Showing posts from May, 2016

Batman and Girard, Part 2---Some People Just Want to Watch the World Burn

Batman: Then why do you want to kill me?

The Joker: [giggling] I don't, I don't want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no, NO! No. You... you... complete me.

Batman: You're garbage who kills for money.

The Joker: Don't talk like one of them. You're not! Even if you'd like to be. To them, you're just a freak, like me! They need you right now, but when they don't, they'll cast you out, like a leper! You see, their morals, their code, it's a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these... these civilized people, they'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve.

You know... You know what I've noticed? Nobody panics when things go "according to plan." Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a g…

Friday Fun, Songs from Before My Birth, #9

"You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" by the Beatles (1965)

It's not exactly top-shelf analysis to point out that the Beatles were pretty great.  Music writer Chuck Klosterman once put together a list of the "properly rated" bands, and said this:  "[t]he Beatles are generally seen as the single most important rock band of all time, because they wrote all the best songs. Since both of these facts are true, the Beatles are rated properly."  That's pretty much the most succinct explanation of the Beatles and why they are important.
There are at least a dozen Beatles songs that I could have picked ("Norwegian Wood," "In My Life," "I've Just Seen a Face," "Yesterday," "Across the Universe," "Revolution," and "We Can Work It Out" deserve consideration).  I went with this song, because I believe it is the best written song of all time.  "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away…

Some Things Are More Important than Unity

The Society of St. Pius X, or "SSPX" is a dissident group of Catholics that split off from the main body of the Church after the Second Vatican Council under the leadership of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.  Their objections were numerous, essentially all of a traditionalist variety.  In the 80s. Pope John Paul II excommunicated Lefebvre for ordaining new bishops.  In the 00s, Pope Benedict rescinded those excommunications in preparation for a deal believed to be imminent to bring them back into the fold.  That deal fell through, for reasons that vary depending on who you talk to.  Since then, they have been in a kind of limbo.

Recently, reports have surfaced that a new deal is in the works, and that reconciliation is imminent.  Based on the reporting that has been happening, and now an interview with the leader of the SSPX, it appears that a reunion will occur without any preconditions or concessions from the SSPX side.  If this does come to pass, I believe it will be a horren…

Quick Hitter: The Jesus Movement

To me, the most inspiring and exciting Christian leader in the United States is the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Michael Curry.  His handling of the brouhaha over the Anglican primates meeting strikes me as not only politically masterful but also spiritually uplifting--standing firm on a set of core values, but also refusing to be provoked into recrimination and tit-for-tat.  And while it is difficult to tell exactly what the outcome will be with regard to the broader Anglican world, or even what is actually going on at some of these meetings, it seems to this outsider that the "joyous resistance in place" strategy is paying dividends.

In the interview above, Curry talks about the idea of the "Jesus Movement" as a core concept in his approach.  I've heard him mention this before, and he fleshes the idea out a bit in this interview.  Bishop Curry points out that the earliest followers of Jesus were people who were impacted and transformed b…

Batman and Girard, Part 1--A Purging Fire is Inevitable and Natural

When a forest grows too wild, a purging fire is inevitable and natural.

--Ra's al Ghul, Batman Begins

Ra's al Ghul: Tomorrow the world will watch in horror as its greatest city destroys itself. The movement back to harmony will be unstoppable this time.

Bruce Wayne: You attacked Gotham before?

Ra's al Ghul: Of course. Over the ages, our weapons have grown more sophisticated. With Gotham, we tried a new one: Economics. But we underestimated certain of Gotham's citizens... such as your parents. Gunned down by one of the very people they were trying to help. Create enough hunger and everyone becomes a criminal. Their deaths galvanized the city into saving itself... and Gotham has limped on ever since. We are back to finish the job. And this time no misguided idealists will get in the way. Like your father, you lack the courage to do all that is necessary. If someone stands in the way of true justice... you simply walk up behind them and stab them in the heart.

--Batman Begins

Friday Fun, Songs from Before My Birth, #10

"Rave On" by Buddy Holly and the Crickets (1958)

It took me a while to come around on 50s rock and roll.  When I was a kid, my parents listened to the "Oldies" radio station, which was primarily music of the 60s and some of the 70s.  All I really knew about the music of the 50s was Elvis Presley, and as I mentioned before I think Elvis is vastly over-rated.  My Dad really liked, and likes, Roy Orbison, but the only song that I remember hearing from him was "Pretty Woman" (which is not close to the best Orbison song, i.e. "Crying").  I was well into my adult years when I first got into Buddy Holly.

What is mind-blowing about Buddy Holly is that his career lasted only 34 months (from April 1956 with the release of his first single until his death in the plane crash in February 1959), and that he was 22 when he died.  He did manage to produce three albums in that time, but everything we are hearing from him is his very earliest stuff.  It's ba…

Batman and Girard, Introduction--The Hero We Deserve

Because he's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he's not our hero. He's a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A Dark Knight.

-  Commissioner Gordon, The Dark Knight.

At the heart of the work of Rene Girard is the interpretation of stories.  His initial work was in the area of comparative literature, and through his study of key authors (Shakespeare, Cervantes and Dostoevsky, in particular) he developed his mimetic theory in his first major book Desire, Deceit and the Novel (1961).  Later, he moved on to other kinds of stories, including mythology (Violence and the Sacred (1977)) and the Bible (Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World (1987)).  But in any case, the key is stories and their interpretation.

For Girard, a story is truly great if it speaks to a core dimension of the human condition.  And since, for Girard, the interplay of mimesis, violence, and scapegoating is a core d…

Friday Fun, Songs From Before My Birth--Honorable Mentions

New Friday Fun series.  I wanted to do some earlier songs, and for no particular reason I decided that the cut-off will be songs that were released prior to my birth--February 1978.  That's entirely arbitrary, but there you go.

A couple of ground-rules I just made up.  First, one song per artist or group, because otherwise it would be hard to justify not going with seven or eight Beatles songs.  Second, I'm going to come up with ten, but I'm not going to put them in rank order--it will just be ten songs that are from before 2/78.

But, before we get to the real ten, here are some that I thought about and decided not to go with.

The Crystals, "And Then He Kissed Me" (1963)

If you know this song, it's probably because you heard it from the movie Goodfellas.  My memory of the song, however, comes from a different cinematic masterpiece, Adventures in Babysitting.  That movie is significant for me because it features my first celebrity/movie crush--Elizabeth Shue.  …

In Defense of Colonization

A week or so ago, I got a message on Twitter from my Twitter friend "Egregious Philbin," asking me for my thoughts on an pair of articles from J. R. Daniel Kirk, entitled "Colonizing Biblical Interpretation" and "Oedipus Text: Canon, Creed, and Post-Colonized Interpretation."  They are both interesting articles, and I have wanted to write about them for a while, but I wanted to finish the post on the Cult of Victimhood before turning to these articles (for reasons that will become clear in a moment).

I should say that I have enjoy listening to and reading Kirk, especially during his appearances on the Homebrewed Christianity podcast.  I have also said how I often feel like I have more in common with progressive Evangelicals than I do with conservative Catholics.  Reading these posts, however, was a reminder that this is not always the case, as it immediately brought out the "high church" part of my Christian DNA.  To me, these posts show the pr…

The Cult of Victimhood

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am a hardcore devotee of the ideas of Rene Girard.  I've tried before to set out, in a big picture way, why I think his ideas are so important and so fruitful--not just in terms of Christianity or religion, but in general.  But those things I mentioned are big-picture concepts, and can be seen as somewhat abstract.  If you want some specific idea of Girard's, one that is directly relevant to our current political and cultural situation, I think his most trenchant idea is his discussion of the Cult of Victimhood.

In Girard's analysis, the Cult of Victimhood is, though unacknowledged by its practicioners, literally a Christian heresy (or more accurately, a Judeo-Christian heresy, if one can say that).  For Girard, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ reveals to the world the mechanism of scapegoating--a victim is selected from among the people and sacrificed in order to discharge our rivalrous, imitative desires, and that sacrific…