Friday, May 27, 2005

Why these men are most fittingly called "illusionists"
(implied salty language in the link -- you were warned!)

Around grade 3, which would be what, age 9, I had a fascination with stage magic, especially slight of hand. I'm too clumsy to master the techniques (and quite bluntly, too lazy) to work my hands to pieces to get this stuff down. I liked being in the know, you know. I had the trick and they (the audience) didn't. The illusion is what matters.

Well, Penn and Teller were favorites of mine. The edgy, weird and wired manner of their act always added another dimension of surprise. As is the case with all celebrities, once they stray from entertaining to informing and/or pontificating, they immediately begin to falter. Take the case of the lovely analysis of Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity. Certainly, one could make the argument that social services that merely focus upon day-to-day assistance are not in the long term wise because they do not address underlying social structures that result in widespread poverty. If they had made such an argument, then one could actually, I don't know, think through the issue. But instead they take the road of invective and useless, childish language, in an effort, I suppose to present themselves as "rebels" against the establishment, read the Catholic Church. Ladies and Gentlemen, if hurling insults for the sake of ratings is being rebellious, then it renders them rebels without a clue. As a matter of fact, didn't I catch Penn Gillette, slumming on some home repair show? Nice way to fight the man, Penn. I would suspect that much of the oppobrium leveled against the good sisters comes from the fact that their so-conceived liberal outreach (work with the poor) doesn't automatically force them to reject the Church's so-called conservative teaching on sex and marriage.

I'm not sure this exactly angers me because it is so darned silly. Anyone who can claim to have spent most of his life carrying those that everyone else stepped over -- and stepped on -- is reasonable immune to this. The work speaks for itself, and Mother Teresa did and her sisters continue to do exactly this. When Penn and Teller quit their homes in Las Vegas and do what Mother Teresa did, I might be willing to give them a hearing. Until then, I am, literally, waiting for them to put their money where their mouths are.

What might be lurking here is something that Benedict XVI alludes to in his book Introduction to Christianity. For people of unbelief, the most damning argument is not the one that is for belief but rather the one that is against unbelief. The venomous yawping of those who choke in their thunder boxes upon the poison of our age, cannot drowned out the testimony of charity, embodied, incarnated in those who are baptized. Call me the "starry-eyed optimist" but this furious nashing of teeth is nothing more than the confusion that proceeds before conversion, as one both remains attached to the vile stuff they have consumed and brutally wants to cough up the whole tainted pile. Staring, unblinking, into raw charity in a creature we assume unredeemable forces every illusion to fall leading to the unmistakable confrontation with a reality greater than we could have imagined.

(Tip o' the biretta to Ignatius Insight Scoop and Jeff Grace for the report.)

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