Showing posts from November, 2015

Friday Fun: My Top Ten 90s Songs, #2 [tie]

#2: "Drive" by R.E.M. (off of Automatic for the People (1992))

#2: "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" by R.E.M. (off of Monster (1994))

I've talked about R.E.M. before, and there is much more than could be said.  What is perhaps the most notable thing about 90s R.E.M. is that they were probably the most popular band of the decade, without producing particularly accessible music.  They released five albums in the 90s--Out of Time (1991), Automatic for the People (1992), Monster (1994), New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996), and Up (1998).  All five of these albums were enormous hits--the "disappointing" New Adventures in Hi-Fi "only" peaked at #2 on the U.S. Billboard charts.  New Adventures in Hi-Fi has to be one of the grimmest and most inscrutable albums to ever reach number #2 on the charts--nothing on it is remotely radio friendly, and all of it is depressing.  Nevertheless, it sold almost a million copies in the United States alone.  That'…

Some Thoughts on the "Hard Sayings" of Jesus

If you have followed the discussion about the Synod on the Family, or any discussion about sexual morality in Christianity, surely you have heard some reference to the "hard sayings" of Jesus.  These discussions go something like this--someone will make a point about how difficult or impractical this or that traditional bit of sexual morality is to actually and fairly implement and live, and someone will respond "well, sure, these are hard sayings of Jesus, but Jesus is calling us to do the hard thing."  The implication, of course, is that the person who is expressing concerns about the stance at issue is looking to take the easy way out, to avoid the challenge of Gospel living.  It is a way to take the moral high ground.

No doubt, there are many hard sayings of Jesus, and many hard sayings throughout the Scriptures.  Here is another one--"You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt." (Exodus 22:21, as well as…

Friday Fun: My Top Ten 90s Songs, #3

#3: Lucky Man by the Verve (off of Urban Hymns (1997))

The Verve is a criminally underrated band.  Everything Coldplay has done, the Verve did first and better.  They were experimenting with weird sounds and trippy music when Radiohead was writing straight forward rock songs like "Creep."  They are more interesting than Oasis, and I like Oasis.

They are not well known because their career was rather short, done in by stereotypical band problems--interpersonal conflicts, drugs, financial disputes.  Urban Hymns, their best album, was also their last significant album.  In a sense, though, it is not tremendously surprising, as their music certainly conveys that they were dealing with some stuff.

The song of theirs that you have heard is "Bittersweet Symphony."  It got them into trouble because it sampled an orchestral version of "The Last Time" by the Rolling Stones, resulting in all the royalties going to the Stones.  It is also famous for the video, which…

The Joy of Being Wrong Essays, Part 4--"Make Yourself Responsible for All Men's Sins"

In retrospect, I was primed to go Full Girardian long before I actually encountered Girard's work.  Back during my time with the Dominicans, I read the book that I believe is the greatest novel ever written--The Brothers Karamazov by Feodor Dostoevsky.  Dostoevsky is one of the handful of authors (alongside Shakespeare, Cervantes, Proust, and Steindahl) that Girard used as the basis for developing his initial theories on memetic desire, back when it was basically a literary construct.  Loving Dostoevsky put me halfway home to appreciating Girard.

Reading Dostoevsky is always, for me, an interesting experience--it's not enjoyable in the normal sense (though, it's not un-enjoyable, either) so much as it is revealing.  The sense I get when reading Dostoevsky is that he is telling you the truth about the way things are, even when you can't exactly isolate the precise content of the truth he is communicating.  The first time I read the novel, my basic reaction was "I kn…

Short Post Script to The Last Post

Over the weekend, it occurred to me that there is an additional level to the discussion of the need for a theology of relationships in connection with divorce, and that is a recognition that relationships can and do actually end, notwithstanding philosophical commitments to the contrary.

Here's what I mean.  Look again closely at Matthew 19:3-9:

Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?’ He said to them, ‘It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to div…

The Best Example of Why We Need a Theology of Relationships

I have been continuing to think about Ross Douthat's column from Sunday.  One of the things that strikes me about Douthat on this subject is that he seems to really, really find the current status quo position regarding divorce and remarried couples sensible and correct, in a way that seems genuine and heartfelt.  That is of course his right to do so, but it highlighted for me the degree to which I am not similarly persuaded.  It has taken me a while to work through why I am not satisfied with the current position, but I think I have found the heart of the problem.

First, let's set out the text that we are all arguing about--Matthew 19:3-9:

Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one…

Friday Fun: My Top Ten 90s Songs, #4

#4: "This Time of Year" by Better than Ezra (off of Deluxe (1995))

Better than Ezra is the band that holds the record for the band I have seen the most times live.  Granted, I am not a huge live music person, so the record stands at three times.  Nevertheless, I saw them once in college, once in New Orleans in '06, and once in Philly some time in law school.  Every time I have seen them it has been in a small venue, and they have killed it.  No big rock show, nothing flashy or innovative, but three people playing music and talking with the audience.  It is a good time show in every sense of the word. 

What is interesting about the "good time" portion of that is that it is a little incongruous with what the band is best at, which is writing and playing ballads. It is hard to write ballads, and many bands fall into the trap of making them overly sappy, or cliched, or predictable musically ("here is where we break out the piano").  Better than Ezra avoid…

Why All Catholics Should "Own Their Heresy"

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the release of the Second Vatican Council document Nostra Aetate ("In Our Time").  I have not counted words, but I believe Nostra Aetate is the shortest of the Vatican II documents, clocking in at only five paragraphs.  Nevertheless, there is an argument to be made that Nostra Aetate is the most consequential of all of the Vatican II documents, and is undoubtedly the most revolutionary.

Special attention should be paid to Paragraph 4 of Nostra Aetate.  The document as a whole is about the relationship between the Catholic Church and non-Christian religions, and Paragraph 4 deals with Judaism. In it, it makes three major claims.  First, while acknowledging that Catholics believe Jesus to represent the true fulfillment of the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, it rejects the notion this transition from the old to the new covenant leaves continued practitioners of the old divorced from God's love and faithfulness.
As Holy Scripture test…