April 8th, 2008

Thomas More

Theological Notebook: Noting Blair – "Faith and Globalization"

I'm curious to see such a major political voice as his has been venturing into these academic areas....

In Westminster lecture, Blair says faith can transform humanity
By Simon Caldwell
Catholic News Service

LONDON (CNS) -- Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has spoken of his "passionate" conviction that religious faith can transform humanity for the better.

Blair, 54, a former Anglican who was received into the Catholic Church just days before Christmas, said he wanted to promote the "idea of faith itself as something dynamic, modern and full of present relevance."

He told 1,600 people gathered in London's Westminster Cathedral April 3 that faith had a "major part to play in shaping the values which guide the modern world and can and should be a force for progress."

"But it has to be rescued on the one hand from the extremist and exclusionary tendency within religion today and on the other from the danger that religious faith is seen as an interesting part of history and tradition, but with nothing to say about the contemporary human condition," he said. "I see faith and reason, faith and progress, as in alliance, not contention."

His remarks came in a lecture on the subject of "Faith and Globalization," the first in a series of six speeches hosted by the Archdiocese of Westminster on "Faith and Life in Britain."

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Meanwhile at the Watchtower...

Personal: Limping Along

Honestly, it's been one of those semesters.

I had noted to friends, rather happily, that in the past three years, I think, I hadn't had anything as bad as a week-long cold. Here and there just an "off" feeling day, but that was it. The Irish peasant's belief in luck yammers at me that this is the sort of thing you're insane to say out loud: anything good that happens "will have to be paid for."

Thus we come to this semester.

All Marquette has been struggling with this cold/flu/lung infection since January, passing it back and forth to one another, and I was no exception. That blasted me for about two months, knocking me down in two different waves, once for a week. Then after spring break I got these gassy cramps in my digestive system, waking me up every hour for a couple of nights, making any real sleep impossible for a few days. After a week, that fades away, only for me to wake up Friday with my face looking like I'd slept in a helmet stuffed with salt. Seriously: my skin went so dry and flakey, all over, but especially on my face, that I wouldn't go outside all weekend: I was too hideous to be seen. I don't know if I had some kind of allergic reaction or what. I only made it to BSG night on Friday with the Lloyds, Harris men, and Barnes, because I'd liberally bathed in moisturizing cream. This is fading, finally, so I think I'll be able to face my class tomorrow, but I'm left wondering just what's coming next. Someone's doing wacky things to a voodoo doll of me, somewhere.

So there's my complaint/rant/explanation for having largely disappeared the last few weeks. I owe a bunch of friends some serious social time after blowing everyone off, but I've still got a pile of papers to grade and am trying to focus on that. And not scratching.

Life needs to get more interesting soon, but not in the Chinese "May you live in interesting times" curse sort of way. I'm beginning to really look forward to this do-it-yourself "Guys Retreat" we have coming up in May, after my semester ends. This is my Google Earth scout of the location and the view, and I'm looking forward to this kind of change in scenery.

Random/Theological Notebook: NYT Articles Repeating Early March "New Sins" Idiocy and On Philosophy

Two articles from the NYT, one repeating the worst of the banalities of the mistaken notion from early March that the Vatican had issued a list of "new sins" that were social in nature – created by uneducated writers in the press taking it upon themselves to jazz up and "explain" a Vatican interview to the world – and a lighthearted article on increasing numbers of students studying Philosophy as a discipline.

Of course, any freshman at a Catholic university in their Philosophy or Theology classes would tell you that the notion of "sin" always has a social dimension and that the Catholic Church has been teaching this in great detail for many decades. Indeed, you'll find no group on Earth with a more advanced and detailed tradition of published reflection an analysis of social injustices and a coherent social justice theory. So, despite the fact that many well-informed Catholic commentators had written last month to explain the media excess – and the excess of some religious response – in reporting the idea that the "official list of sins" had been "updated" with notions more collective in nature, this fellow takes it upon himself to give you a very 1970s, Marxian explanation of what's going on, apparently presuming throughout that the idea of sin is just some notion of social control. And this just heightens the ludicrousness of the whole episode. I thought about writing a response for the Letters page and wasn't sure how to explain the sheer extent of how uninformed the entire column is within the 150 word limit.

So I settle for the crude disdain I express above, I guess....

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Personal: The University of Durham calls

The University of Durham – Durham, England – is offering a one-year positon teaching undergrads philosophical/systematic theology at the rate of £27,466 to £32,796 per annum. It's a one-year, crap position, if with the (for me) glamorous benefit of being in England. But given that my own one-year crap position here at Marquette has paid me more on the order of $10,000 for a year's work, with the chief benefit being the utter disruption of my ability to do dissertation research (which the Durham job would also do), I find myself wishing that I could dramatically break into sincere weeping when I look at the British offer. I think the pound is still going two-to-one against the dollar, right? Maybe I'll just publish a letter in the student newspaper and give all my students "A"s at the end of the semester in protest.