Showing posts from February, 2016

Friday Fun: Boss Top Ten, #3--"Adam Raised a Cain"

"Adam Raised a Cain" (off of Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978))
Concert Footage: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio (U.S.A.), 2014

The British Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton once famously called original sin, "the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved."  In other words, if you strip away the (somewhat convoluted) theological infrastructure surrounding the idea, you are left with the basic observation that we carry with us the baggage of those that came before us.  All of us are products of our environment, whether we want to be or not.  Some of those products are relatively banal, some are deeply wounding and leave permanent scars.  But all of us have them, and all of us struggle, to one degree or another, to get beyond them.

"Adam Raised a Cain," my favorite Springsteen deep cut (or maybe "deep-ish" cut), is a song about original sin.  Indeed, it says so right in the title--one generation after eating from the Tree of the K…

Thinking Through the Creed, Part 1

I believe in God, the Father almighty. . . .

"Often times when I meet atheists and we talk about the God they don't believe in, we quickly discover that I don't believe in that God either."--Rob Bell.

It seems logical to start any discussion of the Creed with God, and in specific that dimension of God Christians refer to as the "the Father."  For one thing, the Creed starts that way, and it makes sense to begin at the beginning of the Creed and work progressively through the text.  For another, starting with God is a way to start at the beginning, which is always a good idea when you are trying to explain something.

I think that's a mistake, one that gets us into an enormous amount of trouble.  I think that "God" is actually an enormously problematic and fraught concept.  In fact, in the initial outline of this series, I skipped over this section of the Creed and jumped right in to talking about Jesus.  But I think it is worthwhile talking fir…

Thinking Through the Creed, Introduction

The oldest known comprehensive creedal formulation of the Christian faith is known as the "Old Roman Symbol."  As best as we can tell, it dates from the 2nd Century, and is found almost unchanged in both Latin and Greek forms (the Greek version adds "the life everlasting" to the end of the litany).  Here is what it says:

I believe in God the Father almighty;
and in Christ Jesus His only Son, our Lord,
Who was born from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
Who under Pontius Pilate was crucified and buried,
on the third day rose again from the dead,
ascended to heaven,
sits at the right hand of the Father,
whence He will come to judge the living and the dead;
and in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Church,
the remission of sins,
the resurrection of the flesh.

With a few additions, the Old Roman Symbol forms the basis of what has become known as the Apostles Creed, the creed which is used in the West as the Baptismal creed:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and eart…

Friday Fun: Boss Top Ten, #4--"Thunder Road"

"Thunder Road" (off of Born to Run (1975))
Concert Footage: Air Canada Center, Toronto (Canada), 2016

The three iconic songs off of Born to Run are "Born to Run," "Jungleland," and "Thunder Road."  I go back and forth on which of those I like the best.  Musically, "Jungleland" is the most memorable because of the saxophone solo, originally performed by the legendary Clarence Clemons a/k/a "The Big Man."  "Born to Run" is the most anthemic song, despite not being particularly positive ("It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap, we've got to get out while we're young," etc.)  In the end, I decided to go with "Thunder Road," mostly because I realized that I can rattle off every word of the song out of reflex.

Most of Springsteen songs are storytelling songs, but "Thunder Road" is maybe the ultimate storytelling song.  It has no chorus or bridge, just a continuous narrative.  It…

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Church Reform?

"The church is in need of reform."  This is one of those statements that is true, but obviously true in such a way as to have limited value.  The church is always in need of reform with regard to something,   Augustine went so far as to say that "ecclesia semper reformanda est"--the church is always to be reformed.

But "reform" is not a specific enough concept to be useful.  Before you can reform something, you must figure out what needs to be reformed.  This is always a tricky and controversial bit, and often reform agendas never get off the ground as a result of fights over what to change and what to keep.  But even if you were to get consensus on what to do, there is the other tricky question of how to go about accomplishing these reforms.  Because, of course, reforms are not self-executing, and many a reform movement has sputtered and died as a result of execution problems.  The Catholic Church spent the better part of the Middle Ages attempting to r…

Friday Fun: Boss Top Ten, #5--"American Skin (41 Shots)"

"American Skin (41 Shots)" (first released on Live in New York City (2001), version shown off of High Hopes (2014))
Concert Footage: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio (U.S.A.), 2014

On February 4, 1999, Amadou Diallo was killed by New York City police officers in front of his apartment in the Bronx.  He was unarmed--the officers claimed that he was pulling a gun on them, when it fact he was reaching into his pocket to get his wallet.  The officers shot 41 times in total, hitting him 19 times.  The officers were tried on 2nd degree murder charges, and acquitted by a jury in Albany, New York.

"American Skin (41 Shots)" was originally inspired by the Diallo killing, and debuted on 2000's E Street Ban Reunion Tour.  During the tour, which had ten shows in New York's Madison Square Garden, NYPD officers working security turned their backs to the band during the song, and a police association called for a boycott of the tour.  It faded away for a while, but was ret…

The Creep of the Fertility Cult

I really do like Melinda Selmys's writing.  I think she probably the most thoughtful and the most honest advocate from the traditional Catholic position on sexuality, even when I vehemently disagree with her conclusions.  Her stuff on LGBT issues does a good job of calling out the truly destructive elements of the Catholic Right, including folks like Austin Ruse.  She is an interesting and important voice in a space that is often bereft of original and nuanced thinking.

Her recent piece similarly thought-provoking, though perhaps not in the way she intended.  The middle of the piece, arguing that the CDC's recent guidance that women of fertile age that are not on birth control should abstain completely from alcohol is overly cautious to the point of absurdity, seems completely correct (FWIW, my doctor sister echoed many of the same points in a Facebook post).  So, I think we can agree that telling women to avoid alcohol completely if they may become pregnant is unsound advice. …

Prepare Yourself for the Next Moral Panic

I have news for you--gay marriage is totally passe.  In saying that, I don't mean that LGBT people will stop getting married; surely that will continue apace.  No, gay marriage is passe as a vehicle for generating moral panic.  One might suggest that those who have been pushing the "the gay agenda is coming for your kids" have realized that this line is losing its effectiveness, and thus are abandoning ship.  I think that's basically true, but be that as it may, it is becoming clear that folks are moving on.

"But surely, Mike, folks are not going to give up on decrying the culture and reducing all problems to some readily identifiable cause, are they?"  Surely not!  Instead, it is clear that there is a new moral panic on the horizon, one that both our evangelical and Catholic brothers and sisters of a conservative stripe are already beginning to rally the troops.  That new moral panic is pornography.

To prime the pump for this new talking point, the evangel…

Friday Fun: Boss Top Ten, #6--"She's the One"

"She's the One" (off of Born to Run (1975))
Concert Footage:  Madison Square Garden, New York (U.S.A.), 2007

That thunder in your heart at night when you're kneeling in the dark,
it say's you're never gonna leave her
But there's this angel in her eyes that tells such desperate lies
and all you want to do is believe her
And tonight you'll try just one more time to leave it all behind and to break on through
Oh, she can take you, but if she wants to break you,
she's gonna find out that ain't so easy to do
And no matter where you sleep tonight or how far you run
Whoa-oh, she's the one
She's the one

The message of "She's the One," if reduced to one cliched sentence, would be: "Women; can't live with them, can't live without them."  Like I said, it that is well-worn ground for songwriters, which is why it is cliched.  But there are treatments of cliched tropes that further the cliche, and there are treatments of cliched …