Weekly links 03032011

3 03 2011

A link on “biblical consumerism”:

Beal thinks the current boom in biblical consumerism amounts to a “distress crop,” the last great efflorescence of the old authoritative ideal before people move on and learn to embrace biblical ambiguity. I’m not so sure. Craving the certainty and absolutism of fundamentalism is a fairly common response (across many religious faiths) to the often terrifying flux of modern life. If certitude is the main thing American Christians are seeking when they turn to the Bible, then they’re unlikely to tolerate, let alone embrace, Beal’s “library of questions” model. You can learn a lot about how the Bible was created in the past 2,000 years, and about the many strange forms it has taken in the present, from “The Rise and Fall of the Bible.” But where it’s headed in the future is a mystery much harder to solve.

A Protestant friend of mine once said that the Bible should probably be compared more to a music score than a guide book for living. Americans are notorious for using it as the latter. Even candle shops and botanicas sell books of the Psalms as works of conjure and white magic. The difference between this and using it to justify imperial power is merely a matter of scale. As for me, I never liked reading the Bible, even when forced to do it on my knees in seminary. Oddly enough, it was Luther who would say that the Word of God is expressed best in preaching, not in the written text.

Epistemological distress due to the ripening of late capitalism makes for poor dogma.

This is proof that most people believe in some pretty sloppy history. First off, one must concede that Marx himself called Lincoln a “first rate second rate man”. His subsequent apotheosis should then be seen as unjustified. However, when speaking of the Civil War, Americans are notoriously bad at considering the slaves as entirely passive actors; as poor victims waiting on the plantations to be saved. As W.E.B. DuBois proves in his magisterial work, Black Reconstruction in America, slavery was really ended by a massive general strike on the part of the slaves who left their plantations in droves during the course of the war. Something similar occured in Brazil in 1888: slavery was ended by the slaves themselves a couple of years leading up to the proclamation of the “Golden Law”. To concede that the actual slaves played a vital role in their own liberation would be too much for the bourgeois intellectual, just as the Haitian Revolution proved to be too much for the “world stage” to digest, at least openly.

And, some old news, just to prove that some Latin American “leftist” presidents are not as “left” we think.

Guéranger and Newman

9 08 2010

Scattered jottings on historical theology

From this site:

Directly and indirectly he helped assure definition of the two great dogmas that were defined in the nineteenth century, that of the Immaculate Conception and that of papal infallibility. After championing for decades the substitution of the Roman liturgy for the hodge-podge of local rites that existed in France — the legacy of too many years of rampant Gallicanism — he saw his desire fulfilled before leaving this world in 1875. Above all, he presided over the rebirth of French monasticism, and, through it — even if he did not live to see the further development — the rebirth of religious life elsewhere. This last achievement can be seen as it ought only if it is recalled that less than 15 years before his birth in 1805 the practice of the Faith had been made illegal in France by a revolutionary government…

Yet, not long afterward, Bishop de la Myre would grant Fr. Guéranger permission to use the Roman Missal and breviary, a privilege that perhaps was not enjoyed by any other priest in the Diocese of Le Mans. Rome’s liturgical books enabled him, he tells us, to “enter ever more deeply into the inmost consciousness of the Church.”

When reading this essay, it became evident to me that much of what people consider “tradition” in the Western church is a product of rupture. What, for example, would drive the young Fr. Guéranger to want to say the Mass as used in Rome as opposed to the local missal? Perhaps it was the idea that the Gallican liturgies were less pure, that they had been meddled with by the Jansenists and rationalists, and so forth. But the Tridentine missal, while based on antiquarian sources, was not much older than they were. So authenticity does not seem to be a valid reason.
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