Sunday 11/2/14

  1. Where faith gets lost.
  2. The death-defying ways of the WEIRD
  3. The SLAPP assault on free speech
  4. Nuts, nuttier, sociopathic

1

Resolved: Faith oftener is lost the bedroom than the classroom. Discuss.

2

[T]he context of modern Christianity is a world in which the stuff of death has been clinically hidden from sight – while the imagination of death has been rendered into entertainment. To suggest that there is a place for bones and bodies within the religious context simply begs the horrific revulsion of our culture. To tell the non-Orthodox that Orthodox funerals include an action called “the Last Kiss,” in which the faithful offer a reverential kiss to the body of the departed, is to suggest, for many, the unimaginable.

That our culture is revulsed by such actions is a testimony to the deranged values that surround us. We pay money to watch make-believe films of those who eat the dead, while we would prefer not even to touch the body of our own loved ones. The Tradition of the Church in the matter of relics calls us both to be faithful to the example of our fathers in the faith, and to renounce the macabre distortions of our own culture. We despise what we should love and judge others who love what we despise. Merciful God, save us!

(Fr. Stephen Freeman, pivoting from reflections on Halloween to his real topic: religious relics.)

The entire Orthodox funeral service, as I discovered the first time I was to sing one, is shocking to our W.E.I.R.D. values. An example hymn from the service:

I weep and I lament, when I think about death,
and see our beauty, fashioned according to God’s image,
lying in the graves, disfigured, without glory, bereft of form.
O marvel! What is this mystery concerning us?
How have we been given up to corruption?
How have we been linked with death?
Truly, as it is written, by the command of God,
Who giveth repose unto the departed.

“The Last Kiss” is the part of the funeral service that’s especially hard for me to sing because I tend to get choked up:

Come, brethren, let us give the last kiss to the dead,
rendering thanks unto God,
for this one hath disappeared from among his (her) kindred,
and hasteneth to the grave, no longer having concern with vanities
and the many passions of the flesh.
Where now are kindred and friends?
Behold, we are parted from him (her)
for whom let us pray the Lord to grant repose.

What is the parting, O brethren?
What this weeping, what this wailing at the present hour?
Come then, kiss him (her) who was but lately with us,
for he (she) is given over to the grave,
is covered with a stone, in darkness dwelleth,
is buried with the dead, and now is parted from all kindred and friends;
for him (her) let us pray the Lord to grant repose .

Now is life’s evil triumph of vanity destroyed;
for the spirit hath gone from its dwelling,
the clay is ashes, the vessel is broken,
voiceless, unfeeling, dead, motionless.
Committing him (her) to the grave,
let us pray the Lord to give him (her) eternal rest.

What is our life? A flower, and smoke, and truly a morning dew.
Come then, let us look clearly upon the tombs;
where is the beauty of the body? Where is youth?
Where are the eyes and the bodily form?
All like grass have withered, all have perished.
Come let us fall down before Christ with tears.

Great is the weeping and wailing,
great the sighing, and the need, at the parting of the soul;
hades and destruction await;
transitory life is but a fleeting shadow, a deceptive dream;
the toil of earthly life is an untimely phantasy.
Far let us flee from every earthly sin,
that we may inherit heavenly things.

Gazing upon the dead who lieth before us,
let us all accept this image of the final hour;
for he (she) is gone from the earth like smoke,
is faded like a flower, cut down like grass,
wrapped in a winding sheet, covered with earth.
Having left him (her) hidden from sight,
let us pray Christ to give him (her) rest unto the ages ….

If any Protestant reader is still fuming over religious relics as a superstition, I recommend 2 Kings 13:20-21 as an antidote.

3

Writing of some European efforts to punish free and robust speech as “inciting hatred” (against Muslims, who so far as I can tell are the ones incited to hatred), John O’Sullivan returns to our fair shores:

Surely such things can’t happen in the land of the First Amendment? Not in quite the same way, perhaps, but a libel suit brought by the climatologist Michael Mann against the opinion writer Mark Steyn, National Review magazine (with which I am affiliated) and the Competitive Enterprise Institute for their criticism of his temperature projections still poses a chilling threat to free speech and scientific debate. Even if the case is ultimately resolved in favor of Mr. Mann’s critics, they will have suffered a considerable loss in time and money. “The process is the punishment,” Mr. Steyn has said of such trials. It is also a deterrent to future critics.

(Emphasis added) Been there, done that, repeated. It does get tiresome. Nobody’s got your back even when you’re trying to help your profession police itself, as the profession is supposed to do.

It eventually does discourage candid communication.

That the process should be punishing and itself unpunished underlines the importance of SLAPP statutes and courts’ willingness to enforce them vigorously when a suit is objectively meritless and circumstances suggest a motive to punish free speech.

4

I just can’t stop thinking about the offensiveness of this latest Evangelical niche marketing to the a**hole market. These “pastors” all sound deranged to me, but the two at 1:24 and 1:32 look truly, menacingly unhinged.

Oh, by the way. Somehow, the Orthodox Church isn’t feminized even though we have no liturgical cage fighting. Gosh. How can that be?

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.