Tuesday 11 August 2015

Dire doodlings

When I was an impecunious student at Oxford, Angie and I courted over suppers of bargain Soave and the most delicious lasagne this side of Napoli. So when we had lasagne the other night, of course I exclaimed, “Another PB, babes!” “It’s Marks and Spencer,” she replied. “Oh,” I said. The Soave was now a Classico Superiore, but bitter was the taste of it.

“I want the Lord’s will to be done and I know He knows what’s best. But I just can’t figure out what He’s got in mind.” —The modest theodicy of Will Campbell’s Grandpa Will. A welcome theological upgrade on the usual presumptuous and sometimes monstrous defences of the deity.

It takes a long time to perfect praying for a short time, but only a short time to perfect not praying at all.

“It’s all very well to ask WWJD,” declared the Presbyterian preacher, “but the real question is WWPT.”

Until you’re about 5, you’re smart. Then gradually you get stupid. At 20, you’re real stupid, and you remain real stupid until you’re about 30. Then over the next decades, I’m afraid, you stay stupid, more or less. The less stupid we call sages or saints, the more stupid we call fucking idiots. Then you die. Then you meet the Lord: “Welcome home, stupid.”

Btw, you want to hear something really stupid: the church has no special liturgy for stupidity, its confession, absolution – and admission: “Lord, see you next week.”

The agency of the president at Communion is the agency of recipiency, in loco populi Dei. When she (or he) declares, “The Lord Jesus … said, ‘Do this in remembrance of me’,” it is a versicle. The response is: “Lord Jesus, do this in remembrance of me.”

Jesus said, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone is dumb enough not to open it, while Andy and Jim cover the back, Pete will use the Big Key – bam! – and I’ll be coming in to party with a takeaway and a six-pack.” —Revelation 3:20, Original Autograph

Jesus said, “Seek, and you will find.” Simone Weil said, “Wait, and you will receive.” Jesus said, “D’accord.”

The church should not worry about sins, for sins are not fatal to faith. Virtue, however – well, there is no idol-in the-making quite like virtue, particularly the virtue of integrity. This we learn from our Lord’s confrontation with the scribes and Pharisees.

Here’s how to tell if you’re among the righteous or the reprobate. A birthday card: on the cover an intimidating-looking nun saying “So many sins …,” on the inside adding “… so little time.” Observe the ambiguity. Do you take the message as an enticement – or a warning? Carpe natalem, yes – but for salaciousness or salvation? The way I took it, I’m obviously a reprobate.

“Kill the animals. ‘God has given them the rudiments of thought and untroubled joy’? Wuss words! No, trouble them, hunt them, shoot them, deprive them of their joy – that is God’s intent. Men, be studs, exalt yourselves above the animals, and decorate your homes with their heads. Especially big cats.” —Great White Hunter Walter Palmer, riffing on Father Zossima

Since God is pale, the pale is God. —From A Theology of White Privilege

We must brace ourselves for the plummet and crash of Western Civilization. It won’t be due to the fuck-you neoliberal market state with its economy of criminal corporate greed and mass pauperisation. It won’t be caused by global industrial defecation and anthropogenic climate chaos. Systemic racism, politically orchestrated xenophobia, culturally and historically ignorant foreign policy fiascos, and Manichaean-minded military misadventures in the Middle East – these too will not precipitate a new Dark Age. Nope, it’s SSM, stupid.

Have you noticed how, in SSM polemics, conservatives often use the term “the Christian view of marriage” when they mean “my church’s view of marriage”? Or the term “the traditional Christian view of marriage” which, when scrutinised, usually turns out to be so very 20th-century, e.g., in its acceptance of divorce and contraception? Word-Care Fails – or, more candidly, Word-Fraud A’s.

Of course, the point is the gender complementarity thing. And hasn’t that gone swimmingly, with a history of oppressive patriarchy and deep misogyny spun as “family values”. And behold the contemporary church wedding, where the principal liturgical figure is the wedding planner, and the marriage preparation happens not in the manse but at bridal boot camp, with evening courses in the theology of Premier Bride (US) or Perfect Wedding (UK). So here’s a thought: gay Christians, rather than destroying Christian marriage, might just help us discover what is Christian about it.

I understand that First Things is thinking of rebranding itself. On the short list are Reign Check, Postcards from Kish, The High Horse, and Dear Abbot. Personally, I’d just make a small change: First Thingies.

According to the Church Times (31 July), in the C of E support for both UKIP and plainsong are on the rise. Remembering the spirit of a famous Bonhoeffer barb about Gregorian chant, I hope the two trends are unconnected.

Another murder or mass murder, another child injured or killed by an automatic weapon – and another sincere and solemn expression of sorrow, another mantra of “in our thoughts and prayers”, and another parade of leaders in lockstep beating the drums of jail and justice. Perish any overwrought thought about gun control. That would be an overreaction, not to mention, at this time of shock and grief, an appalling solecism. Maybe tomorrow. Conveniently, the day that never comes.

 “As soon as you disarm your citizens you start to offend them, showing whether through cowardice or suspicion that you mistrust them; and on either score, hatred is aroused against you.” —Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli, Il Principe Americano (XX)

Tesco is revamping the audio voice in its self-service checkout machines so that it will be friendlier and less shouty. I understand that a sound-alike voice of the late Revd. Dr. Ian Paisley, with its mellifluous Ulster accent, is being considered. Instead of “Unexpected item in the bagging area”, customers will be informed: “Shoplifters will be prosecuted!” When purchasing alcoholic beverages, they will be warned: “The breath of Satan is upon us!” If they drop an item, they will be told: “We will never bend the knee!” And after completing their transaction, instead of “Please take your items”, they will be commanded: “Go! Go! For God’s sake, go!”

Jesus said, “So you’re a Christian? Do I look like I care? Are you full of grace and free of bullshit, a fearless defender of the screwed, a fierce friend of the screwers, a festive drinking companion of the Nones? Are you like me? That’s all that matters.” —Matthew 7:21, Original Autograph

The crowd reacts: “Brother, are you born-again?” “He didn’t mention the Eucharist?” “Could you repeat that in tongues?” “Speak up, mate, I can’t hear a thing!” “Does he have to swear?” “What about the Chicago Statement?” “And the Westminster Confession!” “And penal substitution!” “The guy’s been reading too much James.” “He’s shorter in real life.” “He should speak to my pastor.” “Hey, isn’t that Kahil Gibran?”

According to a recent survey, trying to connect with your kids on social media makes the Top 10 in ways parents embarrass their children (and presumably grandchildren). Finally: a cogent reason for joining Facebook.

When Jesus entered Capernaum, a Roman officer met him and begged for help: “Sir, my servant is sick in bed at home, unable to move and suffering terribly.” Matthew asked, “Does he have health insurance?” “No,” the officer said. “Try the ER,” advised Andrew.” “There is no ER,” said the officer. “Budget cuts.” “What about acupuncture?” Philip suggested. “No chance,” said the officer, “he’s trypanophobic.” “How about an herbal remedy?” offered James. “My brother swears by St. John’s Wort.” “What a lot of nonsense,” Thomas said scornfully. “What you need is a prayer chain,” asserted Peter, “strength in numbers.” Lifting his eyes to the heavens, Jesus sighed, “Ahem!” Then he turned, resolutely, toward the Roman Quarter. Meanwhile, Judas furtively took some bills out of his wallet and handed them to the officer. “This should cover a flight to Helvetia,” he muttered. —Matthew 8:5ff., Original Autograph


Anonymous said...

"The Soave was now a Classico Superiore, but bitter was the taste of it." You do know this will preach. After all, the Lord was 100% serious when he said, "Blessed are the poor."

Anonymous said...

Why the foul language? This used to be the best blog on the net; your contributions diminish its value. So disappointed. Leave it to Ben!

Unknown said...

It is quite true, Anonymous-2, that I’ve got a potty mouth (if my manse had been bugged, I would have been defrocked decades ago), because that’s the way I’ve always talked (as Hauerwas is a Texan, I’m a New Yorker, and swearing may be one of the few things common to our DNA). My pen, however, (I would claim) is potty not as buckshot but in carefully targeted ways apposite for doodlings. (In my decade of blogging at F&T, I think you’ll find my profanity somewhere on a scale from approximately zero to none in my propositions and occasional posts, not to mention my sermons and hymns.)

In “Dire Doodlings” there are two occasions where I deploy the F-word.

The intention behind “fucking idiot” in #5 is demotic humour (he’s “a fucking idiot” is an everyday expression from building sites to common rooms), particularly in base contrast to the preceding high-sounding “sages and saints”. If it's not funny and, in the context of the entire doodling, doesn't make some folk smile, sorry.

As for “the fuck-you neoliberal market state” in #14, my intention is to use this filthy in-your-face performative (with its violent-sounding fricative/k-phoneme) to express, angrily, the obscene savagery of a system that flies the flags of equality and freedom. In other words, in candid witness, it represents an attack of truth on truthiness.

Finally -- only asking -- #22? If you have a problem with “bullshit”, I am sorry for you. This wonderful word -- which, btw, etymologists tell us celebrates its centenary this year (though it only came into popular usage among GIs during WW2) -- carries an immense semantic freight and has no adequate synonym. For an unmissable philosophical discussion of its unique conceptual richness, see Harry Frankfurt's unmissable On Bullshit (2005).

I realise that evangelical Protestants, in particular, will be unconvinced by this defence and remain "disappointed" by my language. Pax vobiscum.

Anonymous said...

"I have always felt that, written and printed, the power and dignity of such words is lost and the pure mettle of offensive *speach* debased. "
--Paul Scott, The Raj Quartet

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