Monday, August 20, 2007


Early thoughts and responses for today—a little cooler 76degrees [Fahrenheit] with a predicted high of 93 degrees instead of 103 degrees—August 20th, 2007

I have been reading Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont’s Fashionable Nonsense. They write under the heading “Neglect of the Empirical”:

For a long time, it has been fashionable to denounce “empiricism”; and if that word denotes an allegedly fixed method for extracting theories from facts, we can only agree. Scientific activity has always involved a complex interplay between observation and theory, and scientists have known that for a long time. ... Nevertheless, our theories about the physical and social world need to be justified in on way or another. ... [and] there is not much left besides the systematic test of theory by observation and experiment.

I agree. This is a common grace of humanity.

In the August 27th, 2007 issue of America magazine, in the article The Church of Christ and the Churches: Is the Vatican retreating from ecumenism?, Richard R. Gaillardetz writes,

“In the four centuries following the Reformation, Catholic theology tended to identify the church of Christ completely with the Catholic Church. This helps explain initial Catholic suspicion of the ecumenical movement as it emerged in the early 20th century.”

This article reminds me that my Catholic childhood was significant in the development of my early piety. And what else could I call it? My religious sentiment? Sensibility? Belief? Piety sounds personal and old-fashion. I like it. (But I also mean all those other expressions as well.)

Piety is a good way to describe the religious acts and beliefs as I remember my religious practice and experience during my childhood. My childhood, including the Catholic part, is a good memory: secure, nearly unchanging, pleasant and comforting as opposed to the wild vicissitudes of life.

I was born in 1954, on the cusp of a revolution in the Church and came to age during that revolution, both in the church and in a “revolution” occurring in the American culture of the 1960s and 1970s. My piety, religious practice, and beliefs embodied the tensions of this period.

A story from Boy Scouts illustrates my youthful Catholic rigor. At my first Boy Scout summer camp, I must have been in 6th grade, maybe the summer after 6th grade, so during 1965 or 1966 and I must have been about 11 or 12 years old. When it came time to have Sunday worship and prayer service at camp I asked to be excused from the Protestant-style service because I was indoctrinated in Catholic grade school that the one and true Church was the Catholic Church and I should not do this.

By 1969 (The first time I smoked pot was the summer of 1969, the summer after 9th grade before my sophomore year in High School. I was 15) I was by then I was, as I mentioned above, a Kansas hippie. Walden, The Whole Earth Catalogue, Ecology, Conservation, Wendell Berry, and sex, is where my head was.

The next big personal religious transition was when the Jesus Revolution swept through Wichita, Kansas in the person of a longhaired hippie playing the guitar and singing and preaching about Jesus. The summary is simple. As I mentioned, sex was on my mind a lot. My buddies and I meet some girls at Century Two Park sometime in the late summer or early fall of 1971. We thought they were cute and they were witnessing to us. They attended a Saturday evening worship service called BASIC. We visited and I kept going. More later.

Anyway, Vatican II was an upheaval to everyone, a revolution. For some it was an earthquake, for others, a breath of fresh air. As for me, it would end up a breath of fresh air. I hope we can open the doors now.

Intermezzo: I think I am typical of many of the Church’s 21st century lay members. I am educated and I have confidence in my education. I believe that my education in science, history, anthropology, literature, etc., as well as the availability of a much vaster body of human knowledge, is a common grace all humans participate in, unless deprived of it by injustice. I believe/hope that this common grace can be coupled with faith in Jesus without doing violence to either sphere or to the person of Jesus. The result is that I think for myself. In fact, God calls me, and all human beings, to do this as a part of our nature. This is the work of creation-keepers that God gave us in the story in Genesis. It is God’s command!

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