Thursday 26 December 2013

Doodlings towards dotage

by Kim Fabricius

Richard Dawkins has said, “I never quite understood why you would read fiction to understand the human condition.” Imagine Nietzsche, Freud, Camus saying such a dumb thing! No wonder Dawkins is such a second-rate atheist: he has no imagination. As C. S. Lewis observed, a person “who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.”

Speaking of Lewis: he describes his conversion to Christ as coming via theism. My own experience was quite different: for me, Christ did not fulfil theism, he shattered it. If God were not Trinity, to hell with it: I’d be an atheist.

Staying with Lewis: theodicy – surely CS’ theological nadir. In The Problem of Pain, suffering as “God’s megaphone” – what is this but the instrumentalism of the “the outward bound school of theology” (D. Z. Phillips), cringingly inadequate in the face of horrendous evil. It might sell on The Oprah Show, but me (cf. Ivan K.), I want my studio ticket back. As for A Grief Observed, it’s a poignant reflection, but surely more “Well, er, yes” than “Ah-hah!” So POP has appeal for a can-do culture, and AGO has appeal for a death-denying culture – which, I think, adds to the explanation of why Lewis is so popular among Christians in the US.

… Finally, the devil took Jesus to Lisbon and Auschwitz, to Haiti and the World Trade Center, to Tōhoku and Sandy Hook, and said, “See all this devastation and death, bodies crushed and bloated, burned and blown away, thousands, millions, children. Why? You are the Son of God. Go on, give us a theodicy.” Jesus said to him – nothing whatsoever. He remained silent. Then the devil left him, and became a frequent visitor to philosophy and theology departments.

Almost everything that is wrong with American Christianity can be traced, metaphorically, to disobedience to the primal command of Genesis 12:1: “Leave your country.”

That purge in North Korea – some evangelical Christians struggling to remain in the Party will know that hunted feeling, that fear of inquisition from the panjandrums, and thus the need for constant self-surveillance, attention to the script, and carefulness in public speech.

Mark Twain famously quipped that he could remember anything – whether it happened or not. Rather like the authors of the biblical narrative – as pudd’nhead biblical literalists would do well to recognise.

So God gave Moses two tablets (Exodus 31:18). Kindle Fire, no doubt (Exodus 3:1ff.). Which the technologically challenged Moses proceeded to break. For his second set (Exodus 34:1), he went for Nook (Exodus 33:22). And Paul? He used an iPad (Romans 2:15a) – by Apple, of course (Romans 5:12ff.).

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry”? No, love means never having to hear you’re sorry.

The New Monasticism shares three main marks with the traditional variety: (1) mutual accountability and the sharing of resources; (2) hospitality to the stranger; and (3) beer.

“Is the pope Catholic?” In some traditionalist Roman circles, and among ignorant right-wing pundits, this archetypal “yah-think?” is no longer a comical question. What next for this most personable, unconventional, and perhaps quite radical (i.e., faithful) pontiff? “Call me Frank”?

There are few moral absolutes, but torture is one of them. Hence my antipathy to “worship music”: liturgically, it’s abysmal; ethically, it’s excruciating. That’s why Sunday November 17th 2013 is a date that (for me) will live in infamy: led by a screeeeching soloist, we “exalted” the Lord eighteen times in one chorus. 18 times! In 1 chorus! Before we were in double figures I was thinking FFS! This wasn’t praise, it was hazing, and the worship leader should be prosecuted for a crime against humanity.

How would I describe George Herbert’s relationship with God? Complex, to be sure, but fundamentally (I think), the Lord was George’s best, sweet friend, one with whom he could play.

Jesus was sinless, okay, but that means he was perfectly obedient, not that he made no mistakes, let alone that he was successful. After all, he ended with a microchurch of two (and only one convert). And you and me – if there is any good in us, any growth in us, we owe it all to our failures.

Again: Did Jesus know about the boson before Higgs? Could he have run a marathon in under two hours, leaving Phidippides in the dust? Or delivered the Sermon on the Mount in German or Swahili? More somatically still, after a hard day’s healing, did our Lord stink? If your answers to the first three questions are Yes, and to the last question No, you get a Christology Fail (for Docetism).

I reckon that if Jesus had lived to be an uncle, he would have said that God is Saba, and that we must become like grandchildren to enter the kingdom of God.

People who say they wish they were young again were probably never young at all.

“I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you” (Revelation 3:20, The Message): that’s the Deliverance Man from Dominus Pizza.

The apotheosis of Nelson Mandela will only be complete when he has a flavour of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream named after him: perhaps a vanilla-chocolate blend called “Half-and-Half Nelson”?

So Martin Bashir has resigned from MSNBC over comments he made about Sarah Palin. He called her an “idiot”, America’s “resident dunce”, which is to state the bleeding obvious. He also opined that someone should defecate in Mrs. Palin’s mouth, which suggests the phrase “carrying coals to Newcastle”. Yes, for such journalistic solecisms, Bashir did the right thing and fell on his pen.

In dubio pro reo, for Phil Robertson, the pogonophilic patriarch of Duck Dynasty, let us be gracious and shave him with Hanson’s Razor.

Tony (“Yo”) Blair – Catholic convert, peace envoy, peripatetic bloviator – called it “irreversible and irresistible”. Grace? No, free-market-driven globalisation, the Abominable Impoverisher. Thus does Blair “do” God – for a fee and a fête.

Your birth day may not determine your future, but your birth address – now that’s an entirely different matter.

The largest welfare state in the world is the US. It’s just that the welfare is corporate, not social: it’s the rich, not the poor, who get the benefits (e.g., of deregulation and tax-breaks) – and who commit massive, not two-bit fraud. (Cf. the rejoinder to Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations: Whose Wealth? Which Nations?)

“There is never enough for those who have nothing, but there is always enough for those who have everything” (Manfred Max-Neef). Maranatha! Happy New Year, everyone!

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