Tuesday, January 31, 2006
and Al Mohler
have some marvelous words on reading.
I have always loved books, and while I have a tendency to buy far more than I can read, I still love, and I mean love
, to get lost in the bookstore, the library and my own collections. Reading has become a very serious joy for me. It is a joy I hope to pass on to my children and their progeny. It is a joy that I pray never diminishes in my own life.
Currently I'm reading:A Confederacy of Dunces
by John Kennedy Toole
The Challenge of Jesus
by N.T. Wright
I'm also taking a very intensive historiography class that requires at least one book a week. Right now I'm working on C. Vann Woodward's revered work, The Origins of the New South
The Oscar nominations have been released.
Let me say a few things.
To begin, I have not seen any of the movies. I plan to see Capote
sometime next month when it shows at a small art theatre here in Tuscaloosa. The others I have not seen, though I would like to see all of them. Having said that, in an information age such as ours, I believe there is enough available by way of criticisms and reviews for me make some slight comments.
There will be a lot of clamoring that the Oscars no longer represent mainstream America. Indeed, it has already begun
. I am sympathetic to this notion on a lot of levels. I do not expect most Americans to head off to the movies after a long week to watch the gay cowboy movie. I do not expect anyone with a firm grasp of history to be jumping at the prospect of watching George Clooney's naive interpretation of all that took place during the McCarthy era. Beyond that, I understand that for many folks, the movies are an escape. They want to laugh and cry, but rarely do they want to think. I am tempted to criticize this point, but life is hard sometimes. I won't fault anyone for wanting a fun movie to relax with on a Friday night.
And yet I find it increasingly disturbing that so many Americans champion movies for superficial reasons. A movie is not good because it is clean. It is not good because it makes you feel good and warm and fuzzy. It can be all of those things, but a lack of profanity or the promotion of a cheap emotional reaction does not necessarily make for good art. I do feel that good movies were left out: King Kong
and Cinderella Man
. (Don't think of suggesting the mediocre Narnia
) I think most of the movies nominated for best picture are products of a liberal Hollywood but by all accounts, they are still art. They are pictures that must be engaged. They must be critiqued and challenged. And those with differing political viewpoints must be willing to create vibrant art that challanges that liberal status quo.
Complaining gets you nowhere. Powerful art will open doors that we cannot currently imagine.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
It's getting cold again in Alabama. Not frigid upper-Midwest cold, but pretty doggone chilly. I shall enjoy it, but I believe I'm like every Southern boy. We spend the cold months after Christmas just waiting for spring.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Here's some confessional blogging. I shall make a list.
- I always find the period from the Super Bowl to the NCAA men's basketball tournament is really boring. Maybe this year I can find a way to remedy the boredom. I do have a seminar paper to write. That should do the trick. Either way, I miss football already and it's high time that baseball gets started.
- Sometimes I find myself observing something serious - a political debate, a talk show, even a sermon - and all I can think is "Man, that guy is wearing such an ugly tie." Of course, I have never, ever
, thought such a thing while hearing my father preach. The man has impeccable taste in neckwear. Most of the time. Ha.
- Even if he is an idiot, I really like Kanye West. Why are the best rappers always such looney tunes? Jay-Z is the obvious exception, of course. (P.S. Jonah Goldberg has advice
for every religious leader who is going to have a hissy fit over this)
- I remain convinced that jazz, even bebop and free jazz, is the quintissential music of the American city, a pulsating sound birthed in steamboats and stockyards and smoky nightclubs.
- I am neurotic about my laundry. Whenever the laundry basket is full, I must do the wash. This is true, even if I still have plenty of things to wear. Consequently, I end up wearing the same thing all too often. It's not that I insist on wearing that striped shirt every week; it's just that I get nervous with a closet full of dirty shirts.
- I often wonder how pacifists would feel if someone attacked their family.
- I don't know that I like my beard, but I really don't like shaving.
- I'm not Hugh Hewitt's biggest fan, but he's always been good to me and the guys at Stones Cry Out
. Today he absolutely destroyed a jerk of a writer for the L.A. Times.
I really love spending time with this girl. She is a sheer delight.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Interesting post about the prominence of Catholic thought, particularly as it relates to politics and social thought.
Why is this? Is it something inherent to Catholicism, or are Protestants slowly overcoming their anti-intellectual roots? Will they eventually join the fray?
Monday, January 16, 2006
This is disturbing on so many different levels
. Half these people would have difficulty affirming orthodoxy or at the least denouncing the health and wealth Gospel.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
More on the Denmark cartoon story
. This Muslim thought is just absurd. Mocking someone else's religion may make you a jerk. In fact, it almost certainly does. Yet it does not and should not make you a criminal. If you think this does not matter, don't be surprised when the same thing happens here.
After the West Virginia mining tragedy, Michael Spencer wrote a three part series on The Gospel for Appalachia. (Click here for part one
, part two
and part three
) This is a very compelling read about the state of one of the nation's poorest regions, and Michael makes some strong suggestions about what Christians can do to help revive this region of the nation.
Michael makes a lot of commentary about the nature of the Church in Appalachia as it currently exists:
"Religion in Appalachia is devout, and it stands at the center of the culture. Its message is everywhere. No matter what the sign out front, most churches have the same message: Life is a battle between God and the devil. Hard times are to be expected. The Good Book and the good Lord are there for those who are believers. Satan, drugs and alcohol are there for the sinner. When a person comes to understand that death is near, and heaven is our only hope for happiness, then he will get saved. He will get right with God."
This sort of thinking reminds me of one of the central tenets of conservatism, both political and theological. It is this: ideas matter
. The philosophical understandings of human nature are not always abstract concepts for the college classroom. They eventually find themselves in the halls of government; in Congress and the courts. The ideas of Rousseau profoundly influenced political liberalism just as Burke influenced conservatism. And those ideologies mark the two major political parties within the United States. Each party enacts legislation that can, more often than not, be traced directly back to the philosophical roots of their own ideologies.
In this regard, theology also matters. It has consequences beyond the personal beliefs of its adherents. This is what I seem to understand in Spencer's discussion of Appalachia. A theology that does not graciously and voluntarily eschew possessions, but instead suggests that desiring "stuff" is sinful on pretty much any level, will depress a local economy if the notion gains any significant traction over a period of years. A theology that suggests the Bible is all a man needs in terms of education will do very little promote serious education. Similarly, and this is as true in the inner city as it is in the mountain regions, any theology that looks at hard times as just part of life, with the believer bearing no ability (or responsibility) to change his or her condition in life, may indeed create believers without a strong work ethic.
I am not talking about believers, like Spencer, who voluntarily choose a life of ministry that brings less in terms of material wealth, nor am I talking about the Biblical command to value Christ above all our possessions. I am not suggesting that there is any replacement for a clear understanding of the Scriptures. And yet we see in our culture a small but significant number of believers who advocate, as nothing short of orthodoxy, the notion that money and education are almost always tools of the devil. That a hard life is just a common life and we can't change nothin' so we'll just cling to the Lord. These things do happen, but to suggest that the command to all believers is a life of poverty and ignorance is dangerous, offensive and, above all, unBiblical.
I once heard a very well-known Southern Baptist pastor suggest that kindergarten teachers should not be holding bakesales; college professors should be doing this instead. I cannot possibly remember what portion of the sermon necessitated such a comment, but I fear that a subtle point was reinforced to the congregation. The point being that the work of the elementary school teachers is more important. Therefore in a sense, it is suggested that college is not important. What an absurd thing to say in a world where educated Christians are needed more and more.
I do not want to suggest that I have all the answers to such matters, but I find Spencer's essays to be a clear example of the maxim that ideas have consequences, whether political or theological. Secular humanism has consequences. Existentialism has consequences. And theology that denounces money, in even the most innocent of circumstances, and education will lead to a culture that is economically depressed in a way that cannot be good for anyone involved.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
If you're not worried about the influx of Muslim culture
in the West (aside from the often delicious cuisine), then you should be.
Free speech? What free speech?
Powerful writing by Roger Kimball
. A highlight:
"Whatever the wisdom of the position in the abstract (and I have my doubts about it), the resurgence of international terrorism, fueled by hate and devoted to death, renders it otiose. Last summer’s bombings in London were, as these things go, relatively low in casualties. But they were high in indiscriminateness. The people on those buses and subway cars were as innocent as innocent can be: just folks, moms and dads and children on their way to work or school or play, as uninterested, most of them, in politics or Islam as it is possible to be. And yet those home-grown Islamicists were happy to blow them to bits.
Here is the novelty: Our new enemies are not political enemies in any traditional sense, belligerent in the service of certain interests of their own. Their belligerence is focused rather on the very existence of an alternative to their vision of beatitude, namely on Western democracy and its commitment to individual freedom and economic prosperity. I return to Hussein Massawi: “We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you.”
In fact, the situation is even grimmer than Mr. Massawi suggests. For our new enemies are not simply bent on our destruction: they are pleased to compass their own destruction as a collateral benefit. This is one of those things that makes Islamofascism a particularly toxic form of totalitarianism. At least most Communists had some rudimentary attachment to the principle of self-preservation. In the face of such death-embracing fanaticism our only option is unremitting combat."
How does one articulate the point with further clarity? This is, as Norman Podhoretz says
, World War IV. I do not suppose that we should create a rabble over each and every political moment, but I am increasingly frustrated with the lazy attitude that we - I point to myself, as well - possess. As a Christian certainly I have a higher calling to "glorify God and enjoy Him forever," and yet the incessant worries of the day not only override Christian virtue; they override common sense, as well. We are at war, and yet we act as though we are not.
It is not easy, I confess. World War II necessitated that we ration our food and buy war bonds. The immediate cause is not so dire, but one wishes that America - her churches and schools - were clearly aware of the threats we face from the madrasses of Pakistan, the mullahs of Iran, the deranged old man in charge of North Korea and the arrogant nationalists of China. These are important matters; one wishes that we all shared a sense of awareness and, indeed, of urgency.
Friday, January 13, 2006
In case anyone has forgotten, there are still severe humanitarian issues around the world. I fear that believers in America get caught up in the very grave concerns of abortion and other domestic issues, forgetting that serious atrocities are taking place around the world. With this in mind, here are some helpful links to some important human rights causes.Freedom HouseSave Darfur
help end slavery at iAbolish
support regime change in Iran
. And read this, too.
is the best movie I've seen in a long, long time.
I really couldn't have summed up this Mark Steyn piece any better myself.
Note the comments about progressive evangelicals. Progressive often but not always being a fancy word for liberal.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
The other day I mentioned to Lori that, all in all, the sovereignty of God is something that I can grasp without too much difficulty.
Remember that scene in Christmas Vacation
were Chevy Chase says to Beverly D'Angelo, "how could things possibly be worse?"
Yeah, I should have known better.
Today was rather nice. I love cold weather, but this mild spell is pleasant enough. I had run a few errands this morning. Some cleaning supplies at Target, but also a nice bagel and some tarragon for a creamy garlic sauce I want to master. A trek to another store saw me leave with a nice, althought shockingly inexpensive, tie. I have nice new athletic pants in which to lounge around the apartment. My plans for supper are to practice the sauce, enjoy some new pasta and olive oil that I have recently acquired. I found some nicely priced black tea today, as well. I felt good.
And then came a little reminder that, even when I am not feeling prideful (and if I was feeling prideful today, it was only subconsciously), I am not totally in control. The reminder came in the form of me rear-ending a lady at one of the busiest intersections in the state. No pain was inflicted, the damage was minimal, so I pray that any financial pinches will be quick, swift and only as difficult as necessary.
So here I sit, stuffy-nosed but comfortable in a ten dollar pair of Adidas track pants, knowing that my life is bigger than a nice cup of tea, tarragon and garlic cream sauce or a pretty striped tie. It's even bigger than a fender-bender, too, though I confess I am having trouble admitting as much to my own heart. And yet God is in control, as He reminded Job and David and Paul and Augustine and Luther and Calvin and Lewis and the oppressed believers of China, Iran, Pakistan, Sudan and Venezuela. All is well, and all most certainly shall be well very soon enough.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Goodness. This Orange Bowl is some intense football. So here's some randomness.
My girlfriend and I did some intense trail-running today. I am some kind of tired.
My roommate and his girlfriend were on television yesterday, standing in their seats at the Cotton Bowl while waiting for the Crimson Tide to pull out an incredible victory.
College football is the greatest game in the world. The season will be over in about twenty-four hours. Sad. Ah well, I've got the NFL playoffs, March Madness, the Master's, the British Open and baseball. I think I'll manage.
Wonder what life will be like when college football resumes in September?
New Year's resolutions? Know God. Love God. Know and love my friends and family. Read more. Write more. Take more pictures. Spend more time with the grandparents. Run. Get a bike. Go fishing. More jazz and blues and country. Write a magnificent seminar paper. Get it published. Present it at a conference. Save money. Be wise. Love. Give.
(Lori where is your phone?)