Friday, November 23, 2007

News from the Fish Bowl

Here's the latest roundup of news.


An Ontario Catholic School Board has pulled Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy from its shelves because of a parental complaint, according to this article from Associated Press, printed in the Herald Tribune. What was the complaint that led the pulling of the books? Was it the sexual encounter between two twelve-year-olds at the climax of the series? No, apparently the complaint was that Philip Pullman is an atheist. Note to concerned parents: This doesn't help anything.


Speaking of Philip Pullman, he'll be teaching classes on narrative structures to students at Bangor University, according to the BBC. Hopefully, he's learned something about narrative structures since writing the His Dark Materials Trilogy. Note to Philip Pullman: An underage sex scene is not a satisfying way to end a fantasy epic.


Slate has a new slide show on how children's literature evolved from morality tales to imaginative romps. See it here. Maybe next they can do a slide show on how Philip Pullman turned children's literature into an excuse for describing pedophilic fantasies.


And the big news is Amazon's new Kindle, a portable book-reader that can download whole books off the Internet. (The price of the new gadget is very high, so don't pull an iPhone mistake and buy one before the massive price drop in a couple of months.) This column from The Age has an interesting commentary on the e-Book and on reading in general, including the unsurprising news that many Americans don't read but watch a lot of television. The writer doesn't mention people like Snuffles who like to read but only if there are pictures.

For another, rather pessimistic look at e-Books, see John Cleary's column from the Star Gazette.


And in other news, National Geographic reports discovery of a fossil scorpion the size of a crocodile. To this, we at The Sci Fi Catholic can only say, "Aaah! It's Them!"


I have to get off the computer and let Deej write this one--

According to Nicole Winfield with the Associated Press, Cardinal Walter Kasper told a meeting of cardinals that it's time for the Church to examine herself and find out what's she's doing wrong in areas like Latin America and Africa where Evangelical churches are growing while the Catholic Church is shrinking. I think we can find a clue to the problem in this little quote from Cardinal Walter Kasper: "Ecumenism is not an option but an obligation."

As this self-examination process begins, Cardinal Kasper should note that the Pentecostals and other Evangelicals who are disturbing him are not known for their ecumenical concerns, but for their determined evangelism. Believing themselves to be right and members of other sects to be wrong, they actively and aggressively seek converts, and so, naturally enough, they get them.


I'm in favor of this so-called "ecumenism," as long as it is properly understood. Proper ecumenism means that people of differing opinions can sit down together like adults and discuss their differences intelligently. But if we allow "ecumenism" to become a code word for "You do your thing and I do mine," we're in trouble. A religion that takes this tack is committing slow suicide.

Almost all of the world's major religions (Shinto and Hinduism being the only exceptions I can think of) believe themselves to have some important truth that others are lacking. Proselytism flows naturally out of such a belief; it is a form of courtesy and an expression of charity. I get quite annoyed with some of my fellow Catholics who are impatient when Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, or others show up on their doorsteps with literature. Those Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses believe themselves to have truth. Not to share it would be rude. Rather than getting angry at them, you should ask yourself, "Why am I not knocking on their doors?" And you should also take their arrival on your doorstep as an opportunity to share your own beliefs.

The article switches to Catholic relations with the Orthodox churches. Here's another telling quote: "Tensions between the two churches have been strained over Orthodox accusations that the Vatican is seeking converts on traditionally Orthodox territories, particularly in eastern Europe — charges that Rome denies."

No wonder we're losing people! If someone accuses us of trying to win converts, the answer should always be, "Damn straight." I don't remember Jesus saying anything about foregoing evangelism in order to maintain good relations with schismatics.

Now for just a moment I'm gonna go all freaky apocalyptic on you:

Religions that thrive and grow are robust ones that lay it out hard. Watering things down to get along with others may look like a good idea at the time, but in the end it proves devastating. Sometime in the near future, Western Civilization is going to collapse (it's happened before), and when it does, religions that survive will be strong ones. If the Catholic Church cannot be strong now, when things get bad, she will shrink and become marginalized, and that means the strong Evangelical groups that do survive will have no guiding light. Take a look at what happened with the Iraq invasion: Evangelicals who can keep cool heads in most circumstances were suddenly gung-ho about an immoral war because they have no sound moral or theological anchor. When stresses hit, they resort to situational ethics. If the Catholic Church cannot stand as a rock and try to guide its delinquent younger siblings, then following the imminent collapse of civilization, much of the world will be consumed in a mutual Evangelical-Islamist holy war that could potentially last centuries. The current attitude of get-alongism that plagues the Church, evidence of a profound decadence, is not a good sign for the future.

Okay, I'm done being freaky. I promise not to do that very often.
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