Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Main Reason Things Happen as They Do in Our Country

Brian Ross, FB 5.26.16
As a society, we often create our own problems, and then we fumble creating solutions. Why? Because of our faulty "faith" commitments.

Many progressives assume that historical ethics and spiritual narratives are a danger to society. Human beings should be free to be anyone they want.

Then, when evil happens, the answer becomes: legislate, legislate, legislate. Not realizing that their own narratives helped to grease the wheels towards evil. They have dismantled thick narratives of transcendence that serve as a check on human actions and motives.

Similarly, many conservatives (who pay lip service to historical ethics and spiritual narratives) assume that any check on unfettered markets is quite ridiculous. Human beings, economically, should be free to do whatever they want. And to entice anyone they want to- with the widgets they have for sale.

Then, when evil happens, the answer becomes to preach more and more about historical ethics and spiritual narratives. Not realizing, that the structures of autonomous markets that they have created- form self-absorbed individuals who are more inclined towards evil. You can't market to people all day along about "what they, as an individual, deserve" in regards to new shiny products and assume this won't impact their self-identities.

We create our world, become shocked at what it becomes, and then we sadly double-down on poor solutions.

Power, Privilege, Heresy, and Playing Poker: Some Thoughts Post #UMCGC

We United Methodists of late don't appear to be united on many things, but for the most part we are opposed to gambling. Our Social Principles state,

Gambling is a menace to society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic, and spiritual life, and destructive of good government. As an act of faith and concern, Christians should abstain from gambling and should strive to minister to those victimized by the practice. Where gambling has become addictive, the church will encourage such individuals to receive therapeutic assistance so that the individual's energies may be redirected into positive and constructive ends. The church should promote standards and personal lifestyles that would make unnecessary and undesirable the resort to commercial gambling-including public lotteries-as a recreation, as an escape, or as a means of producing public revenue or funds for support of charities or government (¶ 163G).

I'm very much in agreement with our position on gambling, but I must confess when it comes to the discussions we UMs often have on issues that deeply divide us, all too often I am reminded of the chorus from Kenny Roger's song, "The Gambler:"

You've got to know when to hold 'em

Know when to fold 'em

Know when to walk away

And know when to run

You never count your money

When you're sittin' at the table

There'll be time enough for countin'

When the dealin's done

The conversation on the issues that deeply divide us all too often resort to the continual holding and playing of two cards from the progressives-- the cards of power and privilege-- and one card from the traditionalists-- the heresy card. The continual and haphazard use of these three cards either stifles fruitful discussion or it leads us to talking past each other.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Corporate Idiocracy and the Manufacturing of ProducTrump

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Stop saying “love” when you really mean “liberal tolerance”

Sunday, May 15, 2016 — Adam Kotsko

I’ve noticed that among progressive Christians, “love” works as a kind of rhetorical trump card. Christians are supposed to “love,” hence you should be nice to people, hence you should be a liberal — or something to that effect. Are you worried about illegal immigration? Stop worrying and deploy some love. Does acceptance of homosexuality bother you? Well, I’ve got bad news — accepting homosexuality is a form of love, therefore you should do it. Case closed!

Presumably this rhetorical tactic does work in some individual cases,

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Meaninglessness of Our Political Discourse: A Lesson from George Orwell

By Randall Smith

In his famous 1946 essay, “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell noted “the special connection between politics and the debasement of language.” “When one watches some tired hack on the platform,” wrote Orwell,

mechanically repeating the familiar phrases—bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder—one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved, as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. . . . And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favourable to political conformity.

“Bestial atrocities,” “iron heel,” and “bloodstained tyranny” were the hack phrases of Orwell’s day, not ours. We look back on them with the amusement hindsight offers. We are less likely to be aware of our own sins against the English language, precisely because we are so close to the words and phrases that have become an automatic part of our vocabulary that we no longer realize how meaningless they are.

What if, in writing or speaking about important public matters, we have a similar problem using words or phrases that are meaningless?

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Bearing the Cross

Posted on May 8, 2016


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Stanley Hauerwas on Mother's Day and Other Perversions in the Church

I assume most of you are here because you think you are Christians, but it is not at all clear to me that the Christianity that has made you Christians is Christianity. For example:

—How many of you worship in a church with an American flag?
I am sorry to tell you your salvation is in doubt.

—How many worship in a church in which the Fourth of July is celebrated?
I am sorry to tell you your salvation is in doubt.

—How many of you worship in a church that recognizes Thanksgiving?
I am sorry to tell you your salvation is in doubt.

—How many of you worship in a church that celebrates January 1st as the “New Year”?
I am sorry to tell you your salvation is in doubt.

—How many of you worship in a church that recognizes “Mother’s Day”?
I am sorry to tell you your salvation is in doubt.

I am not making these claims because I want to shock you. I do not want you to leave the Youth Academy thinking that you have heard some really strange ideas here that have made you think. It is appropri­ate that you might believe you are here to make you think, because you have been told that is what universities are supposed to do—that is, to make you think. In other words, universities are places where you are educated to make up your own mind. That is not what I am trying to do. Indeed I do not think most of you have minds worth making up. You need to be trained before you can begin thinking. So I have not made the claims above to shock you, but rather to put you in a position to discover how odd being a Christian makes you.

One of the great difficulties with being a Christian in a country like America—allegedly a Christian country—is that our familiarity with “Christianity” has made it difficult for us to read or hear Scripture. For example, consider how “Mother’s Day” makes it hard to compre­hend the plain sense of some of the stories of Jesus. In Mark 3:31–35 we find Jesus surrounded by a crowd. His mother and brothers were having trouble getting through the crowd to be with Jesus. Somebody in the crowd tells him that his mom cannot get through the mass of people to be near him. Which elicits from Jesus the rhetorical question “Who are my mother and brothers?” which he answered, noting, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Even more forcefully Jesus says in Luke 14:26: “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” When you celebrate “Mother’s Day,” the only thing to do with texts like these is “explain them,” which usually means Jesus could not have meant what he plainly says.

Of course, the presumption that Christianity is a family-friendly faith is a small-change perversion of the gospel when compared to the use of faith in God to underwrite American pretensions that we are a Christian nation possessing righteousness other nations lack.

– Stanley Hauerwas, Working with Words: On Learning to Speak Christian (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2011), 116–7.