Saturday, November 22, 2014

New Fun Poll (At Least Fun for the Bear) UPDATE: Cooper & Beau Squee-worthy

UPDATE: Picture of Beau and the new puppy, Cooper. They couldn't be more different.

The Bear used to be a radio broadcaster. This was a great job for a Bear, if you think about it. People would frequently exclaim, "You're not at all how I imagined you!" (I bet!)

So how firmly established is the "Bear brand?" Do you relate to this blog as being written by a Bear? If so, what kind of Bear? Or is the whole thing as eccentric as Sebastian's teddy bear in Brideshead Revisited?

Things have been a bit polemical of late, so let's lighten the atmosphere. The Bear will consider your participation a personal favor.

Christ the King

A (Very) Brief History of David's Kingdom

It is interesting that God discouraged Israel from wanting a king like other nations. The power of a dynasty to do ill was at least as great as its power to do good, as history would prove. Yet the rule of the judges was chaotic and bloody. The Book of Judges ends with the depressing observation: "In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes." (21:25)

Saul, the first king of Israel, was every inch the kingly figure. He was also mentally ill and murderous.

In David, the religious element was wedded to the semitic warlord. Yet he was an adulterer and cold-blooded murderer. The Davidic dynasty would last, as a united kingdom, only through his son, Solomon.

Solomon showed great promise at first, unless you count against him a bloody palace coup. But then he took up collecting wives and concubines. Seven hundred wives, and three hundred concubines. He also worshiped their gods. He built a splendid temple to Yahweh, and an even more splendid palace complex to house himself and all those women.

When Solomon died, the people petitioned the new king, Rehoboam, to lighten the heavy taxation and forced labor necessitated by King Solomon's projects. His elderly counselors urged to him to agree. But Rehoboam listened to young hotheads with whom he had surrounded himself and increased the burden. This led to a civil war and split David's and Solomon's kingdom into Judah in the south, and Israel in the north.

So much for the great kingdom of David.

Not a one of the kings of Israel could be called a model. The kingdom of Israel, which we imagine to be this great, historical epoch, lasted through just three kings. They were men, with the flaws of men. Yet they were God's annointed, clothing their mortality with a divine ideal.

The world finally grew tired of kings, and got rid of them. They are a thing of the distant past and one would be thought eccentric to toast "the king over the water," or to declare his political persuasion "Royalist."

And yet...

Royalist To the Bone?

The movie based on J.R.R. Tolkien's The Return of the King was one of the greatest commercial and critical successes of all time, grossing one billion dollars worldwide. It won 11 Academy Awards: tying Ben Hur and Titanic for the record.

Would a movie called The Reelection of the President resonate so strongly? Of course not. A king is clothed in an archetype. A president is just one of us, albeit more remote than most kings of history. A king might be persuaded, or at least change his mind. "Washington" is immovable and implacable.  We ritually cast our ballots and feel more detached from our government than the lowliest peasant under the mightiest king.

We should not romanticize kings, although our romances are full of them. They have hardly ever lived up to the standard of God's annointed. They have been feckless, reckless and cruel, though not, perhaps, to the degree our republican legend must have it. One can find saints among kings. They are not to be found among presidents. One with real Catholic sensibilities feels this.

And now we come to the real point of this little essay. What sense are we good republicans to make of Christ the King? Is the title and feast just an accident of history? Surely it originated in some despotic and unillumined time to prop up a corrupt Catholic dynasty?

The truth is that it was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XII. That holy pope wanted to remind us that Christ reigned over all. Christ, the Son of David, as His contemporaries called out to Him, the Ruler of the universe, Who can never disappoint, Who sets all things right, Who demands and elicits our willing love, worship and obedience. In Christ the King our aching hearts can find rest in that enduring, if unspoken, relationship of King and subject.

Another year draws to a close in the Church. Advent is mere days away. Christmas will soon follow, where we once again visit our King, this time in a manger.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Word On Fire to Bloggers: Drop Dead

Fr. Michael Cummins: Bloggers would go to Hell if there were a Hell.

Catholic means “universal.”  I do not believe that there is space for narrow-casting in the Church.  In fact, I wonder if it might even be a sin against the unity of the Church.  Seife lays out the fruits of narrow-casting: lack of true information, radicalization and isolation.

So writes Fr. Michael Cummins in Fr. Robert Barron's Word on Fire blog.

You see, back when three networks held a monopoly on the news, they had to be fair and balanced (no, really fair and balanced) or they would lose credibility and audience.

Say again?

How quickly we forget the bias and inanity of those Big Three days. Seriously, in this day and age, Fr. Cummins holds up Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric as the model for news?

Nowadays, every Tom Dick and Bear with a computer and an internet connection can set themselves up as a purveyor of things Catholic. No doubt it is irksome for Catholic establishment outlets like there's-a-reasonable-hope-that-Hell-is-empty Word on Fire has to compete with faithful amateurs who refuse to dumb down the faith.

Fr. Cummins' piece is a perfect example of why we have alternative sources of news and commentary.

Call me crazy but I have a hunch that Pope Francis knows what he is doing and that the Holy Spirit is in the midst of the Church.  Maybe our United States “American” (I say this because this is the only cultural context I can speak to) tendency to interpret an event (i.e. the Synod on the Family) only by catering to a particular viewpoint is more of a reflection of a deficiency in our culture than a reflection of what actually transpired in Rome?  Maybe we have become more conditioned by narrow-casting than we realize?

Call the Bear crazy, but maybe the truth isn't somewhere in the middle, or found in the official story, or in vague pious hopes, or beyond us as Americans.

How about the truth is just the truth, wherever it resides? And, also importantly, maybe error is error no matter where it issues from?

No doubt the Catholic independent media does tend to target two different audiences.

There are liberals and moderates who, either boldly or slyly, serve up a sort of Catholicism Lite. If there were only an establishment Church media, it would not achieve truth and balance any more than did the Big Three networks of yore. It would be bland and culturally accommodating. It would be full of reports on global warming, gun banning, and big, wonderful ecumenical meetings. Perhaps there could be Kasper's Korner, where each week a new permutation of couplings could be justified as holy matrimony. There could be Bravo! a show where Cardinal Dolan demonstrates how to value homosexuality.

Americans believe competition is a good thing. We have thought the best remedy for bad speech -- if that is what Fr. Cummins thinks this blog is -- is more speech, not censorship. Frankly, the Bear thinks the Holy Spirit knows exactly what He's doing in giving every Catholic a printing press at a time when the Church itself is manufacturing a crisis.

We already have plenty of Fr. Cummins' brand of "broadcasting." That is why there are conservatives who maddeningly just will not shut up about the ancient faith, even when the fumbling Catholic clergy lash out at them as sinners, SINNERS! (At least it's refreshing to know a priest's mouth can still form that word.)

If the legacy media were doing a good job, there would not have been such a demand for the Pajama Media. Similarly, faithful Catholics have to search outside the establishment Catholic media to find the faith in its fulness. Did the establishment Catholic media criticize a backroom synod that wanted Catholics to "value" the homosexual orientation and welcome adulterers to the communion line?

Fr. Cummins, if you want a unified Church without the occasional Bear tracking in mud and smelling up the place, then there is a simple solution. Promote real Catholicism. If you wonder why bloggers are "narrowcasting," with all due respect, look in the mirror.

If the clergy got its act together, the Bear promises that the vast majority of current conservative Catholic blogs would be retooled overnight into vehicles for trading cookie recipes.

Well, the good news is, if Word on Fire is right, bloggers won't have to worry about going to Hell.

All Dogs Go To Heaven, Unless They're Catholic

Will Cooper go to Heaven?

One of the Bear's most popular posts, now remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 and presented to a (partly) new audience.

The Bear recalls a certain Herr Doktor Bear at the Bavarian Equestrian Culinary and Theology School who taught a class on Vatican II. To the best of his recollection, the Bear here records some highlights of his talk on Lumen Gentium. Lumen Gentium deals with the Church, and includes paragraphs explaining how everybody goes to Heaven. Well... almost everybody.

Herr Doktor Bear: If you will look at Paragraph 15, you will clearly see our separated brethren are not so separated after all. Being all part of the Church of Christ, the Holy Spirit works through their imperfect observances to provide sanctifying grace.

Bear: So Protestants are fine where they are?

Herr Doktor Bear: Indubitably. Have you not read the assignment.

Bear [not entirely truthfully]: Yes, I have.

Herr Doktor Bear: Protestants, our Orthodox sisters and brothers, they are all embraced by the Church of Christ.

Bear: What is this "Church of Christ?"

Herr Doktor Bear: Just what it says. Imagine the Catholic church as a circle. Now draw a bigger circle that encompasses the Catholic Church, Lutherans, Episcopalians, etc. That should be clear enough.

Bear: What about extra ecclesiam nulla salus?

Herr Doktor Bear: What? What's that?

Bear: No salvation outside--

Herr Doktor Bear: Nonsense. No such dogma exists. Why, I've never heard of it. Have you been studying on your own again? Stop. If you ate a pony 500 years ago, would you still say you are full? Of course not! Vatican II is today's meal. You won't find nourishment in what came before it.

Bear: What about Moslems, are they saved, too?

Herr Doktor Bear: Why of course! How could we leave out The Religion of Peace? Where is it... ah, yes. "In the first place amongst these there are the Mohammedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind." The Three Great Abrahamic Religions all share a belief in the same God. Judaism, Islam, and, of course, Christianity.
Allah = Holy Trinity?

Bear: Allah is the same as the God of the Bible, the Holy Trinity?

Herr Doktor Bear: Close enough. A Divine Person more or less is not important.

Bear: Don't Jews have to accept Christ as the messiah?

Herr Doktor Bear: Aren't you listening? Absolutely not. They are faithfully pursuing their own plan of salvation. God does not go back on his promises! That kind of talk will get you into trouble!

Bear: What about non-Abrahamic religions, then? Say, Hindus?

Herr Doktor Bear: I'm glad you asked. Paragraph 16. "Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Savior wills that all men be saved." So yes, Hindus, animists, all saved. Lumen Gentium says so.

Bear: The part that says "that all men be saved." That's 1 Timothy 2:4, isn't it?

Herr Doktor Bear [warily]: It might be.

Bear: Isn't the rest of the sentence "and to come to the knowledge of the truth?"

Herr Doktor Bear: Of course there was some editing of supporting scripture to focus on the main points, and to save printing costs.

Bear: Seems to me there isn't much need for missionaries.

Herr Doktor Bear: That's the first intelligent thing you've said, Bear. Priests should stay in civilized countries and present circus masses, don't you think? What Bear doesn't love a good circus mass? [Smiles and general agreement all around the classroom.]

Bear: Surely, Herr Doktor Bear, atheists need to come into the Church!

Herr Doktor Bear: Perish the thought! Do they not have human dignity? Paragraph 16: "Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life." So if an atheist strives to lead a good life, then of course he will be saved.

Bear: So let me get this straight. Jesus founded a Church that appears to be irrelevant to salvation, since nobody has to be a part of it to get to Heaven. Not Protestants, who tore the Church, not Jews or Muslims, who deny Christ, not pagans, who deny Christ and furthermore worship idols, and not atheists, who profess no belief in God whatsoever, and are often hostile to the very idea. Herr Doktor Bear, I must ask. Is anyone in danger of Hell?

Herr Doktor Bear: Well, there is one group.

Bear: Who?

Herr Doktor Bear: Perhaps ironically, Catholics.

Bear: Catholics?

Herr Doktor Bear: Yes. You see, in Paragraph 14, it says that since Catholics are in the Church and receive all the graces and benefits the Church provides, they will be strictly judged. And, should a Catholic leave the Church, I'm afraid the case is pretty much hopeless.

Bear: So the best strategy for salvation -- if you do not already have the misfortune of being Catholic -- would be to stay as far from the Church as possible, because it is only Catholics that are in danger of Hell.

Herr Doktor Bear: We're rather hoping not many connect the dots.
The Bear invents the blog.

Bear: Thank you, Herr Doktor Bear, this has been most educational. Some day, I'm going to start a blog and discuss issues like this.

Herr Doktor Bear: A blog? What's that?

Bear: Nothing yet. But it will be like a ship's log, where important matters are written down on a regular basis. And, since it will be written by a Bear, I've added a "b." Blog. Every day I'll write an essay onto parchment and nail it to a tree on the edge of the Big Clearing, where the woodland creatures can read it. Goodbye, Herr Doktor Bear.