Shamy Breakup – Advantage Amy

First, SPOILER ALERT if you’re not up on Big Bang Theory!

Sheldon and Amy seemed a perfect couple when they first met.  They’re both scientists, both severely nerdy, and socially awkward.  However, from early on, Sheldon always had the slight advantage.  Sheldon decided the status of the relationship.  He decided when they were just friends.  He decided when they become “boyfriend/girlfriend”, and he drew up the “relationship agreement”.  While he had the advantage, he did have to consider Amy of course.  After all, Amy drove him to start the official relationship by temporarily dating Stuart (the comic book guy) to make Sheldon jealous.  But even then, Sheldon was calling most of the shots.  Well, the short version of their history is that from time to time, Amy would nearly end it, and Sheldon would give in a little more.

If they both started out socially awkward with nearly identical personality types, why was it Amy who always wanted more, and it was Sheldon who would give in just a little each time?  Both became friends with Penny, and here’s the important part.  Penny is friends with both, seems to care about them both as individuals, but has always been rather neutral about their relationship.  Penny pushed each of them to break out of their shells.  Amy was easier than Sheldon.  It wasn’t long before Amy was going out for drinks with them, dancing, expressing her attraction to other men, such as the loveable but incredibly dumb Zack.  While Amy broke out of her shell, Sheldon only peaked out of his.  Amy then attempted to help him more, but with little success.

In the end, Sheldon was too self-absorbed, and too determined to stay in his comfort zone, and Amy had enough.  And so, Season 8 ended with Amy saying she needed some time to think about them.  Season 9 begins with Sheldon chasing after her, but doing a poor job of it.  It was too little, too late.  Who would have thought that SHELDON, yes, SHELDON, would be chasing after Amy while SHE is the run rejecting HIM?!  This is the same Amy who pretended to be sick just so that Sheldon would take care of her, according to the terms of their “relationship agreement”.  Well now, for once, Amy has the advantage.

I don’t know what will happen with them, but I think they’ll get back together.  I normally embrace the principle “male comrades before women who sell their bodies for money” (AKA “Bros before hoes”).  But in this, I’m on Team Amy.  She’s been wonderful to him, and he doesn’t show her enough appreciation.  I know it’s hard for him to deal with people in general, including Amy, but while they can be forgiving and patient, he needs to meet them, especially Amy, half way.  If they do get back together, Amy will likely have the well-deserved upper hand for a while.  Sheldon will have to come back on her terms this time.  Amy is a cute, nerdy girl with a personality that is just outgoing enough now (thanks to Penny) that she will have other options.  Sheldon?  Unlikely.  He’s beginning to realize just how good he had it.

When we last left off (Season 9, first episode), Sheldon concluded on an angry note.  He’s finally going through what most men go through in their teens.  It needs to happen.  It’s unpleasant, but healthy.  He’ll be angry at women, angry at Amy, but it will pass.  I hope that before they get back together, which I’m sure they will, I hope Amy dates around a little.  She could use the XP, and dating “normal” guys might remind her what is so unique about Sheldon.  For all his faults, he’s certainly one of a kind.

Time for Rand Paul to Go for Broke?


Is it time for Rand Paul to “go for broke”?  I’ve been urging caution.  I know the GOP base, they’re a bunch of apes, and Paul has to appeal to them.  The apes are well trained by a GOP establishment to react positively to certain buzz words and catch phrases like “take back America”, and “fight radical Islam”.   They also know to fling their feces at anyone who sounds like they “hate uh’mer’ca”.  But when you’re surrounded by apes, remember – they’re still apes.  They are irrational primates who respect vulgar displays of power.

That’s why they love Trump.  At the CNN debate, I saw Trump mostly doing more of the same.  He refused to apologize to Jeb Bush’s wife for claiming that she being Mexican had softened Bush on immigration.  He hurled insults, completely unprovoked, at Rand Paul.  But Trump remained bold.  He had the courage to look right at Bush and criticize the mess his brother left this country in, right in front of an audience of Republican basers.  Nobody else showed such courage, including Paul.  When Paul had an opportunity to criticize Bush for being a rich kid who smoked marijuana, and later become Gov. of Florida, Paul hesitated.  Apes don’t respect that.

When Paul did finally show some courage and explain point blank that the policy of removing secular dictators like Saddam Hussein, and possibly Assad, leaves instability and bites us in the back; Paul finally got some of the apes to clap their paws.  They’re so like us, aren’t they?

As the actual primary draws near, I’m wondering if Paul should stop worrying so much about not offending the apes, and instead just tell it like it is.  Trump had no qualms about calling out Bush, criticizing the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and slapping hands with Ben Carson for doing the same.  These normally provoke the Republican basers to hurl feces, yet, they don’t.  They respect Trump as the alpha.  Paul was right to say what he did about secular dictators, but maybe it’s time to take the next step.

As Lindsey Graham spoke of ISIS, Iran, and Assad, and I struggled to keep my lunch down, I kept thinking, “Will nobody call him out?”  Graham keeps talking about the growth of ISIS, and saying how we should have taken out Assad, and be prepared to use force against Iran.  NEWS FLASH!  Iran is doing more to stop ISIS than we are right now.  Assad was too until Obama took Graham’s advice and armed the “rebels”.  Yeah, long story short, ISIS has those arms now.  If Paul got a gentle but positive response from the apes for criticizing the reckless toppling of secular dictators in the Middle East, how much more of a response will he get for calling out disastrous policies that played into the hands of ISIS?  I’m not an anthropologist, but I am an academic, and I’m sure anthropological departments across the country would like to see the results.

On a more serious note, Paul isn’t doing great in the polls.  Trump is at the top, Carson is gaining on him, and Fiorina is picking up the pace.  All three of them look like leadership material to the GOP base.  I’m thinking it’s time for Paul to take some risks like a good leader must, and show the GOP base that he can lead.  I know he can lead, a handful of libertarian leaning Republicans know that.  Some libertarian leaning liberals also know that.  But this is the GOP primary, the planet of the apes.  While I respect Paul’s consistent reverence for the 10th amendment, the rule of law means little to primates.  They respect strength, and Paul needs to show it now.

Another interesting take on this:

Julie Borowski’s hilarious parody of the GOP debates

PS If I thought any GOP basers actually read my blog, I wouldn’t be calling them “apes”, but I can’t imagine this offending my 50 or so readers who are likely Paul supporters, or people who came due to my social commentary and don’t care much about this subject.

PPS  The above is more of a rant.  Sometimes it’s healthy to blow off steam.  It’s not an issue of being a bad sport.  It’s that I’m seriously frustrated that after all the mistakes we’ve made in the last few decades, I fear that some demagogue (Trump) is going to distract the GOP base from our best hope (Paul) of not making those mistakes again.  Honestly, if Trump actually does win, he’ll have my support.  He’s nuts, but he is a patriot, and I don’t think he’ll hurl us into another pointless war.

Why some men hate romance


I haven’t been a very romantic guy in a long, long time.  I pride myself on how pragmatic I am.  I love my wife truly, and take pride in our relationship.  It’s a very realist relationship.  We look out for each other, we pick on each other, and we talk things through.  Neither of us have our heads floating in the clouds, and I love it that way.  Sometimes I make a romantic gesture for no other reason than I know she loves it!  But for me, I’ve little interest in romance.

A lot of guys are like me, and I think I know why.  For the last 8 years, I’ve been slowly working on a novel that is loosely based on some terrible experiences I had about 8 and a half years ago.  It is not an autobiography, but fiction loosely inspired by real events.  Heartbreak is involved, and seems to be the apex of the story.  I write of a character loosely based on me, named Henry, and a female character based on a girl I used to know, named Annabelle.  When I first started writing this 8 years ago, those feelings were still so very fresh.  Henry, you see, is deeply infatuated with this Annabelle whom he barely knows.  He’s got it bad…really bad!  When I wrote of it 8 years ago, I could still get those warm, fuzzy feelings.  I’d also get the anger at what followed, the most severe heartbreak Henry will ever experience, the kind of loneliness and depression I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

Now, all these years later, happily married and truly free from all of that, I get something very different.  I do not hate the girl who inspired Annabelle, but honestly, the thought of having any romantic feelings for her now just about made me vomit on my keyboard.  I recently remember a mushy, romantic story I wanted to include in this novel.  Here, I’ll copy and paste it for you…

We walked through Kensington Gardens, as I held your hand.  I told you of Peter Pan as we approached his statue, and you were moved.  Your heart was warmed and your cheeks flushed.  I looked into your eyes and you into mine, and I slowly pulled you close.  As our eyes gently closed, my lips began to meet your lips, and our hearts raced.  As we began to kiss more deeply, it began to rain.  We were so deep into each other’s embrace, the rain continued as did we.

I just typed this about 30 minutes ago, and it was painful.  I was not feeling any desire to have Henry walk with Annabelle, or hold her close, much less kiss her.  Ewww, yucky, pitooey!  I felt something in my chest area, but it wasn’t my heart pounding.  It wasn’t butterflies in my stomach.  It was nothing short of disgust.  It’s not just Annabelle, it’s the whole idea of falling “head over heels” in infatuation (so often mistaken for love).  It’s the same reason I hate chick flicks.

I think that many guys who hate romance, hate it because in the past, romance got them seriously hurt.  Guys don’t like being emotionally vulnerable.  There’s no strength in talking about how you were heartbroken.  But there is strength in scoffing at romance.  Part of the reason I so rarely show such romance towards my wife is because I consider what we have to be real, while what Henry has with Annabelle is all just fantasy, based on more fantasy that blended into real life.  When fantasy and real life get too close together, terrible things happen.

So ladies, if you and a man are deeply in love, and he makes too few romantic gestures for your liking, keep this in mind.  He may love you in a way that is very real.  He likely associates romance with something or someone from his past that he does not want to associate with you.  Don’t get me wrong, you deserve some romance.  Just like you do things for him simply because they make him happy, he should do the same for you.  But if it’s only on special occasions and every now and then “just because”, know that he doesn’t love you any less.  I don’t know you or your particular situation.  But what I present here is just a possibility.  The best way to find out, is to just talk to him about it, one to one.

P.S.  I know you like that Sheldon and Amy image!

Nuclear Iran? Here are our options

Professor Wag explains that there are four ways this could turn out:

1. No further action, resulting in Iran getting a nuclear weapon
2. A weak deal, resulting in a nuclear weapon
3. A full scale war, defeating Iran – no nuclear weapon
4. A strong deal, no war – no nuclear weapon

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Best Kos article ever…but it still sucks!

I just got taken for a ride by a very clever article about discrimination in the Daily Kos.  While I have some conservative sentiments, I’ve never cared for the “take back America” mantra.  Last I checked, America was never taken from us, so I’m not sure from whom we’re supposed to take it back.

This Kos article, by someone named Steven D, initially addressed that mantra, which caught my eye.  The first half of it was an interesting account of young Steven’s life in N. Carolina towards the end of the “Jim Crow” era, as a white northerner.  It was very courteous of him to note that these kinds of segregationist norms were uncommon in S. Dakota “probably because there were so few black people living in the Northern Plains states.”  I’ve never appreciated how white northerners criticize the south for all of our history of racial strife, when they up north so rarely had to deal with it, so I’m glad Steven D notes that very important difference in circumstances.  Well, even though I’m about to rip into this article, I’d still encourage you to read it, because the first half really is an excellent primary history source of segregation in 1950s North Carolina.

Now for the ripping. 

While I agree with some of the points that followed, in particular that our criminal justice system continues to discriminate against blacks; in typical Kos fashion the article goes on to make ridiculous hasty generalizations against conservatives, and a series of other fallacious arguments I will explain.  For one thing, Steven D seems to be suggesting that conservatives who say “I want my country back” want to go back to Jim Crow.  I will admit that most such conservatives (who are more anachronistic than conservative by the way), most of them cherry pick the past.  They probably want the prosperity and patriotism of the 1950s, and chose not to remember the segregation, much less the very high tax rates of the era.  But while their memories may be selective, they are not racists, they are not closet racists, and furthermore, it is indeed possible to look to the past, maybe try to re-implement parts of the past you like while leaving behind the parts that you don’t.  I for example would love to make America a manufacturing power house again, like we were in the 1950s.  We don’t need segregated schools to have manufacturing jobs, and it would be absurd to tell me “you can’t cherry-pick, if you want to go back to the 50s, you have to have segregation too.”

What bothered me most about this article is that it engaged in the all too familiar leftist victim group umbrella tactic.  That is, after deeply discussing racial discrimination in the past and present, it jumped into LGBT issues, feminism, Latinos, and any other “victim group” that the monolithic left seeks to homogenize into their narrow-minded political movement.  The article made a clearly false claim about feminism – “Feminism as a movement did not exist until the late 60s and early 70s.”  What about the women’s suffrage movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries?  What about great classic feminists like Mary Wollstonecraft, who encouraged equality in education, reason and modesty?

Religious Freedom is a Problem?

The article then begins to attack religious freedom itself as a mere excuse for discrimination.  So, if a cake decorator is religiously opposed to same-sex marriage, and therefore refuses to make a wedding cake for a gay wedding, that is to be called “discrimination” and the cake decorator punished?  So, you’re entitled to your religious beliefs, but if they offend the left, you have to violate those very beliefs in public…because they’re offensive?  As so often with the cleverly bigoted left, this is compared to the 1950s when blacks were refused service at restaurants.

Here are three reasons why that comparison is absurd.  1.  In the 50s, the discrimination was widespread, and blacks were being denied very basic necessities such as hotels when they were on the road, food when they were hungry, etc.  This greatly diminished their quality of life.  One religious cake decorator refusing to make a cake will not diminish the quality of a gay couple’s life.  There are plenty of cake decorators who don’t care, and would make them a cake.  To compare one entitled gay couple who still had their wedding to a poor black family in the 50s who slept in their car because the hotel “doesn’t serve coloreds” – that is an insult!  2.  Gay is not black.  A black man walks in, you know he’s black.  When racial discrimination is allowed, it’s far too easy to do so and degrade blacks in every way.  The same would be true of any other skin color.  A gay man walks in, do you know he’s gay?  Some gay people don’t “act gay”.  Some straight people are “metrosexual” (I’ve been known to set off a few gaydars myself).  3.  There is a difference between refusing service simply because someone is gay, and refusing to be involved in a same sex wedding ceremony.  While I am not against same-sex marriage myself, as an American, I will defend the right of fellow Americans to practice their religion as they see fit.  This is not “discrimination”, it is freedom.  To punish a cake decorator who refuses to make a wedding cake for a gay wedding is not ANTI-discrimination, it IS discrimination.  This leftist tactic of comparing everything they hate to Jim Crow racism is a clear poisoning the well fallacy.  Well, I don’t want to be racist, so I guess I’ll have to make a cake of a same-sex wedding ceremony.

This next part isn’t even good enough to be absurd

Of course, this is the Kos, and if you think what I’ve discussed above is the worst in this article…just read on.  The article also made a beyond absurd argument that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana will somehow effectively discriminate against, well, any group the Kos wants to appeal to.  Here are Steven D’s words – “Their efforts encompass attempts to limit the rights of a far wider range of people, from the poor, young people and students, women, Latinos, immigrants, the disabled and, of course, blacks.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is frankly delusional.”  WHAT?!  I’m sorry, but due to my religious beliefs, I can’t serve poor people…that’s what Jesus would do.  HUH?!  Sorry, but I can’t serve coffee to you students who are cramming for an exam because, religion.  REALLY?!  Where did Steven D come up with this nonsense?

I found the ending to be the most offensive and insulting of all.  Again, Steven D’s words – “I certainly don’t want a country where anyone can discriminate against anyone else of whom they do disapprove and escape liability for that immoral and otherwise unlawful act under any pretext, be it freedom of religionracial superiority or traditional values.”  In the name of white supremacy, the Reverend Clementa Pickney and eight worshippers were murdered at an AME Church in Charleston S. Carolina – while exercising their freedom of religion!  There’s a long a tragic history of black worshippers being murdered by white supremacists, and their churches being burned down.  To equate white supremacy to freedom of religion is an insult to the memories of every black worshipper who was murdered.

Why this article still sucks

I’m not frustrated by this article because it comes “from the left”.  There’s plenty of respectable leftist sources, such as The Nation and….The Nation…. I’m not even frustrated by all the ridiculous points I’ve now refuted, as I expect nothing less from the Kos.  I’m frustrated because this article actually had potential.  I’m not saying Steven D couldn’t make these points effectively.  With some basic critical thinking skills he could have made a plausible argument for why gay is the new black, or that it is wrong to refuse service for a gay wedding.  I’d disagree, but I’d at least consider it a respectable article.  But instead, what starts out as a very interesting first hand history lesson quickly degenerates into the kind of left-winged bigotry for which the Kos is notorious.  It is the worst kind of bigotry, as it is often in the name of anti-discrimination.  But discrimination in the name of anti-discrimination, is still discrimination.  If I as a Christian call for religious freedom, then argue that, say, Muslims do not believe in religious freedom*; and therefore Muslims must not be allowed to practice their religion because they are a threat to religious freedom, I would be a hypocritical bigot – no better than the ones at the Daily Kos.

I, too, “want a better country”.  But part of that depends on maintaining those aspects of our country that do work well.  The first amendment, amongst other things guaranteeing freedom of religion, has always served us well.  I’m not prepared to sacrifice that freedom in the name of anti-discrimination.  I’d rather use my first amendment rights to persuade my fellow Americans, than deny their first amendment rights in order to force their actions, which will never change what is in their hearts.


*For the record, I acknowledge that Islam, like Christianity, could be cherry-picked to justify suppressing religious freedom.  But like Christians, the average Muslim especially in America simply wants to practice his/her faith and has no desire deprive others of the same freedom.  If anything Islam has a better history of religious freedom, considering that they at least acknowledge some other faiths as “people of the book” and that during the Crusading era of the Middle Ages, Christians and Jews did have religious freedom for the most part in the Islamic world while the same courtesy was clearly not extended in the Christian world.

My Piece on the Charleston Massacre

Stop Exploiting the Victims of the Charleston Shooting for Political Feuds!

Charleston Massacre Victims

Last Sunday I visited a friend’s Catholic Church, and I’m glad I did.  The Priest gave a much needed sermon that helped to put the recent tragedy in perspective.  He was deeply touched that the very family members of the slain were able to look at the murderer and say “I forgive you”.  I recently saw the footage, and heard the pain in their voices.  I don’t know if they forgive him in their hearts yet.  But they said so, because they know that they need to forgive.  This deranged young man was driven by pure hate, and that is exactly what he seeks to fuel.  If this tragedy leads to more racial division, regardless of which side “wins”, that murderer will have what he wants.  As the priest mentioned above was touched by the reaction of the family, he was also appalled by the reaction of so many others.  People who’ve never been to the Emanuel AME Church and knew nobody involved has jumped on this opportunity to push their political agenda.  I remember this boomer age priest denouncing the “left” and the “right” for their selfish efforts to exploit this tragedy, and he was absolutely right*.

Unfortunately, some are all too willing to let that murderer have his way.  There are two groups that come to mind: the anti-gun crowd, and the anti-Confederate flag crowd.  With the first, I can at least believe that they act in good faith.  They truly believe that if we had better gun control, these kinds of tragedies could be prevented.  Though they opportunistically jump on every tragedy to call for more gun control, at least they have a logical defense of a sort.  They can say that they are directly responding to the very cause of these tragedies.  Still, it’s a far more complex debate than they realize, and best decided by people thinking clearly rather than worked up into an emotional frenzy.

The second group, those attacking the Confederate flag, are no better than those who started harassing Muslims after the 9/11 attacks – actually, they are worse!  These are the worst kind of bigots, because they think they are so enlightened.  We can argue for years and decades over the history of the American Civil War, and what the Confederate battle flag historically represents.  But does anyone honestly believe that most who display it today are pining for the “good ol’ days of slavery”?  The average white southerner who displays the Confederate Battle Flag today has no problem with black Americans.  He/she likely embraces the symbol as an identity – “Look at me, I’m a redneck”.  Some of the more sophisticated will make a more eloquent argument for states’ rights and the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution.  Others just like Lynyrd Skynyrd.  And yes, some who display the Confederate Battle Flag are racists.

The comparisons to the Nazi Swastika are absurd, however.  Nobody in Germany says, “Well, I don’t support murdering 6 million Jews, but I did like the Nazi policies on reparations from WWI, so I display the Swastika because of that.  Not the whole genocide thing.”  The Nazi regime was built around racial hierarchy.  The Confederacy, however, was about as racist as most other nations of the time, including the Union.  Furthermore, as terrible as slavery was, it wasn’t genocide.  If anyone is guilty of that, it would be the Union, who then went fourth after the Civil War to slaughter the Sioux and Apache.  Many were put on “reservations” (much like concentration camps) and barely kept alive in appalling conditions.  But I don’t call the stars and stripes a symbol of Native American genocide.  Bigotry of every kind must be opposed, and bigotry usually has its roots under pretense of righteous indignation.  Just like I don’t hold my Islamic neighbors responsible for the 9/11 attacks, I don’t hold the average neo-confederate responsible for the Charleston massacre.

I’m not into the neo-confederate stuff myself, but if I were, I would at least for a few weeks refrain from displaying the Battle Flag out of respect.  Like it or not, the murderer did display that flag.  If you want to argue that he had no idea what that flag truly represents – fine.  But right now, there is a family in mourning and they do not need to see the symbol displayed by the murderer of their family members.  Likewise, they do not need a bunch of supercilious white liberals exploiting this tragedy to attack their political enemies.  Before they judge us, maybe they should clean up their own back yards.  States’ rights didn’t murder those people at the Emanuel AME Church.  Neither did Southern pride, nor did Lynyrd Skynyrd.  And they sure weren’t murdered by the 10th Amendment!  I was happy to see CNN host a discussion over the Battle Flag, where one man was defending it with the usual states’ rights argument; and another was wanted it removed from state buildings (I wish I could find the clip).  I think now more than ever we need to listen to each other, especially in the South.  Stop exploiting a tragedy to settle old political feuds, and instead let’s send our condolences to the family and friends of those slain in Charleston at the Emanuel AME Church.  Rather than allowing this tragedy to divide, as the murderer** wants, let it unite us.

Links and Notes:

Rod Dreher also wrote an excellent piece on the tragedy

Dreher also wrote a piece calling for the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag.  I don’t agree with him, but he makes the case effectively without the kind of liberal, pseudo-intellectual bigotry I mention above.

*I admit to being a Christian of often weak faith, bordering agnostic.  But moments like that (the boomer aged priest denouncing the “left” and “right” exploiting the tragedy) certainly restore my faith, because surely it’s easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a baby boomer to see beyond the left/right paradigm.

**I don’t call him by name because people who do these things want to be remembered.  I won’t give him that.

***I do not display the Confederate Battle Flag here because, as I stated, I think we should suspend use of it for a few weeks out of respect.  However, if we can cross the racial divide and have a civilized discussion about the Flag, and race in general, I think we effectively honor the victims by doing so.

Evangelicals rising in a seemingly “post-Christian” era – What does that mean for Catholics?


 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.” – Luke 9:24 NRSV

What do Evangelicals have that Catholics do not?  Why are they the only Christian group that is successful in growing via conversion?  As I read over the concerns raised by Leah Libresco (a Roman Catholic) and Rod Dreher (an Orthodox Christian), I think of where my own church (The Episcopal Church) has fallen short.  Like the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the Episcopal Church maintains the apostolic succession of Bishops (as the name suggests) and we keep all seven sacraments.  We do have a liturgy that when fully embraced includes beautiful chanting, candles, icons, incense, and all of it leads to the High Mass.  Unfortunately, for fear of remaining small (we make up about 2% of the US population), our leaders ranging from the Bishops all the way to vestry members, stubbornly insist on watering down our liturgy.  Our priests, when teaching confirmation classes that we often rename (“Seekers Class”) capitulate to the seemingly mainline protestant culture of the United States.

When I was first joining the Episcopal Church, I remember our priest telling us that “confirmation” was simply an act of claiming what was given to us during baptism.  It was the Bishop who confirmed me, the Right Reverend Alden Hathaway, who explained in his sermon that he, as a Bishop, once knelt before three Bishops when he was ordained, and the layed hands upon his head.  Those three Bishops experienced the same before him, and did the Bishops before.  Going back, the earliest Bishops, or Episcopos, where consecrated by the Apostles, and the Apostles by Christ himself (this is the Apostolic Succession).  So, when we came before the Bishop and he would lay his hands upon our heads, we would not only feel his hands, but the hands of every Bishop before him, and the hands of the Apostles, and most importantly, the hands of Christ.  This is who we are.

So let me get to the point

I know that I’m preaching to the choir right now if Ms. Libresco or Mr. Dreher read this, but I write this to address Mr. Dreher’s two main questions: “What are Catholics doing wrong?” and “What are Evangelicals doing right?”  Mr. Dreher is on to something with this statement, “If you are drawn to the Protestant form of Christianity, Evangelicals evidently do a far better job of it, of making it real and relevant to the lives of ordinary people.”  This is what Evangelicals are doing right.  If I may expand on that label “Catholic” to include all Churches that maintain the sacraments and the Apostolic Succession (Roman, Anglican, Orthodox, Coptic, etc.), Mr. Dreher also seems to understand what we’re doing wrong.  “Catholic and Orthodox intellectuals — I am guilty of this — have a strong tendency toward self-satisfaction, resting in the beauty and the intellectual depth of our respective ancient traditions, but notably lacking in missionary zeal.”  However, this could lead to the erroneous conclusion that we should do what they are doing.  We should stop all the pageantry, lighten up on the liturgy, stop emphasizing the importance of the Apostolic Succession; and play some electric guitars, shout “Amen”, sing and clap our hands, etc.  I hope I don’t sound condescending towards Protestant churches that enjoy this style of worship.  Jesus never gave us a particular style of worship and I don’t presume to have the style that is suited for all of Christendom.  The body of Christ has many parts, and a body made entirely of right arms wouldn’t be able to function.

Evangelicals function well because they embrace who they are.  For Christians who worship with their hearts, who enjoy immediately expressing what they feel God is doing for them, etc. these Evangelicals have it in the bag.  Whenever the Episcopal Church struggles against its nature, trying to be more like the Evangelicals, we end up with an uneasy compromise on mainline Protestant style worship.  As Ms. Libresco showed, mainline Protestants are the least successful at retaining membership.  Please do not take this as judgment, but I personally find mainline Protestant worship rather dull and unfulfilling.  Evangelical style worship makes me uncomfortable, and not in a good way.  It doesn’t challenge me to be a better Christian, or take a leap of faith.  It just makes me feel like I don’t belong, and that’s because I don’t – not there, anyway.

So what can Catholics do right?

What we can learn from the Evanglicals is that we will grow if we embrace who we are, and we make worship relevant to the everyday lives of the people who attend.  Those who criticize us most sharply for our ancient rituals, and claim we are out of touch with the modern era…these are the very people who will NEVER attend our churches, no matter what we do.  When the Episcopal Church seeks to save its life, it dies a little more inside.  When the Roman Catholic Church isn’t far behind, it does the same.  But I have seen life in the Orthodox Church.  I am back to embracing my Episcopal identity, but I did, many years ago, convert to Greek Orthodoxy.  There was no capitulation in the Orthodox Church.  The sacraments were held to the highest standards, and the liturgy was fully embraced.  Visitors were welcome to enjoy our style of worship, but it was our style of worship.  Those who wanted to embrace it, including myself when I first attended, were welcome to come to confirmation classes and then decide if they wanted to be Chrismated.  To this day I love the Orthodox Church, and only returned to the Episcopal Church as a compromise with my Methodist wife (Episopalianism seems somewhere in between Orthodoxy and Methodism).

There is a portion of Christians who yearn for high church liturgy.  There is another portion of the general population, Christian or otherwise, who could be won over.  But there are those who will never be won over, and they speak the loudest.  Of that group, those who are non-Christian only wish us harm, and we should ignore them.  Of Evangelicals or other Protestants who criticize us, we should remind them that in the end, we all have the same Lord and Savior, and a house divided against itself cannot stand.

What we, Catholics of every flavor, must do is embrace who we are.  For Orthodox Christians, Mr. Dreher already recognizes their hurdle – “Orthodoxy is so exotic in the American context that it’s hard for it to evangelize relative to other Christian churches.”  Those who yearn for liturgy, however, need only attend an Orthodox mass, and they will be hooked – I know I was.  Both Roman Catholics and Episcopalians face the same primary challenge, however.  Our own members chip away at who we are from within.  The capitulation must stop, and we must embrace the full liturgy, with all its smells and bells.  We’ll never out Protestant the Protestants, but we can sure out Catholic ourselves.  The Roman Catholic Church also must move past the notorious sexual abuse mass-scandal of that last several decades.  It’s important for them to clean up their act, which they are finally doing, but that alone would simply slow their decline.  For the Episcopal Church, we have no major scandals…we’re just boring.  For starters, we should scrap the word “Protestant” from the official title of our church in America.  Let it simply be “The Episcopal Church in the USA”.  Lose the “Presiding Bishop” label and embrace “Archbishop”.  From there, revive the use of icons, the chanting (especially during communion), and every bit of beautiful pageantry that makes us Episcopalian.  Let the Presbyterians be Presbyterians.  Lastly, never let anyone claim that we do not believe in the true presence of Christ when we take communion.  We do not embrace the Roman doctrine of transubstantiation because the miracle of communion is beyond our comprehension, but we do not see it as mere symbolism.  We do receive the body of Christ.  No, Richard Dawkins, not the literal flesh and blood of a 1st Century Jew named Jesus, but the heavenly body of Christ…I wouldn’t expect you (Dawkins) to understand.

Holding on to capitulation will only lead to a slow death.  Our Churches will become museums, as so many already are in Europe.  But worse, in America, some corporation or politician will want to tear them down for “progress”.  I love the Orthodox Church, but I’d hate for it to be the only remaining source of high church worship in America.  If we breathe new life into our places of worship, if the liturgy is born again, that portion of the population yearning for liturgy will return full measure.  Then, that next portion of lost souls – that portion that can be captivated by the liturgy – they will wonder in one Sunday morning.  When they do, welcome them!

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10 NRSV

For further reading:

An interesting article on the RCC in Germany and capitulation to “modernity”, I have mixed opinions of the particular issues addressed by the RCC in Germany, but overall worry about their lack of conviction: