Sunday, April 16, 2006

John Neuhaus

I guess he represnets powerful interests, and so he gets a forum despite his mushy thinking.

The proper work of Catholic intellectuals, Neuhaus believes, is to reformulate the unchanging doctrines (the "deposit of faith") and the church's non-doctrinal teachings in the light of new experiences and insights. If they encounter difficulties, the problem lies not with the church but with themselves. "I think for myself not to come up with my own teaching," he writes, "but to make the Church's teaching my own." Accepting church authority on faith is necessary, he admits, but all thinking rests on some kind of prior faith: "The allegedly autonomous self who acknowledges no authority but himself is abjectly captive to the authority of a tradition of Enlightenment rationality that finally collapses into incoherence."...

"When sex asserts its own rights to pleasure and the satisfaction of needs," he writes, "pleasure and satisfaction are divorced from responsibility, the bond of marriage is loosened, promiscuity is made easier, disordered forms of sexual expression are declared normal and unintended new life is deemed expendable. Those who contend that there is a logical continuum from artificial contraception to abortion are right, I believe, but they are probably in a distinct minority among Catholics today."

As for homosexuality, he argues that the church rightly resists the "dehumanizing idea that one's core identity is determined by one's sexual desires." People who have same-sex relations, he says, should be thought of not as homosexuals but as sinners; a Christian's duty is to hate the sin and love the sinner.

How often does "sex" "assert a 'right'?" Who says one's "core identity" is "determined" by one's sexual desires? Make no mistake, he's pre-Enlightenment.

Also: it's Easter, and therefore time for the NY Times' obligatory magazine article on "Christianity."

[Larry Ross, PR guy for "evangelical" Christians] also has an eye for the odd coupling. He booked Rod Parsley, a flamboyant Charismatic Pentecostal and a staple of Christian television, including the Trinity Broadcasting Network (the world's largest Christian network), on "Dennis Miller" and "Larry King Live." A client known as Dino, a sort of Liberace in Christian circles who plays a crystal-covered piano, told me that Ross tried to get him onto "Jimmy Kimmel Live," the late-night talk show, during the holiday season (the two sides couldn't settle on a date). "Larry thought I might be off the wall enough," Dino said.

Perhaps the most intensive training that Ross offers is his "media and spokesperson" sessions. These can last as long as two days and usually include several mock interviews, which are taped. Ross encourages his clients to engage the media, but he wants to prepare them for worst-case encounters, so he administers tough questioning. To loosen clients up, he shows them an old "Bob Newhart" episode in which a talk-show host suddenly turns on Newhart. "It's one of the funniest things I've ever seen," Ross says. He advises clients to avoid ecclesiastical language when addressing the mainstream ("Somebody talks about the Holy Ghost or the Army of God — that sounds like a revolution and it's coming out of Iran," says Lawrence Swicegood, who has worked for Ross and DeMoss) and to use metaphors because they stick in people's minds. Toward the end of a session, Ross looses a "bulldog" interrogator, a role played these days by Giles Hudson, a former writer for the Associated Press, who poses questions ranging from financial queries to "Do homosexuals go to hell?" "Obviously not," Hudson says is a good response to this challenge. "Each person has their own relationship to Christ. People don't just go to hell because you're an alcoholic." Sometimes Ross and Hudson add a separate, ambush interview. After taking a "break" from a session with Promise Keepers, Ross's team confronted its president in the reception area, camera crew in tow.

It's a big sideshow to me.

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