A Model to Follow

John 13:1-15

The Washing of the Disciples’ Feet.

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.” Jesus said to him, “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.” For he knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
So when he had washed their feet [and] put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.

Period.

Walking the Jesus Walk

St. Ignatius’ Prayer for Generosity

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.

I began the Spiritual Exercises today and while I’m fearful of the unknown, I’m drawn by poetic prayers like this. They cut right to my core and say something beautiful and profound. Serving Christ as He deserves is to carry the cross with him. To give of oneself without condition or reservation. This is a very dangerous theology. It rebukes the pragmatism and cynicism and nihilism in this world. No wonder Ignatius was arrested by the Spanish Inquisition!

I’m excited about the journey.

On Aquinas

Karen Armstrong’s discussion of Aquinas

Few thinkers have made such a lasting contribution to Western Christianity as Thomas Aquinas (1225–74), who attempted a synthesis of Augustine and the Greek philosophy which had recently been made available in the West.

Continue reading “On Aquinas”

What happens when Jesus is not the answer?

What happens when Jesus is not the answer?:

Doing good cannot be an optional extra for Christians, but must be at the core of our existence. For our faith is not measured by a list of sound doctrine, but instead by the fruit it produces in doing good.

(Via Red Letter Christians)

Amen. Read the whole post. It’s worth it.

Quick Reply to Some Quick Thoughts

Opinionated Catholic: Quick Thoughts On Forced Organ Donation Hypo and Aborton.

Let me say at the outset that Opinionated Catholic’s thoughts are anything but quick.  You should take the time to read the full post. Good stuff in there. Opinionated Catholic has turned out be one of my good Twitter-friends whose thoughtful (stubborn 🙂 ) and carefully thought out (aggravating 🙂 ) ideas have been a blessing. Keeps me honest!

Opinionated Catholic (O.C.) has been careful to not speak for me on my position on abortion which I characterize as a Catch 22.  The short version is that a total and complete ban on abortion is ugly because it not only is akin to rape, but in extreme cases it is murder, so-called “double effectexceptions notwithstanding. (That would take a whole other post!) On the other hand, abortion on demand is also ugly because it makes life a matter of convenience and by such logic I should not exist. My father was poor and born to a single mother. So there we have my basic position.  I should add that I am not trying to debate the morality of abortion per se or what should be the proper form of legal abortion.  I’m only interested in the morality and integrity of the Catholic position.

Now, in discussion with O.C., I asserted that the pro-life movement, at least that advocated by Catholics, is more pro-baby than pro-life since we will respect a person’s body in some cases where life can be saved by another person donating tissue but not others. I used organ donation as an example to show that we play favorites. We will go to any length in some cases, i.e. abortion, and not others.  I also asserted that this is not true to Christ who’s love knows no bounds since our love does in fact have bounds.

O.C. has made a compelling reply on the basis of voluntary and involuntary moral obligations.  For the sake of brevity, I will paraphrase I hope accurately.  The mother’s obligation to her child is different than merely person to person moral obligations.

  1. The mother has a duty to care for her child.
  2. The uterus unlike other organs exists for the express purpose of carrying her child and serves no other essential function.
  3. Denial of treatment, e.g. refusing kidney donation, is not the same as intentional act, e.g. abortion is killing the unborn child.

To all of this I would say, is a strong legal argument for limiting if not outright banning abortion if somehow the unborn can be given citizenship rights.  Until that happens, legal abortion will remain the law of the land.  A woman has no parental rights obligations whatsoever to a non-person under our law.  And the unborn are not persons under our law.  But what O.C. fails to see, as far as I can tell, is I am not arguing a legal case.  I’m looking at how Christ loves.  To wit, Christ was deeply radical in his love.  It is not a respecter of boundaries, especially as a disciple:

This is not worldly love and makes worldly life difficult if one wants to be true to Christ. I am not saying that the abortion issue can’t be resolved. I for one would gladly ban it, under certain conditions. For example, if we had the technology to carry any child from zygote to full term by artificial means, I have no trouble at all banning abortion, taxing the responsible parties for child support (and the general public in cases e.g. rape), and making adoption a real social and governmental priority.

So if I love both mother and child, I have to be true to what it is I am doing. Justice is the sound love makes when it speaks in public. And my justice ultimately comes from Christ.  So if I play favorites with my love and say that the child is more valuable than the mother then I’ve sinned.  It’s why, if it came to it, I would put my body on the line to ban abortion. Justice demands that I be on the same chopping block as any rape victim.  If we can traumatize her to save her child, I can lose a kidney in fairness.

 

Black Theology & Faith: James Cone, Critics and a Contrarian

I wrote the following as a final paper for one of the most powerful classes I ever had the pleasure to take in 2004. I was proud of it then and I’m still proud of it now. I had pulled an all nighter so my proofreading was limited. Still, I hope you enjoy. Much of my theology is unchanged, though now I do believe in a personal God that is compatible with the theology articulated here.

Black Theology & Faith:

James Cone, Critics, and a Contrarian

Robert Barrimond

AFAM519 Final Paper

Prof. Michael Eric Dyson

May 4, 2004

 

In this paper, I will accomplish three things centered around a discussion of James Cone’s black theology: 1) I expound upon the faithful source of James Cone’s black theology, (2) summarize some of the critiques and demonstrate their inadequacy, (3) in the best tradition of paid pests and colorful contrarians, provide a critique of some of the basic elements of black theology as well, and (4) the new possibilities and the value black theology has for us.  Because Cone is the field’s exemplar, I think it fitting that his theology be representative.  Let me begin by first examining the faith of black slaves.  I believe their faith to be the ground from which Cone’s theology springs. Continue reading “Black Theology & Faith: James Cone, Critics and a Contrarian”

Why I Don’t Read Ideological Media: Dawkins Edition

Eric Reitan breaks good ol’ Dick down:

How are books born? The one you’re reading now was born when a colleague gave me a photocopied page from a book, without identifying information, and asked me to evaluate it as I would a student’s paper. The page offered “summaries” of the first three of St Thomas Aquinas’ five arguments for God’s existence (popularly called the “Five Ways”). The writer of the passage got the arguments wrong – and then objected to them at precisely those points where he got them wrong.

The writer was Richard Dawkins. The book was The God Delusion. The photocopied passage, had Dawkins turned it in to me for a grade, would have earned him a whopping “D.” And for many people, this D-level work may be their only exposure to Aquinas’ arguments for God’s existence.

And so I bought Dawkins’ book. And as I read it, I was taken in by the author’s swagger. Dawkins is clearly confident, writing as if he knows what he’s talking about. The only problem is that, as often as not, he has no idea what he’s talking about.

Eric Reitan. Is God A Delusion: A Reply to Religion’s Cultured Despisers (Kindle Locations 1430-1435). Kindle Edition.

UPDATE: Upon reflection, I thought this too cavalier an attack so I decided to provide an example. Continue reading “Why I Don’t Read Ideological Media: Dawkins Edition”

The God I Believe In: Part Trinity

(Version 2.0)

I want to know how God created this world. I’m not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details.

 It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropomorphic concept which I cannot take seriously.

Albert Einstein

The agonizing moments through which I have passed during the last few years have also drawn me closer to God. More than ever before I am convinced of the reality of a personal God…To say that this God is personal is not to make him a finite object besides other objects or attribute to him the limits of human personality; it is to take what is finest and noblest in our consciousness and affirm its perfect existence in him. It is certainly true that human personality is limited, but personality as such involves no necessary limitations. It means simply self-consciousness and self-direction. So in the truest sense of the word, God is a living God. In him there is feeling and will, responsive to the deepest yearnings of the human heart: this God both evokes and answers prayer.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

As I’ve said elsewhere, God for me is many things personal, transcendent, etc. As I have matured, I’ve struggled with the images taught to me in Catholic school. They seemed to conflict with one another. The simplistic explanations given to harmonize and justify them did nothing to make them more believable to me. The just made for more questions.

For example, I always believed that God is inscrutable. As a child I would imagine God as a wispy cloud stretching into an infinite darkness. So how could the priests and nuns be so certain that such an inscrutable God was exactly as the Trinitarian formula states? How could they say others such as Jews were wrong?  The old saw of “It’s a mystery,” seemed to reek of indoctrination dodging the question so I simply ignored it.

As I grew into adulthood and got more educated on the subject, I full on rejected the Trinity. As a dogma that resulted from a bitterly violent and protracted conflict among Christians over the divinity of Christ vis-a-vis God, it had little spiritual value or power for me. To make matters worse, the conflict calcified positions to the point where The Trinity became identical with God. Historically, this has led people make God very describable, neat and clean. Today you’ll hear the Trinity explained with images of a three leaf clover or water in three phases or a pie cut into three pieces. These metaphors, while containing a bare kernel of truth, are so simplistic and ham-fisted that I would’t be surprised to hear them called blasphemous in some theological quarters. We have gone from indescribable mystery to metaphors for a metaphor for God which makes them rather untrustworthy symbols of “Him” or even our understanding of Him.

It wasn’t until I had read more deeply into the theology of the Trinity and the authors of the dogma that I gained a fuller understanding that allowed me to believe again. Continue reading “The God I Believe In: Part Trinity”

I Have Experienced It to Be True

Nadia Bolz-Weber:

Years ago on a bright Tuesday in March I was driving to seminary and I found myself stuck in traffic on I-25.  Sitting in a dead stop on the interstate I stared up into the clear blue Colorado sky and thought “What in the world  am I doing?  I don’t believe a word of this Jesus stuff. I mean, It’s a fairy tale”.  But then in the very next moment I thought “except…throughout my life…I have experienced it to be true.”  I experience the gospel to be true even when I can’t believe it. And honestly sometimes I believe the gospel even when I don’t experience it.  [emphasis mine] And I suggest to you today that this is why we have and even why we need Word and Sacrament. Because see, we are a forgetful people.

via Sermon for the ordination of Matthew Nickoloff.

Believing the Bible History

In my experience, I’ve heard tons and tons and tons of trash talk from atheists who insist that the only way the Bible is “true” is if it is literally, historically and scientifically accurate. This is understandable given our indoctrination into truth grounded in the availability of things like camcorders. The ancients had no such luxury and they knew it.  They did not write scientifically or historically in our sense but poetically, mythically to convey truth by story and symbol. Even biographies were not called “histories” but “lives.”  The ancients knew this as well.

Yet dogmatic (largely atheist) critics continue, even when they are told the historical facts, to read it as 21st century moderns. All too often they then sophomorically demean the ancients and the books they wrote. The loud and proud ignorance from people who practically worship evidence is as one put it, “jaw-dropping.” Continue reading “Believing the Bible History”