I Won’t Eat Tripe…Especially the Religious Kind: An Encounter on a Social Networking site

I’m at home on leave dealing with some unexpected family concerns which will work out but necessitate a couple of days off.  As a result I am trying to make the best of things working around the house and watching the first of today’s MLB Divisional Series games between the Phillies and the Rockies, although the Rockies are looking more like crushed gravel right now.  But As I take this little break I digress.

Wanting to charitable and not wanting to appear to an arrogant condescending ass of oedipal tendencies and questionable parentage, I have to say that I did just that on a social networking site today. Once again it was after making a correct comment about a religious article that a friend posted.  Another friend, coincidently another Iraq vet and fellow Priest added to my comment. Both of us pointed out the logical and historical problems with the article and I was a bit coarser in my view of the author who on his web page bio calls himself “a prophetic voice.”  I think I said that when I read that I knew that he was full of rhymes with hit.  I’m not going into the gory details because I don’t feel like it right now.  What I will say is that it dealt with this man’s hyper-individualist view of the Christian faith in something that he calls “reimagining church.”  Actually the point is to him that we don’t need church we just need Jesus.   No I agree that we all probably need Jesus especially me even if he is no help with hitting a curve ball.  However the Christian faith is much more than me and Jesus, or you and Jesus or even that particular author and Jesus. It’s actually more about the relationship of “us” and the Holy Trinity, which if I recall somewhere reading includes the Father, the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit.…it is both individual and community, much like a baseball team.  What I am going to do is discuss a comment that another person put on the site after us.

Both of us are probably overly educated intellectuals and if I recall something from the Conservative Bible movement that intellectuals are like the liberal spawn of Satan.  Both of us have also discovered the richness of the faith inadvertently in a Southern Baptist Seminary.   Maybe we studied a bit too hard?  Whatever, the response to our critique of the author of the article was priceless and actually kind of made my day.

The exchange is funny and obnoxious enough to post here:

Padre Steve: This is not church or community…it is yet another “me and Jesus” deal. When somebody’s bio describes them as “A prophetic voice” I know that they are full of….

Padre David: The Church is relationship/community…relationship with Christ and with His people. To pretend that it is Him and only Him is to deny much of what “Him” said. We are is Body. It is Christ who established “it”, His Church.

Bertha (name changed not to humiliate the guilty): Steven @ David……is it? really? have you gone beyond the “christian” relationship/ community to know for sure? how far have you studied to know, to really know that what you know is so true that there’s no other truth? that this you know as truth is truth? uhmmmmm interesting people. WOW!

Padre Steve: Bertha, I hate to sound uncharitable but I can be an ass. Just because you’re an ignorant idiot doesn’t mean that you need to attack two people who actually have some real knowledge of the faith and history as opposed to this numb-skull who posits himself as a ‘prophetic voice.” It’s easy to be a self taught experiential expert on things, you don’t have to be accountable to anyone. David and I on the other hand live and work in an ecumenical and inter-religious world that you cannot fathom. Most of the people we work with and love you would not consider Christians; in fact many are not, especially those Jews and Moslems. But they are part of our flock. So get out of our face when we make observations on the Prophet Frank. We don’t claim to have the truth, but we do that since the Apostles it has been faithfully passed down, even when those doing it were idiots. Like I said I can be an ass and proved it here. You want to play in the big leagues you got to do better than that.

Padre David: Studied? Perhaps too much, if there is such a thing. Gone outside the community? As Steve said, we serve all kinds, all those created in His image–regardless of where they are in there faith at the moment or in the future. And yes, loving those who don’t yet have a clue; as God loves us. Peace.

Padre Steve: David, God’s humble and wonderful servant, you are just so much nicer than me. I just have such hard time not acting as an oedipal man of questionable parentage…

Padre David: Thank you for the complement. I think we make a good team. Good Cop/Bad Cop. It is easier to be nice following someone speaking passionately from their heart.

Padre Steve: So I’m just passionate and speaking from the heart and not an arrogant ass of oedipal tendencies and questionable parentage?

Padre David: All of the above are not mutually exclusive 🙂

Later Bertha continued: wow guys all I did was ask questions b/C I am searching for truth, I never said I agreed or disapproved, I read it you made a comment and I ask some questions……….thanks for the “positive” feedback you proved my point. If asking questions makes an ignorant______ then all I can say to you once again is WOW!

And then Bertha added:  @ Steven AND you didn’t answer one of my questions you cussed me out like a good “christain” does.

Padre Steve: Bertha, I compliment you for searching. However, you were pretty snarky in response to our comments about the Prophet Frank. I see the little @ in front of my name and I wonder just what you mean and had you simply asked nicely. “Hey I saw your criticism of the Prophet Frank and wonder what’s up with that?” and you might get some answers rather than sarcasm. Chalk my snarkyness up to seeing lots of people getting deceived by guys like this as well as the reaction to your sarcasm with the accusatory nature of your questions and the WOW! at the end. Read your questions and see if someone hit you that way what you would think. BTW Padre David and the both have advanced degrees requiring years of study in theology and ministry. We have also been dealing with life and death in the practice of ministry to God’s people, be they Christians, Jews, Moslems, Wiccans or even Dodgers fans for in my case about 20 years. By the way I didn’t “cuss you out” I gave an observation of how you sounded. I probably should have said “you sound like an ignorant idiot” less personal that way. Your sarcasm about me cussing you out like a “good Christian” a claim which I make no claim to be is also kind of snarky. If you want to ask nicely what I believe I will reply in kind. You attacked Padre David more than me as he pointed out something absolutely essential to the Christian faith. The Prophet Frank will make you feel good. Guys like Padre David and me will make you think and maybe just possibly help you in your journey, which I hope you find what you are looking for. So as they said when I was your age, Peace….

Bertha: LoL giving me your resume still doesn’t answer my questions but peace to you to Steven and Padre David.

Padre Steve: Bertha, Here’s the deal. I really am trying to figure out what you are seeking. Here’s why. I saw that you liked the link about the Prophet Frank. My criticism has nothing to do with you liking or disliking what he wrote. My point is that the Prophet Frank in the things he is writing is talking a lot about Jesus by interpreting the Gospel through a very narrow personal experiential hermeneutic (hermeneutic is the interpretation of Scripture.) When you do what he does you end up with a faith more reflective of you than Jesus. The Christian life and theology is done in community and takes place over 2000 years of the church…which does not need to be “re-imagined.” The Prophet Frank uses the humanness of the people of God against them. Now how do I know this. The Gospel is “Incarnational” because far from shunning humanity Jesus took on human flesh, to live and die as one of us to reconcile the world to God. Fully God and fully human Jesus through his incarnation, life death and resurrection reconciled God to humanity. We know this through the Canon of Scripture in the Old and New Testaments. Second we understand through the teaching of the Apostles and their successors. Third we understand through the lived out faith of the church in the Ecumenical Councils and Creeds, the faith of the Martyrs and all who served Christ in the Church. We know it through the frailty and sometimes the ugliness of God’s people who live in a world in need of God’s love. How do you find this? You study the Bible in the community of the faithful, you read the early Church fathers, you find out what the Church actually believed back within the first couple of hundred years of it being birthed and through the richness of the Creeds and the lives of God’s people, sometimes referred to as the Saints. So how do I know what I know? First through the witness of people who were willing to challenge me and help deepen my faith. Second and more importantly nothing I believe is something that I re-invented or imagined. It is the testimony of the 2000 years of Christianity as well as the people of
Israel. It is also enriched by the experience and faith of those who are not Christians. Some of my most profound experiences include spending time dialoguing with Iraqi and Jordanian military officers about what our faiths have in common without trying to prove who was right. The problem with the Prophet Frank and others like him as they are doing this in isolation without any depth of theological, philosophical or historical training that allows them to do this in real community which in effect just makes it their opinion based on a very limited experience and understanding of the faith which ultimately falls apart leaving their followers disappointed. I hope this is some answer to your questions. When I act like an ass to make a point it is always for a reason. Thus I encourage your journey and do hope that you will find what you are looking for. Please feel free to contact me or Padre David any time. Peace, Steve+

So all that being in the mix I was a bit of an ass, but it was a nice break from the present reality, with of course the exception of baseball which the Phillies as I mentioned made  gravel out of the Rockies with Cliff Lee pitching a complete game as the Phillies who won the game 5-1 and the Yankees dominating the Twins at the new Yankee Stadium.

So anyway, I have seen my share of tripe peddled by folks who claim to be prophets.  Real prophets don’t need to tell everyone that they are prophets.  People know it because they tell the truth, especially when it won’t earn them a buck, and real prophets tend not to be popular because they dig at us.  Likewise real prophets try to keep the message central and not them. Thus when I see someone posits (God I like that word) to be a prophetic voice I get a tad suspicious and actually take a little time to read what the guy is saying.  It’s my view that those who think they are prophets are playing with fire and often destroying the lives of God’s people who wait for what God is saying through them rather than seeking it themselves or taking stock of 2000 years of the Christian faith.  It is people like Bertha who pay the price in the long run.  The Tripe salesmen, often claiming to have a “new revelation” or special knowledge that runs contrary to 2000 years of Christian teaching prey open people like Bertha and I have hit the point in life where I will throw the bull pucky flag when I see it.  I refuse to buy tripe especially by those who prey upon God’s people, especially those like Bertha who are seeking God, faith and answers.

As for me I understand that Christians and the Church exist in a world where we have faith but seek understanding, which for me is found in the Scriptures, Sacred Tradition and Reason.

Well this has been interesting, the Los Angeles and St Louis are in the 7th inning so I shall end here.

Peace, Padre Steve+

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