November 3, 2009
James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, is stepping down from his radio show at the end of February after over 30 years of broadcasting.
I have always enjoyed listening to Dobson’s broadcasts. They are full of practical advice for strengthening families and fill a desperate need in our society. In the past decade or so, Dobson has been vilified by the media and lumped in with figures such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell for his pro-life and pro-family beliefs. However, Dobson has never been primarily a political figure; he has always been a Christian psychologist trying to help families live a Christian life in the modern world.
As a Catholic, there are some things I disagree with in Dobson’s teachings and in some ways his advice is lacking (especially regarding the value of a sacramental life for strengthening a family), but all in all he has done much good over the years. Dobson himself always showed respect for Catholicism, and he once noted that though he has theological differences with Roman Catholicism, “when it comes to the family, there is far more agreement than disagreement, and with regard to moral issues from abortion to premarital sex, safe-sex ideology and homosexuality, I find more in common with Catholics than with some of my evangelical brothers and sisters.” (source).
Hopefully Focus on the Family will find someone to follow him who is just as helpful to families.
October 28, 2009
One of my favorite Protestant theologians is Stanley Hauerwas (whom I was only recently introduced to). Read this sermon for an example why.
October 19, 2009
First the Anglican church allowed women to celebrate Holy Communion as priests, going against 2,000 years of Christian tradition. Next, it granted openly-homosexual persons the ability to celebrate the sacrament. Now, you don’t even have to be a priest to celebrate the eucharist in an Anglican diocese in Australia.
What’s next? Atheists celebrating the sacraments?
Really, it’s time for the traditional wing of the Anglican church to either reform that church or leave it for another (here’s my suggestion).
July 28, 2009
It has been interesting to see the reaction in the blogosphere to the “Wedding Dance” video. It seems that when people see it, they have one of two reactions:
- A smile at the infectious joy the video displays, even while noting that they would not choose to have such a dance in a Catholic church.
- Condemnation at such irreverence being displayed in a church. For example, I’ve seen people categorically state that this was “wrong” and a few people who are already predicting the upcoming divorce of this “sacrilegious” couple.
My own reaction was a smile, and to be honest, I think those who have been quick to condemn the couple are dangerously close to the pharisaical attitudes our Lord condemned so often. I realize that accusations of “Pharisee!” are all too common these days and often are used to condone egregiously sacrilegious actions. Yet the Gospels make clear that our Lord does not look kindly on those who are searching for people to condemn who “break the rules.”
Those who know me know that I prefer more traditional forms of worship, as well as more traditional music to be sung during the Mass. Yet I also recognize that the exact music sung is not as important as the intention behind it. And when I see the Wedding Dance video I cannot help but see a couple that wants to celebrate their union in the best way they know how – through (modern) song and dance. This is not automatically irreverent, and nothing in that video shows a irreverence towards marriage or church in general. It might not be the standard way that middle-class American conservative Catholics would celebrate their own weddings, but frankly, middle-class American conservatism is not a divine standard to which we all must follow.
Too often we are so involved in our own culture wars that we cannot see outside of them – everything is judged according to our current battles. So those who are battling to restore more reverent music to the Mass (a worthy cause and one I support) see anything other than pre-Vatican II music as an attack on their cause. Yet this couple most likely knows nothing of our intramural battles and they simply wanted to express their joy at their nuptials. And it is joy that so often seems to be the main ingredient lacking in many who are fighting to restore our (legitimate) traditions. And thus many are quick to condemn any who do not follow our own man-made traditions, which is quite different than sacred Tradition. We must be careful that in our desire for more reverent worship in our own Church that we are not killjoys towards anyone who is outside of our own community.
Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, Rejoice!
July 10, 2009
Today is the 500th birthday of John Calvin, one of the great Protestant Reformers. I have to admit, even as a Protestant, I was never attracted to Calvin’s teachings – although appearing imminently “logical,” they seemed too detached from reality for my taste. Yet there is no question that Calvin is one of the greatest and most influential religious thinkers in Christian history.
One of the best little books which compares Calvinism with Catholicism is Jimmy Akin’s The Salvation Controversy. One of the things that might be surprising to many Catholics is that the Church has not defined exactly many aspects of her soteriology (i.e. how we are saved by Christ), and thus, many parts of Calvinism are within the bounds of Church teaching. Also, one might also be surprised to find how close St. Thomas Aquinas’ teachings on predestination are to Calvin’s.
For those interested, a great site to explore is Called to Communion, which is authored by a number of former Calvinists who are now Catholic.
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
You may have been a heretic,
But we’ll still pray for you!
April 15, 2009
This is huge news: A.N. Wilson has returned to the practice of the Christian faith. For those not familiar with Wilson, he has been a prominent English skeptic who wrote critical biographies of both Jesus and C.S. Lewis. However, he is now a practicing Christian:
For ten or 15 of my middle years, I, too, was one of the mockers. But, as time passed, I found myself going back to church, although at first only as a fellow traveller with the believers, not as one who shared the faith that Jesus had truly risen from the grave. Some time over the past five or six years – I could not tell you exactly when – I found that I had changed.
When I took part in the procession last Sunday and heard the Gospel being chanted, I assented to it with complete simplicity.
I love the fact that he can’t even say when he had “changed.” Too often we think that God only works as He did with St. Paul: with a flash of illumination which leads to immediate and total conversion. However, I think it is true that more often He works as He did with Wilson: slowly over time. Sometimes we don’t even realize that we are changing, but when we look back over a period of years, we recognize that we are no longer the same person we used to be. God will never stop working on us and will continue to pour His grace on us until we reach our earthly end. I don’t know about you, but that gives me a great deal of hope.
March 3, 2009
Speaking of public figures, James Dobson stepped down as the head of Focus on the Family. Although he is not Catholic and therefore holds some beliefs that I don’t endorse, I have always admired Dobson’s work. The family is the main focus of attack in our age, and I believe more people have been estranged from the Lord through a broken family than any other cause over the past 50 years. Whenever I think of Dobson, however, I can’t help but think of the story of his father.
Dobson’s dad was a popular traveling evangelist, and was quite successful at it. However, his job also meant that he was away from home a decent amount of the time. When young James Dobson was a teenager, he got into a bit of trouble. Finally, it got quite bad and Dobson’s mom called his father and told him he had to do something about his son. Dobson senior immediately came home from his preaching tour, talked to Dobson’s mom, then decided on the spot to quit his ministry, move to a small town in Texas and take a job as the pastor of a small church. This meant the end of his success, but allowed him more time with his son, and young James Dobson turned around his life.
I am awed by this story of Dobson’s father. As a father myself, I know how important my children are to me, yet I wonder if I would have the wisdom and strength to give up success so readily for their sake.