Of Swine and Fools

It is easy for one to believe he is able to convince even the most obstinate individuals. Unfortunately, this is often a sign of pride and self-righteousness, rather than charisma or rhetorical skill. Scripture offers the following advice in regard to correcting and/or reproving others.

"Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you." – Matthew 7:2

"He who corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man and he will increase in learning." – Proverbs 9:7-9

Apparently, some people are not worth spending too much time and energy on, but does that mean we should just give up on them? If so, when and how? Certainly, we should be humble and prayerful in our argumentation and be vigilant for signs of fruitlessness in dialog. I wonder, though, how we are to know when a debate is not worth continuing and how we are end it without feeling guilty for abandoning someone, particularly a brother/sister in Christ, to his/her grievous errors. Thoughts?

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About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

6 thoughts on “Of Swine and Fools

  1. Steve N

    I guess the part I left out up there in my off-the-cuff, but long-winded response is that the use of reason to support one’s point(s) is really a very deceptive bait & switch if one will not then defer to reason in the on-going discussion.

  2. h2

    It’s occurred to me, as a veteran of many arguments and quarrels (some religious, some secular) that if someone isn’t listening to you, sometimes you simply need the confidence of your convictions to not continue a conversation, especially when there never was one to begin with.

    You always give it your best, and sometimes you just have to move on and hope your example will be used to reel people.

  3. Trish

    My mom is an obstinate Atheist and getting into conversations with her about the Lord is like talking to a brick wall that screams back at you. So I respectfully change the subject and continue to pray for her. There is a verse (sorry I cant remember the exact book/chapter/number) that says something about giving someone the Good News twice, then if they are still unwilling to hear it, wash your hands and move on.

  4. Steve N

    Oddly enough, I’ve been pondering this very same question today… I think what it boils down to is that it isn’t about the argument–at least not of the type that heroes like Chesterston and Lewis engaged. If two people of any viewpoint sit down and agree to some civilized ground rules and then proceed to argue well, they can get on famously, enrich their minds, still walk away (probably to the pub) not having convinced each other, but they’ll both be the better for it. An absolutely perfect example of this is the various conflagrations with Theo (too numerous to list here). At virtually every turn, Funky or Jerry or me (or sometimes all of us) will have a good civilized argument with Theo, and we’ll generally avoid (or at least try really hard to avoid) namecalling, and we’ll state our arguments, thresh away the chaff, get down to what’s really at issue, and then come to an impasse–which of course is no surprise at all. But generally a good time is had by all, and though I can hardly speak for Theo (he’d lambaste me good for trying), I can say that I (and I dare say Funky and Jerry) have been made the stronger (more complete) by such engagements. Speaking for myself, I see Theo as a friend–of the internet variety at least.

    Now there are some people who aren’t at all interested in the argument, they’re interested in being right–and this is an equal-opportunity vice, striking right, left, and middle, religious or otherwise with equal frequency and dexterity, and usually causes its victim to be nothing more than a profound boor. And I guess what’s interesting (telling) is that, irrespective of the particular religious (or antireligious) views being spouted by the boor, what we are witnessing is a spiritual problem: pride, insecurity, self-satisfaction, and such like.

    So in trying to negotiate peace between say a hypothetical devout Calvinist and a hypothetical devout Catholic, to approach the problem with civility is a good approach. But this is to ask: what common ground do we have? can we agree that any of your or my arguments are faulty or maybe not as strong as we first let on? can we agree to avoid anathemas? can we agree that the meaning of certain proof-texts is far from clear? can we agree to not use logical fallacies or admit to them when they are correctly identified? &c. This is what civilized people do. That is how civilized people argue. And if none of this “preparing the ground” can be done… then we are not engaging in a civilized argument at all. We are engaging in a shouting match, no matter how civilized we pretend to be.

    Well… hope that made sense

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