Marc Barnes, Catholic Blogger Extraordinaire

Here’s a clip of 9-year-old Jonny Mizzone playing banjo with his brothers Robbie (13) on fiddle, and Tommy (14) on guitar:

As you can see, he’s so good that it’s a little unsettling. He makes playing amazing music look entirely effortless: he seems to be hardly aware of what he’s doing, the way ordinary humans unconsciously twiddle their thumbs.  In any case, that’s how I feel about Marc Barnes, the blogger known as Bad Catholic. He caught my attention last fall, when he wrote a post called Y’All Suck at Sinning, in which he argued that we’d descended past the glamour of evil to the sheer banality of evil:

Jean Vignaud, Abelard and Heloïse,
Surprised by Master Fulbert
(1819)

Now obviously, sinning is an awful thing. But the modern world hasn’t stopped sinning, only made sinning unexciting and stupid. Again, less than 100 years ago, I suppose I could safely assume that people sinned because it made them feel good, because it made them happy. Sin was reckless. Now sin is responsible. Think of the reality behind the modern act of pre-marital sex. The woman is on The Pill, making her less attracted and less attractive to her man. She takes it every day, at the same time, as if indulging in a monastic rituals, despite all the health risks involved. The man wears his condom, removing himself from the very act. Really, that’s how you sin? Like clever businessmen, carefully calculating maximum rewards with minimum risk?

And he’s had plenty of great posts since then. Last month, he wrote On Being Made For Infinity, in which he argues that we experience an infinite longing for love – that we never arrive at a place where we don’t want to be loved any more (unlike our desires for other things, like food and drink).  Atheism, he argues, is ultimately unsatisfying, since it asks us to accept limits to the capacity to love and be loved, and seeks to reduce love to something merely biological.

In both of these cases, and several others, he’s making insightful arguments like few other bloggers writing today.  And then he writes things like this, and you remember, “Oh, right, he’s 18.”  And then the whole thing becomes all the more impressive.  My point is, if you’re not already reading his stuff, you probably should be.

12 Comments

  1. That’s funny — one of the other Catholic bloggers that I shared that with (I think it was either Brandon Vogt or Devin Rose, but I can’t remember off-hand) had the same immediate reaction. And of course, my nerdy heart thrilled a bit, too.

  2. They’re so fast fingered! I bet they could play the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs… 😉

    (And if Marc doesn’t have a bright future as a Catholic writer, then I don’t know who does…)

  3. I remember the good ole days of underage drinking at the Dubliner after the March for Life in 2004? 2005?

    Actually, I don’t remember it all…

    An unjust law is no law at all. Legalize freedom! Ron Paul 2012!

  4. RP,

    Don’t even get me started on the fact that parsecs is a unit of distance, not time (like “lightyear”), and that Han Solo doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    Daniel,

    I can’t tell if that was serious or a pitch-perfect Ron Paul parody (try saying that three times fast), but either way, it was funny. And yes, the Dubliner has quite the March for Life reputation. One day a year, the place is overrun with priests and pro-lifers. It’s awesome.

    I.X.,

    Joe

  5. I respectfully disagree. I have read a few of Mr. Barnes posts and he is thought provoking and an excellent writer. He also comes across often as sarcastic and dismissive of anyone that would disagree no matter how much or on what. That is one thing I respect about your posts is that your anticipate arguments and respectfully respond to commentators as time permits. It’s much more a discussion than a didactic. Mr. Barnes is preaching to the choir. Strong Catholics who don’t question their church will love him. I’m not sure that anyone struggling with the faith will get much out of it but I will be sure to go back and read the columns you have specifically recommended.

  6. Jill,

    Fair enough. My main point was just that he is, as you said, “thought provoking and an excellent writer.” It took me a while to learn how to respond to criticism appropriately (and I suppose I’m still learning), so hopefully, time and prayer will iron out whatever wrinkles he has on that front. In any case, it’s sometimes nice to hear someone preaching to the choir, particularly if they’re approaching it from a different angle than you normally hear.

    Glad to hear you like the dialogue format around here — I prefer it, too. God bless!

    I.X.,

    Joe

  7. I agree, Marc Barnes is a stunningly good writer, and I’d also agree with Jill that Marc can be a little rough around the edges sometimes. But I consider those things to be relatively minor compared to how good of a writer he is. If he’s this good at 18, imagine the force he could be as he continues to improve?

  8. Loved Marc’s stuff for a while, and was thrilled when Patheos picked him up. Jill’s point is well-taken, but remember, The Kid is just that- a kid. He’s 18 (or maybe 19 now?) so his bluntness is part of being a teenager, albeit one with a better grasp of theology than most adults. He talked about that when Brandon Vogt interviewed him a few weeks ago; that his young age is both a blessing and a curse.

  9. Really? You like “bad catholic”? No thanks. Writing ability is not an end in itself. The kid has a knack for making casual blasphemy sound cool. That’s not cool. He needs guidance.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

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