Thursday, 10/24/13

    1. The New Spirituality
    2. Surrogacy in D.C.
    3. Surrogacy in Bethlehem
    4. Cast Thyself down
    5. Full membership” by age 1?

I’m aware I’ve focused much more on religious matters of late. That’s not by design. It’s just where my thoughts and websurfing take me. If that bores you, read numbers one and two and move on, as there’s nothing else to see here.

I’ll probably get more political again next summer and fall as we move into mid-term elections. Prediction: I’ll advocate throwing all the bums out, not excluding my own Congress-Cipher.


From Facebook:


If you see this on Facebook, and click on the hyperlink “Spiritual Leader,” you learn that Eric Red Schafer is apparently the only “Spiritual Leader” on all of Facebook.

So, all you “spiritual but not religious” folks: meet your leader. Just don’t piss him off.


It’s illegal to sell human organs in America; so how is it possible to sell a baby?

So asks a friend of George Weigel in a letter to his D.C. Councilmember, where they’re considering legalizing surrogate child-bearing in the District. The sponsor is gay, so he has a special interest in this special method of introducing children into homes of couples that are as predictably infertile as a prediction can be.

What the bill doesn’t say, and the way it says what it does say, tell a tale.

It says nothing about the child to be brought into the world through surrogacy, and it calls the mother a “gestational carrier.” The child is a lifestyle enhancer that has been bought and paid for; the mother has no more interest in it than the UPS man has in the packages on his truck.

I’ve referred to commodification of children before (here, for instance), but Weigel pretty well ices it:

There is deep and disturbing cultural irony here. An America that prides itself on organizations like the Children’s Defense Fund and that supports charities like the Save the Children Fund and UNICEF has also committed itself, not indefinitely we pray, to a regime of abortion on demand that has led to the deaths of tens of millions of children. The highest local legislative body in the federal capital is considering a bill that would commodify children as fit objects for sale and purchase—which is precisely what happened in Washington’s antebellum slave markets.


Dubious news hook lets me confirm and blog my pre-existing views. This all brings back to mind a horror of a few years ago:

I heard [a] sort of “Mary was just a conduit for the godbaby, Jesus” thing from a Breathless Woman’s Inspirational Show on WMBI in Chicago (flagship station for Moody Bible Institute’s mainstream Evangelical radio network) while driving a Chicago expressway, and I startled my wife when my head exploded at the heresy of it. …
BWIS is a little like Rush Limbaugh in a way. These “ministries” are on the air so many hours per week that they can’t possibly be working from a script – not a real, written one, anyway.
So on the one hand, I need to cut heretical Breathless Woman’s Inspirational Show hostess a little slack. She may not really have meant it. She surely hasn’t thought it through.
But she has an unwritten Romophobic script: don’t say anything about the Virgin Mary that might give aid and comfort to Catholicism. So “incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary” blithely becomes “Wow! Isn’t it amazing! Mary allowed her womb to be used so Jesus could zoop down to earth through her! What a gal! (Not that she’s anything more than an inspiring example, mind you.)”
I cannot cut that any slack at all, even if I cut some slack for the airhead ministress that utters it.

Can a Christian tradition that views Mary as sort of surrogate Mother, of a baby with none of her DNA, hold the line against commodification of babies by surrogacy? Are they not likelier to cite Mary as the first surrogate mother (never mind Hagar) and an example of how wonderful surrogacy is?

More important, in more enduring terms, how can they correctly apprehend Christ’s person and significance if He had no true humanity from she in whom He was incarnate, but either (1) was not truly and fully human or (2) had a “humanity” synthesized off in some heavenly laboratory?

It really does matter that the answer to a riddle, “Who is the only person to give God something He didn’t already have?,” is “The Virgin Mary, who gave God His human body.”


I recently heard an elderly lady who declared her wish for cremation – but then betrayed a troubled conscience by telling how she had talked to many ministers about it until she found one who basically said “Do you think God can’t resurrect your body if you’ve been cremated? What about people inadvertently burnt to death or burnt up after death?” Somehow, at least as she told it, she found that persuasive, at least in part because “I don’t want this old body anyway!” Then she asked me what I thought, further betraying a pesky semi-Christian memory.

The Christian belief is resurrection of the body, not disembodied immortality or bodiless resurrection. Second, and flowing from the first, not planning a cremation is a recognition of the dignity of the human body, which has been assumed eternally by the incarnate son of God and which is worthy of respect, too, precisely because it will be resurrected. My interlocutor’s rejection of her body sounded like a rejection of the body, simpliciter, not just of one that was admittedly aging and faltering.

Christians didn’t used to practice cremation, Orthodox Christianity still doesn’t. I can imagine no reason only one reason why that should have changed in the last century: the emergence of a funeral cabal that, by design or not, has made embalming the norm and a costly spectacle the funereal desiderata of Moralistic Therapeutic Deists (the perfect bookend to an adult life that begins with a wedding that costs more than the most expensive vehicle I’ve ever bought). That is its own sub-Christian version of death-denying disrespect.

In comparison, cremation might appear the lesser evil, but there is still an option of Christian burial, hidden though it may be. (Note to self: try to track down, beyond a cryptic reference in its Catechism, why the Catholic Church now allows cremation “provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.“)

Wikipedia gives this Protestant cremation rationale: “God can resurrect a bowl of ashes just as conveniently as He can resurrect a bowl of dust.” is it just me, or are there echoes?:

Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

(If you don’t catch that allusion, why are you even reading this? I don’t write that well.)


At Christianity Today, Megan Hill suggests that children should be fully incorporated into the life of the Church “by age 1.”

Our approach with little ones often amounts to a spiritual bait and switch. We segregate them into child-focused programs and expect they will appreciate Sunday worship when they reach a certain age. Sunday school is a valuable tool to reach young hearts, but we also need to integrate children into the life of our churches in substantive ways.
Barna Group president David Kinnaman argues the church ought to change “from simply passing the baton to the next generation to . . . the entire community of faith, across the entire lifespan, working together to fulfill God’s purposes.” Even young children can visit the elderly, give some of their allowance to missions, and occasionally share their bedrooms with a person who needs hospitality. We can tell our children about the widow and her coins or the boy and his fish, teaching them that even a small act is significant to Christ.
If we think of children as merely a long-term investment—if we appreciate them only for their potential, welcoming them as a way to shore up the church roll against lean times ahead—we miss the message of Jesus.

Fr. Andrew Steven Damick approves, but wishes she’d gone further:

[T]his piece should have linked this up with what are the historical and theological contexts for the current approach, namely, the delay of communion and confirmation initially in the western churches and then the delay of baptism in much of Protestantism, all predicated upon a rational test being required.
In the RCC, a child is baptized into being immediately excommunicated, and while the weaker ecclesiology and baptismal theology of the Radical Reformation’s children doesn’t associate church membership directly with baptism or communion, the inheritance of a sort of tiered membership nonetheless remains. If a kid isn’t “ready” for baptism because he doesn’t “understand” it, then it definitely makes sense to take him out of the worship space.

And I don’t think the author would even remotely consider communing infants, which no more requires a “rational test” than does circumcision or its Christian successor, baptism of the children of the faithful community.

* * * * *

“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.