Tuesday 6 October 2015

Diddly doodlings

“iPhones are the Windows of the soulless.”

Just think, if Adam and Eve had iPhones, none of this would ever have happened. And if the centurion at the cross had one, we’d not only have his confession, we’d have a celebrity selfie to go with it.

On a good day, a writer faces a blank page, a word-welcoming white. On a bad day, a writer faces a blank page, a word-swallowing abyss.

Never trust a theologian who doesn’t read poetry and novels: he is likely to have delusions of clarity, control, and closure; that is, he is likely to be an ideologue.

“I asked myself whether in present-day America the times were propitious to honour a new president, … bringing honour to himself and prosperity to all Americans…. So now, left lifeless, America is waiting … [for someone] to save her from the barbarous cruelties and outrages…. And I cannot express with what love he would be welcomed in all those states which have suffered from foreign inundations, with what thirst for vengeance, with what resolute loyalty, with what devotion and tears.” —Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli, anticipating the advent of Donald Trump, in Il Principe, XXVI, “Exhortation to liberate America from the barbarians”

How does one explain the huge following of the political illusionist currently leading Republican hopefuls for the presidency? Trump l'œil.

So Rob Bell has been on “The Life You Want” tour with his new guru Oprah, exploring the interface of New Age science and Christianity. According to Religion Dispatches, Bell’s talks are “full of dizzying analogical jumps: dark matter is a metaphor for the hidden wounds in our past; the expansion of the universe affirms a progressive Christian vision of universal love; the physics of emergence invite us to self-transcend.” Oh dear. I guess John Piper would call it “Farewell, Rob Bell: the Encore Tour” – and follow with a smug “I Told You So Tour” of his own.

Suggested new blog title for an eminent contributor at First Oughts: In Reno Veritas.

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “natural law theory offers the most common intellectual defense for differential treatment of gays and lesbians.” Ah, Solzhenitsyn: “To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he is doing is good, or else that it’s a well-considered act of conformity with natural law.”

First Things: “America's most influential journal of religion and pubic life.”

There is such a Slopean* earnestness and piety to so many of the SSM screeds of  traditionalists that I was quite tickled by the doxological peroration of “Rebuilding Marriage Culture” by Ryan T. Anderson: “Pope Benedict was right when he said the lives of the saints are the best evangelists. The same thing is true when it comes to marriage. The beauty and splendour of a happy family is our most eloquent testimony.” Kind of Hallmark Greeting Card theology.
*“As he [Mr. Slope] walks through the streets, his very face denotes his horror of the world's wickedness; and there is always an anathema lurking in the corner of his eye” (Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers).

On the other hand, fellow pastors, what do you say to a couple who are having serious marital problems, perhaps thinking of separating or divorcing? You tell them to read Anne Tyler’s Breathing Lessons (or perhaps, more recently, The Beginner’s Goodbye), with its eloquent, poignant, and comic witness to the quotidian dysfunctionality of marriage and family – chaotic, stressful, absurd, and yet, if you’re lucky, while lacking “beauty” and “splendour”, surprisingly grand and fulfilling. “Then,” you tell the couple, “get back to me.”

When my 3-year-old granddaughter Scarlett stays with us, after kisses I always ask her, “What’s it going to be today, kiddo, Yes-stuff or No-stuff?” She invariably exclaims, “Yes-stuff!” – and then proceeds to punctuate the day by impersonating Barth replying to Brunner: “Nein!” Francis has summarised his papal project by saying “Let’s be the church of Yes, not No.” Papa, Grandpa feels you.

As for the pope’s conservative opponents, well, they remind me of “Momma” in Sturgill Simpson’s song “Living the Dream”: “she thinks mercy’s overrated.”

Not “trickle-down” but “tinkle-down” economics is, sub specie pauperium, the reality of deregulated capitalism.

The US doesn’t have a race problem. No, we’re “racially challenged”, we have a “race opportunity.”

“Live the Dream”? With my dream-life? I’d either be incarcerated or sectioned.

It is a most diabolical irony that religious people who are always banging on about the devil are themselves quite demonically possessed.

Look in the mirror. If you don’t see your mother and/or father, you need glasses.

A guy calling himself Demon describes the denizens of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th circles of hell as follows. 2nd Circle: Those who are overcome with lust/the need to have sex 24/7/365. 3rd Circle: Gluttons/people who eat 24/7/365. 4th Circle: Those who spend a shit load of money on shit they don't need. Sounds to me like Los Angeles.

Proposed evangelical bumper sticker: “Jesus Is My Plea Bargain!”

The New York Yankees will certainly be in hell. Their punishment: no other teams to play, while watched by sell-out crowds of Peter Enns.

Of T. S. Eliot, Hemingway said, “… he can kiss my ass … he never hit a ball out of the infield in his life.” It was indeed rather wussy that Tom, who grew up in the baseball towns of St. Louis and Boston, and who had such a keen eye for the artefacts of popular culture, never alludes to the Game – not even in his later religious poetry! As for his earlier poems, well, someone who writes about “the taking of a toast and tea”, not “the calling for a Coke and crackerjacks”, and about April being the “cruellest” month, not the “kindest” – well, the uber-Anglicised Eliot can kiss my, er, arse too!

Ask me who I am and I will tell you my story, of course. But you must understand that the genre is biographical fiction. The last thing you should expect from me is reliable narration. And that goes double for my “faith story”, for any “faith story”, from three-hankie to whoop-and-holler. As if I were transparent to myself; as if my inner life were lie-proof; as if sincerity precluded, rather than invited, self-deceit. As if some testimonialists weren’t the finest of fantasists.

Another birthday is looming. Curses mounting, counting blessings. I’d miss my prime if I’d ever had one.

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