Welcome back to real life

Welcome back to real life March 14, 2018

• I didn’t expect this kind of irresponsible claptrap from National Catholic Reporter: “3 Ex-Satanists Come Home to the Catholic Church.”

“Here are stories shared by three Catholics who are ex-Satanists, who now publicly share their stories in various public Catholic forums as both speakers and writers,” the credulous fact-free “report” begins. This was published in 2018, not in 1988, but I guess Satanic Panic nostalgia sells papers?

The three Warnke-wannabes profiled here are con artists — thieves and liars who prey on the faithful. They are not “ex-Satanists.” They are current Mammonists. And what they’re spreading is pride and poison and spiritual death.

Part of what makes NCR’s decision to publish this hogwash so appalling is that these three aren’t even very good at this shtick. Mike Warnke worked at the craft of fleecing Christians with flattering lies, developing a Gantry-esque flair as a showman. These folks are hacks — drop-outs from some Bob Larson Correspondence School for aspiring charlatans.

To paraphrase Rick Blaine: I do dislike such parasites. And I object to cut-rate ones even more.

If we must put up with religious charlatans, is it too much to ask that they put a little effort into the craft of their showmanship?

• The automobile killed the parish. White flight killed the denomination.

The linked article there doesn’t make that connection. It’s about a recent study confirming that “a lot of white residents still prefer living around other whites — and they’re willing to uproot their families to make that happen.” When whites tell themselves “there goes the neighborhood” because the area is “changing” and move away in search of whiter sidewalks and whiter schools, one of the things they leave behind in the old neighborhood is their former local church.

I think those famous graphs showing the long, steady decline of mainline Protestant denominations are, among other things, a visual depiction of white flight. I think, in other words, that they’re a visual depiction of a failure of spiritual formation, and of its consequences.

The American church tends to treat this like an optional, third-tier matter. Sure, it’d be nice if our churches were more reflective of the ethnic pluralism of our country, but our priority should be on getting doctrine correct and such like that. The book of Acts suggests we’re getting this backwards — that the possibility of “correct doctrine” will never be available to a community of believers that cannot handle ethnic pluralism. Like, dude, do you even Pentecost?

• Speaking of white flight … I wrote about the troubles of Moody Bible Institute in a couple of posts here back in January: “Moody people” and “Moody’s critics lament liberal shift away from biblical white supremacy.”

David Swartz provides a great deal of history and background on MBI’s long tug-of-war between Pentecost and the racist imperatives of its white donor base. The wealthy white donors have almost always won that contest — Pentecost never really stood a chance. See Swartz’s excellent posts here:

Swartz’s history lesson on Moody Bible Institute — and on Dwight Moody himself — also serve as a good corrective to that longer white evangelical history lesson from Michael Gerson in The Atlantic. Moody doesn’t fit into that version of the historical narrative. He’s an anachronism — the kind of 20th-century white fundamentalist that Gerson’s narrative says shouldn’t exist until after The Fundamentals and Scofield and Scopes. Moody died in 1899.

Good Smithsonian piece on the misleading notion of “missing links.” Those of us forced to contend with young-Earth creationists already know that talk of “missing links” is a mug’s game — a form of Zeno’s Paradox, which is nicely summed up here:

Suppose I wish to cross the room. First, of course, I must cover half the distance. Then, I must cover half the remaining distance. Then, I must cover half the remaining distance. Then I must cover half the remaining distance … and so on forever. The consequence is that I can never get to the other side of the room.

Creationists ask to see fossil evidence of “missing links.” Shown those, they the ask to see fossil evidence of the missing links between those missing links. And then half the distance between those. Then half the distance between those. … It’s not an honest objection, but an attempt to follow the Tortoise’s example of using wordplay to avoid a race they know they’re going to lose.

In any case, as The Smithsonian reminds us: “Life is really a tree, not a chain.”

• Title of this post comes from an oldie from Nada Surf. Heard this the other day and the ambiguity of the hook — “On whose authority / I have none over me” — struck me as kind of Pauline:

 

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