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Week In Review

Another Week Ends: Cultural Morality, Internet Extremism, Pastoring Suburbanites, Theologies as Medicine, More Lutheranism at 500, and Pixar on Parenting

Another Week Ends: Cultural Morality, Internet Extremism, Pastoring Suburbanites, Theologies as Medicine, More Lutheranism at 500, and Pixar on Parenting

Jam-packed AWE this week. We’ll start with some articles examining our cultural (‘little-l’) laws, then look in on theology, and then turn to culture. Oh, and Sarah Condon went on Steve Brown’s show this past week – I hear it’s incredible, and you can check it out here.

1. The divine moral law and our own cultural imperatives intersect (and diverge) in interesting ways. God’s unchanging Law dwells in our hearts, but our cultural mores are mercurial, ever-changing. You could think of God’s law and each of our cultural norm-sets du jour as Venn diagrams: our cultural morality is (1) a partial recognition of true…

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Another Week Ends: Angelism and Gnosticism, Hero Donors, Internal Fact-Checking, Parent Gardeners, More Fleming, and Lots of Fishing Line

Another Week Ends: Angelism and Gnosticism, Hero Donors, Internal Fact-Checking, Parent Gardeners, More Fleming, and Lots of Fishing Line

1. “Gnostic” is the dig du jour, apparently. Has anybody else noticed it everywhere? Perhaps it is because “righteousness by knowledge alone” pretty aptly describes what’s going on in the never-ending politically divisive/campus sensitive saga we can’t seem to get clear of. Another article to add to that pile came to us from American Conservative this week, about the inherent gnosticism of the term “woke.” “Woke,” which is an ever-changing, never-achievable term, represents the ideal form (or infinitude of forms) of social consciousness:

This new adjective woke is a stamp of approval, a self-congratulating label, a goal, a challenge. Most importantly,…

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Another Week Ends: Specious Ideology, Moral Grandstanding, J Crew, Alain on Augustine, Passive Aggression, Yelp Reviews & Catastrophe

Another Week Ends: Specious Ideology, Moral Grandstanding, J Crew, Alain on Augustine, Passive Aggression, Yelp Reviews & Catastrophe

Alrighty, one last lap before the plunge (and this hits):

1. Another week, another report (or three) of ideological insularity in the halls of higher learning. This week the flashpoints were a peer-reviewed philosophy paper about transracialism and a sensitivity training seminar at a divinity school. Next week there will no doubt be fresh ones. The specifics vary and, even if I knew all the parties involved, I wouldn’t deign to comment on them here. I’ll spare you the links in fact; they can be easily found. What’s clear is that it’s only getting uglier out there, both in the academy…

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Another Week Ends: Too Much Fun, Deflating Pikachu, Rock’N’Roll Church, Lovely Creatures, Facebook Grief, Self-Control, and The Forbidden Apple

Another Week Ends: Too Much Fun, Deflating Pikachu, Rock’N’Roll Church, Lovely Creatures, Facebook Grief, Self-Control, and The Forbidden Apple

1. “Are We Having Too Much Fun?” asks Megan Garber, in this week’s Atlantic, re-examining the objections of renowned tech-skeptic Neil Postman.

Postman cautioned against a society focused too heavily on entertainment — a bitter pill to serve this Golden Age of TV that so often leaves us viewing life as a well-crafted episode. Moreover, Garber argues, when our entertainment is also our news (think late-night comedy-satire-journalism), politics become part of the joke, and apathy is sure to follow. Consider, too, all of those Harambe memes, and the more recent memes inspired by the United fiasco. On the one hand, should we be taking these things more seriously? On the other hand…

Scrolling through Instagram to see the…

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Another Week Ends: Questing for Cultural Innocence, Narrating Luther, Inverting Transhumanism and Reforming One's Pets

Another Week Ends: Questing for Cultural Innocence, Narrating Luther, Inverting Transhumanism and Reforming One’s Pets

Lots of love – commingled with envy – for everyone at the Tenth Annual Mockingbird Conference in NYC! “For the rest of us” (G. Costanza), some links for the weekend:

1. First up, The Hedgehog Review here in c-ville posted a wonderful article on “The Persistence of Guilt.” Who knew that the great Sigmund Freud once quipped, “the price we pay for our advance in civilization is a loss of happiness through the heightening of the sense of guilt”? The author argues that Freud helped “demoralize” guilt, to suggest that our guilty emotions were the product of the superego and could be…

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Another Week Ends: Humility, Hypocrisy, Kendrick Lamar, the Museum of Failure, the Bard of Suck, Late-Night Comedy, and "Slipping the Ideological Leash"

Another Week Ends: Humility, Hypocrisy, Kendrick Lamar, the Museum of Failure, the Bard of Suck, Late-Night Comedy, and “Slipping the Ideological Leash”

1. Popular depictions of Christianity, especially political ones, often prioritize joy, love, kindness, and — almost always — resolution. “The firm foundation.” But as Peter Wehner says this week in his surprisingly sympathetic NY Times op-ed, humility is often missing. Strange, considering this might be one of the few indisputable characteristics of the otherwise enigmatic Christ. Talk of spiritual fruit, though, gets tricky and usually spins off into a tirade of ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ without addressing what is. Wehner aptly navigates these snares:

At the core of Christian doctrine is the belief that we have all fallen short, that our loves are disordered and our…

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Another Week Ends: Anger Rooms, Egyptian Widows, Cookie Monster Confessions, Mr Warmth & The Last Jedi

Another Week Ends: Anger Rooms, Egyptian Widows, Cookie Monster Confessions, Mr Warmth & The Last Jedi

1. Good Friday, here we go! First up, courtesy of Duke Divinity, is Wesley Hill’s devastating “Anger Room”. After reflecting on the loss of a childhood friend–and the inclination to whitewash negativity–he recounts an anecdote about W.H. Auden that cuts straight to the heart of what today means:

Martin Luther famously distinguished between a “theology of glory” and a “theology of the cross.” In the former you find yourself substituting a crown of thorns and a body of nailed flesh for a more palatable scene. But with a “theologia crucis,” you can call a spade a spade. You can look grief…

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Another Week Ends: The Voice in Your Head, Campus Religion, Non-Western Christianity, S-Town, and Nihilist SoulCycle Instructors

Another Week Ends: The Voice in Your Head, Campus Religion, Non-Western Christianity, S-Town, and Nihilist SoulCycle Instructors

1. One of the many brilliant moments in the Harry Potter franchise arrived in Book 5, when Voldemort began manipulating Harry’s mind. The arch villain was no longer out there somewhere but inside Harry’s head. It was intrusive and frightening and completely true to life: on some level or another, we all have a noseless villain nosing about our heads, judging, manipulating, and condemning us.

This week’s first link investigates that voice — where does it come from, and what is it? — in a beautiful piece from Fr. Stephen Freeman, over on his Ancient Faith blog, entitled “Look Who’s Talking” (ht RS):

I was particularly struck…

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Another Week Ends: Leaders, Video Games, FJM, Malick, Aimee Mann, and the Jesus Slingshot

Another Week Ends: Leaders, Video Games, FJM, Malick, Aimee Mann, and the Jesus Slingshot

1. Toward the end of Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress one of the characters makes a comment that’s proven more than a little prescient. Lily observes, “There’s all this propaganda in favor of uniqueness, eccentricity, independence, etc, but does the world really want or need more of such traits? Aren’t such people usually terrible pains in the neck? What the world needs to work properly is a large mass of normal people — I’d like to be one of those.” The irony is thick, of course, as the characters, by saying something so overtly counter-cultural, reveal themselves to be independent…

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Another Week Ends: Chuck Berry, Preachy Ads, Yik Yak Help, Optimist Empathy, Missing Richard Simmons, and the Relentless Gig Economy

Another Week Ends: Chuck Berry, Preachy Ads, Yik Yak Help, Optimist Empathy, Missing Richard Simmons, and the Relentless Gig Economy

1. If you, too, have wondered where all the moral messaging has been coming from in advertisements—whether it’s Amazon, Barbie, Budweiser, or 84 Lumber—why all those Super Bowl ads were so heavily imbued with political and philosophical truisms, well, you’re not alone. This week, Megan Garber of The Atlantic wrote an article called “Selling What They Preach,” which is an observation of the kind of morality flag-bearing happening during a lot of primetime TV commercials. She’s extremely aware of the irony of this endeavor—that so many of these enormous, consumer-focused businesses are spinning messages of “empathy” or “togetherness” or “love,”…

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Another Week Ends: Anti-Self-Help Self-Help, The Disease of More, God in a Machine, Fake Nice People, Born-Again Paganism, Religious Politics, and the Mystery of Matter

Another Week Ends: Anti-Self-Help Self-Help, The Disease of More, God in a Machine, Fake Nice People, Born-Again Paganism, Religious Politics, and the Mystery of Matter

1. This week, The New York Times’ Henry Alford tackled the world of anti-self-help self-help in his piece, “I’m Not O.K. Neither Are You. Who Cares?” In it, he unpacks not only the rising tide of “anti-self-help books” but also their eye-catching common denominator: the F word. Given that word’s increasing popularity, I guess it’s no surprise that we like a good hardcover lesson in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, or The Life Changing Magic of Not [doing the same]. But, as Alford makes clear, these books are not as contrarian as they’d hope to appear. If self-help is the popular religion of the day,…

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Another Week Ends: Buffy Summers, Joan Didion, Progressive Comfort Zones, Petrified Wood, Hapless Patriots, and Silent Faith

Another Week Ends: Buffy Summers, Joan Didion, Progressive Comfort Zones, Petrified Wood, Hapless Patriots, and Silent Faith

1. Believe it or not, today marks the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. No small thing for those who grew up in the 90s and/or appreciate good television. The AV Club has been mining the series all week for great articles, but the single best thing I’ve read is Sophie Gilbert’s piece in The Atlantic about “The Radical Empathy of Buffy‘s Best Episode”, AKA season 5’s “The Body”, which Gilbert calls “one of the most sophisticated analyses of the impact of death ever produced on television”. Amen to that. As for our own celebration, I invite you to…

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