Modern Ironies

Two of the ironies of our era:

  • Newspapers unmistakably designed for people who can’t or don’t want to read.
  • Churches unmistakably designed for people who can’t or don’t want to worship.

(H/T Terry Mattingly in a talk from several years ago.)

It’s thus no coincidence that 20% of Americans now identify as religiously unaffiliated. If worship is merely a second-rate rock or smooth jazz show with a moralistic therapeutic deist “be nice now” admonition (or political exhortation) thrown in, then to hell with it. Homo adorans needs more.

That 20% unaffiliation makes us, by the ironic way, more irreligious that our old atheist nemesis Russia, where believers of one sort or another are 88%. Might it have something to do with the dominant religion there being famous for the profundity and beauty of its worship?

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Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Christianity in a radically different key

I have cited and quoted Fr. Stephen Freeman a great deal in this blog. His quiet learning and wisdom (not the same thing) have made him one of my very favorite Orthodox bloggers.

With Friday as an exception (which I nevertheless cited and quoted yesterday), he tries to “write within the known bounds of the Eastern Orthodox faith.” So when he uses his distinctive trope – “Christ didn’t come to make bad men good, but to make dead men live” or simply “morality is not Christian” – that is a bit shocking.

His expression is not any part of standard Orthodox “insider lingo,” but I’m convinced that it truthfully teases out something that’s deeply Orthodox, and helps makes sense of it.

Continue reading “Christianity in a radically different key”

A tacky icon meets its end

As Jason Peters puts it at Front Porch Republic, Zeus has been avenged for offenses against statuary.

“I guess it takes a divine sense of irony to destroy a fiberglass and foam statue outside a place called Solid Rock Church,” said Monroe assistant fire chief Connie Flagration. “You want irony in a god, but this might be going a bit too far.”

Details here and here.

I don’t understand why I don’t hear weeping in heaven. Or maybe I do.

God bless the child

Sometimes a song is more than a song:

Them that’s got shall get
Them that’s not shall lose
So the Bible said and it still is news
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own

Yes, the strong gets more
While the weak ones fade
Empty pockets don’t ever make the grade
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own

Money, you’ve got lots of friends
Crowding round the door
When you’re gone, spending ends
They don’t come no more
Rich relations give
Crust of bread and such
You can help yourself
But don’t take too much
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own

Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own
He just worry ’bout nothin’
Cause he’s got his own

God Bless the Child, Billie Holliday and Arthur Herzog, Jr.

Nothing much has changed, has it? Ross Douthat’s Monday column at the New York Times, “The Great Consolidation,” surveys the events of the past few years and concludes:

This is the perverse logic of meritocracy. Once a system grows sufficiently complex, it doesn’t matter how badly our best and brightest foul things up. Every crisis increases their authority, because they seem to be the only ones who understand the system well enough to fix it.

But their fixes tend to make the system even more complex and centralized, and more vulnerable to the next national-security surprise, the next natural disaster, the next economic crisis. Which is why, despite all the populist backlash and all the promises from Washington, this isn’t the end of the “too big to fail” era. It’s the beginning.

If it doesn’t ring true to you, I’m surprised you’re reading this blog at all.

Is this the result of a conspiracy? Are there some bastards we can shoot to end it? I rather think of it as tragedy, not conspiracy. And, having grown up as I did, I sometimes think of it as misadventure (looks sorta like tragedy, but the reversal of fortune is brought about by an external cause, says Aristotle).

Even in tragedy, there can be comic moments, as when POTUS (President of the United States) rationalizes a Supreme Court Appointment:

In the past week, I’ve read two news stories about Kagan in my local paper that featured absurd language.  The first was an AP story by Ben Feller on May 10.  The second was an AP story by Julie Hirschfeld Davis on May 12.

The second story quotes Harry Reid as saying Kagan “has fresh ideas” because she’s been “out in the real world recently.”  Reid is trying to turn a negative into a positive. Kagan’s lack of judicial experience means she has been doing other things instead of being cloistered among black robes.  But are the other things she’s been doing part of “the real world”?  For the past decade, she has been professor and then dean of Harvard Law School, followed by a year as U.S. solicitor general.  That’s pretty rarefied living.  In the ‘90s, she was a White House counsel and policy advisor.  Is there anything “fresh” about a retread from the corrupt and sleazy Clinton years?

The first story reports, “The president has grown vocal in his concern that the conservative-tilting court is giving too little voice to average people.”  Obama—he of the famed analysis regarding bitterness and clinging—has now condescended to express a tender regard for the vox populi.  In between his policy talks with Bernanke, Geithner, and Blankfein; his strategy sessions with Chicago machine cogs; and his social visits with the Beverly Hills and Martha’s Vineyard set.  Somehow he finds time to worry about the little guys and gals and then express that worry while the press dutifully notes the expression.

We are told that Kagan is a manifestation of Obama’s concern that the common people are not being heard by the Supreme Court.  So he appoints a person who attended an exclusive high school, then Princeton, then Oxford, and then Harvard.  Just the sort of person who is most likely to be in touch with the struggles and aspirations, the stances and aims of We the People.  Ain’t democracy grand?

(Jeff Taylor, Few v. Many: The Topsy-Turvy World of Judicial Demographics, at Front Porch Republic)

Rima Fakih is soooo yesterday. Where’s my bread? Where’s the next circus?

Yes, Jeff: Democracy is grand.

Honk if you love irony

I started a month and a half ago to try to write a very trenchant post taking this music video as its point of departure.

Maybe someday I’ll get around to it, but to say what I wrote wasn’t ready for prime time would be a great understatement.

So just enjoy the video, chuckle at human folly, and then say a few “Lord have mercies” for us all.