- My hope sometimes trumps my experience.
- I really don’t care for sports any more.
- When I was young and foolish, I was young and foolish.
- I weep at concerts.
- I am, relatively speaking, a real blue nose these days.
- I do not believe that all religions are equally ridiculous to the nonbeliever.
- Wendell Berry has disappointed me.
I have confessed to having rather lost contact with the religious life of the Evangelical world. That’s sort of a caveat to what follows.
One cannot avoid social contact with Evangelicals in the USA, nor would I want to. Many ecumenical Christian social ministries would flounder without them and their enthusiasm. But that does not necessarily give insight into their religious life, which I dare not assume is remotely like what I left for Calvinism 35 years ago. Or, likelier, I should say “their religious lives,” as there’s ample reason to doubt the actual existence of a single community or systematic theology of which one can say “This is Evangelicalism.” There is, perhaps, a common feeling.
But when I was still in touch, C. Peter Wagner was a fairly big Evangelical deal, and that he has gone flaky – evidence of which I’ve encountered several times over several months – is notable. Robert Arakaki notes it at length in New Apostles or Old Heresy? An Orthodox Perspective on the New Apostolic Reformation.
It seems that Wagner thinks that Christ didn’t really build a Church, but rather that He builds it, re-builds it, builds it yet again, and has decided this time that He needs to re-re-re-re-build it in the “new wineskin” of Apostles who spring up magically and presumably have greater authority than your typical 16-year-old Baptist Preacher Boy. ““Every time Jesus began building His Church in a new way throughout history, He provided new wineskins” (Wagner) Like I said very recently, “How squishy a foundation ….”
Arakaki not only describes this “New Apostolic” movement, but contrasts it with Orthodoxy on several key points.
I continue to think, albeit with less and less conviction, that some Evangelicals actually love Christ (not just the emotional and too-often sexualized jag of Sunday “worship”), intend to follow Him, and would like to find His Church if only they could believe His promise that He would build one. Arakaki’s article just might change their lives, which is why I note it.
I have also confessed to having lost almost all taste for sports. I suppose if my grandkids take up soccer, I’ll go.
I don’t think it’s because I was scandalized. Scandal hasn’t lessened my religious ardor, after all. But there’s plenty of scandal, ain’t there?
Lest Manti Te’o or Lance Armstrong go the way of Lizzy Seeberg, and since I’ve not followed the scandals all that closely, I’ll leave them alone. Perhaps the biggest scandal is that Notre Dame, having time to reflect, has enlisted as an accessory after the fact to Te’o’s misdemeanors. As the text message Lizzy Seeberg got said, “Messing with notre dame [sic] football is a bad idea.”
I now confess to having said and written many, many stupid things in my life, one of which was published as a sidebar (no mere letter to the editor) in Christianity Today 35-40 years ago. So there’s hope for Matthew Lee Anderson, who currently thinks l’affaire Louis Giglio is no big deal and should be shrugged off, but who may grow up some day to be an old curmudgeon who more accurately-if-cynically perceives the eventuality of gathering clouds.
I confess that I not infrequently weep a bit at concerts. Music can do that to me. But Friday night, at Purdue Convocations, Delfeayo Marsalis and his Octet had just taken the stage when it started. It was surprising and maybe a little embarrassing.
I think what brought it on was the conjoining of the Marsalis family to Duke Ellington. What an amazing contribution they’ve made to America’s distinctive contribution to the music of the world!
They reduced me to tears again when Delfeayo and his pianist did a very soft, very lushly-harmonized, encore version of Louis Armstrong’s “What A Beautiful World.”
Shakespeare didn’t hurt, either.
(I just noticed I have no category for music. Much as I love it, I lack the vocabulary to write about it technically.)
I confess that I spent too much time here venting my spleen pointedly at something a friend posted on Facebook, the posting of which spleen-venting could easily have strained our friendship.
Pointed references now pointedly omitted to protect the friendship, the point I wanted to make remains valid.
I was reminded by the posting that sex sells everything now, including female Contemporary Christian Music artists, which in turn put me in mind of the short essay by S.M. Hutchens from which this lead is taken:
On a recent visit to a fairly typical Evangelical church, we were treated to one of its regular features. A handsome young woman, attractively dressed, stood before the congregation with an eight-inch microphone, the head of which she held gently to her lips while she writhed and cooed a song in which she, with closed eyes and beckoning gestures, begged Jesus, as she worked her way toward its climax, to come fill her emptiness. The crowd liked it.
Her song had a different effect on me than I suspect she thought it would. It did, perhaps, bring me closer to Jesus, but by bringing me closer to the sinfulness of my own heart, the kind of heart that would be excited to lust by a pretty woman begging to be filled, and that would be instructed by its conscience to avert the eyes until she was done with her performance.
It also made me wonder if her husband, sitting by while she went through her show, was doing his duty by her, since she seemed to have a large surplus of the sort of womanly energy that husbands like to see. (One can only account for these displays by Christian wives and daughters by the unquestioned acceptance in Christian homes of feminist assumptions about obedience not owed to husbands and fathers.) These are not particularly pious thoughts, but I rather doubt that I was alone, and as I write am in no humor to pretend otherwise ….
I’m not such a doddering old fool that I think the cover art of female CCM performers, or the attire of female “worship leaders,” is worthy of Playboy or even the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition.
But I’m at a stage in life when I see through a lot more of the crap that used to slip under my radar (or maybe “so stirred my testosterone as to cloud my judgment” is more apt). For instance, I’m no longer under the illusion that I ever read Playboy “for the articles.”
I’ll suspect some actual music merit if they ever mint an album with a prim, “natural” Nazarene woman on the cover, hair in bun, clothed from neck to wrist.
I confess that I was far from the first to see this, but there is a sense in which I don’t believe in the God so many in our society claim to believe in. So when I encounter an angry atheist (rare in my circles), I intend to ask for a description of the God in which they disbelieve on the ironic chance that I, too, disbelieve in that one.
The subject became at least an eddy in the river of the last general election, as the press suddenly developed a keen interest in the particular beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a/k/a the Mormons. Matters such as ritual underwear became the butt of late-night jokes.
But there are some religions that are so ridiculous that you have to be a narcissistic matinée idol to believe them. Such is Scientology, a Manti Te’o whopper that somehow got some legs under it, whose ritual underwear is hung out to dry in Lawrence Wright’s book, Going Clear, the mere review of which gives me a mild case of Too Much Information.
Go ahead. Match Scientology for ridiculousness. I dare you. I double-dog dare you.
Wendell Berry, of whom I am a great admirer, has denounced opponents of same-sex marriage in uncharacteristically conclusory and intemperate language in an address to Kentucky Baptists. I’m not merely disappointed, but I’m shocked, because it seems so out of character — not that he was a crusader in opposition before, or that he was known for his work to strengthen traditional western marriage, but that his worldview has been set forth in essays and poetry, and this latest utterance seems a solecism.
I’m not alone, and others are beginning to examine his past relevant writings to explain their own consternation and to challenge him for an explanation of the change.
If Berry were a mere iconoclast, his provocation would be unsurprising. But he seemed to have such a coherent view of the world that either his support of SSM should be abandoned or the rest of his corpus should.
Frankly, I await a diagnosis of dementia and Berry’s retirement from public life. That’s my most charitable explanation, and the one most consonant with what I see in daily life.
* * * * *