Tag Archives: Conscience

Right and Wrong in Heterodoxy, Orthodoxy, and Culture Wars

This morning, I just sat through a social activism meeting in the basement of a Catholic church, between two different proponents of the culture wars. They were all doing their best to be conciliatory. But no surprise, it wasn’t exactly successful.

It was painful.

I cried later that day about it. Both sides probably felt so dismissed and silenced, or dismissed and judged. I could feel it both ways. I admit I’m not exactly an impartial outsider of the culture wars, but I think I’ve seen enough of both sides to feel both their pain.

Also, I had the awkward advantage of being the only protestant outsider in their tense discussion of their current pope’s views. My faith doesn’t depend on Pope Francis’s theology. It’s a terribly vulnerable thing, having a leader to follow and love and fear for. Communal, shared identities inevitably become battlegrounds, and that is rough on everyone.

I’m not sure if it is worth the fight. Probably it is, I don’t know. But there is something far more important. There comes a point when each one of us must cry out to the Holy Spirit, and then follow our own conscience. In the end, we each will stand before God alone.

For it is written:

As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.


And I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will have to give account of it in the day of judgment.

And again:

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life.

And the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to what he had done.

We will each stand before God alone. So cry out to God, and then follow your conscience. I’m not saying whatever you do is fine. Of course your choices matter, and matter so incredibly much at that. I am saying, hash it out with Him personally. Talk to Him, fight with Him, talk to Him, cry out to Him, talk to Him. Rage at Him if you must, but don’t stop talking to Him. Then, with fear and yearning, do what you think is right. Because God is righteousness. So do what you think is right, what He wants you to do. Some day you will stand with Him, face to face.

And then you will know, it was always just between the two of you.


Incoherent rejoicings from a caffeinated brain

Studied this in class today… major, major happiness    : – )

Standing ovation kind of happiness.

Dignitatis Humanae:  http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651207_dignitatis-humanae_en.html

The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power.

In other words… it doesn’t have authority because we said it, but because it is true. And your conscience isn’t important because its hip to talk about that right now–but because it all comes from God. God, the Truth, the still small voice, the wind. Or as my professor put it, “What has authority? Truth. Who is the highest Truth? God. People must seek truth–not through their relationship with governments (e.g. coercive power) but through their relationship with God.”

In other words…its not about us. It never was. It is about God. OK, I’m in final paper writing and this isn’t coherent, but here’s another quote that made me feel like cheering:

The family, since it is a society in its own original right, has the right freely to live its own domestic religious life under the guidance of parents. Parents, moreover, have the right to determine, in accordance with their own religious beliefs, the kind of religious education that their children are to receive. Government, in consequence, must acknowledge the right of parents to make a genuinely free choice of schools and of other means of education…

The Vicar of St Peter understands about homeschooling, about families. I wasn’t expecting this in middle of the document, about what I care most about, so it was a sweet to run into it.

And while I’m rejoicing, here’s the other awesome one:

Humanae Vitae:  http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html


She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.

Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter—only their guardian and interpreter. It could never be right for her to declare lawful what is in fact unlawful, since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of man.

In preserving intact the whole moral law of marriage, the Church is convinced that she is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization.

The Church can’t back down, not because they are awesome, but because this teaching is the Truth. This is not an issue of them being ‘above’, this is an issue of them being ‘below’, obedient to something larger than all of us–our own greatness. “This world promises you comfort. You were not made for comfort. You were made for Greatness.”

There is a way of things, and that way of things, as it was meant to be, is beautiful. It is for our own good, all of our good.

Hearing truth spoken clearly, the universe seems to change. It makes the air sweeter (and the stars brighter).

On (multiperspectival) Truth, Gerunds, and the Church of God

I’m muddling my way through RCIA, with much internal argument and tears. [2018 Edit: I bailed six weeks before Easter, and never did finish RCIA. I’m still a protestant, and this is still my conundrum]


For all my Anglican ways….I really am rigidly dogmatic as any sectarian….at least, on two issues in particular. I just know them to be true, as I know my own mother.

(1) The validity and holiness of all devout Christians in various denominations (Calvinist/Reformed, Lutheran, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Pentecostal, Baptist, Seventh-day Adventist, etc etc). Though they are mistaken about many things, there is more truth in all of them than can be rationally reconciled, like different map distortions compressing 3 dimensions of a globe into 2 dimensions of a wall map, and each getting some things ‘more right’. Put simply, they are all in the Body of Christ. A devout Christian in one denomination isn’t particularly more (or less) rebellious to the Will of God than a devout Christian in another section of Christ’s Body. Put another way,  God calls different Christians to different denominations, for reasons I do not understand, but must respect. I can disagree, but must respect, and try to understand.


(2) “Idolatry”, or the making of “gerunds” (e.g. turning a verb into a noun, or an action toward an object into a thing unto itself)  is  the major pitfall of the Christian life. We are in a boat, rowing toward the further shore, and we must look to the further shore, not obsess over the boat which is just a means to it.  Anything in us which takes “our faith” and sets it in the place of focussing directly (as we should) on the person of God (and inextricably linked with that, the image of God in all persons)….anything that takes the focus off of that, is wrong. It becomes a sort of “belief in our works”, “belief in our righteousness”, “belief in our faith”, or even “belief in our belief” rather than “belief in God”. It is taking the means/conduit of our connection with God, and making that the thing of focus instead of God himself. It can be anything…. our own intellect, or church authority, or emotional feelings, or even our own “personal relationship” with God instead of God himself. It is all the same pitfall, the same very human mistake that all Christian denominations have been doing, and it is not good. Being Tridentine about “The Church” focusing on it at the expense of God is exactly what hyper-Calvinism does about Reason and human intellect. It is not that we can ‘get by’ without these things–we need them–but they must not become the focus, the thing to be venerated. They must only be the means to Christ, who is adored.


So…if I ever did join the RC….wouldn’t I be a “crypto-protestant”, one of those sneaky Jansenists decried by the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia for “their astonishing and absurd duplicity”? How can I believe in (medieval/Tridentine) Indulgences? Nowadays it is beautifully explained as a shared penance, which is far more palatable, but that is not what Indulgences always were. And “The Holy Mother Church”….isn’t that some serious gerund stuff…even anthropomorphizing the conduit? Isn’t anthropomorphizing non-persons dangerous, because won’t that detract from actual persons…

[by the way…. After hearing a sermon on “Holy Mother Church and her infinite wisdom”, my twin grumbled “I resent being loved by big collective nouns.” To which her husband replied, “Spoken like a true American conservative.”]


I feel I can only become Catholic if God personally wanted me  to join, it must not be for my longing for a community, or poetry, but for my Christ. For me, anything else would be a personal betrayal to Him.

Oh…and then there is the perjury issue….

Anglican in Exile

I was baptized Reformed Calvinist as a baby, but became Anglican at 4 years old and grew up in all flavors of Anglican, from low-church Evangelical to Charismatic to high-church AngloCatholic. Throughout my childhood and young adult years, I have been an eyewitness to the long bitter war, in which orthodoxy lost and heresy triumphed— priests defrocked and their families hounded from their homes, churches forcibly shut down and property confiscated by priestesses (and an archbishopess) singing the praises of abortion, etc. And even in orthodox circles, as they retreated into small schismatic splinters…things have a tendency to get quite….strange. There was a high human cost to this war.

Anglicanism’s day is over. Between the agents of New Anti-Orthodoxy on the warpath, refugee schismatics’ peculiarities, delusions of grandeur and control,  and old-moneyed cultural connoisseurs ….common faith is going extinct within the beautiful historic buildings which were once churches. Yes, there are decent parishes here and there, but they are getting to be as frequent as sightings of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker.

Most of my friends have swum the Tiber (or the Bosporus), and a few others have just gone back to the Protestants. I’ve been firmly stuck right outside the Roman Catholic Church for the past 5 years. I agree with 99% of their current Catechism, but to officially join at the Easter Vigil Service, I have to say, “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.”

It seems like a lie. I can’t get convinced of that last 1%. The two options I have been offered are (1) “aspiration of belief!”…just WANT to believe it and get in!,  or (2) just submit your mind to The Church, stop thinking about it.  Somehow…the first just seems to be a lie, making a joke out of Faith if it is just wishful thinking rather than Truth. And the second option…makes sense to many, I think Southern Baptists especially wouldn’t have a problem with it (because it is similar to Young Earth Creationism)….but I wasn’t raised to think that way….growing up in a hodgepodge environment of (frequently challenged) Reformed Theology and the hard sciences. I can’t do the just-stop-asking-what-is-really-True-just-submit thing. It would….break something inside me….somehow I would see it as a compromise of honesty…I can’t.

But is this worth it? Are my honesty/conscience/scruples worth this exile? This sitting in RC mass week after week watching others take and eat…this not really belonging anywhere…

What do I do now?

Prayer I found

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but speak the word only and my soul shall be healed. Here I am again, at your altar. I am not holy. Forgive me. I am cold. Forgive me. I have a hard shallow heart. Forgive me. I do not see—I am blind. Forgive me. I do not care. Forgive me. I have come to your altar. Forgive me, wash my eyes, cleave my heart. Give me your mud, wash in the pool of Siloam. Give me heartflesh, that I shall no more be stone… Give me your flesh. Give me your Blood, O Lamb of God. That I may see. That I may repent. That I may love. That I may be holy—broken, poured out on your altar. A sacrifice. Made Holy.