Saturday 9 June 2012

Yabba dabba doodlings

by Kim Fabricius

I am an American expat of over forty years, following the national narrative from the UK, with annual visits to my mom/mum on Long Island. Only those with a passportless intelligence will not realise that the exilic eye cannot help but see the homeland as – well, from the bananas to the baleful to the Mitt Romney. God bless Amercia!

I’m as American as Occu-py. In fact, in broad daylight I recently executed a successful one-man raid on the Tetley tent at our local street party for Liz’s Jubilee. Thousands of bags of tea are now floating in Swansea Bay. 

It has recently struck me how central themes of Augustine’s Confessions pervasively inform Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison: the posture of the Psalms; the delight in music; the significance of friendship; the search for a faith with intellectual integrity; the relentless self-investigation with its implacable observations – the vanity of sincerity, the opacity of motivation, the hopeless instability of the ego, the macular degeneration of the mind’s eye – and its inexorable conclusion: the futility of the whole introspective project; and, finally, the longing for the cor quietum, the “I am Thine”.

What is the genre of the Confessions? Billet doux (cf. XI, 1).

An elegant stylist, inspired allegorist, and knightly apologist, if a rather conventional moralist and sophomoric philosopher, all of which, along with his virtual silence on the life and teaching of Jesus, accounts for his iconic status among both traditionalists and conservative evangelicals. (In)famous for committing the fallacy of trifurcation while thinking he demonstrated that Jesus is the Son of God. —C. S. Lewis.

Cormac McCarthy looks at the world and sees an evil, ugly, and ultimately hopeless place. Marilynne Robinson looks at the world and sees a broken, yet finally good and beautiful place. Shakespeare combines both visions of the world – and in iambic pentameter, for Christ’s sake.  

It may be a happy or a sad thought that the period of life you are now in may be the best part of your life, but it is certainly a melancholy thought that you will not realise it until you are well past it.

To all intellectuals there comes a time when, though one thinks one is still mining gold, the seam is actually empty and one is just fossicking around.

Neuroscience is to the brain as the science of evolution is to nature, and both can teach us many interesting and important things, but it is a category mistake to think that the one can tell us anything about personhood or the other anything about creation. 

Atheists and sports: Nietzsche plays ice hockey; Marx boxes; Camus plays the beautiful game; and while Dawkins drives a rally car, de Botton plays croquet.

Speak of the devil (well, the imp): first it was the civilising of faith, now it’s the sanitising of porn. At least de Botton is interested in the right subjects (some would say in the same subject), religion and sex. Alas, the poor man is a cultural tourist, a curator of desire.  

Benjamin Franklin said that “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes” – though he might have added “and the ever attempted evasion of the two by British celebrities.” 

John Wesley’s heart was “strangely warmed” when he overheard someone reading from Luther’s commentary on Romans. My own experience of reading Barth’s commentary on Romans was the inverse: my heart was “warmly stranged”. Maybe that’s the difference between Methodists and Reformed. 

John Howard Yoder and Rowan Williams have both reminded us of the virtue of patience, particularly in conflict resolution. Ironically, however, patience is also an essential attribute of the one who seeks revenge – which, remember, is a dish best served cold. 

Rowan Williams is a theological multiplier, not simplifier. That’s why he has a beard: he eschews Occam’s razor.

Why is marriage in such a mess? Because we believe that love is something that happens rather than something we do – chemistry rather than calisthenics. We talk of “falling” in love; we should speak instead of rising, standing, and walking in love.

Marriage (a cynic might say) is like rooting for the Cubs: the promise of opening day, the reality check of May and June, the envy in July of the Cardinals or Reds (or even the Brewers, Astros, or Pirates), the dog days of August, the start of the football season to ease the desperation of September. Still, once a Cubby fan, always a Cubby fan: you’re never going to cruise the South Side.

And speaking of sports and the Windy City: there’s a famous little statement on biblical inerrancy formulated in 1978 known to liberals as the Chicago Bull. 

The historicity of Adam is theologically non-negotiable. Its denial is the thin Enns of the wedge.

On the subject of trouble in paradise, where is the historical Eve in all this theological kerfuffle? The historical Paul mentions her in II Corinthians 11:3 – she’s the one deceived by the lies of the historical snake. And the maybe-historical Paul mentions her in I Timothy 2:13, also in the context of serpentine deception. And not having blue beehive hairstyles like Marge Simpson. And not telling men what to do. And having lots of babies. So here’s another reason for the theological non-negotiability of the historical Adam: no historical Adam, no historical Eve; and no historical Eve – Mark Driscoll will have a bovine delivery.

And where are the Catholics in this discussion? I mean, if the First Woman is not historical, what happens to Eve-Mary typology?

Staying on the subject of biblical literalism, but moving from protology to eschatology: if you do the maths, to be right behind Left Behind is to be a total ass.

In the US, to change the minds of the Christian right on gay marriage, forget about sophisticated biblical hermeneutics, arguments based on commitment and faithfulness, or appeals to experience, to the evident holiness of the relationships of gay people. This kind of stuff is rhetorically useless. A better tactic might be to sell gay marriage as a life sentence with no parole, as a new theatre for (sexual) warfare, and as a decorative dungeon for the mutual infliction of novel types of (psychological) torture.

Contemporary translation of Mark 14:26b: “On the way, Jesus paused to check his Facebook page. It said: ‘You have 0 friends’.”

Of course I believe in hell. There is no other way to account for the Westminster Confession, Sheol’s crib for the the corda inquieta of YRR.

Extra! Extra! Headline for US Gallop poll comparing the popularity of Pope Benedict XVI to that of Sister Margaret Farley: “Second to Nun”.

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