Thursday, February 18, 2016

Four for Thursday

Both of my readers can rest easy because I seriously doubt that I will make this a regular feature, but below are four things I read today that I think are worth passing along. I know, "Three for Thursday" has a better ring to it, as does "Four for Friday," but then I seem to always be a little out-of-tune:

1- WenatcheeTheHatchet is doing a insightful analysis of the Mars Hill phenomenon in light of Jacques Ellul's work on propaganda. There is more than one post, but here's a link to the most recent: "Mark Driscoll as propagandist: excerpts from a Mark Driscoll presentation from Jan 23, 2013 on content dynamics cross-referenced with observations from Jacques Ellul on propaganda"

In my view this is worth passing along because this analysis is more broadly applicable than to Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill, even more widely applicable than to U.S. Evangelicalism. Sadly, propaganda constitutes much of what passes for evangelization these days, even among Catholics. There is a lot of propaganda that claims to be done under that banner of the New Evangelization. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the largely self-licking ice cream cone of Catholic new media, to which this blog, I reluctantly confess, probably contributes, at least at times, is often guilty of this as well. With that being said, I think the last thing we need is a "New Evangelization re-boot." What we need in every age is simply evangelization. I think the term "New Evangelization" needs to be retired. Frankly, evangelization that is effective is almost always person-to-person and must never be conflated with apologetics. These days I meet way too many self-styled Catholic apologists. To whom they apologize or for what remains a mystery to me. I would submit that, even now, the best source we have for evangelization in the modern world is Bl Pope Paul VI's Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi. do yourself a favor and read it.

I would also submit that virtually every parish has an evangelism outreach, it's called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). Too often Catholic digital media undermines rather than enhances parish RCIA ministry, which remains only partially implemented in many dioceses and parishes. Most digital media touted as being useful for RCIA doesn't strike me as having much of a clue as to what RCIA, according to the Church, should be about. But then, not too many of my fellow clerics grasp RCIA that well either.

2- I read, not a refutation, or even a rebuttal of Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato si', but a thoughtful reflection on what can fairly be called a weakness in the encyclical's analysis. The piece is by an economist and priest, Fr. Paul Anthony McGavin: "What's wrong with 'Laudato si'?" Cutting to the chase, Fr McGavin, after a lengthy analysis, concluded: "My estimation is that a very different, much briefer, more technically informed, and more theological accurate encyclical would have been more helpful, and would have provided a better platform 'to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.'"

3- Dr. Michael Brown hit the Trump candidacy nail-on-the-head with his article "Donald Trump's Oblivious Followers." Among the worthwhile insights passed along is Brown's treatment of the "alpha" vs "beta" male narrative that I witnessed even some of Trump's Christian followers employ:
When competing candidates rightly confront his vacillating positions, they're branded liars, corrupt politicians, and worse, all to the delight of his followers.

"We need an Alpha male," they exclaim. "Trump will get things done."

As to how, exactly, he will do it, no one seems to know.

But be assured that, despite four Trump bankruptcies (which surely affected many people, even if Trump was not personally affected) and the failures of Trump Airlines, Trump Vodka, Trump Mortgage, Trump: The Game, The China Connection, Trump Casinos, Trump Steaks, Trump Magazine, and, Donald Trump will get the job done.

He always does.

He only wins - as in wins, wins, wins.

And when he doesn't win (as in Iowa)? Actually, second was really first, since, we're told, the winner cheated. And his followers cheer him on
In fairness, the rest of the GOP field doesn't give me any reason to be excited.

4- I am certainly no supporter of Trump. I will even admit to being unable to grasp why so many people support him, despite reading a number of articles trying to explain his support. But I admit that I was saddened that Pope Francis let himself get dragged into the mud by a reporter's question during his in-flight press conference on the plane flight back to Rome from Mexico. Of course, there were other things said that are causing the predictable and desired controversy. Maybe it's time to do away with the in-flight presser. Either that, or grow in the awareness that you are dealing with a press corps looking to score cheap points off ambiguous or incomplete answers in addition to asking a version of three or four of the same questions they ask over and over when given the chance. Why? Because it's the media, not the Church, who are obsessed with sex matters.

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