The Problem of the Good (not Evil) or: On Rabelaisian Catholicism

The Charles Ramsey story went from viral to vile very quickly.  The rescuer of three kidnapped Cleveland women is himself a former wife-beater and deadbeat.  Do these details somehow tarnish his heroism?  Why would they? They make it all the better. They  remind us that even assholes can do the good.  For example, my grandfather (R.I.P.) was a one man life-wrecking crew who was capable of just enough astounding and gratuitous good to disarm his victims. And so I hereby… Read more

Constantine, Socrates, and Other Saints

So far this blog has spent some time on unpopular causes by exploring recent historical research.  For example, this post took on the widespread idea of the early Church as a hippie commune, whereas this one suggests pluralism is an old hat issue for Christians. In the latter post I quote Robert L. Wilken as saying, “Christians, however, have long had to face the challenge of other religions.”  My esteemed colleague Peter Escalante responded to Wilken with the following, “Christians have long… Read more

American Literary Slugfest: Papist Upstarts vs. Established Prots

In his essay “Religion and Literature” T.S. Eliot makes a most reasonable critical observation, especially given the longstanding close tie between literature and theology (“religion” is a problematic concept as I’ve noted here): “Literary criticism should be completed by criticism from a definite ethical and theological standpoint.” Paul Giles takes up this mantle, when it comes to American Catholicism, in his path-breaking study American Catholic Arts and Fictions: Culture, Ideology, Aesthetics.  There isn’t enough time to go into the details of… Read more

Modern Religious Pluralism is Neither Radical nor Modern

Commentators on religion are always harping about how our contemporary “radically pluralist” situation is unprecedented, and more likely than not, catastrophic for the Christian tradition. Self-styled radical theologians such as John Hick in God Has Many Names, Charles E. Winquist in Desiring Theology, plus John Shelby Spong and Raimondo Panikkar in academically less respectable volumes (whose names I shall not mention), argue that Christian theology must change or die in the face of this revolutionary situation. Robert Louis Wilken, one of… Read more

Latour: Rejoicing – Or the Torments of Religious Speech

It is noteworthy whenever the French philosopher of science Bruno Latour (author of We Have Never Been Modern, The Politics of Nature, and countless other influential books) has a new book coming.  This one digs into his first passion: theology (he wrote a dissertation on the Catholic poet Charles Peguy).  It appears his book Rejoicing will intensify the personal tone he’s known for reinserting back into our understanding of how science works.  Here’s a small sample: “Rejoicing – or the torments of… Read more

The Early Church? Show Me the Money!

Early Christian history is usually presented as the parade of a motley crew of peasants, slaves, manual laborers, that is, the impoverished and uneducated masses.  We imagine them to be the equivalent of our local labor organizers, homeless, and hipsters; folks to whom most First World people can’t relate. Curiously enough there is a consensus between the detractors of Christianity (Engels, Marx, NIetzsche) and it boosters (Deismann, Troeltsch, Rauschenbusch) regarding this detail of Christian history.  The only difference is that… Read more

"No Religion" Is Not a Concept

A recent AP FaithWorld headline about a Pew Forum poll is an excellent example of sloppiness in (non-)religious reporting. It reads as follows:“No religion” is the third-largest world group after Christians, Muslims (See: http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2012/12/18/no-religion-is-the-third-largest-world-group-after-christians-muslims/) When you think of “no religion” you think of atheism.  Right?  So for anyone who’s actually awake the following sociological grouping makes as much sense as the grouping of people who’ve eaten at McDonalds: “The ‘unaffiliated’ category covers all those who profess no religion, from atheists and… Read more

Coffee and Cosmos

“When I stir my morning coffee and watch the swirling of the streaks, I am observing the law that moves the universe–in the whirling of the spiral nebulae, in the eddying of the galaxies.” –Ernst Junger, Aladdin’s Problem, 10.* *The screen capture, the Parisian connection, is via Chris Marker’s short film La Jetee: Read more

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