Friday 2/17/17

  1. Getting Ash Wednesday Wrong
  2. Pop Evangelical Systematic Theology
  3. We probably think his songs are about us
  4. Beware impending actual violence
  5. A dam mess


In the spring of 2004, I went to a press screening of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, two days before Ash Wednesday. The film tore me to bits. I went to Ash Wednesday services at my local Catholic parish (I was Catholic then) ready to don sackcloth and ashes and repent. The priest’s homily that day centered on how Lent was really a time for us to learn to love ourselves more.

After that, I knew that this priest had nothing useful to teach any of us about the spiritual life. It was about nothing more than coddling the bourgeoisie.

(Rod Dreher)

That was then, this is now. Now, there’s a movement for a certain subculture to mix Glitter + Ash on Ash Wednesday, tacitly signaling that of which those misguided souls so adorned feel no need to repent, but rather desire to celebrate.


Evangelicals scramble to rightly contextualize God’s word because we are not intellectually equipped to do so.  50 or 100 years ago, we were convinced to broaden verses like “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither male nor female in Christ” (Galatians 3, Colossians 4) to justify our support of progressive agendas like feminism, while passing over other verses about sexual roles in the church, family, and society (1 Peter 3, Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, 1 Timothy 3, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 11…).  This led us down a road that converged with the Enlightenment’s view of the individual …

If we are all individuals pursuing Christ, then there is no reason why we should confine men and women to their God-ordained roles.  Now, many Evangelicals readily send our daughters into the military to fight and reduce our sons to ‘sensitive’ types who must not assert themselves, lest they be accused of patriarchy.  But it doesn’t stop there.  If our daughters need not be feminine, why must our sons be masculine?  Why can’t our sons pursue men?  Should a daughter who would rather be a son be allowed to switch?  The only systematic theology most Evangelicals encounter is the progressive American theology taught in the media and in public school—which stands for extreme self-determination.

(David Goodwin, The Last Citadel for Evangelicals)


We’re so exceptional, we probably think his songs are about us.

Folk singer Bruce Cockburn is encouraging U.S. musicians to keep pushing for free speech under the Donald Trump administration.

While accepting an honour at the Folk Alliance International awards show in Kansas City, Mo. on Wednesday night he took a moment to address the volatile political climate.

“It seems evident that the current administration is not much interested in democracy,” he said in prepared remarks.

“They are trying to stifle opposition across the board by a range of means. Looks to me like they’re just getting started.”

The Canadian singer, who lives in San Francisco, then urged musicians to be a catalyst for dialogue and debate.

“We may get tired, but we have to keep singing,” he said.

Country singer Kris Kristofferson presented Cockburn with the People’s Voice Award in recognition of his role in social and political commentary. His 1984 track “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” is widely considered a staple of activist music.

Cockburn reflected on his experiences as a young performer during the Vietnam War, and on later years when he found his voice during the U.S. presidency of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

He then turned to the current U.S. political climate and told songwriters to consider their music as more than just words, but a “focal point for collective energy” of the community.

“Doesn’t mean we can’t sing love songs,” Cockburn reasoned.

“But if you think you can keep your head down and ignore the political side of things, it’s liable to be waiting for you with a blackjack in the alley when you come out the stage door.”

(Montreal Gazette, making its first appearance here, I’m pretty sure.)


Of the (pick one):

(a) near-total chaos of the Trump Administration in the wake of the Flynn affair,

(b) “fine-tuned machine” of the Trump Administration, humming along after the Flynn affair,

John Podhoretz warns:

If the language surrounding the investigation remains florid and purple, if Democrats try to please their Trump-hating constituents by screaming impeachment and liberal media tries to garner audience by jumping openly and vociferously on the bandwagon, the Trumpians will respond in kind by stirring the pot through their media and their argumentation.

The result might well be violence. Not rhetorical violence. Actual violence. Actual political violence. Actual conflicts between anti-Trumpers and Trumpers. At demonstrations. In the streets. Of our cities. Political violence of a sort we haven’t seen in 50 years, and maybe haven’t really seen in this country in the modern era. Those who believe Trump is a unique menace whose threat to our democratic way of life will be met with those who believe the elites are using illicit means to oust the legitimately elected president of the United States.

This is not a fantasy. This is one possible future. And every rational person who cares about the future of the country should be mindful of it, and should work to forestall it.

(Via Rod Dreher)


Over the coming days — and perhaps longer if things get really bad — you’re going to see plenty of stuff about the Oroville Dam in Northern California. In the ongoing natural disaster that seems to be California, drought has turned to flood and a now full reservoir is topping decades-old spillways. While designed for the most stressful situation, they have never been tested like this. Poor maintenance of the spillways has allowed an erosion problem to expand, threatening to undermine the structure and release destructive amounts of water downstream. Local residents were repeatedly assured by public officials that there was no cause for alarm before being told to flee. It’s a mess.

If Strong Towns were a propaganda machine, this would be a good time to go full blast with the hysteria. We could do a fundraiser around the existential threat posed by dams and try make people afraid to ever go near a river. With your $5 a month pledge, we’ll hold people accountable and ensure those joints are properly grouted every decade or two so that nothing like this ever happens in America again. Flash to pictures of racially-balanced families hugging each other at a FEMA camp.

Thankfully, we’re not a cheap propaganda machine, yet this is a moment we should not less pass. There are some important lessons here that we need to learn, and they aren’t the ones you’re likely to hear ….

(Chuck Marohn, A Dam Mess, at Small Towns) I’ve been neglecting Small Towns, a wonderful blog, podcast, and collection of insights.

* * * * *

“The truth is that the thing most present to the mind of man is not the economic machinery necessary to his existence; but rather that existence itself; the world which he sees when he wakes every morning and the nature of his general position in it. There is something that is nearer to him than livelihood, and that is life.” (G.K. Chesterton)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.