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Sunday, October 25, 2009

West and Hefner: Together Again

Did you ever wonder where Christopher West got his rave about Hugh Hefner? You know, where did he get the idea that Hefner was really just trying to free America of its nasty, horrible, evil Puritanism past? Why, he got the idea of Hefner's heroic work from Hugh Hefner himself! As a couple of commentators over at the Claremont Institute fondly remember:
The "Playboy Philosophy" may have been verbose but it was fascinating, especially if you were thirteen. Hefner painted a grim picture of the sexual landscape of early-sixties America. America was, we learned, dominated by Puritanism. Books were censored. A few jurisdictions banned, or purported to ban, the sale of contraceptives. Archaic laws against oral sex were on the books in many states, and married couples were hauled off in chains for violating them. Puritanical prosecutors and judges lay in wait to punish anyone venturing to engage in sex that was not of the approved sort. With hindsight, this was an odd perspective on the America of that era, but it described our junior high schools pretty well, and we bought it.

While railing against the Puritanism of present-day America, Hefner described the world that was struggling to be born. A world where sexual gratification was available to everyone (at least everyone who could afford a car and a stereo), and freely consenting girls would be standing on every street corner. We know now it didn't quite turn out that way, but at the time, it sounded good to us...
Now, read Chris West's take on Hugh Hefner below. Notice how he simply transcribes Hefner's false rendition of American society. Hooked by the uncritical delight of a schoolboy, he swallowed Hefner's perspective hook, line and sinker:
When asked why he started Playboy magazine, Hefner said it was -a personal response to the hurt and hypocrisy of our Puritan heritage.- Hefner elaborates: "Our family was ...Puritan in a very real sense.... Never hugged. Oh, no. There was absolutely no hugging or kissing in my family. There was a point in time when my mother, later in life, apologized to me for not being able to show affection. That was, of course, the way I’d been raised. I said to her, ‘Mom, ...because of the things you weren’t able to do, it set me on a course that changed my life and the world.’ When I talk about the hurt and hypocrisy in some of our values - our sexual values - it comes from the fact that I didn’t get hugged a lot as a kid" (interview with Cathleen Falsani, somareview.com).

When I first read this I wanted to weep for this man.... We as Catholics actually agree - or should agree - with Hugh Hefner’s diagnosis of the disease of puritanism.
Catholics should agree?
With Hugh Hefner???
Why?

Hefner was and is a pornographer.
That is, Hefner was and is a liar.

As a professional liar, Hefner understood that in order to make his pornography acceptable, he had to be the underdog. He had to be in titanic struggle against overwhelming odds, a David against a Goliath. Males who wanted to see naked, sexually available woman, but knew they shouldn't, needed a rationale for opening the pages of his magazine. Hefner gave them one. He invented the idea of a puritanical America.

To a junior-high school student whose grasp of America history is as good as his grasp on the virtue of continence, the David-vs.-Goliath meme provides a good philosophical rationale for checking out the centerfold's feminine fundamentals. Not that teenage boys need such rationale, but it's nice to know there is one.

For those teenage boys who read the Playboy articles so that they could maintain a pretense of intellectual motivation, Hefner's concepts were as necessary as the centerfold. Let's go back to the political analysis for a moment:
... It turned out that we weren't the only ones who absorbed and internalized the Playboy Philosophy. As the years went by, it became harder and harder to find much in America that could be described as Puritanical. Even in the junior high schools. By the early 1970s, there was probably no proposition that commanded more universal assent than "two consenting adults." The key moment was probably 1965, when the Supreme Court ruled in Griswold v. Connecticut that a state could not constitutionally ban the sale and use of contraceptives. It was in Griswold that the Court first discerned a "right of privacy" in the Constitution. Justice Douglas wrote: "[S]pecific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance."
Now, notice. This essay is not written by a bunch of religious people with an ax to grind. In fact, near the end of the essay, the authors state, "Understand that we haven't really changed our minds about the "consenting adults" principle since our junior high school days."

To repeat, none of the authors at the Claremont Institute have ever heard of Chris West. But as political analysts, they do have an adult grasp of American history. And they find people who buy into Hugh Hefner's version of American history to be juvenile at best.
Griswold was pure Hefner, in the sense that it dealt with one of those outrageous, archaic laws that were regularly castigated in the Playboy Philosophy

In reality, the State of Connecticut made no effort to interfere with the use of contraceptives; the statute was on the books but was not enforced. Griswold was commenced by a group of students at Yale who conceived the lawsuit as a class project....
This is the Puritanism that Chris West is fighting? The puritanical attitudes that West selflessly saves all of us from? Where on earth did Chris West get the idea that America is Puritan? Apart from Playboy's philosophy columns, what evidence does he have that it was Puritan at any point since about 1750? Yet, is this not the Chris West meme? Does he not continually decry the fact that America was (or worse, is) a grim placed dominated by Puritanism, an America from which he saves "countless" - countless, I tell you - countless couples? (we know it's true because neither he nor his supporters ever actually bother to count them).

Recall again Chris West's mantra on Nightline: "Hugh Hefner is my muse... I see historical connections between Hugh Hefner and John Paul II."

Even the New York Times recognizes the essential difference between a Hugh Hefner supporter and a Hugh Hefner detractor:
As a cultural force, however, Mr. Hefner still divides the country — 56 years after Playboy’s first issue. To his supporters, he is the great sexual liberator who helped free Americans from Puritanism and neurosis. To his detractors, including many feminists and social conservatives, he helped set in motion a revolution in sexual attitudes that have objectified and victimized countless women and promoted an immoral, whatever-feels-good approach to life.... He recently filmed a Guitar Hero commercial, holding the pipe he gave up after a suffering a small stroke in 1985. (emphasis added)
Read West's words again. On which side of the New York Times' line does Christopher West fall? When even the pagans recognize that Hefner was bloviating, to what extent must we accept his ideological step-child's musings on historical themes?
The point Christopher made—but which wasn’t included in the Nightline piece—was that, as Catholics, we agree with Hugh Hefner’s diagnosis of the disease (i.e., a puritanical rejection of the body and sexuality is utterly contrary to Catholic faith), but we radically disagree with his cure. Christopher told the Nightline correspondent that the Theology of the Body is the true cure for the disease that Hefner diagnosed. These distinctions were lost in the seven-minute piece that ABC aired. Indeed, Nightline made it sound as if West considered Hefner a "hero" of his, which he certainly never said.
West didn't say Hef was his hero. He did say Hef was his muse. The New York Times almost precisely defines the Chris West meme: Mr. Hefner is to be applauded for helping "free Americans from Puritanism and neurosis." Chris West insists Hugh Hefner diagnosed the disease - Hef, not Christ, not the Pope, but Hugh Hefner is the physician who made the correct diagnosis. Hefner is the first person to spring to Chris West's mind when viewing the "Puritan" landscape he sees, a landscape he sees through Hefner's glasses. Indeed, to an aspiring rock star like Chris West, Hugh Hefner, the Guitar Hero advocate, embodies every hormonal teenage boy's dream. His philosophy, his take on history, is worth musing upon.

The Catholic Faith is the Truth, with a capital 'T.' To the extent that any fact of life is mis-represented, it is not Catholic. So, not only are distortions of theological facts to be avoided, but so are distortions of history.

So, let us make a quick summary of major Westian distortions:
Christopher West distorts the story of the bishops and the prostitute in order to promote his own version of Catholic theology.
Christopher West distorts the writings of St. Louis de Montfort in order to promote his own version of Catholic theology.
Christopher West directly contradicts Aquinas on the question of whether continence is a virtue.
Christopher West directly contradicts John Paul II himself, as he speaks in the TOB audiences, on the question of whether continence is a virtue.
For our spiritual edification and delight, Christopher West promotes a liar who pretended to be a Carmelite mystic and who brands Christianity "Christo-fascism."

I have heard, with my own ears, Christopher West say in a public talk, "When it comes to sexuality, the Catholic Church's understanding is about at the level of a teenager."

Now we see laid out even by the pagans, even by pagans who have never heard of Chris West, that West's version of history is just absurd, held only by acolytes of Hugh Hefner.

The worst heresies were created by men who adhered closely to Catholic doctrine in most of what they did. But these heretics, influenced by the age in which they lived, insisted that the Catholic Faith change, even if just a small bit, to accommodate their own distorted understanding of the facts.

Look at the Hefner/West version of history.
Then look at an historian's version of history.

Which will you buy into?

19 comments:

Barbara Jensen said...

The salient point that Christopher West's former teacher (from the John Paul Institute on Marriage and the Family) makes is that puritanism and the playboy philosophy are two sides of the same coin. Both objectify women, instead of treating them as persons. Puritanism makes women 'baby-making machines'; the playboy mentality makes women objects of male gratification. John Paul 11, in his work 'Theology of the Body' indicates that sexual LOVE is an expression of a deeper, spiritual LOVE between husband and wife. In the philosophy of the 'Theology of the Body', it is the person who matters and who one LOVES. Indeed, John Paul's philosophy of the person underpins all he writes in the theology of the body.
That Christopher West has not addressed this striking challenge by his own former teacher says much about him. A little learning is a dangerous thing, and that is what is being played out in Chritopher West's insistence on being right and dismissing his own teacher who is more knowledgeable than he is.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Exactly, Barbara. Schindler pointed out the irony: Hefner himself introduced the very Puritanism he claimed to fight.

Similarly, West castigates anyone who doesn't follow him as being spiritually immature. When anyone dares to point out his errors, he pulls a Hugh Hefner and accuses his critics of being divisive.

West's teachings create the very divisiveness he castigates. Yet when the divisiveness appears, it is always the fault of the critics, never West.

In the NY Times article, Hefner says the same thing. He complains about how thin culture is today, it was so much richer back in the 50's. Yet his own magazine is what thinned the culture, so what is he complaining about exactly?

Hugh Hefner is, indeed, Chris West's muse...

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

"When it comes to sexuality, the Catholic Church's understanding is about at the level of a teenager."

I once heard a youth group leader say, "The Catholic Church needs to get over Her fear of Marxism."

Very condescending stuff from people who set themselves up as authorities.

Peter said...

You are taking Christopher seriously out of context and, unfortunately, you are entirely missing the point. As a protestant writer wrote so eloquently and which I will now horribly paraphrase: "we are neither angels nor animals" - to behave like an angel, denying our sexuality and suppressing it (i.e. puritanical way of living), is wrong and to behave like an animal, giving in to every sexual desire when it strikes, is also deeply wrong. We are neither angels nor animals. We must exist in the tension. West's point is highlighting the pain from repression that caused his deviant behaviour.

Of course, I could be completely wrong - but that's how it reads to me.

Here's a lesson for you - claim truth where-ever you find it. It is absolutely true that a family should show affection to one another, that it is good and proper to be shown this type of physical love by the people who matter most.

That is truth and I claim this truth - REGARDLESS OF WHO SPEAKS IT.

All truth is God's truth.

God bless.
Pete

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Peter,

Have you read the Syllabus of Errors lately? You should: West lives it.

"But it is not solely by objective arguments that the non-believer may be disposed to faith. There are also those that are subjective, and for this purpose the modernist apologists return to the doctrine of immanence. They endeavor, in fact, to persuade their non-believer that down in the very depths of his nature and his life lie hidden the need and the desire for some religion, and this not a religion of any kind, but the specific religion known as Catholicism, which, they say, is absolutely postulated by the perfect development of life. And here again We have grave reason to complain that there are Catholics who, while rejecting immanence as a doctrine, employ it as a method of apologetics, and who do this so imprudently that they seem to admit, not merely a capacity and a suitability for the supernatural, such as has at all times been emphasized, within due limits, by Catholic apologists, but that there is in human nature a true and rigorous need for the supernatural order. Truth to tell, it is only the moderate Modernists who make this appeal to an exigency for the Catholic religion. As for the others, who might he called integralists, they would show to the non-believer, as hidden in his being, the very germ which Christ Himself had in His consciousness, and which He transmitted to mankind. Such, Venerable Brethren, is a summary description of the apologetic method of the Modernists, in perfect harmony with their doctrines -- methods and doctrines replete with errors, made not for edification but for destruction, not for the making of Catholics but for the seduction of those who are Catholics into heresy; and tending to the utter subversion of all religion. "

Peter said...

Steve,

I'm sorry that you are taking CWs point like this.

Let me ask you a question: Do you think it's wrong for parents to suppress the human need for physical affection, for intimacy within family and displays of love? (I am, of course, speaking of non-sinful displays of affection)

If your answer is yes. Then you have just agreed with Hugh Hefner. That is CW point.

You are completely, 100%, without a shadow of doubt, blowing this situation completely out of proportion.

Your post title, "West and Hefner: Together Again", is veiled sarcasm. Your general tone is of superiority. No-one, and I do mean no-one, has done more to spread the good news of the Theology of the Body, in approachable terms, than Christopher West.

I am all for correcting theological errors - I can't stand it when someone speaks untruth. Please believe me when I say I feel bad for speaking so forcefully to someone who is obviously my senior and someone who is more educated than me - so my apologies - but your column and your subsequent comments on here are nothing better than sinful gossip and slander. Your sole mission here is to tear down the man Christopher West and his character.

You say "When anyone dares to point out his errors, he pulls a Hugh Hefner and accuses his critics of being divisive" and "it is always the fault of the critics, never West" - How Christopher West behaves is between Christopher West, the people he wrongs and God. It's not for you to gossip about nor for you to slander him.

Please, by all means highlight his errors - as you see them - however wrong you may be. But please, leave the accusations, judgment, gossip and slander at home. It's not necessary.

I just re-read the first post, by Barbara Jensen, and she completely illustrated the point which I now see that you completely understand.

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM? West is not agreeing with Hefner's life or his choices. He is simply stating that pornography and puritanism are both extremes that are wrong. One is the absolute diving into sinful pleasure and the other says all pleasure is sinful. Both are wrong.

My goodness. Why are you arguing against a point that you agree with?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Peter,

a) West is not teaching the Theology of the Body. In fact, quite a lot of what he has taught in the past and what he teaches now is a specific distortion of John Paul II's TOB audiences and Catholic theology in general.

b) It is neither slander nor gossip to point out West's errors.

c) How Christopher West publicly attempts to teach the Faith is most definitely my business. I am Catholic, I have a duty to defend the Faith, and to correct my brethren when they mis-teach it. Indeed, such correction is a spiritual act of mercy.

West holds a pornographer and his work up as a positive good - he claims it corrects "puritanical" aspects of American culture. First, it is laughable, not laudable, to do this. Second, the only people I know of who claimed that American culture was puritanical is Hugh Hefner and Chris West. I'm not along in this estimation, as the column points out.

The fact that you don't seem to understand any of these points indicates that you don't know the Faith. You are simply another uninformed member of the Chris West cult (pardon the redundancy).

Finally, I don't like dealing with people whose name I don't know. Peter, you seem to have chosen your blogger pseudonym to match a Pope, and you don't reveal your identity. How do I know you aren't actually Chris West? He's been on this blog before in disguise.

Could you tell us your real name, where you live, etc.?

Peter said...

"a) West is not teaching the Theology of the Body. In fact, quite a lot of what he has taught in the past and what he teaches now is a specific distortion of John Paul II's TOB audiences and Catholic theology in general."

That's a gross generalisation. Be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

"b) It is neither slander nor gossip to point out West's errors."

Yes, you are repeating what I said. It becomes slander when you attack someone's character - which you did to both West and to Hefner. I didn't mention the way you spoke about Hefner before because I knew I was making a leap for you to understand that you were slandering West. As I said - you can point out his errors without sarcasticly attacking his character.

"c) How Christopher West publicly attempts to teach the Faith is most definitely my business. I am Catholic, I have a duty to defend the Faith, and to correct my brethren when they mis-teach it. Indeed, such correction is a spiritual act of mercy."

Yes. You are, again, repeating what I said. You are not treating him like your brother however. You are treating him like an adversary. There seems to be no love, even fraternal correction, in your writing. You should not forget that millions of youth from around the world look up to Christopher West as their key to understanding the complexity of Theology of The Body - gentle loving correction is not for Wests sake, it's for the people that hold his teaching highly.

"West holds a pornographer and his work up as a positive good - he claims it corrects "puritanical" aspects of American culture. First, it is laughable, not laudable, to do this. Second, the only people I know of who claimed that American culture was puritanical is Hugh Hefner and Chris West. I'm not along in this estimation, as the column points out."

West doesn't hold a pornographer and his work up as a positive good at ALL. HE NEVER ONCE SAYS THAT. He affirms what Hefner SAYS - NOT WHAT HE DOES. You are simply making stuff up. He never claims that it corrects puritanical aspects of American culture. He says the swing of the pendulum for Hefner went from puritanical to hedonistic. Secondly, Hefner is not the only one to "claim" america was puritanical - IT WAS puritanical. America was founded by the Puritans. It's landscape was dotted by Puritan settlements. The sexual repression that consumed the world until the 1960's (which, might I add, caused married couples to sleep in separate beds) is still being worked through. Am I agreeing with everything the world does? Of course not. I am obviously opposed to pornography.

Let me ask you this - Are you even aware that West is talking about himself as a teenager in the early paragraphs? "But it described our junior high schools pretty well, and we bought it". He is discussing a world view and saying, "as a kid, I bought it!" Are you committed to overlooking the facts so vehemently?

..continued

Peter said...

..continued

"The fact that you don't seem to understand any of these points indicates that you don't know the Faith. You are simply another uninformed member of the Chris West cult (pardon the redundancy)."

Here's a little fact for you. I have never read a Christopher West book. I have listened to 1 of his lectures on audiobook. That's it. I've never heard him speak live (he was at WYD 2008 speaking about TOB as far as I know) and I'm not in the "Chris West cult", as you so eloquently put it.

I do suppose it would be easier for you to call me ignorant if I disagree with you. I do forgive you though for insulting me and making claims about my knowledge of the Faith based on a discussion about one theologians writings. Very good. Again, slander is a sin my brother and at some point you'll have to learn a better way of dealing with people that disagree with your view point.

"Finally, I don't like dealing with people whose name I don't know. Peter, you seem to have chosen your blogger pseudonym to match a Pope, and you don't reveal your identity. How do I know you aren't actually Chris West? He's been on this blog before in disguise.

Could you tell us your real name, where you live, etc.?"


My name is Peter Gilmore. I live in Corrimal in New South Wales in Australia. I'm 29. I'm a member of the Disciples of Jesus Covenant Community (we are a member of the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships which is recognised as a Private Association of the Christian faithful of Pontifical right - you can read about us at disciplesofjesus.org or dojwollongong.com.au).
My name is actually Peter, although all my names are Apostles so it works well (Peter James Andrew Gilmore).

You seemed determined to pull Christopher West down and it seems as though it is no accident that you both teach TOB. Unfortunately, I'm now turned off by your actions. I don't know if I coined this phrase during a teaching that I have given or if I stole it from somewhere else but I once said to the youth group I help run, "people say 'be yourself and share the Gospel' and I think that's wrong! You guys need to be the Gospel and share yourselves". If your attitude of negativity to your brother, slander and gossip, general tone of sarcasm and scepticism, is your Gospel - then I don't want to follow the Jesus that you believe in. I want to follow the Jesus that loves always, without fault and at all times.

And yes, you can correct and be loving.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Peter, RE-READ THE ESSAY. Check The Link. The work I quote is NOT written by Christopher West. It's written by people who have NEVER HEARD of Christopher West.

If you've never read a Chris West book, and you've only listened to one talk, then you don't know whether he's the greatest promoter of JP II's work or not.

I've had many different occasions to interact with West both personally and professionally. I think I'm a better judge of what constitutes his character in regards to him than someone who only heard one talk and has no other exposure to him.

I am angry with Chris' errors precisely because so many people look up to him. He is mis-representing the Faith to all of those people. That's evil.

Thank you for telling me your name, location and community. Unfortunately, many charismatic communities are not as spiritually, emotionally or culturally stable as the one I hope you hail from. Chris West was a member of a charistmatic cult immediately prior to his learning TOB - that's his description of it and his bishop's description of it, btw, not mine.

His teaching reflects both the charismatic and cultic elements of his spiritual history. As someone who was evangelized by charismatics, I hold them in high esteem. But as a charismatic, you should be VERY careful about Chris West. He speaks a language that sounds similar to what you are used to, but it is NOT in line with Church teaching.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Oh, and Peter, it's not just me who say he is mis-representing the Faith.

That's what his teachers say - the ones who taught him TOB. The JP II Institute in the United States has disowned him.

Look up the essay by David L. Schindler Provost/Dean and Gagnon Professor of Fundamental Theology at the Pontifical Institute for the Family, Washington DC. Three of the professors at that institute, including the Dean, Dr. Schindler, have specifically and explicitly said Chris' West's teachings are wrong and needs to be rectified.

To date, he has refused to do so.

Peter said...

"Peter, RE-READ THE ESSAY. Check The Link. The work I quote is NOT written by Christopher West. It's written by people who have NEVER HEARD of Christopher West."

My apologies, I have misread the quotations. I still stand by the point he was making regarding the tendency by society to swing too hard in either direction (angels and animals).

"If you've never read a Chris West book, and you've only listened to one talk, then you don't know whether he's the greatest promoter of JP II's work or not.

My point was simply that I have no allegiance to him. I was referred to your article by a friend who was curious about my thoughts. I found your dissection to be incorrect and felt obliged to speak.

"I've had many different occasions to interact with West both personally and professionally. I think I'm a better judge of what constitutes his character in regards to him than someone who only heard one talk and has no other exposure to him."

Whether you know him intimately or otherwise, you still have no right to gossip or slander him. I'm sorry - there is no excuse for it. I don't care if it's Hitler - you can talk all you want about what he's doing being wrong but it's fundamentally anti-Christ to tear down a person. Regardless of who they are.

"I am angry with Chris' errors precisely because so many people look up to him. He is mis-representing the Faith to all of those people. That's evil."

Be angry about his errors. My sin, your sin, his sin - lets detest it. Let's correct the wrongs and let God correct the wrong doer.

"Thank you for telling me your name, location and community. Unfortunately, many charismatic communities are not as spiritually, emotionally or culturally stable as the one I hope you hail from. Chris West was a member of a charistmatic cult immediately prior to his learning TOB - that's his description of it and his bishop's description of it, btw, not mine."

I appreciate your concern. I am comfortable with the history and maturity of the community. Having been around for more than 25 years now and giving rise to one of the fastest growing religious communities (made up of priests, brothers and nuns) in Australia - I am quite content that I am safe from anything cultist.

"His teaching reflects both the charismatic and cultic elements of his spiritual history. As someone who was evangelized by charismatics, I hold them in high esteem. But as a charismatic, you should be VERY careful about Chris West. He speaks a language that sounds similar to what you are used to, but it is NOT in line with Church teaching."

It would be good if the church could release an official response to his teaching. As he keynotes many high profile Catholic events - if he is indeed teaching heresy, this should be brought to light. Again, he spoke to packed audiences at WYD and I'm sure he will again in 2011. If he is so wrong, why is the Church promoting him?

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Kellmeyer said...

Peter, my point is that if your opinion of him is based on exactly one talk, and nothing else, then your opinion of his work is incomplete, to say the least. I've listened to him, read his stuff, spoken to him on several occasions, discussed him and his work with other theologians numerous times.

So, which is more likely? That you correctly and thoroughly understand him after 60 minutes or that I have a deeper understanding of him than you do after ten years of doing this?

To your question: "why is the Church promoting him?" the short answer is that the Church IS NOT promoting him. Certain bishops and cardinals are promoting him, but that isn't the same thing.

Look, individual bishops and cardinals make all kinds of mistakes all the time. WYDs are organized by local communities and often have elements which the Pope isn't particularly happy about. I know the recent papal visit to Washington DC had liturgical elements which very much ticked off the papal representatives, but they went along with it in order to avoid a public scene. It is not at all unusual for an individual bishop or group of bishops to push a particular and erroneous theology.

As far as the Church ruling on a specific theologian, that almost never happens. The Church's attitude is that theological crap will eventually disappear if you ignore it. Why give the nutcases free advertising?

The kind of discussion I am engaging in concerning West's errors is precisely how people like West usually lose influence - people begin to realize they are full of it, and wander away. I'm just working to help that process along.

You don't like my approach. Fine. That's a prudential decision. I take a contrary position to your assessment, as I am permitted to. You have no history with Chris, so you have no idea how little he pays attention to correction. The only tool I see left to use is ridicule, because he won't listen to anything else. He hasn't for over a decade.

Peter said...

I can tell that this will be a long response - please forgive me if I am taking up your time.

"Peter, my point is that if your opinion of him is based on exactly one talk, and nothing else, then your opinion of his work is incomplete....

...or that I have a deeper understanding of him than you do after ten years of doing this?"


I sense your frustration and I apologise for the headache I am causing you.

I understand I am not familiar with his entire body of work. Perhaps I should put it this way - In the hour I have heard, if he spoke nothing but truth, is it less true because of untruths he preached/taught elsewhere?

My point is - is truth true independent of it's speaker? And if it is and I find truth in what Christopher West says, when he quotes Hugh Hefner, then isn't his other work irrelevant?

There is a Muslim law that says "you can't go into debt". So in Muslim run countries, you will find lots of half finished house extensions. People will literally start building, run out of money, wait, save, keep building, run out of money and so forth until it is done. There is no debt. No-one owes anybody anything. That's truth. I will claim truth whereever I find it.

All truth is God's truth.

"To your question: "why is the Church promoting him?" the short answer is that the Church IS NOT promoting him. Certain bishops and cardinals are promoting him, but that isn't the same thing...

... It is not at all unusual for an individual bishop or group of bishops to push a particular and erroneous theology.


I understand what you are saying and I can see my naivity. There was a similar case of this with a Life Teen priest in Queensland (north state in Australia) who was excommunicated. He was promoting all sorts of rubbish.

..continued

Peter said...

..continued

"As far as the Church ruling on a specific theologian, that almost never happens. The Church's attitude is that theological crap will eventually disappear if you ignore it. Why give the nutcases free advertising?"

I can understand that on a small scale but clearly Christopher West is a much larger scale theologian. Everybody knows him and his name.

I am definitely a fan of wrestling in order to find truth. I am, as you have seen, unafraid to wrestle, even if I find out I'm wrong, over issues if it means that I get to truth.

The kind of discussion I am engaging in concerning West's errors is precisely how people like West usually lose influence - people begin to realize they are full of it, and wander away. I'm just working to help that process along.

You don't like my approach. Fine. That's a prudential decision. I take a contrary position to your assessment, as I am permitted to. You have no history with Chris, so you have no idea how little he pays attention to correction. The only tool I see left to use is ridicule, because he won't listen to anything else. He hasn't for over a decade.


Again please forgive me because I know you are well studied theologian, ridicule is not a tool to be employed by a Christian. To ridicule someone is to ridicule Christ Himself - an action which is considered to be a mortal sin. There idea of it being a mercy or a loving action is nullified because we are not permitted to sin in order to avoid sin.

If you believe that he is speaking falsely and you have attempted to correct him privately, as a loving brother should, if he ignores it I believe that you have the perfect public forum to correct the TEACHING. I do not believe that you should use the public forum to ridicule him. His shortfallings, obviously as you see them, are not matters of public opinion or comment. Our job is to love our brother - not shame him.

Please accept my apology if I am acting in a way that is less than humble. I pray that I always submit to the authority of the Church and to those God has called to teach His truth. Please forgive me if I seem stubborn - I know I am young and I have many opinions but also many questions.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Peter, the man's mistakes are often subtle, just as Nestorius' mistakes were and Pelagius' mistakes were. They sound fine on the surface, but when they are examined more deeply, they don't make any sense. So, just because his hour-long talk sounded fine to you doesn't mean it was.

For instance, I once heard him say "Pain is good" - he spent an entire evening on the theme of suffering.

Now, ignoring the fact that the TOB audiences say absolutely NOTHING about suffering, let's just focus on "pain is good." That's a heresy. Taken to its logical end, it promotes sado-masochism. It was one of the central mis-teachings about the Catholic Faith in the Da Vinci Code. But here, we had a Catholic who was publicly representing it as a Catholic teaching WHILE the Da Vinci Code heresies were raging in the popular culture.

It sounded nice but it was wrong.

Truth is truth, no question of it. But heresy is truth admixed with error. Nestorius was right about quite a lot - that's what made him dangerous. We are attracted to the true parts, and swallow the poison along with it. That's why West is a positive danger to the Faith. His errors are the hook beneath the flesh of the Truths he gets right when he teaches.

As for him being a big-name that Rome should be concerned about, that's simply false. From Rome's perspective, he's a pimple, a barely-there entity, a rabble-rouser at best and nobody worth losing sleep over.

Rome's perspective on things is not ours. She doesn't worry about flash-in-the-pan sensations like West until they've been on the stage for a few decades. Even then, if you aren't an ordained man, probability is that Rome isn't going to bother with you. You'll die soon enough, and your error will mostly die with you.

At worst, West starts a new church. His spiritual predecessors in the charismatic cult which he used to be a member of did exactly that. Indeed, his spiritual predecessors in that cult were at least as popular as West is today.

Rome never made a peep about them. Rome doesn't give a flip about Chris West. He'll dry up and blow away eventually. She counts on the people around him to fix his problems. That's where we come in.

Peter said...

I think I'm done here.

Your heresy is a simple one.

You just referred to a fellow human being as a pimple and referred to the Church as an uncaring, dismissive "machine" that doesn't care about the salvation of it's believers.

I'm sorry but your words are poison. Christopher West may be making a mistake, knowingly or unknowingly, but his intentions appear to be loving and genuine even if incorrect. You speak about another human being as if they don't count - you crucify Christ again.

It's your words here that are a shining example of the reason why Catholicism is regarded as the least Christian of all the denominations - a large badly oiled machine that only cares about one thing: control.

I must visit Reconciliation because you have filled my mouth with a foul taste and have reminded me of all the reasons I left the Church when I was 17 (I returned when I was 22).

A person is a person.

I pray that you never make a mistake and have someone completely dismiss you.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Peter, I'm telling you how the bishops view the situation. You may not like it, but that doesn't change the reality.

I've worked with many priests and bishops over the years. Ordained men are just like other kinds of men - they do dismiss people all the time. I've seen them do it to others and I've had a few of them do it to me. That's life.