Thursday, November 29, 2012

Battle Hymn

Msgr. Charles Pope, yesterday, on "The Biblical roots of the Battle Hymn of the Republic." The words of the hymn were composed by Julia Ward Howe in November of 1861. Msgr. Pope:

Mine eyes have seen the glory
of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage
where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning
of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on
The author of these words, Julia Ward Howe, lived in times that were anything but dainty or delicate. She lived in time of war, the Civil War. And she, like many of that time, possibly including President Lincoln, had come to see that horrible war as God’s judgment on a land that had enslaved, and cruelly and unjustly treated a whole race of people. Many decades before Thomas Jefferson had written, Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free (Notes on the State of Virginia). Yes, many abolitionists and others saw the Civil War in terms of God coming to render justice for the oppressed and to punish and purify by fire a land that strayed far from justice.

Julia Ward Howe had been stirred to write the hymn when, just outside of Washington DC, she heard the troops marching to the tune “John Brown’s Body.” The rhythm of that hymn stayed with her and that night she lodged at the Willard Hotel in Washington and recounts how she was was inspired to write:
I awoke in the grey of the morn­ing, and as I lay wait­ing for dawn, the long lines of the de­sired po­em be­gan to en­twine them­selves in my mind, and I said to my­self, “I must get up and write these vers­es, lest I fall asleep and for­get them!” So I sprang out of bed and in the dim­ness found an old stump of a pen, which I remembered us­ing the day be­fore. I scrawled the vers­es al­most with­out look­ing at the p­aper (Julia Ward Howe, 1861).
She describes it as a moment of inspiration. The words seem to flow from her effortlessly as is the case with inspiration. We have been blessed by these words ever since. It is true, these words do not remain without controversy. Some object to such warlike imagery associated with God. Even more objectionable to some is the human tendency to have God take sides in a war or to attribute any war to his inspiration. And yet, for one who has read Scripture, it is hard to wholly dismiss the notions advanced in this hymn even if they are offensive to modern ears. The Battle Hymn remains a masterpiece of English Literature and the music is surely masterful as well. ....
Msgr. Pope devotes much of the post to tracing the biblical allusions in each verse of the hymn.

Seventh Day Baptists will be particularly interested to note that Julia Ward Howe was descended from Samuel Ward, Seventh Day Baptist and Revolutionary patriot.


The Biblical roots of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. | Archdiocese of Washington

Milton College

Main Hall, Milton College
I graduated from Milton College, the college my father and my grandfather attended. Milton was one of the oldest institutions of higher education in Wisconsin, founded before the Civil War and chartered by the state in 1867. Seventh Day Baptists created it and, although it never had a formal relationship with the denomination, that connection sustained it for much of its history, supplying both faculty and students. The college never prospered financially, depending for its survival on dedicated faculty willing to serve sacrificially. My father, for instance, was persuaded to return to the college by its president after World War II. He had been teaching at CCNY. His salary at Milton was never significant — I believe my brother and I each made more in our first years of employment than he did after decades there although he had served as professor of mathematics, interim college president, and, for many years, registrar. The school had no endowment. I vividly recall the happiness in our house when the Main Hall bell would ring some evening to let everyone know that the budget had been raised and the college could continue for another year.

When I was growing up, life centered around the college. We lived across the street from campus and my alarm clock was the 7:25 ringing of the Main Hall bell. Both public high school and Milton College football was played on the college field. My brother and I were taken to every college basketball game. Our parents' closest friends were members of the faculty, many of whom were also members of our church. The college library was the village library. We attended Glee Club reunions and commencement ceremonies. We learned the fight song, and "The Song of the Bell" and the alma mater. We attended music recitals, choral concerts, and plays as did most on campus and many from the community. My parents would read us the plot from Lamb's Shakespeare before taking us to the Shakespearean play on campus — a play which continued an annual tradition begun in the 19th century not even broken during world wars when male roles were performed by women. In high school and college I worked in the college library and, during the summers, on the maintenance crew. Because both our parents worked at the college [Mom was a phys ed teacher and councilor for women students], we participated in just about every event — athletic, dramatic, social, musical — at the school.

It was foreordained that I and my brother would attend Milton. Not only had grandfather and Dad gone to Milton but, because our parents were faculty members, we could attend on a "faculty scholarship," that is, we could attend tuition-free and, since we could live at home, there was essentially no expense at all. I don't recall ever even considering going anywhere else. I graduated in 1968.

Brick walk to the Music Studio
The college closed in 1982, burdened by debt, and really no longer the institution it had been. The curriculum had devolved, pursuing the faddish educational nonsense common to the '60s and '70s  — I remember accounts of long-serving faculty, including my father, being subjected to "sensitivity training" involving "trust walks" and other idiocy. By the time my brother attended some classes were self-graded. The on-campus student body had dwindled and some of the once strong departments had been eviscerated. And many of those who had served the college faithfully and sacrificially, including my parents, were gone.

Almost all the college buildings were sold and converted to other uses. Main Hall, the oldest building, was turned over to the alumni association and has been restored and maintained as a museum. Since the last class graduated thirty years ago the youngest alumni are now in their fifties. Our numbers are dwindling. So some years ago the alumni gave over Main Hall to the "Milton College Preservation Society" which dedicates itself to "Keeping the Spirit Alive." I'm not certain what spirit that is. My own emotional connection probably has more to do with the years before I was a student — the '50s and early '60s before everything started to change, or even, based on stories told and read, what I imagine the place was like when my grandfather attended before the turn of the last century, or my father in the '30s, or my uncle in the '20s.

I received the 2013 renewal notice today for my membership in the "Milton College Preservation Society."  I will write the check.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Faster than a speeding bullet..."

Was the first film Superman—the one in the 1940s—the best? Open Culture posts about "Nine Classic Superman Cartoons Restored and Now on YouTube":
.... Warner Brothers has just posted them, free for the watching, to their YouTube channel. They originally came out of Fleischer Studios, which animation buffs will know meant a true mark of quality back then. “Then,” in this case, means the early 1940s, and these Fleischer-produced Superman shorts brazenly bear the stylistic mark of that era. But if their rich, clean-lined look bursting with Technicolor strikes our eyes today as vintage, it also has a certain retro timelessness — if that doesn’t sound like too much of a contradiction in terms. No wonder they call this the Golden Age of Animation. ....
Mechanical Monsters, in which plucky girl reporter, Lois Lane, once again needs to be rescued:


Open Culture also provides a—

Sola Scriptura

Michael Patton finds that many of the early Church Fathers were pretty good on the authority of Scripture — for instance:
Augustine (354–430)

“In order to leave room for such profitable discussions of difficult questions, there is a distinct boundary line separating all productions subsequent to apostolic times from the authoritative canonical books of the Old and New Testaments. The authority of these books has come down to us from the apostles through the successions of bishops and the extension of the Church, and, from a position of lofty supremacy, claims the submission of every faithful and pious mind….In the innumerable books that have been written latterly we may sometimes find the same truth as in Scripture, but there is not the same authority. Scripture has a sacredness peculiar to itself.” – Augustine (Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, 11:5)

“Every sickness of the soul hath in Scripture its proper remedy.” (Expositions on the Psalms, 37:2)
Many more examples.

Early Church Fathers on Sola Sciptura | Parchment and Pen

"If there is a story there is a Story-teller"

Trevin Wax interviews Kevin Belmonte, the author of A Year with G. K. Chesterton: 365 Days of Wisdom, Wit, and Wonder, a collection of quotations from one of the most quotable persons ever. And he was a Christian, a writer of Christian apologetics, an author of mystery stories, a speaker and debater, a poet, a humorist, and much more. A friend possesses a book that contains a transcription of debates between Chesterton and George Bernard Shaw — great stuff, they were diametrically opposed on religion and politics but still great friends. I just ordered the Kindle edition of Belmonte's book — it has already downloaded and I look forward to dipping in.

The interview produced several Chesterton quotations, from which:
  • No man knows how much he is an optimist, even when he calls himself a pessimist, because he has not really measured the depths of his debt to whatever created him and enabled him to call himself anything. At the back of our brains, so to speak, there was a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and spiritual life was to dig for this submerged sunrise of wonder; so that a man sitting in a chair might suddenly understand that he was actually alive, and be happy. (Autobiography)
  • I had always vaguely felt facts to be miracles in the sense that they are wonderful: now I began to think them miracles in the stricter sense that they were wilful. I mean that they were, or might be, repeated exercises of some will.
In short, I had always believed that the world involved magic: now I thought that perhaps it involved a magician. And this pointed a profound emotion always present and sub-conscious; that this world of ours has some purpose; and if there is a purpose, there is a Person. I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a Story-teller. (Orthodoxy)
  • Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Short sermons

"Lincoln and Short Sermons":
One of the lines attributed to Lincoln that was included in the movie gives insight into his thoughts about public speaking. If you’ve seen the movie, then you’ll remember Lincoln joking as he repeated the words of a preacher:
“I could write shorter sermons but when I get started I’m too lazy to stop.”
It can be a painfully true statement.

The sermons in which I have been lax on preparation are also the ones in which I tend to ramble more aimlessly. ....
Lincoln and Short Sermons | PhilipNation.net

Are non-essentials unimportant?

If a doctrine isn't essential to salvation, is it then unimportant? My denomination exists because of doctrines that aren't essential to salvation. Jason Helopoulos quotes from a 19th century tract:
Thomas Witherow, a Scottish Presbyterian...in his little tract, “The Apostolic Church: Which Is It?” (1851):
To say that, because a fact of Divine revelation is not essential to salvation, it must of necessity be unimportant, and may or may not be received by us, is to assert a principle, the application of which would make havoc of our Christianity. For, what are the truths essential to salvation? Are they not these: That there is a God; that all men are sinners; that the Son of God died upon the cross to make atonement for the guilty; and that whosoever believes on the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved?…But if all the other truths of revelation are unimportant, because they happen to be non-essentials, it follows that the Word of God itself is in the main unimportant…
As Witherow makes clear, if this is the argument we choose to make then we are pulling the rug out from under our own feet. For we are robbing the vast majority of the Scriptures’ teaching and pages from having any influence, relevance, or importance for our Christian lives....

Let us unite around the Gospel. Let us be clear in emphasizing and proclaiming it. Let us underscore the importance of justification by faith alone. Let us continually point ourselves and others to the substitutionary atonement of Christ.

But as we do this, let us never say or act as though the other doctrines and teachings of the Scripture are unimportant. .... [more]
Secondary Doctrines – Kevin DeYoung

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Bible for Christmas?

As Christmas approaches each of us is confronted with decisions. What should we give? For our Christian friends a Bible might be the answer. J. Mark Bertrand [of the Bible Design Blog] offers a "Christmas Guide to Buying a Bible":
.... While most of my readers buy their own Bibles, let’s face it: The best way to receive one is as a gift. If you want to give a Bible as a gift this Christmas season, here are some recommendations.

The Best All-Arounder: Cambridge Clarion KJV, ESV, NASB, and (coming soon) NKJV

Over the past year or so, I’ve found myself recommending the Cambridge Clarion more than any other Bible. For readers, the Clarion offers an elegant single-column layout—in other words, it’s formatted more like a novel than a dictionary, which is what Bibles have looked like for centuries. One way to encourage Bible reading is to make the Bible resemble the kind of book people actually read. The Clarion’s overall dimensions resemble those of a thick trade paperback, so while the book has a little heft, it’s handy enough to carry around.

For the more scholarly, the Clarion includes cross-references in the outer margin, a concordance, and maps. ....
Some of his other suggestions:
  1. For Mainline Protestants: R.L. Allan NRSV ....
  2. For Roman Catholics: The Knox Bible from Baronius Press ....
  3. For Confessional Protestants: The Schuyler ESV with Creeds and Reformation-Era Confessions ....
  4. For Anglicans and Other Prayer Book Fans: Cambridge BCP-KJV Heritage Edition ....
  5. For Note-takers: The ESV Single Column Journaling Bible ....
and more.
Bertrand expands on each of his recommendations.

Christmas Guide to Buying a Bible | First Things

Lord Peter

Dorothy L. Sayers was not only a notable 20th century Christian apologist, she was also one of the most read English mystery writers of the "Golden Age" — perhaps only less popular than Agatha Christie. As did other mystery writers of that era, Sayers pretty much followed Ronald Knox's "Ten Commandments" of fair play for the mystery reader:
  1. The criminal must be mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to know.
  2. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
  3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
  4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
  5. No Chinaman must figure in the story.
  6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
  7. The detective himself must not commit the crime.
  8. The detective is bound to declare any clues which he may discover.
  9. The "sidekick" of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal from the reader any thoughts which pass through his mind: his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
  10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.
I first discovered the Sayers who wrote mysteries — only later the orthodox Christian apologist and playwright and friend of many of the Inklings. The mysteries featured the aristocratic amateur detective Lord Peter Wimsey, always assisted by his batman/manservant Bunter. The books are the kind you settle down in — best read, perhaps, on a long winter evening. Sometimes her variety of mystery has been called "cozy" in contrast to the more typically American "hard-boiled" thrillers. But this description from Have His Carcase is about as "hard-boiled" as it gets. At the beginning of the book, detective novelist Harriet Vane discovers a body:
.... Perhaps he's in a fit or a faint," she said to herself. " Or he's got sunstroke. That's quite likely. It's very hot." She looked up, blinking, at the brazen sky, then stooped and laid one hand on the surface of the rock. It almost burnt her. She shouted again, and then, bending over the man, seized his shoulder.
"Are you all right?
The man said nothing and she pulled upon the shoulder. It shifted slightly—a dead weight. She bent over and gently lifted the man's head.
Harriet's luck was in.
It was a corpse. Not the sort of corpse there could be any doubt about, either. Mr. Samuel Weare of Lyons Inn, whose "throat they cut from ear to ear," could not have been more indubitably a corpse. Indeed, if the head did not come off in Harriet's hands, it was only because the spine was intact, for the larynx and all the great vessels of the neck had been severed "to the hause-bone," and a frightful stream, bright red and glistening, was running over the surface of the rock and dripping into a little hollow below.
Harriet put the head down again and felt suddenly sick. She had written often enough about this kind of corpse, but meeting the thing in the flesh was quite different. She had not realised how butcherly the severed vessels would look, and she had not reckoned with the horrid halitus of blood, which steamed to her nostrils under the blazing sun. Her hands were red and wet. She looked down at her dress. That had escaped, thank goodness. Mechanically, she stepped down again from the rock and went round to the edge of the sea. There she washed her fingers over and over again, drying them with ridiculous care upon her handkerchief. She did not like the look of the red trickle that dripped down the face of the rock into the clear water. Retreating, she sat down rather hastily on some loose boulders.
"A dead body," said Harriet, aloud to the sun and the sea-gulls. "A dead body. How—how appropriate!" She laughed.
The great thing," Harriet found herself saying, after a pause," the great thing is to keep cool. Keep your head, my girl. What would Lord Peter Wimsey do in such a case? Or, of course, Robert Templeton?
Robert Templeton was the hero who diligently detected between the covers of her own books. ....
(Have His Carcase is the first of three Lord Peter mysteries in which Harriet Vane features prominently.)
Amazon Kindle is offering the Lord Peter Wimsey books, each at a price far below that of its physical version: Dorothy L. Sayers: Kindle Store
Amazon.com: Dorothy L. Sayers: Kindle Store

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dickson McCunn is a hobbit

"We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures.
Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things!"

Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit, Chapter 1

Huntingtower is the first of three novels about the adventures of Dickson McCunn, my favorite among John Buchan protagonists. Suzannah, at In Which I Read Vintage Novels, has just re-read it and once more enjoyed it. She had an insight about what makes Dickson McCunn such an attractive character which, once mentioned, seemed to me absolutely right.

Huntingtower is about Dickson McCunn, retired Glasgow grocer, businessman, and romantic. On holiday in Carrick, he stumbles across something he has only ever dreamed about: Romance, in the sense of adventure. Together with a not-quite-as-disillusioned-as-he-appears realist poet, a gang of hardened Glasgow street boys, a lame laird and his battered henchmen, and (not to be forgotten) the capable and pious old lady Mrs Morran, Dickson McCunn faces the challenge of a lifetime: rescue an honest-to-goodness princess from a dark tower and Russia from the Bolsheviks. ....

These characters are drawn lovingly and vividly, from the battered and desperate Gorbals Die-Hards who have never known love or comfort to the respectable and stolid Mr McCunn and Mrs Morran who handle everything as it comes to them with unfailing pluck. It would be cozy to read about Mr McCunn selling hams and writing dutiful letters to his wife at the Neuk Hydropathic. But reading about him outwitting Bolshevik spies and occasionally injuring respectable lawyers is something on the heady side of delightful. ....


In the meantime I realised what this book reminds me of. Mr McCunn, a law-abiding homebody with a poetic streak, is pulled (protesting at every step) into the wildest kind of adventure, which interferes with his quiet enjoyment of comforts such as pipes and second breakfasts. Indeed: Dickson McCunn is a Hobbit, and probably a Baggins. Like Bilbo, he becomes the head of operations and opines that the really necessary thing in a wild adventure like his is good solid business sense. ....
Romance is not novelty and liberation. Romance is duty and convention, faith and perseverance. This is Buchan’s eternal theme: the man faithful in little who is faithful in much. It’s Dickson’s sense of duty and responsibility that goads him back into the fight. Princesses, jewels, and spies are all very well, but in Huntingtower the true romance is located right where it always has been: in the common things, the little things, the everyday things.

As a coda, I also want to note that that Buchan also locates romance within Christendom and the Church. As usual in a Buchan novel, the adventurous life is only lived within the context of faith. Providence and the Kirk are everywhere. .... [more]
Huntingtower can be read online at Gutenberg and can also be downloaded there, free, in the Kindle format or as an EPUB.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

November 22, 49 years ago

Ordinarily one of the first things to occur to me on a November 22nd would have been the anniversary of C.S. Lewis's death. This year that day was Thanksgiving and I forgot. Joel Miller did not and composed a tribute "Giving thanks for C.S. Lewis":
Besides Thanksgiving, November 22 this year marks the 49th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ death.

I read a newspaper obituary about Lewis that my grandmother kept. She preserved the entire paper. The event was buried in the back–barely two column inches if memory serves. The rest of paper, or at least the majority of it, was dedicated to reporting the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Both men died the same day. ....
Lewis was not well the last few years of his life. In his final days, Miller writes, he was still reading:
Holed up at The Kilns, he reread the Iliad and other books. Sayer lists not only the Iliad and the Odyssey but mentions that he read them in Greek, that he read the Aeneid in Latin, as well as “Dante’s Divine Comedy; Wordsworth’s The Prelude; and works by George Herbert, Patmore, Scott, Austen, Fielding, Dickens, and Trollope.”

Surrounded by his books, Wilson says that Lewis “remained . . . propped up in the very room where Joy had spent so many heroic hours suffering.”

And then he joined her.

It was Friday, November 22. He was cheerful but had a hard time staying awake. He ate breakfast, got dressed, answered some letters. After lunch, his brother Warnie “suggested he would be more comfortable in bed, and he went there.” Warnie took him tea at four. An hour and a half later he heard a crash. Lewis had collapsed at the foot of his bed. Unconscious, as recorded Warnie, “[h]e ceased to breathe some three or four minutes later.” .... [more]

A comment on that post notes that next year, on the fiftieth anniversary of Lewis's death he will receive recognition in the Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.

Giving thanks for C.S. Lewis, C.S. Lewis in Poets Corner

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"Now thank we all our God..."

Freedom from Want, Norman Rockwell, 1943
Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way; 
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today. 
 
O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us, 
With ever joyful hearts and bless├Ęd peace to cheer us; 
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed; 
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next! 
 
All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given; 
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven; 
The one eternal God, Whom earth and Heaven adore; 
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.
Mar­tin Rink­art, cir­ca 1636

"Our sincere and humble thanks"

Via The Wittenberg Door, "George Washington’s Thanksgiving Prayer," based on a proclamation issued in 1789:
May we all unite in rendering unto God our sincere and humble thanks—
  • For His kind care and protection of the people of this country,
  • For the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have enjoyed,
  • For the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness,
  • For the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge, and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And may we also unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him—
  • To pardon our national and other transgressions,
  • To enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually,
  • To render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed,
  • To protect and guide all nations and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord,
  • To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science,
And generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
[The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America]
The Wittenberg Door: George Washington’s Thanksgiving Prayer, The First Thanksgiving Proclamation

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"Extolling the loving care of our Heavenly Father"

Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1895:
THANKSGIVING DAY 1895
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – A PROCLAMATION

The constant goodness and forbearance of Almighty God which have been vouchsafed to the American people during the year which is just past call for their sincere acknowledgment and devout gratitude.

To the end, therefore, that we may with thankful hearts unite in extolling the loving care of our Heavenly Father, I, Grover Cleveland, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart Thursday, the 28th day of the present month of November, as a day of thanksgiving and prayer to be kept and observed by all our people.

On that day let us forgo our usual occupations and in our accustomed places of worship join in rendering thanks to the Giver of Every Good and Perfect Gift for the bounteous returns that have rewarded our labors in the fields and in the busy marts of trade, for the peace and order that have prevailed throughout the land, for our protection from pestilence and dire calamity, and for the other blessings that have been showered upon us from an open hand.

And with our thanksgiving let us humbly beseech the Lord to so incline the hearts of our people unto Him that He will not leave us nor forsake us as a nation, but will continue to us His mercy and protecting care, guiding us in the path of national prosperity and happiness, enduing us with rectitude and virtue, and keeping alive within us a patriotic love for the free institutions which have been given to us as our national heritage.

And let us also on the day of our thanksgiving especially remember the poor and needy, and by deeds of charity let us show the sincerity of our gratitude.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington, this 4th day of November, A.D. 1895, and in the one hundred and twentieth year of the Independence of the United States.

GROVER CLEVELAND
Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1895

Politicians and the age of the earth

Senator Rubio is being ridiculed and attacked as being "anti-science" because he equivocated when he was asked about the age of the earth. It is probably true that politicians should simply say what they think rather than worry about which part of the electorate they might offend, but if you believe in human fallibility then perhaps they should be cut some slack. As many sites have pointed out today, Rubio's statement is hardly unique among the political class. Daniel Engber, at Slate: "Politicians hedge about whether universe was created":
.... Here's Rubio, in his interview for the December 2012 issue of GQ:
Q: How old do you think the Earth is?

A: I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.
And here's then-Sen. Obama, D-Ill., speaking at the Compassion Forum at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa. on April 13, 2008:
Q: Senator, if one of your daughters asked you—and maybe they already have—“Daddy, did god really create the world in 6 days?,” what would you say?

A: What I've said to them is that I believe that God created the universe and that the six days in the Bible may not be six days as we understand it … it may not be 24-hour days, and that's what I believe. I know there's always a debate between those who read the Bible literally and those who don't, and I think it's a legitimate debate within the Christian community of which I'm a part. My belief is that the story that the Bible tells about God creating this magnificent Earth on which we live—that is essentially true, that is fundamentally true. Now, whether it happened exactly as we might understand it reading the text of the Bible: That, I don't presume to know.
How do these quotes stack up? It seems to me that they're exactly in agreement on four crucial and dismaying points:
  1. Both senators refuse to give an honest answer to the question. Neither deigns to mention that the Earth is 4.54 billion years old.
  2. They both go so far as to disqualify themselves from even pronouncing an opinion. I'm not a scientist, says Rubio. I don’t presume to know, says Obama.
  3. That's because they both agree that the question is a tough one, and subject to vigorous debate. I think there are multiple theories out there on how this universe was created, says Rubio. I think it's a legitimate debate within the Christian community of which I'm a part, says Obama.
  4. Finally they both profess confusion over whether the Bible should be taken literally. Maybe the "days" in Genesis were actual eras, says Rubio. They might not have been standard 24-hour days, says Obama.
In light of these concordances, to call Rubio a liar or a fool would be to call our nation's President the same, along with every other politician who might like to occupy the Oval Office. If a reporter asks a candidate to name the age of Earth, there's only one acceptable response: Well, you know, that's a complicated issue … and who am I to say? .... [more]
Rubio and Obama and the age of Earth: Politicians hedge about whether universe was created. - Slate Magazine

Between law and free choice

"Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without." [Edmund Burke]
If we won't control ourselves it is very likely that we will be controlled. A free society depends on a people who require fewer laws because they behave well. We learn to behave well from our parents, our religious instruction, our neighbors, the mediating institutions of society. From "Obedience to the Unenforceable":
.... John Fletcher Moulton (1844-1921), a British barrister and judge, called good manners a “country which lies between Law and Free Choice.” We cannot write enough laws to control every aspect of human behavior and interaction, nor would we want to. But neither should we want for people to have the complete liberty to do as they please; chaos would result. ....:
Mere obedience to Law does not measure the greatness of a Nation. It can easily be obtained by a strong executive, and most easily of all from a timorous people. Nor is the licence [sic] of behavior which so often accompanies the absence of Law, and which is miscalled Liberty, a proof of greatness. The true test is the extent to which the individuals composing the nation can be trusted to obey self-imposed law. … Between “can do” and “may do” ought to exist the whole realm which recognizes the sway of duty, fairness, sympathy, taste, and all the other things that make life beautiful and society possible.
Teaching and practicing those things that we cannot be forced to obey but which smooth the everyday interactions of life are what Moulton called “Obedience to the Unenforceable.” They are a law we enforce upon ourselves, no matter what others do or think.

This is not mere etiquette. Not knowing which fork to use might be a faux pas, but using your salad fork for your cake hardly endangers the civil order. But not showing common courtesy and respect to others leads to a coarsening of the culture and makes day-to-day life just that much more irritating. .... [more]
Obedience to the Unenforceable « Acculturated

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Paul W. Manuel


Paul Manuel is a good friend and someone from whom I have learned much. For about ten years he, and wife Linda, attended the Madison Seventh Day Baptist Church while Paul was in graduate school [Hebrew and Semitic Studies] at the University of Wisconsin. During much of that time he taught our adult Sabbath School class. He made me think. He persuaded me on many subjects, and when he didn't, he forced me to re-think my reasons. In other words, he is a very good teacher. And he teaches with authority on biblical subjects because he is a careful bible scholar with the academic tools appropriate to the task.

Over the years Paul has developed many studies and lessons and he has agreed to let me create a blog which, I hope, will eventually contain a lot of his work. Nothing of mine will appear on the site. It can be found here, at http://paulwmanuel.blogspot.com/. Several posts are already up and there will be more.

Paul W Manuel

Seventh Day Baptists and Thaddeus Stevens

An important actor in the struggle for the Thirteenth Amendment was Congressman Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, portrayed in the new Lincoln film by Tommy Lee Jones. Seventh Day Baptists may not know that earlier in his legal career Stevens played a significant role in defending Pennsylvania German Seventh Day Baptists against accusations that they had violated the state's blue laws by working on Sunday. From a dissertation by Kyle G. Volk:
Thaddeus Stevens
.... Having failed to gain any assistance from the state legislature or relief from local courts, the German Seventh-Day Baptists of Snow Hill appealed their case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and gained the assistance of a well-regarded attorney with a thriving law practice in nearby Lancaster. His name was Thaddeus Stevens. Based on Stevens' later career as a Radical Republican Congressional leader and champion of racial equality during Reconstruction, it should come as no surprise that Stevens was drawn to a case involving, in the words of Sunday law critics, broad principles of equality, civil rights, human rights, minority rights, and democracy. But in the mid-1840s Stevens already had established credentials that made him a fitting advocate for the Seventh Day Baptists. Stevens was a Whig partisan, but he was also independent minded and had a reputation for passionately embracing more radical causes. In addition to being a renowned champion of free public education, he was also a critic of capital punishment, a defender of fugitive slaves, an advocate for black suffrage rights, and an opponent of slavery's westward expansion. Defending the Snow Hill Society from Sunday law prosecutions fit within these broader commitments to social equality and working on behalf of the oppressed.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court postponed argument in the Snow Hill case more than once, but when Specht v. Commonwealth was finally argued in 1848, Thaddeus Stevens's argument provided a capstone to many of the arguments diverse groups had "are founded on no religion, but on purely civil considerations — on the inalienable rights of man; one of which is that man shall not interfere with the rights of conscience." Sunday laws repudiated the traditions of the American founding. Stevens also preempted the argument that the Sunday law was justified because the "'Christian religion is a part of the common law.'" Influential nineteenth-century jurists like James Kent and Joseph Story repeated this phrase, and Sunday law supporters also had made this argument. But to Stevens it was a "dangerous" doctrine that had been used for centuries to enable "tyrants." "More blood has been shed by the familiars of the Holy Inquisition," he stressed, "than was ever offered a sacrifice to their hideous deities on Pagan altars." The "fathers of the Revolution" knew this and "took care that our government should be wholly disconnected with all religions."

Stevens concluded by pleading that the "independent Judiciary" defend "religious liberty." It was "no answer," he stressed, "to say that a majority of the Legislature can repeal it." It was "the great glory of written, paramount constitutions...that they protect minorities against the will of majorities." Sunday laws were the tool of majorities and it was the precise role of the judiciary to defend minorities when the bounds of constitutional authority were exceeded. The Court needed to "stand by the constitution, and interpose their protecting shield between the many and the few. If they fail to do this out of respect to a majority, that sovereign of Republics, history will rank them with Scroggs, and Impey and Rich, who sacrificed the rights of conscience and of humanity to please their sovereigns." Not to put too fine a point on it. Stevens reminded the Court that "It was the same influence—the voice of the PEOPLE, crying 'crucify him! crucify him!' that bore down the judgment of Pilate, and made him the judicial murderer of HIM, who suffered for conscience's sake. When the temples of Justice cease to be a refuge for the oppressed, there will be none left for them on earth." Unlike Pilate, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court needed to ignore the popular "majorities forgetful of the true principles of our government." It needed to defend the "civil and religious liberty" of minorities. ....
Unfortunately the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the Sunday blue laws.

No substitute for Dad

Margaret Wente at The Globe and Mail [Toronto], is concerned about what boys need to be successful in school and in life. Whatever it is, they aren't getting it.
Everyone knows the girls are clobbering the boys in school. They get higher marks and graduate at higher rates. Women have stormed the gates of medicine and law. They’ve all but taken over pharmacy and veterinary work. They are focused, purposeful and diligent. Their brothers, meanwhile, are in the basement playing video games.
.... In the most prestigious programs at some of our leading universities, the gender ratio has reached 70:30. Men still dominate the hard sciences and maths, but, on the rest of the campus, they seem to be headed toward extinction.

Whatever it is that boys need to achieve success, a lot of them aren’t getting it. But what do they need? ....

...[T]he differences between what boys need and what girls need are often vast. One example: In order to do well, it’s much more important for a boy to have a good relationship with the teacher. Another: Boys will only stay engaged as long as the work interests them; they’re much quicker to tune out.

Boys’ existential issues are different from girls’. For a boy, the two most important life questions are: Will I find work that’s significant? And will I be worthy of my parents? When boys themselves are asked what they need, they say: I need purpose. I need to make a difference. I need to know I measure up. I need challenge. Above all, I need a meaningful vocation. ....

Monday, November 19, 2012

"Come, let us bow down in worship"

Scott Smith is the pastor of the Middle Island Seventh Day Baptist Church in West Virginia. His blog is called Faith Grip and it is consistently interesting. Today he describes "The Essential Ingredient of Worship" and, as far as I am concerned, he puts the emphasis right where it belongs:
.... The dictionary says that worship is “a reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage or object regarded as sacred.” Reverent honor and homage. Our English word “worship” comes from an older form, “worthship.” The one who is given homage must be worthy of receiving the honor! ....

There is distinct difference between praise and worship. They are both important but they are subtly different. The picture of praise is one of you standing before God, head up and hands raised with the overwhelming sense exaltation. The picture of worship, however, is on your knees, face down with an overwhelming sense of awe.

For you and me, worship does not require a certain style, a particular type of music or a specific setting. Worship is an expression of our attitude. “Let us come before him with thanksgiving… let us kneel before the LORD our Maker…” We come to church to share in fellowship and to enjoy friends and family. But our primary purpose here must always be to offer a humble gift to the God who created us. We come to offer ourselves to him. .... [more]
Related: Encountering the Living God

The Essential Ingredient of Worship « Faith Grip

149 years ago

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"With firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right"

The author of a new book, Lincoln's Battle with God: A President's Struggle with Faith and What It Meant for America, summarizes his story:
.... Young Abraham rejected his parents' loud, sweaty brand of faith and in part because he could not reconcile the weepy, religious version of his father with the man who beat him, worked him "like a slave," and resented his dreams of a more meaningful life. Historian Allen Guelzo has written, "on no other point did Abraham Lincoln come closer to an outright repudiation of his father than on religion."

Young Abraham chose reading over religion — and reading made him rethink religion. Alongside Aesop's Fables and Robinson Crusoe, he read the works of religious skeptics. Books like Thomas Paine's Age of Reason, Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and Ruins by the French writer Volney gave Lincoln the intellectual tools for dismantling the edifice of religion. ....

.... Lincoln drank deeply from this anti-religion stream. Soon he began openly attacking Christianity. Friends recalled that he openly criticized the Bible, that he called Christ a bastard and that he labeled Christianity a myth. He even wrote a pamphlet defending "infidelity." To protect his political aspirations, friends tore the booklet from his hands and burned it. Lincoln was furious. ....

When little Eddie Lincoln died in 1850, just shy of his fourth birthday, his parents were devastated. Ever haunted by depression, Abraham needed help pushing back the darkness. He turned to the Rev. James Smith, a Presbyterian minister in Springfield. The two met, counseled and prayed. Slowly, unsteadily, a change began. ....

We see this in his decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. He told his cabinet he did it because of a covenant he made with God. He would end slavery where he could if God would grant the Union significant victories. He had become convinced the war was divine judgment upon a slave-trading nation. He believed the act of Emancipation could help lift that judgment.

This same sense of need to mediate between God and the nation infused his Second Inaugural Address, perhaps the greatest of American political sermons. God wills this war, Lincoln said, in order to purge the wickedness of slavery. Now, at war's end, both North and South should humble themselves, honor God's righteous judgment, and heal the land through forgiveness and mercy. It tells us much about Lincoln's religious views in the latter years of his presidency that he expected the speech to disappoint the nation. Why? "Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose between the Almighty and them," he explained to a friend. .... [more]
Stephen Mansfield: Abraham Lincoln's Atheist Period

Good Samaritans

Paul Ramsey was a Princeton professor, a Methodist, who wrote about Christian ethics and modern war. I first came across his books in college. They had titles like War and the Christian Conscience and The Just War: Force and Political Responsibility. He wrote and argued clearly and well. He convinced me of the contemporary relevance of "just war" theory. I am reminded of his arguments today by this:
When Paul Ramsey retold the parable of the Good Samaritan asking, "What do you imagine Jesus would have had the Samaritan do if in the story he had come upon the scene when the robbers had just begun their attack and while they were still at their fell work?," he was not merely concerned with asking what Christian love required of the individual, but what the implications were for the responsible political use of force. ....

.... Once you decide that you would be complicit in the evil if you were entirely passive, and once you decide that charity requires action, it is difficult to see how it is more charitable to the victim to pursue an ineffective nonviolent strategy than an effective violent strategy. As Ramsey says, "if one judges that not to resist is to have complicity in the evil he will fail to prevent, then the choice between violent and non-violent means is a question of economy and in the effective force to use." ....

Christian pacifists, at least those who base their pacifism on the Gospel teachings of Jesus, claiming that Jesus' suffering non-resistance on the cross is the model for all Christian action, cannot consistently appeal only to nonviolent action as the only just recourse in the face of grave evil. That's not only because Jesus sacrifice on the Cross was not an example of nonviolent direct action in the first place, but because it is simply not effective in the face of great evil. Nor can they reasonably draw a categorical distinction between police and military use of force, for the simple reason that the difference between them is merely a difference in degree not in kind.
The quotation in the Orwell poster dates from World War II.

Paul Ramsey, the Good Samaritan, and Christian Pacifism - Institute on Religion & Democracy (IRD)

Christian worship

The Worship Sourcebook is a fine collection of worship materials published by the Christian Reformed denomination. We bought copies for our worship leaders several years ago. Yesterday Zac Hicks, a pastor in Colorado, summarized its Prologue in "9 Things that Christian Worship Should Be." Four of the nine:
1. Christian worship should be biblical.
  • worship includes prominent readings of Scripture
  • worship presents & depicts God’s being, character, & actions consistent with how Scripture does
  • worship obeys explicit biblical commands about worship
  • worship heeds scriptural warnings about false/improper worship
  • worship focuses primary attention where the Bible does–on Jesus
2. Christian worship should be dialogic.
  • God speaks through the Spirit, and we respond in a variety of ways
  • worship is initiated by God
  • worship balances attentive listening and honest speech
4. Christian worship should be trinitarian.
  • worship addresses each person of the Trinity
  • the Father invites us to worship and hears our response
  • the Son perfects and mediates our praise and petitions
  • the Spirit helps us comprehend what we hear and prompts our response
  • worship draws us into relationship with God (the Father) through God (the Son) and by God (the Holy Spirit)
  • worshiping Trinity keeps us from the temptation to worship worship itself
8. Christian worship should be a generous and excellent outpouring of ourselves before God.
  • worship should not be stingy
  • worship calls for our best offerings (music, words, money, time, etc.)
  • worship practices excellence worthy of God [more]
Doxology and Theology » 9 Things that Christian Worship Should Be by Zac Hicks

Friday, November 16, 2012

Legalism

From Fred Zaspel's "Legalism or Obedience?":
.... I have never yet met a parent who complained that his child was a legalist because he obeyed too much. In fact, it would be impossible for any parent to imagine how his child could obey too much.

Yet, find a Christian who is careful to obey God in everything, and we won’t have to look far to find another Christian to call him a legalist. What do we make of this?

It’s a word we all hate, but exactly what is legalism? Legalism is that attempt to establish or maintain a right standing with God by means of our own efforts. .... Anyone claiming to be Christian knows better than that, but even among believers there is sometimes found that attempt to maintain a right standing with God by means of personal efforts. They seem to think that having been saved by grace they must maintain that salvation by works. Legalism. ....

But we must be careful not to confuse legalism with obedience. Obedience is not legalism. Obedience is obedience. God commands us to obey his Word, and when pressed with those commands we must not cry foul — “legalism!” No, disobedience is sin, and obedience is not legalism. ....

Simply put, we needn’t fear that we may obey our Lord too much. Jesus said that if we love him, we will obey him.

Happily, God has promised in the New Covenant to give us a heart to obey him. And every true Christian has found that obedience to God is not a burdensome thing. This is the work of his Spirit within us to bring us to obey him — not legalistically but faithfully. .... [more]
Legalism or Obedience?- Credo Magazine

It's what gets left out

Spielberg's Lincoln opens here today and I very much look forward to seeing it at some point, probably next week. The reviews I've read have been [with a single exception] uniformly favorable. R.J. Moeller thinks it is "a wonderful film," too, but believes something important is missing:
.... I had only one serious qualm with Lincoln, and I think it important enough to mention here.

The study and teaching of history is an imperfect science. I get that. Certainly there is hard data–the dates that events occurred, kings who ruled, or names of civilizations that existed–which can be fairly difficult to screw up or slant one ideological way or the other. But there is also a great deal of interpretation that the person relaying the events of history can choose to imbue their textbook, scholarly paper, or feature film with. Sometimes the issue of potential biases on the part of the person communicating a piece of history are to be found in what is not said, what is held back or downplayed, more than anything else.

Such is the case with a certain aspect of Lincoln.

The abolitionist movement was in many ways the result of the Second Great Awakening, a Christian spiritual revival in the first part of the nineteenth century that swept the country and convicted many Americans on the importance of ending the “scourge” of slavery. Among those who fought to bring the matter before Congress, faith was a primary motivating factor. And while the personal vitality of President Lincoln’s private faith has been questioned by some historians in recent years, his rhetoric on the issue of slavery was drenched in Judeo-Christian, biblical morality (and consistently, even direct quotes from Scripture). This reality does not make Christianity the national religion, nor does it shame or exclude the faith traditions of any American citizen before or since.

So why almost no mention of these things in a film that is, more than anything else, about the critical push to pass the law that ended the most shameful chapter in our nation’s history? Directors and screenwriters are only too happy to wrap the faith of a character around his or her neck if he or she is depicting a despicable hypocrite or philanderer, but why no love for the undeniable religiosity of so many courageous social/political warriors when they were a driving force behind one of our nation’s proudest moments?

If Christianity must accept the fact that many so-called believers justified slavery in the South by misappropriating the teachings of their faith, why can it never get so much as a shout-out for the role it played in confronting slavery in the nineteenth century and racism in the twentieth? .... [more]
Spielberg’s Lincoln: Sometimes It’s What You Don’t Say « Acculturated

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The power of temptation

It has been obvious for a long time that Pat Robertson ought to retire into obscurity. He is repeatedly embarrassing, the most recent example being:
.... Commenting on the affair of General David Petraeus and biographer Paula Broadwell, Robertson said it was “[a]mazing . . . that the affairs of the heart seem to catch these guys.” But then he set up a string of mitigators: Petraeus was away, Broadwell was hot, so what can we expect?

“I mean, who knows?” he said. “The man’s off in a foreign land and he’s lonely and here’s a good-looking lady throwing herself at him. I mean, he’s a man.”

So are half of us, but that’s hardly an excuse for us either. ....
I found these reflections by Bromleigh McCleneghan far wiser:
.... One clergy friend asked, “Why are we always surprised when people ruin their lives?” We pastors have all seen people mess up their professional and personal lives. It doesn’t surprise us—but it does disappoint us.

I have no personal interest in the rise and fall of Petraeus or Paula Broadwell or any member of this story’s growing cast of characters. I’m disappointed because my line of work is staked on a claim that people can learn to resist temptation, to turn away from sin—that they can and often do manage to live with integrity and fidelity. But when public figures lauded for their wisdom fail to do this, commentators often shrug their shoulders and say that this is the way of things. ....

For all that conservative Christian culture gets wrong about sexuality, one thing it’s managed to understand well is the power of temptation. Sometimes we meet people, attractive people who flatter us and are interesting and interested in a way our spouses haven’t been for a while. Sometimes we’re far from home. Sometimes we’re avoiding the bigger, underlying issues in our marriages and lives. Sometimes we flirt, which can be innocent and friendly and fun but can also cross lines. Sometimes we come dangerously close to breaking our vows. Sometimes we just fantasize about breaking them.

It may be that conservatives don’t always do enough to empower people to resist temptation. But we mainliners tend to simply downplay its power.

.... My moralistic faith tradition is predicated on the notion that people can change. Repentance has power; suffering can transform; grace is even more powerful than sin. At rock bottom, Petraeus could perhaps see what’s at stake. That’s why some marriages can recover even from a humiliating affair.

But does Petraeus’s world have space for an anthropology of sin and redemption? “The retired general is devastated by the incident,” his former spokesman reports. “He sees this as a failure, and this is a man who has never failed at anything."
Pat Robertson, Petraeus, and sexual infidelity, The Petraeus affair and why it disappoints me | The Christian Century

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How did Luke's name get attached to a gospel?

Michael J. Kruger continues his series addressing "Misconceptions about the NT Canon" with “The Canonical Gospels Were Certainly Not Written by the Individuals Named in Their Titles.” Excerpts:
One of the most commonly made claims regarding the canonical gospels is that they were not written by the individuals named in their titles. Instead, we are told that these gospels were written later in the first century by anonymous individuals outside of Palestine who were not eyewitnesses of any of the events that they record. .... ...[T]he gospel titles, it is argued, were added at a later point—probably the middle of the second century—in order to bolster the credibility of these anonymous texts. ....

Although the titles themselves don’t guarantee the authorship of a book, they are key piece of historical evidence about who early Christians understood the authors to be. So, were the titles added late in the second century as some scholars maintain? We shall argue here that there are good reasons to think the titles were included at a very early point
  1. The manuscript evidence. Although we possess a limited number of gospel manuscripts from the second and third centuries that preserve the title pages, the ones we do possess have the title present. In other words, we do not find “title-less” gospel manuscripts from this time period. ....
  2. The uniformity of the titles. Perhaps one the most compelling reasons to think the titles were added early is the fact that there is such uniformity in these titles within the early centuries of the faith. If the titles were added late, we would have expected a substantial amount of diversity to have developed. After all, the users of these gospels had to have called them something (especially if they had more than one gospel), and since they were anonymous it is reasonable to think they would have called these gospels by different names. ....
  3. The inclusion of Mark and Luke. If the titles were added in the late second century, as some suppose, then it is difficult to imagine that Mark and Luke’s names would have been included. If names were arbitrarily chosen, we would hardly expect these two. .... [more]
10 Misconceptions about the NT Canon: #9: “The Canonical Gospels Were Certainly Not Written by the Individuals Named in Their Titles” | Canon Fodder

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lawrence of Arabia

When I was a kid "going to the movies" meant going to one of the indoor theaters in Janesville or to the drive-in theater between Milton and Janesville. We didn't have television until long after most other folks did and when we got one it was a black and white set with a small screen. Movies at a theater were an entirely different experience. In 1962, while I was in high school, I saw David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia for the first time. I think it made a stronger impression on me than any film I'd seen up to that time. It's a story of the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire during World War I and particularly the role played by T.E. Lawrence in it. The acting was perfect [Lawrence played by a young Peter O'Toole, with Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Claude Rains, etc.]; it was spectacular, with great cinematography, an impressive score by one of the best film score composers, Maurice Jarre, and a good story involving real historical personages [but, as I later learned, not necessarily accurate history]. It was also my introduction to films by David Lean who became a favorite director [Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, Doctor Zhivago, The Bridge on the River Kwai, among others].

I always wanted to be able to own movies so that I could watch them whenever I wished. First videotapes and then DVDs made that possible. I've probably gone overboard. This is one of the films I've owned in every form since it became possible. And now Lawrence of Arabia  [Blu-ray], fully restored, DTS audio, on two discs, has arrived. I anticipate a thoroughly pleasurable evening.

Nagged into submission

Professor Anthony Esolen, in "Toleration and Reciprocity" argues that tolerating isn't the same as condoning, and requires, in turn, toleration and a certain respectful reticence.
.... Since human beings are wayward—since they suffer the ills of pride, envy, avarice, lust, and the other deadlies—we will always require the modest virtue of tolerance to get through a day without knocking one another about the head.

The root meaning of the word suggests what the virtue involves. The Latin tol- is related to a group of words having to do with carrying a burden: German dulden, to be patient, to endure; Old English tholian, to suffer; Latin tuli, I have borne. When we tolerate we bear with someone or something; we bear the existence of a wrong. We do so because, given the circumstances, to protest would invite a greater wrong. There is a time for public correction, and a time for quiet endurance and, if the opportunity arises, private correction.

I should like to distinguish tolerance from an even more modest virtue, one without a name; it is part civility, part equanimity, part humility. .... Tolerance properly understood always suggests the bearing of some trouble, or even of moral wrong. ....

.... Every person alive is beset by temptations. We may utter them to our confessors, or, less often, to our best friends on condition of secrecy, or to our spouses, when it would not cause needless pain. Beyond that, we assist the tolerance of our neighbors by keeping our serpents to ourselves. ....

[Not doing so] is an offense against tolerance. It is to make one’s neighbor always aware of his tolerance: to weary him with it, to pester him little by little into giving in, because it is so much easier to condone than to tolerate. So it is that the most intolerant among us frequently preach about tolerance—to nag their opponents into submission, and to get their way.
The Imaginative Conservative: Toleration and Reciprocity

Monday, November 12, 2012

Skyfall

Within the last couple of days I read an account of a funeral at which the deceased wishes were expressed that those attending should go see Skyfall. Perhaps he was just a James Bond fan, but maybe he had something like this in mind. The review by Mark Judge encourages me to think Daniel Craig has gone full Sean Connery:
Young people are feckless, inconclusive, and incapable of perseverance and self-reliance. Young males are especially bad–and they are excessively effeminate to boot.

That’s a major takeaway from Skyfall, the new James Bond film. The film is arguably the most conservative film since 300. It doesn’t argue that there are marginal differences between the generations; it holds that younger people are epicene and clueless. ....

.... “Youth is no guarantee of innovation” Bond tells the young Q when they first meet. The new Miss Moneypenny, played by Naomi Harris, is several years Bond’s junior, and she is put on desk duty because she’s a bad shot. M, played by the elderly Judy Dench, shows more courage and determination than MI6 agents more than half hear age.

I’m usually wary of arguments about “the feminization of culture.” I don’t like them because behind them is the assumption that women are not incredibly powerful, which is a fallacy easily refuted by anyone who has a mother, sister, or wife.... And as a teacher I know that people who criticize kids usually don’t know any. But there is something going on in Skyfall that is an important defense of experience and traditional manhood. Frankly, the film expresses a rebellion against today’s young males forgetting what it is to be a man, whether it be the ability to couple noble purpose with raw strength or just the proper way to shave. ....

It’s important to observe that James Bond is a man in a very broad and wonderful sense. He isn’t a Jason Bourne brute or Bruce Willis knucklehead.... Bond knows his drinks, he can quote literature, and his suits are top of the line. He’s a gentleman. But, as Skyfall shows with uncompromising clarity, he is also a man. Without apology, in fact with a great deal of pride, he is a man.
Manfall: James Bond Battles the New Wimpiness « Acculturated