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Pope Document Day +1

posted by David Kuo

A day after the hubbub. A few thoughts:
We live in a day and age where Christians of every kind need to understand that their theological statements are more than theology, they are evangelism. To a world conditioned to think of Christians as politically rigid, morally judgmental, and generally dull, every theological statement or policy shift or clarification that smells of division or discrimination or oppression will be seen divisive, discriminatory or oppressive…if not all three.
This may not be fair but as an old friend says, “Fair is a place where men in overalls throw cow chips for distance.”
This is a reality of our information age.
Before anyone gets out of whack consider this – no one was more attentive to his marketing and the marketing of his message than Jesus. He understood his day, his culture, the sensitivities, and the right way to communicate his message. Why should Christians today have to be any less sensitive to how their faith is viewed.
Some have railed against the media for misinterpreting the document, for not being sufficiently well steeped in Catholic theology to put the document into context of other statements. Instead of being angry, let this serve as a lesson to all church leaders that when they issue major (or minor) statements they do so in a way that is easily understandable and easily digestible recognizing the demands on already strung out reporters who have to meet multiple urgent deadlines.
It is incumbent upon the faithful to make their faith as understandable and approachable as possible to a world sometimes confused and scared by it.



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Del Allan

posted July 12, 2007 at 6:46 am


David: You have a responsibility to, at the very least, read and understand what you are reporting on before you perpetuate misinformation. You have lost most of your credibility by not reading a document and then telling people how offended you were by the document. Yours is truly poor journalism.



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John

posted July 12, 2007 at 8:47 am


Before anyone gets out of whack consider this – no one was more attentive to his marketing and the marketing of his message than Jesus. He understood his day, his culture, the sensitivities, and the right way to communicate his message.
Well, don’t forget that the reports of Jesus’s marketing efforts have had centuries of good copy-editing.



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Mark

posted July 12, 2007 at 8:54 am


David – It pains me to say this but I agree with Del Allan. The letter published on Tuesday in no way said that Non-Catholics were ” going to hell” or any such nonsense. It also re-affirmed the value of Non-Catholic denominations. The media totally overreacted to small ” sound bites” taken totally out of context. When I actually read the letter in it’s entirety I was struck by how different the reality was as compared to the media bias. As far as your point on Church PR. Maybe that says as much as needs to be known about how ridiculous our priorities are today. You think the Church should tailor their statements for ” Political Correctness” instead of “Theological Correctness”.



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Doug

posted July 12, 2007 at 9:19 am


Whether or not the non-catholics going to hell comment was fair, we don’t use theology to make God who He is, we use theology to tell ourselves and others who God is. The idea that timing and context are irrelevant to statements from any ecclesiastical source is silly.
It is also the case that religious leaders don’t make statements of eternal truth eternally. There is usually a secular purpose behind each and it’s fair to question the motive, purpose and accomplishment.



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David Kuo

posted July 12, 2007 at 9:39 am


I accept all criticism – always have. And I appreciate it. But if you read what I wrote I did not say the Pope said that. I said “IF” it was true. It turns out that isn’t the case. I am grateful for that. What remains true, however, is that the entire controversy could have easily been avoided had the Vatican simply included a “Q&A” or some such thing with the document anticipating the concerns that might have been raised.
This is not about a need to “tailor statements for ‘Political Correctnes'” – it is about understanding that in our information age things need to be clear.



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Dino

posted July 12, 2007 at 11:01 am


David-
I don’t think your characterization of what you said is entirely fair. Before your “if” you said:
My friend Rod Dreher is right – this is not a theological stunner.
It may be worse.
At a time when the Christian church faces extraordinary opportunity and extraordinary peril, it appears the pope has decided to fiddle in matters of minutia.
Why is it necessary to slap protestant demoninations across the face? Why is it necessary to belittle their churches and their history and their love for Christ?
This feels like the equivalent of President Bush….
If the early articles about the decree are accurate….”

Is sum, you rail against what the Pope allegedly said and then acknowledge that you’re not even doing it based on personal knowledge, just what others have said.
It’s ironic that the point was supposed to be that one should be careful about what one says.



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Patrick

posted July 12, 2007 at 11:12 am


I thought the document was very clear, and it DID include a Q&A.
I don’t buy that the media were on tight deadlines or found it too complicated. It wasn’t very long, the Vatican has plenty of people who can answer questions, and any reporter who covers that beat ought to at least be reasonably familiar with Catholic belief. There was nothing new here. This tells me the reporters and/or their editors didn’t want to get the story right, or just didn’t care.
The point you are missing, David, is that it doesn’t matter what the Pope says or how he says it. It WILL be misreported and distorted by people who have their own agendas. He could avoid this, I suppose, if he just never said anything about anything. Fortunately, we have a Pope who speaks the truth because he knows the world needs to hear it. You admire John Edwards for doing this despite the criticism he gets. Why no one else?
I’m reminded of John 6, when Christ said He is the Bread of Life. We are told that many of the disciples turned away and left because of His words. He had already explained himself at great length and some people still didn’t get it. We do not see Christ chasing after them, saying “Guys, wait! Let me clarify! My PR guy is right here!” He taught His lesson and then allowed people to choose. That is, I think, what Pope Benedict tries to do.



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Elizabeth

posted July 12, 2007 at 12:21 pm


David,
Please don’t try to squirm away from your own responsibility – this is your Blog and the buck stop’s with you. You’re blaming it on everyone BUT yourself. Saying “you’re grateful it’s not true”, should really be “I’m sorry for posting erroneous information without fully checking the facts”….that would be much more genuine.



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David Kuo

posted July 12, 2007 at 1:23 pm


Dino – excellent point…really great point. It is the ultimate irony that I did exactly what I say that folks shouldn’t do.
Elizabeth – No, I’m not blaming anyone but me. I said what I said. I stand by what I said. I am very, very glad I was wrong about parts of it.



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Gregory Popcak

posted July 12, 2007 at 3:04 pm


David,
As I read it, the comboxitariat did not so much rail against, “the media” as they did against, well, YOU for making unfounded and ignorant comments about a document you had not read.
Blogging lends itself to a temptation to impulsiveness. Don’t blame the Vatican for being opaque when the actual document is as plain as the nose on your face. You gave in to the blogger’s cardinal sin, you engaged your index finger to press the “post” button before engaging your brain. That’s not the Vatican’s fault. Just be a man and say, “I blew it. Sorry guys.”
Instead, you say, “I stand by whatI said”, which reads as if you are saying, “I stand by my ignorance.”
Well, then, good for you, I guess.



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aquaman

posted July 12, 2007 at 3:40 pm


Protestant denominations should immediately suspend formal, ecumenical ties with the Roman Church. By all means, we should continue to work locally with our brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church, but formal dialogue with the Vatican simply provides Benedict and his henchmen with moderate window dressing to cover their reactionary attempts to reverse key Vatican II reforms.



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Jillian

posted July 12, 2007 at 4:19 pm


I have to disagree about Jesus’s message and ‘marketing’ and ‘communicating’. His example, his compelling personal life and complete willingness to be measured to Scripture was the root of his appeal. Reformulating Christianity into the practices and categories of late 20th century American corporate business model is like watching a sunrise on TV- the medium and method is inherently incapable of conveying what is truly and fundamentally compelling. Collectively we can share the fiction that it works well enough for a while- it requires that we keep the bar of authenticity low enough. But in time, one by one we either go look for a better ‘TV set’ (i.e. a better megachurch and preacher, for example) for a somewhat stronger, but still limited, experience of the light of the Divine. Or we decide the medium/mediation imposes intolerable limitations and search out the experience itself.
(In my view that is what this blog is at bottom about- the limitations of the existing techniques and thought and expectations in contemporary American Christianity.)



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Epiphany Downtown

posted July 12, 2007 at 7:41 pm


John(at 8:47 a.m.): “the reports of Jesus’s marketing efforts have
had centuries of good copy-editing.” Indeed they have! Thanks for
brightening the day of a behind-the-scenes career editor. (And on
a more serious note, many thoughtful comments here about reading
original source materials.)



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canucklehead

posted July 13, 2007 at 1:19 am


I believe what America needs today is a good ol’ heretic burning and you, David Kuo, are hereby called to the stake. By the power invested in me by, uh, well, nobody really, I nevertheless invite all regular readers of Mr. Kuo’s blog to take up a faggot (or two) and assemble at the base of the Washington monument in good ol’ D.C. as soon as you can get there.
We intend to give new meaning to Graham Kendrick’s marvelous song, “Shine, Jesus, Shine.” When we get to the part where it says, “Blaze, Spirit, Blaze” you know what to do, gang.
Refreshments will be served.



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Ken Herfurth

posted July 13, 2007 at 12:08 pm


Wow! David demonstrates his ignorance again. His theological understanding of Jesus concern with marketing his message correctly clearly mis-reads the gospels. After all, Christ message angered a lot of people (David, did you forget he was crucified for his teachings).
In addition, the press, when reporting on religion, like any other matter, has the responsibility to assign individuals who can provide accurate coverage on any news events. Most news organizations are woefully lacking any clear understanding of religious matters – regardless of the religion.
Lastly, the document is fairly straight forward and easliy disgestable. Maybe the problem is that as a culture we have become ignorant on religious and theological history, positions, and practices. Should the Catholic Church, or for that matter any Church or religion dumb down their statements because of a biased and ignorant media?



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Patrick

posted July 13, 2007 at 12:50 pm


We’re all being pretty hard on David here – with some justification, I suppose, but I vote against burning him at the stake. :) He is taking it like a man and not deleting the criticism.
My impression is that David knows he made a mistake on this subject and is right now probably trying to figure out how to explain himself. I, for one, am willing to be charitable about it and move on.
Meanwhile, the anti-Catholic rhetoric from commenters at the original post is getting out of hand. It far exceeds anything the Pope has said about Protestants or anyone else. It would be nice, David, if you would step in and ask those folks to tone it down.



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canucklehead

posted July 14, 2007 at 5:43 pm


Guys, I’m here at the Washington Monument – where are yuz?
uh, guys?



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aida patuto

posted July 15, 2007 at 3:40 pm


Contemplate the best oxymoron I have ever seen:
ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN



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