Sunday, March 25, 2018

Why Should The Devil Have All The Bad Music?

This is a time of you where Catholics are trying to walk with Jesus through the passion. We try to connection our suffering with those of Christ. That can not only make us feel better but give our suffering salvific significance. That is our pain becomes a powerful weapon is the spiritual battle to save souls, including our own. This is a doctrine protestants reject because they get salvation wrong. I won't get into that here but it matters in practice because much of our Christian music comes from protestants. 

I recall something I read a while back about Christian music being excessively happy
This just documents what many have said. That is that Christian music is great when you are happy and feeling good. It is not so good when you are in pain. Now Christians should always have a deep underlying joy and our music should help us connect with that. It is good we have music that does that well. Yet we still have pain. We still have  deep pain that we cannot just ignore for a while when we sing some happy clappy songs on Sunday morning. Even the lesser struggles we have that we can set aside, is Sunday morning a time when we should set them aside? 

If your theology does not really have a place for suffering you have no choice. That is not true of Catholic theology but many Catholics don't really get it. We can slip into protestant thinking because we live in a sea of protestants. We have a very secular culture but to the extent we have a Christian subculture it is very much a protestant one. We get that we believe in the Eucharist and the pope and they don't. Yet other differences like the way we think about suffering come out in more subtle ways and impact us a lot.

One way it impacts us is we have no Christian art we can turn to in times of suffering. We don't even really think Christian art can address the subject. We can even go so far as to imagine Christian community cannot address it. It happens that someone who is in serious pain withdraws from Christian community because it does not go well. Often they can find secular art and secular community that can understand their pain. Yet the secular world has no answer. We need something that points us to the cross. Yet we have forgotten how to do that.

So that brought me to the title of this post. Larry Norman had a song a while back called "Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music?"
What I am thinking has happened is the Devil has all the Bad Music. Not artistically bad but "bad" in the sense of music we listen to during bad times. Christianity needs to relearn how to write such music. It needs to relearn how to embrace the cross. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Dying And Rising

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:23-26
This is part of the gospel for this week. It is the story thing John records before moving into the crucifixion account in John 13. The homily we heard on it was about doing better morally and trying to make some incremental improvement in your life. It struck me how that is not at all what Jesus says here. Jesus call for a dying and rising. That is a radical change. It does not describe making a effort at an attainable improvement. 

One big difference between the two is that one requires faith and the other does not. Trying to become a better person is something an atheist can do. I would suggest they don't have a coherent answer to what it means to be a better person but that is another story. They do feel the impulse to improve themselves and many of them do. It is all based on human motivation and human effort that does not need to be connected with God at all. 

Dying and rising, on the other hand, does not make any sense if God is not real. Dying means you are completely helpless and you need God to raise you up. If God is not there then you will die and that will just be the end of it. This is why this story is told in the context of Jesus' death and resurrection. We can die to sin and be sure of our resurrection precisely because Jesus rose from the dead.

The objection to this is if you set your sights too high you will fail. Make the goal attainable and you are going to succeed. Is not some small victory better than one big defeat? First of all, you are not guaranteed a small victory. We can set our sights quite low and still fail to achieve the target. Secondly, and more importantly, failure does not have to leave us in a bad place. We tried to be a saint and we failed. That leaves us knowing we are sinners and still having a long way to go. So we need to do this conversion thing again and again. Our failure will remind us of our sinfulness again and again. This is good.

The line that was repeated so often is that in order to be a disciple we need progress but not perfection. I am not sure this is true. We don't need perfection for sure but I am thinking we don't even need to make progress. Long term you would wonder about a person who never makes any progress. Still in the short term you might not achieve even a little bit. Someone who tries to quit drinking might not be very successful at all. Do you have to show progress to call yourself a disciple? I would say just the fact that you want to follow God in this is enough. The fact that you did not even make progress today is not important. Tomorrow is important. Do you try again or do you give up? 

It comes down to the difference between grace and works. Is God acting with our cooperation or are we acting and maybe getting some help from God? Christianity is very firmly in the former. We need God even for small progress. What follows is that difficulties are kind of irrelevant. Nothing is too difficult for God. What matters is whether we trust God.