Friday, November 19, 2010

The Pope's "Fundamental Priority," and the 'Dark Side' of Bible Study

This post is mostly about Catholics living in America, American culture, the Bible, and a post I read in another blog recently: "Catholic Bloggers Ignoring the Pope's 'Fundamental Priority'?," The Sacred Page (November 12, 2010). In "Catholic Bloggers...," Three Catholic professors opined that Catholic bloggers should be writing more about the Word of God. Particularly since this is a priority of Pope Benedict XVI.

They've got a point - several, in fact. I'll get back to one involving the liturgy, in another post. (November 19, 2010)

First, though, a look at what I'll call the 'dark side of Bible study.'

Three Professors and a Good Idea

If I understood them correctly, the three professors who write The Sacred Page thought it'd be a good idea if Catholics who blog start sharing their notions about:
  • Biblical Renewal
  • Bible Study
  • Bible passages
  • Biblical reflections
Sounds like a good idea. I've mentioned the Bible, quoted passages from Holy Writ, and mentioned Verbum Domini: all with quite a bit of caution.

That caution comes in part from my knowledge that I'm just "some guy with a blog." I've got about as little teaching authority as a Catholic can have.

Another reason that I'm cautious about going all "Biblical" is that I grew up in an area infested with Bible-believing folks who hated the Catholic Church and had a thing for 'End Times Prophecy,' Bible trivia, and numerology.

'How nutty can you get, if you quote from the Bible?' Before I go on, a reminder:
"...I've made the point before, and probably will again, that folks like Pat Robertson, Tony Alamo, and the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas; are not all there is to Christianity. I don't think they're even representative of Protestant Christianity...."
(October 12, 2010)

Biblical Reflections: Spirit-Filled (about 180 proof)

First, some headlines. You might not think there was anything particularly 'Biblical' about them: and I'd think you were right. Apply 'end times logic,' though, and - well, I'll get to that.
The key terms to remember here are the number 27 and the word "leopard."
How, by All That is Sane, Does A Beijing Auto Show Connect With the Bible?
It doesn't, except insofar as it's part of human culture - which does connect with the Bible.

Remember, this is a look at the 'dark side' of Bible study. I'm applying the sort of - thinking? - that I ran into, decades back.
A Mercifully Brief Reminiscence of This Blogger's Youth
In my early youth I tried listening to 'Christian' radio stations. They said they were Christian, you see: and I thought it'd be a good idea to do my radio listening with a station whose content was consistent with my beliefs. Silly me.

After a while, I couldn't take any more of the steady stream of guilt, shame, and weird assertions: and started listening to the local rock stations.
Back to the Dark Side of Bible Study
I'm pretty sure that the sort of 'Bible-believing' stuff I ran into, back in the sixties, is not what the Catholic professors had in mind. Actually, I rather hope that they're unaware of that particular dark corner of American culture - and don't realize what sort of spiritual moonshine can come out of a still filled with roughly-equal parts of cultural biases and screwball logic, plus a dash of Bible verses.

Like this bit of nonsense:

Please note: I don't believe this bit of 'Biblical reflection.'
  • Not
    • a
      • bit
I started with some snippets from the Bible. Specifically, that favorite of old-time 'end times' experts, Revelation:
"...a woman clothed with the sun..." "...a huge red dragon...." "...The beast I saw was like a leopard, but it had feet like a bear's, and its mouth was like the mouth of a lion. To it the dragon gave its own power and throne, along with great authority."
(Revelation 12:1, 3, Revelation 13:2)
There's a lot of numbers in those chapters, too: ten horns, seven heads, ten diadems. Remember the number "ten." It's, like, you know: relevant.

Anyway, add up the ten horns, seven heads, and ten diadems, and you get 27, which is the number of years it's been since Fiat was in America.

Here's where it gets fun.

Fiat is a car. The dragon is the symbol for China. A Chinese car is called a leopard. The bear is the symbol for Russia. And China is the enemy of America - which is like being against God - just like Russia!

Remember: I DON'T BELIEVE THIS. Not the 'God is an American' stuff.
An Obligatory Topical Reference for This 'End Times' Bible Reflection
I suspect that some of the topical references in 'end times' books are there in part because most folks don't get worked up about dusty old historical names. With that in mind, here's something topical:

'Biblically speaking,' the woman clothed in the sun is obviously Sarah Palin. She was the governor of Alaska. Part of Alaska is north of the Arctic Circle, so the sun shines there all summer! And the Valley of TEN Thousand Smokes is in Alaska!!


No, it doesn't.

Not really.

Maybe, if I spent time tarting up alleged associations between a two-thousand-year-old literary style and 21st-century Western politics, it'd 'make sense.' Particularly if I tried to get you emotionally overwrought before unloading my argument. I've discussed how emotion and reason don't play well together in another blog. (Another War-on-Terror Blog (December 23, 2008))

As a practicing Catholic, by the way, I am quite certain that my Lord will come again. It's that familiar "Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!"1 But I'm also quite certain that trying to second-guess God the Father is a waste of time. (November 14, 2010)

Which is one reason why I'm not going to have a shot at correlating the number 666, Joseph Stalin, and some topic I'm in a snit about - followed with the claim that God agrees with me because "it's in the Bible."

Another reason is that I expect to have some very serious face time with my Lord in the none-too-distant future. A few decades, tops. I've discussed the particular judgment before. (August 8, 2010) The way I see it, I have enough to deal with now, without adding more dubiously-licit actions.

Catholics, the Bible, and taking My Lord Seriously

I converted to the Catholic Church mostly because I'd learned that it was the outfit that Jesus set up - run by a man who held the authority my Lord gave Peter, passed down through the millennia.

I've known about Jesus, ever since I can remember: and I've been inclined to take Him seriously. Very seriously. Not because He's famous, but because He claimed to be God (John 14:9) - and made it stick. (Matthew 28:18)

I was also rather reassured by the Catholic Church having the Bible, Tradition, and the Magisterium to keep it on course. Plus constant attention from God. (Matthew 28:19-20)

We've got procedures to control the sort of weird 'Bible truths' that pop up when (in my view) a small, culturally-homogeneous group of Christians get hit by a perfect storm of cultural biases, extreme self-confidence, and a nerdy interest in Bible trivia.

Which brings me back to another aspect of the professors' post. Which I'll discuss in "Mass, Liturgy, Nostalgia, and being Catholic in America" (November 19, 2010).

Posts mentioning Verbum Domini:Other somewhat-related posts:Some of what the Pope has to say:Views from another set of bloggers:
1 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 988-1019, which refers to John 6:39-40, Romans 8:11, plus more in 1 Thessalonians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, and Philippians - and that's just the references in Catechism, 989.


Brigid said...

"After a while, I couldn't take any more of the steady stream of guilt, shame, and weird assertions: and started listening to the local rock stations."

Heathen! Heretic! Don't you know rock and roll is the WORK OF THE DEVIL!?

lol Kidding, in case you couldn't guess. ;P Christian stations now, at least the one a couple hours north of here, aren't as into guilt and shame as they were in your youth, but they still have some weird assertions. They also seem to be a bit more into being all mystical and groovy. Oooog.

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...


I'm not surprised. Times change - and regional cultures vary, even today.

From the sounds of it, some of the folks at the screwloose end of the liberal spectrum aren't the only ones who never got over the sixties.

Speaking of which: I actually liked quite a lot of what was going on then. And approved of some. The 'mystical and groovy' aspect, for example, was an imprudent and ill-counseled (in my view) overreaction to the rigid conformity and materialistic values of the preceding decade(s).

There's a reason I can sing quite a bit of that "Aquarius" song. Many youngsters in that period were aware that there was more to life than lockstep social conformity and making lots of money.

I was blessed with opportunities to learn that there was a reality, hard and clear as diamonds, that was "beyond ordinary understanding." and was quite literally universal.

You've heard that all before: "Why I Became a Catholic ," and "Firebase Earth ."

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.