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Peter Brown

Joined: Jun. 24, 2012

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Re: Fake wisdom

Jul. 10 at 8:19pm | see this comment in context

Another test for reductivity is to see if the advice can be applied to itself.  For example, #7 "Give up criticism" is itself a criticism--of criticism itself, in this case, or at least of those who are so un-progressive as to assert that some differences actually matter.  

A deeper logical problem with the list is that, in its evident desire to achieve nirvana (note item #14, "Give up attachment"), it simply refuses to take seriously those whose highest values are *not* happiness, the desire to love and be loved, and/or the desire to be understood.

I'll leave alone the question of whether it makes sense to order one's life around achieving happiness, or whether happiness, pursued for its own sake, can be expected to prove just another self-stroking will-o'-the-wisp.  

Peace,
--Peter

Re: Renewing the Church and restoring her tarnished image

Mar. 17 at 7:43pm | see this comment in context

While I'm very far from disagreeing with Douthat on the necessity of reform, I think he's missed the point in locating the urgency of reform as primarily an apologetic task.  (This may be a result of trying to write in a language accessible to readers of _The New York Times_.)

Reform isn't primarily an apologetic task, though; it's primarily an existential task.  Douthat says (quite possibly correctly) that, if the task of reform is not successful, the Catholic Church will become a symbol of the Benighted Past We Have Safely Left Behind.  But it's hardly guaranteed that a world addicted to sacrifice-free satisfaction will see even a successfully reformed Church as anything else.

The basic task of reform, therefore, is not to keep the Church from losing a perceived moral authority that we may never recover anyway.  The basic task of reform is for us--and I'm thinking even more of lay Catholics than of clerics--to *live more truly as Catholics*, because it is in that life, only in that life, that we find the promises of Christ.

Re: God's will and ours: how they meet

Feb. 17 at 5:50pm | see this comment in context

The way you start this out sounds like a false (if common) dichotomy, although the gardener metaphor does go a long way to alleviate it.

My own preferred image for this (for what it's worth) is that sometimes the will of God for us is a point--there is one thing that we must do, which may indeed be revealed to us in a more-or-less oracular fashion (think of Job being told to go to Nineveh, or Ananias being told to go find Paul in Damascus).  Far more commonly, however, the will of God for us is a space, within which we have a great deal of room for choice.  The problem with asking for effectively-oracular revelations of God's will is not that they don't happen--Scripture records too many instances to dismiss them entirely--but that they don't *usually* happen, because most of the time God's will for us affords more room for creative choice within our obedience.

As I said, for what it's worth...

Peace,
--Peter

Re: God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life, But What If He Won't Tell You What It Is?

Jul. 26 at 8:32pm | see this comment in context

Seems to me that whether your parents should have attaneded class that day is independent of whether--given that they didn't--they should have gotten married and had you.  A God who can bring the Passion and Resurrection out of the crime of deicide can surely bring something good out of cutting class :-).

Speaking as a not-always-recovering perfectionist, one concept that has been very helpful to me is Dorothy Sayers' idea of people as sub-creators, with the corollary that there are areas--I would claim the vast majority of our lives--where God's will for us is not a unique line but a space within which we are free to choose among perfectly acceptable options.

Re: Obama's Empericism

Jun. 27 at 10:29pm | see this comment in context

This is partly true, in that the Administration's decisions patently treat religious belief as a private prejudice.  Surely, however, a truly empiricist position would give full weight to the objectively-measured efficiency and responsiveness of (for example) the Migration and Refugee Services--but that's not what happened.  In that case, the measurable (empirical) benefit of efficiency was trumped by the non-measurable (thus non-empirical) "benefit" of providing abortion and contraception.  The HHS mandate is similar, in that there really isn't any empirical evidence demonstrating that substantial numbers of Americans lack access to artificial contraception based on its price.

So--not to belittle the dangers of empiricism, in particular the reduction of religious belief to a mere prejudice--but that doesn't explain the full spectrum of this Administration's disdain for the full personhood (e.g., conscience rights) of those who disagree with it.

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