in The Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown, PA) reported:
His acceptance as a bishop in the Old Roman Catholic Church “severs his ties with the Roman Catholic Church,” said a news release from Bishop Joseph Vellone of the Old Roman Catholic Church.
Goodness, I'm so glad that has been clarified. Now I need to get back to learning the chords for "With or Without You" while waiting for a call from Bono...
A Miami-Dade teacher's past life in the adult entertainment industry has gotten him kicked out of the classroom. The school district's investigation into Shawn Loftis, a substitute teacher assigned to Nautilus Middle, Miami Edison Middle, Fienberg-Fisher K-8 Center and Miami Beach Senior High, began last January.
"One day I get a phone call from Miami Dade County Public Schools telling me not to go into work the next day," Loftis told our sister station CBS4 in Miami, "Because I was found out to be involved in the adult entertainment business." Loftis said he planned to use his experiences from the porn industry to help keep young people on the right path. ...
But then Loftis decided to change careers and get out of the business altogether. Loftis said he wanted to sell his company and use his Master's Degree to teach. He qualified to be a substitute, taught for about a year until one day the past caught up to his present.
Now, if Loftis went on to say, "I realize now that I made some serious mistakes in the past and I regret the choices I made. I want to help kids understand that porn is a rotten thing that destroys lives and denegrates men and woman, sexuality, and marriage", I think that most folks, like myself, would cut him some slack. But, instead,
Loftis said he can understand how some parents and administrators would judge him from his past, but he doesn't think it's right. "I totally see it from the parents' perspective... but why can't I have that separate life?"
As for his future, Loftis is considering a couple of options. He may go back to the adult film industry. He may also find others fired under the "values and morals" clause and work to change the way things happen in the future.
He says he wants to teach "lessons" based on his past—the same past he thinks should be considered "separate" from his work as a teacher. In other words, he thinks the Boulevard of Morality should only run one way: his way. He wants to be able to say whether it is right or wrong for people to condemn his profitable and degenerate work in the sex trade, but won't allow that his actions should have any bearing on him working with teenagers.
But the story gets even more surreal, as Miami News Timesreports:
Yes, Loftis — who studied international relations with a focus on the Middle East at Florida International University and earned a master's in public administration from the University of Miami — has never been just about the porn. He has achieved some national notoriety, in fact, for his dedicated "citizen reporting" on CNN's website. The news giant has featured his videos and, he says, is well aware of his day job: "They don't mind at all." ...
He points out that his porn career was perfectly legal. He suspects he would have been treated differently if he had appeared in straight films. "She [the school's principal, Allyn Bernstein] exposed herself as a big old homophobe," Loftis says of Bernstein, who didn't respond to requests for comment for this story.
Loftis went to the American Civil Liberties Union with his complaint, but a representative there reluctantly turned him down, writing, "Your case would be stronger if your job did not involve supervising children."
Uh, so he "studied international relations" (and filmed them as well!). Okay, I'll step over that one. Anyhow, the appeal to his porn career being "perfectly legal" and blatantly playing the homophobic card are expected, but still appalling. But, ultimately, the revealing thing (ahem) in this story is how moral relativism, in the real world, never results in the complete absence of moral standards, or even in shifting moral standards (although that is obviously the case), but in a one-way street of moral condemnation, in which one person's politically-correct actions are deemed free and clear of any judgment or condemnation, even when—or especially when!—pitted against traditional, commonsense understandings of morality and public accountability.
The telling word above is "reluctantly". How long before the ACLU decides, "Aw, what the heck—the guy is a victim of bigotry, homophobia, and witless parents. Let's help him out!" My guess: not long.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals reportedly plans to launch a porn site. [It will be] "a pornography site that draws attention to the plight of animals", according to Reuters, which cited a spokesperson.
With thousands of well-known companies reluctantly queueing up to pay up to block their trademarks in the forthcoming .xxx top-level domain, PETA appears to be a unique case of a non-porn brand that plans to embrace "adult entertainment" to further its cause.
Put another way: fighting for the rights of animals is more important than humans doing what is right. Just another case of a certain good (treating animals humanely) being taken out of proportion and completely trampling an even more central good: treating people as creatures created in the image and likeness of the Creator.
... commonly referred to as "The Catholic Church":
It is easy to see why most people are contemptuous of this amalgam of credulity, sentimentality and narcissism, which in its evangelical Christian form is tied up with myths about the age of the earth and origin of species, sexual taboos and a conservative political agenda. With this as the public face of religion it's not surprising that in the US, as in Europe, Christianity is collapsing.
That is a shame because if it collapses everything essential to it and worthwhile, which is now merely obscure, will become inaccessible. Christian theology, metaphysical doctrines about the existence and nature of God that I believe to be true, will become curiosities, like the teachings of second-string neo-Platonists. Service books will languish in archives, for study by antiquarians. The better churches will be preserved as museums; mediocre ones will be gutted and refurbished as restaurants, condos and office space.
In Europe religious belief is already anomalous: San Vitale is a museum. In the US, Christianity has been absorbed into a syncretic mishmash of self-help programmes and therapies, new age products and scraps of eastern religions. There are cults for every taste and circumstance. Maybe some coherent religious system will surface in the way that Christianity emerged from the soup of cults and mystery religions in the Hellenistic world. Maybe Christianity will re-emerge. Maybe.
That from the conclusion to a short but rather heavy-handed, wild-eyed piece, "Christianity in the US is Collapsing", in today's edition of The Guardian. It sounds far more like a bitter wish than a thoughtful analysis of what and what might be.
Granted, there's no doubt that cases can be made for the poor health of Christian faith in the U.S., but, then, cases require facts, arguments, historical context, and so forth. Not weird and more-than-dubious statements such as this about the relationship between ancient Christianity and the Middle Ages: "Exuberance and wonder gave way to a crabbed obsession with sin and Christians turned inward to fret about the health of their souls." Right. Because, after all, when you read—to pick just one well-known example—Augustine's Confessions, you find nothing at all about sin and salvation and the state of one's soul. (Granted, I've only read the book four times, but I'm fairly certain Augustine mentioned sin and salvation in there somewhere.) Never mind that some guy named Paul of Tarsus, writing a wee bit earlier than Augustine, exhorted the Christians in Philippi to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12), and that another man, Simon Peter, known to have lived and travelled with Jesus Christ for a few years, told his readers, "As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls" (1 Pet. 1:9). And so forth.
But Bible verses aren't really the issue here so much as the author's obvious contempt for evangelical Christianity; after all, she indicates no interest at all in Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy (nor can I see any such interest in her other columns). Even though Catholics are minorities among Christians in the U.S., they have a bit more history behind them in the larger, global picture; put another way, the Catholic Church has been declared down and out, dead in the water, and ten feet under many times throughout the past two thousand years (as Chesterton wrote about so well in The Everlasting Man). And while things are hardly perfect in the Catholic Church in the U.S. (and no serious Catholic thinks any such nonsense), they are, I think, notably better than in 1975 or 1989 or even 2003. And, to take it a step further and with an obvious nod to Louis Bouyer, Evangelicalism moves in one of two possible directions: toward the Catholic Church, or away from her. Evangelical groups that move away, especially by ditching essential Christian doctrines and beliefs about morality, surely do collapse and begin to die. Thus, forms of Protestantism in the U.S. that move further away from Catholicism will indeed keep collapsing. Mark Brumley, in writing about Bouyer's book, The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, summed it up this way:
Vancouver health officials will distribute new crack pipes to the city’s non-injection drug users this fall as part of a pilot project aimed at engaging crack cocaine smokers and reducing the transmission of disease such as hepatitis C.
Health officials already provide mouthpieces for crack pipes but not the pipe themselves. This means many drug users are sharing the glass pipes, which may be old or chipped, and are at risk of contracting a disease, such as hepatitis C, from cuts on their mouths, or respiratory illness or pneumonia from inhaling crumbling filters or the crack directly into their lungs.
“It’s just understanding and knowing the health consequences of crack cocaine smoking,” Gustafson said.
I'm sure that buying addicts new crack pipes sends a clear and firm message about, um, something or other having to do with, uh, well, smoking crack, which is, as everyone knows, better if you are using a new pipe. Or something.
The sick and tragic irony is that the more man attempts to use purely material, scientific (or scientistic) means to "liberate" himself from (take your pick) poverty, hunger, oppression, illness, bigotry, death, the more he distorts and destroys his true nature as a creature created for good and for God. Put another way, he merely furthers the Fall by falling even further, if that is possible. While materialism and scientism seek to explain and control the mystery of evil through technology, psychology, and other such "ologies", Catholicism recognizes that, first, evil is indeed a mystery—that is, it is at root a spiritual deprivation and corruption that cannot be explained by materialist philosophies—and, secondly, it can only be really addressed through faith and grace...
Which is to say, I'm fairly confident he thinks Catholicism is as "detached from reality as Breivik is."
By the way, Blessed John Paul II wrote very beautifully in Fides et ratio about the same topics I addressed in passing in my post. Here is an excellent passage worthy of a few moments of reflection:
Granted, the competition is tough and the candidates are legion. But I think that Victor Stenger—"Physicist, PhD, bestselling author"!—has thrown down the Gray Gauntlet of Lumpish Twaddle, and has done so in the span of just six paragraphs! Best be sitting down and not eating or drinking before taking this in:
Many historians and sociologists have denied the there ever was a war between science and religion. Some have even claimed that Christianity was responsible for science! But they have ignored the most important historical facts. Greece and Rome were well on the way to modern science when Christianity interrupted its development for a thousand years.
Nevermind that the Romans didn't even figure out how to engineer a drafting chimney. Oh well; I'm sure they were only a few years from splitting the atom when the barbarians overwhelmed them. Which is not to make light of Roman and Greek achievements. By the way, didn't the Romans and Greeks believe in multiple gods? So how is that Romans and Greeks were scientifically brilliant while being religious but Christians were/are decidedly anti-scientific because they are religious? Huh?
But there are few historians who deny the evidence that medieval Christian philosophy and culture laid the foundation for modern science. As Rodney Stark summarizes in The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success (Random House, 2005):
For the past two or three centuries, every educated person has known that from the fall of Rome until about the fifteenth century Europe was submerged in the "Dark Ages"--centuries of ignorance, superstition, and misery--from which it was suddenly, almost miraculously rescued, first by the Renaissance and then by the Enlightenment. But it didn't happen that way. Instead, during the so-called Dark Ages, European technology and science overtook and surpassed the rest of the world! (p. 38)
I don't deny that many scientists are also religious, but they have compartmentalized their brains into two sections that don't talk to each other.
Ah, so Dr. Stenger is not only a physicist, but a mind reader! Of course, that's easier done than actually dealing with the historical evidence. It's like Jack Chick, Tim LaHaye, or Jimmy Swaggert claiming the Catholic Church killed 60/80/100 million people during the "Dark Ages": they don't need to prove such claims, as Dr. LaHaye told me, "because everyone knows it's true". That, in essence, is also Stenger's line of "argument". Meanwhile:
Science and religion are fundamentally incompatible because of their unequivocally opposed epistemologies -- the assumptions they make concerning what we can know about the world. Every human alive is aware of a world that seems to exist outside his or her body, the world of sensory experience we call the natural. Science is the systematic study of the observations we make about the natural world with our senses and scientific instruments and the application the knowledge obtained to human activity.
Would Stenger also argue that science and, say, philosophy are also "unequivocally opposed epistemologies"? After all, one cannot scientifically prove the existence, nature, and meaning of "justice" or "love" or "democracy" or "virtue" or "first cause", even though everyone (with a brain) agree that such things exist, in some way or another, in the world. Also, can Stenger scientifically prove that his reason and logic are reasonable and logical? It's a moot point, actually, because he writes this:
The working hypothesis of science is that empirical data is our only reliable source of knowledge about the world. No doubt science has its limits. But it doesn't follow that religion or any other alternative system of thought automatically provides any insight into what lies beyond those limits.
No, that is not the "working hypothesis" of science; it is an ideological declaration of scientism. After all, saying that science "is our only reliable source of knowledge about the world" does not follow in the least from the recognition that science is the study of natural events and material data. Another physicist, Stephen Barr, in this September 2006 Ignatius Insight interview, put it this way in relation to the origins of creation:
One has to distinguish the question of the universe's beginning moments from the question of why there is a universe at all. In my view, science will never provide an answer to the latter question. As Stephen Hawking famously noted, all theoretical physics can do is give one a set of rules and equations that correctly describe the universe, but it cannot tell you why there is any universe for those equations to describe. He asked, "What breathes fire into the equations so that there is a universe for them describe?"
As far as the beginning moments of the universe go, science may eventually be able to describe what happened then. That is, when we know the fundamental laws of physics in their entirety -- as I hope someday we will -- it may well turn out that the opening events of the universe happened in accordance with those laws. In that sense, "the beginning" could have been "natural". However, that would not explain the "origin" of the universe in the deeper sense meant by "Creation".
Let me use an analogy. The first words of a play -- say Hamlet -- may obey the laws of English grammar. They may also fit into the rest of the plot in a natural way. In that sense, one might be able to give an "internal explanation" of those beginning words. However, that would not explain why there is a play. There is a play because there is a playwright. When we ask about the "origin" of the play, we are not asking about its first words, we are asking who wrote it and why. The origin of the universe is God Almighty.
There is a bit more to Stenger's silliness, including his very laughable understanding of the nature of religion, but I've wasted enough time on it. If nothing else, I do hope that those sensitive readers who have fainting spells because I called The Huffington Post the "Huff-and-Puff Post" will see Stenger's, um, essay as evidence—scientific!—that I have fairly and correctly re-named it.
In 1993, seven men were secretly turned into nuns by two Roman Catholic bishops in Toledo. After their transformation, a kind of domino effect ensued.
Those seven nuns went on to make other men into nuns, and a movement to create male nuns all around the world was born. The movement, named Roman Catholic Men-to-Nuns, says more than a hundred men have been nun-ified since 1993, and five-thirds of them are in small towns in Oregon.
On a recent January day in Bozeman, Montana, five more men were turned into nuns. The gallery at the Second Community Church of Anybody Who Shows was filled with four news reporters, three from NPR, and six family members, half of them there to support the men and their nun-icization movement, though visitors were asked not to photograph them. Witnessing the ceremony was enough to risk outbursts of laughter.
The audience turned to watch as the men-nuns (or "nun-men", as some call them) strutted down the aisle in action nunwear, beaming like fugitives from the early 1970s. The six-minute ceremony ended with with a whole lot of dancing and prancing. Each nun-man performed tasks such as advocating for "more social justice", demonstrating their abilities to handcuff themselves to fences (for demonstrations again nuclear weapons), and saying the name "Gaia" in seven languages, all of them made-up on the spot.
Bill Bonkers was one of the nuns created that day, and like his fellow nun-oids, he was raised in the Catholic Catholic ("Well, not really in it", he explained, "My family drove ten minutes to Mass and were always very late."). His mother had a black dress at home, and when Bill was a child, she would sometimes wear it and mutter things in Latin while giving him with fertive glances.
"I think she was trying to perform an exorcism. Or something," he said, admitting the action nunwear chafes his legs, but is also "slightly slimming".
"My brother and sister would be kneeling behind me, and if I said, 'Dominus vobiscum,' I would turn around and say, 'You're supposed to say 'Et cum spiritu tuo,'" Bonkers said.
Fellow nun-fellow Rocky Smith III, had a similar experience growing up. He came from a close-knit Italian family, and always felt comfortable in the Catholic Church. In the late '70s he got married, had two kids, and was working as an assistant at a local boxing training facility.
Several times a week he would watch "The Sound of Music" during his lunch, and one day he realized, "I'm supposed to be a great singer." But since he had a horrible voice ("I'm a passable baritone", he insists, "but a weak soprano"), he decided to become a nun. "After all," he said, "most of the nuns I knew had their own apartments, dressed like men, didn't do much except complain about the Church, and didn't have to take care of families. Sweet!"
As members of the Roman Catholic Church, these men are breaking all church rules, which allow only women to be nuns. No member of the Roman Catholic Men-to-Nuns has been excommunicated by the Church, but they have felt a certain sense of chagrin wearing polyester jump suits and carrying icons of Ghandi and Mick Jagger. "I'm a David Bowie guy myself," admits Bonkers, "I'm a Ziggy Stardust spirit!" But they have been threatened by people offended by their poor taste in clothing, and they've lost friends and colleagues within the Church.
"I thought being a Catholic meant doing whatever made me feel good," said Smith, "and it feels good to be a nun. God called me to be a singer, but I couldn't sing. So God then called me to be a nun, because I look good in action nunwear."
Oh, sure, that's a nun-sensical story. But it has just as weight and value as the actual NPR piece (here's the link again) about women "secretly ordained as priests by two Roman Catholic bishops", as anyone remotely familiar with Catholic doctrine knows. It's like a possible story about how Catholic priests are turning beer and pizza into the Eucharist, or how Catholics are being baptized in the name of the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker: they might be curious or even sensational, but they aren't substantive and they aren't written because they are worthy news. They are written in order to undermine the facts (the Catholic Church cannot and will not ordain women), confuse bystanders and onlookers, and encourage the "faithful" who seek to remake the Catholic Church according to their subjective whim and self-absorbed image.
Yesterday evening, our Monday night Bible study group was discussing the Rapture that didn't happen (well, not physically, to hear Mr. Camping tell it), and the point was raised about how fringe Christian groups such as Camping's Family Radio are (rightly) called on the carpet for failed predictions, but secular prophets of doom usually get a free pass. Not only a free pass, but encouragement to keep up the ecolological dance of doom—after all, it's all so scientific. (Speaking of which, see William Happer's recent First Things essay, "The Truth About Greenhouse Gases: The dubious science of the climate crusaders".) James Taranto—who is agnostic, if memory serves me—takes up this very point in this Wall Street Journal "Best of the Web Today" post:
Something else bothers us about the media mockery of Harold Camping, as justifiable as it may be. Why are only religious doomsday cultists subjected to such ridicule? Reuters notes that "Camping previously made a failed prediction Jesus Christ would return to Earth in 1994." Ha ha, you can't believe anything this guy says! But who jeered at the U.N.'s false prediction that there would be 50 million "climate refugees" by 2010? We did, but not Reuters.
Doomsday superstitions seem to fulfill a basic psychological need. On the surface, the thought that God or global warming will destroy the world within our lifetimes is horrifying. But all of us are doomed; within a matter of decades, every person alive will experience the end of his own world. A belief in the hereafter makes the thought of death less terrifying. But so does a disbelief in the here, after. If the world is to end with us--if there is no life for anyone after our death--we are not so insignificant after all.
To reject traditional religion is not, as the American Atheists might have it, to transform oneself into a perfectly rational being. Nonbelievers are no less susceptible to doomsday cults than believers are; Harold Camping is merely the Christian Al Gore. But because secular doomsday cultism has a scientific gloss, journalists like our friends at Reuters treat it as if it were real science. So, too, do some scientists. It may be that the decline of religion made this corruption of science inevitable.
I plan to post one more time about the Camping Commotion, something along the lines of "Ten Reasons People Root for the Rapture", with a focus on a particular aspect that few, if any, commentators give attention to. I'm not into making predictions, but it should be posted sometime today or tomorrow. Or on October 21st. Whichever comes first.
UPDATE: Dennis Prager, who is not Christian, argues on NRO that the religious world has far fewer doomsday predictions than the secular Left does. It makes several good points, but this remark is not entirely accurate:
There is one major difference between leftist and religious doomsday scenarios. The religious readily acknowledge that their doomsday scenario is built entirely on faith. The Left, on the other hand, claims that its doomsday scenarios are entirely built on science.
Actually, many modern-day Christians who obsess over "Bible prophecy" and the fast-approaching Rapture event insist that their predictions and analysis are very much "scientific", to the degree that some insist modern science and research have made it possible for them to (finally!) correctly interpret baffling, difficult Scripture texts. Approaches vary, of course, but many of them can be traced back to a method of biblical study that draws upon the inductive methods of Francis Bacon (1561-1626). Camping used such an approach while claiming that it rendered his prediction(s) factually based and mathematically sound. The fact is, most moden doomsdayers—whether religious or secular—make some sort of claim, even if implicitly, to using rational, scientific, verifiable means to arrive at their conclusions.Yes, it's true that faith plays an obvious role in religious prophecies, but a little study shows that the differences between the two general groups is not as great as it might seem to be at first glace.
However, one big, big difference betweeen religious and secular doomsdayers is that while the former make grim predictions of judgment and destruction, the latter often does the same while leveraging for massive (and usually immediate) societal, political, cultural, and economic changes. Which are to be carried out, of course, at the behest of the all-knowing, all-wise, all-good State. Which means, for better or worse, that secular doomsdayers have far more of an actual impact on the general populace than do religious doomsdayers.
I figured that Harold Camping, the 1994 and 2011 voice of false prophecy (a two-time winner!), would either tweak his calculations ("I missed a leap year in the late third century B.C....") or get all "spiritual" about his failed prediction. He went with the latter, perhaps mindful that another Rapture-date setting engineer, Edgar Whisenant had tried the former approach back in 1988 and became yesterday's news faster than you can calculate the length of a yardstick. From the CNN blog:
Camping had kept a low-profile since Saturday, the day he had forecast for the return of Jesus Christ to Earth. He and his devoted followers have been warning for months that on May 21, a select 2% to 3% of the world's population would be taken to heaven. Those left behind would face months of tribulation before perishing in the Earth's destruction, which Camping said would happen on October 21.
This is the basis for his new prediction, which Camping claims is not new at all. He told listeners on his Family Radio broadcast Monday that God is "loving and merciful," and had decided not to punish the humanity with five months of destruction. But he maintains that the end of the world is still coming.
"We've always said October 21 was the day," Camping said during his show. "The only thing we didn't understand was the spirituality of May 21. We're seeing this as a spiritual thing happening rather than a physical thing happening. The timing, the structure, the proofs, none of that has changed at all."
The Seventh-Day Adventist church traces its roots to American preacher William Miller (1782–1849), a Baptist who predicted the Second Coming would occur between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844. Because he and his followers proclaimed Christ’s imminent advent, they were known as "Adventists."
When Christ failed to appear, Miller reluctantly endorsed the position of a group of his followers known as the "seventh-month movement," who claimed Christ would return on October 22, 1844 (in the seventh month of the Jewish calendar).
When this didn’t happen either, Miller forswore predicting the date of the Second Coming, and his followers broke up into a number of competing factions. Miller would have nothing to do with the new theories his followers produced, including ones which attempted to save part of his 1844 doctrine. He rejected this and other teachings being generated by his former followers, including those of Ellen Gould White.
Miller had claimed, based on his interpretation of Daniel and Revelation, that Christ would return in 1843–44 to cleanse "the sanctuary" (Dan. 8:11–14, 9:26), which he interpreted as the earth. After the disappointments of 1844, several of his followers proposed an alternative theory. While walking in a cornfield on the morning of October 23, 1844, the day after Christ failed to return, Hiram Edson felt he received a spiritual revelation that indicated that Miller had misidentified the sanctuary. It was not the earth, but the Holy of Holies in God’s heavenly temple. Instead of coming out of the heavenly temple to cleanse the sanctuary of the earth, in 1844 Christ, for the first time, went into the heavenly Holy of Holies to cleanse it instead.
One is reminded of Ambrose Bierce's cynical, but appropriate, definition of "prophecy": n. The art and practice of selling one's credibility for future delivery. No surprise, bad prophets and poor credibility are two peas in the apocalyptic pod.
... comes from the Harold Camping camp, in this CNN.com article about the octogenarian doomster Camping and his predicted "Judgment Day" (tomorrow, in case you didn't know):
At the center of it all, Camping's organization, Family Radio, is perfectly happy to take your money -- and in fact, received $80 million in contributions between 2005 and 2009. Camping founded Family Radio, a nonprofit Christian radio network based in Oakland, Calif. with about 65 stations across the country, in 1958.
But not even all of his own employees are convinced that the world is ending on Saturday.
In fact, many still plan on showing up at work on Monday.
"I don't believe in any of this stuff that's going on, and I plan on being here next week," a receptionist at their Oakland headquarters told CNNMoney.
A program producer in Illinois told us, "We're going to continue doing what we're doing."
But if "what you're doing" is preaching that the true Christians will be "raptured" from earth on May 21, 2011, surely there will be some sort of career and faith crisis come May 22, 2011, if you're still terra firma bound. Right?
No, probably not, in large part because such failures have become something of a time-honored, even entertaining, tradition in the United States. Adventism came out of the ashes of William Miller's failed prediction—the "Great Disappointment"—that October 22, 1844, was The End (itelf a revision of his earlier and more general prediction that 1843 was The End). Adventistism then survived a series of failed predictions in the 1800s, and the Watchtower Society is still carrying on despite a rash of come-and-gone dates. And don't forget that Pat Robertson, nearly thirty years ago, said, "I guarantee you by the end of 1982 there is going to be a judgment on the world." (It could be that Robertson was referring to the Metallica's debut album, "Kill 'Em All", which included the song, "The Four Horsemen". Just a non-prophetic hunch.)
Paul Boyer, in his exceptional study, When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture (Harvard University Press, 1992), wrote this of William Miller (d. 1849), whose beliefs (and failed prophecies) led eventually to the establishment of Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses and other "Advent Christian" groups:
No wild-eyed fanatic, Miller stressed the systematic nature of his method and the rationality of his conclusions. Prophecy study, he insisted, was precisely analogous of science's probing of nature's secrets. At a time when numeracy was increasingly becoming a culturally valued skill disseminated through the population by almanacs and by the public schools, Miller and his followers applied this proficiency to elucidation of the numerical mysteries of the Book of Daniel. (pp. 83-4).
The timeline of history is God's predetermined timetable for the unfolding of God's Gospel program for this world. In other words the length of time between the day God created this world in 11,013 B.C. and the day he will destroy it in October 21, 2011. The discovery of this information built the foundation for what God would later reveal from the Bible as the date for the end. Judgment Day on May 21, 2011 is the culmination of five decades of intensive biblical study by Mr. Camping and other bible teachers who have discovered the same biblical data.
The Bible, in essence, is seen as a codebook-meets-mathematical-puzzle, filled with scientific data that awaits the diligent (and Spirit-filled!) researcher. As Boyer notes in a later chapter, 20th-century dispensationalists (of which Camping is a variation) insisted that their "methods paralleled those of the laboratory researcher. By Baconian, inductive techniques, one searched the apocalyptic scriptures, formulated a 'hypothesis' about their meaning, then tested that hypothesis by examining history past and present. (Needless to say, in the 'science' of prophecy investigation, the empirical evidence always bore out the hypothesis.'" (p. 294). Always! Until proven wrong, when "new evidence" and previously unobtainable historical data is unearthed that explains the error. Then the cycle begins anew.
The CNN piece reports that while Family Radio insists that tomorrow is "Judgment Day" and that October will bring the End of the World, the organization has apparently positioned itself to keep on ticking if its prophecy clock turns out to be malfunctioning:
Also curious is why Family Radio requested an extension to file their nonprofit paperwork. The group is required to submit financial documents in many of the states where they solicit donations, and in Minnesota they requested an extension from their July 15 deadline to November 15.
July 15th was already well past their Judgment Day prediction -- when they say believers will ascend to heaven -- so why bother requesting an extension to November?
Probably because in the doomsday business, it pays to keep on predicting. After all, if you can get people to focus on their fear of the future, they won't be so curious about the mistakes in your past.
Yesterday I was on the "Drew Mariani Show", on Relevant Radio, talking a bit about Harold Camping's prediction that "the Rapture" will occur this Saturday, May 21st—aka, "Judgment Day"—ushering in a six-month period of great tribulation leading up to "End of the World" on October 21, 2011. (The show is archived; select "Hour 2" and go to the 21:30 mark.)
I'm fairly confident that few, if any, Insight Scoop readers are planning to be raptured up, up, and away this weekend, so my two or three remarks here are more observational than apologetic in nature. First, if you've not see it, do read Jimmy Akin's excellent piece, "Major Supernatural Event This Saturday! (Rapture Prediction Analyzed!)" (May 16, 2001; National Catholic Register), in which he provides a helpful breakdown of Camping's attention-grasping mixture of numerology, sketchy exegesis ("sketchegesis", perhaps?), and doomsday-ism. Evangelical author Gary DeMar sums up Camping's approach very well:
Camping’s prophetic methodology reads like theKabbalah, a hermeneutical principle of finding hidden meanings in the text of Scripture. The human language of Scripture is examined and interpreted according to its numerical equivalents.
DeMar wrote that, however, not about Camping's 2011 predition, but his 1992 prognostication about the year 1994. DeMar continues:
By interchanging numerical equivalents, letters and words could be created, thereby 1994? is a mixture of the allowing for new interpretations. The following example will illustrate that Kabbalah, numerology, and an overactive imagination that is typical of Camping’s methodology. Camping’s methodology and preoccupation with numbers may have something to do with the fact that he earned a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1942.
In John 21:1–14, we learn that Jesus’ disciples were about 200 cubits out from the Sea of Galilee engaged in their trade as fishermen. On this day the disciples catch 153 fish. According to Camping the Bible is teaching that the 200 cubits represent about 2,000 years between the first and second comings of Christ. Since Jesus was born, according to Camping, on October 4, 7 B.C., one needs only to add 2,000 years minus one year for the year zero and “presto change-o,” out comes 1994! What about the 153 fish? The number 153 equals 3 times 3 times 17: “The number three signifies the purpose of God whereas the number seventeen signifies heaven. Thus we learn that [the] purpose of God is to bring all believers that are ‘caught’ by the Gospel into heaven.”