Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia by John Dunlop MD, Free for CAPC Members
Dunlop’s book tackles a subject that few of us would care to read about in a way that encourages, informs, and relieves fear.
Each week in LOL Interwebz, Luke T. Harrington explores the quirks and foibles of Internet culture from a Gospel perspective.
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Imagine you’re a human skin cell. Not a full human being (as I assume you are), but just a skin cell somewhere (let’s say) in the cuticle of someone’s left index finger. As such, you’ll have a lifespan of about two to four weeks. You were born long after the body came into existence, and you’ll die long before it does. But you want to do your job while you’re around, so you turn to the older cell next to you.
“Hey! I’m new here!” you say. “What do we do?”
“Oh, y’know. We…be…skin.”
“Easy enough,” you say. “Anything I should know about this Guy we make up?”
“Oh, He’s Savior of the World. He redeemed all of mankind, and the whole of creation is being remade in His Image.”
“That’s pretty cool. I’m on board with that. What do we do? Preach sermons? Perform miracles? Go on Oprah and sell self-help books?”
“Um, hardly. We’re just a hand, dude.”
“Well, I mean, obviously. But we’re attached to a Body, right—?”
“We’re not attached to a Body. We’re just part of it. There’s a difference.”
“Uh, yeah. We’re just the hand. We separated from the arm in the Schism of 1854.”
“Yeah, well, there was this big kerfuffle over what mitosis symbolizes. Seemed important, so we split over it.”
“We just chopped ourselves off from the arm? We’re a disembodied hand?”
“Yeah, sort of. But actually, our finger split off from the hand in 1901. There was a controversy over how mitochondria operate.”
“And then, actually, we cut ourselves off at the knuckle in 1923. We couldn’t agree whether we were the One True Finger or not. I’m pretty sure we are.”
“So, we’re like, half a finger?”
“Yeah, but the One True Finger!”
“I can’t believe our ancestors thought it would be a good idea to cut ourselves off from the arm…”
“Hey, it’s no big deal. I mean, the arm itself got chopped off, like, 500 years ago. And like, 500 years before that, someone split the body right down the middle. So, no worries.”
“…was I just born into a crime scene?”
“Yeah, sort of. Actually, this Body’s been chopped into, like, 41,000 tiny pieces. Cops still aren’t sure what happened. But hey, this Guy has a way of bouncing back from death. Plus, this Body has invisible unity.“
“It’s got what now?”
“Invisible unity. It’s chopped up, but it’s one Body. Somehow.”
“I think I’ll leave the finger and just go join whatever chunk is oldest and biggest.”
“Uh, yeah, lots of people do that. ‘Course, we get a lot of defectors from that bunch here as well. Really, it’s a wash. And hey, lots of people start their own Bodies, too. They just form, like, little nondenominational clumps of cells that just sit there on the ground and wiggle a little.”
“Yeah, it’s gross.
* * *
Okay, it wasn’t a great metaphor, but since St. Paul uses it in 1 Corinthians, I think it’s probably pretty okay.
But the reality is this: we’re all cells in the chopped-up Body. We were all baptized into a Church that was already split thousands of different ways, and we’ll likely die in a Church that looks very much the same. Which is why I was pleased to see this over at Catholic Memes:
…because, like all of us lazy millennials, I get my news from Internet memes that are filled with ’80s pop culture references. But when I dug into what it meant, here’s what I found:
The year 2025 marks the 1,700th anniversary of the First Council of Nicaea, the council that formalized the doctrine of Christ’s divinity and introduced the now-foundational Nicene Creed to the world, back when, for all intents and purposes, the Christian Church was still truly one. And—jaw-droppingly—the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox communions have agreed to have yet another ecumenical council on that date.
This is a huge deal.
I do realize that this site is written mainly by and for Evangelical Protestants, and to those of us who are happy in our own half-a-severed-finger, this sort of thing can seem light-years away. Certainly everyone who writes for CaPC has numerous theological differences with Rome and Constantinople. That said, though, it would be an incredible witness to the world if one of Christianity’s largest, oldest, and deepest schisms could be healed.
The Great Schism, for anyone who doesn’t know, separated Catholicism and Orthodoxy for nearly 1,000 years. Both sides excommunicated each other (however that works) in A.D. 1054, and both refused to lift the excommunication until 1995. When the Schism began, the First Crusade hadn’t even happened yet; when they finally started speaking again, Clinton was in the White House, and we were in the midst of that blissful 18-year period when there was only one Blues Brothers movie. That the Schism has a chance—albeit a small one—of being healed within our lifetimes is incredible.
In our comfortable American Evangelical bubble, none of this might seem terribly important, but we ought to keep in mind that, to much of the world, we’re basically Christianity’s redheaded stepchild—a tradition that comprises mere millions in a religion of literal billions, with distinctives that are the exception rather than the norm. We may or may not be right in matters of theology and ecclesiology, but the reality is that, when they think of Christianity, the rest of the world tends to think of Rome’s Pope or Constantinople’s Patriarch. What they do matters, whether we want it to or not.
And that, at the very least, is why we all ought to be praying for this council. If Rome and Constantinople can reconcile their differences, it will be an incredible witness to the world and a huge step toward a reunited Church. We may have serious disagreements with these two communions, but even if we regard them as heretics, isn’t that all the more reason to pray? At the very least, Christ teaches us to pray for our enemies.
So, I’ll be praying. You’re welcome to join me.
I’ll also be re-watching The Blues Brothers, because that movie’s awesome. You’re welcome to join me for that as well, if you bring popcorn.
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