Just thinking out loud

Jesus created a church out of the most marginalized people in society, while opposing to the end the entrenched civic and religious structures that would eventually collude to kill him. We find Jesus today, as with yesterday, among the most marginalized people in our midst. And for those of us who find ourselves among the most powerful civic and religious structures should never assume that the just God of the powerless is smiling down in assent to whatever we do.

Where does Jesus show up today? Who’s with him? And what is he saying to me, in the face of all of my squandered privilege?

Speak, Holy One!! I am listening as best I am able, but I do not often hear your voice over the calamity of my life.

Our world is careening into chaos, there is brokenness and suffering wherever people abide, and the most compelling religious discourse throughout America is whether or not two dudes can get married?? What utter fools we are.

Speak, Holy One!! I cannot say if we are listening, but we need your living Word.

When did the church of the “least of these” get fancy projector screens and glorious organs and gorgeous pianos and professional bands and huge gymnasiums and spacious parking lots and unnatural waterfalls and ornate plates and solid silver chalices and individually packaged McEucharists and high pulpits and low taxes? But more importantly, did we give up anything in return?


12 Responses to “Just thinking out loud”

  1. Cindi Knox Says:

    What amazes me is how many still say the Christian church in the USA is persecuted. Chuck Colson frames marriage equality as an infringement on religious freedom, using Catholic Charities as an example. Does that look anything like what the early church faced? Or have Christians in the USA become crybabies who throw a tantrum any time the rest of the USA doesn’t conform to their vision?

    American Christianity has gotten as bloated and lethargic as Americans in general have. Sure, there are a few who are fit and energetic, but most (I include myself here) have become soft, fond of our comforts, and envious of those who have greater comforts. Many of us know we should consume less and get out and be more active, but we just don’t feel we have the energy for it.

    We need an fitness program for communities of faith: something that will make us leaner and more energetic. Maybe I’ll write on that.

  2. Tom Ryberg Says:

    “We need an fitness program for communities of faith: something that will make us leaner and more energetic. Maybe I’ll write on that.”

    Please do. Let me know what you come up with.

    Bloated, Christian lethargy. Well put.

  3. Fran Says:

    My head hurts. But you knew that already.

    I am having a Matthew 23 1-4 kind of moment for this juridical and uncharitable nonsense.

    It is always great to connect with you on matters of faith and culture.

  4. donniedarko Says:

    I don’t know how I encountered this blog, maybe it was the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but there are several errors above that are irreconcilable with the true teachings of Christ. First of all Jesus Christ established ONE church–the Roman Catholic Church (Matt 16:18). The majority of outspoken “religious right” belong to protestant denominations which broke away from the church Christ established around 400 years ago.

    The Church’s actual teaching on “same sex attraction” is that it is not intrinsically sinful. It is acting on those urges which qualifies as mortal sin. If you die in a state of mortal sin you suffer eternal separation from God. If you think that’s biased toward people with SSA, I would argue that it is far easier to commit mortal sin as a heterosexual. Masturbation is mortal. Entertaining lustful thoughts is mortal. Premarital sex is mortal. Contraception within marriage is mortal (all of the protestant reformers believed this). Withdrawal would be considered a form of birth control. All of these teachings have been in place for 2,000 years.

    No Catholic or “Christian” in good conscience can vote for a policy that increases the likelyhood that other souls, loved by God, will end up in hell, a place of eternal torment.

    The Catholic Church is being severely marginalized today. This is a form of persecution. Catholic Charities was forced to close down in MASS because of gay activists. This increases the abortion rate. The church is facing numerous scandals involving homosexual pedophiles posing as priests; granted not all homosexuals are pedophiles, but the ones who infiltrated the church were.

    If you reject the infallible (on faith and morals only) teachings of the Church founded by Jesus Christ, the same church that was built on the blood of 11 out of 12 of the apostles, then you are a modern day Judas and reject Christ himself…which can run a high risk of eternal damnation. Do so at your own peril, but respect my right to eternal life.

    For more information on what the Church actually teaches visit: http://www.catholicanswers.com

  5. Tom Ryberg Says:


    Hey, welcome. Thanks for taking the time to speak your mind.

    I’m not sure if you came here to promote your particular view of Catholicism or to do battle with straw men, but your comment doesn’t seem to have much to do with the topic at hand. In this forum, I have not yet attacked Roman Catholicism, so I’m not sure why you feel the need to be so defensive.

    Having said that, this is as good an opportunity as any to unequivocally reject and denounce your Catholic exclusivism. It is God – not humans, not the church – that is infallible. For humans to claim infallibility in our own institutions, no matter how great they are, is to make idols of our own understanding. Meanwhile, however much we think we know, God transcends this.

    There are many things you’ve raised that I disagree with. But most seem to stem from this one assumption of yours, that your church (along with its doctrines, teachings, and leaders) conflates with Jesus Christ, and is therefore infallible. This is not so. If we can’t agree on this primary premise, there seems little sense in arguing over all the points which follow from this assumption.

    In peace,

  6. donniedarko Says:

    I first want to commend you on allowing my opinion on your blog. Kudos to free speech. You believe you have not attacked Roman Catholicism…and this is the problem. Your language (“speak oh holy one!!) is patronizing and blasphemous. I was also deeply offended by the term “McEucharist” because Catholics believe in something called transubstantiation; which means that God is actually present in the host after the priest blesses it during the holy sacrifice of the mass. This was universally believed by the church even after the great east/west schism…so you also have offended eastern orthodox christians. The earliest documentation of this belief is justin martyrs 66th chapter of his apology. I won’t even bother to quote scripture that supports it.

    We do agree on something. You said, “Jesus created a church out of the most marginalized people in society”. Well, actually that’s not entirely accurate-it’s a half truth. There were slaves in the Roman Empire who were “more marginalized” than the apostles. Christians became marginalized after Nero started a fire in Rome and ushered in 300 years of christian persecution up until the edict of milan in 313.

    But you are correct, JESUS CREATED A CHURCH. Is it safe to assume that you believe that Jesus created YOUR church? If so, then you believe that the 30,000+ other denominations of christianity are wrong and not founded by Christ? Why should readers of your blog give you any sort of credibility whatsoever; why should we believe that your own subjective interpretation of scripture is correct and that you are speaking for Jesus?

    I don’t know what you’ve been told, but my “particular view of Catholicism” is what the church teaches and is what is believed by the 2 billion people in my religion. It is all recorded in something called the Catechism of the Catholic faith that is available on the vatican website. I’m often accused of arrogance in my posts, but the reality is, I’m pretty informed and I probably know more about scripture/church history/logical fallacies than you do, while you may exceed my knowledge in other areas.

    Since you mentioned the “strawman” fallacy, I’d like to point out that you gave a perfect example of it….”It is God – not humans, not the church – that is infallible.” Catholics believe that God is infallible, but that He is present in, and guides the church, in the form of the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit guides the church on matters of faith and morals, the church is infallible.

    In short, you are extremely offensive. If you support gay marriage fine, but please stop using the holy name of Jesus in your rants, or insinuating that He some how supports your twisted views.

  7. Tom Ryberg Says:


    First, you are welcome to leave comments here that are not abusive. I find your exclusivist statements annoying and I don’t appreciate your attitude of entitlement and condemnation, but I’ve only ever blocked one commenter. Free speech and open communication is very important.

    Here’s the basic problem as I see it. You do not possess the ownership over the stuff that offends you when I speak about it differently than you. For example, you do not own the universal meaning of the word ‘Eucharist.’ Your exclusivist posture leads you to think that by me using the word “McEucharist” I am disparaging the Catholic institution of the Eucharist, when in fact, there are other, non-Catholic ideas about the Eucharist that, when referenced, are not intended to speak to Catholic Eucharist theology. You do not possess ownership over all uses of the word “Eucharist,” so your offense at that which is outside your purview seems pretty fruitless to me.

    You similarly do not, I’m sorry to tell you, possess sole ownership over the word and concept of “church,” nor the word and concept of “Jesus.”

    I am not sure why you are seeking out the blogs of non-Catholics and then expressing offense at their non-Catholicism. That seems a little circular to me (or to crib from Jon Stewart, “circle-jerkular“). Additionally, please stop acting as if you and the Roman Catholic church are beyond reproach. I don’t know you, but I’m reasonably sure you aren’t the risen Christ – and neither are your leaders in Rome, friend. From the RC’s exclusivist theology to the arrogance of its leaders (and some of its adherents, donniedarko) to the child abuse and then blame-shifting of its officiants, to last week’s comparison of women’s ordination to pedophilia, there is much to be offended about if one so chooses. So let’s not get too bent out of shape about my use of the word “McEucharist.”

    Finally, you write:

    Catholics believe that God is infallible, but that He is present in, and guides the church, in the form of the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit guides the church on matters of faith and morals, the church is infallible.

    I agree that God is infallible, and that God is present in and guides the church in the form of the Holy Spirit. But I disagree that “because the Holy Spirit guides the church on matters of faith and morals, the church is infallible.” (By “church,” I mean the people who comprise the church universal, not just the Catholic church or the United Church of Christ.) The church is comprised of very fallible people, and these same, fallible people are the ones who must discern God’s blessed, infallible will. These same, fallible people are very capable of falling into sinful and abusive behavior — while still participating in all levels of church leadership and decision-making. The church is therefore quite fallible, as we see time and time again, in various ways, throughout history.

    That is because the church is people, guided by God. The church is not, in and of itself, God. To conflate the two becomes idolatry.

    Peace to you,

  8. donniedarko Says:

    I should have said, “Because the Holy Spirit is infallible and guides the church on matters of faith and morals, the church (roman catholic) is infallible on faith and morals.” I hope that makes it more clear. Secondly, the only “person” in the church that is able to make an infallible proclamation is the Pope. This doesn’t mean that he isn’t capable of sin, or is somehow better than us. He can only do this because he is appointed by God to lead the church established by Christ, and when he does so (rarely happens since the word of God never changes, but culture does) it is done “ex-cathedra” which means “from the chair”. You must first understand that which you wish to criticize and it is not evident that you do, since you didn’t appear to know this.

    How is exactly is my church exclusive? Care to qualify that? Jesus says that He will “not reject anyone who comes to him” and the church doesn’t refuse people membership unless they willingly and publicly reject the teachings of Christ like you are doing. Maybe you meant to say that Christ is “exclusivist”? He tends to be exclusive to the poor, the meek, and the humble. We are told that no unclean thing will enter into heaven.

    The Catholic church does have fallible people in it. I never said otherwise. The majority of Catholics will most likely end up in hell, including a few popes, and the majority of priests and bishops. This “inconvenient truth” is evident in from scripture, the sermon of St.Leonard, and the Greek Church Father St. John Chrysostom, “the road to hell is paved with the skulls of priests and the bones of bishops”.

    You still haven’t answered any of my questions. I find it odd that you are only capable of vague unsubstantiated blank statements and haven’t referenced a single academic or authoritative source to back up your claims, unless you somehow count Jon Stewart. Since you did reference a comedian, it makes me wonder if your blog is just a big parody of Christianity, and if any rational person should really take you seriously. I honestly can’t tell.

    Your Church was founded in 1957 and has been in existence for 53 years. Do you believe Christ established his one true church 1957 years later? Do you, Tom, a fallible human being, have the exclusive, authoritative, understanding of the teachings of the risen Christ? If so, by what authority? Is your assertion, that the Roman Catholic church is not infallible, infallible? If you believe that Scripture is inspired, are multiple interpretations of it all equally valid, or is there one absolute meaning to it all? Is everyone free to interpret the word of God as they see fit?

    I found your blog by accident, and was subsequently offended because it is a mockery of Christianity. Just like ethnic minorities don’t “possess ownership” of racial slurs neither do I “possess ownership” of Catholic terminology, but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t offensive. Because the Eucharist was a Catholic ritual that dates back to the last supper and is a commandment of Christ himself (“do this in memory of me”) that was also adopted by many protestant reformers, I’m sure you have succeeded in offending a whole plethora of Christians; not just myself. I’d highly recommend an apology, but pride is a powerful vice. It was, after all, the reason for the fall of the angels. Keep in mind that most Christian practices are adaptations of 1,600 years of Roman Catholic practice. If it weren’t for the Catholic Church, you wouldn’t have the New Testament, as the first Bible was compiled by the Church via St.Jerome. It was transcribed into Latin and was known as “the vulgate”. Something to consider before you label something as “outside my purview”.
    Best of luck to you,

  9. Tom Ryberg Says:

    You’ve given me much to respond to, donniedarko. I’ll do what I can as I have the time.

    2 quick things:

    First, I didn’t realize that your questions were in earnest, rather than rhetorical. I apologize for not attending to them before, nor your subsequent questions now. I will address them soon.

    Second, I do apologize — not for my theological perspective, which you will doubtlessly find offensive no matter how I write about it — but for not taking you seriously when you first expressed being “deeply offended” by my words here. My initial responses were insensitive to the reality of your hurt feelings, and I do apologize for that. I regret very much that you and I will likely not be able to resolve this difference, as not only will I not remove that which I have written that offends you, but I will continue to write what I believe is true according to the teachings of my church, and the living presence of the triune God in my life. I will not begin to censor myself according to the teachings of a tradition that for nearly 500 years has not been my own.

    In my next comment (probably tomorrow), I will attend to your questions.

    In peace,

  10. The offense inherent in staking a claim « Reflections on faith, politics, and society. Says:

    […] Comments Tom Ryberg on Just thinking out louddonniedarko on Just thinking out loudTom Ryberg on Just thinking out louddonniedarko on […]

  11. Fran Rossi Szpylczyn Says:

    Not really sure where to begin, says I, Roman Catholic friend to you and this blog, but I shall try.

    I guess the first thing I want to point to is a blogpost by Bishop Alan Wilson, an Anglican bishop from the UK. He posted about equity, justice and the psalms yesterday and I quote him, quoting someone else:

    “If, quoting Michael Ramsey, “The Church exists that Christ may reign,” our life should be characterised not by weird exceptionalism, but intentional striving for equity and justice. What equity means pragmatically differs from age to age. However the challenge remains constant.”

    Weird exceptionalism indeeed.

    I would have to say that I am not offended by your use of McEucharist because I do not think that you refer to my own interpretation of it. I know I am opening myself to charges of falling into relativism here. So be it.

    As for justice and equity, you know Tom, that we are more alike than not. I would venture to say, after re-reading this post today, that there really needs to be (and I think you have) emphasis on the structures that Jesus opposed and challenged. All were welcome at the table. We are all to be challenged in some way as we come to the table… Not tortured or interrogated, but challenged. We are asked to hold nothing back; even in justice that can be a challenge.

    Interestingly enough I was invited to post an essay at a more conservative RC forum than I would expect to be invited to, I was published there just today. The topic is a weeklong online symposium about the future of the Church. I wrote that the future of the RC Church was in each other. We can’t, which I would like to remind my co-religionist, Donniedarko, re-member the Body of Christ by dismembering the same.

    Pax et bonum. Dominus vobiscum.

  12. The offense inherent in staking a claim « Reflections of Ryberg Says:

    […] the other hand, one of the things that donniedarko is upset about is that I am invoking the name of Jesus to defend gay people.  […]

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