Sunday, August 14, 2016

One Flock, One Shepherd

At a prison bible study we were reflecting on John 10. It talks about Jesus as the good shepherd and thieves and robbers trying to steal the sheep. There is a lot there in the way Jesus cares for His sheep and protects His sheep. Even the idea that a shepherd in that day would risk his life for the sheep.

When it came to the thieves and robbers I talked about both the Protestant and Catholic ways of reading this text as I often do. Protestants would say thieves and robbers exist. They would be teaching something very different from the truth (as they see it). Often they would include Catholics and many other Protestants. Conservative Protestants would put liberal Protestants in this category but not those who are closer to them theologically. It all made sense to me as when I was Protestant.

The interesting thing is it didn't make sense to the prisoners. They get a mish-mash of Protestants denominations coming to the prison. They didn't get how the sheep would know Jesus' voice. As a Christian Reformed person talking to other Christian Reformed people I could easily appeal to common sense. Yet this sort of sense is not common to people who have experiences many contradictory religious ideas. That is actually more common these days.

Then there is the phrase that Jesus says that Protestants mostly ignore. He says in verse 16 that "there shall be one flock and one shepherd." Catholics see that as an obvious reference to the church and the pope. Protestants? Like I said, it is mostly ignored. To the extent that it means anything it would be spiritualized to the point where it becomes unfalsifiable. That is this invisible group of people has this invisible bond of unity with this invisible shepherd.

There is some visible unity in the Protestant world. I know I craved it when I was Protestant. Yet a lot of it is just a unity among some subset of protestants that happens to agree with you on an issue. It is like George Bush's coalition of the willing in Iraq. You just list those who agree with you, ignore those who don't, and declare it to be some sort of consensus. 

Yet what sort of community was Jesus really envisioning when He said there shall be one flock and one shepherd? If He foresaw the current Protestant reality would He not have said that He would be shepherding many flocks? Would He have just asserted that His sheep know His voice? Is there any amount of disunity that would indicate that Protestantism has a serious problem?

That does not mean the church needs to be homogeneous. Catholicism has many orders and many movements and many different spiritual personalities. They even have movements that reform other movements that have grown lax. There can be many moves of the Holy Spirit all withing this unity Jesus talks about. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Surprising Sex Survey

The latest sign that there is something rotten in modern society comes from a new study saying millennials are having less sex than previous generations. Dr Greg Popcak points out that when you get past the headlines which focus on sex what the study really shows is that young people are not pursuing intimacy like they should. This reminds me of the saying of St John Paul II that everything revolves around what man is for woman and what woman is for man. When that gets messed up society begins to unravel. 

What is remarkable here is things are coming apart in the opposite direction of what we would expect.  Our society has been willing to sell its soul in order to have free sex. Free of guilt, free of commitment, free of children, free of rules. Yet when we destroy marriage and destroy morals and destroy gender identity in order to get this we find people actually become less interested in sex. It is the classic deal with the devil. You surrender your soul to him expecting something in return but he can't even deliver that. You actually get nothing.

We often don't get this even if we don't live the lie. At least for me, I catch myself watching movies or whatever and getting caught up in it. The idea of people meeting and very quickly having great sex and it is all wonderful. The truth is sex does not work like that. You end up in all sorts of awkwardness where you feel intimate in some ways and feel like you hardly know each other in other ways. Yet we watch the story and on some level we buy it. 

So what is the solution? We need saints. People have lost track of how to live sexually. Even most people that self-identify as Christian will use contraception and get divorced at the same rates as people that don't. We need to know the stories of those who have lived life differently. Couples that have big families and awesome homes that seem to bless so many people. It used to be that everyone knew many families like that. It is not true anymore. Even many who go to church have never really seen what a traditional Christian marriage looks like. What used to be quite common has become heroic virtue. 

So even in the Catholic church we need to really believe and understand that artificial contraception will destroy our sexual integrity. We need to accept that we need to take radical steps to avoid the pornographic culture in which we live. Then we need to show the world how this approach to sexuality lead to true joy. We need to show a foretaste of heaven to those who are right now experiencing a foretaste of hell. Really that is where many young people are. Hell is nothing more than a lack of intimacy with God and with our fellow humans beings. When you dig into this study that is what you find there. A real despair about the potential for intimacy.