Thursday, March 29, 2012

Christopher West and the Flattened Cosmos

How can the key to our redemption be dependent on the distortions of the secular culture of death, such that we must identify our sexuality with the culture's forms and categories in order to live the ethos of redemption and have our sexuality "untwisted"?

But what is the present culture's pornographic stance based on? Whence came it? You really think it's just a Freudian revolt, or flipping, against a puritan heritage? You willing to bet your soul on it?

Shall we align ourselves with a false identification in order that a true identification may come of it?

We are not historical beings in that sense. Aligning or identifying ourselves with the spirit of the age, the Zeitgeist, for whatever restorative or redemptive reason, is revisionist history on a personal level.

***

Christopher West reminds me of this woman who I used to deliver groceries to. A kind, generous woman, she gave me a new King James Bible once with my name dedicated on the inside cover. She bought boxes and boxes of groceries at a time, and since she is still there, I assume she still buys boxes and boxes of groceries at a time. One box for instance would have in it all eggs, cartons and cartons of eggs. I'm not sure what she did with them. I think she provided for others, either through her church or by herself.

I would bring the boxes of groceries up her front, outside stairs to her second-floor porch that gives a wide western view of our town. Dowdy, old and not able to walk too well, she is one of those women who manages a number of feats that many limber healthy people do not. She lives on a long steep hill that runs into town. I live several blocks away from her on the top of the hill. The hill is big. The flat top of the hill is big.

She spoke to me once about demons. She wanted to give me a book; indeed, I now remember, she did give me a book, which I never read, that had to do with what she spoke to me about: that demons lived under the earth, literally, underground, verily as we spoke on her porch. And these demons come out from under the earth and take on the form of human beings and go around deceiving people. They have their places in the echelons of the society-shapers and controllers of money.

It's the sort of thing one would almost entertain if one were bored enough, for it is rather exciting - except for that part about it being delusional (not because it's "too crazy" but because it flattens the hierarchical universe). I have no doubt that demons can take on human form and deceive people. I'm no abstractionist when it comes to the realm of evil and evil spirits, but her ideas, though innocently held, were what you might call the extreme opposite of the theologian who abstracts evil to the ideological ethers.

But I don't believe it's merely a question of finding the middle between those two extremes. One could find in the abstracting theologian something materialist and clunky; one could find in the spiritual materialist something assuming and abstract.

The point in fact that makes her ideas alarming, making one wary, and which brings me to the point about Christopher West, is what's behind them. Not so much the notion that the reality is as plain as that demons are living underground and regularly coming out under the guise of human beings to infiltrate the UN and the world bank, but the notion that we are "figuring them devils out" and "catching them in their wiles" is what I find in common with West when he speaks about the Devil blinding us to the key in our sexuality.

West in this interview:


"We must come to see that our sexuality is a sign in the world that is meant to proclaim the love of Christ for the Church. That's what Scripture teaches us. No wonder the Enemy is after this. Think about it. If there's an enemy who wants to keep us from Heaven - and how does Scripture describe Heaven? - it's the marriage of the Lamb. The Bible begins with the marriage of man and woman, but it ends with the marriage of Christ and the Church. And the marriage of man and woman is meant to be a sign here on planet Earth pointing us to our ultimate destiny of union with God forever in the marriage of the Lamb. No wonder the Enemy is after this. Because if he can twist and distort and disorient our sexuality, it will no longer point us to the marriage of the Lamb. It will point us in a very different direction. John Paul II's Theology of the body gives us the tools to reclaim sexuality for Christ and His Church. The sexual confusion in the world - if you could put it this way - the sexual confusion in the world and in our own hearts - you know what it is? It's the human desire for Heaven gone berserk. And the gift of John Paul's Theology of the Body - if we could put it this way - is that it un-berserks it; it re-directs it; it re-orients it once again according to God's original plan, so that it can launch us, like a rocket into the stars."


It's the same flattened, Hollywood universe as the "demons underground" schtick.

Since the devil has been blinding people to this "key" - being that our sexual/spousal bodies contain the Gospel message - throughout all the ages before us and in this present age, then that would mean that the particular unprecedented pornographic media of our present culture is the result not of intrinsic evil, but of the burgeoning awareness of our sexuality and of the key that it presents to us; and that the devil has been trying to twist this new age of burgeoning sexual awareness in its process of self-realization, because he knows what that key will lead us to, and he knows his time is short. This is why we have pornography at the touch of a mouse key, on billboards, on television and at eye-level of toddlers in the magazine racks of the 7-11. It is the sign of our burgeoning sexual awareness, which contains the key to the Gospel message of the wedding feast, in the process of being tripped up and blinded and stopped at the surface.

Sodom and Gomorrah were obliterated with fire from heaven because the people of those cities did not go far enough to see the key in their sexuality: the fire that fell on them was their karma for not going deep enough, thus sublimating that denial through the indulgence of a cheap substitute. Their lusts burned so much that their lusts replicated actual consuming flames that destroyed them. Mary, on the other hand, opened herself so profoundly that she conceived eternal life within her womb. God did not find them offensive; He just found them to be tragic. Every single person of those cities had a hungry heart. They couldn't get no. Satis-faction. No, no, no.

Ah, those Old Testament people, so tragic. One minute turning their eyes away from the shapely woman according to the coping mechanisms of their Wisdom texts, and the next minute bursting into sulphuric flames because they flipped that puritanical pancake over from repression to indulgence. Those dang devils underground blinded them to the decoding keys in their bodies.

But unlike them, we have Christ who came to provide us with the image of the wedding feast and untwist our distorted sexuality, thus opening our eyes to the key in our sexuality. You see, He decoded the Matrix for us.

And yet there is going to come another Christ. The Christ before was just a forerunner. Now we await the Cosmic Christ come in the flesh, who will be more enfleshed, for the Cosmic Christ is not the Christ out there in the abstract heaven, but is cosmic: he is more enfleshed - and he who denies this Cosmic Christ come in the flesh is of the anti-Christ, for it says in 1 Jn 4:2-3 that the spirit that denies “Christ come in the flesh” is that of the anti-Christ.

After all, if Mary opened herself so profoundly that she conceived eternal life, and we also conceive that very same eternal life so often with the Eucharist, then surely having that eternal life, we can open ourselves even more profoundly and conceive a better Christ. So certainly the Cosmic Christ will be made incarnate. Certainly this is why there is so much pornography then: our sexual awareness must be just bursting at the seams with sexual redemption, just yearning so deeply to be made manifest - free from the twistedness, we've almost made it, indeed, we already have; we just need to shake off these blinding rags. Because "God is teaching us through our sexuality". Our redemption is "already, but not yet". And did not Christ say that even "greater works than these" we will do? Truly He was the forerunner.

It is time for us to be inebriated by the wine of the Holy Spirit! It is time for our idols to be untwisted and be the true icons that they are!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Christopher West, nudism and the usual

I've been reading Michael O'Brien's latest novel The Father's Tale. This past Sunday I was getting in some reading time, and found it quite funny when I came across the following passage in the novel. Alex the untravelled Canadian protagonist is sitting in a sauna in Finland:


After ten minutes of roasting, he felt the deep pleasure of total warmth, a relaxation of all his muscles, and a blessed drowsiness. He was about to lie down flat on his back when a door opened and three women sauntered in. They were in their thirties or early forties, heavily made up with crimson fingernails and blond hair of an unnatural hue. They were carrying drinks in their hands, they were talking loudly, and they were stark naked.

Alex decided not to lie down.

The other guests appeared not to notice the new arrivals. The women sat together on the bench opposite Alex and continued their discussion, which he now realized was being conducted in German. They eyed his towel as if it were obscene. The situation was so completely alien to his experience that Alex was for a moment paralyzed with astonishment. In the aftershock of the total inversion of cultural norms, it took him a second or two to regain control of his eyes. He got up and left.

After an icy shower that restored his equilibrium, he returned to his room, opened the sliding window, and sat down on the bed facing it. Gusts of cold air wafted in, billowing the curtains, carrying with them a shimmer of frost particles.

He blew a few puffs of breath against the draft and watched the colors of the city lights materialize in their crystals.

"Matto-pazzo", he said aloud. Then he laughed, throwing himself back on the bed, shaking with the crude humor of it. The meaning of what was funniest lay beyond his grasp, and so too any ability to explain to himself why he was so convulsed.

He sat up, still chuckling, staring out at the bleak landscape of this liberated Nordic void, and shook his head in disbelief. The scene in the sauna had taken him totally by surprise and was now indelibly imprinted on his mind. Yet the sight of the red-taloned Valkyries had little power to inflame him, for what he had witnessed was absurd and sad, a symptom of a society that had lost its sense of mystery. If it had been merely a three-dimensional pornography, a kind of virtual reality of hot cavorting pagan flesh, he would have been morally offended. But now, in retrospect, he was most disturbed by the banality of the women's demeanor. The situation appeared to be, for them, completely normal. Strangest of all, it was asexual--or at least the Europeans in the sauna had treated it as such.

Alex's desires had always been well within the range of the natural. Yet he now felt an inexplicable disgust, for the sudden and unexpected cornucopia of female bodies was not in essence feminine, not womanly in any way that awakened the heart's deeper longings. Why all this pink flesh? he wondered. Why the desperation to return to the bacchanal in the forest glade? Did these women think their overexposure was attractive? If they had ever known real love, would they have unveiled themselves to strange men? The sensation of attracting male eyes would have been revealed to them for what it was: an adolescent concept of sexuality, bereft of love, and in the end bereft of genuine passion. Then it struck him that perhaps they did not think about it at all.



Ah, good healthy natural disgust at the unnatural asexual programming effected by the naturist nudist. It's the main reason why political breastfeeding rouses disgust. It's not because you're breastfeeding; it's because you're making a campaign of it, sloganeering how its natural, natural, natural. Sort of like Al Gore burning up jet fuel to warn people around the globe of the dangers of man-made global warming, the naturists carry their own unnatural contradiction - like Christopher West carrying around his own Manichaeanism.

A body belongs to a person. The personhood of a person, of people, is what initiates and sustains communication and relations between the sexes - not our masculine and feminine bodies. I can look Jane in the eyes when I speak to her because I recognize and respect that she is her own person, not because I perceive the spousal meaning, or the glory of God in her body, or the "key stamped in her sexual body". The source of these natural relations does not reside in my own purity, but in the objective fact, whether recognized or not, that a person is a person. If I was to see Jane naked by some turn of events I would turn away my eyes for that same reason: because I respect her as a person. Knowing shame in that situation would be the result of recognizing her person. Shame is good. It does more good for a man both in short and long term than all the gnostic Westian pure gazes of love in the world.

If I was to look at her naked body without lust and without arousal, it could just mean that I am a dead person. If I look at her naked body without lust and without arousal but perceive the glory of God in her body, I have just objectified her as much as I would have if I looked at her naked body with lust. The same also if I did the same while she was clothed. If both her and I were to sustain perfect equanimity in each others nakedness, it would mean two dead, asexual people. Greetings fellow naturist nudist! You're dead like I am! Ah, the great naturist nudist version of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers! Hail dead comrades!

Moreover, if every man had to come to see the "key stamped in her sexual body" as the way to know her or respect her or, well, to see her, then no man would ever fall in love with her. And definitely not at first sight. It's funny that West talks about how the body is not a cage for the soul; it's funny because he teaches to see in the body a key, as though the body was a container. But that looking is not what begets love. What begets love between the sexes - since we're talking in the realm of falling in love - is what is "outspoken" of the person, by which I do not mean what is extroverted of the person, but simply that the person is "a word spoken"; it is presence; and presence is the language of the person; and it is of the soul informing the body. And a person has a name.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

More Disincarnating Westian Blather

My first encounter with the work of Christopher West was an article he wrote - his Body Language column - that was in our Diocesan newspaper quite a number of years ago. He presented the analogy of a set of people engaged in an orgy, and went on to say that if you were to walk into that room (I'm assuming one would be walking into this room with the "pure gaze of love") and explain to those people thus sexually engaged that the reason they were engaged in that orgy was because they had a hard-wired desire for the Eucharist, they would regard you as quite strange, but that that statement would most certainly be true.

The funny thing is that we are not the ideal or natural receptacle shape for the reception of Christ in the Eucharist, such as would be expressed through the complementarity implied by sexual analogy; and it is precisely this that makes reception of the Eucharist so unutterably beautiful and scandalous: the fact that Christ has nonetheless made this available to us, and consumable to us, by His merit.

No, we are not the complementary shape, or the complementary receptacle for receiving the Eucharist, in the way that two spouses are to each other; yet by the merit of Christ we feed on that which even the angels do not get to consume. Rather it is Christ who has taken on all our shapes of imperfect disfigurement upon Himself, and in having done so, putting them to death in His own death, grants to us the free access to die to ourselves, and thus to receive Him - body, blood, soul and divinity: the living bread. We really are not appreciative enough of what an inadmissible miracle the Eucharist is, that has been admitted to us.

Here's a bit from West:


"...the Eucharist is “the Sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride.” When we receive the body of Christ into our own, in a mysterious way, like a bride, we conceive new life in us – life in the Holy Spirit."


This is, again, a dis-incarnating of the Eucharist that is at the same time a cancelling out of the truth in analogy. The paradox of analogy is that the dissimilarity of the analogy works with the similarity, not against it. West takes similarity and dissimilarity in analogy and pits them against each other with dissimilarity only threatening to render the analogy obsolete. The result is that similarity comes to mean "same" or the most same that we can find for it, and dissimilarity comes to mean "forever separate", banishing the analogy to exile. There's no upward ascent; just a progeny of mirrors.

But analogy is not a dogged instrument that we lay hands on to find out which way it is the "most similar", or the "least inadequate". Analogy has its rules.

The body of Christ here is that of "impregnator" in relation to us. But the very body of Christ is the very life that we receive and which verily remains in us. By cancelling out the analogy of the "bride and bridegroom" with the burden of sameness, thus foisting the analogy in place of the reality of what it is analogizing (this is West being "incarnational"), West blinds his reader to the reality of the Eucharist, and also to the reception (Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof...). In the process of sounding like he's saying something special and holy, West dis-incarnates.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Weird West World

"We believe as Christians, that there was a woman who walked this planet who opened herself so profoundly to the love of God that she literally conceived eternal life in her womb." --Christopher West in this radio interview


Before stating the above in the same interview West dis-incarnates the Eucharist, funnily enough, by saying if we open ourselves to the Sacrament of the Eucharist we conceive eternal life within us. As always, it is what West does not say, together with "the preoccupation of his subject" (in Fr. Angelo's words), that renders his statements...problematic. Christ is our eternal life and if we do not eat His flesh and drink His blood we have no life within us - yes; and it is His flesh and His blood that we consume: our response is a response to that - to Him, to the Eucharist. In West's words, it's as though our response comes first. I'm not exactly sure how a response comes first.

What in actuality is Mary receiving the proclamation of the angel Gabriel, and then her assent, and then the Son of God being virginally conceived within her womb, and secondly, what is in actuality a person being told by the priest who he is about to receive, and then the recipient's fiat, and then Christ Himself being placed on his tongue - with West these instead begin and end with us. But they don't; they begin and end with Christ.

And the second Person of the Trinity who in reality identifies Himself with the most interior heart of our being such that we come to recognize Him in ourselves as our very selves is, in West world, our gestation of eternal life which is owing first to our opening to the love of God via our knowledge that our sexuality holds a key to the spousal meaning of the divine nuptials of the heavenly banquet that is there to inform our sexuality that we are to be married to God which is our sexual redemption, the key to which is found in our sexuality...







Elsewhere, as in Heaven's Song, West has stated that being immaculately conceived meant for Mary that she experienced her sexuality in its fullness as a deep yearning for communion with God, since our sexuality holds the key to understanding that God wants to marry us - and that's the reason God imprinted us with sexuality - it means that Mary's sexual fullness let her open herself so profoundly that she literally conceived eternal life within her womb.

In the annunciation the angel Gabriel appears to Mary and proclaims that she will bear the Son of the Most High in her womb. Being immaculately conceived without sin, her assent to this is totally free.

The Catechism states that it was necessary that she be conceived without original sin for this very reason:

In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace. (490, Catechism of the Catholic Church)


Her immaculate conception also means of course that she is the ark of the covenant, the pure vessel worthy of bearing God Himself incarnate. Mary's assent to the annunciation brought by the angel Gabriel was not sexual but filial; it was of faith and obedience.

494 At the announcement that she would give birth to "the Son of the Most High" without knowing man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded with the obedience of faith, certain that "with God nothing will be impossible": "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word." Thus, giving her consent to God's word, Mary becomes the mother of Jesus. (Catechism of the Catholic Church)


In the wording of West, at the beginning of this post, it is unmistakably clear that he means that it was Mary's opening herself "so profoundly" to the love of God that it primarily caused Christ - nay, caused "eternal life" - to be conceived within her womb, as a result.

Do you see the difference? In actuality, it was Mary's filiality, Mary's obedience, her faith that gave assent, in the annunciation, to the Word being made flesh. The Word was made flesh in her total humility, her even expressing, "How can this be so?" In West world, it's the feminine sexual in its fullness of "spousal meaning" that makes for this "profound opening up", meaning that it is owing to its own fullness that resulted in the conception of eternal life, which is, in fact, quite the opposite to the opening up of total humility with which Our most Blessed Lady gave consent to the Son of God being conceived within her.

While our salvation very much depended on Mary's fiat, her fiat was not the causation of the Incarnation. The angel Gabriel appeared to her first; furthermore, she was preordained - hence her immaculate conception.

491 ...as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by the virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.


492 The "splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son." The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love." (Catechism of the Catholic Church)



In West world, the immaculate conception does not lead to the Incarnation as coming from Christ's redemption; rather, the immaculate conception points back to itself, because it is about sexual fullness and by itself draws to it by its profundity, eternal life.

This also divorces the immaculate conception from the work of God. Which is what West does with sexuality when he claims it as holding the key to union with God.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Some links and things from email

Kevin Symonds has a recent expose on "Anne, a lay apostle" at Catholic Lane, the woman whose praise for Christopher West is included in West's latest book, At the Heart of the Gospel. Both seem to associate with each other, as evidenced by the video included in this post.

An excerpt from Symond's article:

For nearly seven years Sr. McKenna and Fr. Scallon promoted Kathryn around the world. Surprisingly, these two writers publicly pulled their support in August, 2011. Neither McKenna nor Scallon have fully explained why and they have not issued any further public comment. However, a look at public DFOT records and other documents might offer some insight.
***

Someone also sends along some information about what sort of book A Breakable Vow is, which was written by Kathryn Ann Clarke, who is "Anne, a lay apostle".

***

This site answers some questions about Hasidism. Among the questions is this one:

Why don't Hasidic men shake hands with women?

Here's some of the answer to the question:

"In general, Orthodox Jewish men and women do not shake hands or touch each other unless they are married, and then only in private. It is not that women are considered dirty or unclean as some people -- even some Jews -- wrongly think. Quite the opposite. It is because both men and women consider our bodies to be sacred and not for everybody else's gaze or touch. ... Also related to this rule is the tendency for a Hasidic Jewish man to not look directly into the eyes of a woman who is not his wife, and vice versa. Again, this is not limited to Hasidim. Many American Indian tribes -- even matriarchal ones -- avoid eye contact between men and women in this way ... There is a tendency for both men and women to look down or off to the side during conversations".


The full answer is at the link.

Here's an article on the subject.

A summation of that article:

"The rule is that people of the opposite gender do not even touch each other, let alone shake hands, unless they are husband and wife, siblings, or children with parents and grandparents. What is the rationale for the Jewish prohibition on men and women touching, let alone shaking hands? ... It has nothing to do with impurity, or with the social or religious status of people who encounter other people ... Traditional Judaism, unlike some other faiths, regards touching as a highly sensual act. It takes the view that it is not only an important part of marital relations, but one that is only permitted in those relations. To shake hands as a casual courtesy and nothing more is the first step leading to the desensitization of sensuality between husband and wife. Rabbi Baruch Emmanuel Erdstein of Safed, who holds a degree in anthropology from the University of Michigan, states that "the casual touching of members of the opposite gender can only dull our sensitivity to the sexual power of touch." ... It has been recognized however, that there are many instances in which men and women can and perhaps even should, touch each other. This would apply to saving a person who is facing a life-threatening danger. Members of the health professions may obviously touch members of the opposite gender in the practice of their discipline, as may hairdressers or physical therapists as a necessary component in the practice of theirs ... Quite apart from the sexual analysis of some commentators, some commentators point out that an individual's body is personal, and at times to even touch is an intrusion into one's personal dignity. According to this approach, a man should not touch a woman, nor a woman touch a man, out of respect for the space of each other as individuals—especially individuals of the opposite gender who should reserve a certain level of privacy with respect to each other. ... Traditional Judaism translates the showing of respect for the personal space of members of the opposite gender into the social practice of not shaking hands. The key is not the shaking of hands. The key is respect. If we once again offered seats to ladies and opened doors for each other, we may have a more sensitive, kinder and respectful society. Far better than shaking hands".


The person sending the links applies an interesting slant:


Now, replace "touch" with "sight" and you have the traditional Catholic understanding of positive shame contra West's doctrine of "mature purity" and its corresponding practice of the "pure gaze of love".

Also replace, "touching as a highly sensual act" with "looking as a highly sensual act" - because it is. That is why when a man, who is "visually-wired", looks at a voluptuous woman, regardless of his level of purity, there is a physiological response in the man - it's called "arousal". Without it, a man would not be able to have sex with his wife - which is another reason why West's doctrine of mature purity is untenable.

And replace the last sentence, "far better than shaking hands" with "far better than staring at her with the 'pure gaze of love'".


***

A kind person sends along this link to an article entitled, The Church of Sex.

Pastor Mark Driscoll is a disgusting misogynist and false prophet and false mystic whose phoniness is blatant. Maybe that's how he hides it. And his falsity aside, no pastor, no one, has any business talking in the graphic way he does about the subjects he does.

Kevin O'Brien has two posts on this subject, The Christopher West of the Protestants, and, The Witty Atheist and his Lessons on Idolatry.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Christopher West and the Truman Show Catharsis

I wonder if there are a lot of Fr. Z. groupies who are also Westians. Because of the whole "Reclaim the body for the New Evangelization" and the "Save the liturgy, save the world" thing. There probably is not. I guess it's just that idolatry extends across the entire spectrum these days, doesn't it?

I know what is meant by "Save the liturgy, save the world". I agree with it, albeit with a great deal of wariness; for clearly it is not immune to the perennial errors of gnosticism so implicit in the phrase. The errors are not in the phrase per se; but when you consider the perennial inclination of the heart to gnosticism, those errors threaten the words. Indeed, something that is bound to the Eucharist should kind of make one all the more cautious in that regard.

Heck, maybe a lot of the Liturgists from the good old 70's were saying to themselves, "Save the liturgy, save the world." Oh, but you're Neo from The Matrix and you swallowed the right pill, so you're not going to do anything so bad in the major arteries of life as that 70's Liturgist, are you? No, you're not.

Of course, gratitude for knowing proper liturgy is a healthy antidote. But we are ever prone to reducing salvation history - meaning that of our own time - to a nifty code. Restore grammar and everything else will follow suit. Reclaim the body for the new evangelization, and the body-worshipping New-Pagans will convert. Save the liturgy, save the world. And if you can make a few bucks from selling paraphernalia along with it, why not?

I'm interested to know, of the number of people who were formed in some way by a cult and came to be disillusioned, how many of that number went on to form a cult of their own, or joined another cult, or bought into something cultish.

Being formed in some way by a cult must be something extraordinarily difficult (diffi-cult?) to uproot from one's own heart. It's not the brainwashing that's the most dangerous part of a cult; it's what the cult does to the heart.

Because everybody wants to have their Truman Show Catharsis. It can be intoxicating to come to know the lie you have been living. Lots of people like to live this catharsis via their parents, whether real or not, via their teachers, via the economy . In fact, it seems the whole world wants its Truman Show Catharsis, on every level. Like Libertarians congratulating themselves for holding the notion of de-centralization.

Many do not want to understand what the lie is that they have been living under to its truest extent, for that would entail the difficulty of what's been assimilated by the heart, back and forth. They want the Truman Show Catharsis right now, and they want it to go on in perpetuity. Of course, that is when it starts to get highly ironic.

That's the deadly thing about a cult. You have your Truman Show Catharsis and then go on to perpetuate what the cult printed in your secret heart; it's just that you do so under a different modus operandi. Or rather, it is your heart under the same modus operandi, except that instead of being the receiver of the lies and manipulation, you are now the one perpetuating them - under a different species.

If you grew up, say, in the Mother of God community, as Christopher West did, and with the vanity provided by newspapers, came to your disillusionment, and on the very intoxication of that Truman Show Catharsis, went on to formulate a theological antithesis from it, which in turn bolstered your Truman Show Catharsis, which also generated millions of dollars - I mean, that's one delusion that's not going to be going away any time soon, is it?

Didn't think so. Especially not when the cult has formed for you an enemy to fight and provided you with the method by which it is fought.

You take that cult-programming pancake and flip it over from repression to indulgence.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Christopher West and the Family Tree

"Think how intertwined sex is with the very reality of human existence. You simply would not exist without the sexual union of your parents--and their parents before them, and their parents before them, and their parents before them. Every human being is the end result of thousands upon thousands of indispensable sexual unions. Remove just one sexual union from your family tree, and you would not exist. Nor would anyone else who descended from that union. The world would be a different place.

When we tinker with God's plan for sex, we are tinkering with the cosmic stream of human existence. The human race--its existence, its balance--is literally determined by who is having sex with whom, and, in what manner." (Theology of the Body for beginners, pgs. 12-13, Christopher West)


Fact is, you would not exist were it not for a lot of things. Fact is, every human being is the "end result" of an unfathomable amount of scenarios, with sexual unions being, well, sacredly gratuitous. Remove just one sexual union from your family tree and...But why stop there?

What if George McFly never fell out of the tree with his binoculars? What if he never climbed it in the first place? The world would be a different place. C'mon West, what's the matter with you - haven't you watched Back to the Future before? Good grief man.

Here's a little story. It may be quite possible - in fact, it's safe to say that it is most certain - that I owe some thanks for my existence, in part, to the conniption fit of a child.

My Great Grandmother on my mother's side immigrated (a daughter of the Mackenzies) to Canada. She would later marry a Murray.

The ship which they were boarding was the Titanic - yes, the one presently at the bottom of the Atlantic; the great big hobby horse of the anti-Christian bigot propagandist new-age bullshitter Freemason, James Cameron.

My Great Grandmother is one of the two daughters in this family photograph:





Likely she's the one on the far right (by the way, when I look at the mother of the family - my Great, Great Grandmother - I see pretty much the exact same face as my Grandmother Murray, who, by the way, married a Watt. Her daughter married a Stilwell.).

Her younger brother, Willy, is one of the two young boys at center of the photo (I'm not sure which).

My father (God rest his soul) always maintained in a speculative way that Willy had some form of autism, for as the family was boarding the Titanic, the little fellow suddenly went berserk - the kind of temper tantrum to end all temper tantrums.

It must have been a really bad one - hence my father's speculation - because the crew members refused to give them entrance onto the boat because of it, and the family had to get another ship.

Not making it up. True story.

The only thing that makes the story cause a certain degree of pause, or even awe, is the Titanic: the ship is so mythical and "iconic". But here's the thing and the very point: this sort of story happens every single day in the life of every single person. Replace the Titanic with a scooter, a horse, a plane; take away the scooter, the horse, the plane, and you have the turn of a corner, a sudden decision, a look. It's the same thing: every single person's existence has been brought about through the extravagant circumvention of a million Titanics, and more - all the way back to Adam and Eve.

You are "a unique and unrepeatable creation", but more, you are "a unique and unrepeatable creation" that has been brought about in the unlikeliest manner; through the escape of countless disasters, and in the face of them all, you are a singular miracle who has come to be in existence by a way that was no less miraculous or singular.

In light of all that brings a husband and wife together, to make their sexual union the existential substratum, in a chain, the links of which are all likewise sexual union, is ridiculously superfluous. For in light of those things which bring that particular man and that particular woman together, the conjugal act is a given. Not only that, but to make their sexual union the existential substratum, in said chain, is also desacralizing of the conjugal act. It in fact makes it less special - not more special. For then it has become the redundant touchstone for looking back and looking forward (rather than it being the special touchstone of a singular movement forward that is both final and first, that only the husband and wife "touch", within history and as the ongoing flowering of history).

In West's usage, it does nothing but serve as substrata for future substrata, by which I do not mean procreation; but substrata (sex) being the reason for future substrata (sex). It is no longer veiled. It is no longer a mystery. It's like the family tree being reduced to a sequential orgy.

Besides, I would rather any offspring of any family think about Grandpa and Grandma running into each on the ice rink as the first encounter that ultimately led to their marriage, rather than the offspring thinking about Grandpa and Grandma...uhm, you know. But thanks Christopher West for your sexual obsession ("...is literally determined by who is having sex with whom, and, in what manner"); I'm sure it's doing people a lot of favours.

Sheesh West...



***

Oh, and Willy, thanks. I owe you.

And so do a lot of other people.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

At the what of the Gospel?

If the unveiling of Mary and the analogizing of her through her body (as per Christopher West), especially in regards to her breastfeeding (as ripped from cultural continuity by Westians for their pan-sexual ends), prompting an art as holy encounter with what's behind pornography to convert the porn-addicted culture, is the crux of the absolutely necessary reclamation of sexuality (for the New Evangelization) around which there is no detour, then that would mean that - much more than pigments on a canvas - public breastfeeding is the incarnational flagship of the New Evangelization.
It would be the very proclamation of the Gospel.

And not discreet public breastfeeding either. It would have to be out and in the open - just as it is in the art. Do you light a lamp to hide it under a bushel basket? No, you don't.

We would have to have public breastfeeding parades. We would put the gay pride parades to shame. You guys can't trump the Catholics - no way. We're better at stuff than you are!

We would have to employ watchers to ensure that the equilibrium of reciprocal intersubjectivity is being maintained. We would call these watchers the true experts in phenomenology.

Men would have to, and I mean have to - by dint of the hardline regulations of the Great Naturist Nudist version of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers - look at woman breastfeeding so that Pope John Paul II's words about the new springtime of faith might rise unbidden in their minds.

And those who turn away their eyes will have to be turned in as rapists.

And those who express disgust will have to be turned in as Iconoclast Taliban Catholics.



It hasn't even been thirty days yet. And it's not for lack of material; it's just...


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Christopher West the Decontextualizer, part 4

Taking off from post part 3, which went into the following passage from Christopher West's Theology of the Body Explained,


True to their name, these books contain great wisdom. They reveal an intimate knowledge of the human heart and even develop a specific moral psychology. In this way, the Wisdom books "are close to that call of Christ to the 'heart' that Matthew has handed down to us." Even so, John Paul says that with the "one-sided" admonitions that often make woman out to be "a downright seducer of whom to be aware," the Wisdom texts do not change man's ethos in any fundamental way. "For such a transformation it is necessary to wait until the Sermon on the Mount." For example, whereas the Wisdom texts offer understandable admonitions such as "Turn away your eyes from a shapely woman" (Sir 9:8), John Paul says that in the Sermon on the Mount Christ invites us "to a pure way of looking at others, capable of respecting the spousal meaning of the body." (West, Theology of the Body Explained, page 168.)

I would like to point readers to this excellent post by Kevin Tierney at Common Sense Catholicism, which looks into the historical context and meaning of the particular Wisdom texts that West cuts from and uses out of context to forward his malformed interpretation of the Theology of the Body - namely, his teaching of "mature purity".

Kevin cites the paragraph that follows the paragraph quoted above (with some of the third paragraph) from page 168 of Theology of the Body Explained,

As experience attests, the battle with lust remains fierce. For the man bound by lust, "Turn away your eyes" retains all its wisdom. Christ, however, "speaks in the context of human experience and simultaneously in the context of human salvation." In the new ethos, these "two contexts are in a certain way superimposed upon and pervade one another." This means that, although we all experience lust, we can also experience a real transformation of our hearts through the salvation Christ offers us. As the Catechism teaches, "In the Sermon on the Mount...the spirit of the Lord gives new form to our desires, those inner movements that animate our lives."

….The man whose heart has been transformed and vivified by the Spirit of the Lord need not merely “cope” with lust by turning his eyes away from a woman.” (West, Theology of the Body Explained, page 168.)


He shows how West uses that single line "Turn away your eyes from a shapely woman" to make it mean,

"One, that Sirach was only writing for the unregenerate. Two, that the regenerate is not bound by this advice."


I touched on some of the context of the Wisdom texts in part 3, but Kevin went into it already in more depth in his post.

***

Going back to the first paragraph from pg. 168 of Theology of the Body Explained, quoted above and which was the subject of part 3, you may recall how West uses that butchered piece of the Wisdom texts to introduce his teaching of "mature purity", misrepresenting what the ethos of purity and morality was before Christ, and misrepresenting the ethos of redemption and fulfillment of the law in the Sermon on the Mount. West quotes from Veritatis Splendor after quoting the butchered piece from the Wisdom texts (the Veritatis Splendor words in my bold):

For example, whereas the Wisdom texts offer understandable admonitions such as "Turn away your eyes from a shapely woman" (Sir 9:8), John Paul says that in the Sermon on the Mount Christ invites us "to a pure way of looking at others, capable of respecting the spousal meaning of the body."


Let's take a look at the full context of the words which Christopher West pulled from Veritatis Splendor. The words are from section 15:

15. In the "Sermon on the Mount,'' the magna charta of Gospel morality, Jesus says: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them'' (Mt 5:17). Christ is the key to the Scriptures: "You search the Scriptures...; and it is they that bear witness to me'' (Jn 5:39). Christ is the centre of the economy of salvation, the recapitulation of the Old and New Testaments, of the promises of the Law and of their fulfilment in the Gospel; he is the living and eternal link between the Old and the New Covenants. Commenting on Paul's statement that "Christ is the end of the law'' (Rom 10:4), Saint Ambrose writes: "end not in the sense of a deficiency, but in the sense of the fullness of the Law: a fullness which is achieved in Christ (plenitudo legis in Christo est), since he came not to abolish the Law but to bring it to fulfilment. In the same way that there is an Old Testament, but all truth is in the New Testament, so it is for the Law: what was given through Moses is a figure of the true law. Therefore, the Mosaic Law is an image of the truth.''

Jesus brings God's commandments to fulfilment, particularly the commandment of love of neighbour, by interiorizing their demands and by bringing out their fullest meaning. Love of neighbour springs from a loving heart which, precisely because it loves, is ready to live out the loftiest challenges. Jesus shows that the commandments must not be understood as a minimum limit not to be gone beyond, but rather as a path involving a moral and spiritual journey towards perfection, at the heart of which is love (cf. Col 3:14). Thus the commandment "You shall not murder'' becomes a call to an attentive love which protects and promotes the life of one's neighbour. The precept prohibiting adultery becomes an invitation to a pure way of looking at others, capable of respecting the spousal meaning of the body: "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment'. But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment... You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery'. But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart'' (Mt 5:21-22,27-28). Jesus himself is the living "fulfilment'' of the Law inasmuch as he fulfils its authentic meaning by the total gift of himself: he himself becomes a living and personal Law, who invites people to follow him; through the Spirit, he gives the grace to share his own life and love and provides the strength to bear witness to that love in personal choices and actions (cf. Jn 13:34- 35). --Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II (all italics John Paul's)



To that end, I would just like to quote Wade from From the Ivory Tower to what John Paul II was speaking about in the section of Veritatis Splendor which Christopher West quotes from and which he uses out of context to his own ends (and I hope Wade doesn't mind me quoting him here in full from a piece of correspondence, as I find its articulation better than anything I could write):

In truth, Veritatis Splendor was talking about how the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus, as Dr. Hahn taught me, "interiorized" and "intensified" all the Commandments. It is not enough just to "follow the rules" as the rich young man did (Luke 18:18-23). One must do so from the motive of "love". That is, after all, the whole teaching of the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:40). For it is possible to follow all the rules merely out of a sense of obligation and from the motive of "religious pride" of doing one's "religious duty", just as the Pharisees did, and not out of love from a truly converted heart.

Veritatis Splendor and the Wednesday audience were saying the same thing. Following the rule not to commit adultery is not enough. Veritatis Splendor 15 in context reads: "Jesus shows that the commandments must not be understood as a minimum limit not to be gone beyond, but rather as a path involving a moral and spiritual journey towards perfection, at the heart of which is love (cf. Col 3:14). Thus the commandment 'You shall not murder' becomes a call to an attentive love which protects and promotes the life of one's neighbour. The precept prohibiting adultery becomes an invitation to a pure way of looking at others, capable of respecting the spousal meaning of the body".

In other words, consistent with what JP2 says in his Wednesday audience, the admonition from Sirach to "turn your gaze from a shapely woman" is not enough, because you could still see women as "sexual objects", or as JP2 said in his audience, "a seducer of whom to beware". However, to truly fulfill the commandment, your heart must be transformed so that you see women as "fellow human beings and sisters in Christ created in the image and likeness of God". You must see them as "people" and not "sex objects". She is not to be seen as a "seducer" or a "whore" or a "skank" or a "b****" or any other word. She is supposed to be seen positively, as a "sister", as a "person" just like you, albeit one that may have gone down some dark and twisted paths and who may have some behaviours in need of correcting. But a sister and a person nonetheless. The one whose heart is not converted will look at people who are difficult to respect and their first impression of her is: "oh, there's that b****" (de-personalization). But the one who loves will look at that person and say, "oh, there's Julie. It must be terrible when you are so angry all the time. God, please give her the grace of conversion and help her to heal so that we can be together in heaven". This is what JP2 is talking about.

Of course, that says nothing of what you should do with your gaze. For that we turn to the Tradition (in whose light all of this must be interpreted in, as always). And what does the Tradition say? Yes, practice "custody of the eyes". Why? Because if you see women as fellow human beings and sisters in Christ created in the image and likeness of God, don't let your gaze linger too long lest biology takes over, you get aroused, and you begin to objectify her or desire her sexually.


And that points right back to what Kevin was saying as well.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Way Out West: No Mortification

Practices such as "the Discipline" and other voluntary, premeditated physical mortifications, as that employed by Pope John Paul II who wrote the Theology of the Body, do not focus on the chastisement of a particular vice. Though, if one had to pick a single vice which the physical mortification chastises, it would be pride. For such mortifications are bodily reminders in a very acute sense.

Physical mortifications as those which are not premeditated, those which are spontaneous, and in response to a particular temptation, such as St. Benedict hurling himself into thorn bushes, likewise have the vice of pride (if one were to pick a single vice) as its immediate, specific recipient - not lust. In a case as with Benedict, lust was the temptation, or its near occasion, to which the saint responded; but he did not do anything with lust or to it. The one thing he did was humble himself radically.

This kind of mortification has a twofold nature: the denial of the vice (not the denial of the vice's "existence" but the self-denial of choosing it), and the denial of engagement or rapport with the temptation, in the manner of response to the temptation. That is, the self-denial, being vehement with love for Christ, permeates also the manner of the denial, so that in the response to the temptation, or near occasion of sin, there is an intense, radical modesty that denies attribution of power to the prompted vice by immediate self-effacement: it does not dignify the temptation by answering like with like. It is as the answer of mockery, first through self-mockery. And the proud cannot stand before it.

Thus we also read that St. Francis of Assisi made a family of snowmen, when tempted in his calling to solitude and continence with thoughts of marriage, and took mock pride and joy in this "family" which he just made.

The image of St. Benedict diving into thorn bushes has in it, in a certain sense, the same manner of response which Christ had for Satan in the desert: He did not cede ground by answering with engagement. He appealed upwards, denying the temptation to abuse His own authority, and did so in a manner that denied, in His authoritative answers, making a display of that authority.

Contrast the foregoing with the practice that Christopher West suggests along with prayers of his own composition that make one's sexuality the mediation and focus of communication with God (and Mary) and as a response to your lusting: having his disciple lay on the floor in cruciform, thereby initiating an imitation of Jesus which is, to put it shortly, far from what Thomas à Kempis meant by the word:

"When lust tempts you, or even overwhelms you, you might say a prayer like this: Lord, I thank you for the gift of my sexual desires. I surrender this lustful desire to you and I ask you please, by the power of your death and resurrection, to "untwist" in me what sin has twisted so that I might experience the transformation of sexual desire as you intend--as the desire to love in your image.

To reinforce your decision to "die" to lust, you may also want to place yourself in the shape of a cross--hands outstretched--while repeating the above prayer." (Theology of the Body for beginners, pgs. 47-48)


"...to "untwist" in me what sin has twisted..."

I note the rather abstract way of referring to one's sins or sinfulness - or rather, of not referring to one's sinfulness. But seriously, what if the "lust that is tempting you" is more just the heat of concupiscence? "Untwist in me what sin has twisted"? While lying on the floor in cruciform? Is that what the normal teenager, or anyone, is supposed to do? Not go outside and play soccer with his friends or some such at that moment? He's supposed to lie down in cruciform and pray "Untwist in me what sin has twisted"? When one hasn't given in to the temptation?

Isn't that rather...twisted?

Yes, one is to give over everything - mind, that's everything - to Christ. But in West's prayer together with its practice (which, frankly, stinks of spiritual pride), it's as if one is to regard one's own "lust" as something worthy of Him. And to surrender this sexual-desire-as-the-flipside-of-lust, apart from everything else about you, as though it was just such a precious offering - the singular lamb of your being.

Your lusts are the sacrificial lamb and you - on the floor in cruciform - are the priest making the offering? Aren't you a holy priest then, to make such a sacrifice; not the blood of mere animals, but your own lusts! Surely only you are a worthy enough priest to enter into the sanctuary of your own flesh and there sacrifice the lamb of your lusts! And there you are on the floor with your arms outstretched. Truly, these lusts were the sons of your immanent holy desires! Those holy desires became sin for you so that you could be redeemed!

What if you're Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs? All that twistedness must mean one heck of a lot of holy desire. Man, what an offering!

This should not really be astonishing, as though it were off the mark, since in his latest book At the Heart of the Gospel, Christopher West tells one of those corny, forward-this-story-to-twelve-other-people-if-you-love-the-Lord-and-if-you-don't-love-Him-then-feel-free-to-delete-it lame, make-believe stories of his that he likes to claim are true:

He tells the story of a child with his mother in church and the child asks his mother who that man is up there on the cross and the mother tells him it is Jesus. And the child in horror says “Mommy, don’t say that, we’re in a church!”

Meaning that the child only ever heard the word Jesus spoken as a bad word (His name taken in vain) and thus attributes any time the name is spoken to the name itself being bad.

Yeah: big eyeroll.

Then after telling that story, West goes on to say how the same thing has happened with the words, "sex" and "sexuality".

Yes, and then we understand what he's doing.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Much Ado About Lust

At the ends of various chapters in his books, Christopher West will often include some suggested prayer of his own composition. In Heaven's Song he includes a suggested prayer at the end of every chapter.

A typical example is one such as this:

"Jesus, you came to set the world ablaze with holy desire. Help me not to fear the heat of that divine fire. Crucify my lusts and resurrect my deepest erotic yearnings so that I might seek only what is true, good and beautiful. Show me your perfect eros-agape love so that I might turn from my idols and find myself rejoicing in the wine of your salvation. Amen." (Heaven's Song, pg. 122)


Throughout chapters he might also suggest a practice along with the prayer, like this:

"When lust tempts you, or even overwhelms you, you might say a prayer like this: Lord, I thank you for the gift of my sexual desires. I surrender this lustful desire to you and I ask you please, by the power of your death and resurrection, to "untwist" in me what sin has twisted so that I might experience the transformation of sexual desire as you intend--as the desire to love in your image.

To reinforce your decision to "die" to lust, you may also want to place yourself in the shape of a cross--hands outstretched--while repeating the above prayer. (Theology of the Body for beginners, pgs. 47-48)


I think his prayers are unhealthy to pray, and such practices as the one he suggests about laying down in cruciform while saying the prayer can cause some serious psychological harm.

Christopher West uses the word "lust" with interchangeable meaning, as though it is no different than the inherent "desires" (just in "twisted" form); for most of the time lust is put across in a way that it is not an engendered action. Even in the interiority of "adultery in the heart" there is the germination of the sin and thus its actuation - its being engendered. But with West, lust is only immanently there without an engendering and thus, paradoxically, it is always at a remove from one, like it was there as an "option button" that one should simply not select, while sexual attraction may be in force, but instead give it over to be transformed, and yet in doing so, it is not an "option button" at all but the very thing that propels one to union with God. It is at once wholly at a disconnect and the sole manifestation of your personal meaning:

"Rather than repressing lust by pushing it into the subconscious, trying to ignore it, or otherwise seeking to annihilate it, we must surrender our lusts to Christ and allow him to slay them. As we do, "the Spirit of the Lord gives new form to our desires" (CCC 2764). In other words, as we allow lust to be "crucified," we also come to experience the "resurrection" of God's original plan for sexual desire." (Theology of the Body for beginners, pg. 47)

But wait, West says here:

"Deep in the heart we learn to distinguish between what, on the one hand, composes the great riches of sexuality and sexual attraction, and what, on the other hand, bears only the sign of lust." (Theology of the Body for beginners, pg. 49)

I don't know which he does first: does he separate lust from sexual attraction as though lust does not have sexual attraction in it, and as a result he wholly disconnects lust from an object; or does he first wholly disconnect lust from an object, and as a result cause lust and sexual attraction to be inherently so separate such that lust never springs from or never works within sexual attraction, or so that sexual attraction is ever pure and untainted in our subjectivity without lust being a danger?

Aside from that is the fact that anyone who in the heat of the moment "gives his lusts to Christ for Him to slay", most likely ten seconds later will be saying, "Well, Lord, you didn't slay my lusts, so I'm going to commit sins X, Y and Z alright?" Christ is not the "slayer of our lusts" any more than He is the "impregnator of our sexual desires". He opens to us on His cross free access to die to ourselves, as He Himself who is God submitted His will to the Father. This dying to ourselves reaches further than we can accomplish, such that we become like Him on the cross: we receive life in abundance and we give as a cruciformed, according to our "measure" and yet beyond our measure. As for our "material", such as lusts to be transformed through our self-focused laying on the floor in the shape of the cross as we crucify our lusts? Oh puh-lease. Go plant a garden. Maybe not having your "lusts" crucified is the crucifixion appropriated for you.

Another thing that results is his notion how as "we appropriate the gift of redemption in our lives, lust loses sway in our hearts".

He is reductive of the reader's particular state, whatever that may be, when he says this.

The Church makes no such immanent claims, other than to promise that if virtue is persisted in, then the practice of virtue becomes easier. And that of course, makes it "harder" for one to sin. For the Church does not tell you one way or another how much lust "holds sway in your heart", anymore than it tells you how much envy holds sway in your heart. What the Church does tell you is that lust or envy can be discerned in you by such and such thoughts and actions revealed or reminded to you by examining your conscience; and the Church holds to you the remedy, in the forgiveness of the sins, and their antithesis in the practice of virtues.

It is unhealthy to make claims for what Lust will or will not do - such as saying that it "will lose sway". Oh? Did it "have sway" before? To what extent? And according to what? And how much did your will have a play in it and the free exercise of your imagination?

Anyone who knows anything about anything knows that saying "lust will lose sway" is like saying that, having taken all precautionary measures necessary to walk through the tropics, tigers and jaguars will cease to jump out at you from hiding. That's not to say they will of a certainty jump out at you; but it's just to point out that saying such a thing is idiotic.

From the heights of virtue, from the purest love, from a smattering of boredom, from a look, lust can come upon a person as suddenly and unexpectedly as an earthquake - yes, just when one thinks "lust has lost sway". Those who are in God's good graces can be accosted out of nowhere. And they can be as equally left in peace having resisted it.

The point in saying this is not to turn lust into something omnipotent; saying it can strike like an earthquake is just to get across the suddenness and unexpectedness, and moreover, to get across the immediacy with which one tends to forget, with the onslaught, everything else previous to it. What keeps a person from being shaken to the ground, indeed, maybe even from being shaken, is what he has built upon. And what he has built upon is not his "transformed desires".

The point is that Christopher West, in saying that it will lose sway and be transformed, is that he is the one who takes it and turns it into an inescapable monster.

Note: A word on "immanentize" in relation to lust: Yes, our sins come from within the heart and make us unclean. In that way they are immanent. That's not they way I mean in the above paragraphs, but that West makes the sin "wholly immanent", like...well...like the Manichaeans did.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Hinge

The problem with our sex-saturated culture, then, is not that it overvalues the body and sex. The problem is that it has failed to see just how valuable the body and sex really are. Christianity does not reject the body! In a virtual "ode to the flesh" the Catechism proclaims: "'The flesh is the hinge of salvation.' We believe in God who is creator of the flesh; we believe in the Word made flesh in order to redeem the flesh; we believe in the resurrection of the flesh, the fulfillment of both the creation and the redemption of the flesh." (CCC 1015, emphasis Christopher West's) --Theology of the Body for beginners, Christopher West

Right, the problem with our sex-saturated culture is not that it is sex-saturated. Its being saturated with sex via every medium is just a symptom that the culture is "onto something" (thanks Brandon Vogt for interviewing Christopher West; it was revealing). Indeed, Bob, the problem is not that the culture overvalues the body and sex, worshiping at its altar with the sacrifices of millions of babies. Rather, the problem is that it has failed, tragically of course, in spite of all those sacrificed babies and billion dollar porn industries, to see just how valuable the body and sex really are. Gosh darn it, how tragic.

But have no fear sex-saturated culture! For Christianity does not reject the body! See here in our Catechism it states in a virtual "ode to the flesh": "Yadda yadda yadda yadda FLESH; yadda yadda yadda yadda FLESH; yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda FLESH; yadda yadda yadda FLESH; yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda FLESH." (CCC 1015)


New wine, new wine skins


Sarcasm aside: the knowledge that the body is good in that it is 'the hinge of salvation', if it is to be a good that is known, must be a knowledge given by the Holy Spirit, as one lives life according to the Spirit, as one keeps one's body in holiness and reverence, as one causes an alignment with the deepest layers of one's personal being through continence, custody of the eyes, self-control, habitual temperance, avoiding the near occasion of sin.

The flesh is not transformed according to life in the flesh; meaning, that by which the flesh is known, according to life in the flesh, is not what is known in life according to the spirit. For example: there is no good behind pornography. For example: mature purity does not have its definition in transforming the objectifying gaze. (Pornography is put to death. The objectifying gaze is put to death. Pornography does not rise again as the Sistine Chapel. The objectifying gaze does not rise again as the "pure gaze of love". )

It cannot be a gnostic acquirement beforehand, as though that knowledge will carry us, such as that though I may fall, at least I still have that "key" within my body and all I need do is "reclaim" it. It cannot be grasped. It is not a knowledge according to our knowledge, nor according to secret knowledge. If Christ affirms the flesh, it means that we are to affirm Christ.

For God became man, suffered, was crucified, died and rose again from the dead in glory and ascended with the same glorified body into Heaven, and in a very real way, took our humanity in its fullness with Him where it abides in Heaven. Thus, the Incarnation is not an affirmation of us in our own ways of knowing: it is the final condemnation of sin in us - that is, the death of it. The new man is a new creation to such an extent that man's suffering and deaths (and his one physical death) are to gain eternal value, and in the scope of this bedrock redemption, our masculinity and femininity is contained, and in that sphere God can give to whom He will, without force, an abundance which by its very gratuitousness tells a person it is from God. It's not a coded program of reclamation (i.e. restore grammar (or our sexual bodies) and the world will be converted!). Rather, it's that because of Christ, we cannot die enough in this life: the flesh being the hinge of salvation is not a call to a Catholic version of magical palm-reading (body-reading); it is the assurance that in dying we will not lose anything, but that it will be pure gain - in this life and in the next.

This means that the flesh which is the hinge of salvation has its unfathomable value according to what God accomplished, not according our desires of the flesh. Thus our first movement towards it is extremely important. In our hands, this "value" ever and always tends to become the value of a tool - like a mechanic regarding the value that a battery charger will have for his business ends.

So what that you say sex points to Heaven? Or points to our redemption, or points to our sexual redemption, or whatever? It will be just as much a tool - indeed, you just entrenched it as such. Just because you claim to take it out of Hefner's dumpster and do what -- go abracadabra peanut butter sandwiches (with a smattering of Catholic lingo on top)?

I notice in the realm of sexual analogy Jesus becomes a mere "empowerer" - a battery charger.

That's not new wine skins.

Therefore no new wine.

Christopher West's wine is a cheap substitute for those who don't like the part about new wine skins. That's why his wine is cheap and skimpy and disincarnational.

Yummy wine in a box!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

West Lent

Yo ho ho - Ka-boom! The Weigel time-bomb
was just a stupid dud - so call the squad off!
It was just a false alarm, so let's all sit and scoff
and throw a frisbee on the lawn.

Rum dee dum dee dum, hey one of your fawns
has gotten loose, in the frozen food aisle!
Oh can't you wait a while,
oh can't you wait a while,
and have him graze, hey, someplace else?
Dum dee dum, ugh, 'cause I'm a Jansenist!
A big old mean Manichaean Jansenist!

Dum dee dum,
Oh, just to think of you kids
duly taking notes
in your Westian courses
makes me want to puke,
Yo ho ho! Makes me want to puke!

How I wish a virus nuke
would take this blog down: Spike is Best
and end this misery (hackers, that's the name!),
and all of this crap
about Christopher West,
who is very sex-obsessed -hey! very sex-obsessed!

Hey! Spike is Best!

Oh hey, rum dee dum dee dum, I'll bet
there's not a single Westian - hey!
Not one single Westian
who cares a single jot
that fasc-i-na-ti-on - oh sexy fascination
should be re-ci-pro-cal,
and in the marriage bed,
oh! while they ask,
"Who is Pope John Paul?"

Oh! Reciprocal!
No need when all the Gospel
has been written in their bodies - hey,
too sexy for their bodies,
too sexy for their bodies,
too sexy for theology.
but just their sex instead,
because its been torn
from the marriage bed,

too sexy for their bodies,
too sexy for their bodies,
too sexy for theology.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Manichaean Bogeyman...

looked at himself naked in the mirror under order from Christopher West, and behold, the Manichaean Bogeyman saw that he was actually the mystery of God "enfleshed", but that it had just gotten "twisted up" and that it needed to be "untwisted".

At first I thought that the Westian ethos of "mature purity" went especially wrong because stating their terms of mature purity required a devaluation of ordinary measures (and extraordinary measures) of continence, like custody of the eyes and avoiding the near occasion of sin.

And I thought because Christopher West devalued these things as mechanisms to be eventually abandoned (though with the prospect that they may need to be employed every once and a while for the maturely pure initiate enlightened), he thus distorted what they truly are, and thus distorted what mature purity and union with God is.

And I thought there was in this distortion a resultant blinding with regards to reading the apparent dissimilitudes between a person's actions (such as St. Benedict throwing himself into thorn bushes) and that same person's level of purity and liberation in the ethos of redemption as translated (in a sort of pinnacle earthly instance, a word spoken) through those actions: the apparent dissimilitude between one's notion of the ethos of redemption and what it looks like in the lives of the saints.

In other words, I thought that Christopher West's ethos of "mature purity" rendered people completely inept at reading analogy; and completely inept at reading the greater text, the wider evocations inferred beneath the outstanding earthly instances of manifestations of soul-body union (like St. Francis of Assisi rolling in the snow), so that they read everything according to a reductive, de-incarnational, isolating Manichaean stricture that absolutizes the body as much as the old Manichaeans absolutized the body as nothing but evil. That in everything he interprets, the Westian lays the groundwork for the great naturist nudist version of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which will be for them the general resurrection happening now.

I have since abandoned this position - which was approximately 30 minutes ago. For I woke up this morning and I looked in the mirror. If only everyone in the world would look in the mirror the entire world would be converted.

I now see why St. Francis of Assisi rolled in the snow and why St. Benedict jumped into the thorn bushes as a response to the near occasion of lust: because they were beholden to this negative view of the body with regards to lust; they were living out the interpretation of suspicion.

This finally makes sense to me. And its logic extends similarly to other historical soul-body manifestations.

Likewise, the reason that St. Francis of Assisi kissed the leper was because he was still living in an age that was privy to the Manichaean ethos of hatred for the body; for it is quite apparent that in kissing the leper, he did not take precautions against guarding his body against contracting leprosy. Indeed, we can see in such a gesture the very manifestation of the very negative attitude that was ever inclined, before the Church reached puberty, to disavow all connections with the flesh by finding any way in which to distort the body - like by making it contract leprosy - as a way of becoming "holy".

Thus, also, St. Francis called his body "Brother Ass". This was a way of trying to divide the body from the spirit - and no wonder then that he kissed the leper.

His rolling in the snow (or St. Benedict's jumping into the thorns), his kissing the leper, and his calling his body "Brother Ass": thank you Christopher West for opening my eyes so that I see in them the Manichaean ethos of hatred of the body.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Christopher West the Decontextualizer, part 3

Just three paragraphs from Christopher West's Theology of the Body Explained and a bit of incentive to look things up sets you on a roundabout expedition from one corner of TOB to another, from one snippet of the CCC to another snippet of an encyclical, and you sit there trying your dangdest to square things up and see how exactly this part is being used with the other part and how the whole lot is being whipped along to segue into the author's desired, very biased end. It's a real education.

Christopher West the Decontextualizer has a twin whose name is Christopher West the Recontexualizer. To the degree that one rips, so to the same degree does the other fuse. It's so bewildering that it makes you wonder if the Theology of the Body Institute has a team of monkeys collecting random phrases from John Paul's audiences with a great big board in the room with categories of "possible usage" under which they pin said pulled phrases at random, 24/7.

Take a gander at the first paragraph, taken from page 168 of Christopher West's Theology of the Body Explained:

True to their name, these books contain great wisdom. They reveal an intimate knowledge of the human heart and even develop a specific moral psychology. In this way, the Wisdom books "are close to that call of Christ to the 'heart' that Matthew has handed down to us." Even so, John Paul says that with the "one-sided" admonitions that often make woman out to be "a downright seducer of whom to be aware," the Wisdom texts do not change man's ethos in any fundamental way. "For such a transformation it is necessary to wait until the Sermon on the Mount." For example, whereas the Wisdom texts offer understandable admonitions such as "Turn away your eyes from a shapely woman" (Sir 9:8), John Paul says that in the Sermon on the Mount Christ invites us "to a pure way of looking at others, capable of respecting the spousal meaning of the body."


There are three paragraphs from that page which I want to go into, but let's be boring and go at it one paragraph at a time, in sequential order. The first five quotes in the first paragraph above are taken from the TOB Audience 38 (September 3, 1980), which has the first title, Shift in the Center of Gravity. John Paul speaks about the "shift of the meaning of adultery from the "body" to the "heart"." After this he goes on in the same audience to speak about The Wisdom Tradition. (You can read the entire audience right here, and I recommend it just for its own sake.)

So West begins with describing something of the particular ethos of the Wisdom texts: "They reveal an intimate knowledge of the human heart and even develop a specific moral psychology. In this way, the Wisdom books "are close to that call of Christ to the 'heart' that Matthew has handed down to us.""

The quote he pulls - "are close to that call of Christ to the 'heart' that Matthew has handed down to us." - is from #5 of the 38 audience. Here is the chunk from which it is taken (this translation is from the CNA site and not the book in front of me because I don't want to type it all out):

The sense of the Wisdom texts has a prevalent pedagogical significance. They teach virtue and seek to protect the moral order, going back to God's law and to widely understood experience. Moreover, they are distinguished for their special knowledge of the human heart. We can say that they develop a specific moral psychology, yet without falling into psychologism. In a certain sense, they are close to that call of Christ to the heart that Matthew has handed down to us (cf. 5:27-28), even though it cannot be affirmed that they reveal any tendency to change ethos in a fundamental way. The authors of these books use the conscience of human inner life to teach morals somewhat in the sphere of ethos historically in action, and substantially confirmed by them.


Alright, so, to quote again, Christopher West takes the sentence from the above context and writes:

"True to their name, these books contain great wisdom. They reveal an intimate knowledge of the human heart and even develop a specific moral psychology. In this way, the Wisdom books "are close to that call of Christ to the 'heart' that Matthew has handed down to us.""



Doesn't get across the riches of John Paul's words, but nothing wrong. It's okay. West then carries on with these words:

Even so, John Paul says that with the "one-sided" admonitions that often make woman out to be "a downright seducer of whom to be aware," the Wisdom texts do not change man's ethos in any fundamental way. "For such a transformation it is necessary to wait until the Sermon on the Mount."


He's quoting from #4 now. Again, nothing wrong there. Except that John Paul does not call the texts one-sided outright in the way which West does. What he says is this:

What strikes us immediately in these admonitions and advice, appearing for example in Proverbs,(1) Sirach(2) or even Ecclesiastes(3), is a certain one-sidedness they have in that the admonitions are above all directed to men. This can mean that for them they are particularly necessary. As far as woman is concerned, it is true that in these warnings and advices she appears most often as an occasion of sin or as a downright seducer of whom to beware.


After speaking about there being a certain one-sidedness in that they "are above all directed to men", and not in that they "often make woman out to be "a downright seducer of whom to be aware," what does John Paul speak about? West just determined the way in which the texts are "one-sided" didn't he? What is it that West does not include here about the Wisdom texts and which John Paul talks about in the same #4? Oh, those pesky texts in which the eulogies are sung about the beautiful virtuous wife who is the perfect companion for her husband:


Yet one must recognize that besides the warning to beware of woman and the seduction of her charm which lead man to sin (cf. Prv 5:1-6; 6:24-29; Sir 26:9-12), both Proverbs and Sirach also praise woman who is the "perfect life companion of her own husband" (cf. Prv 31:10ff.). They likewise praise the beauty and graciousness of a good wife who can make her husband happy.

"A modest wife adds charm to charm, / and no balance can weigh the value of a chaste soul. / Like the sun rising in the heights of the Lord, / so is the beauty of a good wife in her well-ordered home. / Like the shining lamp on the holy lampstand, / so is a beautiful face on a stately figure. / Like pillars of gold on a base of silver, / so are beautiful feet with a steadfast heart. / A wife's charm delights her husband, / and her skill puts fat on his bones" (Sir 26:15-18, 13).


Ah! Don't those words just make you love the beautiful virtuous woman? Ah! They most certainly do. Those words describe her beauty, do they not? Yes, they most certainly do. And they sing her praises. It makes you want to marry one! But Christopher West had me thinking those Wisdom writers were bound to miserable Lust with their turning their eyes away from the shapely woman and all!

After quoting from #6 (man he jumps around a lot!), "For such a transformation it is necessary to wait until the Sermon on the Mount.", West goes on to say:

For example, whereas the Wisdom texts offer understandable admonitions such as "Turn away your eyes from a shapely woman" (Sir 9:8), John Paul says that in the Sermon on the Mount Christ invites us "to a pure way of looking at others, capable of respecting the spousal meaning of the body."


Yes, the Wisdom texts offer understandable admonitions (but never sing the praises of the virtuous woman) such as "Turn away your eyes from a shapely woman".

That comes from #5. What does John Paul say?

In Wisdom tradition a frequent admonition contrasts with the above praise of the woman-wife: it is the one that refers to the beauty and graciousness of the woman who is not one's own wife and is the cause of temptation and an occasion for adultery: "Do not desire her beauty in your heart..." (Prv 6:25). In Sirach the same warning is expressed in a more peremptory manner: "Turn away your eyes from a shapely woman, / and do not look intently at beauty belonging to another; / Many have been misled by a woman's beauty, / and by it passion is kindled like a fire" (Sir 9:8-9).

The sense of the Wisdom texts has a prevalent pedagogical significance. They teach virtue and seek to protect the moral order, going back to God's law and to widely understood experience...


Oh, so there's something more rich and complex going on here, eh? There's a contrast to be found in the Wisdom texts, between the upright beauty of the virtuous wife and the seductive beauty and charm of the the woman who is not one's wife. That the adultery spoken of is in contrast to the virtue of marriage. Interesting...these Wisdom writers had something going for themselves in their wisdom as they waited for their Savior...

So that is the ethos that had to await the transformation that came from the Sermon on the Mount! Now, where were we? Oh yes, West said this:

For example, whereas the Wisdom texts offer understandable admonitions such as "Turn away your eyes from a shapely woman" (Sir 9:8), John Paul says that in the Sermon on the Mount Christ invites us "to a pure way of looking at others, capable of respecting the spousal meaning of the body."


So whereas the Wisdom texts, according to Christopher West, "offer understandable admonitions" about turning your eyes away (because they only knew lust), John Paul says that in the Sermon on the Mount Christ invites us "to a pure way of looking at others, capable of respecting the spousal meaning of the body."

Looking, looking, looking for the source of that last quote...oh wait, West isn't quoting from TOB here. He's decided to pull a quote from the encyclical, Veritatis Splendor and slam it against the TOB quote!

How about that!

Christopher West the Decontextualizer, meet Christopher West the Recontextualizer.

So the Veritatis Splendor quote - what's the context from which he quoted?

We'll look at that in the next post, won't we! Because it's late and I want to go to bed - but before I do, I'm going to drink another beer! Goodnight!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Christopher West and The Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Let's say you're a man who has a wife, or a man who has a fiancé, or a man who has a girlfriend (or a maiden, to those who prefer courtship). And let's say you just read about how Christopher West stared at the body of a woman during Mass and was able to offer up his physical arousal towards her beauty (seen from behind) to God within "the womb of the church" (which is, according to West, only in the pubescent stage with regards to sexual awareness), continuing to gaze, and that one day in this way you transformed your desires in seeing the same, and that you didn't sin (according to you and West) because you didn't consciously desire to possess her.

I wonder how much your wife or your fiancé or your girlfriend (or your maiden) will appreciate, that instead of turning your eyes away and mortifying your thoughts so that you saved your gaze solely for her (your wife, fiancé, girlfriend, maiden), you were able to gaze at the woman's body and were able to transform it into your wonderful burnt offering of burning physical arousal; and that same burnt-offering pure gaze of love is the same burnt-offering pure gaze of love that you give to your wife or fiancé or girlfriend (or maiden).

Isn't that wonderful then, that the looks you share with your wife in the marriage bed are the same that you share with a stranger? Or in the case with West: the same look which you penetrated a stranger with, but which wasn't shared because you were looking at her from behind or without her noticing?

Nudist naturism is definitely a gateway through which the Westian brick road leads, and around which there is no detour.

Let's say you're either of the above men or you're single, and the woman that you used as a medium for your pure burnt offering to God was another man's wife. No problem here with the husband having any objection because it is simply a matter that everybody needs to be indoctrinated with this "mature purity". Then all will be well.

No wonder that West's teachings lead directly to naturism and nudism. Read this post by Wade at From the Ivory Tower, in which among many examples, one Mrs. Kimmel equates this pure gaze of love with, "enjoying the season’s first snowfall or interacting with nature in any other way."

This is when people start saying that you can look at a woman just like you would appreciate the beauty of a conch shell, or sunset. What about someone who enjoys the beauty of computer programming?

Are you starting to feel that weird Harry Potter vibe?

Now imagine a world where every person gazes at the other with this "disinterested" (read the post) "appreciation" and where any lust (radar! radar! radar!) is immediately and magically brought back to the configuration of the pure burnt offering disinterested gaze of love.

We would then be living in a creepy naturist version of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.