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Friday, May 10 2002

Dogmas II

The subject really is dogmas, not the sex abuse scandal now plaguing Roman Catholicism; the scandal news is handy to illustrate the importance of dogmas and how dogmas can force courses of action upon those who hold them. Varied definitions of "religion" are used, which I find acceptable; I've been known to refer to "NFL Fever" as a "religion" and have written often about American civil religion, on which subject there have been books and innumerable scholarly studies done, though it's more of an amorphous conception or set of people's observations rather than an organized spiritual community.

But in the classical sense, religions—spiritual communitieslike Catholicism, Protestantism, Orthodoxy, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism, and Buddhism must have dogmas if they're to be meaningful as religions. And I have to separate Christianity into three families here because each has some dogmas that the others reject, something Christians have in common with Judaism, Islam, and probably all the others (for example, to some Mormons, I've heard, polygamy is dogma, while to most others, the opposite is dogmatically taught).

Generally, in Protestantism dogma is derived from the Bible, "only Scripture," as Luther, Calvin, Wesley and their followers taught. If something is held to be true or a principle of behavior inor clearly deducted fromHoly Scripture, it becomes dogma (maybe some time again we can discuss whether former President Clinton should be considered a Protestant ultra-fundamentalista biblical literalist—or a liberal for his interpretations of adultery and abortion [and yes, I'm kidding!]).

In Catholicism, dogma is derived from both Scriptures and the tradition of the church, with the extra condition that tradition can evolve, so that doctrines not held in the early church, such as Papal infallibility and the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary could become dogmas as recently as the 19th century. In Orthodox Christianity as in orthodox Judaism, dogma also rests on Scripture and tradition of the faith, but they can never be contradictory to each other or within themselves.

NOW we can proceed, on Tuesday, to the discussion of whether and how Catholic dogmatic teachings regarding an unmarried priesthood and artificial birth control (perhaps also on divorce/annulment) contribute to the current state of affairs.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Know your people

A small-town prosecuting attorney called his first witness—a grandmotherly, elderly woman—to the stand in a trial.

He approached her and asked, "Mrs. Jones, do you know me?"

She responded, "Why, yes, I do know you Mr. Williams. I've known you since you were a young boy. And frankly, you've been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat on your wife, you manipulate people and talk about them behind their backs. You think you're a rising big shot when you haven't the brains to realize you never will amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I know you."

The lawyer was stunned. Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked, "Mrs. Williams, do you know the defense attorney?"

She again replied, "Why, yes I do. I've known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster, too. I used to baby-sit him for his parents. And he, too, has been a real disappointment to me. He's lazy, bigoted, he has a drinking problem. The man can't
build a normal relationship with anyone and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. Yes, I know him."

The defense attorney was also surprised and shocked.

At this point, the judge brought the courtroom to silence and called both counselors to the bench. In a very quiet voice, he said with menace, "If either of you asks her if she
knows me, you'll be jailed for contempt!
"

—Sent by Mike Harrison

Thought for the day

Next to power without honor, the most dangerous thing in the world is power without humor.

Unknown

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