Thursday, December 30, 2010

On Online Arguments

There is a pithy little piece over at The Atlantic on winning online arguments

What I often see in religious arguments in comment boxes on blogs and so forth thoroughly disgusts me.  In the past, I have been on both ends of the rail, but I can barely stand to write comments on blogs anymore, especially when I do take the time (too much time, in some cases) to understand someone's argument only to have my very time consuming response rebuffed, brushed off, or summarily deleted.  It's the time of thing that can send any person into a frenzy.  I've encountered this quite a bit on many Catholic blogs.  Grr!

Just seeing what my online friend Hugo goes through at the SDA2RC blog is interesting.  He can humbly make a succinct, balanced, and intelligent point that is devastating to someone's argument, and instead of being engaged in a serious manner, he is subjected to relentless browbeating ("Oh, well, you just haven't taken this class or read this book - how can you possibly expect to be right about X?" or "How dare you question or challenge me? You don't have my superior education").  And then there's also deliberate obfuscation in a feeble attempt to deflect a striking blow ("Oh, well, when I said X, I was really talking about Y and Z, and therefore you're a fool for not seeing that").  And Hugo is probably one of the most humble, balanced, respectful, and educated Christians I have ever met (online, certainly), and he is treated this way by people in positions of ministry who clearly should know better. 

I can only think of when I went to hear Fr. Michael Crosby, OFM Cap., speak back in 2003.  Of course, this was not a blogging venue, but the attitude was the same.  He laughed as he boasted about how great of a scholar of scripture he was, his vast educational background and ministry experience. Then he proceeded to brag about how he once publicly humiliated a couple of young adults who dared to question something he once said in a talk (something he was clearly wrong about, by the way).  And I've seen this done elsewhere in other contexts as well, by Catholics and non-Catholics, by priests, protestant pastors, campus ministers, and atheists.  These people are not concerned with what is true or good or holy.  They are only concerned about themselves.  I suppose it's a temptation any of us can fall into.  Let us meditate on that today.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


A few weeks ago, we returned from an amazing pilgrimage to Europe.  It will take us a long time to unpack all of the insights and graces we received through the experience. We spent time in Portugal, France, and Italy, but most of our time was spent in Spain. We stayed just outside of Madrid near to the village of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, and we made day trips to Avila, Alba de Tormes, Salamanca, Toledo, Segovia, Loyola, and Javier (the latter two locales of course being the birthplaces of the notable Jesuits Ignatius and Francis Xavier, respectively).  I very much enjoyed Toledo, particularly its massive cathedral, and I would love to return to Salamanca in order to explore its historic university.

Throughout our journey, we stayed in hospederias run by convents and monasteries, and we were very well taken care of with lots of good food, drink, and company.  We were also very fortunate to have been traveling with a good priest who graced us with daily mass in every location, from deep within the papal tombs of St. Peter's in Rome to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Lourdes, from places both lofty and large to simple and understated.  It's also amazing where you can spontaneously find opportunities to spend time with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  There are churches in even the darkest alleys of Toledo that have the Blessed Sacrament exposed.  How awesome is that!  We also were able to pray with our beloved Holy Father in Rome both at the Sunday Angelus as well as at the papal audience and listen to him preach.

On the whole, we learned a great deal and developed an even greater appreciation for the local culture as well as the complex history of Christianity in Europe.  But more than that, as a pilgrimage, it was a profound spiritual experience. I will try to unpack that a little bit more on the blog in the coming weeks.


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