"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy Holidays 2013! Buy now! Start your war on happiness early!

Pretty much how the season feels, right down to the cold....

Recovering from holiday preparations (nobody warned us about this when we were kids!), and it's time to clean out the closet to make room for newer stuff.  That's below.  This has been lingering for some time, and soon it will start festering.

Before that, noted in passing that this is actually pretty good for Amanda Marcotte.  This, on the other hand, is just plain stupid (and I think HuffPo buried their "exclusive" when they figured that out).  Why?  Seminaries don't ordain pastors; don't even declare 'em fit for ministry.  That's up to the churches.  Seminaries educate for ministry; but they don't pass on your qualifications.  Might as well blame law schools for turning out crooked lawyers (law schools don't license lawyers, either; the states do that).  And this is so good, I'd just like to quote the whole thing:

That GOP interest in “dependency” is code for some other interest becomes most clear when one considers what the term must actually mean. After all, dependency on the state for one’s allotment of wealth is hardly limited to poor people. Through the use of courts and police to see to the enforcement of contracts, trespassing laws and all other legal measures pertaining to property, the government determines that a person’s wealth will remain under their control. While it’s true that a person fully reliant upon, say, SNAP (the recently reduced Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program also known as food stamps) would be in dire straits if the government suddenly withdrew the legal structures that undergird and fund the program, so too would any wealthy person if the government suddenly refused to authorize police to involve themselves in the protection of private property. It’s legal structuring all the way down, in other words, when it comes to securing all our wealth; this is not limited to poor people using assistance programs.

I could do a book off of that paragraph alone.   And this one could set off a number of sermons, especially around "stewardship" Sundays:

For the GOP, the answer is simple: Volunteerism is superior to state assistance programs because it categorically prevents us from being held accountable as a culture for the suffering of our poor. Private giving is a wonderful thing to do, but by its very nature it can be neither guaranteed nor enforced. Republicans are comfortable with this situation, because it ensures that the wealthy will never be pressured in any serious sense to care for the needs of poor people. Supporting a volunteerist approach to poverty relief brings all the praise and warm fuzzy feelings of any crusade against poverty without any of the teeth: if, after the stump speech ends, a candidate decides to give nothing, nobody can do anything about it. The poor remain poor, needs remain unmet, and, perversely, the world is better in the GOP mind-set, because the poor are no longer “dependent” upon government.
Because church is always and forever, especially in America, a volunteer association.  You don't even have to pay, if you don't want to....

As I say, the lumber room needs clearing; and it's not just the stuff already written down.  Which brings me around to the post that's been lingering for weeks, looking for a picture and a title.  It starts with a discovery, the kind I may be exploiting more and more in the future:  digging through my own archives.

I found this interesting comment here; left who knows when, since the post is 9 years old but the comment is on Blogger, which I didn't start using for comments until a few years ago:

i find it rather strange how in the same words of admittance to a pagan day the desire for observance of that day - i personally think that people choose to incorporate or change things even within religion to suit their environment, to do what makes them feel most comfortable.

as the 25th of december is / was a day of remembrance for the birthday / rebirth of the sun god, in the same way as easter has nothing to do with Jesus, the name even being derived from a goddess, the adoption of the pagan festivities and therefore the sanctification of them to be called by another name i consider to be pure and unadulterated hypocrisy. even if you call a spade a fork, no matter who you fool into accepting it as a fork, a spade is what it remains.

the concept of family may well have developed from the books quoted, yet that still deviates from the reasons for it being named Christmas day and further continues to pull the wool over peoples eyes so to speak, although i think that in essence most people prefer it that way - to see only what they desire to see.

to even consider that paganism and christianity can reconcile in some way is in itself an anomaly. it is the need for a sense of belonging that drives people to religion and that also drives them to incorporate the things that make them feel comfortable into that as well. i can understand that and accept that, but i think it should be done with reality and facts in mind, instead of under a blanket of hypocrisy.
The basic assumption here is holiness, actually:  one thing is one thing, another another, and the two should not be intermixed.  If they are, impurity results and it is hypocrisy not to recognize it.  It's not far enough removed from the argument of the Puritans to say the argument is inherently atheistic, so I make no further assumptions about its origin.  Still, this is not the critical point the commenter thinks it is:

 even if you call a spade a fork, no matter who you fool into accepting it as a fork, a spade is what it remains.
It's a Platonic argument, not a modern one, and it underscores the fundamental assumption of the argument that things have an essence, and intermixing essences is moving away from the original Form into debasement.  "Fork," in modern philosophical circles (at least post-Hume), is a word; not a designation of essence.  I can call a "fork" a "spade," or any other term I choose, because terms change over time.  There are different words for items in English.  "Pizzle" was used in Shakespeare's day, but we don't use it today.  The object it identifies is the same, but the words are sharply different.  Does the thing identified remain the same despite the change in terminology?  Then why doesn't a fork, if I choose to call it a spade now?

to even consider that paganism and christianity can reconcile in some way is in itself an anomaly.
 Why?  Because paganism and Christianity are so divorced from each other?  On what grounds?  Again, the argument strikes me as more Puritan than atheistic.  Augustine folded in the Platonism (and neo-Platonism) of is day; Aquinas wed our understanding of Christian doctrine to the pagan teachings of Aristotle.  Even the Puritans can't expunge those roots.

 If one is going to incorporate into one's religion that which makes one comfortable, does that comfort come from God, or from the world?  Is God to be Creator only of the world, but otherwise as apart from the world as possible, and humanity to pursue the same degree of separation? Or are we allowed to mingle at least the things Jesus mingled, like food, drink, and people?  The real scandal of Paul's churches was not the command to eat and drink the body of Christ; it was generations and sexes and classes all joining at one table for a common meal.  The real scandal of Jesus was refusing to set God apart from the world, but insisting God was in the beggars and the prostitutes, the halt and the lame, the blind and the deaf, the dirty as well as the clean.  Who are you to call unclean what God has declared clean?, Peter is asked.  Although, to be fair, Peter was never really comfortable with including Gentiles or Gentile food.

But to end more or less where we began:

 although i think that in essence most people prefer it that way - to see only what they desire to see.
The sad truth is, the dirty little secret if you will, is that in the end, we can only see what we desire to see.

How we shape our desires, then, is the real issue.  Apropos of that, I came across this line (not directly a quote) from Noam Chomsky, one that betrays a great deal of (dare I say spiritual?) wisdom:

He views rock music, he says at one point, with the same polite puzzlement as he views religion. Both are clearly important to many people and form the basis for meaningful community. He doesn’t begrudge anyone their pleasures, but he simply doesn’t get it. (Chomsky has objected on epistemological grounds to being labeled an atheist: Until you can explain exactly what it is he’s not supposed to believe in, he says, the term doesn’t fit.)


Blogger rustypickup said...

"Supporting a volunteerist approach to poverty relief brings all the praise and warm fuzzy feelings of any crusade against poverty..." When living in England on a Radio 4 discussion group a conservative priest was going on about how government help was anonymous whereas charity from an actual person was better. If he needed relief he wanted it from a person, not the government. I thought that was easy to say with a full stomach. If you are hungry, you are just hungry and want to be fed. The source of the food is less important then the food itself. By the same reasoning I have always thought we got the Good Samaritan story backwards. When we make it about the Good Samaritan we are making it about how the help is provided. It would be much better to call it the Injured Traveler story. Then we would focus on the one in need, and meeting the need. It is meeting the need that matters, not the how. At the core I think this about credit. When it is voluntary, the giver gets credit, the "warm fuzzy" for the charity. No matter how small the charity you get credit. When the anonymous government provides aid, who gets the credit? In other words it is about making the relief about the giver and not the receiver, about the Samaritan and not the Injured Traveler. In the Gospels I hear Jesus talking about the receiver. The Beatitudes are about the suffering, not about those that help. The suffering are blessed and we are commanded to bring justice by feeding the hungry, comforting the grieving and so on. It is about them, not us.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Rmj said...

You put me in mind of Derrida:

If there is gift, the given of the gift (that which one gives, that which is given, the gift as given thing or as act of donation) must not come back to the giving (let us not already say to the subject, to the donor). It must not circulate, it must not be exchanged, it must not in any case be exhausted, as a gift, by the process of exchange, by the movement of circulation, of the circle in the form of return to the point of departure. If the figure of the circle is essential to economics the gift must remain aneconomic. Not that it remains foreign to the circle, but it must keep a relation of foreignness to the circle, a relation without relation of familiar foreignness. It is perhaps in this sense that the gift is the impossible.

The gift, he argues, is only that which is given without even the giver knowing it has been given; because any acknowledgment of the gift negates the gift, and becomes a matter of exchange (my kindness for your gratitude).

That is should be "aneconomic" seems to me to go somewhere Pope Francis is trying to go.....

9:59 PM  

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