Thursday, June 08, 2006
I ran across this post
concerning liturgy and the revolt against a personalized evangelicalism. The post was spawned by some comments made by Garrison Keillor, and his move towards Anglicanism. I found this portion of Alastair's post to be particularly meaningful.
"Modern hymns and choruses are another case in point. Whilst I have no objection to choruses and hymns in principle, I believe that we ought to be very careful about how we use them. The language of worship should be ‘catholic’ language and not a language that is private to our particular tradition. To the extent that our hymns and choruses are merely from our own time and narrow tradition we have failed to hand ourselves over to the larger Christian tradition. The insipid choruses that predominate in the worship of many evangelical churches (particularly in more charismatic quarters of evangelicalism) are merely echoes of our own language. People often complain that they cannot relate to the language of older hymns and the psalms. This is because the piety of the psalms is quite alien to the piety that prevails in many contemporary churches.
Chanting psalms and singing hymns that unsettle us plays much the same purpose as set readings. They teach us the deficiencies of our own language. The contemporary worshipper, however, wants the language of worship to sound spontaneous, because he values spontaneity over imitation. The language that comes spontaneously to the modern worshipper is not the language of Christian worship but the language of the silly pop ditties that he grew up with. In the name of spontaneity the modern worshipper tends to unwittingly borrow the romantic language of the world. The purpose of chanting psalms and singing hymns is not merely to glorify our language, but to heal it. The language of worship that is given to us by Scriptures and the Christian tradition informed by the Scriptures is one that is quite unnatural to us. It is God’s purpose that, as we use this language, it will become increasingly natural to us. The words, although they are borrowed, are no longer entirely alien to us, for they have converted us to themselves."
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
A few days ago, Dr. Albert Mohler reprinted this article December
Typical of much these sotrs of articles, Dr. Mohler rehashes another piece, this time an article by Warren St. John. St. John is something of a minor celebrity around here, having written the marvelous Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer
. I had the pleasure of having with Warren about a year and a half ago.
The gist of St. John's piece is the rise of "Neandrethal Television," these sorts of violent, anti-hero sort of shows. I know the type well, and I'll admit to having a soft spot for shows like Lost. I won't try to condone the coarse behavior and language of these shows, but I won't apologize for authenticity.
What I find particularly grating is for Mohler to write passages like this:
"Hollywood, we are often told, is a mirror of America. The rise of this amoral programming, revolving around themes ranging from rampage to relativism, should serve as a dire warning of where this culture is headed. A society whose young men celebrate violence and moral ambiguity is headed towards something even worse."
Where this culture is headed? Has Dr. Mohler been so busy with the SBC that he never saw Deathwish or Dirty Harry? Did he miss Chinatown or the Godfather? This sort of programming may be new on television, but it's not new to the culture. Not by a long shot.
Even more troubling is Mohler's inability (or refusal - pick your poison) to see that even crude and violent television has redeeming qualities. I'm not saying that the Sorpanos or Deadwood should serve as a sermon series, but discerning adults can find much to discuss. That's not to say that one is wrong to avoid such shows, but Mohler and others like him are taking a terribly strict view of things when they suggest that profanity, violence and even nudity make a show or movie unwatchable or incapable of redemption. This is simply not true. While the Church should not encourage crudeness, the suggestion that family unfriendly material proves that we live in an awful culture is unnecessary. It comes across as scolding, trite and even a bit boring.
It's true that these shows present a warped form of masculinity, but they are merely a reflection. Nothing more. The problems in our culture are much deeper, and wringing our hands over a vulgar television show is beside the point.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Yesterday I ran across these photos by Jacob Holdt.
The pictures are from the 1970s, depicting some terrible poverty. Some of them also feature nudity, though its more National Geographic than Playboy. Keep that in mind if you're scanning the pictures at work.
The pictures are interesting as they demonstrate the absolute squalor in which many minorites lived during the 1970s. I have little doubt that many folks still live in these conditions. And on some level I am humbled as I look around my apartment, or rather my fiance's apartment, and see how much stuff I have. And yet I do not feel guilty. Economics is not a zero-sum affair. I do not have a television at the expense of the poor. People are not poor because a celebrity is rich.
At the same time, charity and goodwill - motivated at least in part by my faith - compel to help those in need. The question, then, is how to we help? I strongly believe in the notion that it is better to teach a man to fish than to simply give him the fish, yet there are whole areas of the country - the Black Belt, the Delta, Appalachia - where no one knows how to fish and some folks just don't want to. Is it too simplistic to say that the Gospel is the answer? Probably so, but I can't shake the notion that government programs won't do it in the long run. Only a change in heart will resurrect the economic prospects of an area. The change of heart must come not only to the poor but also to the rich.
Today is the sixty-second anniversary of D-Day. I remain in awe of those young men - some six thousand or so - who never made it off the beaches of Normandy before their lives ended. I am in debt to those men who scaled the cliffs amid a flurry of Nazi gunfire. What bravery they knew! And there were others; the paratroopers of Operation Market Garden, for instance. So many of them were may age, and I have scarcely seen such danger.
The temptation for self-loathing is great. I am almost twenty-five years old and have never come close to that kind of bravery. Prior to September 11, my generation had nothing to test us, to try us. Sports have been our outlet, I suppose, and it is for this reason that I become very quickly annoyed with others, particularly my fellow believers, who regard sports as foolish and pointless. No, men must be tested. If not on the battlefield, then at least on the football field. If we do not hunt the enemy, we must at least hunt deer. If do not scale the cliffs at Normany, we must scale the cliffs of the Appalachians. We must do something, for if not, our courage will surely atrohpy. Then when troubles come, and let us know that they must assuredly will, we will be in grave, grave danger.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Wow, summer lethargy is here with a vengeance.