Collect


Offertory for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

Moses consecrated an altar unto the Lord, offering burnt offerings upon it, and sacrificing peace offerings; and he made an evening sacrifice for a sweet smelling savor unto the Lord God, in the sight of the children of Israel.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Dirty Hands

I am full of doubts. Can I really be a Catholic author? I am such a terrible example.

What sort of Catholic author, exactly, gets caught by friends in gay bars, dressed like one of Lord Humungus' marauders? What sort of Catholic author explains his tattoo from the Purgatorio in between kisses and gropes?

There have always been bad Catholics. Famously bad Catholics, even. The twentieth century was arguably the century of the bad Catholic: Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Andy Warhol, Anne Rice, Dan Savage. Catholicism, like its mother faith, Judaism, has an incredible staying power: however far you stray from Rome, the smell of the incense clings to you; expressed in theological language, the marks left by Baptism and Confirmation are indelible, but one doesn't need the technical terms to recognize the fact, or the experience.

Aspiring to be a bad Catholic seems well within reach for me. Can I really, though? I can't quite seem to make peace with my badness, partly because I never know how much I should. On the one hand, St Teresa said that "You must learn to bear for God's sake the trial of being displeasing to yourself"; on the other, St Paul said, "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus."

If I weren't compelled to write it might not matter so much. It would be more seemly to shut up. But I can't. I'm a chronic loudmouth, especially when it comes to things I care about, and helping fellow LGBT people know that they can be Catholic Christians, if they want to, is something I care about so much I can't find words to do it justice. At the same time, I can't lie. I can't pretend to be better than I am: not for propriety, not to be an exemplar (a fraud is a terrible exemplar, after all), not for anything at all.


I've long taken comfort in Flannery O'Connor's introduction to Wise Blood, describing her obsessive and anti-theist prophet protagonist:
It is a novel about a Christian malgre lui, and as such, very serious, for all comic novels that are any good must be about matters of life and death. ... That belief in Christ is to some a matter of life and death has been a stumbling block for some readers who would prefer to think it a matter of no great consequence. For them, Hazel Motes' integrity lies in his trying with such vigor to get rid of the ragged figure who moves from tree to tree in the back of his mind. For the author, Hazel's integrity lies in his not being able to do so. Does one's integrity ever lie in what he is not able to do? I think that usually it does, for free will does not mean one will, but many wills conflicting in one man. Freedom cannot be conceived simply.
And, more simply, from the novel itself:
There was already a deep black wordless conviction in him that the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin.
He responds so readily to prayers prayed with dirty hands, doesn't He?


Catholic speakers and authors and priests talk about trying to become a saint as the most important thing, but it's not. Saintliness is the fairest and most deceitful of all idols. Pursuing God, on the other hand, is infinitely important, and has the added advantage of being impossible, whereas it's quite easy to discover that one is already saintly.

Anyway. I'm not sure where, if anywhere, I'm going with this, but it felt right to share it. Mostly because it was costly. I wanted to write something safe and sanitary today -- but that kind of thing is nearly always shit. Writing should be done in your own blood, so that you won't write anything that isn't worth it.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

A Response to Dr. Rachel Lu

I was rather refreshed to read Rachel Lu's recent critique at Catholic World Report. I don't share all her views on the subject she addresses (naturally enough, given that I'm loosely associated with the Spiritual Friendship crowd), but her balance and willingness to reflect bespeaks a thoughtful analysis,  for which I am grateful, and I'd like to make some reply to her remarks. My reply is one consisting mostly of disagreement, but I hope I have disagreed respectfully (and apologize if I haven't).


One of her chief concerns is that the Side B* crowd sound a great deal like the surrounding culture, and that our concerns seem very largely to reflect theirs. She writes:
They lobby tirelessly for better support and affirmation for the same-sex attracted. But their advocacy mirrors the mainstream secular narrative in focusing overwhelmingly on broader social attitudes that they regard as defective (because they are insufficiently supportive or accepting), while shying away from any discussion of the defects intrinsic to homosexuality. ... [Helping same-sex attracted believers] is obviously challenging in a culture that is exerting enormous pressure upon religious groups to affirm same-sex desire as normative. It's disconcerting that the Spiritual Friendship group seems remarkably oblivious to this context.
I'd like to parse this a bit. I assume that Dr. Lu's objections are not to our focus on social attitudes just as such, since any kind of culture war is about nothing if not social attitudes. I gather that she reasons that the greater threat to the Church is the hostility of the secular world, as opposed to internal problems the Church has in loving and supporting LGBT people. I agree that I at least spend a great deal more time talking about Christian homophobia and its horrible ramifications in the lives of gay Christians (and ex-Christians), than I do rebuking the gay agenda or the rainbow reich or whatever we want to call it. This is partly because of how my own priorities are arranged, but it's also about the context of my audience. I expect -- and my e-mail and combox seem to bear this out -- that Mudblood Catholic is read chiefly by fellow Christians. I'm therefore far more concerned to urge the duty of charity upon them than I am to urge the duty of repentance upon those outside the Church, because talking about other people's sins to those who aren't committing them, even in the abstract, is at best an unproductive exercise.

If I had any reason to think that I were writing something read primarily by gay-identifying non-Christians, I would no doubt write very differently; but I don't expect that most of them would happen to be interested in a blog like mine -- why should they? -- and even if they were, I've consistently found that lectures on moral theology and natural law tend to fall flat on, well, most people really. It's noteworthy that, in His own ministry, our Lord mostly urged repentance in very general terms, except when talking to religious people, whom He rebuked with great specificity and open anger.

I would also say that, no, we are definitely not oblivious to the context of opposition to Catholic sexual mores in which we find ourselves. The people who believe it are our friends, our co-workers, our relatives, often our fellow parishioners. We carry around the at times heartbreaking reason for that opposition, inside ourselves. And we have been opposed, even at times attacked, by those willing to fight the Catholic beliefs that we hold dear. However much we may resemble secular culture, however much we may even owe to it, we've been told in no uncertain terms that we are self-hating bigots and responsible for homophobic beatings, murders, and suicides. No, we may be -- I certainly am -- many things, but we are not oblivious.


I cannot believe we had a supervillainous Octopope and got rid of him.

Turning to the question of culture war and arrangement of priorities, which I touched on above, Dr. Lu writes the following:
The modern Church is under assault from a secular juggernaut that would use homosexuality as an excuse to criminalize her teachings. This is a serious threat to the spiritual health and integrity of all faithful Christians, and the orthodox are scrambling to respond appropriately. This hardly seems to register with most members of this group. ... [Do they] realize that these bishops are probably scrambling to articulate their formal position in hopes of protecting orthodox priests ... from potential civil or criminal sanction? At such a time, is it reasonable to expect that "pastoral care for sexual minorities" should be a bishop's central concern? ... Any pastoral initiative that captures the media's attention (and that of the lightly catechized) will either be or be presented as a complete repudiation of traditional sexual mores. ... Realistically, then, orthodox pastoral outreach to the same-sex attracted will have to be conducted in the deep shadow of a much larger battle for the life and freedom of the Church. ... [G]iven the urgency of the situation, we really can't mute that message for the comfort of a small number of people.
On reading this last line, I thought instantly of the text in the Catechism which says, "The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible." But that is not the meat of the argument.

I am the first to agree that the conflict between the Church and the World is vast -- and perennial; it exists today, as it existed a hundred years ago, and a thousand years ago. And we have always had the assurance of the Lord Jesus to Peter, that the Church was founded upon a Rock, and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against her. In consequence, I can't possibly agree that the life and health of the Church are in any peril from any amount of secular pressure, or even outright persecution. That the Church's freedom -- in the political sense, though certainly not in the spiritual sense -- is at stake, is in my opinion possible, if a bit premature to declare; but I categorically reject the idea that the Church's political freedom is in the least important when compared with the intimacy of one single soul with God, which is what pastoring exists for. The Church existed before she was legal, and will go on living if she is illegalized again (whether openly or covertly). It is only those individual souls who will last into eternity, in Heaven or in hell: but whether there be politics, they shall fail; whether there be blogs, they shall cease; whether there be a kulturkampf, it shall vanish away. 

As to whether it's reasonable to expect pastoral care to be more important to bishops than protecting their priests from civil sanction, I think the answer ought to be a clear, resounding Yes. The Church is not in the business of maintaining her social or political status, however valuable those things may be; she is in the business of giving her children spiritual life, through the ministry of the sacraments, the preaching of the gospel, and, yes, pastoring them. And she is just as present within a jail cell as she is outside of it.

Of course, this is embarrassingly easy for me to write, since I am not personally in danger of being imprisoned for my convictions (that I know of -- though perhaps my posts on Edward Snowden have earned me a "giggles" file on some government watch list or other). Still, it is, I believe, true, and my own dubious character can't alter that.

That the Church's No is louder than her Yes may be an inevitable consequence of a culture war, but in my opinion, so much the worse the culture war. Jesus never ordered us to wage one in the first place. And her No may not be directed at the scared Catholic teenager, struggling to come to terms his feelings for his male best friend, but he's going to hear it all the same. And I speak both from my own experience and from the stories of my friends when I say that, for ninety-nine sheep out of a hundred, whether they wait around for pastoring depends largely on what they think the pastor will say and do to them, and that expectation is formed by the Church's public statements.


Returning to Dr. Lu's argument, she asserts that the adjustment in our perspective that she urges is necessary for an orthodox, adequate ministry to same-sex attracted people:
Of course we should not heap gratuitous burdens on the already-afflicted, but it's essential to be clear about the truth. Is it possible to do this without some hard feelings? ... Personal narrative has its advantages, but it can also undercut discussion insofar as it puts the narrator in a privileged class (which in some cases may mean a privileged victim class), implying that outsiders can have nothing useful to contribute ... In calling for greater solicitude, the Spiritual Friends seem to acknowledge that same-sex attraction is an enormously important, life-defining condition that demands serious attention from the Church. On the other hand, when it comes to the defective aspects of same-sex attraction, they have a tendency to minimize its significance ... protesting any attempt to refer to people as "disordered" simply because they desire disordered acts. ... In short, it seems the Spiritual Friends wish to enjoy simultaneously the solicitude due to the sick, and also the respect that is naturally paid to the (mentally and morally) healthy. This is not an unusual quandary, but it is genuinely problematic, particularly insofar as it ties the hands of those who are genuinely anxious to help.
It's perfectly true that "privileged victims" exist, and also that shutting those who aren't part of a given minority out of conversations about that minority, isn't really helpful or fair. It is, I think, equally true that victims are not simply a privileged class, and that members of a given minority know best where their own shoes pinch, and should be given, not an exclusive, but (as it were) a privileged voice in such conversations.

I will readily plead guilty to the assertion that I at least minimize and downplay the defective aspects of same-sex attraction. My reasons for this are, first, that I don't like thinking about them, since my life largely (though not overwhelmingly) consists in them: my vocation is far more restricted and confusing to me than I had hoped, I expect to be childless, and so on. Along with that, there's the fact that these disadvantages hardly need to be emphasized. But more than that, in both my personal experience and historical study, I haven't found any consistent negative aspects of homosexuality other than itself. It's common in Christian circles to assert that homosexuality is linked to depression and other psychiatric illnesses, a broad trend of moral degeneration, pedophilia, and a laundry list of other personal and societal woes; but I haven't found any reliable evidence (scientific, historical, or even anecdotal) that any of this is true. In consequence, I don't claim to know about the defective aspects of same-sex attraction of which Dr. Lu speaks, and therefore, I don't speak of them.

As far as disorder and sickness are concerned, I would note a couple of things. First, resistance to calling people, as opposed to acts or desires, disordered, does not originate with Spiritual Friendship. It originates with the Church's own documents on the pastoral care of gay people, which go out of their way to say that the person as a whole is not disordered. To call an act disordered, in the technical vocabulary of Catholic theology, means no more than to say that it is misdirected; to call a person disordered is, in the same vocabulary, meaningless, and in the vernacular, means that they are diseased and/or insane. The Church doesn't teach that, and I don't believe it.

Secondly, I take exception to the (apparent) idea that sick people do not need to be accorded respect. I don't think that respect for any person should be based on their conditions or circumstances, but on the mere fact that they are human beings, icons of the Divine Creator. One may of course have to work around someone's conditions or circumstances, but that's nothing to the purpose. (I would, too, say that what I tend to look for, and what I think I read in the authors of Spiritual Friendship, is that care given rather to the injured than to the sick; but perhaps that is only a quibble.) Accordingly, I don't see how asking for respect and care in any way ties the hands of those who wish to help us.


Photo selected from Orthodox-Reformed Bridge.

There is one passage of Dr. Lu's piece that I don't merely disagree with, but seriously object to.
[Some people] view the Spiritual Friends less as a victim class, and more as the fortunate and blessed ones who successfully avoided the more egregious wounds to which the same-sex attracted are vulnerable. ... Noting this see-no-evil approach, I have occasionally wondered whether there might be a strain of "sexual anorexia" in the Spiritual Friendship school, enabling them to enjoy the sense of power that they get from proximity to temptations to which they have not actually succumbed.
This, I find disgusting, less for its ugly speculation on our private sexual qualities than for its ugly speculation on our private spiritual qualities. I've only rarely had to deal with a confessor or a director who was so ready to intrude on the recesses of my soul. That said, I can assert that I am wholly free of this particular fault, since (unlike most of Side B) I'm too slutty to be considered even within spitting distance of not-succumbing to temptation.

Returning to the much pleasanter aspect of mere disagreement, she (nearly) concludes her piece in this way:
Whether or not this is so, it leads us naturally to an important question, which only the Spiritual Friends can answer for themselves: do they genuinely wish to be well? The question is admittedly presumptuous, and may even seem a bit obtuse, but their extensive narrative invites it and of course we already know that attachment to defect is part of our fallen condition. We should properly admire those who are willing to labor under burdens that God has not yet seen fit to remove from them. It's quite another thing, however, to be attached to those burdens ...
A different thing indeed! As great, I am tempted to say, as the difference between duty and joy, justice and love, sober obedience and glorious abandon.
A thorn was given me in the flesh ... Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I am no St. Paul, but I try to take my cue from him in this -- and from the Lord Jesus, who did not heal His sacred wounds in the Resurrection, but preserved and glorified them. I've no doubt that I have a great deal of mere laxity and self-conceit in my attitude toward my sexuality, but, having tried shame for a couple decades, I've found that it doesn't work as a tool to bring me closer to God. As far as wishing to be well -- if wellness is understood as whole union of myself with God, then yes. If it's understood in any other sense, I don't believe that it's truly worth my time.


Caravaggio, The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, 1602.


*For those not already familiar, Side B is a sort of nickname for those of us who regard ourselves as gay, bisexual, trans, or otherwise queer, but affirm the traditional Christian doctrine that sex is rightly reserved to monogamous, heterosexual marriage. The nickname's origins need not detain us for the moment.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Economy of the Cross

August and September's extended conflict between certain authors who shall remain nameless and the Side B/Spiritual Friendship community left me feeling extremely hurt, angry, and bewildered. The refusal to heed explanation and argument from people who live directly in the tension between the queer world and the Church, and are thus more or less forced to know what we are talking about, was the source of the bewilderment; the hints at heresy despite our unanimous orthodoxy, and the apparently total and callous disregard for the devastating effects of their language on actual gay-identifying people, especially young people, was the the source of the anger and the hurt. Ron and Beverley Belgau's address at the World Meeting of Families last week helped some -- it felt like a vote of confidence, or at the least a listening ear (which is one of the things we have so largely been crying out for), on the part of the bishops to invite them.

But the fact that there are so many Catholics out there who would rather scold and judge us, not even for our failures, but for whether and how we talk about the mere fact of being gay, is a long-standing bitterness to me. I suppose it makes sense that the devoutly religious should be among those who accuse, rather than those who help to shoulder the cross. "Shut up and carry your cross like the others," a constant refrain of these writers and their commenters, is the language of the soldiers, not of St Veronica or the Mother of Sorrows; and it rightly provokes disgust and indignance in those who encounter it, and has scandalized some to the point of heresy or apostasy.


O Lord, deliver me from the man of excellent intention and impure 
heart: for the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.
Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite and Geshem 
the Arabian: were doubtless men of public spirit and zeal.
Preserve me from the enemy who has something to gain:
and from the friend who has something to lose ...
-- T. S. Eliot, Choruses from "The Rock," V.1-3

But my own self-righteous craving for not only vindication but revenge -- that our, and my, opponents should be not only corrected (which need not be a wholly arrogant desire, though it is usually mixed with arrogance), but embarrassed in the process (which is always an evil desire) -- is certainly no better. Stewing over the faults of others, real or imagined, is wrong; it's what moral theologians call morose delectation, a common flaw of religious people like me, and of many people with an idealistic streak like mine. It's a great way to nurture hatred, sullenness, nasty-mindedness, and self-conceit -- including, interestingly, the decision that we are martyrs. For of course, the mark of a martyr is that he suffers for God, in Himself and in the martyr's fellow-man, and bears these sufferings out of love. But it is perfectly possible to parody the sufferings of the martyr for the sake of our own diabolical ego. Indeed, that sort of spiritual corruption is one of the greatest dangers of the spiritual life, partly because it can be difficult to detect and, correspondingly, difficult to cure.

Thank God for the bottomless wells of grace -- that is, of His Being, of the divine life -- that He shares with us. For that is really and truly the only remedy; no amount of self-examination can assure any improvement, however much it helps.

Trying to find some right, loving way of responding, even if that response were only keeping silence, drew my mind to the whole economy of the Cross on which the Kingdom of Heaven (that is, the Church) operates. In his short book He Came Down from Heaven,* Charles Williams points out the striking contrast between the proclamation of St John the Baptist and the gospel of Christ proper:
What, apart from the expectation of the Redeemer, was the gospel of the Precursor? It was something like complete equality and temporal justice, regarded as the duty of those who expect the Kingdom. What has happened to that duty in the gospel of the Kingdom?

Titian, St John the Baptist in the Desert, ca. 1542
The new gospel does not care much about it. All John's doctrine is less than the least in the Kingdom. It cannot be bothered with telling people not to defraud and not to be violent and to share their superfluities. It tosses all that sort of thing on one side. 
... What then of all the great tradition, the freeing of slaves at the Exodus, the determination of the prophets, the long effort against the monstrous impiety of Cain? The answer is obvious; all that is assumed as a mere preliminary. The rich ... are practically incapable of salvation, at which all the Apostles are exceedingly astonished. Their astonishment is exceedingly funny to our vicariously generous minds. But if riches are not supposed to be confined to money, the astonishment becomes more general.
The long tradition of Christianity as the unofficial but real civil religion of Western society has muddied this a great deal. When the same institution that was premised upon transcending the law must also make itself responsible for first instructing people in the law, and must accordingly develop an intricate body of knowledge and technique for doing so, to say nothing of the rules it has to develop to govern its own worldwide operations -- well, keeping the natural and the supernatural distinct from, yet in contact with, each other is fantastically difficult; as difficult as understanding the simultaneous distinction and union of the human and the divine in Christ. Apollinaris, Nestorius, and the rest didn't fall into heresy out of mere inattentive stupidity. It is horribly easy to suppose that a properly Christian society, or a properly Christian individual, substitutes explicit and pushy religiosity for all other cultural or personal substance, or that the "moral values" of the faith are the thing for which it's chiefly important (as though non-Christians didn't have moral values!).**

An age like our own, in which Christianity has largely but not entirely ceased to be the civil religion, and in which, at the same time, the actual moral standards of society have shifted significantly, is practically begging for believers to confuse natural morality and supernatural grace. But they are as different as they always have been. Natural morality operates on the economy of law, of wrong and right in action and intent; and we cannot do without it, as we cannot do without food. But we can no more treat law as grace than we can treat the Blessed Sacrament as ordinary bread.

Kyri-o's: Intinction never tasted so good.

The economy of law knows justice as its highest virtue, and, when wronged, seeks only recovery and redress; many versions of "forgiveness," like the kind that seeks to forgive because it relieves the stressful distraction of resentment, belong to this economy rather than the other -- i.e., trying to use the golden paving stones of the Heavenly Jerusalem to pay for anti-anxiety meds.

But that is not the economy of the Cross. Its operations are the operations of the Holy Ghost, who cannot be detected, still less caught, by human means. It isn't only that you can't buy grace with money or good looks; you equally can't buy it with intelligence or good character. Truthfulness, patience, kindness, and yes, chastity may all be animated by grace; none of them can earn it.

And that economy, of grace from without, and, with it, of forgiveness and good will towards all others, as universal as that which God showers upon us, is step one of the Christian faith. We don't get to make exceptions based on how horrible somebody was to us. Whether their behavior was, or is, really and truly worse than ours doesn't enter into it; that is a return to the economy of law, of relative goodness and debts owed and just deserts. The first movement of grace is to cancel, not simply our own debts, but debts; currency is made meaningless for the Christian, save insofar as its beauty can furnish decoration to lay beneath our feet. To insist on My Rights and My Wrongs is, simply and to that extent, to excuse oneself from the economy of the Cross. Everything is gift, and so, unrepayable.

What then of our injuries? Well, admittedly, the wind bloweth where it listeth, and we do not all receive the same graces or receive them on the same schedule. We shouldn't presume on our strength, and there are times when we may and must withdraw ourselves from being injured further. But, to return to Charles Williams:
The new way of pardon is to be different from the old, for the evil is still to be known. It is known, in what follows, by the Thing that came down from heaven. ... It remains still exclusive and inclusive; it excludes all consent to the knowledge of evil, but it includes the whole knowledge of evil without its own consent. It is 'made sin,' in St Paul's phrase. 
... Men had determined to know good as evil; there could be but one perfect remedy for that -- to know the evil of the past itself as good, and to be free from the necessity of the knowledge of evil in the future; to find right knowledge and perfect freedom together; to know all things as occasions of love. 
... It was not inappropriate that the condition of such a pardon should be repentance, for repentance is no more than a passionate intention to know all things after the mode of heaven, and you cannot know evil as good if you insist on knowing it as evil. Pardon, as between any two beings, is a reidentification of love ... It is all very well for the Divine Thing of heaven to require some kind of intention of good, not exactly as a condition of pardon but as a means of the existence of its perfection. Men were never meant to be as gods or to know as gods, and for men to make any such intention a part of their pardon is precisely to try to behave as gods. It is the renewal of the first and most dreadful error, the desire to know as gods ... [I]t is precisely the attempt to convert the Godhead into flesh and not the taking of the manhood into God. The intention to do differently may be passionately offered; it must never be required ... The ancient cry of 'Don't do it again' is never a part of pardon.
This is a hard saying. It is, also, hardly more than a commentary on the dictum that we must forgive our brother seventy times seven times. Only Dory and that guy from Memento could do that while also expecting of the offender that he not repeat the offense.


[Image: a devout penitent leaving the confessional]

Grace to others isn't optional. It is the stuff of the life of faith. It is Jesus in action. If we don't know how to show it, or try and can't manage, that's okay; God is not as a rule taken by surprise. We can be weak. We can be one big, gaping, aching need. But what we can't do is refuse grace to others. I admit frankly that I am, for now and probably for a long time yet, avoiding the unnamed authors from my opening paragraph; I have not succeeded in forgiving them, and I can't do it by myself; thankfully God is not bound by my powerlessness. But to forgive, to love, and to want reconciliation -- even if the other party refuses -- is the goal we must have in every conflict. The meanwhile of that, we can offer up to God in unity with the Cross. Every economy has production and consumption; the pain and the hope are our raw material, and love is the refinery.
I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is --
Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not His,
To the Father through the features of men's faces.
-- Gerard Manley Hopkins, As Kingfishers Catch Fire, ll. 9-14


*Unfortunately I don't have my copy at hand as I write this, so I can't provide page references.

**The regular recitation of the Athanasian Creed, wisely enjoined upon Anglicans by the Book of Common Prayer in 1662, might -- if it had been rightly used -- have done something to prevent this, with its often dull but soundly detailed definition of the Incarnation. Dorothy Sayers' excellent essay on the subject (and on the general fiercely practical character of theology) can be found here, and in her excellent collection of essays Creed or Chaos?