Saturday, April 28, 2012
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
This struck me deeply when I heard it. One of those things that won't leave. For the last few months I've been discovering the treasure trove that is John Updike. He is a shocking writer. "Rabbit, Run" is full of bile and evil and the worst of human nature, with no moral or finger waving or God to save the scene in sight. Yet from what I can gather, Updike, like myself, was a lifelong Christian. But the book (published in 1960) reads like nothing any Christian I know would associate with. The only thing it would do is shock and scandalize them.
Which actually helps to give me insight into the quote. First off, knocking politicians is as necessary and simple as water; only True Believers think they can trust their horse as that person seeks to curry favor with as many people as possible to gain power over their fellow man. Calling bullshit on Politicians should be a skill taught and mastered before we are released into the adult world. But I was taken aback when he suggested that people can't expect to hear the truth from preachers. We must take it as a given that, like lawyers and cops and janitors, there are good and bad ones. But I did spend a few years in church leadership, and I've spent countless hours listening to dozens of preachers (I'm a theology nerd, ok?), and I've grown to love and have great respect for the profession. So it got my ire up to have someone suggest that preachers/ministers/pastors aren't giving us the unvarnished truth.
But then I got to thinking.
If you dig a little, maybe you can start to feel what Updike put his finger on.
Preachers certainly have the deck stacked against them to begin with. They are required to be spiritual paragons. Professionals by definition are good at what they do, and the perceived point of Christianity is to be good at following God's rules. But the truth is no one, no not even one, is good at following God's rules. I'm not accusing anyone of anything, but I'm saying clergy have the incentive to fudge their moral abilities. Need I remind you what human nature does when faced with an incentive? And despite their unfounded mystique, clergy do not have a leg up on human nature.
The power of the collar is such that its wearer might be wont to feel as if they have been infused with special moral powers and authority in exchange for their service. No such deal exists.
And our poor preachers put their children in straight jackets (don't even start trying to decide if I'm referring to you or your preacher--I am not--I am speaking to the reason for why we refer to their children as PKs) because their children are also supposed to be infused with the magical elixir that exonerates them from the implacable teenage proclivity to F*** Up. But God either did not get this memo, or decided to bump it off his desk when no one was looking.
I haven't even touched a third of the wrong-headed expectations clergy face, but I shall press on.
So we saddle them (and they saddle themselves) with all this and more and force them to preach to us Scout's Honor every Sunday.
If you don't think your preacher is tempted to make his best appear as his average, to make his sin appear as a small storm easily tamed, then I don't know if you've thought this through properly. Then this apparition of achievement is tacitly held out as an ideal to be achieved for all the spiritual weaklings in the audience.
What kind of discord, disappointment and depression over achieving an impossible ideal might that reap? My guess is it would not be difficult to under estimate.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Because I am in love with books and reading it seems important to record what I will be packing along on my trip. I'm sorry I must inflict this on you, but I don't have a choice.
Literary Theory, by Terry Eagleton
On Evil, by Terry Eagleton
Travels With Charley, by John Steinbeck--My creative writing teacher from my senior year of high school told me I had to read it. Maybe I'll finally make it happen.
The Afterlife, by John Updike
One Wired magazine
And then what I have on my Kindle:
Rabbit Redux, by Updike
Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace--One word for this book--slog. And that's the nicest one I can muster. Doubtful that I will finish. I want to so badly, but good god, it's just too much. Too much detail, too many words, too many characters, too many scenarios without enough pay off. What haunts me is that it could break open at any moment and be brilliant. And for this possibility I will probably press on.
Anyway, that should be enough material to cover 3.5 days. I always bring much too much, I can't have it any other way.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
From Synecdoche, NY--
If the year is a life, then fall is the beginning of the end:
Whoever has no house now Will never have one. Whoever is alone will stay alone Will sit, read, write long letters Through the evening And wander the boulevards Up and down, restlessly While the dry leaves are blowing.
"Goodness, that's harsh, isn't it?" "Well, perhaps. But truthful."
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
The problem is, we don't know what we're celebrating. And that cuts both ways. From a secular perspective all you're seeing is that the idea of the bunny rabbit is getting much too much attention. There's chocolate in it for you, if that's you're thing, but that's about the extent of it. But for Christian's it's even worse. Put on your Sunday best (an anachronism, dating back to Nobody Cares), get together with the like-minded and say "He is Risen!" with the correct amount of excitement, do your Easter egg hunt with the kids but make sure you put a Christian spin on it somehow (there isn't one, but that doesn't stop you), get a good deal on a ham and call it a day.
God save us from the insanity.
I hate showing up to the family gathering and not acknowledging why we are there. We are there because it is Easter. But can I ask the question, WHAT IS EASTER? (I'll get to that in a second.) This desire to talk about why we are all gathered here doesn't so much come from the proselytizer in me (because, frankly, there isn't much of one, I'm much too much of a timid people pleaser for that), as it does from the logician. Although we are all inconsistent to a certain degree, I still cannot help but point that out for others. I wouldn't celebrate a holiday that I didn't believe in, so what's your excuse?
WHAT IS EASTER? Well it isn't any of the above. I was listening to theologian NT Wright talk about this once. So if you don't mind, I shall paraphrase as best I can from the year old memory: We make much too little of Easter. We should be popping champagne corks all week long and having a raucous party. The Resurrection is the exclamation point on all that Jesus said and did. The Resurrection is the proof that what he said is true. And if what he said is true, then That Changes Everything. Now, we don't really live like we believe everything that Jesus said and did was true, but during Easter we should at least have the decency to fake like we do.
If what Jesus said is true it means that life does not have to be ultimately tragic. If Jesus was right then he offers a constructive solution to the grinding powers of the world that demands your best and punishes you anyway. Jesus may have been wrong--but I don't believe that. If I were to make my life be consistent with the bigness, the otherworldlyness, the revolutionary nature of his proclamation, then, at the very least--
I should be celebrating with champagne this week.