Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sifting through the fluff

Read the book or watch the movie?  I'm sure whichever personality you are you would side very clearly one way or the other... As I googled the blogs out there, here are some of the responses I got...

"I much prefer to read, there is more detail and I use my imagination to "see". Reading is driving, watching movies is being a passenger."

"I watch the movies and read the books. If I read a book first, I try to keep an open mind about the movie because I realize that you cannot fit a 500 page book into 2 hours of film. Sometimes I am disappointed and then there are times when the movie is just as good as the book (I will never say better than the book).If I see a movie first and then I decide to read the book, it gives you so much more information and fills in the little cracks.BUT here is a question for you - Have you ever read a book that was based on a movie?"

"There are a number of reason why I find books superior in nearly every comparison.
1) A movie is based on its book and is often forced to leave a lot of the story and side plot out due to time constraints.
2) A movie forces the environment/characters... on you while the book allows you to create them in any way you see fit (assuming you have even the slightest capability to imagine)
3) Movies are generally dumbed down in order to appeal to the masses, while a book is written for a specific niche of readers. Very few authors will dumb down their books to make them more mainstream.

As a small note, I should say that watching a movie of a book I read actually feels fun if the movie is made well. I start anticipating the awesome events and feel great when they happen. I can't say the same the other way around.
I still really do love both. I prefer reading but I love watching movies too. Just do whichever you prefer."

So which is better?  Is it based on the opinion of each person, or is there really a right and wrong answer?  If you were to take the benefits of one and the benefits of the other, and cross compare them, would one be better than the other?  For me personally, I've never been much of a reader.  I made it through college thanks to "Cliff Notes".  The "just enough to pass" version was acceptable to me at the time, but when I think about it, I sure spent a lot of money on classes just to get that degree.  How much more would I have learned if I would have actually made the effort to do the reading?  It takes more effort, and it's so much more to absorb but it probably would have been worth it.  The basic concepts are great!  The basic concepts are real and factual and inspiring but did they bring in the whole picture?  How much did I miss by only sticking with the basic concepts? 

Tonight in our Systematic Theology class, I heard the Greek term "Diakrisis" which means sifting or to separate out.  It also means to discern or judge.  When I was thinking about this word, these two images came into my head...
I am still always trying to understand the connectedness and differences between Catholics and our protestant brothers and sisters, especially in respect to our core values, historical and theological beliefs.  When thinking about the idea of "Sifting" a clear distinction between the two came to mind... 
If a Catholic were to write their CORE VALUES - the things that COULD NOT be compromised and sifted, we'd come up with a list taken from our Apostles creed
1.  I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth,
2.  I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord 
3.  He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, & born of the Virgin Mary,
4.  He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
5.  He descended into Hell; & on the third day He arose again from the dead; 
6.  He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
7.  He shall come to judge the living and the dead.  
8.  I believe in the Holy Spirit,
9.  I believe in the Holy Catholic Church,
10.  I believe in the Communion of Saints,
11.  I believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. 

Some other key aspects that cannot really be compromised are:
12.  Sacred scripture was given to us as text that was inspired by the Holy Spirit

13.  Jesus fulfilled all revelation
14.  Jesus died for our salvation
15.  Salvation is through grace alone
16.  We should live life according to the Gospel. 
17.  The "Church" is the bride of Christ and is given to us as a means to further understand his revelation. 
18.  We should love, others, forgive quickly, treat everyone with dignity and be a servant of all.
19.  Peter the first Apostle chosen as Pope was given the gift of infability.  We look to our leadership to determine what it believes to be the meaning behind sacred scripture.
20.  Sacred tradition is human kinds expression of faith. 
21.  Grace flows from the experience of the Sacraments

Those I would say would sum up the majority of Catholic Core Values.  I just wrote those out based on my own thoughts or thoughts influenced by others I have learned from, so you're not going to find those anywhere in a textbook or online.  In a general statement, that's what I came up with. 

Now - time for the "extras".  I'll try to be brief here...
1.  The Rosary, divine chaplet, and other devotional prayers
2.  Liturgy of the hours, the angelus, vespers
3.  Adoration
4.  The Sacraments
5.  Stations of the Cross
6.  Eating meat on Fridays
7.  Apparitions
8.  Eucharistic Miracles
9.  Rites of different kinds
10.  Holy Water & incense
11.  Religious Holidays
12.  Liturgical services
13.  Hymns, organs, bells
14.  Wearing white for a baptism and first communion
15.  Genuflecting, kneeling, bowing

And the list could go on and on and on. 

NOW HERE'S WHAT I WANT YOU TO THINK OF... for the prospective of someone who has left the church, what would be the essentials?  I would guess the top 10 list would be somewhat identical to our top 10.  In fact, many of the next 10 would be about the same.  The interesting thing that happens is when you get down to the next 15, everything is basically tossed out.  When it comes to tradition - throw it out.  When it comes to saints - throw them out.  When it comes to pretty much anything that isn't in scripture - throw it out.  When it comes to something that makes logical sense but isn't proved by clearly stated by scripture - throw it out.  If science explains it, but it's not written that way in scripture - throw it out.  This is my general observation - specifically towards the non-denominational and fundamentalist churches is this:  We both have the same key ingredients.  We have the same "FUNDAMENTAL" core values.  If we were to sift out everything we have, and everything they have, we'd come out with just about the same things on top.  HOWEVER - instead of using all the "extra" stuff like the Catholics do, many of the other churches just throw it out. 

St. Augustine - St Thomas Aquinas - Ignatius - St. Chrysostom - St. John of Damascus - Gregory the Great - to those of personal revelations like St. Faustina, Theresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux.

Deep down, these guys have greatly shaped all Christians...  Their influence and the influence of the martyrs, and the first Christians that established Catholicism built a framework of understanding of what scripture actually means.  As discussed in today's class, the apostles including Paul - ALL thought Jesus was coming incredibly soon.  Everything was an immediate rush to tell everyone about what happened and get them ready for the second coming.  If you thought Jesus was coming next week, FORGET THE DETAILS!!!  Just preach the essentials!  In doing so, they lost or did not further explore some of Jesus' teachings.  The church fathers did not expand on what Jesus taught... They clarified.  The Popes don't develop a new teaching - they clarify what they believe to have already been revealed.  Saying the rosary isn't essential to our salvation but it's used to lead us closer to the Lord through reflecting on his birth, life, death, and Resurrection.  The stained glass and incense isn't there because it's mandatory to lead us to heaven - but they engage our senses of sight and smell to set the mood as sacred.  These things are different ways for the community to build their faith in unique and diverse ways.  They add to our experience of faith - not detract. 

I love the "extra".  I think it's always easier to strip away the extra and get down to the bare basics - but when you do so, I think you lose out on so much.  The details are what really makes being Catholic great!  But going back to my first thought... If you're not willing to read the book, you're probably missing out.  If all you're doing is reading the cliff notes to "meet the requirements" you're missing out and will never really know what it is like to take your faith to the next level.  If you're just waiting for the movie to come out, and that's what works for you - awesome!  Go by your ticket to be entertained.  Enjoy the experience!  Get to know your Lord through a perfectly acceptable way.  I approve of your way to faith.  The Church approves of your way to faith.  The Lord approves of your way to faith.  But know this - by excluding 2000 years of history - by excluding 2000 years of learning, developing and growing, and taking it to bible only is like going back to Henry Ford's Model T Car. It has the engine - it has the wheels - it has all the essential parts to make it a driving car... but there is a reason we have made adjustments.  There is a reason for man made tradition.  There is a reason for our structure, our sacraments, our diverse ways of prayer.  There is a reason we've made developments in our theology and going "Bible Only" to avoid threats of possibly being wrong would be taking steps backwards. 

Anyway - you do what's best for you...  I'm going to live my Christian identity through the fullness of the Catholic Church.  If you've been stuck reading the cliff notes, the only way to move out of "stagnant" is to make a little effort.  There's an entire world of faith out there if you're willing to make an investment...

Mark Knox


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