Let the Dead Bury Their Own Dead

Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. A scribe then approached and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”  (Matthew 8:18-22).

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about ghosts.  In the event that you were skeptical of the power of the ghosts of the pasts, you should no longer be after watching what unfolded in Charlottesville, Virginia on Friday and Saturday.  Ghosts of the past, ghosts that many (wrongly, naively) thought were dead and buried came to life.  Ghosts took the life Heather Heyer, a martyr for justice.  Ghosts were everywhere, and their power was unmistakable.

In the face of this horror, there were rays of light.  The much derided and dism…

The Fountain, Terry Schiavo, Charlie Gard, and "Spiritual Pornography"

1. One of my favorite movies, and a movie I will defend to the death, is The Fountain.  

The conventional wisdom is that The Fountain (2006) was a weird misstep in director Darren Aronofsky's career between the critically acclaimed, commercially successful hits Requiem for a Dream (2000) and The Wrestler (2008) (and, later Black Swan (2010)).  That conventional wisdom is wrong--The Fountain is every bit as good as those films (and I think better than Requiem and Black Swan, though I really like those films).  It is, I will admit, less accessible than some of his other films--it doesn't have a conventional narrative structure, but instead intertwines three related stories.  But if you take the time to work through what is going on, it will reward you.
[Also, a quick aside--the soundtrack to The Fountain by Clint Mansell and Kronos Quartet, is absolutely fantastic.  Even if you don't see the movie, listen to the soundtrack--it is one of the most beautiful symphonies I have e…

Behind Door #3

I just finished Diarmaid MacCulloch's new book All Things Made New: The Reformation and Its Legacy, which I felt was timely and appropriate as we approach the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's posting of the 95 Theses.  And I am glad I did, because the book is brilliant and insightful (and more accessible than his massive previous book The Reformation: A History).  There are a number of things that you can talk about with regard to the book, but one thing that struck me from reading it was how the Reformation presented a fundamental choice for Christianity, and how we are still wrestling with the legacy of those choices.

To understand the nature of the choice, we should go back and think about Augustine.  In the Original Blessing series of posts from last month, we looked at how Augustine sees the physical world as being fundamentally corrupted by the sin of Adam, and how physicality itself as the locus of the human problem generally.  This view creates a series of theologi…

On the Amice and Ghosts

Perhaps you are not familiar with the liturgical clothing item called an amice.  If not, here is a definition, courtesy of Wikipedia:
The amice consists of a white cloth connected to two long ribbon-like attachments, by which it is fastened around the shoulders of the priest. Before the liturgical reforms of 1972, its use was mandatory for all Roman Catholic Masses, but it is only required today if the alb does not cover the priest's ordinary clothing. Many priests choose to wear the amice for reasons of tradition or to prevent damage to their other vestments due to perspiration.
For the more visually inclined, here is an example:

I have never seen a Catholic priest wear an amice.  I had assumed that it was basically a completely archaic item, joining such exotica as the fiddleback chausable.
Why am I bringing this up?  Two Sundays ago, the rector at the Episcopal Church I attend began a sermon series on the liturgical vestments and their meaning.  As part of that, he showed of…

Why There is No Middle Ground

Rev. Jordan Haynie Ware's twitter feed directed my attention to this excellent article, written by Jem Bloomfield.  Ms. Bloomfield is a British academic, and she makes three points that I think are critical in thinking and talking about the interaction between Christianity, the broader "secular" culture, and in particular the younger slice of that culture.  But it also interacts in a way with people who are searching for some sort of "third way" on the contested issues of sexuality, most recently in the form of Fr. Jim Martin's book Building a Bridge, which was based on a talk he gave last fall and which I talked about here.

Before turning to the article, it's worthwhile to get the "whatabout"-ist objections out the way (some of which can be seen in the comments section of the post).  Yes, "secular culture" is not a monolithic entity, and neither are Millennials/young people.  There are quite a number of young people who are very tra…

Reflections on Original Blessing, Part 3

I've taken a while to get out this post, the final one in a series talking about Rev. Shroyer's book Original Blessing (first two posts here and here), because I've changed my mind about the book in the interim.  Well, that's not quite right.  It's less that I no longer have the concerns about some parts of the book that I had when I first read it and more that I increasingly think that those concerns are not all that important to the overall narrative of the book and the questions it is trying to answer.  The more I think about and reflect on the book and what it is trying to do, the more I think the places where I agree with it are far, far more significant than the ways that I would frame some things differently.

In that light, let me (finally) cut the chase and talk about the part of the book that gave me pause.  In the book, Rev. Shroyer calls us to make a decisive move away from the Augustine formulation sketched out in the first post and to replace it with, …

What Happens When People Get Bored Waiting for God

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.” They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel. (Exodus 32:1-6).

I have a theory,…