September 30th, 2014 — 4:10pm
In A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis offers this remarkable – and in the context of his loss, excruciating – insight into the gift of otherness in marriage (it can be extended to other relationships as well):
I must think more about H. and less about myself.
Yes, that sounds very well. But there’s a snag. I am thinking about her nearly always. Thinking of the H. facts – real words, looks, laughs, and actions of hers. But it is my own mind that selects and groups them. Already, less than a month after her death, I can feel the slow, insidious beginning of a process that will make the H. I think of into a more and more imaginary woman. Founded on fact, no doubt. I shall put in nothing fictitious (or I hope I shan’t). But won’t the composition inevitably become more and more my own? The reality is no longer there to check me, to pull me up short, as the real H. so often did, so unexpectedly, by being so thoroughly herself and not me.
The most precious gift that marriage gave me was this constant impact of something very close and intimate yet all the time unmistakably other, resistant – in a word, real. Is all that work to be undone? Is what I shall still call H. to sink back horribly into being not much more than one of my old bachelor pipe-dreams? Oh my dear, my dear, come back for one moment and drive that miserable phantom away. Oh God, God, why did you take such trouble to force this creature out of its shell if it is now doomed to crawl back – to be sucked back – into it?
(A Grief Observed, pp. 18–19)
Comment » | Life Together
September 24th, 2014 — 2:25pm
I give you Lane Filler of Newsday: “Isn’t it about time for God 2.0?”
And the response of a local pastor . . .
The title of Lane Filler’s opinion piece from last evening betrays perhaps more than he realizes. “God 2.0” would (Filler tells us) be an upgrade – but the real question is, who’s producing and/or testing these various iterations? If, as Filler assumes, the iterations originate with us humans, then we should ask who’s competent to decide the features of “God 2.0.” The answer in Filler’s piece is clear enough: an enlightened “we” who “now know better” than all the religious simpletons still stuck in beta. This enlightened caste looms large in Filler’s article – note the flurry of first person plural pronouns. He’s a deep and earnest believer in their pronouncements. He should be. He counts himself in their blessed number.
I’m more interested, though, in his underlying assumption: that the God versions originate with us. I wonder if he’s even aware that this assumption – without which his entire essay is nonsense – is an unproven dogma of materialist atheism. If there is no God and we’re all just making up this religion thing as we go, then there could be such a thing as “God 2.0.” If, on the other hand, we’re not making God but rather He made us, then we don’t get to decide who He is, how He needs to change, or what He’s allowed or not allowed to say and do. In fact, something like real humility might be in order.
The resolution of this “if” question is crucial to everything Filler wants to say, yet he never mentions it – whether from ignorance or hubris, it’s hard to tell. I for one couldn’t care less what he likes about his “God 2.0” until he can show that it’s more than a religious fantasy, a bit of shareware he likes to run when he yearns “for more morality and spirituality.”
Comment » | Things Come Lately
September 10th, 2014 — 7:52am
Early in his recent work, The Great and Holy War, Philip Jenkins explores the religious apocalyptic and millenarian expectations that swirled around World War I, on both sides of the conflict. His analysis of what happened when these expectations were dashed is extremely sobering. While some, he says, simply renounced their hopes, “others found grounds for rededication, as expectations were transferred into the secular realm.” Disillusionment with the dreams of the mainline churches led to fresh pursuit of those dreams through political channels:
Wartime dreams and expectations found new forms of expression that often bypassed the mainline churches. In Europe, this spiritual meltdown led directly to the interwar rise of extremist and totalitarian movements, as the shifting role of churches in national affairs opened the way to pseudo religions and secular political cults. These movements freely exploited supernatural hopes and fears to justify totalitarianism and state worship, aggression, and scapegoating. They offered a new world, to be achieved by whatever means proved necessary. . . . Both Nazis and Communists drew freely on popular millenarian traditions, and mimicked the rituals and iconography of the discredited churches. The two nations with the most aggressive ideologies of holy nationhood and holy struggle in 1914 were Germany and Russia, both of which would by the 1930s claim a vanguard role in new messianic movements seeking global dominance.
The sleep of religion brings forth monsters.
(Jenkins, pp. 19–20)
Comment » | The Way of All the Earth