Oct 31, 2011

Sunset watching

Oct 30, 2011

The hell you say

Q. Does Kevin DeYoung believe in a literal hell, and does he believe that belief is necessary for true Christianity?

A1. Yes. Kevin DeYoung says "With sober gravity, we must confess that hell is real and people will go there." Further, he says "God's wrath cannot be wished away from the pages of Scripture" and, in allusion to the doctrine of double predestination, "Sin must be atoned for and sinners must be punished" (The Good News We Almost Forgot, 38).

A2. No. Hell can better be thought of in the spiritual sense, as separation from God. DeYoung writes, "Jesus 'descended' into hell as He suffered the pain and torment of divine wrath. 'Surely no more terrible abyss can be conceived,' writes Calvin, 'than to feel yourself forsaken and estranged from God; and when you call upon him to not be heard.' It should be a comfort to us that there is no hell we can face greater than the one Christ endured" (The Good News We Almost Forgot, 98).

Q. What is the difference between the first answer and the second?

A. 60 pages.

Ha ha, white trash

If you google "Heath Campbell," the search engine's autocomplete function will recommend "Heath Campbell white trash."

This, it appears, is all we get in the way of explanation. This is the closest thing I can find to any sort of an attempt at an understanding of Heath and Deborah Campbell, despite more than 80 news stories about the couple.

This story is a perfect, perfect example of the kind of journalism I loathe.

Oct 29, 2011

Are you an angel now, or a vulture?

Oct 27, 2011

... the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Oct 25, 2011


Oct 24, 2011

Orthodox en-COUNTER-s w/ modern America

An interesting snapshot of the ways the Eastern Orthodox in America are negotiating with American culture:
"[T]he OCA Department of Christian Education [DCE] invites all [16th All-American] Council participants to attend a workshop in the Juniper Room on Monday, October 31, at 8:00 p.m., for a workshop titled 'Orthodox Living in a Challenging World.' Archpriests John Behr and Michael Oleksa will offer presentations on 'Being Human' and 'En-COUNTER-ing Culture' respectively. Mrs. Daria Petrykowski will offer a presentation on 'Addressing Abortion,' while Archpriest John Dresko will speak on 'Challenging Sunday Sports.' In addition, Matushka Valerie Zahirsky, DCE chair, will highlight various resources offered by the department."
A group like the OCA is unlikely to understand itself as in-transition, in negotiation and re-negotiation of identity. The emphasis, of course, is on continuity, and being unchanged. For that matter, the emphasis is likely to be on theological distinctives rather than points of cultural contact. Yet, as we see in this programing note, the cultural issues also come up.

There is always contact, and at those points you find either adaptation, or resistance, or both.

What makes the Eastern Orthodox in America particularly interesting in this regard, I think, is the way the immigrants and the converts tend to be at cross-currents on exactly question of encounters with the broader culture. Second- and third-generation immigrants often tend towards assimilation and adaptation, while the converts to Orthodoxy often especially value the ways in which these churches are dramatically counter-cultural.

This is also, though, at the same time, exactly reversed: the converts bring social attitudes and cultural practices and concerns which lessen the alterity of the Orthodox church. They often note, for example, that they're not converting to an ethnicity. Yet the division of religious practices and ethnic and national and even family practices can be problematic for immigrants and their children, whose identity in America includes all these ways of living blended together into a whole, that whole being who they are in this new context, these new encounters.

A great unwelcoming

The disagreement over the new Roman Catholic Missal is set up like this: concerns about theology vs. pastoral concerns.

There's a great middle of Catholics who don't care or are unaware of the pending changes, and then two sides, one supporting and one opposing the new Missal, which will replace the Missal put in place by Vatican II. This is how the sides have been constructed. This is how news accounts of the upcoming changes have presented the disagreement, and how the sides of the disagreement each present themselves.

An illustration from the new Roman Catholic Missal
Bishop Donald Trautman takes the pastoral side, for example, arguing:
"[T]he translation of the new Missal has intentionally employed a 'sacred language,' which tends to be remote from everyday speech and frequently not understandable.... While the translated texts of the new Missal must be accurate and faithful to the Latin original, they must also be intelligible, proclaimable, and grammatically correct. Regrettably the new translation fails in this regard.
"Did Jesus ever speak to the people of his day in words beyond their comprehension?"
Anthony Esolen, in First Things, takes the other side, accusing the translators of the currently in-use English-language Missal of Orwellianisms, and of producing a "thin, pedestrian, and often misleading version" of Catholic prayers. Esolen writes:
"They ignored the poetry. They severed thought from thought. They rendered concrete words, or abstract words with concrete substrates, as generalities. They eliminated most of the sense of the sacred. They quietly filed words like 'grace' down the memory hole. They muffled the word of God. They did not translate .... Those Catholics who grumble about the new translation without looking at the Latin have no idea how much has been lost to us English speakers these last forty years." (Emphasis original).
As US Today summarized:
"Much of the debate within the church is over whether the changes, ordered by the Vatican to achieve more literal translations from the Latin, are good or bad.

"Proponents say the new version is a more precise reflection of the original Latin. They say it is richer in its poetry, more reverent in its references to God and fuller in its allusions to the Bible and church creeds.

"Critics ... call the new version rigidly literal -- difficult for priests to recite and lay people to understand."
This positioning of the sides, however, doesn't explain some of the changes.

It also might obscure the deeper argument going on, the struggle which is the context for the new missal.

Oct 22, 2011


Oct 21, 2011

Tom Waits::

"I have to be willing to look at it like a three-legged table. If you've got three legs, you know it can stand up. Then we can put stripes on its tie or give it a toupee, but you need to have something to hang it on."

"Crows ... they say if you can find a wounded crow and nurse it back to health it will never leave you. I’m always looking for limping crows."

Oct 20, 2011

Mouth organ

Oct 18, 2011

What makes sacred space sacred?

Anthony Santoro wrote himself a note the last day of the conference: is there a good definition of sacred space?

It’s a good question, especially in the context of looking at seemingly secular activities that are maybe better understood as sacred. But are they sacred? Sacralized? And what does that mean, exactly? In a world where lots of people understand themselves to be “spiritual but not religious,” there must be spaces understood and experienced as spiritual, but which aren’t institutions, aren’t religious. What are those spaces, though, and what makes them the way they are?

The question is: what has to happen to a space for it to be experienced as spiritual?

Continue @ American Studies Heidelberg.

Oct 16, 2011

Oct 13, 2011

We're telling the guys there on Wall Street, 'Hey! Look down!'

The human microphone may be the best possible way to hear Zizek. The jokes, especially, are funnier when chanted by a crowd.

That said, he does give a concise account of the Occupy Wall Street protests:

"Beware not only of enemies, but also of false friends who pretend to support us, but are already working hard to dilute our protest. In the same way we get coffee without caffeine, beer without alcohol, ice-cream without fat, they will try to make us into a harmless moral protest. But the reason we are here is that we had enough of the world where to recycle your Coke cans, to give a couple of dollars for charity, or to buy Starbucks cappuccino where 1% goes for the Third World troubles is enough to make us feel good. After outsourcing work and torture, after the marriage agencies started to outsource even our dating, we see that for a long time we were allowing our political engagements also to be outsourced—we want them back."

Now if only Zizek could rally the Tea Partiers, maybe broker a joint protest.

Oct 12, 2011

Differences of degree

Dr. E. Brooks Holifield, speaking at the University of Heidelberg’s Alte Aula, said the marketplace thesis is problematic because it posits as explanations historical conditions which, when they happened elsewhere, didn’t result in the same sort of religiosity. For example, some have said it’s the democratization of religion in America that made the difference, but Wales, Scotland and England also had such democratizations, with “their share of uneducated populist preachers who drew enthusiastic adherents.”

Holifield said the historical conditions that most likely led to American religiousity are only different from other, similar events in the history of Europe in degree. It’s not that they happened in the US and nowhere else, but that they happened differently or to a greater or lesser degree. Picking this up as his theme and thesis, Holifield said:

“Differences of degree make a great deal of difference.”

Continue @ American Studies Heidelberg.

What Karl Barth said to Francis Schaeffer

"Rejoice, dear Mr. Schaeffer (and you calling your-selves 'fundamentalists' all over the world)! Rejoice and go on to believe in your 'logics' (as in the fourth article of your creed!) and in your-selves as the only true 'bible-believing' people! Shout so loudly as you can! But, pray, allow me, to let you alone. 'Conversations' are possible between open-minded people. Your paper and the review of your friend Buswell reveals the fact of your decision to close your window-shutters. I do not know how to deal with a man who comes to see and to speak to me in the quality of an [sic] detective-inspector with the beheaviour [sic] of a missionary who goes to convert a heathen. No, thanks! Yours sincerely. Excuse my bad English. I am not accustomed to write in your language.

"Sorry, but it can not be helped! Yours, Karl Barth."
 From Francis Schaeffer and the Shaping of Evangelical America, by Barry Hankins.

Oct 11, 2011

Billy Graham & the marketplace

The market for Billy Graham studies is likely to boom in the coming years, as scholars attempt to assess and evaluate the complete life of the now-elderly crusader. A share of that assessment will be given over to assessing Graham’s relationship to markets.

That was demonstrated on Friday, as three papers were presented on three different aspects of that relationship.

Continue @ American Studies Heidelberg.

Oct 10, 2011

Oct 8, 2011

r&m 080

Oct 6, 2011

r&m 105

For more on the conference, see American Studies Heidelberg, where I and several others will be blogging the conference for the next three days.

Oct 4, 2011

Fighting w/ St. Francis

St. Francis of Assisi, whose feast day is today, is one of those once-powerful religious figures who've been totally domesticated. His radicalness, his weirdness, his challenge -- it's all smothered in quaint-saint gooeyness.*

The power's still there, of course, in potential, but Francis is made safe for the world (Catholic and Protestant, religious or not). We ensure he, the saint of the garden figurine, only ever works to affirm, always so supportive.

I am not saying, here, that it's other people who do this.

I'm saying you do this, unless your first response to Francis is to want to punch him. I'm saying I definitely do this.

I'm saying there's a covered-up part of St. Francis that we cover up that would make you and me go, what the hell...?

Oct 3, 2011

Secularism, secularization, secularity

It's easy to find critics of secularism. Criticizing secularism (and secularists) is a regular move for certain sets of evangelicals and conservative Christians, for example.

Though there's very little clarity on what secularism is, or who holds this ideology and how, there's at least a consideration of it on some level, misconsiderations with which to start.

Academically, there's little analysis of secularism, per se. There's lots, though, LOTS, on secularization. The question is "how did this happen?" and the answer's a bunch of history.

Peter Berger does a lot of this, for example. He looks at the process. The Sacred Canopy is (to over simplify) divided into one part on how it happens in theory and the theoretical structure of the process, and one part on how it happened in history. Almost all of Charles Taylor's A Secular Age is about the historical process, with him going deep into the past and the library stacks to try to answer how this happened.

What I want to know is, rather than "how did this happen," what is the "this"?

What is secularity? How does it function? What is it as a condition, and what are the consequences of that condition? How does it, as an environment, shape and influence those who exist or that which exists within it?

Berger and Taylor both do define it -- and have both been very useful to me in thinking through my project. They're both countering the "subtraction thesis," where the secular is the remainder after the religious is taken away, which is useful and good. But I need to spend more time looking at how it (secularity) works itself out. There are maybe a total of 7 pages in Taylor's 851-page book where he says, "so, secularity is this, and that means, practically, this, this & this."

Which is what I'm trying to ask.

Oct 2, 2011

Late days of summer

Oct 1, 2011