The Entertainment Value of Social Fury

There are plenty of people on TV and Radio who want me to get mad. Fury is profitable.

I am a conservative. But increasingly I find that listening to conservatives in the media is an exercise in anger. There are things I need to be angry about. But not at everything and with everyone who disagrees with me, or may even whom be mad at me.

The tone of NPR, if not always the content,  is about right for me. Of course, the bias there is left. And every once in a while their bias caters to anger and downright snark.  But by and large I don’t need the emotionalism. I want a thoughtful discussion where all sides get to give their best shot.

The church can find anger useful. Getting parishioners mad at somebody is entertaining and can yield the impression that God is present.  This is unholy fire and puts up a lot of people in the burn unit. And it ends up biting the very people who use it.

In AA those who struggle with alcohol are continually warned against anger. It is the one emotion they cannot afford. A good warning to us all. Man’s passion does not accomplish the work of God, according to the Apostle James.

Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone

I listened to Eric Klinenberg’s interview on After Words (podcast) on his new book.

What he means by alone is, well, alone. Not living with a child or a roommate but physically alone in home or apartment.

Some stats: (for USA)

1 of 7 adults, or 32 million,  lives alone, 28% of all household. In 1950 there were 4 million, under 10%
In 1950 those under age 35 living alone numbered 500,000. Today it’s 5 million
49% of Americans are single. 90% of adults will be married at some point in their lives.
In some cities, such as Manhattan and Washington, DC, 50% of the households are adults living alone
Suburbanization was designed for not living alone. Now it is having to do double duty and failing at the project of keeping single adults connected to community.
Living alone is expensive and requires advanced so
cieties to make this an option
The USA is not alone in this trend. Northern Europeans lived alone in some cities at the rate of 60%
Japan, India, Brazil and China are also experiencing these trends.
Adults under the age of 45 living alone are more likely to be men.

Americans are much less ready to live in a relationship that doesn’t feel right and now have more options not to do so.

Architects and community planners are experimenting with ways to create connection while accommodating the 28% of single adults living alone demographic.

The gay community has pioneered the living alone experiment. The ways they have handled the experience are giving clues to how adults have managed the process.

My thoughts:

1. I wonder how the church is going to handle this trend
2. Most models of church life are suburban and married with children.
3. Will the church take the observation “that it is not good for man to be alone” and “force” parishioners to put marriage on their dockets?
4. Will the moral challenges of single adult living find a place in the church’s version of the good life? Or will it deal with morality pretty much in the context of married life?
5. How will the financial strain of living alone affect the way parishes manage themselves? There is less money left for charitable causes in life alone.


Was John Calvin a Closet, Wolf-in-Sheep’s-Clothing, Liberal Gospel Higher Critic?

Peter Enns has a helpful posting at his blog. The reality is that John Calvin appeared to be open to a little higher criticism himself, believing as he did that the Sermon on the Mount was not a single sermon by Christ but a collection of his sayings pieced together.

In our day this would make him a liberal. He couldn’t teach at Westminster Seminary. 🙂

This reminds me that those who try to base inspiration on inerrancy have got it the wrong way around. To prove that this or that could have been the way the Scriptures were put together or that this or that is the actual status of the text is an infinity of projects. You will never get to full inspiration from there. You will only get to probabilities. And the kind of faith we are asking for can’t rest in probabilities, only certainties. I think David Hume adequately demonstrated the inability of science (empiricism) to yield certainty. One does not need his radical skepticism to appreciate the essence of his argument – the process of induction can never bring us to certainty, no matter how much evidence.

I am one of those who continues to affirm this hyperactive approach of inerrantists to uncovering the original text. Otherwise there is just too much sloppiness in higher critical thinking. Too many too easily jump to conclusions that are unnecessary and unwarranted and simply reflect an anti-supernatural bias. Serious pushback by inerrantists is absolutely necessary.

However, even after all these years of work, inerrantists have not come up with a product that requires belief in inspiration. But those who believe in inspiration never needed inerrancy in order to do so. Sane scholarship (as in not the Bart Ehrman kind) will lead to high confidence in the biblical text. Of course, conservatives would assert that the kind of inspiration they end up believing is not worthy enough to actually be functionally valuable.

I find that the Evangelical obsessions with justification by grace through faith alone and inerrancy exhausting. These are flags easily waved and the charge into battle is invigorating. But we are left with a scholasticism that doesn’t breath and sucks the air away from so many worthy project.

If I had to do it all over again, I would love to be a text critic and do some of the work Daniel Wallace is doing at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Crossing Paths with John Dean

Last night I went to hear Douglas Brinkley on tour for his new book, Cronkite, at the Harvard Bookstore. The room for the talk only holds 40 or 50. Maybe about 30 there.

Lo and behold, John Dean of Watergate fame was sitting there with the rest of us. This is the man who did as much as anyone to bring down the presidency of Richard Nixon. I remember watching his testimony before Congress live. What a moment of drama.

So here we 30 were all together – the poor and the not so poor, the young, the old, the scholar, the black, the white, the powerless and the influential. What a special moment in the American experience – huddled in a bookstore, nestled into the world of ideas and considering the great moments of the national experience through the life of Walter Cronkite.

I love this country.