Friday, February 17, 2006

The death of me yet...

Have I mentioned I really hate liberalism?

As a part of my job, I get to visit the Catholic schools associated with St. Andrew's Parish. When at one, I get to talk to the Grade 7s and 8s, and at the other, I deal with the grade 4s and up (don't ask me why). It's actually pretty cool, because I get captive audiences, rather than having to go and make great efforts to attract kids to the Youth Group. But occasionally, because of personality conflicts, perhaps, or for other reasons of various faux pas, the relationship between me and the schools have not always run smoothly. Recently, however, the reason hasn't been something I've done, but the actual message that I give.

Allow me to explain a brief bit of history: Way back when, when this great nation of Canada was founded, we had two major groups vying for power: The English, who were predominantly Protestant, and the French, who were Catholic. Well, after one fateful battle, the English took primary control of Canada. But concessions were made to preserve French culture and religion. One of those concessions resulted in two sets of government-funded school systems, the secular "public" system, and the "Catholic" system. Unlike other countries, like our neighbours to the south, for whom Catholic education is privatised, here, it is paid for by the taxpayers. This has it's positive aspects: anyone can easily obtain a distinctively Catholic education, for example. However, it has had its drawbacks, as well. The main one that I have seen is the liberalisation of that distinctively Catholic education, so much so that it can hardly be recognised as "distinctively Catholic." This liberalising trend in the Catholic School System caused me and my buddy Eric to joke when I got this job that I would be martyred trying to reform the Catholic Schools.

That bit of history brings me to my present predicament (See? History is important!). Namely, the other day I got a phonecall from a parent of a student in grade 7 at one of the two Catholic elementary schools that I visit. When the Church secretary told me she had called, the secretary thought maybe it was because this woman was wondering how to get her kids involved in the Youth Ministry, so, excitedly, I called her back.

Well, it turned out that the lady wanted to talk to me in order to complain about what I was teaching her son. What had I taught recently that precipitated her call? The Sermon on the Mount! Specifically, Being Salt and Light (the link will take you to the message of that talk over at Grace for the Wayward Heart). So what was the problem? Well, her complaint was two-fold: #1, I am too "black-and-white" and "triumphalistic" in teaching them that sin is sin, and Jesus is the only way to God. The second complaint was that I had advertised the Youth Ministry plans for Lent--namely, the teaching series on The Passion of the Christ. Yeah, she felt it was her duty to "inform" me that it's a "Restricted" movie, and that meant that no one under 18 is allowed to see it. Hey, I've already established that I'm Canadian here. My movie case clearly indicates a rating of 14+, and, notably, even if it was 18A, that means, "18, or accompanied by an adult". I'm an adult! You give your kid permission to watch the movie with me, and everything's cool. But there was more to her complaint. First, while it may have been a wonderful display of Mel Gibson's artisitic merit, it "wasn't true to the Bible, or to Catholic belief", and was also, according to her, very "pornographic."

I really wanted to ask her how she defined "pornography".

Anyway, she talked to the principal, and her son will not be allowed to attend any more sessions.

Further to this, at the other Catholic school, I was told that I was not really supposed to talk about "Hell", and apparently, the Catholic schools are supposed to teach that no one goes there.


Hey, Jesus, didn't You get the memo? Apparently that thing You talked about and warned about more than anything else in the Gospels, doesn't matter! Thanks for wasting both of our times. Seriously, though. I'm a Catholic Youth Minister. More than that, I'm a convert to Catholicism. I chose this faith and this job because I think it's True, and it's Important. So really, how can I do my job, if I can't teach my faith (which is, pretty much, my job description?

The Passion of the Christ
The woman started her complaint here, with the Movie. I had said, if you want to deepen your spirituality this Lent, then one option would be to come out to our series of meetings, Friday nights during Lent, using the movie to guide our meditation, and teach us, about Jesus' ultimate sacrifice for our redemption!

But apparently the movie isn't true to the Bible. Really? Granted, what happens in the movie isn't word-for-word what happens in the Gospel accounts, but we have to keep in mind that there is room for artistic license, so long as that license doesn't violate what's Scriptural. The Passion never makes claims about Jesus that are false, or denies claims about Jesus that are true. It shows the depth of His Passion for us, and the reason for His life. Beyond that, though, there are very, very few things in The Passion that aren't explicitly in Scripture!

The movie apparently also isn't true to Catholic teaching. Again, really? That's even more absurd a statement than "it isn't biblical." The things that aren't strictly speaking "in the Bible", are part of the depth and richness of the Catholic Tradition. Tell me, what's not true to our Faith? It is an utterly, thoroughly, Catholic-to-its-core movie. The fact that Gibson is a "Traditionalist" Catholic doesn't affect the movie at all--mainly because Traditionalist Catholics focus on the externals of practice, rather than on the Doctrines of the Church (at least for the most part). The amazing thing is, Catholicism has taught the same truths for 2000 years, whether it celebrated them in Latin or in English!

Finally, the movie is pornographic?! Interesting bit of Trivia--according to the Bible, Jesus was utterly NAKED on the cross! We depict Him in a loincloth out of deep respect and decency, and Gibson did the same (thankfully!). Are Crucifixes pornographic? Are the Stations of the Cross pornographic?

por·nog·ra·phy n.
1. Sexually explicit pictures, writing, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal.
2. The presentation or production of this material.
3. Lurid or sensational material: "Recent novels about the Holocaust have kept Hitler well offstage [so as] to avoid the... pornography of the era" (Morris Dickstein).

por·nog·ra·phy n.
material that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement

por·nog·ra·phy n.
creative activity (writing or pictures or films etc.) of no literary or artistic value other than to stimulate sexual desire

por·nog·ra·phy n.
Still or moving images, usually of women, in
varying states of nudity, posing or performing erotic acts
with men, women, animals, machines, or other props.

Those are the four entries at dealing with pornography. They all agree that porn is sexually explicit imagery intended to arouse sexual desire. The only exception to this is the third definition from the first source, which includes "lurid or sensational material" that isn't specifically sexual in nature.

The Passion of the Christ was not intended to arouse people sexually (if people were aroused, they are in serious need of help!) thus it cannot be considered Porn according to the traditional definition.

On the other hand, if all "sensational" material is "pornographic", then that very fuzzy grey area of what's "sensational" can be applied to pretty much everything. I'd almost say outright, if The Passion is pornographic, then everything is. Yes, the movie is "sensational" in it's depiction of Christ's suffering. Why? Because it was the reality of what happened! We often lose sight of the horrendousness of that fact, but Mel Gibson, in his artistic wisdom, brought that back to us in a way, hopefully, we'll never forget!

This woman's complaint with myself also had a threefold dimension.

First, she said I was too "black and white." Sure, possibly. I tend to dislike grey areas, because they're confusing. I'd rather stay very firmly on one side of an issue and know where I stand. But I do realise that there are some issues that are genuinely grey. However, I would wager that they are a lot fewer than many people think.

You know what's interesting about black and white? It's colourful. Seriously. Grey, you just get soup. It's grey, and it doesn't change, and it doesn't do anything. It's just grey, neutral, blah.

Black and white, on the other hand, are dynamic! Try this: draw some black lines on white paper, very close together, so that the white space is the same thickness as the black line--then look at it. Your eyes will see colours between the black and white! This optical "illusion" is so powerful that it even fools our modern technology. If you scanned that picture, the image, when you zoom in on it, will actually have interpreted colours into the lines!

Why is this? Because white is the fulness of all colour, and black is the absense. However, grey is grey. It is nothing!

So, lady, if you want to live in a drab world of fuzzy grey nothing, be my guest. I prefer a dynamic world of vibrant colour!

She then called me "triumphalistic." She then asked me if I knew what she meant. I said, "I know what the word refers to, but I'm not sure what you mean by it, or how it applies to me." "Triumphalistic" is a term applied to people who are exuberantly prideful and arrogant that their beliefs are the truth, and everyone else is wrong. How did this lady define it? Simply as "the belief that your faith is better than anyone elses." Big difference! Everyone believes that their opinion is superior to those who disagree (in fact, by calling me up to tell me I'm triumphalistic, by her definition, this lady was herself being "triumphalistic"!). If this was not true, then we would not hold that opinion! For myself, I used to hold one opinion about religion, and then I converted and switched to another. Why? Because through much study and prayer, I was convinced that what I switched to, was in fact better. If I had not been so convinced, I would never have switched! So yes, I am guilty of her definition of triumphalism. In fact, I will try to demonstrate through reason and the Scripture, and whatever tools are available, that Catholicism is truer than anything else. Jesus told us to! But He told us to with humility, and that's the key.

Of course, she denied that Jesus would have said that any one faith is better than another, and that there is more than one window to God, as she put it. That brings us to her third complaint, that I teach that Jesus is the only way. Yeah, Jesus? That whole, You're "the way, the truth, and the life" thing, where "no one comes to the Father but by" You? Apparently, pluralistic, relativistic liberal Catholics don't like that so much.

Maybe You'd like to clarify?
Alright then, I'll go on preaching what You have said is true!

Oh, and by the way, so will Jesus' vicar here on earth, the Pope. In Benedict XVI's first address, he said exactly that! There is an absolute truth, it's found in Jesus, and we have to follow it!

So, as I told the lady, her problem really isn't with me, but with The Church.

Well, I guess I had it coming. After all, I did just teach her son, "Blessed are the Persecuted."
God bless!


Blogger Dez said...

Very nice Greg...although I'm still stunned that you're not allowed to talk about hell at good ol' SL

2:15 PM  
Blogger Matthew Karabela said...

That is too funny.

I especially enjoyed this "How did this lady define it? Simply as "the belief that your faith is better than anyone elses." Big difference! Everyone believes that their opinion is superior to those who disagree (in fact, by calling me up to tell me I'm triumphalistic, by her definition, this lady was herself being "triumphalistic"!)."

Anyways, good job with the sarcasm, and as we go into the next week, learn that these people are best dealt with they way you would a zombie; a shotgun blast to the chest.


3:55 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:53 AM  
Blogger CJFreeman said...


In Greek, the word pornography breaks down to this:

1) 'porno' -- immorality
2) 'graphia' -- writings

Thus the word originally meant: writings of immorality.

Anyway, stellar article! Very enjoyable, and very poignant.


10:28 PM  
Blogger Gregory said...

Wow! Thanks for the comments :D

Dez, let 'em try and stop me. My job is to teach our faith, and whatever anyone's personal sensitivities are to the concept of "hell", it's a de fide part of what we believe.

Matt, lol, liberal zombies...
You're the third person who used "shotgun" in reference to how to deal with that person...
I'm kinda worried.

Eric, uhm...yeah.

Chris, according to the original definition, then, this lady's accusations were even farther off base!

I wonder what she thought of "The Last Temptation..."?

God bless!

11:56 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

Hooray for public school!:D
I cantalk about whatever the HELL I want. Heh, get it? GET IT?!
I'm leaving.

12:00 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

*Cocks eyebrow*

Okay, here it comes...


Just, hippies.


3:14 PM  
Blogger Dez said...

Yay Greg's sticking it to the man! Well, sticking it to 'Masse' anyway...but yeah, you shouldn't be told what parts of our faith you can teach us about. Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory are all things that we have to know about. You can't go around teaching people that you're NOT going to hell if you break the commandments and curse out God and aren't sorry for it in the least. Besides, what are they gonna do to you? Tell Fr. Coughlin that you can't teach us anymore because you taught us about hell? Right...

Keep rockin' the Catholic school world!

8:37 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

And I'm still the best looking one here.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

You lie! *pose*

See? Yeah. That's right. I see that every day. Score.


8:08 AM  

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