20 June 2006

Some Non-GC Reading.

Books & Culture has some interesting stuff up these days, none of which is related to the Episcopal General Convention. Herewith a few excerpts and links:

"Way back in the Sixties in a small, second-floor apartment in Nashville, a struggling singer-songwriter named Kris Kristofferson sat scandalized by a story he happened upon in the pages of Life magazine. It appeared that the lone white Baptist minister to sit alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., at the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (who'd also accompanied black schoolchildren past the screaming mobs of Little Rock in 1956) was now actively involved in ministry and friendship with members of the Ku Klux Klan. Will Campbell was his name, and he'd doubtless make for good songwriting material if nothing else. But the world took a stranger turn when Kristofferson realized that this controversial figure was the same unassuming minister who occupied the office immediately beneath his apartment. Kristofferson ran downstairs and expressed his astonishment without preamble. "What the hell kind of a place is this? You've got a preacher who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King and also ministers to members of the Ku Klux Klan. I'm a Rhodes Scholar, and I don't understand that."

"Maybe the reason you don't understand it is that you are a Rhodes Scholar," Campbell slyly replied.

This little anecdote came to me after years of being haunted by what I can only call the multipartisan witness of Will Campbell. I read about him in an issue of Rolling Stone when I was in college. I was pleased to discover that he was stationed only a few miles from me in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. And when I undertook some cross-community work in Northern Ireland upon graduating, neither party (Catholic or Protestant) knew quite what to make of my tales of the Klansman-loving, civil rights activist, Baptist preacher Will Campbell. I didn't either. But I was pleased to testify that the biblical imperative to "be reconciled" (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) was a more complicated, strange, and wonderful business than they, caught in their bloody, faith-based, sectarian strife, or I, as a white, American southerner, had begun to understand.

Goodbye, Blog, Alan Jacobs

"Whatever one thinks about the structure of the internet as a whole, it is becoming increasingly clear that the particular architecture of the blogosphere is the chief impediment to its becoming a place where new ideas can be deployed, tested, and developed. Take, for instance, the problem of comments.

The industry-standard blog architecture calls for something like this: a main area on the page where the blogger's own posts are presented, with the newest post at the top of the page; then, at the left or right or both, various supplements: links to other sites, personal information about the blogger, and so on. At the bottom of each post will be the hyperlinked word "comments," usually followed by a parenthesis indicating the number of responses to the post: click on the word and you get to see all those comments. That's where the real conversation is supposed to take place. And sometimes it does; but often it doesn't—or rather, the conversation just gets started and then peters out before it can really become productive. And this happens not because of inertia, but largely because the anatomy of a blog makes a serious conversation all but impossible.

God of the Latte, Lauren Winner

"A few weeks ago, I visited a church in a locale I'll call Levittown. The building was mid-century churchy: stained glass windows; deep, dark wooden pews;

prominent pulpit and altar; upright piano on a dais. But about twenty minutes into the service, something decidedly contemporary caught my eye: a giant (should I say venti?) Starbucks cup sitting proudly on the piano. How's that for contemporary iconography? I wonder if it was a paid product placement.

Starbucks is an icon of suburbia, of course, even if the great coffee institution did start in Seattle, and it is fashionable to decry suburban living. Indeed, one of the few things agrarians and urbanites share is their utter horror for the suburbs, whose gated communities and starter mansions are poison for the soul. Even suburbanites themselves often engage in anti-suburb diatribes, albeit a tad sheepishly.

Recovering Catholic, Christopher Shannon:

"Long before the current clergy sex abuse scandal, a significant portion of American Catholics had already come to identify themselves as survivors. Viewed rhetorically, the response to this all-too-real current crisis follows the script of an earlier abuse scandal of somewhat more questionable veracity: Catholic education. American Catholics who came of age in the 1960s like to identify themselves, for better or for worse, as the people who were beaten by nuns. As comedy or tragedy, this story has been American Catholics' chief contribution to late 20th-century American popular culture, as witnessed by the broad appeal of stage productions such as Do Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?, St. Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, Nunsense, and Late Night Catechism.

In God and Man at Georgetown Prep, Mark Gauvreau Judge writes as a survivor not of abuse, but of neglect. Coming of age in the 1970s, Judge missed out on the gory/glory days of tough-guy priests and ruler-wielding nuns. Drawing on the theological spirit, if not the anglophile cultural posturing, of the conservative Catholic William F. Buckley's classic God and Man at Yale, Judge exposes and indicts the functional atheism that has shaped Catholic educational institutions in the decades following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Judge's book is an unabashed plea for Catholics to recover the world they have lost and reclaim the birthright they have sold for the material comforts and cultural respectability of mainstream, middle-class American life.



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