Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Cock-a-Doodle Doodlings (Mark 14:72)

“Ah, grief makes us precise!” —Leonard Cohen

I have never been theologically troubled by the so-called problem of evil that theodicists vainly address because, frankly, I have always believed that God is insane.

And that God has a Pythonesque sense of irony. To wit, on Election Day we woke (I kid you not) to a toilet with a leaking pipe. As the morning wore on and our domestic urine accumulated in the bowl, I thought, “Can this be a sign from the Lord?” Yes It Could.

Well, at least the star-splattered banner is still waving – waving goodbye “o’er the land of the Me and the home of the grave.”

Were I a political cartoonist, I would draw a picture of (the Statue of) Libertas contorting her massive body of copper, iron, and steel to bend over, place her head between her legs, and kiss her green ass au revoir.

After Trump’s victory was confirmed, feeling more depressed about the US than I have since the assassinations of Jack and Bobby, Malcolm and Martin – and so studiously avoiding the kitchen cabinet containing toxic household chemicals – I decided to cheer myself up. So I spent some time with GM’s sonnets of desolation and listened to LCs’ perfectly timed parting testament, “You Want It Darker”. (RIP, Lenny, once cracked, now broken: may light perpetual shine upon you.)

Anything 2016ish in Nostradamus about both Vlad the Impaler (1431) and Bram Stoker (1847) being born on November 8th?

Of course post-Election Day I feel humiliated and embarrassed to be an American. After the Vietnam years, the Nixon years, the Reagan years, the Dubya years – well, it’s like riding a bike. I’ve also grown adept at softening my New York accent and telling people I’m from Toronto.

By the impotence invested in me, I hereby declare Thanksgiving 2016 to be a National Day of Fasting. Or at least put bitter herbs in the Pumpkin Pie.

Andrew Sullivan has quotably asked, “How can you tell when a political ideology has become the equivalent of a religion?” More to the point for evangelical white-Americans (NB: “evangelical” is adjectival, “white-Americans” is the substantive), how can you tell when your religion has become the equivalent of a cultural/political ideology?

Ignoring or spinning Mark 8:36-38, many Christian have sold their soul to the devil. Of course. They got a good deal. Indeed Trump-like, it makes them smart: they won’t be declaring their profits on their income tax returns.

The go-to theologian for our troubled times has surely got to be Bonhoeffer. WWBD? Dietrich I mean, not the so-called “American Bonhoeffer” Eric Metaxas, whose inexcusable ignorance of modern German intellectual history and ideological distortions – nay, perversions – of DB’s life and thought should guarantee him a Trump Tower of a residence in the 8th circle of the Inferno.

Some Christian musings on the election of the “Remember, our God reigns” and “We always have prayer” kind – they are not false but they are not real. There is no fierce grief, no posture of resistance, no energy to join combat against the Lie, and no realisation that God is not useful, helpful, or advantageous. This is not the world of Jeremiah and Ezekiel (see Brueggemann) – or of Jesus.

What is time but a mortal wound that God heals with the astringent salve of the Spirit?

Don’t knock boredom. It is the source of all good fiction.

By all means practice introspection: it will acclimatise you to the torments of damnation.

Bad pastors command, good pastors advise – though of course they think their advice is infallible.

Advice from an old fart to newlyweds: pay close attention to the ecology of your marriage, lest, from a process of erosion, it slowly crumbles behind your very eyes.

In some contemporary liturgies there should be rubrics for snoring.

When it comes to the web, we like to think we are spiders when in fact we are flies.

What’s the difference between a care home for people with dementia and a Starbucks full of people with iPhones and laptops? You’ll find more interpersonal skills among folk in the former.

Street-wear tee shirts for the dwindling number of those whose iPhones aren’t prosthetic: the inscription reads “Watch where I’m going, apphole!”

How would I describe the social imaginary of people addicted to social media? As an anti-social imaginary, or an imaginary imaginary.

Why did I become a minister? Because I’d heard that it’s a vacation. My hearing isn’t so good.

Everybody muddles through life. Saints are simply those who muddle through it better than the rest of us.

Who do you suppose Trump sees when he looks in the mirror, assuming he sees anyone at all (see the doodling about Vlad the Impaler)? Probably himself. Like most of us. It is the saints who see someone else, “the concealed likeness, always ahead in its ambush” (R. S. Thomas), and ask, “Why do you look at me like that?”

9 Comments:

Alan K said...

(Deep sigh). Thanks. Keep 'em coming. You know damn well we need some laughs--desperately!

wil rogan said...

I like your distinction between white american evangelicals and evangelical white americans.

Scott Stilson said...

Kim, in this post you've called God insane, useless, and unhelpful. How is it, then, that you remain a believing Christian? (I write as one myself.)

Kim Fabricius said...

Hey Scott,

The insanity crack was sparked by my recent encounter with Edward P. Jones' tour de force The Known World, though you could also take it as the purest form of the divine foolishness.

As for the God who is neither useful nor advantageous, that comes more broadly from my reading of Bonhoeffer (among others) and more immediately from fresh skirmishes with King Lear.

Hope that's suggestive, perhaps provocative, as many of my doodlings, qua doodlings, are meant to be.

christplaysnz said...

Kim, can you suggest a better Bonhoeffer biography?

Kim Fabricius said...

Ferdinand Schlingensiepen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance (London, New York: T&T Clark, 2010)
Published in the original German in 2006.

Or the more recent biography by the outstanding Bonhoeffer scholar Charles Marsh, Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (New York: Alfred A. Knopf / London, SPCK, 2014).

Just stay clear of the irredeemably flawed post-truth Metaxas monstrosity.

christplaysnz said...

It is too late to steer clear of it. But now that I have been misled, I shall endeavor to be corrected.

Is there a good review that lays out the flaws in Metaxes book? (I had not heard of Metaxes when I read it, it was a gift)

Ryan Turnbull said...

Insofar as Metaxas portrays Bonhoeffer as a good American Evangelical, he's simply wrong. Definitely read the Schlingensiepen bio, it's incredibly thorough.

Kim Fabricius said...

Yeah, gifts: they can be real Trojan horses. E.g., my wife gave me my first mobile phone for Valentine's Day many years ago. I could hardly say, "No thanks."

Try googling Victoria J. Barnett, "Review of Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer ..." (from ACCH Newsletter, Vol. 16, No. 3, September 2010).

Also, from last month, google Charles Marsh, "Eric Metaxas' Bonhoeffer Delusions".

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