Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Our friend the iMonk
has mentioned his affinity for the Chieftains. I must say that the Bells of Dublin
may just be my favorite album of the season. I think the appeal of the record, aside from its Irish charm, is the communal nature of it. Yes, I know the record was recorded in a studio, and not at a Christmas party. Yet there is an obvious sense of authenticity in the many voices joining together in "Deck the Halls," cheerfully and almost irreverently. It's a thrill.
I do wonder; where did we lose this sense of community? It has historically been a part of American culture. (Think of the Christmas scene in Cold Mountain
) I imagine that we have lost this idea as we have lost a certain agragarian quality of American life. We no longer value community in the sense that we once did, many years ago. We no longer value the arts, so it is rare to even join around a piano for a Christmas carol or hymn. I imagine that sounds overly romantic, but our Rockwellian images come from somewhere. Our history tells us a story, but it seems as though that story has ceased.
This Advent, as we celebrate and anticipate the birth of our Lord, let us join with family, friends and neighbors. Let us truly share the season in hopes that through the celebration of our Savior, we draw our communities back together.
(Originally posted at the BHT Advent blog
A few weeks ago, Lori and I joined some friends in seeing Nickel Creek perform at the Alabama Theatre
. The Alabama is a historic theatre in downtown Birmingham. It's a beautiful place; refurbished in the late 1990s and the sound is just fantastic. I noticed something while there, and it's had me thinking for a while. I was using the restroom. There was writing on the wall. Now this is nothing new. There's always something written on the wall of the men's room.
"For a good time call..."
"You are now standing at a 45 degree angle..."
But on this night on November I noticed something unique. Something of the writing was of the more mundane "Billy loves Susie" and "Izzy loves Scuzzy" variety. Except these names were dated in the late 1920s, 30s and 40s. Surely the writing would have been cleaned when the theatre was restored. Perhaps not? Either way, that's an interesting bit of trivia. I wonder what happened to those couples whose names have been present for so many hypothetical decades.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Let me offer something of a follow up to my post on Derek Webb. I think I was somewhat unfair in my discussion, so met me say a few things.
Let me first say that I feel, in retrospect, that my post was made in haste. It should have been fleshed out further with more links and quotes than I provided.
I have noticed in Derek's interviews a theme of social justice. I certainly share his heart on this matter, but I simply can’t go along with some the organizations he supports; namely, the ONE
campaign and Sojourners
, both of which linked on his website under the heading Social Justice. I take that sort of linking as open support of both the organizations and their underlying premises. I certainly think that Bono and the others behind ONE have good intentions, but debt relief and fair trade agreements have never proven to be an adequate means of relief, particularly in Africa where corrupt regimes, tribal practices and the threat of radical Islam loom large over any small gains that might be made.
I agree with Jim Wallis’ belief that the Kingdom of God is not limited to the GOP, but Wallis undermines his own point when he advocates, on practically every issue save abortion, a political program that is, at the very least, as leftwing as the Democratic Party, if not more liberal. This is not a new development, either. The Weekly Standard ran a piece
recently noting that for all his talk, Wallis has always been a leftist. That’s fine and good, but I don’t think Wallis should be afraid to say as much, and he should certainly be willing to defend his position biblically.
It was my failure to address these points in my post, and I will offer a mea culpa shortly. My own reference to Derek’s political beliefs was based upon the links on his site and particularly with this interview in Relevant Magazine
wherein he said:
“As a Christian if you are not pro-rich, pro-war then you re just not a Christian. And I think that we’ve got to blow all that apart, we’ve got to break all that, we’ve got to open that up and find out what the hell is going on. None of that makes any sense. It’s not even a consistent Christian worldview. There’s a lot of work to do in the way Christians think about politics and issues of social justice in this country and internationally. I think we’ve got to be people who know what’s happening in the world, who can apply Scripture to all of it.”
Please understand that I share his concerns, but I’ve read enough political literature to have an alarm go off when I hear “pro-rich, pro-war” used in a negative light. Combine that with his support of Sojourners, and yes, I think the logical assumption is that he believes the Wallis model for social welfare to be both competent and Biblical. I find it to be neither.
I do not feel that I was overly harsh in my language or my tone. I do feel that I jumped too far on this point: It is quite likely that Derek is turned off by the Dobsons and Falwells of the world. As I have said countless times on SCO, I am, too. It is also fair to assume that Derek is exploring the need for concern for the fatherless and the widow. Same here. It is possible that he is exploring the Wallis position because he is turned off by the other side and, frankly, who can blame him. Yet I believe, as many Christians have believed, that free markets, when combined with compassionate church and private sector, are the best solutions for ending poverty. I do question whether Derek has considered this or been presented with an articulate model. It is possible he has not been presented with such a model, and it is my failure to consider this for which I apologize. I fear that I was reading into his words something deeper than necessary, but I do find his support of Sojourners troubling.
I do worry about the growth of progressivism among Christians, particularly when I see people like Don Miller and Brian McLaren. Surely God is bigger than the GOP, but when Miller says that the MoveOn.Org
and the ACLU
are doing “God’s work” (I kid you not), I get more than uncomfortable. One, because I don’t find the statement to be true. Two, the results of that thinking are very unhealthy. Don has redone his website, so those links are no longer present, but I am telling the truth. I realize that there is a new conversation among young believers; I hope to become a part of it. Yet I am troubled that the politics of this conversation seem to be consistently drifting leftward, as though no one has noticed that damage that liberal economics has wrought upon Canada and Europe.
I hope this position makes sense. Though I often disagree with many of these writers (Miller, Lauren Winner, etc.) on theological, political and social matters, I like what they are doing in terms of addressing the new generation. I hope to somehow become a part of this conversation, because I remain worried about much of its implicit political direction.
Even if I spend the next three weeks in a frantic rush to finish papers and make good grades, I can take a few moments every morning and every night to remember that we are now in the season of anticipation, knowing that we very soon we shall celebrate our Saviour's birth. What a miracle. What a mystery. God becomes not just man but a crying little baby, all for our sake. He will, of course, grow into the man who would be killed upon the cross, but he arrived in the most simple and humble of ways. How thankful I am. Hallelujah, indeed.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Thanksgiving and homework have left me quite busy. I shall be back soon to further clarify my post on Derek Webb. In the meantime, here's a question, and I'm curious for some feedback.
Should you tell your children about Santa Claus?
Something tells me Professors Lewis and Tolkien would have no problem with such a thing.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
I'll post further thoughts on the idea of a separate Christian "culture" later, but for now check out this interview with Derek Webb. Part one is here
, this is part two
. I like Webb's music a great deal. I'm thankful for his voice and his creativity. I think he can say important things to the Church in this day of bad Christian t-shirts and cliches.
But...if his idea of "social justice" were ever inacted, it would be an unmitigated disaster. The Biblical call to mercy and compassion for the fatherless and the widow is not fulfilled by confiscatory taxes and the false notion that the federal, state or local government will solve our problems. It's a wrong idea. Moreso, it's a dangerous one.
And don't get me started on this naive premise of Christian pacifism with which he's flirting...
"[Pacifists are] the last and least excusable on the list of the enemies of society. They preach that if you see a man flogging a woman to death you must not hit him. I would much sooner let a leper come near a little boy than a man who preached such a thing." - G.K. Chesteron
Monday, November 21, 2005
I apologize for not updating this thing with greater frequency. I have most of the upcoming week off from school, so I shall try to provide you, my faithful reader(s?), with some decent content.
It is cold and wet today. I love that. I am about to finish off a short essay on Milton and Harrington's republicanism.
In the meantime, a question. Scripture is clear that we are to be part of community - the Church. But is there a mandate to have a separate Christian culture, complete with Christian arts and entertainment? I am not talking about art that glorifies our Creator. That much is mandated. But what about a completely separate structure for arts and entertainment? Is Christian music and literature really necessary?
Discuss. That means all of you.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Tomorrow afternoon, at 2:30 pm central time, the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide
takes on Josh Britton's
Win or lose, you're likely to see Alabama star linebacker DeMeco Ryans all over the field. (I'm hoping I see him dismantle LSU quarterback Jamarcus Russell, but that's just me). As it turns out, DeMeco is a pretty great guy. Read this Ivan Maisel piece from ESPN.com for more.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Extremely thought-provoking post
by Russell Moore at Mere Comments.
To cite First Things
again, read this post
. Particularly the second point. Another reason why I would rather read FT
than Christianity Today
It is late morning. Tuesday. November eigth. The Patriots lost to the Colts last night. The bird flu is spreading across Europe. Paris is in flames. It is unseasonably warm in Dixie, and I am finding myself almost sad because I am wearing sandals in November. Not wool and corduroy; sandals. Bare, smelly feet.
I have a cup of coffee sitting next to my computer. I am drinking a dark French roast. The television is loud. Where's Manny playing next year? Oh, excuse me. Anyway, this coffee is very, very good. The mug is from Cafe Du Monde. How is New Orleans this morning? Is the Quarter humid and muggy? Has Metarie been drained? Is Uptown rotting?
I wish I could go and see her, and see if her streets might be cleansed of corruption and despair.
Scroll down to the second point of this post
. Fr. Neuhaus is none too happy about the National Association of Evangelicals joining up with certain environmental groups.
Neither am I.
Monday, November 07, 2005
For a good understanding of why Islamic youths are rioting in Paris, read this 2002 article by Theodore Dalrymple in City Journal
(HT: Douglas Burtt a la BHT
Follow this link
for mp3s of Joseph Pearce's lectures on Tolkien and myth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
. This is absolutely fantastic stuff if you love J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Download it and burn it. This is a wonderful listen.
Towards the end of the second lecture, Pearce takes a question on the need for Christian literature. Pearce says that it is absolutely essential that Christians make good literature, but notes that in the present day he finds a lot of "good bad literature." This is literature that is morally good but artistically bad. Thank goodness that he is willing to speak truth in this matter; literature must not be forced. It must be natural; any theological merit must be the natural outgrowth of the artist's gift. It must not be a planned, programmed set of ideas to which the story must conform. Would that we had more voices like Pearce's noting that while there is a lot of morally good Christian art, literature, music and film, the majority of it is aesthetically repugnant. Our art must be something is appealling on its artistic merits, and we must let the theological chips fall where they may. Tolkien and Lewis understood this. So did Flannery O'Connor and Walkery Percy. Musicians like Sufjan Stevens, Over the Rhine, the Innocence Mission and Pedro the Lion get it. Let us pray that many others will come to do so, as well.
"When a book leaves your hands, it belongs to God. He may use it to save a few souls or to try a few others, but I think that for the writer to worry is to take over God's business."
Friday, November 04, 2005
I have not linked to it in a while, but do yourself a favor and visit Blue Ridge Blog
. It's a delightful photography-based blog by a photogrpaher out of Boone, North Carolina.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
My friend Glenn Lucke at Common Grounds Online
sent me this post
several days back concerning the nature of poverty in America. The writer of the post, David Lumpkins, feels that the Church is capable of dealing with poverty on these grounds:
"The sad irony is that the Church is uniquely capable of addressing the root causes of poverty in ways that can make a difference. That is because at its core, poverty in Americais not due to a deficit of resources. Poverty in America stems from the moral, spiritual and behavioral deficits in the lives of those ensnared in it. And to the extent that the Gospel represents Truth - that is, the true reality; the way the world really works, and the way that individuals work in that world created by God – then the Church has the best answers for those for whom the world doesn’t work."
That is a terribly controversial remark in some quarters, but I must admit that there is a fair amount of truth to it. I hear a lot of talk about poverty these days, but the solution is usually suggested in the form of government aid. I won't say that aid is always and forever bad, but government solutions rarely address any root causes of poverty. I should mention hear that sometimes poverty just happens in ways that cannot be explained, but let us not kid ourselves. In this day, when people choose to be sexually promiscuous and have children out of wedlock, powerty often results. I'm not saying that the government force people to wear cast iron chastity belts, but it should be obvious to anyone that on some fundamental level, behaviors have results.
The problem here is that it is difficult to make people act in a certain way. I think it is imperative for Christians to acknowledge that until some behaviors change, in America or in the third world, it will be difficult to change poverty. To pretend otherwise is naive and, dare I say, negligent.
Rod Dreher is a fine journalist. Here he explains why we're having a culture war in this country.
This is important stuff; I encourage you to read it.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
It's too quiet around here, but I find myself without a lot to say. I feel like I'm not really conversing with anyone from this position. I'm just talking outloud. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's hard to come up with motivation. Graduate school is terrbily busy. I suppose I'll get back to this soon enough, but for tonight...I'll do something else.