Thursday, June 23, 2011

Unexamined Ballot, Not Worth Casting

That's the title of my latest entry over at The Catholic Thing. Here's how it begins:
During the 2012 political campaigns for a variety of local and state-wide offices, chances are that you will have a candidate ring your doorbell or you will encounter one at a public gathering.

He will tell you all about himself, hand you a piece of literature, and then ask if you have any questions. This is your chance to find out what the candidate really thinks.

You have to be very careful, however, because the way you ask your questions can reveal your views to the candidate, and he will likely offer an answer specifically crafted to give the appearance that it is consistent with your views. In order to avoid this, and to have a little fun in the process, here are some suggestions.

1) Ask your question in a way that sounds like you don’t agree with the position you actually hold. For example, if you are prochoice on abortion, ask the candidate if he or she believes that the state should protect the innocent unborn from unjust harm (and just a personal question, by the way: why are you reading The Catholic Thing?). If you are prolife, tell the candidate that you are concerned about the right to privacy, reproductive rights, and a woman’s right to choose. Then ask where he stands on this “deeply personal issue.”

>>>Continue reading

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

From Evangelical to Catholic in 95 Difficult Steps

I am pleased to announce the publication of a new book by Notre Dame sociologist, Christian Smith.  Professor Smith, a life-long Evangelical, was recently received into the Catholic Church. In How to Go From Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in Ninety-Five Difficult Steps (Cascade Books, 2011) Professor Smith takes the reader through just the sort of reasoning and reflection that resulted in his own reception into the Church. Here's how the publisher describes the book:
American evangelicalism has recently experienced a new openness to Roman Catholicism, and many evangelicals, both famous and ordinary, have joined the Catholic Church or are considering the possibility. This book helps evangelicals who are exploring Roman Catholicism to sort out the kinds of concerns that typically come up in discerning whether to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church. In simple language, it explains many theological misunderstandings that evangelicals often have about Roman Catholicism, and suggests the kind of practical steps many take to enter the Catholic Church. The book frames evangelicals becoming Roman Catholic as a kind of "paradigm shift" involving the buildup of anomalies about evangelicalism, a crisis of the evangelical paradigm, a paradigm revolution, and the consolidation of the new Roman Catholic paradigm. It will be useful for both evangelicals interested in pursuing and understanding Roman Catholicism and Catholic pastoral workers seeking to help evangelical seekers who come to them.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Paul Cella on Sean Wilentz's "Bob Dylan in America"

Over at What's Wrong With the World, Paul J. Cella reviews the book Bob Dylan in America, authored by Princeton University historian Sean Wilentz. Here's how the review begins:
The fact that Bob Dylan became a Christian is still very much controversial among many of his fans. It is not too much to say that when he began recording directly evangelical, even apocalyptic evangelical albums of rock music, beginning in 1979, he delivered a shock comparable to that delivered to the folk movement in the mid-60s, when he so famously “went electric” and induced that old Communist Pete Seeger to threaten power cords (chords?) with an ax.

It is well to remember that Slow Train Coming, the first overtly and emphatically Christian album, came but a few years after the revival of Dylan because of the greatness of Blood on the Tracks and Desire, wherein he showed signs of a revival of his old folk roots.

Still, it is a puzzle to me how the singer of “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” (1967) could ever really shock somebody by being discovered a Christian. The evidence of Christian themes and imagery dates from the mid- to late-60s; and the borrowings from Biblical ideas date from his earliest songs.

The final fact is that Bob Dylan, by becoming an unabashed Christian in song and statement, and yet still churning out some pretty impressive music, is an inducement to shock and outrage for many Americans.

>>>continue reading

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mormonism, Catholicism, and the Romney Candidacy

That's the title of my latest entry over at The Catholic Thing. It begins this way:
In a piece recently published in the Catholic and Evangelical portals of the Patheos website, Warren Cole Smith explains why he cannot support Mitt Romney’s candidacy for President of the United States.  “A Vote for Romney is a Vote for the LDS Church” reminded me of the sort of anti-Catholic screeds that were widely published during the presidential candidacy of Senator John F. Kennedy.

Catholics conversant with the 1960 election will recognize in Mr. Smith’s piece the sort of histrionics that were employed against them and their faith in the not-too-distant past. Consider this excerpt from Smith's essay:

>>>continue reading

(Update: Mr. Smith responds to critics, though it was published yesterday before the appearance of my Catholic Thing entry)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Newsweek's offensive cover

Imagine it is the summer of 2000 soon after presidential candidate Al Gore chose Senator Joseph Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, to be his vice-presidential running mate. Newsweek does a cover story on Lieberman's historic selection. Blazed across the cover are the words, "The Jewish Moment," with a photograph of Lieberman, though the image is photoshopped. The face is clearly Lieberman's, but in the image he is bearded in full rabbinic garb sitting at a desk preparing a sermon.  And over his left shoulder is a short line that leads to a phrase in small print, "Joseph Lieberman, Jew for Vice President." I suspect that the Anti-Defamation League would not find this depiction of a Jewish United States Senator even remotely amusing. They would, rightfully, see it as an image that plays to the sorts of stereotypes that have often accompanied anti-semitism in both its benign and most malignant forms.

If you have followed me so far, then you may draw the conclusion that the Newsweek editors who published this week's cover feel the same way about Mormons as anti-semites feel about Jews. Such vile bigotry, of course, is perfectly acceptable among the sophisticates that inhabit the enlightened enclaves of Manhattan and San Francisco. But I'd rather cling to my guns and religion than cling to the stereotypes that allow me to gun another's religion.  (See Get Religion's take on it here)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bishop Gorman Memory: The Evening I Blocked Willie Hicks’ Dunk

The wife and I just arrived in Las Vegas. We are here because on Sunday, June 5, 2011, I will be giving the commencement address at my alma mater, Bishop Gorman High School (class of 1978). While going through some old scrapbooks in preparation for my address, I came across an article from the sports pages of the Las Vegas Review Journal. Dated January 28, 1978, it includes a brief account of my greatest moment of individual accomplishment as a member of Gorman’s varsity basketball team: I blocked—more accurately, pinned to the backboard—the dunk shot of Western High School’s star player, Willie Hicks. (Hicks was about 6'1". I am 5'10")

This morning I scanned the article, and post it here for your reading enjoyment. Just click it to enlarge.

(I say “individual accomplishment” because as a team we won the 1978 AAA State Basketball Championship. I was a reserve guard whose highest scoring game was 10 points against the lowly Basic High School Wolves)