The Prodigal Altar Boy

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Prodigal Altar Boy - My Man, Bobby Rush!

My Man, Bobby Rush!

I was home sick yesterday and when I finally got up, what should I see when I fired up the television?  A news clip of Representative Bobby Rush (D – Illinois) being escorted off  the House floor for wearing a hoodie.  Right on, Bobby!  Right on!  As the Trayvon Martin tragedy continues to grow and media continues to miss salient points (thanks, Geraldo), the symbolism evolving out of this debacle takes on a life of its own. 

As  Representative Rush began his quick change into a hoodie and sunglasses, the presiding speaker, Representative Gregg Harper (R – Mississippi) (hey, wasn’t I just blogging about Mississippi the other day?), called Rush out of order (repeatedly) while Rush continued reading from the Bible before he was escorted out of the chamber.

According to House Rule XVII, Section 3, hats are prohibited in the House.  Specifically,  "During the session of the House, a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner may not wear a hat..."
Yes, a hoodie is considered a hat.  Rather than take the opportunity to  express outrage,, sympathy, or even concern for the tragedy, most of Representative Rush’s Democratic colleagues downplayed the incident, with the Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, recalling that when she came to Congress, women weren’t allowed to wear pants.

So what?  What does that have to do with anything?  This is not about the dress code in some high school, this isn’t even about the hoodie.  It’s about drawing and keeping attention on a senseless tragedy that demands focus, explanation, and action.  The more days that pass without any local, state or government action on this tragedy only deepens the divide.  Thank you Bobby Rush for keeping Trayvon Martin’s killing in the spotlight.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Prodigal Altar Boy Blog 23 March 2012 - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Prodigal Altar Boy Blog
23 March 2012

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Bad

Okay, I’d been holding off on writing this one, but I cannot hold back.  (Well, actually I can, but I WONT.)  I read an article in the Baltimore Sun entitled “Fallacy of Obama’s faith persists, poll says.”  

[What precisely is a “fallacy of faith”?]

The automated poll of Mississippi Republicans, reported that 52% of those polled in Mississippi believe President Obama is a Muslim.  But wait, there is good news, in Alabama, only 45% believe his is a Muslim.  The article did not go on to explain the whole “fallacy of faith” bit.  I can only assume some people believe President Obama’s assertion he is a Christian is untrue. What does the leader of the Free World have to do?

Just as the piece is ending, the author throws this curve ball: 
“About 1 in 4 surveyed also said the interracial marriage of Obama’s parents should have been illegal.  A 1967 Supreme Court ruling struck down laws against interracial marriage.  The poll released Monday found that 21 percent of Alabama Republicans said it still should be against the law.  In Mississippi, 29 percent said it should be illegal.”  

What a strange pairing of polls.  While I would hazard that all of those polled would insist "they aren't racist," when responding to the question of whether or not President Obama is a Christian (okay, we know better, but bear with me), you certainly have to say the response to the question on interracial marriage has serious racist undertones (Okay, OVERtones).  The bottom line is everyone sees the racism in the Christianity question, in the birth certificate issue, among other things.

So, while more Mississippi respondents think President Obama is a Muslim, more Alabama respondents objected to his parents’ interracial marriage.  There is a message in there.  For me the message is “more cash for Obama 2012.”  An additional message would be my wife and I probably won’t be traveling to either state.  

Next Up:  The Ugly

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Prodigal Altar Boy Blog - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Prodigal Altar Boy Blog
22 March 2012

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good
Jeff Elkins’ blog post today was great.  Short and to the point, Jeff‘s post, “Sermons – Bah Humbug", questions the efficacy of the sermon as a teaching tool.  He makes a great point that because most sermons lack required readings, essays and tests, what is retained from even the best sermon is lacking from, say, a university lecture.   Jeff is astute in his observations and I agree with him. 

I’m hammering out the assembly edit for the documentary, and Jeff’s blog shaped some of today’s edit of the first act.  Across all of the interviews of TQ’s former parishioners was his dedication to education.  One parishioner told how TQ would climb into the pulpit with an armful of books, from Kierkegaard to Hans Küng (yeah, I found the “symbols” button), weaving their writings into the liturgy.  There is even a TQ quote advised the congregation to read Küng’s book (The Council, Reunion and Reform) to grasp the implications of the Second Vatican Council.  Those were the required readings.

In terms of essays, TQ’s prolific writings connected homilies with readings and Küng’a book.  If you scan through “A Reluctant Malachi,” to see TQ saw the Second Vatican Council as a slingshot to energize the church.  In his words, “That’s my little vision – to energize this Community.  We have fantastic talents and fantastic gifts, which have been locked up – there is no real outlet for them.  So, I’m telling you – this is my little vision – you can laugh all the way home – you can laugh while you’re having a drink tonight – I don’t care! This is my post-Vatican II vision.  Let’s make a toast to Pope John XXIII who tore open the Church’s shutters, letting fresh air blow through!  If we want to do this as a Community, we can!  So this is my little vision!”

Now, for the test.  I wish I could have interviewed more people because while the people I interviewed all testified to changed lives (Haiti missions, integrated parishes, a thrift shop vital o the community, Black Catholics fusing their culture with worship), there are stories of changed lives I know about, and no doubt many more I haven’t heard.  Judging from the sample population of the good people I interviewed, I think they passed the test of whether they would put their faith into action and put Jesus’ commission into action.

Next Up:  The Bad

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Lone Bird Singing In The Darkness

Prodigal Altar Boy Blog
20 March 2012

A Lone Bird Singing In The Darkness

Officially, spring is here, and we have been seeing signs of it over the past few weeks.  One sign for me has been the singing of birds.  For the past week, while it is still dark, there’s one bird that starts singing.  Maybe his “light detector” is calibrated a little ahead of his peers, but in the pitch black early morning hours; he is singing his song for all to hear.  And it is beautiful.  With no competing songs, I can really focus on this bird’s song and the song moves me. 

Without anthropomorphizing too much, I wonder if the other birds fume as this bird begins to sing in the dark, “Hey, still dark here.  Song time starts when it’s light!”  When the sun finally comes up, are the other birds’ songs ones of complaint about the one that insists on singing while it is still dark? 

That bird’s song moves me because he sings the song God has put on his heart.  That bird sings the song in the dark because he was made that way.  That bird sees the morning light a little sooner than the other birds.  That bird is ahead of the curve and we could learn much from that bird.

How often do we see things we should address, but because no one else sees it, we keep quiet?  How often do we chastise those who do speak out because no one else is speaking out?  How often when we do speak out, we shrink back after our peers show their distaste for our song? 

To piggyback on yesterday’s Hans Kung piece, I am amazed at how TQ saw the implications of the Second Vatican Council and worked to make people aware, long before the Council concluded.  After the Council, he worked to focus on the theory of adaptation for liturgy to reframe the gospel for the present day.  While many chastised TQ for those efforts, for many others, the result was a deeper understanding of the gospel and the role of Christians in society.

TQ, like Hans Kung, understood the importance of renewal in the church.  Like songs in the early darkness, renewal is usually rejected or suppressed.  TQ and Hans Kung continue to be songs in the dark.  Now is the time to listen to those songs and take them into our hearts.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Happy Birthday, Hans Kung!

Prodigal Altar Boy Blog
19 March 2012

Happy Birthday, Hans Kung!

Today is Hans Kung’s birthday.  I’ll save you the trip to Wikipedia and tell you:

“Hans Kung is a Swiss Catholic priest, theologian, and prolific author. Since 1995 he has been President of the Foundation for a Global Ethic (Stiftung Weltethos). Küng is "a Catholic priest in good standing",but the Vatican has rescinded his authority to teach Catholic theology. He had to leave the Catholic faculty, but remained at the University of Tübingen as a professor of ecumenical theology, serving as an emeritus professor since 1996. Although Küng is not officially allowed to teach Catholic theology, neither his bishop nor the Holy See have revoked his priestly faculties.”

The full Wiki page is here:

Q:  “What’s so important about Hans Kung?” 

A:  In terms of “The TQ Project,” Hans Kung’s book, “The Council, Reform and Reunion,” is central to TQ’s story.  That 1961 book was the main book TQ recommended to his first parish in Alexandria as essential to understanding the Second Vatican Council.  Pope John XXIII’s 1959 encyclical Truth, Unity and Peace, states that while the Council would “…discuss important matters of religion...the most pressing topics will be those which concern the spread of the Catholic faith, the revival of Christian standards of morality and the bringing of ecclesiastical discipline into closer accord with the needs and conditions of our times." (emphasis added)

That last bit on bringing ecclesiastical discipline into accord with the modern age was TQ’s mission.  In an interview, TQ confirmed that press coverage of the Council, combined with implications of the Council as well as the questions it raised, compelled him to educate his parish about the Second Vatican Council.  In his words, “We had to wake the people up.”

I was reviewing Art’s recollection of TQ’s fervor, quoting from stacks of tomes he hauled from the pulpit.  TQ said hundreds of Kung’s book were sold at the parish.