Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Downright doodlings

By all means remove Confederate flags from government buildings to send a message about racism. It’s a start. Next, send a message about the fusion of faith and nationalism by removing American flags from churches.

Jesus said, “Forgive them, Father! They don’t know what they’re doing.” And the Father replied, “Screw that, Son. I’m thinking eternal damnation. And fire. Lots of fire.”
(Luke 23:34f., Original Autograph)

Do I believe in hell? Only the devil in me.

Who said, “A butter knife in marmalade is a hanging offence”? Was it (a) TV chef Nigella Lawson, or (b) Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.

The line “The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter” refers (a) to gunsel Wilmer Cook, object of Sam Spade’s derision in The Maltese Falcon, or (b) to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump?

Jesus said, “You will see ‘The Awful Horror’ standing in a place where he should not be.” (Note to the reader: be sure to understand what this means: Justice Anthony M. Kennedy!) Then those who live in Texas, Kentucky, and Alabama must run away to the hills…. For the trouble of those days will be far worse than any the world has ever known from the very beginning when God created the world to the present time. Nor will there ever be anything like it again.”
(Mark 13:14ff., Original Autograph)

The “Benedict Option”? Rather, for post-Obergefell v. Hodges religious conservatives, surveying the liberal lowlands from the moral high ground, driven by ressentiment and superciliousness, insinuating a scenario of “The Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness” – well, more like the “Qumran Option”. First Things has become Last Things.

Did you hear about the biblical literalist who, on the 78th occasion that a fellow-Christian said, “I’m sorry about that, please forgive me,” thought “WWJD?” – and then replied, “Go fuck yourself!”?

According to the BBC, doctors are now warning that skinny jeans can seriously damage muscles and nerves. A survey of hipster pastors would suggest that the damage may extend to the cerebrum.

Then the Devil came to him and said, “If you are God’s Son, order these stones to turn into bread.” But Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Man cannot live on bread alone.’ “True,” the Devil replied, “I forgot the circuses.” “And Twitter,” Jesus added.
(The first temptation of Jesus according to Matthew 4:3ff., Original Autograph)

The church has often been seriously hostile to the theatre, both actors and audiences, and with good biblical support. As Jesus said, in the Sermon on the Mount, “Broadway leads to destruction.”
(Matthew 7:13, Original Autograph)

The strategic thinking behind the war on terrorism can be summarised in 4 words: “Fight fire with gasoline.”

Luther was wrong about the Letter of James: it is certainly not an “epistle of straw”. That, with its strategic accommodation to empire, would be I Timothy.

I’ve just managed to finish reading, before the eschaton, Joseph Frank’s monumental biography Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time (a 932 page abridgement of a 5 volume work). Not for the first time, a writer whose work has deeply informed my literary and religious imagination – in particular, Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and, of course, The Brothers Karamazov – turns out to have been a maniac as well as a genius: a xenophobic nationalist, militarist, and imperialist, and an odious anti-Semite who blamed the “Yids”, with an animus otherwise reserved for the “Westernizers”, for all the ills of Russia. How ironic: no other novelist has ever characterised the inner battle between the sublime and the malignant with such psychological insight and spiritual depth.

Which leads me to suggest that Americans, of all people, should understand what makes the Russians tick. After all, with respect to a pathological belief in a nation’s moral superiority as well as in its messianic destiny, there is no exceptionalism like American exceptionalism except Russian exceptionalism.

Why do Christians lose their faith in the face of horrendous personal suffering? Because they don’t look at the world Ivan-eyed before they come to faith and/or Zosima-eyed after.

It is, to be sure, frustrating that the world does not make sense; on the other hand, it would be hopelessly intolerable if it did.

The 2nd and 6th beatitudes are related as cause to effect: nothing clears the heart of crap and clutter like inconsolable grief.

Parents who say that they want to let their children make up their own minds about whether or not to believe in God have already made up their minds for them. (Cf. Wittgenstein: “If someone does not believe in fairies, he does not have to teach his children ‘There are no fairies’; he can omit to teach them the word ‘fairy’.”)

Spot the typo: “To conclude that the austere sexology of St. Augustine can be dismissed due to its origins in obsessive guilt about his long-term relationship with, not to mention dumping of, his mistress, or to the pathology of paracusia – the tolle lege episode in his garden in Milan – would be to commit the genital fallacy.”

The main problems with the Westminster Confession might have been fixed if only the drafters had gone out together and got pissed before producing the authorised version. Alternatively, but less fun, they might have had a laxative punch.

Famously, according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” The word “enjoy” is, of course, a typo: that should be “annoy”.

The Green Report (C of E) suggests a new version of the Lord’s Prayer:
Our Chief Executive, Chairman of Heaven Plc,
hallowed be thy exalted office;
thy cosmic corporation come,
thy organisational decisions be done
in church as it is in Wal-Mart (and its franchises).
Give us today our 24/7 targets,
and forgive us our failures to manage and motivate,
as we forgive those who fail to execute and achieve;
and (heaven forbid!) lead us not into theology and prayer,
but deliver us from inefficiency and zero-growth;
for thine is the performance, the productivity, and the profit –
at least until the next ecclesial panic and marketing panacea come along.
What do I do when I find it hard to pray? Turn to the spiritual classics for direction. For example, to the ecumenical and devotional jazz of John Coltrane. St. John died in July 1967, at the time I was first transfixed by A Love Supreme, in (I later learned) Huntington Hospital, Long Island, just a couple of miles from my home. Uncanny.

You know the good cop/bad cop? That’s me.

6 Comments:

Terry Wright said...

Kim, howsabout sending the new Lord's Prayer to the Church Times?

Anonymous said...

Has anybody ever told you that you are Lesslie Newbigin, but with an edgy sense of humor? Thanks again for the doodlings.

Kim Fabricius said...

Eavesdropping on a twitter exchange, I hear that these doodlings may suggest that “some of [my] humour seems very bitter” and that I might be using more “expletives” that I used to.

Actually, I think you’ll find that my cussing-count has been pretty steady through the years, and as for “bitterness”, no, definitely not. Maya Angelou observes that “Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.” Absolutely. Bitterness, like its cousin depression, is suppressed anger, or if not suppressed, then spewed forth uncontrollably and indiscriminately. Bitterness is a state, anger (when working correctly) is an expression of impatience and/or indignation specifically targeted at what one considers bullshit and/or injustice. Moreover I am much too silly-minded and childishly cheerful to be bitter. That is, apart from that goddam called third strike I took in a big game in high school which was a foot off the plate.

Kim Fabricius said...

Terry, believe me -- I know from experience -- the prayer is much too "edgy" (Anonymous' nice word) for the sedate Church Times.

Btw, Anonymous, Newbigin was an honoured ad-hoc seminar teacher of mine at Oxford, and after I was ordained, a much-esteemed colleague (in the United Reformed Church). He once said some very kind words to me about a Reform article I had written on Karl Barth, confirming (from personal experience!) my concluding words about Barth's wonderful sense of humour. Alas, LN and I were not on the same page about same-sex relations in the early days of the URCs discussion of the issue.

Plessey Mathews said...

Kim, any idea on when Newbigin joined the URC or did I read you wrong.

He was a bishop in the church of South India (I'm a member) for quite a while.

Kim Fabricius said...

Newbigin was born in Newcastle (England) and trained for the ministry at Westminster College, Cambridge (Presbyterian). He was then "licensed to preach the Gospel" by the Presbytery of Newcastle in June 1936, and a few weeks later ordained by the Presbytery of Edinburgh to serve as a missionary abroad. When the ecumenical Newbigin returned from India to the UK in 1974, the URC, a Presbyterian/Congregationalist uniting church formed in 1972, was his natural ecclesial home. He applied to the URC for admission as a minister of Word and Sacrament, was duly received, and soon was inducted into a pastorate in Birmingham (1974-83). He also served as a Moderator of the General Assembly of the URC in 1978-79.

You should check out Newbigin's Unfinished Agenda: An Autobiography (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1985).

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