Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s four types of readers
From lecture two of his Seven Lectures On Shakespeare and Milton
Marilynne Robinson is one of the great religious novelists, not only of our age, but any age. Reading her new novel Lila, one wonders how critics could worry that American fiction has lost its faith, though such worries make one think there might well have been wedding guests at Cana who complained about the shortage of water after witnessing the miracle with wine. — Marilynne Robinson’s Lila Review | New Republic. Robinson is wonderful, but one novelist, no matter how great, can’t do justice to the varieties of religious experience. Even if she were the greatest religious writer who ever lived, one might legitimately wish for American fiction, at its highest levels, to be more attentive to matters of faith.
Books had better titles in those days
I wrote a little something about reading here.
To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves – there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. — Joan Didion, “On Self-Respect,” from Slouching Towards Bethlehem (via austinkleon)
For obit writers, the whole world is necessarily divided into the dead and the pre-dead. That’s all there is. — Paris Review – What It’s Like to Write About the Dead Every Day, Alex Ronan
Many Christian organizations, as they think about their treatment of gays and lesbians, and their theology of sexuality more generally, are “evolving,” or “in process,” or "on the journey." And make no mistake, this is a journey on a one-way street: no Christian group is moving from greater to less tolerance of same-sex relationships.
So let’s imagine that a given Christian organization takes its journey from A to B. A is believing that sexual activity between people of the same sex is wrong because it is forbidden by Scripture and/or by Church teaching; B is believing that such sexual activity is not necessarily forbidden (not “intrinsically disordered”) and can, under the same conditions of faithfulness that have traditionally governed opposite-sex unions, be blessed by the church.
Let’s also assume that God has not changed His mind about sexuality.
So as we try to evaluate this imaginary Christian organization, we can see what has happened in one of three ways:
1) At one point, the organization held views about sexuality that were largely determined by its social environment, but it has now reconsidered those views in light of the Gospel and has come to a more authentically Christian understanding of the matter.
2) At one point, the organization held authentically Christian views about sexuality, but has succumbed to public pressure and fear of being scorned or condemned and now holds views that are determined by its social environment.
3) The organization has always held the views about sexuality that were socially dominant, bending its understanding of Scripture to suit the times; it just changed when (or soon after) the main stream of society changed.
Note that there is no way to read this story as one of consistent faithfulness to a Gospel message that works against the grain of a dominant culture.
And that’s the key issue, it seems to me — that’s what churches and other Christian organizations need to be thinking about. Either throughout your history or at some significant point in your history you let your views on a massively important issue be shaped largely by what was acceptable in the cultural circles within which you hoped to be welcome. How do you plan to keep that from happening again?
Which religion will have the toughest time reconciling aliens with its beliefs?
The ones that have decided that we humans are the sole focus of God’s attention. The religions that see the world through that viewpoint tend to be some of the Christian evangelicals. The Eastern Orthodox Church, a branch of Catholicism, also has that view. — Did Jesus Save the Klingons? - Scientific American. Meanwhile, here we have an astronomer, David Weintraub of Vanderbilt, who has written a whole book about “religion and extraterrestrials” without bothering to learn anything at all about Christianity. He’s just making up shit as he goes along, but it’s hard to do better than “The Eastern Orthodox Church, a branch of Catholicism.”
Once more, John Siracusa has written a massive review of the newest iteration of the Macintosh operating system — 26,000 words of thoughtful and well-written analysis. Below you’ll find what to me — repeat, to me: your needs may be different — are some of the highlights of the review, and of Yosemite. (I’ve omitted quotation marks, but it’s all Siracusa from here on.)
The University of Chicago Press is pleased to announce the launch of History of Humanities, a new journal devoted to the historical and comparative study of the humanities. The first issue will be published in the spring of 2016.
History of Humanities, along with the newly formed Society for the History of the Humanities, takes as its subject the evolution of a wide variety of disciplines including archaeology, art history, historiography, linguistics, literary studies, musicology, philology, and media studies, tracing these fields from their earliest developments, through their formalization into university disciplines, and to the modern day. By exploring these subjects across time and civilizations and along with their socio-political and epistemic implications, the journal takes a critical look at the concept of humanities itself. — Chicago to Publish New Journal: History of Humanities. I’m quite interested in this journal and look forward to reading it, but NB: of the 49 (!) Editors and Associate Editors, there is only one scholar of religion — a professor of Islamic Intellectual History — and no one in biblical studies or theology. And yet those disciplines have had some role to play in the history of the humanities, I dare say.
I’ve been asked more than once what the formula for effective action against Ebola might be. It’s often those reluctant to invest in a comprehensive model of prevention and care for the poor who ask for ready-made solutions. What’s the ‘model’ or the ‘minimum basic package’? What are the ‘metrics’ to evaluate ‘cost-effectiveness’? The desire for simple solutions and for proof of a high ‘return on investment’ will be encountered by anyone aiming to deliver comprehensive services (which will necessarily include both prevention and care, all too often pitted against each other) to the poor. Anyone whose metrics or proof are judged wanting is likely to receive a cool reception, even though the Ebola crisis should serve as an object lesson and rebuke to those who tolerate anaemic state funding of, or even cutbacks in, public health and healthcare delivery. Without staff, stuff, space and systems, nothing can be done. — Paul Farmer · Diary: Ebola · LRB 23 October 2014
The superhero death ritual is so exhausted at this point that the cynicism of Marvel acknowledging Wolverine’s inevitably temporary absence feels refreshing. Previous superhero deaths saw no such acknowledgement. In some far-distant past, when comic books were more innocent, death was even understood to be permanent. But here are some superhero deaths that at least had the virtue of being heroic, epic and moving ways to go out, however temporarily. Maybe the next time Marvel kills Wolverine they’ll get it right. — Spencer Ackerman. The least interesting thing that can happen to a comic-book hero, within the narrative logic now regnant, is death. The very least.
World’s tallest cow