When one realizes that Bible starts and ends with a marriage, the pieces may seem to fit together a bit smoother. Enclosed within the humble beginnings of human marriage was the divine mystery of ultimate marriage.... If our marriages between men and women are to reflect the marriage of the people of God to Christ, then defiling that relationship with Christ is analogous to defiling the human relationship with one’s spouse.
This is why God presses the Gospel on the whole of our lives, this is why not paying close attention to our devotion to God is like adultery. To see this maybe more clearly, let’s use an example.
I am getting married tomorrow…to my lovely fiance Alexandra Kaufman. We are entering into a covenant before God to pledge ourselves only to one another, until death do us part. Considering that we are both virgins, the honeymoon will be quite the intoxicating, blissful experience as well. But suppose sometime around the first of the year something changes.
Alexandra initially only came to me for sexual fulfillment, but somewhere along the line her heart starts to wander a bit. It’s not as noticeable at first, we continue on as usual. But then after a while, she starts bringing home other guys to sleep with. This goes on briefly before I casually remind her that she is supposed to come to me for that kind of fulfillment. With that in mind, she apologizes and then does just that.
But by doing that, all she changes is that now she expects me to find the other guys for her. She comes to me for fulfillment, but she wants me to give her all manner of other men to satisfy her rather than myself. She could have the only type of fulfillment she was meant to have if she would only just ask for it, but she continues sowing her wild oats even within our own bedroom. I don’t particularly seem to mind though, because she is at least nice about it and she makes sure to not interfere with my sleeping habits. We both continue on in this sort of affair, because after all, it’s only marriage, right?
I would be worried if anybody reading this was not appalled at the possibility of my marriage…turning into something like this.
However, we often don’t seem too appalled when our relationship with Christ, which is pictured as a marriage turns into something like this.
We start out fully devoted, only to slowly turn our affections to things of this world. Maybe later we get gently rebuked and come to our senses, but instead of giving up our idols, we merely start coming to Christ to get them. What is worse still is that we fully expect God to respond in the above manner and not particularly mind if we are out busy working the streets, spreading our legs for whoever passes by, so long as we come on Sundays and renew our vows.
How would Alexandra feel if I went to the strip clubs 6 days a week and rounded out the night by picking up a prostitute, so long as I came to her at least once a week for a passionate reconnection?
How should God respond when we do the same thing?
In Christianity in America, this is the course of the mainstream. One glance at some of the largest churches in America reveals that they are run more like brothels. People come and are encouraged in their adultery by appealing to the idolatry of health, wealth and happiness as what God intends to give to us rather than promoting the orthodox idea that it is Himself that is to be most treasured by us.
Friday, July 31, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
- C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, pp. 49-50
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
I suppose another sign of his perspicacity is his referring to my own Wild at Heart critique twice in his series, when he refers to Eldredge's romanticism and gnosticism. But even without that, I would have recommended him. Really.
Check out Nate's blog. I think you'll like what you see, not just on Eldredge but on other topics, as well.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Most Church art is still produced by factories, not created by a sense of mission or desire to incarnate the unseen reality. Only the artist transfigured in faith and master of his medium can accomplish this. Father P. Raymond Regamy, in Religious Art in the Twentieth Century, says, “Nazi art, the socialist realism of the U.S.S.R., and the art that we normally find in churches are the three most dreadful manifestations of art that our century has witnessed.” There is a harsh truth here. Who knows how many have rejected religion from a subconscious revulsion to paintings of Christ they have absorbed since childhood. An effeminate Jesus and saccharin madonna may appeal at one level of a starved emotional life, but they do not reach deeper to liberate and heal. The face of God must be portrayed in Christ as mercy and truth combined. Unless it is so, religious imagery will be a closed door inhibiting our growth in the Kingdom. Bad art has the power to deform a people just as good art generates new reflection, growth, vision, and hope.
The artist is all idealist, and for him the ideal is the real, capable of transforming his world into what it should be. For Western man it is difficult to grasp this curious vocation. He misreads art as decoration, entertainment, or a tool for imparting information.
The popular modern emblems of faith are the rainbow and the much-abused butterfly. Yet they are losing their symbolic power because they have been used exhaustively to express a false joy, that of resurrection without crucifixion.
As a liturgical artist he will need to balance the tension between mystery and hospitality, a creative and healthy tension which should be characteristic of our places of worship. So often the parish church is a safe place where we go to keep intact our middle-class vision of existence. We want to tame God, to make the sanctuary an extension of our living rooms and ourselves into spectators — consumers — of the liturgy. We must re-experience the church as holy ground, welcoming and warm, but sacred. A place where we are not to be confirmed in mediocrity, but led to transfiguration. This is a particularly urgent need, because in liturgy the human soul should be opened to God, and once it has been so exposed it must be fed real food. Much of what passes for liturgical art fails to nourish because its makers have not found its source within themselves. There is talent but little or no vision. Church art rarely commands respect; it is seen by the world as a gasp from a dying Christian culture. If we are offended by these opinions we must now, more than ever, seek the origins and purposes of art and bring it to fruition in the prophetic heart of the Church. [We could say the same about church music, couldn't we?]
No renewal of sacred art in our times will come if the artist's gift, his spiritual gift, is regarded as a piece of merchandise with which to cover the empty spaces on our walls.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
One of the great Prayer Book collects asks God that we may
“love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise”. That is always tough, for all of us. Much easier to ask God to command what we already love, and promise what we already desire.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Sarah Palin's resignation gives Republicans a new opportunity to see her plain—to review the bidding, see her strengths, acknowledge her limits, and let go of her drama. It is an opportunity they should take. They mean to rebuild a great party. They need to do it on solid ground.
Her history does not need to be rehearsed at any length. Ten months ago she was embraced with friendliness by her party. The left and the media immediately overplayed their hand, with attacks on her children. The party rallied round, as a party should. She went on the trail a sensation but demonstrated in the ensuing months that she was not ready to go national and in fact never would be. She was hungry, loved politics, had charm and energy, loved walking onto the stage, waving and doing the stump speech. All good. But she was not thoughtful. She was a gifted retail politician who displayed the disadvantages of being born into a point of view (in her case a form of conservatism; elsewhere and in other circumstances, it could have been a form of liberalism) and swallowing it whole: She never learned how the other sides think, or why.
In television interviews she was out of her depth in a shallow pool. She was limited in her ability to explain and defend her positions, and sometimes in knowing them. She couldn't say what she read because she didn't read anything. She was utterly unconcerned by all this and seemed in fact rather proud of it: It was evidence of her authenticity. She experienced criticism as both partisan and cruel because she could see no truth in any of it. She wasn't thoughtful enough to know she wasn't thoughtful enough. Her presentation up to the end has been scattered, illogical, manipulative and self-referential to the point of self-reverence. "I'm not wired that way," "I'm not a quitter," "I'm standing up for our values." I'm, I'm, I'm.
In another age it might not have been terrible, but here and now it was actually rather horrifying.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
July 9, 2009
Months to Live
Sisters Face Death With Dignity and Reverence
By JANE GROSS
PITTSFORD, N.Y. —
A convent is a world apart, unduplicable. But the Sisters of St. Joseph, a congregation in this Rochester suburb, animate many factors that studies say contribute to successful aging and a gentle death — none of which require this special setting. These include a large social network, intellectual stimulation, continued engagement in life and spiritual beliefs, as well as health care guided by the less-is-more principles of palliative and hospice care — trends that are moving from the fringes to the mainstream.
For the elderly and infirm Roman Catholic sisters here, all of this takes place in a Mother House designed like a secular retirement community for a congregation that is literally dying off, like so many religious orders. On average, one sister dies each month, right here, not in the hospital, because few choose aggressive medical intervention at the end of life, although they are welcome to it if they want.
“We approach our living and our dying in the same way, with discernment,” said Sister Mary Lou Mitchell, the congregation president. “Maybe this is one of the messages we can send to society, by modeling it.”
Primary care for most of the ailing sisters is provided by Dr. Robert C. McCann, a geriatrician at the University of Rochester, who says that through a combination of philosophy and happenstance, “they have better deaths than any I’ve ever seen.”
“It is much easier to guide people to better choices here than in a hospital,” he said, “and you don’t get a lot of pushback when you suggest that more treatment is not better treatment.”
Few sisters opt for major surgery, high-tech diagnostic tests or life-sustaining machinery. And nobody can remember the last time anyone died in a hospital, which was one of the goals in selling the old Mother House, with its tumbledown infirmary…and using the money to finance a new facility appropriate for end-of-life care.
“There is a time to die and a way to do that with reverence,” said Sister Mary Lou, 56, a former nurse. “Hospitals should not be meccas for dying. Dying belongs at home, in the community. We built this place with that in mind.”
….Here, everyone mixes. Of the 150 residents, nearly half live in the west wing, designated for independent living….Forty sisters live in assisted-living studios, and another 40 in the nursing home and Alzheimer’s unit, all in the east wing, with the chapel, dining rooms and library at the central intersection. Closed-circuit television allows those confined to their rooms to watch daily religious services.
Dr. McCann said that the sisters’ religious faith insulated them from existential suffering — the “Why me?” refrain commonly heard among those without a belief in an afterlife. Absent that anxiety and fear, Dr. McCann said, there is less pain, less depression, and thus the sisters require only one-third the amount of narcotics he uses to manage end-of-life symptoms among hospitalized patients.
On recent rounds, Dr. McCann saw …Sister Jamesine Riley, 75, once the president of the congregation, who barely survived a car accident that left her with a brain injury, dozens of broken bones and pneumonia. “You’re not giving up, are you?” Dr. McCann asked her. “No, I’m discouraged, but I’m not giving up,” Sister Jamesine replied in a strong voice.
Some days, Dr. McCann said, he arrives with his “head spinning,” from hospitals and intensive-care units where death can be tortured, impersonal and wastefully expensive, only to find himself in a “different world where it’s really possible to focus on what’s important for people” and, he adds, “what’s exportable, what we can learn from an ideal environment like this.”
Barbara Cocilova, the nurse practitioner here, sees differences in the health of these sisters compared with elderly patients in other settings….Among those with Alzheimer’s, Ms. Cocilova said, diagnostic tests tend to produce better-than-expected results among those who are further along in the disease process, a possible result of mental stimulation.
Sister Bernadine Frieda, 91, spry and sharp, spends her days visiting the infirm with Sister Marie Kellner, 77, both of them onetime science teachers. Sister Marie, who left the classroom because of multiple sclerosis, reminds an astounded sister with Alzheimer’s that she was once a high school principal (“I was?!”) and sings “Peace Is Like a River” to the dying. “We don’t let anyone go alone on the last journey,” Sister Marie said.
Seven priests moved here in old age, paying their own way, as does Father Shannon, who presides over funerals that are more about the celebratory “alleluia” than the glum “De Profundis.”…He shares with them the security of knowing he will not die among strangers who have nothing in common but age and infirmity.
“This is what our culture, our society, is starved for, to be rich in relationships,” Sister Mary Lou said. “This is what everyone should have.”
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
In Untimely Meditations, Friedrich Nietzsche spins a tale that goes like this: Once upon a time, on a minuscule planet orbiting a mediocre star, clever little animals emerged from the slime—and not long after began using puffed-up words like truth and goodness. Even worse, they thought they could attain genuine knowledge in this ultimately dead world. But their little C-grade star eventually cooled, and these pathetic little creatures died out, and with them died their proud words and hard-gained knowledge. The universe shed not one tear but merely looked on from its cold, infinite, uncaring skies.
One must at least credit Nietzsche for drawing out the consistent implications of atheism. Recent atheists, in contrast, seem to preach their atheism with an odd fervor, and one looks in vain for these overheated unbelievers to acknowledge that atheism entails a pointless universe. Perhaps, though, we should sympathize with our current crop of evangelizing atheists. Nietzsche’s pointless-universe thesis is so difficult to maintain that not even he could manage it. In a later book, The Gay Science, he came to the conclusion: “It is still a metaphysical faith upon which our faith in science rests—that even we seekers after knowledge today, we godless anti-metaphysicians, still take our fire, too, from the flame lit by a faith that is thousands of years old, that Christian faith which was also the faith of Plato: that God is the truth, that truth is divine.”
Rare is the contemporary atheist who takes his atheism as radically as did Nietzsche.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Friday, July 3, 2009
Which ethnic group would you describe yourself as being in?
Other Black background
Other Asian background
White & Asian
White & Black African
White & Black Caribbean
Other mixed background
Other ethnic group
Prefer not to say
This list tells you a lot about the U.K. and the history of the British Empire, doesn't it? I'm guessing the 2010 U.S. Census will have different choices.