"Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?" 'How should I not?' said the Lady, 'I am in love...in Love Himself.'
~C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce

Friday, February 27, 2009

Out of Place

It was St. Augustine who famously noted in his Confessions that our souls are restless until they find rest in thee. He was absolutely correct. True joy is only found in seeking out the fulness of God's presence in this world. Unfortunately, that qualifier, "in this world" must be attached as an addendum.

The Psalmist confesses that in God's presence is the fulness of joy (Ps. 16) The privileges of an indwelling Holy Spirit, and the presence of Christ in the Church through the sacraments are wonderful. And yet, we still see "darkly as through a glass." That phrase from St. Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians is immediately followed by the phrase "but then, face to face." That is, we have not yet reached, I do not believe, the heights of joy that are prepared for those who love God. Nor can we in this world. And this leaves a small sense of want, desire...a feeling that something is missing; a longing that is never quite satisfied.

C.S. Lewis wrote In the Weight of Glory "Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache."

The notion that I was created for another world has been pressing on me the last couple of days. I'm not saying, "I want out" of this world. But there is simply nothing here I prefer to heaven and the fulness of God's presence. I pray all of your souls have found their rest in Christ...mine has. But I also hope you never limit your vision to what we see and experience here, even in the Church. The day is coming when we will see what no human eye has seen, and hear what no human ear has ever heard, and our small imaginations will be blown away by what God has prepared for us. In that paradise, we will see God "as he is" and the old ache and nostalgia will disappear in the joy of his eternal presence.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Proliferation of Sex in the Media

Just yesterday, I turned off one of my favorite television shows of all time because of an extended lewd conversation. I went to watch a youtube video only to find that the featured video of the day was something called Miss March. I picked up my mail to find a very revealing Victoria's Secret coupon shoved between the envelopes.

Our culture is saturated in sex. And yet, for as much as we see it around us, I think very few people understand it. Even Christians, who are told right in the Bible what sex is, think of it primarily as something we just have to avoid until we get married. That is what chastity has come to mean.

No one seems to remember anymore that its primary purpose is "to be fruitful and mulitply." (see the post on Birth Control) No one seems to remember that marriage is the picture of that spiritual marriage that exists between Christ and his Bride, the Church. It is a special, rather sacred thing.

Nonetheless, it is portrayed in media as a quick way for pleasure. The nature of television lends itself to making people believe that anything they see should happen that fast. Sex is something that should be enjoyed and then the relationship forged by it can easily be discarded. No one on television portrays the eternal aspect of what is involved in sex. It's all about what I can get right now.

So is it really a shock that sex has lost almost all of its value in American culture? Do even Christian people see it as a participation in the love shared between Christ and his Church? Not to mention, it is any wonder that STD's are so rampant? Sex is a good thing created by God for men. But it is intended for reproduction and to foster the already existing love between a man and a woman.

But the modern Christian understanding of sex is no different than the pagan one-only devout Christians wait until they are married. So as something of a Lenten challenge, I am asking my readers to avoid all sex in the media. Let's use this period of time, to try and recover sex from its trivialized position today as nothing more than a means to pleasure. Perhaps, if enough people did this, the sex industry would feel economic pain, sex between married couples would be viewed in a more eternal light, reported diseases would fall, and we would again see a rise in the number of children being raised by two parents.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Economic Stimulus, Pope Benedict XVI, and the Gospel

Jobless claims soared again this month and the federal government's unemployment numbers will be released tomorrow, likely showing an incremental increase in the size of the unemployed population.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress, at the urging of the White House and newly-minted president Barack Obama, are considering an economic bailout which will carry a price tag of at least 800 billion dollars. How a government in debt by about 10 trillion dollars is going to be able to pull off this legislation is frightening. It will require either higher taxing on people and businesses in the middle, (After all, the bankers aren't paying this with their taxes and apparently as we have seen over the last few days neither are the politicians. The lower class is going to get a tax break, so they will not be paying for it either.), or the influx of more cash from the Federal Reserve. It is because of this that 50% of Americans, according to a new Rasmussen poll, oppose the economic stimulus that will likely pass in the next week or so. Only 39% of Americans think that the stimulus will be helpful.

I have my own opinion as to how the stimulus will ultimately work out, but that is not what I want to get at here. The point is that I find it disgusting that the Federal Government thinks it knows what is best for us. What is even worse, there is a sizable percentage of people in this country who feel the same way. But the truth is, this is nothing new. It does not take a president who in his spare time walks on water to claim to have the answer to all of a nation's problems.

From the earliest days of the Roman empire we find Emporers issuing Euangelion(s), (greek for Gospel) essentially edicts indicating their plan to save the world. Benedict XVI in his work Jesus of Nazareth writes the following about the Gospel and Jesus Christ.

"The term (euangellion) has recently been trasnlated as good news. That sounds attractive, but it falls far short of the order of magnitude of what is actually meant by the word. This term figures in the vocabulary of the Roman emperors, who understood themselves as lords, saviors, and redeemers of the world. The messages issued by the emperor were called in Latin evangellium, regardless of whether or not their content was particularly cheerful and pleasant. The idea was that what comes form the emperor is a saving message that it is not just a piece of news, but a change of the world for the better.
When the Evangelists adopt this word, and it thereby becomes the generic name for their writings, what they mean to tell us is this: What the emperors , who pretended to be gods, illegitimately claim, really occurs here-a message endowed with plenary authority, a message that is not just talk, but reality. In the vocabulary of contemporary linguistic theory, we would say that the evangelium, the Gospel is not just informative speech, but performative speech-not just the imparting of information, but action, efficacious power that enters into the world to save and transform. Mark speaks of the Gospel of God, the point being that it is not the emperors who can save, but God. And it is here that God's word, which is at once word and deed, appears; it is here that what the emperors merely assert, but cannot actually perform, truly takes place. For here it is the real Lord of the world-the living God-who goes into action."

That's a long piece, but it is worth noting again and again that looking to the government for salvation is nothing new, and the result will be nothing new. Men can't save the world, only God can and only God has. So as the stimulus bill works its way toward passage, feel free to comment on what you think its effectiveness for the economy will be, but please do not get trapped in the idea that one man, or one congress, can make this country's problems all better.

Our financial problems as a nation, stem from a devotion to Materialism instead of Morality. No amount of money in the world can fix that problem and in fact, may make it worse. We should look to the Saving Lord who brought and performed the Saving Word, the True Evangellium.