Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Religious periodicals: Crisis Magazine

I have been searching for a religious periodical that does not trigger my retch reflex. I have been looking for a long time.

As a practicing Roman Catholic I have a strong preference for one that is at least nominally Roman Catholic.  It is not that I am prejudiced.  It is just that I have the expectation that a R.C. periodical will trigger less cognitive dissonance and, perhaps, more of the articles will be useful to me.

I think I may have found that magazine.

Power


Marriages fail because of the inability to have prolonged, adult, Christian discussions about power.  Sometimes the battlefield is labeled "Sex".  Sometimes the battlefield is labeled "Money".  Sometimes the battlefield is labeled "Chores" or "Responsibilities" or "Time".


But the battle is really about two, autonomous actors posturing and positioning to set the priorities and call the shots.  It is about dominance.

A successful marriage is not about two autonomous actors whose hearts magically beat-as-one.  It is about two partially autonomous actors fielding subtle (and some not-so-subtle) cues from each other on the dance floor of life.  While one partner may ostensibly be leading, he is receiving continuous feedback that he ignores at his peril.  "Not that way...we will run into other dancers."  "That step was a half inch too long."  "Next time you change direction, telegraph with your upper body just a shade sooner so I can go with you instead of getting dragged along".....

Religious Periodicals


Over time I have subscribed to many periodicals.  I never renew them.  My retch reflex is triggered when most articles start out with a sentence like, "Because the Church's over-arching priority is the preferential option for the poor....."

I finally figured out the cause of my discomfort.  That sentence is a veiled statement of "the ends justifies the means", which is a poor moral argument regardless of one's theology.

The articles then prattle on about how some Biblical instructions and some Church Traditions need be respected while others, those that do not support the lead statement, must be ignored.

This is backwards, of course.  A great article should cover the salient points of the totality of Christian understanding and then derive a palette of options.  The three most likely options should be discussed with regards to trade-offs.  Then it might discuss situations when one option might be preferred over the others.

And I disagree with the original premise"...over-arching...preferential option...".  I believe that the Church's over-arching mission is the salvation of mankind, one person at a time, by bringing man's actions into alignment with God's plan, to the best of our finite ability to understand that plan.

Economist


Money, a proxy for access to resources, is one of the universal battlefields for dominance.  Economics is the study of money,.

Darn few of the authors in religious magazines are economists.  They only look at first order interactions.  If Johnny has 10 apples and Susie has 2 apples, then Johnny should share so everybody can have 6.


They see the economy as a static set of buckets rather than as a dynamic ecosystem.  That is, a system with multiple interlacing and overlapping feedback systems, much like a dance floor filled with waltzing couples.  Everything really is hooked to everything else.

Perhaps Susie will plant an apple tree if she wants 6 (or 10) apples.  Behold, the world became a more productive place.  There is MORE.

This noisy, dynamic model is not attractive to these authors.  They like simple models, simple actions.  Otherwise, how could they retain their authority and the legitimacy of their directing others in the one, correct moral action?  Realistic, dynamic models deprive them of their basis for dominance.

Jesus


If you are a Christian, you must study Jesus and try to understand him in the focal plane of His time.

My reading of the New Testament suggests that Jesus had no antagonism toward business.  Many of his parables are about farming or fishing or being a shepherd.  Those are all businesses with critical capital investments:  seeds, fields, vineyards, wine presses, walls, watch towers, boats, nets, rams, ewes, lambs, gates, more walls, pastures, watering places, spears, slings....

He did not say, "Don't go looking for the lost lamb.  It may be feeding a poor family."  He said (paraphrased), "A good shepherd will protect his capital investment against all challenges." and then He identified himself as the good shepherd.  Jesus would not have made this comparison if business owners, capitalists, were intrinsically evil.

Crisis Magazine


It is still a bit soon to announce that this magazine lives up to all of my expectations.  But so far it looks pretty promising.

One exceptional article speaks to how many politically motivated people cling to the hem of the Pope's robes and attempt to speak for him.

Another article that I liked helped explain why so many otherwise "normal" people are cheerleaders for pushing moral envelops.  (Spoiler: it gives them a free pass for personal moral failures because they believe in some kind of moral quid pro quo .and. they believe in a form of moral relativism in that "I must be good because I am not the dirtiest shirt in the basket.")

There are even some articles for the history buffs.  Quick:  Guess how many people were executed in the 16th Century during the Inquisition?  According to the records, 182 people were executed in the one hundred years from 1501-1600. 

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