New Here?
     
Philosophy

God as a Magnifying Mirror of Me: On American Folk Religion

God as a Magnifying Mirror of Me: On American Folk Religion

At the end of August, I shared a quote from sociologist Zygmunt Bauman in which he described social media networks and various communities in our day as reflections of the individual. That is, we contemporary Americans tend to seek out communities and people that help express our inner selves more visibly to the wider world. Like my new iPhone 7, J.Crew shirt, and selvedge denim jeans reveal something about their owner, so in much the same way are my networks and circle of friends an extension of my inner ego. And if Bauman is correct in that observation, then might it be that God is…

Read More > > >

Reflections on Art, Irony, and the Good News of Goosebumps

Reflections on Art, Irony, and the Good News of Goosebumps

Children’s book author Adam Gidwitz rang in the most wonderful time of the year (October, what else?) with an article in The New Yorker about the world-renowned series, Goosebumps. Marveling at the franchise’s unparalleled success, Gidwitz posed an unexpectedly contentious question: Should good children’s books teach a lesson?

The conundrum of the “good” children’s book is best embodied by the apparently immortal—or maybe just undead—series “Goosebumps,” by R. L. Stine. “Goosebumps” is a series of horror novellas, the kid’s-lit equivalent of B-horror movies. It’s also one of the most successful franchises in the business, selling over three hundred and fifty million copies…

Read More > > >

Kid Kierkegaard Chose…Poorly

Kid Kierkegaard Chose…Poorly

“Here I stand…not at a crossroads—no, but at a multitude of roads, and therefore it is all the harder to choose the right one.”
—Kierkegaard, in a letter to P.W. Lund, 1835

When I first read the above line by Christianity’s favorite philosopher, I thought, well, of course he faced a deluge of indecision in his white-haired smoky-armchaired nineteenth-century affluence—tea or coffee today? Hegel or Kant? Reading or writing? But it became more endearing, for me, when I realized that he was writing as a twenty-two-year-old and that I’d had the same exchange of words with a close friend the day before. Oh,…

Read More > > >

From the Archives: Modern Origins of Anxiety – Scientific Christianity and Epistemic Optimism

From the Archives: Modern Origins of Anxiety – Scientific Christianity and Epistemic Optimism

The question of what causes anxiety is one to which we’ve given an embarrassing amount of attention, especially within the context of Christianity. The Onion was good to remind us that “Anxiety [Isn’t] Resolved By Thinking About It Really Hard”, but the relationship between religion and anxiety is a fascinating and potent one; i.e., the decline of religion and rise of anxiety may not be completely independent phenomena… but by “decline of religion” we don’t just mean secularization, but also certain shifts within religion itself. As a Church called to look for the plank in our own eyes, I think our complicity in the rise of anxiety is as…

Read More > > >

The Benefit of Treating Your Spouse Like A Small Child

From a talk he gave on love this summer, Alain de Botton here gives us permission to view our significant others as the small children they actually are. Relying on a searingly low anthropology, de Botton argues that pessimism is, in fact, the key to a successful relationship. He says, “Pessimism is often seen as the enemy of good things, and indeed it is in many ventures. But when you embark on the journey of love, pessimism, in fact, is the most generous and kindly emotion you can direct towards yourself and your partner.” One of the ways we do this, he figures, is to disentangle one another from the “adult” expectations we have for one another. (The entire 20 minute talk, below, is well worth the listen. This comes in the last couple minutes.)

1436848227586_the-little-rascals

The first thing we need to understand is: let’s stop treating our partners as if they were adults and let’s start treating them like small children. The reason this is so important is when a small child has done something wrong—let’s imagine you have a small child, you cook them dinner, they’re two years old, three years old, you have broccoli and some schnitzel and you put a plate down in front of them and they just swipe it off and go, “Ech!” and start screaming. Now, what do you do as a modern parent? You don’t hit them. You don’t go, “I’m so offended, I’ve had a hard day at work, and now this—you’re persecuting me!” You don’t say that. Instead, you go, “Maybe my poor child’s got a sore tooth, or maybe he’s a bit jealous of his sister being born, maybe that’s kind of weighing on him, maybe he’s a bit tired, that’s why he’s behaving like this.” In other words, we’re incredibly generous with our system of interpretation. We don’t do this with adults because we think, This person’s an adult. And, most adults look like adults, unfortunately. It would be so much more useful if we looked like children.

The thing about breaking something—like a broken arm—is that everyone can see it. “Oh, you’ve got a broken arm! I’m so sorry, let me open the door for you.” If you’ve got a broken bit of your soul, a broken bit of your psyche, everyone thinks your normal. But you want to say, “No, no, I’ve got this thing, it’s broken even though it doesn’t look broken.” We don’t look like children—but we are inside. And we’re so aware of how patronizing it is to be treated as if you are younger than you are, but we forget how generous, how kind, how truly loving it is to treat someone as if they are younger than they are. Because this is what it means to truly love someone: to be generous in one’s interpretation of another person.

Walker Percy’s Two Classes of Maniacs

Walker Percy’s Two Classes of Maniacs

As the Mental Health Issue is coming together, it is becoming quite apparent that one of our chief navigators in the strange land of the human mind will be the one and only Walker Percy. This passage comes from his wildly original and heartwarming novel, The Second Coming. It is a portion of a letter written by the novel’s leading man, Will Barrett, a successful and well-respected retiree who has recently taken a fall into the “mentally unstable” category…by the grace of God. For Percy, his salvation can come only by way of the absurd–by truly examining the absurd existence he finds himself inhabiting. You will notice here that…

Read More > > >

More Thoughts on Hodor: Felix Culpa and the Identity of God in Game of Thrones

More Thoughts on Hodor: Felix Culpa and the Identity of God in Game of Thrones

Will McDavid wrote the definitive summary, critical review and reflection on last Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones, “The Door.” If you haven’t read it go directly there now. Do not pass go. Do not collect 200 hundred dollars. The short reflection that follows on the revelation of Hodor’s raison d’ etre is indebted to and dependent on Will’s insights. He did most of the heavy lifting already.

In his Poetics Aristotle observes that we will forgive a good story told badly, but never a bad story wrapped up in even the best of prose. For Aristotle plot is everything. The story…

Read More > > >

PZ’s Podcast: Cook’d Books

EPISODE 216

070409_r16088a_p646-320The text is from a leading Presidential candidate, but it applies to two of them — two persons who are ideologically apart but have one main thing in common.

That main thing is: They are exposing the Cook’d Book of life, which is designed — “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” (S. Wonder) — to sign, seal and deliver YOU over to utter captivity and soullessness.

The New Testament is not a world-affirming document. On the contrary, it pits the human being against the world. Or rather, it posits the world as being against us. Our task, an impossible one without Help — “Help!” – The Beatles, 1965 — is to dodge the world. Kerouac wrote that we are born into this world in order to be saved from it.

The Cook’d Book of the world is not only true of political parties. It is true of institutions generally, job environments generally, schools and universities generally (which is why youth is eternally looking for the ‘Mr. Chips’-type altruist — one in a million), you name it.

I’m glad that Bernie and the other one are cutting to the nerve. Je repete: this is not about ideology, it’s about control. And this world’s control is not — I repeat, not — designed to enable and deliver. It is designed to suppress and captivate. LUV U!

Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: The Monster of “We”

Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: The Monster of “We”

Welcome to the first installment of Act Three of author Ted Scofield’s series on everybody else’s biggest problem but your own. If you missed one or more of the previous installments, the entire series can be found here. 

In Act One of this series we discovered that as a society we cannot agree on a collectively applicable definition of greed. In Act Two we examined a half dozen answers to the question Why. Starting today we’ll take a deeper dive into the philosophy and theology of greed, with a look at how America’s long-celebrated individualism has evolved.

In his 2005 book Greed, Dr. Julian Edney…

Read More > > >

Resurrection & The Grace Of Doing Nothing

Resurrection & The Grace Of Doing Nothing

Towards the end of his first missive to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul offers a mini tour-de-force in defense of the veracity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. For Paul this conviction is central not just to the future hope of the people of God but also to orient the pilgrim life of the faithful in this present broken age. “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” ( 1 Cor. 15:56-57). Then the argument concludes with something that,…

Read More > > >

An Artful Hell: Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa

An Artful Hell: Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa

Hope for forgiveness and the Kingdom of Heaven beyond our human moral bankruptcy has been replaced by progressive Utopian visions where well-adjusted inhabitants are provided for in an earthly paradise. But the knowledge of who we really are and the true state of our predicament surfaces regularly in our cultural history, if we are paying attention. The visual arts especially will occasionally provide a map of the darkness we travel through. It hardly matters where or when we look, but the dark side of 19th century Romanticism is a good place to start, since a current runs from there through…

Read More > > >

Welcome to [Long Philosophical Conversations and Nauseating, Horrible Deaths in] Jurassic Park!

Welcome to [Long Philosophical Conversations and Nauseating, Horrible Deaths in] Jurassic Park!

I’m currently reliving my childhood love of dinosaurs via (a) my son, who asks thrice daily when we can go to our local natural history museum, and (b) Universal Studios’ marketing. I last read Jurassic Park when the movie was released and The Lost World when it first hit the nice mall’s Waldenbooks. I had fond memories of both, so I revisited both books via Audible late last year. I was shocked, amazed, and disgusted throughout both books.

Blah blah blah, the movies aren’t as good as the books, you might say mockingly. The difference, though, is not in missing characters but rather the whole tone…

Read More > > >