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Why Catholics Don't Sing


MOW
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I saw this title in a bookstore recently. I didn't purchase the book but the title got me thinking about a few experiences I 've heard about and experienced.

 

My brother who is of UMC backgound attended an Catholic service a number of years ago. The first hymn was "Praise to the Lord the almighty" a standard that most Christians would know. He began singing but soon realized that no one else in the congregation really was, so he stopped.

 

In the church( UMC) where I was organist for many years there was a mother and daughter who had attended for many years. The mother died a few years back and the funeral was at the Methodist church. It just so happened that most of the mother's friends were Catholic and the funeral was held during the day so most of the UMC members were unable to attend. The pastor picked hymns she felt everyone would know and were favorites of the deceased i.e "Amazing Grace," "Blessed Assurance' etc. Well I heard no one but myself since most of the UMC members were sitting up front. I also noticed that not only were the Catholics not singing ,they didn't even take the hymnals from the music rack. They were just standing facing the front of the sanctuary.

 

One of my choir members told me of a friend who attended an ecumenical service and sang the hymns like he always did. After the service a nun came up to him and asked "son what protestant church do you attend?".

 

As a progressive Christian I respect all faiths but I was wondering is the title of that book true (Why Catholics Don't Sing),and if so is there a reason for it ?

 

 

MOW

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As a progressive Christian I respect all faiths but I was wondering is the title of that book true (Why Catholics Don't Sing),and if so is there a reason for it ?

This book is fantastic! It's actually called Why Catholics Can't Sing, and it's written by a Catholic Church musician. The book's argument is that Catholic liturgical music has lost its way, both artistically and theologically, and has created an atmosphere where performance and sentimentalism are at the forefront, and liturgical music is either too difficult, or too embarrassing, to sing. Having attended a number of Catholic churches over the past 10 years, I have to say, sadly, that it's all too accurate. I highly recommend this book to anyone in church music ministry, in any denomination.

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As a progressive Christian I respect all faiths but I was wondering is the title of that book true (Why Catholics Don't Sing),and if so is there a reason for it ?

This book is fantastic! It's actually called Why Catholics Can't Sing, and it's written by a Catholic Church musician. The book's argument is that Catholic liturgical music has lost its way, both artistically and theologically, and has created an atmosphere where performance and sentimentalism are at the forefront, and liturgical music is either too difficult, or too embarrassing, to sing. Having attended a number of Catholic churches over the past 10 years, I have to say, sadly, that it's all too accurate. I highly recommend this book to anyone in church music ministry, in any denomination.

 

 

I can't comment on that specific book, but given my (limited) experience as a Catholic I would agree completely about Sacred Music having lost its way in the Church. So much of what passes for hymns are just folk-rock retreads trying to ape the popular music of baby-boomer glory days. So musically, they're about as inspiring as a bunch of aging hippies.

 

Theologically they're even worse (from an orthodox perspective, progs might realy like them). They tend to glorify the community and essentially congratulate God on having such great people show up on a given morning. They also tend to downplay anything about God's (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) divinity and mostly just turn everything into a bunch of let's-all-have-a-hug pap.

 

The only real rememdy is to wrest control from all the "liturgical experts" who hijacked the Church since V2 and re-institute Catholic worship. That is to say, true worship of the Trinity, through the Sarifice of the Eucharist in the company of the angels and the saints.

 

But maybe I'm just bitter.

 

jAMDG

 

jamesAMDG.blogspot.com

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Yep, you've pretty much summed up the argument of the book. ;)

 

Theologically they're even worse (from an orthodox perspective, progs might realy like them).  They tend to glorify the community and essentially congratulate God on having such great people show up on a given morning.  They also tend to downplay anything about God's (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) divinity and mostly just turn everything into a bunch of let's-all-have-a-hug pap.

Well, many would describe the "new wave" of liturgical music as "progressive," and I suppose there are plenty of progressives who think it's the greatest thing since peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiches. I, however, would describe its most salient feature as market-friendliness: easy to swallow theologically and socially, nice and light on the soul and mind. Nothing that might suggest God's radical otherness, or that the condition of our souls is anything but A-OK. Nothing about the God who radically claims us, and radically relativizes all other claims on us. These ideas don't sell. The problem is that so many people associate them with the kind of guilt-, shame-, and control-based religion that has become synonymous with the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church, and the "new liturgical consciousness" wants to steer clear of that at all costs. I can't say I blame them. Unfortunately, right now I see it all degenerating into a war of "old" vs. "new," when what is really needed is a third way.

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Yep, you've pretty much summed up the argument of the book. ;)

 

Theologically they're even worse (from an orthodox perspective, progs might realy like them).  They tend to glorify the community and essentially congratulate God on having such great people show up on a given morning.  They also tend to downplay anything about God's (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) divinity and mostly just turn everything into a bunch of let's-all-have-a-hug pap.

Well, many would describe the "new wave" of liturgical music as "progressive," and I suppose there are plenty of progressives who think it's the greatest thing since peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiches. I, however, would describe its most salient feature as market-friendliness: easy to swallow theologically and socially, nice and light on the soul and mind. Nothing that might suggest God's radical otherness, or that the condition of our souls is anything but A-OK. Nothing about the God who radically claims us, and radically relativizes all other claims on us. These ideas don't sell. The problem is that so many people associate them with the kind of guilt-, shame-, and control-based religion that has become synonymous with the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church, and the "new liturgical consciousness" wants to steer clear of that at all costs. I can't say I blame them. Unfortunately, right now I see it all degenerating into a war of "old" vs. "new," when what is really needed is a third way.

 

Amen to that!

 

I've been thinking of this very thing in a broad way; thinking in terms of the "mystical" message of Christianity versus the "orthodox". From the beginning, it seems, the mystical lineage and the orthodox split at this very point, between what sells, what "fits" into the workaday world, and what requires radical sacrifice and transformation. My hope is that with the advances of science (yes, science), in particular the science of psychology, and more specifically depth psychology, that the split can now be breached. We now know that the subjugation of the ego, for example, is not a work of the ego, and that it is IN the daily trials and tribulations of our workaday lives that the ego may be transformed. It is not necessary to leave the workaday world behind in any literal way. One can go on as before while seeking and submitting to a radical change of heart.

 

Transformational religion is not meant to be comfortable; but neither is it meant to be radically divorced from the affairs of Men, and so an "earthiness", a down-to-earth quality, a sense of anchoring to our Land, our Communities, our Families, belongs in our tradition. But, too often, any attempt at this translates into a casualness that results in superficialites that lose meaning. Maybe we've forgotten how to be in our bodies, connected to the Land and to one another; maybe we're still too much in our heads; too warped by a sin consciousness which renders us amorphous and ashamed and distrustful of our own humanity. The dignity of the Sons of God has not yet dawned in us. The truth that it is as human beings, here and now, that we inherit the Kingdom of God, has not seeped in...and so, we "play" church as best we can. And because we do not recognize our divine potential, or the sacrifices that are discerned within it, and instead focus on a mandatory salvation that requires and expects nothing more than our assent, we continue to lower the bar, and offer less and less of substance to the world and one another. This sounds harsh and I know that all of you can give examples of where this is not so, but in my opinion, all in all, it is so.

 

lily

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>Theologically they're even worse (from an orthodox perspective, progs might realy like them). They tend to glorify the community and essentially congratulate God on having such great people show up on a given morning. They also tend to downplay anything about God's (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) divinity and mostly just turn everything into a bunch of let's-all-have-a-hug pap.

 

The only real rememdy is to wrest control from all the "liturgical experts" who hijacked the Church since V2 and re-institute Catholic worship. That is to say, true worship of the Trinity, through the Sarifice of the Eucharist in the company of the angels and the saints.

 

But maybe I'm just bitter.

 

jAMDG

 

 

Well funny thing, James. I think that our church being a UCC church would have all the reason in the world to have such "pap" as you say being that it is pretty progressive. But aside from the wordings to make them more inclusive (male and female), the music is pretty traditional Protestant stuff, not, in most cases, distinguishable for other (more conservative) Protestant churches. I'm sure darby would feel right at home with the music (at least). We do have some modern (and less singable, imo) tunes, and some more African and South American ones as well, which I like better than the "modern" ones.

 

I am unaware of the Catholic church (haven't been to one since in college), so I can't really comment, except to say that I think that musical selection has more to do with musical taste vs theology. I know some of the megachurches don't want to scare people away and so have a lot of theological neutral music "God is great God is good" , but that would be the exception.

 

Just wanted to comment on your statement re: progressive message.

 

--des

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Bauer, in his book-- which I wouldn't recommend to James :-) -- Stealing Jesus, talks about the attributes of "church" which are horizontal (appealing to the largest group, more worldly, are more part of our daily experience) and those which are horizontal (more mythical, more oriented to communion with God, etc.). I think it is a good explanation. I tend to like the "traditional" services more as they tend to have more of the vertical elements vs the more "alternative" ones that seem more like day to day experiences. I would hope for a third way as well that could introduce the new without losing the verticalness.

 

 

--des

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Bauer, in his book-- which I wouldn't recommend to James :-) -- Stealing Jesus, talks about the attributes of "church" which are horizontal (appealing to the largest group, more worldly,  are more part of our daily experience) and those which are horizontal (more mythical, more oriented to communion with God, etc.). I think it is a good explanation. I tend to like the "traditional" services more as they tend to have more of the vertical elements vs the more "alternative" ones that seem more like day to day experiences. I would hope for a third way as well that could introduce the new without losing the verticalness.

--des

 

I should read Bauer's book. Joining the horizontal attributes to the vertical and finding that "third way" that Fred introduced is really all I was trying to say in my last post.

 

My apologies for my crankiness.

 

I do sympathize with James though and I do hope that the "progressive" push in the church will amount to more than just making Christianity more comfortable for more people. The mysteries ARE scary. In ancient times they placed fierce Gorgons at the entrance to the temples so that those who were not ready or prepared would cower away. There is wisdom in that, I think.

 

I remember visiting a church in North Carolina around Thanksgiving where an ardent young Christian woman went around to all the visitors offering salvation in the name of Jesus in exchange for a free turkey. I'm not making this up. This fixation on salvation for the masses, requiring nothing more than assent, negates the response required of us who are called to be sons of God. It is not we who issue the Call, it is God. Our responsiblity is to speak the truth and those who have ears to hear will come. I've said this before, and I'll say it again. Our biggest stumbling block to church building and reconstruction is our insistence that those who are outside the fold are damned; that only Christianity holds the keys to Truth, and that it is our responsibility (and not Gods) to knock them over the heads and drag them in if need be....or bequile them with "pap" and assurances. And what gets sacrificed here but the Truth, which is not confined to any one tradition, but is as Free as God. Or so I believe.

 

lily

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The mysteries ARE scary. In ancient times they placed fierce Gorgons at the entrance to the temples so that those who were not ready or prepared would cower away. There is wisdom in that, I think.

So you're having trouble finding a church, you say. ;):lol:

 

Seriously though, I agree 100%. Churches seem to be either so irrelevant that there's no point in going at all, or so much like the rest of our lives that there's no point in going at all. I've pretty much given up the hope of finding a church community that's going to provide much in the way of real spiritual transformation, and concluded that I'm basically going to have to seek out those avenues on my own -- which actually makes the search for a church community a lot simpler, since we can focus more on factors like worship style, social outreach opportunities, making friends who share our values, a positive religious education experience for kids, etc. Land, Community, Family type stuff. ;)

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Great posts! I agree with most everything I've read. Fred's comment about church being so much like our everyday lives to the point of being irrelevent is absolutely right. Those of you in the Chicago area know of a huge megachurch in the suburbs where there are (I believe) atm machines, restaurants and Starbucks.

I haven't been there but that's what I've heard.

 

DIRECTIONS FOR SINGING

 

4 Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead,or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength . Be no more afraid of your voice now nor more ashamed of its being heard , than when you sang the songs of Satan.

 

5 Sing modestly . Do not bawl so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together so as to make one clear, melodious sound. .

John Wesley 1761

 

To me congregatioal hymn singing is so important , whether Catholic or Protestant, conservative or liberal, because its the one time in the service where there are no perfomers or audience , but all are one.

 

MOW

Edited by MOW
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Those of you in the Chicago area know of a huge megachurch in the suburbs where there are (I believe) atm machines, restaurants and Starbucks.

I haven't been there but that's what I've heard.

It's called Willow Creek Community Church, and it's been growing by leaps and bounds for decades. Dress is mostly "business casual," worship style is dramatic/theatrical, sermons are personal and "revelant." It's evangelicalism's greatest marketing triumph. So much so that the Catholic church my wife and I attended back in '01 was strategically positioned to keep area Catholics from defecting -- but unfortunately became too similar to them in the process.

 

To me congregatioal hymn singing is so important , whether Catholic or Protestant, conservative or liberal, because its the one time in the service where there are no perfomers or audience , but all are one.

Exactly. How is a congregation supposed to sing above showboaty choir soloists, drums, and guitars? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for musical performaces -- even musical performances in church. I'm a classically trained musician, for goodness' sake. I think good music, well-performed, can lift the spirit to great heights. I'm not even morally opposed to guitars and drums in church. (Some of you might be surprised at some of the noise I listen to. ;)) But congregational singing is an absolute must, and congregational songs have to be singable!

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Though I don't think that progressives are primarily responsibility (at least directly) with the propagation of pap, drivel, irrelevance, etc. in music. I honestly think it is more the movement to make church relevant and modern. (That's why I said "directly") Certainly groups that attempt to do this are across the theological spectrum. Some guy I know says about this, "well and everyone sings Kumbaya together". That about sums it up. :-)

What do we believe, well we sing Kumbaya together.

 

I think it is the lack of taking a stance (whatever it might be-- conservative or progressive or even moderate) that is more to blame for the "God is great we are great" music.

 

 

 

--des

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The mysteries ARE scary. In ancient times they placed fierce Gorgons at the entrance to the temples so that those who were not ready or prepared would cower away. There is wisdom in that, I think.

So you're having trouble finding a church, you say. ;):lol:

 

Seriously though, I agree 100%. Churches seem to be either so irrelevant that there's no point in going at all, or so much like the rest of our lives that there's no point in going at all. I've pretty much given up the hope of finding a church community that's going to provide much in the way of real spiritual transformation, and concluded that I'm basically going to have to seek out those avenues on my own -- which actually makes the search for a church community a lot simpler, since we can focus more on factors like worship style, social outreach opportunities, making friends who share our values, a positive religious education experience for kids, etc. Land, Community, Family type stuff. ;)

 

Very reasonable compromise; very sane and mature and responsible. It also occurs to me almost daily that this is the right way to go...to get involved with a church, and God help her and me, persevere there as authentically as possible. But all the things you list Fred, like 'worship style', 'social outreach', 'making friends' and 'religious education' already send up a red flag in me. These things are parts of institutions and therefore subject in quality to the core values which comprise them. I wouldn't want my kids, for instance, being taught some of what is considered "a positive religious education" out there. Even "making friends who share our values" seems like something one could do anywhere in which common interests are shared, and not something one would go specifically to church for. I dunno, maybe I'm just a miscreant misfit. If the truth be known? I would much rather a small group of five or six, outside, under the sky, with sained food and drink, a few guitars, a few bodhrans, who are sick of the ###### and are ready to get on with it...

 

...on the other hand, maybe i just want to remain a marginal christian and sit on christian web sites ranting so as to convince myself that I still have a pulse...

 

lily

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But all the things you list Fred, like 'worship style', 'social outreach', 'making friends' and 'religious education' already send up a red flag in me. These things are parts of institutions and therefore subject in quality to the core values which comprise them.

Well, of course they are. Didn't you just write that:

 

Transformational religion is not meant to be comfortable; but neither is it meant to be radically divorced from the affairs of Men, and so an "earthiness", a down-to-earth quality, a sense of anchoring to our Land, our Communities, our Families, belongs in our tradition.

All these realities have an institutional component. We don't just eat, we have dinner; we don't just learn, we go to schools; we don't just trade goods and services, we have an economy. All these things can take on negative qualities when intstitutionalized, but hey, that's life. Steering between the extremes is part of the fun. :)

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All these realities have an institutional component.  We don't just eat, we have dinner; we don't just learn, we go to schools; we don't just trade goods and services, we have an economy.  All these things can take on negative qualities when intstitutionalized, but hey, that's life.  Steering between the extremes is part of the fun. :)

 

You're right.

 

lily

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Don't get me wrong, I'm not telling everyone to get up straightaway and find a church, by any means. That would be most hypocritical of me. Even now, I frequently have difficulty convincing myself that it's a worthwhile use of the time; and I definitely don't find much deep spiritual resonance there. I've just found that I personally miss it being in my life, even for all it may never be. My "justifications," or whatever one wants to call them, are my own, and not intended to bully anyone else into it.

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Churches can be good things and bad things, depending upon where one is on their own "long strange trip" ( Yes folks, I hereby admit to being a Deadhead) .

 

There were times in my life when churches filled me with joy and well-being when singing glorious music, helped me to feel like a small part of something much bigger and better, more fulfilled when I was sharing a meal with others, chatting about s'mores on retreats around campfires, or when serious discussion groups helped to heal me after a terrible divorce.

 

But since they are institutions filled with fallible human beings just like me, they can also be witheringly judgemental when you write or say something that disagrees with the accepted norm of the church's hierarchy. I was pretty much summarily drummed out of two congregations in such an instance that also resulted in a second divorce ( I have a hard time learning. I even met that one in church! A wonderful woman!) . There was no tolerance, no questions, no discussions, only harsh judgement.

 

I think that Jesus knew this would be the case for all of us that find becoming a praising part of a larger religious institution a VERY difficult thing. When I and my family once joined a Presbyterian church, it was just like going to cocktail parties, tailgate parties, or the country club. You met the same folks. In church you all went through "the motions" together. That was about the time the first divorce happened. My wife at the time didn't "do" church except for the social portion, and both of my grown children are virtually clueless about the sorts of things we talk about here. I've let them find their own ways.

 

Now I tend to believe that there are more hypocrites "inside" religious institutions than there are "outside" such places. This is because, as you pointed out Fred, such institutions are, of necessity, intimately tied to political agendas. The serious thinkers "outside' such institutions are only trying to find or devise a new, better thing to fulfill our spiritual needs and that's a good thing. Religion may not progress without risk taking by people who gather (electronically even) in places like this which tolerate such discussions. Even though we're occasionally violating all sorts of orthodox, doctrinal, dogmatic, and political taboos, that's ok. I don't feel guilty. As I mentioned elsewhere here, one doesn't need to go to church to be a good Christian. I believe that Jesus, and God would approve if they could voice an opinion, or maybe they will someday. :rolleyes:

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Yes, I feel human beings who follow their spirit are the true believers who worship the Father in spirit and in truth. Their churches are not made of stone alone but are also in the hearts of the men and women that they serve. These truly Christian men and women live by another concept because they consider the date of their birth the day their ego surrendered to what I like to call Christ consciousness. The mind after knowing the love of this higher consciousness takes on something more than just the ego and is born again to help the world.

http://thinkunity.com

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Now I tend to believe that there are more hypocrites "inside" religious institutions than there are "outside" such places. This is because, as you pointed out Fred, such institutions are, of necessity, intimately tied to political agendas. The serious thinkers "outside' such institutions are only trying to find or devise a new, better thing to fulfill our spiritual needs and that's a good thing. Religion may not progress without risk taking by people who gather (electronically even) in places like this which tolerate such discussions. Even though we're occasionally violating all sorts of orthodox, doctrinal, dogmatic, and political taboos, that's ok. I don't feel guilty. As I mentioned elsewhere here, one doesn't need to go to church to be a good Christian. I believe that Jesus, and God would  approve if they could voice an opinion, or maybe they will someday.      :rolleyes:

 

I would agree that one needn't go to church to be a good christian, but I wouldn't indulge myself too much in the temptation to think that all the "good" christians aren't in church. For one thing, the question, "what is a good christian?" is open for debate. There are many days that I would not consider myself a "good christian" at all. On even more days I'm not even sure what a good christian is.

 

But I do relish the freedom here and I do agree that taking risks and discussing things openly is important to progress...and I appreciate all of you very much.

 

lily

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There are many days that I would not consider myself a "good christian" at all. On even more days I'm not even sure what a good christian is.

Yeah, if I think about it too hard, I am forced to conclude that mainly I'm just a windbag who doesn't actually do most of what I say I should.

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There are many days that I would not consider myself a "good christian" at all. On even more days I'm not even sure what a good christian is.

Yeah, if I think about it too hard, I am forced to conclude that mainly I'm just a windbag who doesn't actually do most of what I say I should.

 

Ah, so that's trying to jump on you too, eh? You guys remember the old-timey phrase, "The Lord convicted me?" Well, the Holy Spirit does go, "Whoa Ho there bucko, let's examine what you just said in light of your own walk." Very uncomfortable, what? However, keep in mind that this discomfort has a holy origin and it is because we ARE Christians and called of God that the Spirit will not leave us in peace, if that peace be a false peace. This is a good thing.

 

From our point of view, Fred, and apart from what is between you and God, your contributions to this list are of great value. Sometimes its very difficult to discern between "the accuser of the brethren" and the "dealings of God with the soul". Just remember, there is no condemnation in Christ, and if you're feeling like the lowest of the low and that you have no right to say anything, it's likely not the Holy Spirit whispering in your ear. The Holy Spirit goads, but doesn't stifle. Just my own "rule of thumb".

 

lily

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Ah, so that's trying to jump on you too, eh?

Nah, no self-loathing implied. :)

 

Just a friendly reminder I give myself every so often, to put my proverbial money where my mouth is.

 

Oh. Ah C. "Just a friendly reminder" you give yourself. Okeeey then.

 

Sometimes Fred, you are just SO reasonable. :blink:

 

lily

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Fred and Lily:

 

Isn't it a "good" thing that we progressives may indulge ourselves in that "bad" Einsteinian "sin"

of relativism in inventive ways? Which brings to mind the conundrum of conservative fundamentalism. If everything that one disagrees with is judged to be "bad" how can there be anything that's good other than one's own selfish desires? And further, how could one even come to know the difference between the two? Is this what's known as shallow psychology, as opposed to depth psychology? :D

Edited by flowperson
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Fred and Lily:

 

Isn't it a "good" thing that we progressives may indulge ourselves in that "bad" Einsteinian "sin"

of relativism in inventive ways? Which brings to mind the conundrum of conservative fundamentalism. If everything that one disagrees with is judged to be "bad" how can there be anything that's good other than one's own selfish desires? And further, how could one even come to know the difference between the two? Is this what's known as shallow psychology, as opposed to depth psychology?  :D

 

...well, i think the main thing to realize is that we are all bad, relatively speaking ;) This realization engenders what can be known as "knee-deep" psychology". :P

 

lily

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