28 August 2008

Classic Maddux

Greg Maddux had a little bit of a rough outing last night and even made an error, but this play is the vintage stuff and makes the case for his 18th Gold Glove.

27 August 2008

Getting Serious About The MDG's

Alan Jacobs considers the "commitment" of the Episcopal Church and the other sideline - I mean, mainline - Protestant denominations to the Millennium Development Goals:
Mainline Protestants love to talk about the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. When Katherine Jefferts Schori was invested as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in 2006, she offered not one word about sin, forgiveness, reconciliation with God, or discipleship, but many words in support of the Millennium Development Goals. In numerous sermons and speeches since then she has lamented that all the theological controversies surrounding the Anglican world have distracted us from our real mission, which is to help realize the Millennium Development Goals.

. . .

So my advice to all the mainline churches that see achievement of the MDGs as the core of their mission: sell all you have and give it to the poor. Your many possessions do absolutely nothing for the MDGs: sell them. Sell the chalices. Sell the copes, surplices, and cassocks. Sell the plate. Sell the prayer books, hymnals, and (if you have any) Bibles. Sell the pews. Sell the stained glass. Sell the buildings and the land to those who actually need them. Sell it all and give the proceeds to organizations who can actually do something to achieve the Goals that you say are at the very heart of your mission. Put your money where your mouth is. Or else shut up.
Here's the whole thing.

20 August 2008

It Has A Creepy Infant Of Prague (w/ Armor!)

I'm not nearly hip enough to even pick up a graphic novel in Barnes & Noble, but I might risk picking this one up:
At first glance, it seems designed specifically to freak out everyone in its numerous potential overlapping markets--an intricately Gothic comic book, its dialogue written in elaborate blank verse, its plot inspired by and title borrowed from Dosdoyevsky's heavy-going Grand Inquisitor, and filled with all manner of strange hellfire, Marian visions, doctrinal arguments, and one deeply creepy Infant of Prague statue. But the author knows all that, already, and it is to his credit he forged ahead to produce this suspensful theological roller-coaster ride of a graphic novel.

. . .

The tale is simple, but all its permutations are profound. Sometime in the near future, a papal conclave drags on as the College of Cardinals finds itself at a deadlock. Tension mounts outside the Vatican walls. The liberals stage a walkout and hurl their scarlet robes to the crowd below in protest. The few remaining electors choose a complete unknown as the next pontiff, an African monk from a forgotten Traditionalist order. (Think Hadrian the Seventh, but with real saints and real sinners facing off rather than an empty conflict of aesthete poseurs and vulgar bureacrats). Unfortunately, one prince of the Church, possessing his own strange and alarming agenda, arranges a mix-up at the new pontiff's airport pickup. The vast bulk of the story deals with the confrontation between the cardinal--incidentally, a dead ringer for Teilhard de Chardin--and the simple priest, now imprisoned in the mental ward of a Roman hospital along with a dozen or so deranged papal claimants of a less legitimate nature. What happens next will decide the fate of the Church, and with it, the world.

In the hands of nearly anyone else it might have turned into a clunkily-plotted Dan Brown novel, but instead it takes a wholly unexpected and thought-provoking turn. Indeed, it amazes me how quickly the reader is drawn into the story, even though it contains no car-chases or fantastical BOOMs! and ZAPs! but focuses instead on the claustrophobic struggle--sometimes spiritual, sometimes quite physical--between the African Carthusian and rightful pontiff-elect, his captor, and a mystical Eastern-Rite cardinal the villain has also imprisoned. All three are remarkably well-imagined and believable characters, wrestling with equally believable, though terrifying, existential problems. Even the traitorous, wire-pulling cardinal does his dark deeds out of the twisted sort of logic you or I could succumb to in the face of despair.
Here's the whole thing.
The Grand Inquisitor. John Zmirak (author) & Carla Millar (illustrator)

A Warm Gun, &c.

Of Happiness, and its limited good:
there is another threat, perhaps as dangerous: We are eradicating a major cultural force, the muse behind much art and poetry and music. We are annihilating melancholia.

A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that almost 85 percent of Americans believe that they are very happy or at least pretty happy. The psychological world is now abuzz with a new field, positive psychology, devoted to finding ways to enhance happiness through pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Psychologists practicing this brand of therapy are leaders in a novel science, the science of happiness. Mainstream publishers are learning from the self-help industry and printing thousands of books on how to be happy. Doctors offer a wide array of drugs that might eradicate depression forever. It seems truly an age of almost perfect contentment, a brave new world of persistent good fortune, joy without trouble, felicity with no penalty.

Why are most Americans so utterly willing to have an essential part of their hearts sliced away and discarded like so much waste? What are we to make of this American obsession with happiness, an obsession that could well lead to a sudden extinction of the creative impulse, that could result in an extermination as horrible as those foreshadowed by global warming and environmental crisis and nuclear proliferation? What drives this rage for complacency, this desperate contentment?

Here's the whole thing (via Arts & Letters Daily).

See also this piece on how children ruin "happiness," and this important response from Alan Jacobs (and good comments thereon).

12 August 2008

The Dark Night & Love.

That's Night not Knight. Michael Novak interviewed re his new book, No One Sees God:
RR: The name of your new book is No One Sees God. What do you mean by that title?

MN: When I was in high school and, after, in the novitiate, studying for the Holy Cross Fathers, I read a lot of St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. John of the Cross, all of whom wrote movingly of the “dark night” of silence and isolation in prayer often experienced by the seasoned believer. Gone are the sweet consolations of earlier life. Instead of warm feelings, nothing. As I read more and more atheist writers, I could not help noting how “in the dark” they also felt when trying to think about God. The analogy among these experiences fascinated me. I could see how easy it would be to be an atheist, if I interpreted my own experience of bleakness in certain ways. I realized that in their own night, atheists often caricature the consolations that they imagine hold believers erect. They don’t understand. God is not on the same wavelength as our senses, imagination, or memory. To be in His presence is often to be empty of props from such quarters. Sometimes the only guide we have is love: “How do we know that we love God? If we have love for one another.”
Here's the whole thing.

07 August 2008


What a world we live in.

During a subsequent court appearance Joyce McKinney, is reputed to have said: “I loved him so much that I would ski naked down Mount Everest with a carnation up my nose if he asked me to.”

Via the Corner.

Doctors & Mohels, Progress & Fidelity

An excerpt of Eric Cohen's new book, In the Shadow of Progress:

When my son was born, he had trouble breathing—visible to his nervous father in the bluish tint of his skin, diagnosed by the attending physician from the low percentage of oxygen in his blood. So off he went, within minutes, to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). He was, truth to tell, the healthiest child in a row of babies struggling to survive. He was a giant among “preemies”—there for observation, not because only modern machines and master physicians could keep him alive. After a few days, he was released and reunited with his waiting mother. We rolled him from the third floor to the sixth, from NICU to normal, from anxiety to relief. Blessed by nature, blessed by science, we left the hospital “on schedule.” We also knew that many children did not, and that some children never left at all. Nature is not always so generous; science is not always so powerful. But for us, in those moments, we marveled at both.

A few days later, my son was circumcised in the traditional Jewish way—in our home, by a mohel, with grandparents present. The mohel’s instruments were archaic compared to the machinery of the NICU; the modern beeping of the incubators gave way to ancient blessings and rituals that have persisted from generation to generation for millennia. If the NICU exemplifies the most elevated ambitions of progress—to heal the broken body, to sustain life in the face of death, to correct nature’s mistakes—the bris is a reminder of the permanent horizons of human life—the mystery of human origins, the cycle of the generations, the eternal drama of rearing those who will one day stand in one’s place, and, in the normal course of things, at one’s graveside. The bris embodies the eternal hope that lies beyond progress; what it aims to sanctify—the welcoming of a new child—is not a novel artifact of the current age but a primordial experience of being human.

Yet, remarkably, one of the defining features of the modern era is that the most modern individuals are not having enough children to sustain their societies from one generation to the next. Communities defined by their ancient faith continue to have children in high numbers, believing they have something sacred to sustain in the flesh and rearing of their young. But those most immersed in the pleasures and possibilities of modern life seem least driven to raise up a generation to follow in their footsteps. Societies defined by the forward march of progress are failing to bring life forward in the most fundamental sense. What faith, we are left to wonder, does modern man have in the cosmic significance of modern, individualist, technological life? If procreation is the deepest form of fidelity to one’s civilization, then what does modern man’s infidelity say about the relative greatness (or goodness) of the modern age? Is progress really progress?

One might ask this question—is progress really progress?—about many domains of modern life: Is it progress to ameliorate human sadness by altering the chemical balance of the brain? Is it progress to seek cures for the sick by destroying human embryos? Is it progress to screen and select the genetic make-up of one’s offspring? Is it progress to wield the force of the split atom, or to transform the habitats of nature into oil fields?

Cohen is editor of The New Atlantis.

06 August 2008

Now What?

Who knows?

Jordan Hylden is cautiously optimistic and provides a handy "best of" digest of Lambeth reading:
It’s over, but it’s far from done. The 2008 Lambeth Conference wrapped up this past Sunday, and all the purple-shirted Anglican bishops went back home to the everyday work of proclaiming the Gospel in dioceses from Singapore to South Dakota. Was it a success? Will Anglicans look back someday on Lambeth as a step on the road to healing their troubled church?
Here's the whole thing.

05 August 2008

What To Do?

Alan Jacobs responds to Peter Ould at exactly the point where the rubber meets the road in the ecclesial mess that is the Anglican Communion:

But let me address this issue more directly. I left the Episcopal Church and joined a new Anglican church largely because I did not want to have my son instructed in beliefs I do not share. Consider this: the man who is now the rector at the parish I left — a wonderfully kind and generous man, by the way — preached, on Easter Sunday no less, that it does not matter whether Jesus was or was not raised physically from the dead. Now, I happen to think that it matters very much whether Jesus was or was not raised from the dead, and unless I am tragically mistaken, St. Paul did too (see 1 Corinthians 15). I am glad that my son, instead of hearing this sermon, heard a sermon from Father Martin Johnson that joyfully and boldly proclaimed the fact of the Resurrection.

What does Peter Ould have to say to me? He does not believe that All Souls’ Church should exist, at least in its current form, so what options does he think were legitimate and appropriate ones for us? Is it his view that we we obliged to remain at our former church and allow our son to receive false teaching — and not just from the pulpit — which we could then, presumably, correct once we got home? Or would we be allowed to form a new church as long as it had no bishop other than TEC’s — an independent church, say? How about becoming Baptists or Presbyterians or Methodists? If Ould’s concern is the maintaining of catholicity, and catholicity requires bishops whose territories are geographically distinct, then attending any of those non-Anglican churches would violate catholicity just as much as attending a church affiliated with the Southern Cone would.

As far as I can tell, then, Ould is saying that the only way for my wife and me to avoid sin in this matter is to allow ourselves and our son to be instructed in heresy. This strikes me as a deeply strange notion of what it means to be orthodox, and one that my wife and I cannot accept. The notion that violations of traditional ecclesiastical polity, especially in the post-Reformational age, are to be taken as seriously as violations of creedal orthodoxy and Biblical moral teaching — well, that’s just wrong.

Here's the whole thing. Here's Peter Ould's piece (which, as Jacobs himself points out, has considerable merit).

04 August 2008

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, R.I.P.

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”


“I am of course confident that I will fulfill my tasks as a writer in all circumstances -- from my grave even more successfully and more irrefutably than in my lifetime. No one can bar the road to truth, and to advance its cause I am prepared to accept even death. But may it be that repeated lessons will finally teach us not to stop the writer's pen during his lifetime? At no time has this ennobled our history.”


"A World Split Apart", the 1978 Harvard commencement address.


03 August 2008

Top 100 Novels

Killer, Lover.

While Wladek “Killer” Kowalski was feared by wrestling fans throughout the world, alter ego Walter Kowalski was a kind, gentle man with a heart of gold who wouldn’t swat a fly. A vegetarian who neither smoked nor drank, he loved poetry and classical music, especially Mozart, and was a deep thinker who studied theology and metaphysics. While fans lustily booed him every time he stepped inside the ring, unbeknownst to them, Killer would meditate, visualizing an image of Jesus casting his light over the ring and the crowd.

. . .

A master of the dreaded claw hold when it was one of the most dangerous weapons in the profession, Kowalski was perpetual motion in the ring, wrestling’s version of a great white shark who never slowed down the pace.

Great profile of one of wrastlin's great
villains. Here's the whole thing.