Saturday, 5/16/15

  1. Taking a stab at aphorism
  2. A Rarity: I review a book
  3. Noise + Jokes ≠ Worship

1

If you don’t have a duty to do something, you needn’t do it to spite someone.

That’s my effort to reduce to an aphorism my rebuttal of all the “defenses” of Pamela Geller, like the rape victim analogy of WSJ’s Bret Stephens and the “sacred tradition of offending people” from Robert Oscar Lopez (which at least is worth reading, unlike Stephens’ piece).

In no way do I question the legal privilege to offend, even deliberately. But I refuse to valorize Geller or pretend that her “cultural event” was a meaningful contribution to anything. She’s a First Amendment heroine like Larry Flynt is a First Amendment hero.

Coincidentally, I learn from someone who has investigated her background (of which I was generally, not specifically, aware) she may also be a rank hypocrite on the First Amendment. I’m glad to see that I’m not alone among conservatives in refusing to praise her.

2

I took a break from essay polemics to read Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of the World, which reportedly is a favorite of the new Pope Francis.

It turned out to be fictional polemics.

According to his biographer, Fr. Cyril Martindale, Mgr. Benson’s depiction of the future was in many ways an inversion of the science fiction novels of H.G. Wells. In particular, Benson was sickened by Wells’ belief that Atheism, Marxism, World Government, and Eugenics would lead to an earthly utopia. Due to his depiction of a Wellsian future as a global police state, Benson’s novel has been called one of the first modern works of dystopian fiction.

To my untrained eye and unskilled hand, Benson’s writing seems wooden and unconvincing. “Show me, don’t tell me” kept coming to mind when the Monsignor writes along the lines that something was ineffably beautiful. Arghhh!

While the Wikipedia article on the novel sees it as an inversion of H.G. Wells, I see it more as a prequel to what I imagine about the series Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have milked. I’ll admit that the Monsignor’s insouciant Roman Catholic triumphalism grates on me, though he has little to say against Orthodoxy beyond assuming its fecklessness, making his Judas figure Russian, and alluding to “the disappearance of Greek Christianity” and with it “the last remnants of internecine war in Christendom.” But I don’t think that unduly colored my impressions.

For my money, the only beautiful line was the improbable last Pope’s dark inner doubts as the apocalypse approached:

He was the smoking wick of a candle of folly; He was the reductio ad absurdam of a ludicrous syllogism based on impossible premises. He was not worth killing, He and His company of the insane — they were no more than the crowned dunces of the world’s school. Sanity sat on the solid benches of materialism.

Elsewhere in the novel, this might have been reduced to “sometimes, he had really, really deep doubts.”

For a climax, Mgr. Benson interjects more and more frequent Latin lines from the hymn Pange Lingua during his apocalyptic final Mass.

And then … nah, read it yourself if you want to know (or the Wikipedia article has the spoiler).

It still appears to be free – and worth every penny.

3

I was going to share this on Twitter and Facebook, but it begs for a bit more.

I won’t try to be like the pastor who so desperately wanted to be hip. I won’t, in other words, pretend to be chums with Matt Walsh.

But Walsh is onto something when he says Maybe Christianity In America Is Dying Because It’s Boring Everyone To Death. It’s boring them in a very hip and “relevant” way:

There were a bunch of acoustic guitars and drums and tambourines and a keyboard. Before the service/concert began, some guy came out to rev up the crowd. Opening acts aren’t usually a part of the liturgical experience, but this is 2015 and we’re, like, so not into solemn silence and prayer anymore.

There must always be noise. Always noise. Sounds. Lights. Never silence, not even for a moment.

Finally, church started. The choir, or jam band for Jesus, or whatever it was, played a song that sounded like a cross between a 90′s Disney soundtrack and an easy listening favorite you might hear if you skimmed through your aunt’s second generation iPod. It wasn’t really contemporary, or good, or relevant, but at least it wasn’t traditional. Because YUCK! Tradition is old!

The singer was relatively talented, but he carried on like an American Idol contestant. I got the impression that he was fishing for applause, not worshiping the Lord of the Universe. His style and demeanor said “talent show” but the music said “wine and cheese festival” or maybe “my dentist’s waiting room.” It definitely didn’t say “truth,” or “heaven,” or “the Great King sitting upon his throne amidst throngs of mighty angels.”

The pastor began with another round of jokes. They weren’t very funny but they succeeded in being unserious, which I guess is close enough ….

No, I don’t think he’s taking about the Protestant mainstream. I think he was in a vaguely Evangelical Church in the worst and most debased sense of that adjective.

Ask yourself this: would you rather be in a Church full of people who like this kind of crap or one full of people who recognize it for debased twaddle?

(H/T Rod Dreher. He’s got his own worthy comments, of course.)

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.