Saturday, June 11, 2005

Will the Real Dave Armstrong Please Stand Up? (Pedro Vega's Short Bio, and His Blog)

I was very blessed to be able to meet and fellowship with an online friend of nine years for the first time, two days ago: Pedro Vega: blogmaster of the wonderful spirituality-oriented site Vivificat. He was kind enough to post a sort of "character portrait" of yours truly on his blog, which was interesting (as the subject) to read (I was quite touched) and fairly accurate, for the most part, except for its greatly exaggerated estimates of my alleged positive attributes. The main factual mistake in it was the line: "Of course, the man doesn't know what a credit card is."

[BIG smile] Unfortunately, I'm all too acquainted with these plastic monsters, having accumulated a frustrating debt through the years, mostly from having to constantly repair my vehicle (not wild, frivolous shopping sprees), or to purchase yet another one, since I had a full-time delivery job all through the 90s; driving 30,000-60,000 miles a year. We're just now totally eliminating the outrageous (and, I think, unethical) interest rates that were imposed on us, by a refinance. It is true, however, that for the first nine years of our marriage (1984-1993), we didn't have a credit card. I hope to use them very sparingly from now on, but the life of a full-time apologist / evangelist sometimes does not make that possible.

The particular observation I would like to point out, touches upon a frequent frustration of mine: being misunderstood in a negative fashion (mostly, but not always, by anti-Catholics) as a kind of "judgmental, obnoxious, 'bulldog-type' persona," based on a mistaken understanding of the nature and goal of apologetics, and my love for substantive, challenging dialogue and disputation (also, I would add, negative stereotypical opinions about what an apologist is "supposed" to be like in person).

I think Pedro touched upon a theme that affects many of us: the impersonal, disembodied character of Internet discourse. A lot of people are being harshly judged, simply because they may take a stand or disagree with other opinions. In our day and age (due to its incipient relativistic postmodernism), that is almost automatically seen as arrogant and overbearing. So, as you might imagine, the apologist (who is always opposing some belief or belief-system, in defending what he believes to be the true or truest one) gets more than enough share of hostility. Pedro wrote:

Many times, literary personalities are quite different from one's live persona . . . This is an error many fall into when it comes to Dave, since he rises to any challenges against the Catholic faith coming his way. He's exhaustive, punctilious and for most of his adversaries, quite aggravating . . . Anti-Catholics lose patience very quickly under this kind of scrutiny; many of them escape it by attacking Dave personally.

I also chuckled over his brief discussion about what it would be like to hear me lecture:

. . . the way he communicates would bewilder any audience. People would rush to take note of every fact he throws at you, and every fact is important, you wouldn't want to miss anything. Fifteen minutes into a Dave Armstrong lecture would burn-out most note-takers, except for the most fanatical.

:-) :-) Hopefully, my writings are not nearly so frustrating, at least for those who agree with my viewpoint, for the most part.

I want to thank Pedro very much for an exceptionally kind and gracious "report" of our meeting. He was a delightful person to chat with. I took him on a little impromptu tour of Detroit (brought on by jammed freeways, out of downtown); we drove by the Motown studio ("Hitsville USA") which is just down the street from the old GM headquarters. Then we went down to Mexicantown, to find a restaurant (Pedro is originally from Puerto Rico, so this colorful area of town held some interest for him). This is about a mile from where I grew up, in southwest Detroit (which was, and still is, somewhat like a town-within-a-city), and since we were in the area, I went by my old house and the old Methodist church where I attended as a child.

I would like to take this opportunity to make a long-overdue major plug of Pedro's blog, Vivificat. Pedro is an exceptionally precise, clear, helpful writer. Previous to his article about me, he posted the great essay, Democrats improvise on the Bible, which includes the dead-on line (referring to Howard Dean and John Kerry):

The caricature they make of Republicans and people of faith is also off-mark. For we do care about the poor. When have you seen Kerry or Dean working in a soup kitchen, or raising funds for national or international relief efforts? We do differ from Liberals on how to help the poor, we simply don't want to make the government the left hand of Divine Providence in an illusory quest to help the poor and needy using the government as a means. We don't want to delegate to the government our personal duty to help the poor and needy.

A ways before that, one finds a valuable essay on "Holy Silence" (he is himself a lay Benedictine contemplative). Catholic relations with the Orthodox is a particular area of interest and concern for Pedro; thus he posted Reconciliation with the Orthodox is a two-way street, with, for example, the insightful statement:

Byzantium looked inward, rested on her laurels and her position vis-a-vis the West may be summarized as what is yours is yours, what is ours is ours.

This attitude closed Orthodox theology from any other benefic influence, narrowed its universe of discourse, and also helped to close entire civilizations to inquiry and dialogue with other disciplines and other civilizations, to the point that even today, when Orthodox Churches--now we have to speak in the plural--engage the challenges of the modern world, it has to learn its vocabulary and borrow swords and arrows from the Roman Catholic theological quiver to make themselves heard.

Other eye-catching, spiritually-edifying postings abound:

A Look at Islamic Eschatology

Pope John Paul the Great's Cartoonists' Memorial

Light, radiance and grace are in the Trinity and from the Trinity: From the Office of Readings (St. Athanasius)

Medjugorje: Case Closed?

My comments on Koran desecration fiasco

"Charisms should be received with thanksgiving and consolation"

An Amazing Puerto Rican Saint: Blessed Carlos Manuel Cecilio Rodríguez Santiago (1918-1963)

The need for cultural resistance against radical Islam and other threats

Tidbits from Hither and Thither

This one includes a fabulous description of a photograph of Pope John Paul II:

I want to share with you a picture of the late Pope John Paul the Great, which really captured for me the essence of the man. It appeared in the Newsweek magazine commemorative issue. It's the picture you see at right.

Let me describe for you what I see. The Pope is sitting down at bench in a skiing lodge. He's dressed for the part. The skis rest against the stone wall. In his hands, he leafs through the Liturgy of the Hours, probably the midday or midafternoon prayer. Someone is speaking to him, perhaps distracting him momentarily before the onset of prayer; perhaps the Pope is telling whoever he's talking to where to find the right prayer on his own prayer book. Maybe he had just completed the prayer and they're discussing which hill to hit next. He looks too fresh and too clean, he hasn't hit the slope the yet.

Whatever it is, the scene is absolutely endearing, human. Here's a man who makes no distinction between leisure and prayer, who tests himself on his knees or on the slopes; a man for whom God is in everything he did, whether at Mass, or in sport. John Paul the Great was the example of the true Modern Man, at peace in every situation.

Reforming the Church with Pope Benedict XVI: My wish list for this Papacy

Cultural capitalism and Sartreist existentialism

God is Other! Other! Other!

"Conscientious Objection" Licit for Pro-Life Health Care Givers

Is it time to ordain married men to the Catholic priesthood? This Observant Catholic says: maybe

The blog also has a separate (not merely bi-lingual) Spanish-language section. I hope you will make this blog a regular stop of your Internet cruisings. I give it my very highest, enthusiastic recommendation.

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