Wednesday, 10/16/13

    1. Big Brother is Watching Pope Francis
    2. Calling Agent Roper
    3. R.I.P., Chuck Smith
    4. Sinners in the hands of a petulant Dean
    5. Something good comes from Congress!
    6. Single but not alone


Everybody seems to know the basic story arc of the Prodigal Son, but it seems as if I’ve only heard mention of the older brother in the last 15 years or so. His, too, is a cautionary tale:

Here’s a Washington Post report on more mainstream conservative Catholic voices expressing skepticism about Pope Francis; some say he’s challenging them, and this is a good thing. Excerpt:

Gregory Popcak, a marriage and family counselor on the radio and in private practice in Ohio, describes being sent deep into prayer after several clients used Francis’s public words to push back on Popcak when he explained church teachings on sex and love. One client recently quit, saying, “I’m much more of a Pope Francis-Nancy Pelosi Catholic, and you’re an old-school, Pope John Paul II Catholic,” he recalled.

First, he felt frustrated, then ashamed.

The story of the prodigal son came to him, and he saw in himself the good son. “The good kid who stayed behind, did everything his father told him to do, ,” Popcak wrote in a recent online essay that prompted dozens of people to share similar sentiments. “People who left the Church, who hated the Church . . . were suddenly realizing that God loved them, that the Church welcomed them, and all I could do was feel bitter about it.”

(Rod Dreher, emphasis added)


“We can prove that NOM’s confidential tax return was released by the IRS and went to our chief political opponent. This is a federal crime.” — Brian Brown, NOM president —

Washington, D.C. — Today, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) announced it has filed a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service seeking damages over the illegal release of the organization’s 2008 confidential tax return which went to the Human Rights Campaign, America’s leading marriage opponent whose president was a national co-chair for President Obama’s reelection campaign.

“We have irrefutable proof that NOM’s confidential tax return was released by the Internal Revenue Service and went to the number one opponent of marriage, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) whose president was a national co-chair of President Obama’s reelection campaign. The HRC promptly published it and released it to the media,” said Brian Brown, NOM’s president. “This is a federal crime. Worse, the confidential information contained in the illegally leaked documents included the identity of dozens of our major donors and the HRC used this confidential donor information to harass our donors. This is a chilling set of circumstances that should ring alarm bells across the nation.”

The lawsuit, The National Organization for Marriage, Inc. v. The United States of America, Internal Revenue Service was filed in federal district court in the Eastern District of Virginia. NOM is represented by ActRight Legal Foundation, NOM Chairman John Eastman, Cleta Mitchell, of counsel to ActRight Legal Foundation and Jason Torchinsky of Holtzman, Vogel & Josefiak, PLLC.

(The National Organization for Marriage Files Lawsuit Against The IRS Over Illegal Leak of Organization’s Confidential Tax Return to Marriage Opponents)

I’m sure this IRS scandal, too, was just random people, with no ideological motive, absent-mindedly making a boo-boo. Surely it had nothing to do with sucking up to the guy in the Oval Office, who was evolving into support of SSM so fast it made the head spin. (Hmmm. Does Barack Obama’s evolution on same-sex marriage prove the hypothesis of punctuated equilibrium?)

Surely nobody at the IRS was utterly disregard the law just because NOM is seen as dangerous and bad. “Calling agent Roper! Calling agent Roper!”


A sincerely misguided Evangelical innovator (a word I don’t like in religious affairs) has died.

Chuck Smith disavowed denominationalism and then started his own fellowship crypto-denomination, “Calvary Chapel,” despite himself.

What strikes me as most remarkable about the Calvary Chapels I know are:

  1. The control exercised over the use of the name “Calvary Chapel,” which requires the sort of doctrinal lock-step one expects of a rather authoritarian denomination;
  2. Their baffling insistence nonetheless that they are not a “denomination” but a fellowship or a sacred confraternity or a far-flung conspiracy or anything but, heaven forbid, a denomination;
  3. The ubiquity of bogus Prophecy Conferences based on the Dispensationalist eschatology I so loathe; yet despite all this
  4. How  low-key and “nice” its pastors tend to be – which included Chuck Smith himself. He was definitely more pleasant to listen to than 90% of the preachers on “Christian radio.”

I have always found the pastors of Calvary Chapels to come across as genuine, even though they are genuinely wrong and put their emphasis in the wrong places.

I hope Chuck Smith won’t take offense is I wish him, a la Rome, requiescat in pacem.


I can’t unequivocally endorse the characterization of the headline in this article. But speaking with all the authority that his exalted position within a well-endowed but increasingly, tragically perverse and transgressive denomination affords him, the Dean of the National Cathedral clearly does identify as sinful something generally resistant to the gay-rights movement – something he hedges around with euphemisms, so it’s not entirely possible to tell just what he’s opposing:

We must now have the courage to take the final step and call homophobia and heterosexism what they are. They are sin. Homophobia is a sin. Heterosexism is a sin. Shaming people for whom they love is a sin … Only when all our churches say that clearly and boldly and courageously will our LGBT youth be free to grow up in a culture that totally embraces them fully as they are … It’s more than tragic—in fact it’s shameful—that faith communities, especially Christian ones, continue to be complicit in putting our children at risk and abetting the attitudes that oppress them, thereby encouraging the aggressors who would subject our children to pain, humiliation, and violence.

I find the Dean’s use of the terms “homophobia” and “heterosexism” about as inflammatory and unhelpful as the headline’s characterization of “opposing homosexuality.” Who in his right mind would defend “homophobia” or “heterosexism”? They clearly are intended as derogatory terms, but if they have any fixed (or even remotely denotative) meaning, it’s unknown to me. It sounds to me as if the Dean was simply getting carried away at the sound of his own voice in his support of “LGBT Youth.” (Didn’t he miss a few? GLBTetcetera?)

Nobody who has read this blog over the past few months would mistake me for someone who wants to drive anyone out of the church or force them to “wear masks” in Church. My position has been for a very long time that sin is sin and that a church that isn’t full of sinners isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do.

But sinners are supposed to be repentant when they unite with and live in the Church, and they ought even to be open to the possibility, if they’re not already conscience-smitten about it, that anything they’re doing, including the manner in which they are expressing their sexuality, is something to be repented of. (Sometimes we can’t even recognize our sins until we’ve been around sanctity a while.)

But let’s try a thought experiment. I used the “sin” word apropos (if only tacitly) of homosexual behavior. What does the Dean mean by “homophobia” and “heterosexism”? Does he mean expressing the opinion that homosexual behavior is sinful? If so, is he not exhibiting his own sort of phobia and ism by labeling others “sinful”? Is he “encouraging the aggressors who would subject [homophobes and heterosexists] to pain, humiliation, and violence”? If not, then how are we homophobes and heterosexists (I assume he’d smear me with his broad brush) doing that when we say that homosexual behavior is sinful?


[A]fter Sen. John McCain asked Tim Cook a number of questions about taxes, he had one last question for the Apple CEO:

McCain: I’m out of time, but why the hell do I have to keep updating the apps on my iPhone? Why can’t you fix that?

Cook: We’re looking to do better all the time.

Sure enough, when iOS 7 came out last month, one of the included features was the ability to update apps automatically.  Just goes to show you that some things can get accomplished in Congress.

(iPhone J.D.)


One of the most common responses I hear when I talk about celibacy is this: “Julie, how could you possibly endorse a belief that demands someone to be alone for the rest of the their lives?” When I hear it, it sounds so miserable and burdensome that I often want to scheme another plan. These people are right: it’s not good for man to be alone. I can’t think of anything worse than lifelong loneliness, where someone is never known, never understood, never heard when they need to gush emotions. But then I remember no one said anyone has to be alone. That statement presupposes that one is alone if they’re not in a romantic relationship, and I haven’t found that to be the case.

(Julie Rodgers, When Singleness Isn’t Loneliness)

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.