Saturday, January 17, 2009

Was He Triple Dog Dared?

According to the Northwest Indiana Times, a 4th grader got his tongue stuck to a light post.
A North Hammond boy learned a valuable lesson about tongues and freezing metal Tuesday night.

Police were called and found the 10-year-old with his tongue stuck to a streetlight pole.

The Field Elementary School fourth-grader managed to mumble to police that a friend had dared him to lick the fixture.

By the time an ambulance arrived, the boy had managed to yank himself away from the light pole, police said.

Medics explained to the boy's mother, whom they described as "pretty upset," how to care for his bleeding tongue.
Click on the picture to see the clip of Flick doing the same thing in A Christmas Story.

Never seen the movie? Click on the picture to see some bunnies enacting it in under 30 seconds.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Modern Seminarians’ Dictionary

I saw this once back when I was in college and have regretted not keeping a copy ever since. I have sought it high and low and have finally had it come across my desk again. It is both hilarious and stunningly accurate. Read them all, you’ll recognize some of them especially if you’re a frequent visitor here.

Published in “Fidelity”, September 1987, pp. 23-25.
Brother seminarians! Are you troubled by the non-judgmental expectations of the seminary? Are you confused by their concerns? Fear not. Before your eyes you have the key to ordination in this person’s seminary. Add these terms to your theological lexicon and believe me, you could well be ordained one or two years early!
PASTORAL: Effeminate; an attribute lacking in a man who demonstrates overt masculine attributes of clarity, decisiveness, and orthodoxy: G.K. Chesterton was not pastoral.

RIGID: Your view is not my view; normally, the rigid person has a simplistic view of Catholic doctrine (see SIMPLISTIC); for example, a rigid person holds that the ordination of women is not possible; a flexible person holds that to fail to ordain women is an example of sexism. Evelyn Waugh was rigid: “It is better to be narrow-minded than to have no mind, to hold limited and rigid principles than to have none at all. That is the danger which faces so many people today ‚ to have no considered opinions on any subject, to put up with what is wasteful and harmful with the excuse that there ‘is good in everything’ ‚ which in most cases means an inability to distinguish between good and bad.”

VISION: The quality of agreeing with me.

JUDGMENTAL: A person who judges the sin but not the sinner. A non-judgmental person utters not a word on the morality of the usual sexual sins, but tries to determine “where a person’s at” so that the person’s motives can be judged accordingly; a non-judgmental person judges the sinner but not the sin.

SIMPLISTIC: Having to do with common sense.

CATHOLIC FUNDAMENTALIST: A simplistic person who tries to live the Faith in a docile and pious way; also a Catholic who frequently prays the Rosary.

FLEXIBLE: You agree with me; a flexible person is open and dialogues on any issue, smiles knowingly and does precisely what he started out to do.

CHALLENGE: To recognize that my views are better than your views.

GROWTH: For you to assimilate my way of thinking into your life.

ENABLE: An essential attribute of a priest whereby he is able to convince others to do things his way without parishioners catching on to the deception.

NETWORKING: Allowing nuns to run parishes.

I HEAR YOU: A clever way of telling you that I don’t agree with you but I don†t want to sound dogmatic, rigid or inflexible.

WE HAVE NO RIGHT ANSWERS/WE DON’T HAVE MANY ANSWERS: Except this one (cf. Archbishop Rembert Weakland on homosexuality: “...I would like to state that I do not have all the answers on this highly complex issue…” (The Catholic Herald, July19, 1980.)

YOU’RE NOT LISTENING: The way a flexible, non-judgmental person expresses disappointment that a rigid, dogmatic person doesn’t agree with him; example: the Pope is “not listening” to the American Church.

OPEN AND HONEST: Telling religious superiors what they want to hear.

WOUNDED HEALER: The term used to convince a person who doesn’t “feel good about himself” to feel good about himself without Confession.

WHERE YOU’RE AT: Your psychological condition when you’re in the state of mortal sin calling for acceptance and a non-judgmental attitude.

WHERE ARE THOSE TEARS COMING FROM?: The standard question to ask troubled or sick persons when you have nothing else to fill up the unnerving silence.

COMPLEX TECHNOLOGICAL WORLD: The reason for resisting one’s conscience when opposing the teaching of the Catholic Church; also, the standard response a flexible person uses when a rigid person seems to be winning an argument.

VALUING YOUR SEXUALITY: Obsession with the usual adolescent preoccupations.

WE ARE ALL SEXUAL BEINGS: The reason to overlook sexual misbehavior in seminaries.

CELIBACY: Refraining from heterosexual genital activity.

PROCESS: The spontaneous movement in the dialogue of group therapy sessions never to be disrupted by thinking.

FEELING: The highest faculty of the human person left fully untouched by original sin.


LOVE: A nice feeling.

THINKING: The most dangerous activity in a seminary; cause for psychological counseling; those who think “disrupt the process”; see PROCESS.

TOUCH, MINISTRY OF: Physical contact to demonstrate that one has the capacity of intimacy; does not necessarily involve an exchange of bodily fluids.

IN TOUCH WITH FEELINGS: Using the intellect to explicitly identify what one is feeling so that speech patterns can be altered to communicate one’s sensitivity and compassion; not to be confused with “intellectualizing your feelings.”


COMPASSION: The warm feeling one has for oneself at any given time; one who has compassion needs to tell others he/she has compassion, otherwise compassion isn’t present; see also IN TOUCH WITH FEELINGS.

COMPASSION BURNOUT: The loss of the warm feeling one has for oneself when charitable works become wearisome or otherwise costly.

SENSITIVITY: The ability to identify and agree with the conventional wisdom of left-wing political issues such as feminism, gay rights, dissent,etc. Tim Unsworth of the National Catholic Reporter describes a sensitive priest: “But Vince Connery also cries a lot. He cries openly and
unashamedly in private conversation and in public. He doesn’t cover his face or hide it in the crook of his elbow. He simply stands there and cries, letting the tears flow and the voice break; and if someone reaches out even slightly, Connery will share an embrace while he cries some more. It soon becomes clear that this is an emotionally healthy priest in an emotionally unhealthy church” (NCR April, 1987).

TOTAL COMMITMENT: The intensity of involvement in charitable works until one finds that one “doesn’t feel good” about oneself; total commitments usually last six months to a year.

LEGALISM: Accepting at face value and obediently implementing what a document, law, or guideline reads.

OBEDIENCE: A word which doesn’t exist.

RULES: A word that once was operative but was done away with by the Second Vatican Council.

EXPECTATIONS: Flexible guidelines which change as frequently as the feelings of the Rector; not to be confused with RULES or LEGALISM.

REPRESSED ANGER: If detected, a cause for dismissal from the seminary; probable cause of both world wars, the Holocaust, and the election of Ronald Reagan [and George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush]; a technique absolutely essential for an orthodox seminarian to get ordained.

FORMATION: Kindergarten.

AFFIRMATION: The flattery due to someone who is in a position of authority.

AUTHORITY: Cannot exist or be invoked unless vested in a sensitive, flexible, non-judgmental and compassionate person (see SENSITIVE, FLEXIBLE, and JUDGMENTAL).

SEXISM: The sin associated with being male.

MALE DOMINATION: The irritating interest men have in sports, cigars, and male-bonding, especially in the hierarchy of the Church; the only mortal personal sin.

FEMININITY: A word created by a sexist, male-dominated society to subjugate women in the maternal role; the presence of femininity in women religious is a cause to recommend psychological counseling.

GETTING IN TOUCH WITH ONE’S FEMININE SIDE: An essential requirement for ordination to the priesthood.

NEGATIVE: The bad attitude having to do with the recognition of personal sin; also, any disposition which is not happy with the policies and views of sensitive, flexible and non-judgmental people.

CHANGE: Mandated by the Second Vatican Council; must be open to all change unless instituted recently; see WE HAVE NO RIGHT ANSWERS.

CONCERN: The response that a sensitive, flexible, non-judgmental and compassionate people in authority have when someone doesn’t agree with them.

HUMANKIND: The human race free of sexism (see SEXISM).

PARENTING: The activity of humankind in begetting children (see HUMANKIND).

SPIRIT OF VATICAN II: Church activities and programs which have absolutely no relationship to the letter of the documents of Vatican II.

ONGOING: The period of time between the Second Vatican Council and the implementation of the Spirit of Vatican II (see SPIRIT OF VATICAN II).

RELEVANT: Anything to do with dissent from Church teaching.

PAIN: The focus of Church dissent; felt by the editors of the National Catholic Reporter and inflicted by the editors of The Wanderer.

REDEFINING THE CHURCH: Defining the Church according to the Spirit of Vatican II (see SPIRIT OF VATICAN II).

LIBERATION: The replacement of existing structures of constraint with new and improved structures of constraint.

CONSCIENCE: The final arbiter of the correctness of one†s action always to be guided by the latest in Church dissent.

PRE-VATICAN II: A person who accepts at face value the teaching of the Church and who reads the documents of the Second Vatican Council without reference to a commentary.


MACROCHURCH: The male-dominated, sexist, oppressive, authoritarian hierarchical Church.

MICROCHURCH: The pastoral, flexible, open and honest, compassionate, open-to-change, local Christian community.

COLLEGIALITY: The doctrine defined by the Spirit of Vatican II stating that bishops have exactly the same authority as the Bishop of Rome.

BISHOP OF ROME: The local ordinary of an obscure diocese in Italy.

RADICALLY CONSERVATIVE: Reason to ignore the current discipline of the Church.

THE FUTURE: The last and enduring hope of Church dissenters.

WE CAN’T GO BACK: An absolutely efficacious and disarming argument.

HUMANAE VITAE: The biggest mistake the Church has made since the Council of Trent.

COUNCIL OF TRENT: A convenient summary of medieval myths and superstitions.

ECUMENISM: The process of transforming the liturgical rites of the mainline Christian denominations into a single rite of coffee, donuts and dialogue.

TRADITION: A practice established before the Middle Ages or after the Second Vatican Council.

THE LAITY: The future of the Church; cannot be ignored unless associated with ultra-conservative groups.

ULTRA-CONSERVATIVE: Anyone who disagrees with the National Catholic Reporter.

TRADITIONAL NUN: Irrelevant; an embarrassment to women religious.

WOMEN RELIGIOUS: Feminist nun; an oxymoron.

SOCIAL JUSTICE: The realignment of social structures according to the platform of the Democratic Party.

PROGRESSIVE: Pouring the wine of old heresies into new wineskins.

CONSCIOUSNESS RAISING: The method of argumentation used by radical feminists moving adult males to action: “Better to live in a corner of the house-top than have a nagging wife and a brawling household” (Prov.21:9).

EXPERIENCE: The only valid way to substantiate one’s opinions and beliefs; there’s no such thing as a “bad experience.”

SPEAKOUT: The activity springing from the virtue of Social Justice whereby sensitive and compassionate persons, with great emotion, promote the platform of the Democratic Party.

SHRILL: The nasty habit rigid and judgmental people have when they dare to disagree with the demands of Social Justice (see SOCIAL JUSTICE).


MINISTRY: All human activity.

COMFORT, COMFORTABLE: The final cause and proper object of ministry.

PLURALISM: The acceptance of all points of view except those with a point of view which doesn’t accept all points of view.

CLERICALISM: The attitude of priests who knowingly and willingly practice the sacramental aspects of the priesthood with diligence, reverence and joy.

HOMOPHOBIC: The psychological condition of those who witness and report acts of homosexuality to seminary authorities.

GAY: Deeply sensitive person who naturally possesses the skills for effective pastoral ministry; oppressed minority; in no way connected with pederasty: cf. Fr. James L. Arimond: “Don’t confuse homosexual orientation with other sexual minorities: transexual; pederasty; bafoonery; etc.” from an Archdiocese of Milwaukee workshop in Gay Ministry.

SEXUAL PREFERENCE: Feeling good about some or all objects of desire whether animal, vegetable or mineral.

MISSION STATEMENT: A written objective or goal of a pastoral program upon which the success of the Gospel of Jesus Christ depends.

INTERFACE: A term, borrowed from computer technology, where sensitive and compassionate people dialogue among themselves; similar to the dialogue that the farmers and pigs engaged in in George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

ORDINATION: An archaic celebration in the Church still useful to mark the beginning of full-time ministry.

SEMINARY: School where men and women are prepared for full-time ministry.

OUTREACH: Any program for whatever reasons; also known as reach out; usually involves fundraising.

VOCATIONS CRISIS: Refers to the Church†s failure to relax the rules on celibacy and failure to ordain women.

SHARE: The practice of discussing the deepest intimacies of one’s life in front of complete strangers.

WORKSHOP: A church-sponsored meeting to ensure that the issues of optional celibacy, women’s ordination, the Sandinistas and leisure suits are still being addressed.

SELF-ACTUALIZATION: Salvation; no longer a mortal sin.

DIALOGUE: The deft use of banal clichés in conversation.

PROPHETIC/PROPHET: One who has the courage to speak out on one’s behalf; e.g., Charlie Curran.

CURRAN, CHARLIE: Twentieth century saint; went into debt defending his faith.

EMPOWER: To encourage others to think for themselves; cf., Evelyn Waugh: “Every effort was made to encourage the children at the public schools to think for themselves. When they should have been whipped and taught Greek paradigms, they were set arguing about birth control and nationalization. Their crude little opinions were treated with respect. Preachers in the school chapel week after week entrusted the future to their hands. It is hardly surprising that they were Bolshevik at 18 and bored at 20.”

POWERFUL: A spontaneous exclamation from hearing one†s own views restated in a more banal fashion.

LITURGISTS: “A society of men among us, bred from their youth in the art of proving by words multiplied for the purpose, that white is black, and black is white, according as they are paid” (Swift, Gulliver’s Travels).

EASTER DUTY: Annual sacrilege.

PSYCHOLOGIST: Infallible teaching authority in the Church.

OFFICIAL CHURCH TEACHING: “I don’t expect it to change anybody’s mind one way or another. Catholics today have learned what it means to be selectively obedient to the Church†s teaching” (Father Richard McBrien, Washington Post, December16,1981).

CHASTITY: Safe sex.

SAFE SEX: Taking appropriate precautions during high risk sexual activity; not to be confused with responsible love.

RESPONSIBLE LOVE: Sexual relations only within marriage with a spouse; an ideal impossible to sustain in a complex technological world.

HIGH RISK SEXUAL ACTIVITY: Sodomy; the term neo-Victorian Catholics use when referring to the kinds of sexual activity St. Paul warned against.

CLOWN MASS: Liturgical innovation comparable to the innovation of Gregorian chant; relevant: “A clown liturgy may sound sacrilegious but those who attended a special Mass at St. Agnes Church described it as moving, uplifting, spirited and colorful” (Catholic Herald, Milwaukee, February 16, 1984).

LITURGICAL DANCE: Liturgical innovation comparable to the innovation of Gregorian chant: “Today’s procession into the altar by the priest and some members of the laity was a dance in the early church” (Sister Barbara Linke); relevant: “For me, my body is my instrument - it’s my way of expressing myself,” she said, gesturing frequently with hand to convey her thoughts. “I feel free when I dance; it’s a natural expression.” (Sister Barbara Linke, quoted in the Milwaukee Sentinel, August 3, 1985).

Porpoise Driven Life

I dunno...still a little fishy to me.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Church Growth Demographics

My colleague and friend, Bayou Bill, wrote an excellent reflection piece on attempted "magic bullet" answers to church growth problems. One on worship wars, the other on targeted age groups.

To piggyback off of his latter contribution, it's also true that to grow a church needs adult Christians. That is, Christians who are mature. No matter what chronological demographic they fit into, there is a christological demographic that is even more important.

You can get some of those notoriously fickle Gen-Xers who are absolutely sold-out to Christ and will do whatever He says. They can grow the Church.

You can also get some middle-aged muddlers who may have some expendable cash, maybe some extra time, but they're mostly sold-out Christians. They can grow a church...but still have too much growing they need to do to be seriously useful to anyone else - or even themselves.

May God grant the increase, in spirit and in numbers.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Are You Cut Out to Be a Worship Leader?

Think youre meant to lead worship in church? Youd better ask yourself these call-clarifying questions.

1. Do you own more than 3 pair of Pumas?
2. Can you keep complex counts in multiples of 2s, 3s, and 4s but can’t remember how many times in a row you’ve sung a song?
3. Do you own stock in any hair product companies?
4. Do you own any pants that cost more than $100?
5. Do you like to toss “and” into random places in sentences?
6. Is your motto, “let’s sing it one more time?”
7. For guys: have you ever considered wearing women’s jeans?
8. Are you willing to fight people over dissing your style of music?
9. Are you the guy that always has a guitar?
10. During Our God is an Awesome God do you spontaneously start miming out “rolling up His sleeves?”

Shamelessly ganked from SCL

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Blind Man Walking

A man with brain damage that makes him clinically blind can navigate an obstacle course, seemingly by using a part of his brain other than the visual cortex to perceive the objects in his path. This remarkable ability, discovered through a chance observation, is shedding light on a curious phenomenon known as blindsight.

The man, known as patient TN, was studied by a multinational team led by Beatrice de Gelder at Tilburg University in The Netherlands and Alan Pegna of the Geneva University Hospitals in Switzerland.

The researchers tested TN extensively to confirm that he was completely blind. They used brain imaging to show that there was no activity in his visual cortex, the part of the brain that processes most of the information coming from the retina. They then persuaded TN to set his stick aside and walk down a corridor strewn with lab equipment.
"It's quite a distance to walk," says de Gelder. "He walked much faster than we had expected, without hesitation or any kind of exploration." She adds that he did it completely subconsciously, with no idea that he had been avoiding obstacles in his path.

The team think the visual signals from the retina were processed by neural pathways below the damaged cortex. "It's a major lesson that brain damage can release minor neurological pathways that had previously been suppressed, allowing them to play a more significant role," she says.
This discovery is fascinating for neurobiologists, evolutionary theorists, and medical practitioners for the ways it can advance their fields in treatment of pathology. It's fascinating to me, a practical theologian, because of the way it confirms the Scriptures and explains spiritual encounters in the world.

Humankind is blind because of the Fall. Our sin separates us from God, and that separation extends to all parts of human experience. Nowhere is it more evident than our ability to recognize God for who He is and ourselves for who we are. This affect of the mind is dubbed by theologians the noetic effects of sin. The Apostle Paul writes about it in Romans 1:18-23:
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Echoing the sentiment of Job, Paul is describing the condition of non-Jewish peoples. But don't think that he excludes the Jewish people (to whom the Law was given and through whom came the promised Messiah) - just look at the next chapter (and ch. 11). For even Moses pointed out that God's redeemed people can be quite blind in their own right.
Deuteronomy 29:2 And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: "You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 3the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders. 4But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear. (See also Ezekiel 12:1ƒƒ and Jeremiah 5:20ƒƒ)
God's reconsitituted redeemed - the Church - can face the same problem of blindness (cf. 1 John 2:9ƒƒ). It troubled Jesus then, and it troubles his people now.

So where do we go from here? If the people on the outside of the covenant are hopelessly blind, and many within the covenant are blinded, too, what's to become of the world?

Hear what Paul said to the people of Athens when he noticed that they were groping about for a deity they intuited was out there, but didn't know.
Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,
We stumble and grope. We get it partially right, but mostly wrong. And yet still, there is an abiding, deep, and stubborn perception of the divine. Even secular and atheistic antagonists recognize the persistence of religious belief.Calvin called this phenomenon the sensus divinitatis.* As Francis Bacon wrote in Novum Organum Scientiarum,
For man by the Fall fell at the same time from his state of innocency and from his dominion over Creation. Both of these losses however can even in this life be in some part repaired; the former by religion and faith, the latter by arts and sciences.
The search for that latter dominion goes on, and I've related a small step in that direction above. The Church is largely responsible for making this search so successful (maybe even possible) in the West. But we've failed in our first calling, which was to help people who seek after God find him in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

When we preach or explain our faith and someone rebuffs us, we get offended instead of praying for Satan to be hampered. We argue, fuss and fight. But sometimes what blind people need the most is for someone to patiently be there, walking beside them to steady them when they wobble or stumble...someone who knows the way around those obstacles.

May the King Who opens our eyes grant you grace to do just that!

* I learned about this in Paul Helm's class taught in conjunction with the release of his book John Calvin's Ideas. Read his blog and you'll quickly see why I can't read Calvin without hearing it in a British accent. You don't have to spend $60 to get at his work on reformed epistemology. The outlines of the argument are present in an earlier article. Paul Helm, "John Calvin, the Sensus Divinitatis, and the noetic effects of sin" International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Springer, ISSN 0020-7047 Volume 43, Number 2, pg 82, April 1998